In The Shadows

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This post is dedicated to baby Esther, Baby Boy B, and Baby Girl B – little ones who are spending their first Christmas in the arms of Jesus. And to their parents, whose arms still throb with emptiness.

My heart flooded with the hope of life. The tests didn’t show anything yet, but I knew something changed. I welcomed the nausea like a gift at Christmas. Every moment felt full of hope and life and purpose. Barely an hour passed each day where I did not dream of the life to come. With Christmas just around the corner, I planned a reveal for each person in our family. I dreamt of rearranging the guest room to make room for a crib. I bought an ornament to give to my husband to let him know of the little life on its way. August 5. That was going to be our baby’s birthday. With each day, the anticipation and hope swelled within me. I was hyper-aware of every sensation, every wave of nausea, anything that confirmed the reality of the hope of my heart.

The first sign of loss came without warning. And with it, a wave of gut-wrenching sorrow. But then – the symptoms stopped. My hopes and dreams stubbornly resurfaced, only to come crashing down a few days later as my body made clear the loss was indeed final.

Empty. Empty is the greatest way to describe the feeling of my heart and my body. In some moments the loss is so tangible my body shakes with the grief of it. In other moments, I feel completely numb.

I can’t shake a profound sense of self-doubt as the fears rage war. Was it my fault? Is something wrong with me? Could I have prevented this? How do I make sure it never happens again? How do I talk to people about it? Was it really real? Did I really feel what I felt? Is it ok to grieve so deeply? Is it ok to cry so much? Is it ok to stop crying? Am I feeling too much? Am I feeling enough? Is it ok to be ok? Is it ok to be not ok? These questions plague my heart and my mind.

Somewhere in the middle of the raging questions, I hear the tender voice of my earthly daddy reminding me, “There are days we feel the weight of pain. And that’s grace from the Lord because we get to feel the ache He feels. And other times, we don’t feel it at all. And that’s grace too, because He is the only One who can handle it all the time. So wherever you are, accept it as grace.”

At times, I remember these words and receive my emotions as grace. But with the relentless barrage of questions, most moments I forget that I have permission to feel without pressure to compare or perform.

Many women have lost babies and hopes and dreams in tragic ways. Infertility, miscarriage, unfulfilled adoption, still-born babies – each loss carries a powerful grief of its own. They pull at a unique place of a woman’s heart and mind and body. They carry within them the pressure and shame of a body who fails to do what it was designed to do. They carry the emptiness of unfulfilled longing, depleted hope, and loss of life. I never wanted to join in solidarity with other women who lost babies. I never dreamt of having this as part of my journey. Nevertheless, here I am, resonating with the deep heart-ache I never hoped to share.

And yet, somehow, in the midst of the questioning wars and deep sorrow, I am aware of the tenderest of loves washing over me. I am reminded that life is a miracle over which no amount of planning and calculation can control. I feel the Father give me permission to rest. To let questions go unanswered. To accept the emotions of the moment as grace from Him and not worry about what I should or shouldn’t be feeling. I’m reminded to be present, to live fully in THIS moment – even when it means accepting the sharpest of pains.

I am finding that in the emptiness lies an unexpected gift, for it reminds me to find my identity and hope in Jesus. Sometimes that idea can seem arbitrary to me. But in the emptiness of loss and the questioning of my own womanhood, I discover anew the power and gentle love of my Father. I feel tempted to place my hope, identity, and value in my ability to bear a child, in my role as a mother, in the presence of a baby in my arms. And with the loss of this little one, my heart is remembering to turn back. With tears and the deepest of aches, my heart is remembering that my identity rests in my adoption as a daughter of the Most-High King. My womanhood does not lessen with the loss. My value is not depleted as hope fades.

Here, in the shadows of sleepless nights and an empty womb lies a gift that draws me deep into the arms of Jesus. It might be one of the most painful gifts I’ve ever received, but it is a gift nonetheless. For what I need most in this moment is the assurance that I am not alone. I need to know that God did not forget about me. I need to know that He holds me on the nights when I cry myself to sleep. I need to know that God loves me even when I don’t understand why He took our baby. I need to know that my hope and identity did not bleed out of my body.

To feel hope at this point is so painful I can hardly imagine it—because hope comes with the threat of loss. Even still, I need to know that, as painful as it is, I can hope again. I can hope because I have a good Father who loves to give good gifts to His children. I can hope because He delights to give me the desires of my heart. I can hope because He heals broken hearts. I can hope because He promises to make all things new. And I can hope because I know that the little one I lost is resting in His arms.

And so, to my little one, I write to tell you that I am so grateful for your short life within me. It is an honor to have held you—no matter how short our time together.

To my husband, I write to tell you that your gentle love and faithful presence with me in each moment have been the most powerful reminder and reflection of God’s love for me in the midst of this ache. I can believe that God is good and loves me even now because of the way you show it to me.

And to my Father, I write to tell you that I need You. I write to tell You that a lot of days I felt like you are teasing me, and truth be told, I don’t understand why this happens to me or anyone else. But I also write to tell you that I choose to trust You. My life belongs to You. If you bless us with a baby, that baby will be Yours long before it is mine. I want to tell you that I am so grateful for Your presence, Your love, and for our family in this time. I am not naïve to the reality that often times in the midst of pain and loss I am unable to see even a glimpse of You. The fact that I can feel Your presence and see Your love is, I know, a gift from You. And I will cling to that in the days ahead when my heart and flesh fail to see it.

“I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty.”

Ruth 1:21

A Note from the Author:

I have asked to remain anonymous in posting this to safeguard a time of grieving for my family. In writing this, I do not pretend to capture the stories or emotions of all women who have lost little ones. Nor do I wish to ignore the deep loss and painful journey that fathers experience on this road. My hope is simply to share my journey and pray that it may give others freedom to grieve and share their stories, too.