Today is an anniversary of sorts. It isn’t a day that would be special to anyone else. Today is the day that the baby we lost 7 1/2 years ago would have been “due”. I have never really been sad on the anniversary of that loss because it happened over Mother’s Day weekend in 2007. There was never really a chance to mourn because, despite what the American holiday makers would tell us, Mother’s Day is not about the moms; it is about those who love their moms. (It is a small distinction, perhaps, but one that has played out to be very important for me this week.) I had children who needed to see that I was okay, or at least that was what I thought. I had friend who was giving a seminar and I had promised to go and help her with sound, and because she is a Christian mentor of mine, and because I knew she loved me and mourned the loss with us, I went. And then I had my own mother to celebrate. We had a church who loved us enough to pray and cry with us that Mother’s Day morning, and that was so very meaningful and healing. And yet, that was the extent I allowed myself to mourn. I had a life to live, children to care for, and I had not yet learned that I had to give myself permission to grieve and feel the loss. Two months later we were pregnant again with Lil’ Adventurer, and by the time the other “due date” rolled around, life seemed to have moved on.
Grief is a strange thing. I have felt so silly this past week as I have found myself crying over this loss that happened so long ago, even as we await, with great joy, the birth of Dee’s baby girl. There have been triggers, though, and after my long journey of personal healing, I have learned that I cannot just ignore the triggers. I don’t have to let them control my life, but I know that they are a signal that there is something with which I need to deal appropriately. The trigger for me this time has been Star Child moving out. She has gone to live with her Grandma and Papa; their house is very large and mostly empty. She has her own (by all accounts, HUGE) room, and she is closer to work. It makes perfect sense that she would go there, and yet, I feel it so very keenly, and the loss that I never fully dealt with raises itself like specter in my soul. Two friends have given me words of wisdom and have allowed me to give myself permission to grieve. One dear friend, who has walked through some of my toughest times with me, said to me, when I said I knew it was silly to be grieving now, “Andrea, it is NOT silly. Your child DIED. You need to grieve that.” Another friend, someone I don’t know all that well from church, said, “I know of women who did not mourn for their lost babies until they were old and near death.” So, perhaps seven years is not so strange. Even Star Child, when I apologized for being so edgy with her, knew exactly what I was referring to when I said I was having a hard week. “I always feel it, too,” she wrote in a message to me. My children mourned as much, if not more (initially), than we did over their lost sibling. Even a few years later, it came out in counseling that there was grief there. Why should I be surprised that I would be grieving, now?
I remember the loss in some ways very clearly, and in other ways it is a blur. We were so excited for that baby. We had prayed that God would give us that child. Little Princess had just turned two years old. She was still nursing very regularly, and it was such a sweet surprise to find that we were pregnant again. I never really felt any morning sickness with that baby, which did worry me, because I had been so violently ill with the other four. I remember when my baby died. I was eight weeks pregnant, and the Handy Man and I had gotten a hotel room in Atlanta so we could attend the homeschool convention together. It was a very rare treat. That night, I felt a sharp, searing pain down low on both sides. I remember thinking that something was wrong with the baby, but then I stuffed that thought away and went on with evening. The next morning, I had a very slight pink “show”…so slight I convinced myself it was not there. That whole week I felt very sick. My neighbors stopped me on the road to say hello. Later Mr. Bill told me that I was green and that I had looked horrible. (He said it nicer than it sounds.) That Friday morning I woke up to blood.
I called my friend and mentor, who worked at a local Christian radio station. She prayed with me. I called my midwife. She told me to get my feet up, rest, and to see if I could get in for an ultrasound at the doctor’s office. I called another dear friend who is versed in natural herbs and remedies and who had introduced me to home birthing. She told me the herbs I needed, and I think she may have even brought me some. I was already scheduled for blood work that morning as hypothyroidism must be monitored during pregnancy. They decided to test for hCG as well. They had me come in for the ultrasound, but I already knew what we would see. I was nine weeks pregnant. The baby was eight weeks and one day old. He had been gone for a week. (That baby was always a “he” in my mind. I named him Andrew.) I went home to lose my child.
There are certain things no one can prepare you for when you lose a baby. Like the blood. So. Much. Blood. And the contractions. They started that afternoon and lasted all night long. As cramps as strong as labor pains ripped through my body, all I had to look forward to was…nothing. I never saw the baby. I have had friends who had losses that early who did get to see their baby. There was too much blood. I was just so completely overwhelmed. I knew my baby was gone, and that was all that mattered. By Saturday afternoon the cramps had subsided, the bleeding had slowed significantly, and I felt strong enough to go with my mentor to her seminar.
The other thing no one can prepare you for is the emptiness. I always felt my babies inside me, even when they were still too little to actually feel. I felt a fullness inside….it is really inexplicable unless you are the one feeling it. And now, I felt empty. We went through church on Sunday, where the body of Christ did love us so very well. The Handy Man and I cried and were loved together, and that was so very important. We went to my parents’ house, where, probably due more to their lack of knowing what to say or do, nothing was really said about our loss. We came home and slept. And the next morning, I went back to the doctor so they could confirm that all the materials of pregnancy had been evacuated from my womb; such a cold way to say that there was nothing left. My thyroid levels were “okay”… They were sorry. I went home.
My midwife encouraged me to wait three months before trying again. We never really tried, but neither did we do anything to prevent conception, and two months later, Lil’ Adventurer was conceived. And I would not trade him for anything in the world. That is the weird part–I would not want the baby we lost at the expense of the one we had–and yet, I wanted very much the one we lost.
I do know that one day I will see my baby again. One day I will get so see him with a perfected body and in the presence of Jesus. For now, I look forward to my granddaughter, and I choose to celebrate the children I have here with me. I am comforted by knowing that in all this, my Heavenly Father loves me enough to make me deal with the losses that accumulate in my soul….for in not dealing with them, neither can I fully appreciate Him. I want to love my God with my entire being, holding nothing back, keeping no small losses just for myself. I want to be laid bare before my Father, who loved me and accepted me and planned my redemption from before the foundation of the world.
God’ grace is enough for me in this moment, and that really is all I need to know, even when I feel I have so far to go. He always love me, and His love never fails. This song says it so well.
And then there is this promise from Revelation 21: 4:
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
There is an end to the suffering, to the pain, to the losses. In Jesus, I have healing and redemption. They way to healing goes through the cross. I have to be willing to feel and to release. For far too long I refused to feel and thus I could not release. Jesus bore all my sins and sorrows on the cross. We have this assurance from Isaiah 53: 4-5:
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.