Friday, August 15, 2014

Facing a thief

Experiencing a miscarriage is a pain that I had hoped never to know. Many dear friends of mine have gone through it, and while I would grieve with them, I would silently plead with God to spare me from having to go through that loss myself. I would thank God for my children, for keeping them safe and healthy, and while I complained about the difficult pregnancies I experienced, I was grateful that they were healthy pregnancies that ended in healthy children.

Recently, though, my husband and I sat silently in the ultrasound room as the technician searched my womb for any signs of new life; she found none. The walls were thin; the hollow was empty. Nothingness. 

I felt empty in that moment, too.

Well-meaning experts will say that this was most likely because of a genetic abnormality, and my body was doing me a kindness by expelling what would not have been a healthy baby. Only, it feels more cruel than it does kind. I should see this as a blessing and know that it’s for the best.

But I still feel robbed.

Miscarriage is a dirty little thief. She comes in, without your permission, to your safe dwelling. She eats your food, dropping crumbs on your sofa, and drinks your coffee with her feet up on your coffee table. Then she gets up, not even bothering to put her cup in the sink, and on her way out she takes your most treasured possession. She doesn’t even have the decency to stuff it inside her purse while you’re not looking, where you can’t see it and won’t notice it’s missing. No, she daringly flaunts it in front of you, boldly stating that she’s taking it whether you like it or not, all while you stand, paralyzed and powerless.

I feel so violated. My body was created to grow life, and instead it has been a vehicle for death. I didn’t want this; I didn’t give my permission for this to happen, and yet it did. Our baby was snatched from my womb, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

Moms have a fierce urge to protect their children, but a miscarriage is one thing I couldn’t shield my child from, no matter how still I laid in bed or how much water I drank or how religiously I swallowed those dreadful prenatal vitamins. It was happening inside of me, prompted by my own body, and I could feel the dull gnawing as our third child was sent to Heaven ahead of us.

“Miscarriages are so common these days. So many women experience one without even knowing.”

These words, though well-intentioned, offer very little comfort. Making something common cheapens it. And the loss of a child comes with a hefty bill. Miscarriages are widespread, sure, but the pain that accompanies it cuts deep, weaving its way through a woman’s mind, soul, and body. There’s nothing common about it.

At five weeks pregnant, our child was barely more than an idea, and somehow the enemy whispers that the grief isn’t justified. I hadn’t heard our baby’s heartbeat or seen its profile on the ultrasound screen. It didn’t have a name; we didn’t yet know its identity. But this wasn’t just a failed attempt at pregnancy. In reality, we lost our child.

We barely had time to wrap our minds around the idea of a third child, but our dreams were no new thing. We’d been praying for a baby, shopping for a bigger vehicle, brainstorming baby names, planning how we would announce our news to family and friends (with a “Three is a magic number” theme at our oldest son’s upcoming third birthday party). Up until now, I’d been terrified of having a girl, but the past couple of days I’d been entertaining the idea and feeling a twinge of excitement at the possibility. She would be fierce. A force to be reckoned with. She would be protected by her brothers, noticed and cherished by her dad, and guided and supported by her mama.

This may have been our little girl. Or it could have been another ginger boy. We’ll never know in this lifetime. How does someone get closure for that?

No, I didn’t carry this child inside of me for long. But that doesn’t change the fact that I still held it. And I’ve carried my dreams for a lifetime.

The grief comes in waves. The joy that my children bring sustains me, but one tantrum later I want to scream. I feel a certain determination to resume normal activities, but in the middle of my daily routine I have to fight the urge to go hide under the covers. I don’t want to talk about it, but I do. I fear receiving unwanted attention, but I desperately want to be known. This is a new game to me, and I want someone who can explain the rules. How long is too long to grieve a child I never met, and had barely even discovered? How do I balance the need to heal with the danger of isolation?

But there’s one thing that I am starting to understand, and that is how hope works. While I was waiting to go to the doctor, I knew there was still a chance the baby could still be perfectly healthy. That very tiny chance gave me reason to hope, to steady my heart. When we received the news that our baby was gone, the doctor gave us good news for the future; there was hope of a healthy pregnancy to come. It might even come sooner than we think, because my body is already prepared for pregnancy. When we pray for hope, God gives us the belief that all is not lost. He gives us reason to believe that something good is coming, and that belief sustains us.

Find hope when all the world seems lost 
Behold the triumph of the cross
His power has trampled death and grave
Our life found in His name 
The greatest name of all 

My husband and I came home wearily that day to our two perfectly healthy, happy boys, and though they had no idea what had happened, Liam sensed that we were distraught. He cried for me as I put him down for a nap, so I laid down next to him. “I don’t want to be scared, mommy,” he said. I told him to say the name of Jesus, any time he felt scared or sad; we said Jesus’ name out loud several times. I told him that Jesus was always with us, to look over us and protect us. After a moment, Liam sat straight up and pointed to a corner in his room and said, “I see Jesus over there in my room; I love Jesus.” He stared at that same place in his room for a few minutes, mouth gaping open. “I see Jesus; I love Jesus."

I started singing “No Other Name,” a song we’d learned at church the day before (the song we were singing when the miscarriage process began), as Liam laid beside me and stroked my hair. 

Lift up our eyes, see the King has come
Light of the world reaching out for us
There is no other name, there is no other name
Jesus Christ, our God

Seated on high, the undefeated One
Mountains bow down as we lift Him up
There is no other name, there is no other name
Jesus Christ, our God 

In that sweet moment that we shared, I truly believe that Jesus did in fact show up in Liam’s room, not just for Liam but also for me, to remind us that He is always with us, whenever we feel sad or scared.

This weekend, God has given my husband and me the opportunity to run in a 5K that supports (Un)Adopted and their ministry to children and families. Now more than ever, we understand the pain that comes from losing a child, or loving a child that is just out of reach. We don’t take for granted the blessing of our biological children, but we are running as an expression of our faith that every child deserves a loving home, and for parents who are anxiously awaiting that moment when their forever child is placed in their arms. I’m grateful for this opportunity to look beyond my pain and loss and stand in the gap for other parents who are experiencing pain as they wait for their children to come to them. 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13