My Blessing To Bear

the depths of pregnancy loss through the heart of a truth seeker


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To Know You…

Sweet Franklin,

A thought occurred to me today. The knowledge of your presence in my womb brought upon an excitement for the moment we would meet you…an expectation for an expanding family and a life that would always include you…and the wonder of all the possibilities of what you would look like, how your voice would sound, what your interests and talents would be, and how our lives would be changed and blessed through our relationship with you. But every day is another day I won’t spend loving you and watching you bloom. I’ve missed out on all of it. But I wonder if all that I’ve lost might be given to me in an instant, the moment I see you and embrace you in heaven. I wonder if our relationship will be as though you never left us. Just the possibility of it is such a comforting thought.

But I suppose if that’s not how things will go I will have the rest of eternity to know you.

Honey, this world is filled with so much pain. I remember breaking down into sobs the moment I realized that your oldest brother would be born into and subjected to such a world…that even I would inevitably fail him at times. I knew that once he was no longer nestled in there I couldn’t keep him fully protected. You will never have to suffer the pain that exists in this world. You are forever safe from the hands of evil and the devastation of sin. For that I am thankful. Knowing that God’s plan for you involved a very short physical existence and yet an exponentially continual impact brings me a peace and a gratitude that no one can ever take away.

Until we see each other, my little, I will hold to that excitement and expectation…that wonder of who you are becoming while you are safely tucked in the arms of the one who knew you before the beginning of time.

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One Year

Today holds a mix of emotions for me.

After many months of trying to conceive, I sit here experiencing the many (mostly unpleasant) twinges and waves that come with early pregnancy. I am now 10 weeks into it, and until I can reach my second trimester, my hopes and excitement remain bridled. I look forward to feeling more confident that this baby will thrive so that I can be more fully present in the bliss of expectancy.

What I am fully present in is the reality that today, being my due date last year, could have been Franklin’s first birthday. I keep picturing what he might have looked like as a one-year-old. What would he have liked on his birthday cake? What interests would he have at this point, and what sorts of things would have lit up his face as he opened his gifts? I wonder how he would look if I died today and met him in heaven, outside of time and space.

Sometimes I indulge in my grief over losing Franklin, but those times are usually momentary and followed by a sense of utter gratitude. My tears of sorrow mingle with and turn to tears of awe. It comforts me to know what capable and loving hands he is in, and the road I’ve traveled since he first arrived there has everything to do with him.

If it weren’t for Franklin, I would not have received a stronger sense of compassion and understanding for others who suffer after pregnancy loss or termination. If it weren’t for Franklin, I know I still would not have found my passion for life that led me to begin my journey as a volunteer with the local Pregnancy Resource Center. If it weren’t for Franklin, I might still be stumbling along with an even less complete view of God’s character and His love for me. Had my faith not shaken, had my complacency not been ripped from my hands, I might have blindly continued to build my comfortable little house on sinking sand.

Franklin made my life more meaningful…more relevant…more beautiful. This was what Jesus knew all along, while he held my confused, angry, desperate, tear-stained, crumpled form in his arms a year and a half ago.

I think I can finally say with confidence that it all makes sense now. I can still miss him. I can still cry over him. I can still dream about what he might be like. But one day I will know. And God changed my life through him. And I also know that God’s intention is for the echo of his life to ripple throughout mine and into the lives of others. The tremendous and unfading value of such a tiny person who never even saw the world speaks volumes about the kind of value God has given all of us.

I am precious. The life developing inside of me is precious. And you are precious.

Don’t let those words float past you. You…yes, you reading this right now…you are absolutely and unequivocally precious. You have purpose. What happens in your life has purpose. And you will never fully know just how deeply loved you are this side of heaven. He set your life in motion for a reason. I hope that my journey has given you a sense of that.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:16)


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Negatives

During the many months of testing, I waited for last September with bright-eyed anticipation. I would walk out of that phlebotomist’s lab for the last time, knowing that I could possibly be back there in the next month in light of a new and exciting occasion. It seemed a perfect set-up: The seemingly endless pageant of blood draws and waiting was over, Zach would be home more often, we’d be looking for a little more space in a new home while he began job hunting, and upon God’s will we would hopefully be moved in, new nursery and all, ready to welcome a new baby. To my surprise, given our previously quick success, the first month failed us. When the second window of opportunity approached, I fell very ill – another scratch. And as time passed, my mind had much to ponder, and that dewy thrill of hope began to wear thin.

I’ve spent the last several months teetering forward and back, my heart being swept one way and another by circumstances. Knowing that we will never again amble through a pregnancy blissfully unaware has intermittently halted my desire to make an attempt. But my increasing circle of baby boomers repeatedly calls me back with every sweet new smiling pair of cheeks I see.

And so I take that step forward again, my hopes and fears culminating in that one moment when my shaky hands prepare for the reveal on each pregnancy test, my heart beating wildly at the thought of another chance and my mind decidedly aware that this is it – this is the first day of the rest of our lives as a family of four. I watch. I wait.

Well, maybe five minutes more.

And then ten.

And finally, another “wasted” test goes into the garbage along with the great significance that moment might have captured. It’s okay, there’s always next month.

On those days, my disappointment is freckled with relief, and everything seems to return to a fairly neutral state shortly after. But then the moment I find myself alone, there the grief and dread find me. My last year was notorious for premonitions. Perhaps that is why I keep running back to the possibility that this isn’t just a few simple failed attempts. I certainly did my share of excessive research into curettage and the possible outcomes, and I am very well acquainted with the particular one that causes infertility. I know that God has put adoption on both Zach’s and my heart, and that one day we hope to be adoptive parents. But will it be solely about our hearts to love a parentless child? As a driver who has suffered through a string of accidents takes to the road with a heightened alertness to what could come, here I stand.

Yesterday was another one of those days. Another negative. Another day of fearful contemplation. Another day of being reminded where I stand: at his mercy and by his grace.

It’s interesting that I have been brought back to this at the helm of such a weighty weekend. Good Friday features the mercy and grace of God. Before his resurrection, Jesus’ life bled out. And as he hung there, lifeless on the cross – because of me, even because of my incessant worrying about what might be (my distrust and my desire for control) – mercy and grace stood. The death he bore was for me. I can stand today, with all my blemishes, inconsistencies, and doubt, with full confidence that I’m only standing because of his mercy and grace. And they live on, my very platform as my feet shuffle forward and back in my uncertainty.

Remembering all that transpired last year, my tears now fall with greater depth and understanding than they had before. Jesus was there through every bit of suffering, and my love for him expanded in a way I never thought possible. Franklin was a tragic and sweet gift, and that gift will be even sweeter the moment I finally see his precious face. Franklin taught me that when life dips into those deep crevices and valleys, I emerge from them with a new set of eyes and a clearer sense of vision that brings my Father’s face into a finer focus. There is purpose and beauty that lies within pain. And life prevails. Because of the mercy and grace of Jesus on that Good Friday, I will see my baby one day. Because of this tender time of remembrance, my light and momentary struggles are grossly overshadowed and given fresh perspective. If I never conceive again, I have a hope to rejoice in.

Thank you, Jesus, for your marvelous and inestimable gift.


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Candles

Today is International Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day. All around the world, people are lighting candles between the hours of 7 and 8pm in remembrance of lost little ones. It grieves me to know that I don’t even have the amount of candles I would need to light in honor of each little one lost. It seemed so few and far between that I would hear of the loss of a friend’s child before I experienced my own, and I had only known of one instance where a child had been born and died weeks later. Since February, I naturally have been confided in by many who lost their children, and I was shocked to learn how common this was and how under the radar each loss went. But since February, we have lost seven different children to five different sets of family friends. And so the grief lives on, rebuilding upon itself a seemingly endless torrent of fresh pain and bereavement, leaving wounds open and free-flowing.

There must be a pattern in the madness. My latest and most immediate tool has been in the form of a question: “God, what are you doing through this?” It’s not a challenge, nor is it rhetoric. This has been my heart’s cry. I often find myself speculating, but I marvel over all the great things God can and very well may do through each and every trial. What God does answer me with is the warmth of his caress, the hope that can be found in his promises, and the knowledge of his strength and sovereignty. And sometimes I even get a glimpse of what he’s working specifically through a situation. Much of those gems come to me when he points me back to the journey I’ve taken this year. Zach and I have come so far since the start of all of this. We are so much better equipped to be his hands and feet to those who suffer around us. We are alert to the cries of broken hearts, and we stand with baited breath to pray with a new, stronger faith for those who enter our thoughts. And the fire in our hearts for Jesus burns ever hotter.

Still, we were never promised that we would get through life without pain. On the contrary, we were assured that we would have plenty of it. But here we stand, and our pain will increase as we allow ourselves to see the international body of believers as part of our own body, as we suffer along with our hurting brothers and sisters, and as we cry out for the world around us, lost and lonely and veiled by self-infliction.

Through all of this continued grief, the spiritual has become more important and real to me than the physical. No, the physical has become the evidence of the spiritual – the offspring, the concept, the very artwork of the creator of both the spiritual and physical. The kingdom is here. His fingerprint is on everything.

Today, I will light every candle I have in remembrance and celebration of each lost child that has graced this world, whether inside the womb or out. But most of all, I will remember them in honor of the parents who long for them every day and will never forget their existence and the imprint it forever left on their hearts. I will remember them, because I know that longing, I will suffer alongside each bereaved parent, and I will celebrate because every angel in heaven celebrated with Jesus when each precious child arrived safely in his arms.

God bless you, everyone out there who is grieving from the loss of a child. I pray that you will feel the comfort and love of the Father today. He is near.

I REMEMBER YOU

The world may never notice
If a rosebud doesn’t bloom
Or even pause to wonder
If the petals fall too soon.

But every life that ever forms,
Or ever comes to be
Touches the World in some small way
For all eternity.

The little ones we longed for
Were swiftly here and gone.
But the love that was then planted
Is a light that still shines on.

And though our arms are empty,
Our hearts know what to do.
Every beating of my heart says
“I Remember You”.

– Author unknown


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Masterpiece

August 23rd marked the day that I might have held little Franklin in my arms. I spent the entirety of it in a whirlwind of chores – excessive laundry, weeding, dishes, de-icing the fridge, repairing clothes, anything I could think of that needed doing. Zach was away that week, and knowing that there would be no special moment to share on that day might have pushed me to keep from dwelling on the day’s significance. As my busyness persisted, there lurked this growing heat in the corner of my heart.

Once I laid Oscar down for the night, I finally slowed down to let the fire ignite in my chest. Tears of a longing sorrow forge a path down my cheeks – one that I will never move past. But with that sorrow came a bright new revelation: For quite a while I thought my pain was all I had to hold onto to keep my little one’s memory alive in my heart. But now, I see that although he will not be physically present in my life, his existence has changed the rhythm of my heartbeat. Mingling among those sorrowful tears are the ever-evolving tears of an increasingly grateful joy.

I have been staring at this hazy picture for so long, it seems, trying to make out what I’m looking at, and at the end of a long 9 months, I can surely say I will never fully know, and I am finally okay with that. But parts have and will come into focus: Franklin. My journey of sanctification. A deeper relationship with Christ, and an improved understanding of his heart and character. I think I once assumed that the subject figure in the picture must have been me. I can see now that I am far from the subject. As a matter of fact, many other figures have come into focus. And you are there. And Christ stands out above all of it.

Whether I would have recognized it or not, the creator of the universe will not waste a single tear. His ultimate longing for all the world is that we would look away from death and come into his kingdom. His ultimate longing for those in his kingdom is that they would know him and make him known. And he wants you to know the depth of his love for you.

On this new day, I thought about all of the pain I’ve endured and seen loved ones endure, and I could do nothing but rejoice. Through the pain, through the tears, through the uncertainty, I could only focus on how in control our heavenly father is of all things. He is not surprised. I could think of all the if-only’s I want. I could continue to think that my plan is better and that things should have gone just the way I imagined they should…but all to only add a dose of anguish, pride, and fear to my trials.

Had I not lost my little Franklin, had I not suffered alongside all those who have suffered greatly this year, I most certainly would still be living in worry, fear, and doubt. I would certainly not have been knocked down so many rungs on my pride ladder, and I would certainly have continued to trust in my own heart over that of God’s.

And still, even knowing so much of the great things God has done in my heart over the last many months, I have no idea just how great his works have been and will be. Somehow I just know that I can hardly see the start of it. But all of this was written in his book before I came into existence, and his plans go well beyond you and me. And I get to carry his heart with me as I speak his beauty out to the world which I love dearly because he loves it dearly.

You were always in this picture, and it is a masterpiece. The only if-only I have left to ponder is, “If only we knew just how much he loves us…” If we knew, what amazing feats could we accomplish in his name? But that only leaves more to marvel at, because of course his heart for us is infinite.

My prayer today is that whoever you are, reading this right now, you would be blessed by the almighty God who created the vastness of the universe and the intricacies of your unique soul, that you would experience a love like you’ve never known…the love of the savior, who thought of you as he drew in his final breaths. I pray that all could see and revel in the glory of such an immeasurable and fully capable God. Put your trust into his hands. I can say with utmost confidence that he will never, ever leave you.

My meek little boy left a mighty impression on my heart. I have much to be thankful for.


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His name

A brief disclaimer:  I believe there is a delicate balance between maintaining a healthy understanding of my grief and not allowing it to overtake me.  I hope that this blog has thus far been a helpful tool for others who have suffered miscarriages, but it has also served as an extremely helpful way for me to maintain that understanding and grow from it.  I am grateful for those who have been following along with me on this journey.  To some it may seem a little excessive that these posts continue in the way that they do, but please be aware that this blog was specifically created to share the sentiments and revelations I experience as they relate to my pregnancy loss.  My life continues to draw itself forward in the way a full-time mother’s would.  Parenting a toddler has kept me on my toes, and time has crowded out much of my sorrows with various preoccupations and insights as it would.  So there is of course lots of in-between, where I find grief touching down at periodic intervals and occasionally for a brief stretch.  These are the junctions of which I feel compelled to share.  Thank you again for reading along!

I’m currently flying high above the Midwest on my way to meet my niece and nephew. I have a newfound fear of flying as of a few years ago following a bad experience, so needless to say I’ve been doing whatever I can to sleep, stay occupied, and pray through this. It wasn’t until Kari Jobe’s “Lord Over All” began playing over my earphones when something changed.

The lyrics struck me as absolutely fitting and timely in so many ways. Each time “You never fail” was repeated toward the end of the song, the concept appeared increasingly clearer. I looked down over the mountains and valleys below, to the horizon beyond, and up into the darker blue skies above me. I marveled over the vast expanse, and the feeling that I don’t belong up here aside from an advancement in technology filled my mind. Along with that feeling came the awareness of Jesus’ presence. He is up here. He reaches the horizon. He reaches well beyond the darkening blue above, far beyond the absence of light, where the cold of space hangs silently, delicately, and brutally. He knows where I am, and he is here with me. And he never fails. Even here and now.

It occurred to me that he always knew I’d be here at this place in time. He knew I’d be in this very plane on my way to visit my new family members. He knew I’d be sitting here struggling with fear.

And it came to me that even well before my baby’s body began forming, he always knew I’d pray unceasingly for a name after our loss. He knew I’d meet that sweet woman last week whose due date was the same as my little one’s and that I would be wondering what that looming day would be like for us when it arrived. He knew I’d wonder what it would be like looking into my youngest niece’s new eyes – if I would swell with only joy or if grief would also wind its way in. He knew sorrow would show its face at unexpected times such as these. He knew I would begin to tuck away that sorrow and rendezvous with it whenever I would find myself driving alone in the car, where my soul would most often find space to stretch its legs. He knew it all before my existence.

A few days ago I had the word “trust” spoken to me in my dream. Lately this has been the Lord’s way of speaking precise words to me. When it happens, his word always cuts through the middle of my dream, sometimes along with a picture, and it causes me to abruptly wake. The word came to me along with a finger pointing in a bible. So on the following day I pored over the bible, searching for verses where the word “trust” was used. I was shown lots of good reminders about trusting Jesus with my circumstances. But for some reason I was also led to re-read 2 Timothy 1:7, which states, “…God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” It just so happens that recently this verse has been just what I’ve needed to remember several times a day and in vastly different situations. Well, I suppose before I can truly drink up all this verse has to offer, I must trust in what the Lord tells me.

And so the reassurance of that verse has interrupted my every chaotic thought for the last half hour. As much as my head has understood it, my spirit has never completely latched on until now. And as I have sat here allowing the peace of the Lord’s presence to choke out any remnant of white-knuckled fear with which I began my flight, a name has just been spoken to me, clear as day – my beloved little one’s name.

Perhaps this new place of trust is where I needed to arrive before I could assuredly accept that it was from God. Somehow the loss of my little one has made my search for a name a very difficult and solemn task. It feels as though since his spirit already dwells with God in heaven it only seems appropriate to ask God to name him. And because of the sacred importance I felt necessary to assign the charge, I have been painstakingly attempting to pull any personal bias from it so that I can be sure I am hearing properly. My doubts have obviously been playing a big part in the whole process.

I have heard God’s voice during plenty of waking hours in my life. But this is the first time it has happened so clearly and precisely since we began praying for a name. Just a while ago, as I took hold of peace and entered into an attitude of thankfulness, my thoughts drifted to the joy I was swiftly approaching. I imagined holding my newborn niece and my 10-month-old nephew in my arms. Then the image was met with a bittersweet recognition that while I should allow myself to dote wholeheartedly, simultaneously I should remember that I would have a very short time with them and have to say goodbye on indefinite terms. It was somewhere within that space that the word broke through.

Considering the subject matter of my contemplation, I guess it makes sense that God would choose this occasion to interject – one of revelation, where my doubt and fear give way to trust and thanksgiving, where his spirit surrounds me and holds me captivated, where my excitement about new family holds the awareness of a fleeting embrace.

He must have waited all this time because he knew that not until now would my heart be prepared to lay aside its apprehensions and receive the answer I’ve so cautiously coveted, and at such an impeccably fitting moment!

Wow.

He knew. He always knew. And my little one has always had a name.

And his name is Franklin.

Thank you so much, Jesus.

“LORD OVER ALL”

In the valley of the unknown
I will lift my voice
In the shifting, in the shadow
I know You are with me

Lord over all
You will be my rescue
You will never fail
Lord, through it all
I will choose to trust You
You will never fail

In the searching and the waiting
You quiet my soul
In the stillness of Your presence
In know You are with me

Out of this darkness
Into Your promise
You will deliver me
Eternal Savior
You stand forever
You are my victory

You never fail

-Kari Jobe


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Without a Burial Plot

On my drive to town for this morning’s blood draw, a succession of fleeting thoughts suddenly landed me on the day I was rushed to the hospital with post-surgery complications. Just like it was yesterday, the entire scene enveloped me: Waking to another day of abdominal pain, although much more severe than usual…labor-like contractions…losing all that was left behind from the surgery…wondering if they’d missed my baby altogether and if I was experiencing a natural miscarriage regardless of all that I’d been through two weeks earlier…trying to push away the thought that I might be flushing my baby into a septic system…realizing that even though we’d opted for the surgery in order to minimize trauma, I still wound up going through that horror in what felt like a cruel twist ending.

And having to accept that there’s no option but to exist through it while trying to remove myself and seek refuge from the scenario playing out before me…inside me. The rawness of that emotion that stung like nothing I’d ever felt before, having to witness the violent, physical end to my baby’s demise, imagining that he might have fought to thrive and lost…remembering the dreams I’d had of his future…the excitement of Oscar being a big brother…the day our whole family rejoiced with us at our announcement…all that time spent in sickness, but expectant of the coming gift that gave purpose to every passing moment of discomfort. *

Sometimes I find myself thinking, did all of that really happen? Did I really, truly have another life forming inside of me? Did my baby really, truly die? The gravity of what happened so recently is sometimes hard to grasp, and yet sometimes it’s hard to escape. But like this morning, when it comes back around, it’s hard to suck up. I needed that drive because I needed to indulge in a good cry.

It happened a week ago as well. Getting into bed, my hospital wristband caught my eye above the armoire. We had decided to get a little box to keep the few things we had from the pregnancy, and we just hadn’t gotten around to it. We have very few anticipatory items…a picture from our one happy ultrasound, a dated “Big Brother” t-shirt that Oscar got to wear a couple of times, and a prop from the announcement movie we made (which is just a scribbled-on piece of paper). So I had decided to include items from the loss as well…sympathy cards, a letter I wrote, and my hospital wristband.

The moment I saw it up there on the armoire, I started to panic, hoping that all of these items were accounted for in the various places they were left, and not knowing how I’d cope if I’d lost one, especially the ultrasound picture (the only picture we will ever have of our little one). This led to thoughts of guilt, realizing that it would be my own carelessness that would cause such a torment. And then I found myself wondering if my procrastination was some sort of a sign that I was avoiding or forgetting my grief and thereby not honoring our baby’s life. What an odd new introspection that was. The sobs came on so fast and without warning that my husband didn’t know whether to comfort me or laugh.

I have had such a strange burden on me to produce ways to lay our baby to rest. A miscarriage really doesn’t offer much in the way of closure. I still find myself wondering what became of my baby’s remains…whether he was taken at surgery or expelled later. Though it was only a lifeless body, my mommy instinct still feels responsible to know these things. And so, moving on through life without a burial plot somehow makes more sense with a way to visit and keep safe what physically remains of our hope and loss.

My sweet baby. Has it really only been three months? It feels like you’ve been so much longer departed from me. It seems ages have passed since Mommy could speak to you inside her belly. I miss you so much that it hurts. But your Daddy in Heaven is holding me up, and He is using you to teach me many things.

In this season, as I struggle through the confusion, the guilt, and the fear, the Father, having now blessed me with a new sense of purpose, is gently and perpetually inviting me to trust Him. Again…and again. So I will. Again…and again.

“Oh,” said the gardener, as he passed down the garden-walk, “who plucked that flower? Who gathered that plant?” His fellow-servants answered, “The MASTER!” And the gardener held his peace.

– Elizabeth Prentiss

* You may have noticed that I refer to the baby as “he”. This is upon an answer to prayer for such details, and so upon my faith in the holy spirit I am trusting that our blessing was a boy.