Sunday, January 19, 2014

Emptiness, Filled

I don't exactly know how to write this post. I sit here, wondering what to say. Wondering if I really want to say anything at all. But I have been blessed by other women who have shared, and the gratitude I feel for their willingness leads me to share, too. I hope that somehow, some way, what I write may help some other woman who finds herself empty.

Because, you see, a few weeks ago we lost our baby girl fourteen weeks into my third pregnancy. And now my womb is empty. Painfully, tragically, numbingly empty.

Please note -- while I feel I've been discreet, you may not want to read this if you find the topic of miscarriage particularly disturbing or painful.

I have loved being pregnant ever since we found out our first baby was on the way. I love the expectancy, I love the baby bump, and most of all I love knowing that God has created a tiny life within me that I have the privilege of bringing into the world. I know some women with difficult pregnancies are just eager to get past the gestation phase, but to me, pregnancy is a marvelous, wondrous season of life (though I'm certainly excited and even relieved when the time comes for the baby to be born). So when we discovered in October that our third baby was on the way, I was elated. I'd recently found myself craving a newborn, especially as my little Rosa was precipitously close to graduating from "baby" to "toddler."

The weeks passed uneventfully, with my typical nausea and a ten-week ultrasound that showed a strong heartbeat and a squirmy little person within. I started drafting a post for my blog about how my winter wardrobe plans had been (happily) upended. The week before Christmas, at 12 1/2 weeks, my nausea eased. I predicted that we'd have a boy, since I was sick with Little Man for about 13 weeks, while my sickness with Rosa lasted 20 weeks.

Then the day after Christmas, I started spotting lightly. I'd actually spotted with both of my previous pregnancies, so I tried not to worry. By Saturday night I was nervous enough to visit the ER. And there on the ultrasound was our baby -- no squirming, no heartbeat. We left with a diagnosis of an incomplete miscarriage and instructions to schedule an appointment with my OB on Monday. Just like that, we wer plunged headlong into a grief we'd never experienced before.

Providentially, we never had to make some of the difficult medical decisions that can accompany miscarriage. Our baby was born naturally in the small hours of Monday morning. So tiny. So perfect. Ten little fingers and ten little toes. A minute person, with a soul and an identity. Though it was hardly the home birth I'd contemplated in the past, I am endlessly grateful for the privacy we had to grieve over our precious baby. But even though the possibility of medical intervention was now behind us, there was a new reality to face.

Emptiness.

The days that followed were not devoid of happiness -- largely due to our children's antics -- but there were so many fresh reminders of our loss. Repacking the maternity clothes I'd only recently pulled out. Seeing the few ultrasound pictures we had of our wee one pinned up on the fridge. Hearing our son pray that "Mama's baby be safe and healthy." Releasing our baby to the funeral home. And then, the ultrasound to check for any problematic remainders that might need to be removed. There was nothing there. Nothing, where just a few short weeks ago there had been life and hope and potential.



Miscarriage has always been one of my greatest fears. Now that it has been realized, I know that in some ways it is far worse than I could have imagined, and in some ways it's not. I could never have anticipated the pain of losing a child, even one so tiny. But I could also never have anticipated the way God has enfolded me in His grace and love. At the moment we heard the worst news we'd ever received, the only words that ran through my mind were "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." (Job 1:21b ESV) Those words have continued to echo through my mind as I've wept and grieved and wept some more.

All of this emotional pain, this physical emptiness -- it's far more than I could bear in my own strength. But it is not too much for Christ, Who strengthens me. His love has steered me away from spiritual emptiness, which is a diagnosis far worse than the one we received. Neither false feelings of guilt nor bitterness toward God have plagued my soul. Even when the heartbreak overwhelms me, I know that He does all things well, and somehow this is part of His perfect plan. I do not understand, but I trust.

I fully expected to be engulfed by grief. What I did not expect was that gratitude would be just as overpowering. God has filled me, in the midst of emptiness. In spite of the pain, I cannot stop counting the blessings that come pouring down like rain.  Blessings like my amazing husband, who has ministered to me lovingly and untiringly. Or my two rambunctious little ones -- my womb may be empty, but my arms are full. Blessings like not needing medical intervention, having a doctor who shares our faith, feeling the love of our dear extended family, and even being blessed with our sweet baby girl in the first place. And oh, how grateful I am that while our baby probably passed away between 12 and 13 weeks, we were left in blissful ignorance through Christmas and our son's belated birthday party. Blessing after blessing comes to my mind, and while I know God's grace would have sustained us just as lovingly if He had not granted us these things, I am grateful for what He has given.

Perhaps one of the keenest agonies of miscarriage is knowing what we're missing. We'll never get to cuddle her, or know what color her hair and eyes would have been. We'll never hear her first word or see her first steps. We'll never see her walk down the aisle on her wedding day. At least we had the blessing of finding out her gender, giving her a name, and seeing her tiny, perfect form.



The recovery process seemed to begin swiftly, which almost made me upset with my body for "forgetting" so quickly. The little baby bump that I'd been so excited to detect gradually disappeared. I had my pre-pregnancy body "back," but I didn't want it back. I wanted the bloom of expectant motherhood, complete with stretched skin and aching hips, far more than I wanted a flat stomach. And yet, I know that even this is a blessing, because a complicated or painful recovery wouldn't bring my baby back, and could even delay the arrival of future children.

I can't help hoping that another baby will be on the way as soon as my body has healed. Not because I want to forget, or because I harbor vain hopes that a new baby will somehow replace the one we've lost. But losing a child does not mean that I don't long to bring more life into the world. While a new baby will not heal the hurt and grief, he or she would fill the physical emptiness of my womb. Fortunately, there is no reason to think that miscarriage will be a recurring problem, or that we'll have difficulty conceiving again. But all of that is in God's hands. While I hope my body will nurture life again, I don't know His perfect plans and purposes. I hope and pray that I will submit cheerfully to whatever He has in store. For now, my heart feels raw every time I see a pregnant woman or a tiny baby. As happy as I am for those families, something akin to jealousy with a strong dose of regret washes over me at every reminder of what I thought would be. I try to remind myself that my Heavenly Father also lost a Child -- a Child He loved with a love far more perfect than my human heart could ever conjure.

"If God is for us, who can be against us? He Who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for usall, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?" -- Romans 8:31b-32

My husband and I spread our baby's ashes at a quiet beach on our fourth wedding anniversary. How I wish I had had more time with my little girl! Sometimes the tears start to flow just because I miss her so dearly. She brought such joy to our lives, even in the short time she visited this earth. The kind of joy that both sweetens and intensifies the pain we feel at her loss. It is my fervent hope and prayer that her fleeting life will glorify God in some way -- and I know it will, because He works all things for His glory and our good. Even when it doesn't feel "good" at all.

I crave your prayers as we start down this path that so many other families have walked before us. It's a path I'd hoped we'd never have to walk, but I know it's the path God has for us, and He'll be beside us every step of the way.


"My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them."
~ Psalm 139:15-16 ~

26 comments:

  1. Dearest Shannon,

    My heart aches for you; indeed, it has been aching since I first heard the news. I love your dear family more than words can say. How sweet the day when our Lord will return, and such grief will be washed away!

    Miss you all. This summer, let's have tea. Please.

    Love,
    Jane Ellen

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  2. Jane Ellen,

    Thank you for your sweet words! You and your family have been such a blessing to us -- and yes, these earthly griefs remind me of how wonderful it will be when Christ returns.

    I would love to have tea this summer. We miss you, too, and are thinking of and praying for you!

    Love,
    Shannon

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  3. Shannon,

    I am so sorry to hear this and my heart grieves for you and your family. You will most certainly be in my prayers. My mother had a miscarriage with her third pregnancy, and the Lord gave them another blessing (my dear sister and close friend) not long after.

    While I know nothing of this suffering, I have and do experience other sufferings and can promise that God WILL use it in some way. Like my mother, you will be able to sympathize and minister to other women who share the same suffering in a way that others won't.

    Hugs,
    Cheri

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    1. Cheri,

      Thank you for your prayers and sympathy! It is so hard to trust when things don't go my way, but as you said, God has a plan for this.

      Blessings,
      Shannon

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  4. Shannon,
    I do not know you, nor do you know me. I have never had the privilege of having a baby, so I cannot say I know what you are going through.
    But:
    I do sympathise. I dream of someday feeling the miracle of life within my virgin womb. Yet the thought of losing the long awaited and anticipated darling breaks my heart.
    Though I do know women who have gone through miscarriage, including my mother, it has never seemed to hit home with me.
    Yet I grieve with you. My heart aches for you. I cannot imagine how hard it is. I do not understand that deep, longing, sorrow. But please know, I am sorry. I wish that miscarriage never happened to anybody. Just imagining your pain brings tears to my eyes.
    God has His mysterious and unfathomable reasons.
    I will pray for you and your family.
    "The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace." ~Numbers 6:26
    "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding." ~Proverbs 3:5
    "As your days, so shall your strength be." ~Deuteronomy 33:25b
    "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." ~Romans 8:38,39

    I hope that these verses, which are a few of my favorites, will be a blessing to you.

    Emily

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    1. Emily,

      Thank you for your kind words, your prayers, and for the verses you shared -- we may not know each other beyond this little corner of the Internet, but you have been a blessing to me! Thank you!

      Blessings,
      Shannon

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  5. Dear Shannon,

    I was so saddened to read your post this morning. Please know that I am praying for you and your family! May the peace of Jesus continue to comfort you and carry you through this difficult season.

    -Sarah

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    1. Thank you, Sarah! Your prayers mean much to me!

      Blessings,
      Shannon

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  6. Dear Shannon,

    I am so incredibly sorry for the loss of your beautiful baby girl. My first sweet one was lost to miscarriage almost eight years ago, and the loss has never gone away, though now the memory of my baby is more sweet than bitter.
    I know the emotions, the profound and aching grief. The passing of looked-forward-to pregnancy milestones. The due date, the little anniversaries and special events that accompany a new baby. The intensely physical loss of someone so very close. It was the most painful thing I ever experienced.
    God was the only true comfort I had. Praise Him! Knowing my baby was with Him and had fulfilled the beautiful plan God had for his/her short life. It was a life cut too short to my way of thinking, but a life full and complete in Gods purpose and plan. His ways are not our ways.
    My heart aches for you so. Much love and many prayers. I pray your womb will soon happily cradle another new miracle. I got pregnant with my son 6 weeks after loosing my baby. It was the best gift God could have given me. {{{Hugs}}}

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    1. Sarah Jane,

      Hugs back to you, my friend. I have thought of you during this time, knowing that you have also experienced this loss. It's the kind of thing you don't want anyone else to understand, because it means they've gone through it, too. But at the same time, it's helpful to know that you're not alone. Thank you for your prayers!

      Blessings,
      Shannon

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  7. Oh Shannon,
    I am so sorry to hear of this. I lost my first pregnancy very early on, so early that we never knew the gender. Even still, the pain was more acute than I could have ever thought possible. But God filled us both with Peace through the whole experience, so that was what we named the little one we never got to meet. I providentially found out that I was pregnant again a couple weeks before the month of the due date, which I had been dreading. I am so grateful for God's provision, and timing. I pray that you are lifted in His arms right now.

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    1. Natalie,

      Thank you for sharing, and for your prayers. My husband at one point mentioned that it's remarkable how much you can love someone you've never even met.

      I am so glad that God gave you peace in the midst of your loss, and has since blessed you with two beautiful little girls!

      Blessings,
      Shannon

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  8. Shannon, I just wanted to let you know that I am praying for you also. I wept with you as I read this post. Thank you so much for your honesty in sharing! What a testimony of how God has been working in your life through this tragedy. And what a wonderful reminder that God Himself gave up His child also. God bless you guys.

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    1. Thanks, Hannah -- we appreciate the prayers! It is such a comfort to know that God never wastes pain, and that He is never nearer than when He is needed most.

      Blessings,
      Shannon

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  9. Sending a prayer and a hug your way; so sorry for your loss.

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    1. Thank you, Janel!

      Blessings,
      Shannon

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  10. I've typed and re-typed, but in the end, you really summed it up best- God never wastes pain. Prayers for your family.

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    1. Thank you, Shannon -- your prayers are valued!

      Blessings,
      Shannon

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  11. Oh, Shannon, I'm so, so sorry. How I wish this is a road you wouldn't have to walk. And though we've never met in person, I wish I could give you a hug. Someone gave me the wisdom of learning to accept that the baby lost will always be missed and always seem like a fresh lost. It makes me long for heaven more.
    Prayers over you all,
    Hannah

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    1. Hannah, I so appreciate your sweet words (and the long-distance hug!). I love what you said about how your loss makes you long for heaven more. How true. May the Lord comfort your heart, as well, and may we both be reunited with our babies in eternity!

      Thank you.

      Blessings,
      Shannon

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  12. I'm so sorry to hear your sad news Shannon. I can't begin to imagine how hard it must be to miscarry after all the excitement and anticipation that a pregnancy brings. But I'm glad to hear that the Lord has given you his comfort. I'll be praying that he will bless you with a new little one soon. xxxx

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    1. Thank you, Rachel -- God's strength and comfort is certainly the only way we've gotten through this season. We appreciate your prayers!

      Blessings,
      Shannon

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  13. Shannon, my heart breaks for you as I read this post! I'm so sorry you've had to walk through this trial. May God's comfort and love surround you. My prayers are also with you for healing, both physically and emotionally, and for more blessings in your future. Love, Laura

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    1. Laura,

      Thank you for your thoughtful words! It has been the hardest season of my life thus far, but I know now firsthand that God can (and will) sustain me through whatever my future holds. Your prayers are much appreciated!

      Blessings,
      Shannon

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  14. I know this post is a couple months old, but I couldn't read it and not comment. I lost my 6th pregnancy at 23 weeks and it was one of the most difficult experiences of my life. There is (unfortunately!) a very large community of women who have also gone through pregnancy or infant loss. Just remember that you are never alone. Continue to rely on your faith and you will get through all the tough moments. I will pray for you and your family!

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    1. Teri,

      I am so very sorry for your loss! I can't imagine how hard it would be to lose a baby that far along -- after the 1st trimester, things aren't "supposed" to go wrong.

      I also want to thank you for taking the time to comment -- this post may be a few months old, but as you certainly know, the pain doesn't go away. While I wish that no other woman ever had to experience this, I am so very grateful for the encouragement and sympathy that you and other women in my life have offered! Your prayers are much appreciated.

      Blessings,
      Shannon

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