Today is pregnancy and infant loss day. I am one in four. Today, I am compelled to share my story. I pray that those who have lost their sweet little ones find that they are not alone.
I called you “Baby Blue.” I was naive when I got pregnant in the heat of the summer of 2012. I didn’t know the one-in-four statistic: That one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage. I didn’t know to guard my hope cautiously, because in that first trimester, your whole world dangles by a thread. That microscopic cluster of cells hangs in a precarious balance between sustainable life and an abrupt self-terminating conclusion.
I didn’t know to be terrified. So we hopped on a cruise ship, taking our year-late honeymoon. I was barely ten weeks along, and on the morning that we drove the the airport hours before the sun peeked over the edge of the horizon, I was starting to feel pretty flu-ish. I had the dead giveaway scratchy throat, body aches, and felt a bit pulverized, but we took off anyway.
As we awaited our flight to Florida, I remember noticing the sunflowers plastered in frames throughout the Wichita Airport—the sunflower state was still new and somewhat offensive to me. It did not feel like home, but I imagined our little family growing in this flat state speckled with September sunflowers, stunning sunsets, and flat terrain, and the idea of sending roots down deep into the Kansas soil seemed much more appealing.
Never before had I experienced a vacation on a cruise ship, and never will I do it again. When you loose your first child into the crystal blue waters off the coast of the Cayman Islands, you never forget the searing pain of having to say goodbye before you even had the chance to say hello. Then, when other cruise ship passengers enjoyed snorkeling, swimming, and sight-seeing on The Grand Cayman, I lay holding the hand of my beloved, exposed on the examining room table of an Island OBGYN. He confirmed the miscarriage, as he showed me the image of my empty womb: The womb that had, the day before, housed our sweet dream-baby. He said, with his Cayman accent, “You see? This is where the baby would be. No baby.” He repeated “No baby” more times than I could bear, as if he felt the need to absolutely convince me that my womb was entirely empty. I didn’t need convincing. I had watched my baby evacuate the womb and in shock had flushed our first child down the toilet in our little cruise-ship cabin.
I remember looking down into the aquamarine water as we took a motor boat from the dock back the the ship after our unnecessary confirmation of the end of my pregnancy, my insides screaming as they surrendered a life that they desperately fought to preserve, and my mind in a fog after sobbing all night against the rhythm of the rocking boat in our tiny cabin room…. the same room that I lost my child in. The room where I screamed the scream of the guttural grief of a mother losing her child: A boisterous barrage of teenagers who happened to be making their way down the hall as my scream echoed through the corridor mocked in their ignorance and care-free vacation spirit. Had they known my story, they would not have mocked my scream of pure agony. I hope. But to their credit, I cannot imagine what my wail sounded like to the outside observer. It could not have sounded human.
We only made it to Jamaica. While the other passengers were enjoying Jamaican beaches, we took a flight out of Jamaica back home to Kansas. I could not bear to be on the boat that symbolized the death of our child for another hour, let alone four more days.
Once home, we stumbled through the corridor of the Kansas Airport once again, one life less than what we left with, my hope poured out like life-blood into the ocean off the coast of Florida. In the Kansas airport once again, the sunflowers in the frames cheerfully mocked my unprecedented grief. The same flowers that sang with hope three days prior now taunted me with their painfully sunny spirit.
Still agonizingly sick (I did indeed get the flu on top of the painful agony of my womb ridding itself of the snuffed out ten-week old life), I clung to my rock, Jordan. Exhausted, delirious, and empty, I wept on and off for days, which turned into weeks. But society manages to project strange and cruel rules about miscarriages, the main ones being: You don’t talk about it, and you need to get over it quickly.
I remember the pain, the knife that went through my heart and into my empty womb. I remember the tears that filled my pillow as though it were a sponge as I lay in bed, hands over my belly, which had quickly transformed from convex to concave: the one time in my life that a flat stomach broke my heart.
I also remember the rays of hope. I remember an inexplicable peace and joy that pierced the darkness of my night like an arrow of hope. I remember laughing with the awareness of God’s presence in suffering…one of the first of many tastes of peace the transcends our understanding, guarding my heart and mind in a way that only the Almighty can (Philippians 4:7).
Less than a month later, a new life sparked into existence in my womb. No one tells you about pregnancy after miscarriage: the fear, the anger, the grief that bears heavily on your soul and weighs you down as you prepare your heart and mind for the loss of a second child.
I dared not hope for my Lily. Because we need to feel in control, I believed that if I hoped for her, I would loose her. I made up superstitious rules. I trembled in fear. I look back at my bump pictures, and I see terror written in my eyes each month. I couldn’t even pretend to be excited. I pretended that I was not pregnant. Sometimes I wonder if I even took a solid deep breath during the entire ten months of my pregnancy with Lily. No one tells you about the torturous aftermath of the loss of a baby and the fear that follows you like a ghost.
But she came, after 39 agonizing weeks. Two months and some days after Baby Blue’s due date. Baby Blue was due April 14, 2013. Lily arrived on June 24, 2013. And she was perfect.
Sometimes I feel confused when I consider my childrens’ older sibling. Had he or she survived, Lily would not be, and the idea of life without Lily seems unimaginable. Is it permissible to feel sad, to acknowledge the existence of Baby Blue, or in doing so, do I somehow negate Lily’s very existence? I know in my heart that this is one of those “both-and” situations. It is okay to miss the child I never met, and to also rejoice over the life of my rainbow child, who came on the heels of the biggest loss of my life.
Life is strange. It’s fragile: So painfully fragile. Grief and joy somehow occupy very similar spaces in our hearts, as they seem to clear a path for the Advent of Christ. To love is to sign up for pain and loss. To hope is to look the possibility of disappointment square in its sober face.
But we must love. We must hope. We have no life when we have no love, and we have no true future when we dare not hope. We may avoid disappointment, but to do so we must avoid life entirely.
C. S. Lewis speaks of the cost of love in The Four Loves:
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it in tact, give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.
To love is to be vulnerable; To be exposed; To love is to set one’s self up for loss. And yet…..
And yet….We choose love.
Love, and your heart may be broken. Avoid love, and your heart will atrophy and shrivel up. I choose to love and to be broken, for only a broken seed can pour forth new life.
And so we love. We grieve. We love again. We pour out our love because we are the beloved. And I love them. I love my babies. All of them. This is my act of love, my act of vulnerability. This is my love story, the one started by my Lord when He spoke love into existence. Love is worth the risk. It is worth the loss. And we keep loving, because God keeps writing His love story for us.
And God broke Himself open out of love for us, His children. Let us break open for the sake of love.