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.
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.
On questioning what happens to your baby when you miscarry:
We can say, then, that an unborn child is a person, not based on biological development, but because we believe that he is loved by the ground of all reality, the Being whose love creates being and grants it to others. Your lost little one was indeed a person, known intimately, loved deeply by our personal God. It doesn’t matter how early or how late we die:
“If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord;
so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.
For to this end Christ died and lived again,
so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.”
At a funeral, a community of believers gathers to remember a life, to mourn its close, and to proclaim their common hope and trust that whatever life looks like on the other side of that deep river separating life from death, it is life lived in the presence of God. This is the posture we take toward those we have lost early to miscarriage. We remember their lives, our hopes and dreams for them, the ways in which their short existence changed us. We mourn their deaths, the deaths that happened in secret places, in the dark of our wombs. And we proclaim our common hope and trust that although we can’t wrap our imaginations around the details, the God who holds the span of life and death in God’s very hands and even in God’s very body, the God who stands beyond the edges of the universe and who dwells within the heart of the atom — this God holds even tiny lost lives in the hollow of the divine hand, calling them by name, knowing them intimately, making them whole and lovely at last.
“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.