Friday, January 25, 2013

Weep with those who weep

There is a space between the four framed birth announcements hanging on my wall that doesn't bother anyone else. It's just a 6-inch gap between Caleb's picture and Jacob's, no different from the space between the other pictures.

But in my heart, that gap is so much greater.

Every time I look at it, I think about what might have hung there. The baby that we lost three years ago had been growing inside of me for less than two months when his or her life ended. This side of heaven, I will not know if I might have had another daughter or another son. What I do know is that there is someone missing, and that gap will always be there. And no matter how full my house may seem, I will always wonder about my middle child.

I have had three years to work through this pain and wrestle with this issue, and it hasn't gotten any easier.

In those three years, I have comforted and been comforted by others who understand what it's like to lose a child you've never held. And what I've learned is that unless you've walked in my shoes, you don't get it.

Just as I will never be able to wrap my mind around the suffering of the friend who one year ago buried the daughter that she labored and delivered after her child's heart stopped beating in utero, or the suffering of the friend who wiped my tears after having suffered three miscarriages of her own.

Their pain is deep, and real, and intense. But most of all, it is unique. And unless you have walked in their shoes, you don't get it.

But what you can, and should, understand is this: when a mother suffers a miscarriage, she is grieving the loss of a child. A very real child, no matter how intangible it may seem to everyone around her, was being knit together in her womb, under the watchful eye of a gracious and loving Father.

I have learned very well in three years is that this loss is greatly misunderstood. I suffered terribly then, and continue to suffer at the hands of careless people who would seek to diminish the value of the life that was lost in a misplaced effort at easing the pain. "Oh, at least it was early," they'll say. As if losing a smaller or younger child is somehow less painful than losing an older one. Or perhaps, "I'm sure you'll get pregnant again." As if children are somehow interchangeable and can be replaced as you might replace a broken dish with a new one.

I write this in hopes that someone out there will read this, and will not make the same mistake.

It's true that no one quite knows how to comfort someone who has suffered a miscarriage, because the loss is so intangible--for everyone but the mother. But if you would defend the life of the unborn when it comes to the issue of abortion, then I challenge you to stop next time you're tempted to offer simple platitudes to the friend, the daughter, the wife, or the stranger who shares with you that her pregnancy has ended in a miscarriage.

Because to those of us who understand that we are fearfully and wonderfully made from the moment of conception, it should be exceedingly obvious that what was lost was very much a child. And as such, we should grieve for the loss of that unborn baby, just as really as we would for the loss of an infant or a toddler.

Courtney Reissig says it this way in an article in which she speaks openly about her own miscarriage:
...none of us would say that what we lost was the "potential" for life. It was so much more than that. Our lost baby took with it the many dreams and hopes that began forming in our minds the moment we knew of the baby's existence. What was lost was a life that will never be replicated.
It's really important to never delegitimize the life that was once growing inside of a grieving mother or was once frozen in an IVF clinic. To her (and to God), this life was never a mere blob of tissue or a fetus. He or she was a life. 
As Christians, we must never treat pregnancy loss as some fluke accident that at least proves pregnancy is possible. We should be the first to grieve over every baby lost, regardless of the gestation, circumstance, or result of their death. 
What I lost was not the potential for a baby. What I lost was my third child. The words I penned three years in my mourning still ring true: "I miss this child. I mourn for this child that I never saw, never held and will never know." God was, and is, and will continue to be my greatest comfort. But as those first few days of intense mourning faded, I was left with some tough questions, and very few answers. The answers have come, over time, through much prayer, and through study of God's word. In a recent article about the son, Adam, that he and his wife lost through miscarriage, Alex Early summed up well what I know about my baby.
Where do the unborn babies go? ...The reality is that Scripture never speaks directly to this situation. At this point we are left to speculation, but our speculation doesn’t go unenlightened. We have a perfect Bible that reveals ultimately what God desires for us to know. Since there is not a verse (much less a systematic theology) on this subject, it seems only right to appeal to the character and nature of the God in whose image humans are created.
God has revealed himself as holy, just, and righteous—but that’s not all. He’s revealed himself as the definition of love (1 John 4:8), whose grace is scandalous, (Luke 15:11–32), and whose mercy leads to our justification (Rom. 2:4). In fact, Jesus teaches us that he is our heavenly Father (Matt. 6:7–15) and Paul goes as far as to tell us on two occasions that God prefers his kids use a familial name like “Abba” when talking to him in prayer (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:16).
Though I don’t have a verse that says definitively that [our child] Adam is in heaven with Jesus along with millions of other children, when I look at the nature and character of our God....I abide in the great comforter, the Holy Spirit, knowing that my baby met this God face to face, and therefore, I have great hope of one day worshiping Jesus at Adam’s side.
I never knew my baby, or held my baby, but that child has a place in my heart, and in our family. Justin asked me once what I would name our child if I get to heaven first. That one simple act of joking about names--as we have through all our other pregnancies--reminded me again that it is okay to continue to mourn and to miss my baby, and to never for a second fall into the fallacy that what we lost was anything less than a child, made in the image of God, and known by Him before the foundation of the world.

These days, I don't cry nearly so often over the little one that is missing from our family. Dates stick out in my mind that make the feelings more intense. The anniversary of the day we found out we were pregnant. The day an empty ultrasound confirmed our worst fears. The day that might have been our child's birthday. In this world, I will have sorrow. But like the author above, I have great hope of one day worshiping Jesus at my child's side.

4 comments:

  1. Christina,
    Thanks for sharing your heart and your hope in this post. Our family lost our 4th child in August at 7 weeks, and I was devastated. It's a different kind of grieving process, because you are grieving what was known yet unknown. I trust that God has our family's future in his hands, but yet my heart still aches. Love, Ashlie

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  2. Christina,

    I appreciate you sharing your heart and your pain. We just brought our son home on the date we lost our first child two years ago. Although I am overjoyed with our amazing blessing, I still grieve for the baby I never got to hold. I still dream about her and the day I will get to hold her. Your post was an encouragement that it is okay to still grieve as I celebrate this new life in our life.

    Natalie Riley

    Natalie

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  3. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and pain with the world. I have lost 3 babies before 2 months, and for some reason it always seems as tho other people don't think I should mourn them as I would a baby I got to hold. Thank you for affirming the value of each life, no matter how small.

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  4. Thanks for sharing:) I often think about the child we lost between Mac and Annie. But sometimes I get scared I will forget about him/her like it was "just an unfortunate circumstance" and not a life like any of my other children. It is healing to read and talk to others that have walked the same road. I tear up thinking about holding that little one when all our sorrows are no more and we are at home with our heavenly father and resurrected family. Your kids are precious!

    CJ Greene

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