He isn’t here, but now someone else is, this thrilling splendiferous second baby, and like any mother I can’t imagine taking the smallest step from the historical path that led me here, to this one, to such a one.Elizabeth McCracken
I have a friend who somehow remembered (did she add a reminder to her phone’s calendar?) that this month marks two years since we lost our first baby to miscarriage. She texted to let me know she was thinking of me and remembering with me. Then she sent this song, which I’d never heard before:
Seems a helpful song for personal pain and for collective pain…something that can touch us as a country right now. (Also, has anyone else noticed how impossibly catchy songs are when they lapse into non-word lyrics?) Happy listening.
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.
That is the question in a New York Times article from last week. As someone who grew up in the purity culture of 1990s Christianity, both benefiting from it and being stunted by it, I found this article helpful:
I am grateful for my upbringing, but it fell far short of the ideal way to teach teens and young adults about sex. I wish there was a perfect way to handle these imperfect, mysterious things.
“If you just trust God, everything will work out.”
Is that true?
Earlier this year, we learned we were expecting our first child. I floated around the house singing “I Get to Be the One.” We thanked God for the new life we got to nurture, and I trusted everything would work out. In fact, I just “knew” it would.
Only a few weeks later I sat bleeding in the ER, as a dear brother in Christ (and doctor) sat beside me, looked at me with sadness, and said, “You may be losing this baby.”
…But I had trusted God!
All my life I wanted to get married and live happily ever after. The years ticked by, with no relationship The One. Age 27, 28, then 29 – it sounds young, but when you come from Christian circles where everyone’s committed to abstinence until marriage, that’s old! Pastors and friends told me God would give me my heart’s desire – that this romance would happen for me someday.
But part of me stopped believing it would. I could no longer “know” for sure.
Then one summer, at a community garden workday, I met a man who thoroughly impressed me: When we met, he stood to shake my hand. (Thank you, U.S. military, for teaching your service members signs of respect.) This man became more than I could have asked for, calling me to be better, calling me to be humbler – and holding me when life brought us pain that couldn’t find words.
…But I hadn’t trusted God!
Trusting God and having things “work out” is not a guarantee. There is no formula.
What I’m trying to trust, instead, is: God is here. I hope all of us can take comfort in a God who is present in any season, both the ones we couldn’t have wished for, and the ones we wouldn’t wish on anyone.
said the mother who lost her 19-year-old son in a car accident to the mother who lost her 7-week-old embryo.
from Madeleine L’Engle’s beautiful memoir Two-Part Invention:
The Story of a Marriage
Which is worse — murdering someone, or refusing to forgive someone? I think she and George MacDonald might be right.
I had just finished a hospital visit and was texting a joke to my colleague as I walked through the parking lot. I looked up every so often, between finger taps, and stayed on the edge of the lot.
A car slowed down and the driver, a man, said something out the window.
I stopped texting. “I’m sorry — what was that?” I ducked my head to peer into his car. There was a woman in the passenger seat. Both were smiling.
“I’m sorry,” the man said. “I’m not trying to be rude, but I’m worried about you texting. You can’t tell what’s going on around you.”
“I know,” I said, “and I know it’s bad, and I do it anyway.”
“I know. And you never know if someone’s gonna sneak up behind you and steal your pocketbook.”
Both he and his passenger seemed kind, and embarrassed.
“Thank you for looking out for me.”
“I care about you,” said the man.
“Thank you.” We exchanged have-a-good-days, and then I said something I rarely say, even though I’m a pastor: “God bless you.”
I sat in my truck to finish the text, zipped the phone into my purse and drove off.
He wrote these poems while receiving cancer treatment that made his skin sensitive to the sun. If he wanted to take a daily walk, he had to do so in the dark.
I read these poems four years ago, on increasingly dark mornings. I read them slowly, aloud, while taking slow steps around my bedroom. I came across one I copied in my journal on October 22, 2014. Will God grace me with a marriage someday, I’d asked, — a good one? Will my childhood self finally know what she has only daydreamed about? Will it be all she hoped?
Windy and cold.
All night, in gusty winds,
the house has cupped its hands around
the steady candle of our marriage,
the two of us braided together in sleep,
and burning, yes, but slowly,
giving off just enough light so that one of us,
awakening frightened in darkness,
Someday, I wrote. Someday.