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.
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.
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 ~