If I start from the beginning, I remember that February afternoon when I sat with my husband (then, my almost-fiancé) on the porch of his parents’ house.
Feeling a bit dizzy and sore, I sat back and tried to rest. I was recovering from surgery. We sat in silence for a few moments. There was so much to think about.
In his hands, David held the photographs. They weren’t the kind you’d frame and put on a wall. Oh, no, far from it. In fact, they weren’t the kind you’d show to anyone, except those who needed to know, needed to see. In this case, just us.
They were medical photographs–pictures taken from my surgery. The stark images were proof of the debilitating pain I had experienced for over 14 years.
And they were devastating.
What does it do to the heart of a woman, longing to be a mother, to see her womb so diseased, so broken? To hear the words “stage 4 endometriosis”? I placed my hand over my belly and thought, it looks so dead inside. Surely no life can come from this.
The relief of finally being diagnosed could hardly outweigh the heaviness of our new “what if”: What if I can never bear a child?
Fast forward a few months, and I had a second surgery, to treat my disease. David and I got married, May 2016. We prayed throughout the day, every day, for the Lord to open my womb. As the months went by and I didn’t conceive, I tried to hold on to hope, but part of me wanted to give up and resign myself to childlessness. That way, I thought, it wouldn’t hurt as much.
But my theology wouldn’t let me do that. I knew my God was the God who gave children to barren Sarah, and Hannah, and Rebekah (my namesake). I knew those examples weren’t a promise that He would, but proof that He could–and gave me good reason to pray and not give up.
I also realized that the Lord uses means. I learned that I had an issue with my luteal phase–my uterine lining began to break down before it was supposed to, a common cause of infertility. I did some research and discovered that endometriosis usually causes estrogen dominance, and that low progesterone is almost a guarantee for those with the disease. So I decided to try some OTC progesterone cream, all the while praying and striving to trust Him no matter what.
The very first month I used the cream, the Lord opened my womb and I conceived my son, Owen James! It felt like a miracle. Still does, every time I look at him now, nearly two years old and full of life.
Fast forward again, nearly 16 months after the birth of my son. Breastfeeding led to the suppression of my cycles, providing me with much-needed relief from my endo. What a mercy from the Lord! But it still felt like a long time, as we ardently desired a second child. When my cycles finally returned, we were excited!
But once again, six months went by and no baby, even though I was ovulating regularly. I had forgotten about the progesterone cream! God graciously reminded me of this means He had used before to grant me our firstborn. We prayed and prayed. And lo and behold, the very first month I used the cream… we conceived again! Praise to the Lord alone. It truly felt like a second miracle.
I found out so early on. It was only 9 days past ovulation when I got that first faint positive line. I was lightheaded from the excitement. We announced the pregnancy very early–we had with Owen, too. We understand why many choose to wait, but we wanted to recognize and celebrate our baby’s new life, even at the earliest stage. Not to mention plead for the prayers of the saints for the sustaining of that life.
You see, I regularly minister to women who are seeking to kill their children in the womb–often in the very earliest weeks of life. My husband and I are passionate about defending the lives of the unborn, and love every opportunity to declare the personhood of children, no matter how small they are.
We loved our little baby. David often stopped to put his hand on my belly and talk to him or her, and I enjoyed imagining what he or she looked like, even as a tiny embryo, growing and developing. Our nickname for him or her was “Baby Blessing.”
But as the week went on, our joy began to change to worry. The faint lines on my tests were not getting much darker. I had my bloodwork done, and the results were low–low HCG, low progesterone. I just knew what might happen. It was hard to keep up hope.
We tried our best. I was put on bedrest and given more progesterone. The spotting started, and my heart dropped into my stomach. I had a second round of the HCG test. The levels had fallen to non-pregnant. Our worst fears, confirmed.
I’m no stranger to suffering. I lost my mother at 10, my father at 20. But this was a new kind of grief.
Losing our child, who had lived inside me for those few weeks, knowing there was nothing we could do… our hopes and excitement, turned to sobbing and pain… new life, ending in a pool of blood–and all so quickly, too. When those waves and billows passed over us, it felt like we were suffocating.
We never got to see Baby’s little body, nor hear his or her heartbeat; not one sonogram. It was too early, and Baby was so small.
But in my mind, we did. For better or worse, my mind imagined it all. In my mind, my belly grew large and I felt Baby’s fluttery kicks. In my mind, Baby was born into our arms in mid-November, in the cool of the autumn, just after David’s birthday and just before mine. In my mind, I saw my sweet Baby’s face, and I fell in love.
But then those faux-memories fade, and I am left with reality–some positive pregnancy tests, already fading, and an empty womb. An empty crib. An empty-feeling heart.
In the midst of the miscarriage, we named our baby Jedidiah Blessing. We know “Jedidiah” is a boy’s name, but we chose it for the meaning–beloved of the Lord.
It occurred to me that someone may wonder, why name a dead baby? Especially one who was so teeny tiny–just the size of a chia seed?
Why? Because a baby’s a baby, no matter how small. Because we loved and still love him or her with all our hearts. But most of all, because we believe that our son or daughter is now alive, in glory! God is the God of the living, not the dead.
By faith we gave Jedidiah Blessing a name, trusting that this precious covenant child is now absent from the flesh and present with the Lord. Where there is no more pain, nor death, nor suffering, but only peace and joy in the glorious presence of our Father.
We look forward to the day we will meet our little one–face to face.
GRIEVING LIKE THE PSALMISTS
Whenever trials come, I find myself returning again and again to the Psalms.
One thing I appreciate about them is their raw honesty. There’s no pretense or plastered-on smiles in Psalms 42 and 88. They are real about the pain of this life. Do you know what amazes me? These expressions of agony and sorrow are, for one, designed to be sung by a congregation. And two, they are words of worship and prayer to our God.
That tells me that, not only is suffering common to all of us, but it is something we can glorify the Lord with. He doesn’t want us to wait until we can fake happiness in order to worship. He wants our broken hearts poured out before Him.
But how do we grieve in a way that honors the Lord? Is it about finding the “bright side,” skipping over the sad parts and getting to the “all things for good” as quickly as we can?
And how do we comfort those who are mourning, particularly the loss of a child in the womb? Do we speedily point out all the perceived “positives” of the situation? “Well, now you know you can get pregnant!” “At least you weren’t in the second or third trimester.” “You’ll have another baby soon.”
I hope you don’t know from experience how much those kinds of words can hurt, but if you do, I am sorry. I know it can be very painful and difficult, in an already very vulnerable time.
We know our friends and family mean the best. They love us, and they want to comfort us. They struggle to know what to say. We must certainly cover over every comment with love.
But we also live in a day and age when babies in the womb, especially when they are tiny, are devalued as persons. As Christians, of course we know that these little ones are true children, who have precious value and eternal souls. Yet still, we may be tempted to think that the loss of an embryonic baby is somehow less worthy of grief than if the baby were bigger, or outside of the womb. That tendency reveals our need to remember the biblical teaching–that life begins at conception, and that every person is created by God in His image, and will live forever.
The Lord knows each of us, from the very first moments we are formed in the womb. Though I don’t know what Jedidiah would’ve been like, the Lord knows–the color of his eyes or hair, his personality… everything.
More than that, the miscarriage wasn’t simply the stopping of a pregnancy, or the end of a baby who could’ve been. It was a true loss of a child, who was–and still is, in heaven. And even if we have another child, as we pray that we will–the next baby could never replace our Jedidiah. That’s why the well-meaning “at least”s can really hurt.
Maybe we’ve lost the art of lamentation. Maybe we don’t know how to mourn with those who mourn, and weep with those who weep.
Do we know how to sit, like Job’s friends, in the silence, and just let the grief be? Can we acknowledge the sorrow and loss, and express sympathy for it, without feeling the need to skip to a happy ending?
You know what’s interesting–when you read or sing the Psalms, you don’t come across parts like this: “Lord, I’m sorrowful and cast down–but I know my emotions aren’t important, I know things could be so much worse, so I’ll just chin up!”
No. Instead, the psalmists allow themselves to experience the grief–and we should too. The Lord is with us in it. We can let the billows and waves (Psalm 42:7) crash over us, knowing they are His. And we can sit with our grieving friends, humbling ourselves under God’s mighty hand, trusting that in due time He will lift us up (1 Peter 5:6).
Perhaps that makes us uncomfortable. We want to try to make the other person happy. We hate seeing them sad. That’s a good intention, but we need to be patient. We need to remember that it’s not always God’s will for us to be happy at every moment. It’s not always what’s best for us, either. Under the sun, sorrow is an inevitable part of life. It makes us long to be above the sun.
That’s my longing, too. I want to see and embrace my Jedidiah Blessing. But the Lord who gave him to us, has taken him away. Yet there is joy in saying, through tears, “Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). And this is not a fleeting happiness, but a joy that sticks with us through the muck and mire of mourning. There is solace in knowing that the Giver of every gift is wise, good, and true to His promises. That will never change, because He never changes.
So for now, we grieve. But soon, the night of this vale of tears shall end, the eternal Day will begin, and our ultimate joy will come, never to depart. Until that day, we cling to our God. Even better–He holds on to us.
I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages. –C. H. Spurgeon
Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. -Psalm 30:5