I have always wanted to be a mom. When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, my most honest answer was, “I don’t know... a mom?” And I always answered it like a question - asking for validation that it was okay. Can I just be a mom? Is that good enough? Do I have to choose some other kind of profession? Okay, I guess I can go to college, but I really want to be a mom.
I played with dolls until long after it was appropriate. I mean, a lot of my peers were “going out” with someone, testing the dating waters, but I was still playing with dolls, not trying to kiss boys. I always hoped my parents would have another baby or adopt a baby or just invite someone with a baby to come over so I could hold it. Finally, I started babysitting when I was in 6th grade with six-week-old twins. I don’t know what sixth grader I would hand my children over to at this point, but I guess I had a trustworthy face. Ha! The point is, I grew up holding babies, they were just always someone else's.
So, when Aaron and I found out I was pregnant earlier this summer, I felt like my baby dreams were coming true. I thanked God for this little baby from the very moment I knew about it and while I was a little anxious, this precious secret Aaron and I held between the two of us was filled with more joy than we knew how to handle. Like nearly every girl I know, I pulled out the list of names that I've been adding to and editing since seventh grade. I imagined a baby room and moving back to Nebraska and all the ways our lives would change. I read the entire packet of baby development and labor and delivery information our doctor's office gave us in one afternoon and I checked our baby app almost hourly to see exactly what baby looked like. I felt like maybe no career ever sounded all that interesting to me because God was finally revealing my true calling in motherhood. I journaled to the Lord, "Thank you for the opportunity to harbor this tiny soul, this immense creation, alive by your breath, created by your beautiful idea." Delighted by this little love would be a ridiculous understatement of my feelings.
Summer was a complete blur for me - consumed with thinking about, praying about and planning for our baby. So the devastation was swift and deep when it seemed it would all be taken away. I couldn't think of anything else to do, so I pulled a pillow off our bed and laid down on my back on our bedroom floor. I put my phone next to my ear and blasted music so the songs were louder than my cries. I stared up at the black blades of our ceiling fan whirring above me as my lower body cramped and ached with increasing intensity. Tears rushed steady from the corners of my eyes, down the sides of my face, and I cried out to God in long, heaving wails that only sounded like grief. Mourning. Death. I cried out loud, “Okay, okay, okay." I kept repeating it, as if willing myself to accept what was happening. "Okay, I know this is what you have for me now but I don’t understand it, God. I don’t get it. I don’t want this. I don’t want this.” I was afraid of what was coming in the next couple of hours and days. But the music in my ear sang a competing story,
I'm not gonna be afraid
'Cause these waves are only waves
I'm not gonna be afraid
I'm not gonna be afraid
I'm not gonna fear the storm
You are greater than it's roar
I'm not gonna fear the storm
I'm not gonna fear at all
Peace, be still
Say the word and I will
Set my feet upon the sea
Till I'm dancing in the deep
Oh, peace, be still
You are here, so it is well
Even when my eyes can't see
I will trust the voice that speaks
Peace, be still. And I was. I laid completely still on the bedroom floor until Aaron got home and we were able to go to the doctor and confirm what I already knew.
Aaron and I lost our baby on July 19, just one day before we were to go home to Nebraska and tell our families about our sweet, exciting news. Instead, we packed our suitcases through tears and grief and while the sadness was immense, the nearness of God was evident at every turn. I felt him in the sweetness of the doctor who talked us gently through what to expect and her willingness to work with our airline to change my flight. As we waited to do my lab work, I felt him near when the receptionist came out with a whole box of tissue. She offered it to Aaron and I with a quiet and sincere, "I'm sorry," and in that moment I wanted to hug her for her kindness. Home from the doctor’s office, we sat on the couch and left the front door open, watching from the living room as the sun set in front of us and turned to brilliant colors of pink and gold behind dark clouds and somehow it felt like being held. Behind the darkness, there was a promise to behold. We were not alone. We were not left unnoticed. I felt God speaking to me, “Peace, be still. I have this. I’m here. I know. I see your broken heart. I will carry your tired body. I am here. I know.”
In the days and moments since the loss of our baby, I have had to battle hard for the truth in my heart rather than lies. I’ve had to stop myself from thinking I did something to cause it, that it’s “not fair” everyone else seems to get pregnant and stay that way, that God is somehow punishing us. I’ve had to stop myself from spiraling into the “what ifs” – what if I can never stay pregnant? What if this happens again? What if there’s something wrong with me? What if? The other side of that same coin is the “not enoughs.” Maybe I didn’t pray enough, wasn’t thankful enough, didn’t trust enough, wasn’t healthy enough, didn't rest enough. I know all of these are untrue - it is my brain trying to make sense of grief.
Several months ago I watched this video from Rich and Dawnchere Wilkerson regarding their struggle with infertility. It’s a beautiful story of patience, trust, and faith and she talks specifically about how they were trusting the story God had for them. When we look at someone else and think, "It's not fair they have _____," we're ultimately saying their story is better than ours. Their story is the one we want instead. While an eight year struggle is not what the Wilkersons would have chosen, they trusted God was writing a story specifically for them. When I posted it on Facebook, I had no idea how much I would need their faith to bolster my own just a few months later.
As I laid on the floor of my bedroom that day, I felt the truth of Dawnchere’s words. I desperately wanted the story God was writing for Aaron and I – the one he has faithfully worked out over the last couple of years for us. I cried, “I want the story you have for me, God. I just don’t want this to be part of it. Please, don’t let this be part of it. I don’t want to cry. I don’t want to feel this heartbreak. I don’t want this, God.”
But, losing the baby is part of our story now. Feeling the grief of loss in all its waves and lulls is part of our story. I know this is true for many, many couples. It is so common, this specific kind of grief. My sister endured it just seven months before I did and I suddenly felt a new sense of compassion for her and her husband. As it is with anything in life, it's impossible to know what it’s like until you experience it for yourself, and even then it is different for each person. I heard one time that the trials of life tie us compassionately to earth. This could not be more true for our current season. Aaron and I talked the very next day about how this experience is growing our compassion for others who have suffered loss through miscarriage or, really, loss of a child in any way at all.
While this all happened just a month ago, it feels both longer and shorter than that. I remember laying on the floor like it was five minutes ago, but sometimes it feels like I have lived a new span of eternity since then. But when my heart starts to sink into sadness, it is the Lord who gently reminds me that he is near. I started reading through the Psalms early this summer and while I was home in Nebraska, I happened to be on Psalm 107.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
And he brought them out of their distresses.
He caused the storm to be still,
So that the waves of the sea were hushed.
Psalm 107: 27-29
This Psalm was written hundreds of years before Jesus walked the earth, but it was Jesus who fulfilled it and said to the sea in Mark 4, “Peace. Be still.” And the storm ceased. The waves were hushed. So it’s Jesus who is still reminding me in these days and weeks to be still. He has been faithful to remind me that he has not left me, forgotten me, been punishing me, nor is he letting me suffer alone. He has granted a supernatural peace, just as he promises in his Word. He has given me the gift of a caring, patient, kind husband who has walked with me in the same heartbreak. And for a few brief weeks he gave us the blessing of abundant joy in the gift of our baby, for which we feel extremely grateful.
I stayed in Nebraska a little longer than Aaron because I wanted extra time with my family and friends - extra time with the people who could help me heal, who would remind me of the truth, who would hold me up in prayer when I could not do it myself. For several weeks Aaron and I kept the news of our baby a secret, planning to go home and surprise everyone. Instead, God planned this trip at specifically the right time that we would be surrounded by love in the midst of our hurt. What graciousness from a loving Father. What depth of love he has for us. What lovingkindness in his plans for our lives.
That song of peace goes on to say,
Let faith rise up
Oh, heart, believe
Let faith rise up in me
So, that's the aim of my heart in this season of recovery and rest and waiting. Let faith rise up, even in uncertainty. In fear. In doubt. In pain. In joy. In blessing. In what feels like the weight of 1,000 curses. Let faith rise up. And like Hosea cries, "Let us press on to know the Lord." (Hosea 6:3) Let us press on. To seek you. To know you. To love you more. You are certain. Sure. Steadfast. Marvelous and holy. A treasure, rich and rare.
While this has surely been traumatic, I don't believe this dream will always be answered with a no from God. For some reason, he is allowing this to be part of our story and though we wouldn't choose it, I know he is in it, so I can say, It is well. God had plans for our baby from the start - he knew the days he had ordained for our little one (Psalm 139:16). And sweet baby, God is using you for my good and for your dad’s good, too. And someday when Jesus comes back to renew all things, the sad truth of never getting to meet you will come untrue and that will be a really good day. Until then we will miss the joy of knowing you and press on to know the Lord who sustains us and speaks peace over us.