Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What Loss Has Taught Me About Life


It has been two weeks since we learned that our baby was gone. 14 days doesn’t seem like a long time until you’re on the road of loss. I told someone the other day that it feels like walking on a road filled with rocks and shards of glass and you lost your sandals a few miles back. It feels like walking towards an unknown destination, with no particular end in sight. Every step hurts and makes you bleed, but then your feet start to toughen against the sharp pains and so the steps begin to feel less breath-taking, less raw. And you start to think you’ve gained some leverage and maybe you can just keep walking, but then one of those rocks finds a place on your foot that hasn’t toughened yet and it sends you reeling back down and it’s just as breath-takingly painful as the first step was. It is a hard road because there are constant ups and downs.

I’ve been a believer for 17 years, but this experience has made me feel like I’ve been a believer for more like 17 seconds. It has shaken the very foundations of my soul and made me come face to face with the reality of my faith in Christ. It’s put my faith up against a measuring scale to test it, to weigh it, to see if it’s true and accurate, and to measure how deep it runs. And I wish I could say that it’s been easy, that no questions surfaced, and that my humanity didn’t interfere with my spiritual certainties in this life, but I’d just be lying. It’s made me stop and re-examine the theological truths that I’ve held for years. And it has refined them.

I believe in praying specifically. It’s a large part of my testimony in Abi Kate’s pregnancy & birth. We prayed specifically in faith for things and against things, and every one of those things came to pass. We trusted that He would answer, and while I certainly had fears during that time, I clung to Matthew 21:22, that faith the size of a mustard seed was enough. He answered, and He And He was faithful. We approached this pregnancy in the same manner. Every single night, Tommy and I came together to pray over the life I carried, to pray for their health and mine. And one of the things I prayed specifically was that I would not miscarry this baby and that their little heart would just continue beating. And He answered…. I want to say that this didn’t throw me for a loop and that it didn’t make my heart fear, but again, I’d just be lying. It really made me consider what I believe about faith, the provision of God, and where exactly my faith comes to play in the perfect will of Christ. I was so grieved in the days that followed that as this spiritual battle ensued, I really struggled to make sense of things. This is one of those times that I was incredibly grateful for the gift of my husband and for the wisdom he offers. I also talked with a friend who has an incredible heart for the Lord, who possess a deep understanding of the things of Christ, and who understood my loss because she had walked this road before too. I have learned that it times like this, it is good to have spiritual truths spoken over me, even if I already know them and believe them, because they are reminders that hold my heart steadfast.  Some of the best wisdom I received from her was to be desperately honest with the Lord in my prayer life, to be honest with Him about my struggles. In the midst of grief, I was so afraid to be brutally honest because I feared where it might lead me. That it might take me down the road of resentment or anger towards God. So I hung on to biblical truths and told them to myself over and over again because they were healing. But nothing was as healing as being honest about my confusion to my Creator. It was liberating, and instead of pulling me towards human emotions, He pulled me in closer to His heart. I can’t say that I’ve felt angry at God throughout this process at all. I just haven’t. He is sovereign, so His will is right. I know it, and I believe it. But I felt such sadness that He hadn’t answered as we’d asked, confused about why He had penned this into our story, unsure about why He had delivered each request for Abi Kate’s life but not for the life of this baby, and fearful of praying in faith in the future. Her words have resonated in my heart- “I think God longs for us to be intimately involved in the daily ongoings of our lives and His role in them. But in the end, His will rules over us all.” It was such a simple truth, truth I’ve believed, but truth that I had lost sight of in the face of sadness. I’ve learned in these days that nothing will remind you of your position in reference to His Holy position as quickly as sorrow. It is easy to accept His will and walk in faith when the road is smooth and filled with blessings. It is harder to walk in faith when the road is bumpy, where there is little light, and it is filled with sadness.

 There are still many fears that sit near to my heart, but I try to remember my husband’s wisdom, too. I sat at the kitchen table one night in the middle of dinner and just cried uncontrollably while I told him my fears. He said, “Katie, this is faith…. We will just keeping trusting and keep praying earnestly and keep believing that He will answer those prayers. And we will know that He is in control and His perfect will will prevail… but we will continue to trust. We have to. This is faith.” So, as I’ve worked through this and processed it all, it has been exactly as Philippians 2:12 says, “Continue to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Nothing will make your heart tremble as much as grief. Nothing makes a mother’s heart tremble more than loss. But I am thankful that Christ has brought me to a place in these hard weeks where I can say, that even in this pregnancy, He didn’t just give us an answer to our prayers, but He answered and He was faithful. Just like He was in Abi Kate’s. Different ending, same provision.

In the days after delivery, Tommy and I talked a lot about the way the Lord had provided for us in this situation, the ways he’d been faithful. The ways that He had prepared us and was holding us up. I almost didn’t go for that ultrasound, almost talked myself out of it and told myself I was simply being paranoid, told myself to wait until my scheduled appointment with my midwife that was just a few days away. But I woke up that Wednesday morning with great concern and couldn’t get a peace in my heart about my pregnancy all day because I just felt that things were “off” with my body. The years of Natural Family Planning had given me a great awareness about my body that would’ve been so easily missed otherwise. And miraculously, when I called the ultrasound tech, he was able to squeeze us in that night just 2 hours later despite his previous appointment. Tommy was able to make it home just in time for us to make that hour long trek out to his house. And because I knew ahead of time that our baby was gone, once the process of birth began, I was not afraid. I cannot imagine the fear I would’ve had when those contractions started otherwise, if I hadn’t known. I would’ve been in a hospital ER, having an ultrasound where I’d have to wait to hear the results from a doctor I didn’t know. And the fear of the unknown would’ve made the pain worse. That's horrifying for me to consider. Had I been in the hospital, it is almost certain that I wouldn’t have been offered the choice of waiting because I was past 10 weeks pregnant, but would have been encouraged to proceed with surgery with a checklist of reasons about why it was dangerous to wait.  But because of where I was and the midwife I had, she knew that it was perfectly safe to wait. Controlled risk and medical liability weren’t on her radar-- my health, my future pregnancies, and my need to see this journey from beginning to end were. I didn’t know what to expect in terms of pain, but I knew I had labored & delivered naturally before with a full-term baby, so I knew my body was capable of doing this, too. Tommy had the foresight to take off work that day even though we were still just waiting. My labor started and ended almost entirely during Abi Kate’s nap. She slept much longer than she normally does. I was incredibly thankful because I needed Tommy during that time just like I did in my previous labor. It would’ve been so much harder to have been alone or to have him splitting time between me & Abi. If I’d never labored & delivered unmedicated before, I would’ve struggled so much with the pain. I feel like I could keep going on about all the small things that made this road softer, but even in the unfolding of such sorrow, Christ provided for us. All those nights when Tommy had prayed over me, he had said the same thing, “We ask for these things, but we will make our will submissive to Yours.” We had no clue what depth that would hold weeks later, but even though God’s will wasn’t what we anticipated, He was still faithful to give us what we needed.

Loss teaches us a lot about life, but one thing that it has solidified in my heart without a doubt is that even in those earliest weeks of pregnancy, there is life. There’s no mistaking it, friends. We live in a culture of convenience. Sometimes it’s convenient for a woman to carry a baby, and when a baby is not convenient, it’s a "cluster of cells". It’s always baffled my mind how people could refer to a baby as a “mass of tissue” or “cluster of embryonic cells”, and yet that same person can cry and feel such sorrow if they miscarry a baby. And it is simply because there is life. And losing life hurts. It’s not the loss of dreams or hopes. I’ve lost those things before, and they don’t cause this type of pain, the ache that persists. We can call that life whatever we want to pacify ourselves and our needs and our “choice,” but I have carried, delivered, and held my baby at 39 weeks in my arms. I have carried, delivered, and held my baby in the palm of my hand at 11 weeks. And once you have lived that, have seen it with your own eyes, have held that precious being, there can be no mistake. There is no going back. There IS life, even in those early weeks. It is not a cluster of cells. It is not a mass of tissue that will turn into a human. It is a tiny baby, being knit together with distinguishable body parts just like a full term baby. I’ve seen proof of both of my babies’ vitality, their movements, and their strong little hearts beating rapidly on a screen even at the earliest of weeks-- at 6 weeks with Abi Kate and 8 weeks with this baby. And I have held both of their intricately formed bodies, tiny toes and little arms--one bursting with life and one that was quiet and still.  I have always believed that life begins at conception, but after this experience, I don’t just believe it. I know it.

I’ve learned that things don’t have to “be back to normal” and probably never will. I’ve received much encouragement in recent days, particularly from women who have experienced such a loss. For many of them, even though years have passed, they still cried when they talked with me about their babies. And they assured me that even all these years later, when they have all their children in their lap or in the same room with them, they still feel like there’s one that is missing. And that has helped me in so many ways. To know that they have carried those little lives with them all these years. They haven’t been forgotten or replaced as their families have grown. And even years later, these mothers still miss that tiny life that they carried, so much so that the tears flow when they talk about it. It is still difficult for me to be around other people because it all feels like pretense for me. I tend to wind up crying for several hours after being “fine” just for one hour out in public. And I still can’t talk about it in person. Writing is incredibly helpful, but speaking about it is just too much. There is a phrase I’ve heard used for years, and one that I wasn’t sure that would apply to me in this situation, but after talking with a friend she assured me that this would simply be a “new normal” for me. And I think she’s right. One day, it won’t be pretense to be around others.  And one day I will be able to speak about this. It will get easier. But there will always be a sadness when I look back, and that’s ok.

I’ve learned that even if one of your biggest fears comes to fruition, God is still present when you’re shattered. I was afraid that if I lost a baby I’d never be ok again. And while things will always be different from here on out, He has been faithful to begin mending that which is broken. And life keeps going. There may be dark and sad times, but I am not alone in my grief.

I’ve learned that this is why God designed us for other people, why in Genesis 2 He said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” And I believe this reaches beyond just a marital relationship. People need people. I know people who think they only need their spouse, their immediate family, and that’s it. An idea based around selfishness, fear, or just plain foolishness. I am social by nature, so my new longing for seclusion has been a harder part of this process for me to embrace. While I haven’t been able to be around others during this time, they have made themselves available to me, and that has made such a difference. I can’t count the number of emails, Facebook messages, texts, calls, letters in the mail that we’ve received. People who have just checked in, weeks later, to let us know we aren't forgotten & that they are there. And every single one has served to encourage my heart in some way (and if I haven’t responded to yours, please know it’s just gotten lost in the shuffle, but I promise I’ve read it. And I guarantee I cried when I read it).  It is good to not grieve alone, to have others share in your burden. It truly makes the load lighter. It was a blessing to share in the joy of this new life with others and it has been a blessing to grieve this loss with others.

I wish this were an easy process. That I could say I’d never doubt again or fear again. But that’s not true. I feel strong at moments in my faith and equally weak at other times of the day. I’ve shared the verse that was placed on my heart throughout pregnancy-- Joshua 1:9… And I have learned that I don’t have to feel strong and courageous. Scripture simply says to be strong and courageous. And never in scripture have I seen it referenced to be strong within myself, but instead to be strong in “Him and His mighty power.” So even though my pregnancy with this baby is over, the scripture that Christ placed on my heart so many weeks ago is still relevant weeks later. And the same God that was strong when I heard our baby’s heart beating remains strong weeks after it has stopped beating. So even though I am weak, I can be strong in Him.

I’ve learned that even though the circumstances of this life can shake you to your core, so deep that you aren’t sure the quaking will ever stop, that God is present in those moments. And the foundation that He lays remains firm and unmovable. I have prayed that this truth will overtake my present thoughts and my fears. That its truth will pour over me in excess, and I will soak up every drop.

And I have remembered, just like Christ revealed through Abi Kate’s birth, that He does make good on His promises, even in the face of death. A friend who has lost babies messaged me and assured me that one day I will laugh out loud again and that I would smile instead of wiping tears. And oh, how I needed that reminder. So desperately. Because I remembered that “weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” So we wait in anticipation for the day where we rejoice for this sweet, short life more than we grieve for their loss. We miss our baby every day, cry every day. But we wait in anticipation for the morning, because we know it is coming….

4 comments:

  1. Hey love, I was just thinking about you this morning. I hope the joy has starting to come with your mornings. :)

    "You stay the same through the ages.
    Your love never changes.
    There may be pain in the night,
    but joy comes in the morning.

    And when the oceans rage,
    I don't have to be afraid.
    Because I know that You love me,
    Your love never fails."

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    1. I love that, Jessi. Thank you :)

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  2. Katie, I want to thank you for your raw honesty. Although my situation is different from yours, your story and your faithfulness are encouraging for me. My husband and I have been trying to concieve for almost 3 years, and you articulated so many things I have been feeling yet couldn't put into words. I have put on my happy face so many times in public and then been a basket-case for the next day; God is working through you, and I know He will bless you for that. I pray He continues to heal you and Tommy.

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    1. I cannot imagine how difficult that is, Lori. I'm so sorry that has been a part of your journey. Thank you so much for your encouragement,prayers, and kindness. I appreciate them so much!

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