This is a great genre — it forces you to be succinct, to be economical with your words. The deal is, you get exactly 100 words — no more, no fewer — to tell your story. Some of these are fiction, some non. Mine is non:
Grateful they published this piece, especially as this week we come up on the one-year anniversary of the miscarriage.
When it came time to leave for the birthing center, after a night of fighting delirium and contracting muscles and vomiting bile into the hotel trash can, I had enough presence of mind to pick up my miscarriage memorial bracelet and put it on. I could barely walk, but this I remembered to do.
When we arrived at the birthing center, I was 9 cm dilated, though I didn’t learn the amount until later — I asked not to know. My only other memory of the bracelet is when I was on all fours on the bed, my wrists locked and propped on pillows. Mostly my eyes were closed, but as the sun began coming through the blinds, I saw the bracelet there. Soon after, the midwife told me to flip around, and be fast about it.
I had heard that I wouldn’t think about the miscarriage as much, once the baby came, and I’m afraid that’s true. The bracelet sits in my drawer now. It’s been thirteen days since the birth, and any tears are reserved for this child, not for the one that came before.
I hope this is not a betrayal.
Lit a candle for Little Story, our miscarried baby, today during communion. Granted, I was leading worship, so yes, I lit his candle, but meanwhile I was explaining to the congregation how they could take these wooden incense sticks, light the end, then touch the tip to a tealight in memory of their loved one, after which I would be available at the altar to pray with them. I guess that’s part of being a pastor — you’re sort of worshiping, but sort of just helping others worship.
Today brought tears. Some of the tears were from worrying about how to survive the newborn stage in just a few weeks’ time. Some were from remembering Little Story. And some were probably just fatigue. But I have a good husband who is not afraid of my tears and doesn’t try to transform them into happiness. So as All Saints Sunday draws to a close, I feel spent but content.
“I’ll never ‘get over’ my miscarriage. I’ve stopped wanting to. I’ll carry it, instead. I’ll carry it and carry it and never put it down.”
– Beth Ann Fennelly, Great with Child, p. 98
Being pregnant so quickly after a miscarriage does not remove the pain of said miscarriage. I cried on Mother’s Day, in D.C. on our babymoon. We had scheduled the trip when we were expecting our first. We decided to keep the train tickets even after the loss, and here we were, expecting again. It could have been worse — I could have not been pregnant — but still I cried in the church around the corner while the choir sang “The King of Love My Shepherd Is.”
I was supposed to be 23 weeks along, in the peach glow of the second trimester, ballooning with joy and turning heads. Instead I was 11 weeks along, falling into bed every afternoon while it rained outside our rented basement flat. Walking through museums exhausted me, and all our dinner dates — Thai larb, Indian paneer, thick foot-long doughy pizzas — weren’t enough to encourage my appetite. We finally rented city scooters, and as we bumped along the sidewalks, I wondered if I would lose this baby too.
Will the remembrance of miscarriage always make tears coat my eyes? I imagine so. I’ve been keeping track of when and why I cry about the miscarriage — each instance since January. The most recent was August 5. I ought to average them out.
I am excited with each baby kick from “Little Swan,” as we’re calling this one, and I’ve recorded the rapid-hoof heartbeat from the doctor’s Doppler. But when the heartbeat sounded through the exam room, I couldn’t help my first thought, of the baby before: I never got to hear his heart.
Happy two-year anniversary to my dear husband. Here’s a beautiful liturgy we prayed last night:
Husband: At death we will part.
Wife: Therefore let us not take the blessing of our life together for granted.
Silence is kept as both spouses consider for a moment the gravity of this truth.
Husband: May our hearts be ever drawn towards You, O Lord
In whose three-personed perfection of love
Burns the fire that would kindle also our two-personed imperfection
Into a oneness that is warmed and forged of your holy flames,
Wife: A thing that is both an echo and seed and a play upon a stage
Portraying the promise of union with Christ that is to come.
Together: We are unworthy players, O Lord, unworthy to portray your glory.
We are weak. We are jealous. We are easily wounded.
We are petty. We are embittered. We store up remembrances of wounds.
We are insecure.
We hurt one another.
We do not deal with our conflicts well.
We fail to love as you have loved.
Forgive us even the failures of this day.
Silence is kept. If either husband or wife has need to make amends, they may do so now.
Husband: I am not strong enough in my own strength to be husband to you.
Wife: And I am not strong enough in my own strength to be wife to you.
Together: Let us turn to God together then, asking the strength that we need.
Husband and wife take hands.
Together: Give us therefore the strength that comes from the grace that flows from your heart alone, O God, that we might live and move and breathe in air of that grace, receiving it in ourselves, and then offering it daily to one another. Without grace, our marriage will wither as a vine unrooted. But sustained by your grace, it will ever flourish and bloom and flower and fruit.
Husband: Forgive us our failures and our sins against one another and against our marriage, O God,
And restore now our hearts to you and to one another.
Wife: Repair the damages of our selfishness, our thoughtlessness, our inconsistencies.
Draw us again together at the close of this day, in love, and forgiveness, and fellowship and peace.
Together: May we sleep this night side by side in unity of heart and mind and purpose.
May we wake in the morning in solidarity and delight,
Thankful for the sharing of this life, for the companion who journeys beside us,
For hands to hold and arms to embrace, and lips to kiss at the close of day.
Husband: May we love one another more at the end of this day
Than we did at its beginning.
Wife: May we treasure one another more at the end of this week
Than we did at its start.
Husband: May we hold one another as more precious, more respected, more dear
At the shuttering of this month, than we did at its opening.
Wife: May we delight in our companionship and take heart in the sharing of our burdens more at the close of this year, than we did as it opened
Husband: May we reflect your glory far more fully in the beauty of our shared relationship
At the hour we are parted by death than we did even in the hour of our wedding.
Together: Bless our marriage. Kindle our desire. Teach us to be friends and lovers and companions.
And may this our marriage exist not only for our benefit,
But may the bond between us grow to be a shelter and a blessing for others as well.
Husband: We ask these things in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Together: And now, with joined hearts, together we bring to you these burdens of our day.
Husband and wife may now freely petition their heavenly Father with all worries, burdens and concerns.
Copyright 2016 by Douglas Kaine McKelvey. All Rights Reserved.
Last week, I came into church and was immediately hugged by a woman who’d just heard of our miscarriage.
“I know you know this,” she said, “but, God has a reason. We just don’t always know what it is.”
It was, of course, her way of trying to offer comfort. It was her way of making sense of the senseless. It was her single lifeline, and as a wise pediatric oncologist once said, “Don’t take away someone’s lifeline.”
So I didn’t say, “No, I don’t ‘know’ that. I don’t believe that. In fact, I have preached against that. Or were you not here that Sunday?”
Instead I said, “Thank you,” and meant it. Because her hug was the more important thing. Her broken heart, displayed on her face, was the real comfort. And we all just take our lifelines where we can.