I mentioned in our pregnancy announcement that I had several miscarriages in the last two years. I wanted to share a little more about this part of our story, in the hopes that it could be a comfort to anyone walking a similar path. The following is something I wrote in the days following my second miscarriage, in September of 2015 ::
Right before I peed on the stick, I bowed my head and said, both to God and myself, “I will not place my hope in having another baby. My only hope is God. And if I’m not pregnant, it does not have to devastate me, because God is my only hope.”
I waited, my heart thumping in my ears, for three minutes. At the end of that time, when I looked down and saw the positive sign, I couldn’t decide if I was surprised or if I’d known all along. I do know I was smiling and I couldn’t stop.
And then I walked into the living and fell on my knees. “Thank you so much.” And my next prayer, as I touched my belly, was, “Please protect this baby.”
Later, Logan and I sat on the couch as the sun left the world to darken. When I told him, he hugged me, but now we sit and ponder, guarded, remembering what happened last time.
I get out 1000 Gifts and read a passage to Logan about a farmer whose children keep dying just months after they’re born. And he quietly speaks to his brother’s sister about King Hezekiah, who begged God for 15 more years of life. God granted his request, but it was during that time that his son Manasseh was born, the Israelite king who led God’s people into worse sin that all of the previous kings. The farmer isn’t sure of anything, but he just says, “Maybe you don’t want to change the story, because you don’t know what a different ending holds. Maybe…I guess…it’s accepting there are things we simply don’t understand. But He does.”
This means something to Logan and to me and we settle into this thinking. We don’t have any kind of guarantee that our baby will be okay. We don’t know how the story will play out. But God does. And as much as I want to tell him how to write the story, he knows more than I do.
At church on Sunday, our worship minister stood on stage, hands raised, and asked us to think on the faithfulness of God. “Maybe something happened this week. Maybe God answered a prayer. Thank him for his faithfulness to you.” Of course I thought of the cells multiplying in my belly, of the heart that would begin to beat that week, and they are evidence of God’s faithfulness. But as we drove home from church, I asked Logan, “Wasn’t God just as faithful to me the day before we conceived, as the day we did? As the day we found out?”
I don’t need to keep looking for evidence of God’s faithfulness. It’s part of his character, the most sure thing in my life. Whatever happens to me, anything that happens to me becomes evidence of God’s faithfulness. I won’t be able to draw a straight line connecting the two, but I know this: God’s faithfulness is the foundation of my life.
Wednesday night I woke up with a blinding pain in my side. I made my way to the bathroom, thinking it was indigestion, but then I passed out. I woke up with the sickeningly dizzy feeling of coming out of unconsciousness, but only seconds later I passed out again. And again. My body was covered in sweat from head to toe and I laid down on the floor, unable to even make it to the bedroom to Logan. Some time later I woke up and felt able to move to my bed. Logan held my hand until I dozed off. In the morning there was blood and we both wept, side by side, unable to even raise our heads.
My first thought was one of inconvenience, that it would take so long to get pregnant again, to have another chance at a baby. And then I was so ashamed because there was a soul that was dying. A soul that I did not own, that I did not create, that I did not control, that I would never know.
The physical pain continues, but is overshadowed by the heart pain.
We told people this time. Cathy was supposed to come for coffee that morning, so I texted her, to give her a chance to hear it without my sobs, to give her a chance to cry before she arrived. She came over, puffy-eyed and practical, and whisked Valentine off to eat donuts and play at her house.
Logan and I texted our families. Logan wrote, “We are sad and angry and frustrated.” I only feel sad, but we are one, and I hold his anger and frustration as much as he holds this dying baby within himself. We sat in silence for awhile, he said he would cancel everything to stay with me. I felt so tired and sick that I knew I should sleep. I wanted to be alone. But when he got up to leave I said, “You could stay home. This is happening to you, as much as to me.”
He went to work but came home thirty minutes later. “I can’t have meetings and eat lunch and talk with people and pretend that everything is ok.” He had stopped in Titus’ office before he came home, to tell him, to cry, and Titus prayed for him.
I slept for hours and woke only to sleep some more. I was wracked by guilt because the week before, right after we had found out about the pregnancy, Logan had come to me and said, “I know it’s customary to wait to tell people until after twelve weeks, but I think we should tell people…so they can pray.” But then we didn’t tell anyone. And I know God had prompted us to ask people to pray for this baby, and we didn’t do it. And now I’m miscarrying.
Then I got a message from Emilie, halfway across the world in the hot Ugandan sun, who wrote, “Strangely enough, but not so strange, I prayed for your pregnancy this week. I was washing clothes and somehow knew you were pregnant and even prayed over the baby. I was going to write to ask you if you were but wanted to wait to see if you’d tell me on your own time. I already feel connected to your child and know God has his hand on it, to have asked me himself to pray for the baby before I ever knew from you.”
And that’s when I remembered that God’s not the kind of person who says, “You didn’t obey me so your baby will die.” He didn’t need our help to get people to pray for our baby. He loves this soul more than we do. He knew. He cared. But I still don’t know why the baby is dying.
Lindsay sent the lyrics to In Christ Alone and I read, “No guilt in life, no fear in death, this is the power of Christ in me.” Where would I be without the love of God? What would I do at a time like this, I wonder?
The doctor verified the miscarriage on Friday, saying my progesterone was so low there could be no doubt. I got a painful Rhogam shot, had more blood drawn, asked why? and the nurse didn’t know, but she would talk to the doctor.
Before my first miscarriage, before this, I had thought that you have a miscarriage one day. But now I knew that’s not what’s it’s like. You’re having a miscarriage. It’s a process and you don’t know exactly when it begins or when it ends and there’s nothing you can do. The doctor says to lay down, but really it has no effect on the health of your baby. It’s going to happen with or without you. With or without the doctor.
With or without prayer?
I wondered about this a lot during the days of my miscarriage. Some family members were resigned from the very beginning, they were just praying for comfort for Logan and me. Others prayed desperately for the baby, asking God to keep it alive, keep me healthy, and they want updates on what my body was doing hour by hour. When I prayed, there was a question mark at the end of every sentence. I was afraid I was not asking for the right things, asking in the right way, asking at the right time. Was this like when Jesus asks, “Do you want to be healed?” or was this a time for “Not my will but yours be done”?
On Sunday Logan taught the middle school class about prayer. “Prayer isn’t about manipulation. It’s not about praying with the right attitude or saying the right thing so that you can get your pony. But we all do it, don’t we? Even adults. Except we’re not asking for ponies anymore…” and his voice broke and he caught my eye and suddenly I was crying in class.
During service we sat side by side, our heads bowed even during the sermon. Logan leaned into my chest and I held him to me. He gently kissed the inside of my hand. I had this feeling like I didn’t want to look God in the eye. I just wasn’t sure. I was clinging to those two babies, the January baby and the August baby, and I was holding on tight and I didn’t want to look God in the eye. But then I was reminded of his faithfulness, his power, his love and I looked.
In my mind’s eye I handed them to him and he took them from me carefully and gently, the way to hold a newborn, and his eyes held mine with a look of mutual sorrow, of vulnerability, but also such solidity that I wondered why I thought my hands were safer than his?
Maybe…I guessed…it was accepting there are things we simply don’t understand. But He does.
In Christ alone my hope is found. I hunkered down there, and thought that if I never could have another baby, I would be ok. But also knew that there was still a very good possibility that one day I have another baby in my arms and I would think, “This is what he had in mind. This one. This family. This was it.” And that was comforting and beautiful and so intoxicating that it suddenly just became very hard to wait for it.
Maria texted, “God is never in a hurry and he’s never late.”
And the next day in Isaiah 18 I read that God comes quietly, like heat or dew, frustrating any human attempt to secure our world without him. “He watches until the right moment, and then acts.”
Now the pain isn’t sharp like in the night, it is a steady, warm pain, like a long race in the light of day. It’s the pain of perseverance. Of faithfulness. A small but sincere attempt to respond to God the way he has acted toward me.
He knows the pain of losing a child. He knows the pain of endurance. And he calls to me, whispering tenderly of love, of the joy found after the pain.