“Lord, how can I do this again? How can I carry this child without fear?” I had just found out I was pregnant for the third time in eight months and I was terrified. I lay curled up in our bed, overwhelmed at the thought of another miscarriage. The losses of our previous two babies had left me emotionally and spiritually exhausted. Yet even as I finished forming that prayer, peace washed over me and I heard the Holy Spirit speak into my heart “You can be the mama to this baby for as long as it is yours to mother.” I wept then in peace and surrender, determined to love our baby well.
When we didn’t hear a heartbeat at our 10 week appointment, the midwife scheduled us for an ultrasound two hours later. I spent those next two hours mechanically making lunch for our 22 month old son, automatically texting out a prayer request to those who knew of our appointment. “Pray for a miracle, pray for a heartbeat.” I fought the rising panic, trying to breathe normally. I was mostly successful.
The tech was the same one who had done the ultrasound for our second miscarriage. She remembered us and was anxious too, straining to find the right angle. I knew what I was looking for – a flicker of white, a heartbeat, a tiny bean shaped embryo. I strained awkwardly to see the screen as she moved the wand around, searching. What I saw was two perfect, round yolk sacks. No embryos and no flickers. Twins who had stopped developing weeks before.
I do not have the words to describe the deep anguish and penetrating sorrow of that moment. Three miscarriages, four babies, ten months. If you have ever lost a child yourself through miscarriage or other tragedy, you do not need me to use words. You know.
What still surprises me is how swiftly the Lord spoke. Not in audible words but in a soft, soothing balm, cradling the pieces of my shredded mother’s heart. I felt desperately loved even in the midst of this tragedy I knew He could have changed. I knew I was seeing the face of the living God. I read Lamentations 3:21-23 over and over again: “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” By his grace, I was not consumed. Sorrow and His presence held the same space in those early days of grief.
Fast forward seven months and another positive pregnancy test. Again, I committed to loving our baby without fear for as long as she was mine to mother. This time an early ultrasound showed a heartbeat and a growing baby. She was developing normally -something none of our previous four babies had done. I say “she” because from the very moment I found out I was pregnant, I knew in my heart I was carrying a little girl. My husband attended all of my appointments – hearing the beat beat beat of her heart was comforting for both of us.
At our 14 week appointment, my husband didn’t decide until the last minute to come. The appointments had started to become routine and neither one of us were prepared when our midwife couldn’t find a heartbeat. She quickly escorted us across the hall for an ultrasound. And even though I knew what I was looking at, I made the ultrasound tech check twice. There was no heartbeat. We had lost this baby over a week previously. I am deeply grateful for the two midwives who held me and wept with me as the painful reality sunk in. In twenty short months, five of our babies were in heaven.
I asked our midwife if I could give birth instead of doing a D & C. My husband and I knew immediately that this was the right decision for us, something that I, we needed to do emotionally, spiritually and physically. While the doctor on call wasn’t sure if the induction medication would work because the pregnancy was so early, they agreed to let us try. And a day and a half later, at 2 am on a dark and rainy night, Miriam Jane was born. Her birth was without fanfare and the frantic activity of our son’s but it was a holy and miraculous moment. We got to see and hold her even for a short time- something we will never have with our other babies.
I have no regrets. I loved Miriam fiercely and fully during her short life and, by God’s grace, I did not waste those precious moments in fear. This in itself is a miracle. We chose her name because Miriam means “longed for child” and “sorrow.” Jane means “The LORD is gracious and merciful.” Both are true.
Grief is difficult because no matter how many times you walk down this road, it is excruciating. Yet, in the midst of it, I have experienced the miraculous. And this is my miracle – that over and over again the presence of Christ has invaded my grief, comforting me, sustaining me when my arms ache with emptiness. And because of Him, I have hope. Not a close fisted hope based in birthing another child or that there will be earthly answers for the deaths of our babies. And not a hope that erases grief. I miss all my babies and long for the day when I can see their faces. This hope is stronger.
The hope I hold onto with open, surrendered hands is based on the truth in Ephesians 2:4: “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.” It is because of Christ that we can know the living God and, through Him, trust that He is working all things – even the loss of my babies and yours – out for his good (Ephesians 1:11). I cling to this promise because if God can transform the tragic loss of my babies into something good, then they did not live in vain. Then, even their short moments here on this earth have an eternal purpose. And today, that is enough.