How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!
The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the exiles of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
He strengthens the bars of your gates and blesses your children within you.
(Psalm 147: 1-3, 13).
I didn’t know what the pain of a heartbreak was before we lost our baby in a miscarriage just this past week. I didn’t know it was possible to hurt so much after losing someone who we never got the chance to see or hold. It is incredible how you learn to love that little soul so fast and so much as they grow within you.
I remember the moment I lay in the ultrasound chair. It was our eight week checkup, and Joseph had come with me to hear the heartbeat and see our little for the first time. I was nervous going into that appointment, and my heart rate showed it. During the almost-two months of this pregnancy, I'd been giving our little person to Mama Mary. This was supposed to be the appointment where my heart was steadied and reassured with the little heartbeat on the screen.
The doctor didn’t say anything for a while, and in that moment the excitement turned to heartache. They sent us to another room for another ultrasound, just to double check. It looked like the baby wasn’t growing, the pregnancy wasn’t viable. I remember tears slipping down my face as I nodded, but I just wanted to collapse on the floor with Joseph holding me, and not get up. If I didn’t get the second ultrasound, I could just lay here until October and have a baby.
I didn’t know what it would be like to mentally tell myself to put one foot in front of the other as I walked down that long hospital hallway back to the doctor’s office. We chose to wait two more weeks to see if our sweet baby would grow. I made it to the car before I yelled at God and begged Him to tell me why. Through that week, He didn’t answer that question. But slowly I began to see that He wasn’t taking our baby from Joseph and I, He was mourning right beside us.
I woke up the next Saturday morning to stomach pain and blood and I knew that these were the last few moments that I had with our baby that I could pretend this wasn’t happening. Those moments would end when the doctor returned my phone call to say the words I was mentally begging her not to say. Because up to that point I could excuse things away and tell myself that everything was fine . . . and then it wasn’t. I didn’t have answers, and it seemed no one did. Answers weren’t what I really wanted though, I wanted peace.
We made the long drive to the hospital. I spent the car ride whispering ‘Be not afraid, be not afraid’ and looking over to Joseph, wishing I could just tell him to not go to the hospital because I knew they were going to tell me we were losing our baby. And they did. I didn’t want to hear that our options would be to work through the miscarriage in our own home, or to have a D&C. I wanted to yell that I didn’t want either option because what I really wanted was our baby, safe and sound inside of me.
So we started to head home, but while I waited in the car at the pharmacy, pain and heat washed over me. I felt like I was going to faint, and the cramps that the doctor had warned us about started up. I crawled into the backseat of the car, throwing the doors open for breaths of fresh air. With every hard contraction that I felt, I whispered ‘I love you’ to the little person inside of me because those were the last words I wanted to say to our baby, and those were the last words I wanted him to be able to hear. That he was loved. And that he was going to be missed so so much.
But it wasn’t the cramps or the feeling that I was going to faint that ached the most – it was my shattered heart, breaking into smaller and smaller pieces that I really wanted someone to fix. But that couldn’t be fixed in the ambulance ride to the ER, or the next 9 hours that we spent in that room. The greater your capacity for love, the greater the capacity for suffering.
That night, I walked out of the emergency room, eyes glued to the floor because I didn’t want to look anyone in the face. I didn’t want to share the news weighing on my heart and soul, I just wanted to go home and sleep and sleep and sleep away this nightmare. Maybe, just maybe, I would wake up and it would be a bad dream.
It wasn’t. Our baby's death was the reality, and losing him was the hardest Lenten sacrifice that I think I will ever be asked to make. We named him Marion - a name we had thought about before knowing we'd have to name our baby 8 months earlier than we expected. His name means 'sea of sorrow' and 'the child that was wished for.'
Nights are the hardest. When Marion was with us, Joseph and I went to bed with him between us as a little family of three. Now that he's in Heaven and we're still here, it feels empty and alone. That's when I miss him the most.
Yet there is comfort knowing that God didn’t take Marion – He took him in. Some days I feel like I wish God would take me in, too, so that I don't have to feel the heart ache and empty, lonely days without our baby here inside me. Other days I realize that, in light of the eternity that our family will get to spend together in Heaven, this is just a blink of an eye. Praise God that He offers us a faith that says that this earth is the journey, not the destination. He strengthens families, He doesn’t tear them apart. He blesses the children within us, He doesn't take them from us.
We've known that Marion has been gone for almost six days now. I don't know if it will ever not hurt to think of him. I didn't know the human body could produce this many tears. But I do know that we grieve with a future full of hope.
A friend tipped me off to a book in the Bible that is often forgotten and unread – at least by me. Habakkuk is a pretty short book in the Bible - only three chapters. The last chapter is the prayer of Habakkuk, the prophet. He begins by remembering the years that he lived in the fear of the Lord:
O Lord, I have heard your renown, and feared, O Lord, your work. In the course of the years revive it, in the course of the years make it known; in your wrath remember your compassion.
He then describes times of trouble. Pestilence, plague, trembling nations. The mountains shake and the sun and moon forget to rise. The wicked are crushed, and God treads the sea amid the churning dark waters. Habakkuk prays:
I hear, and my body trembles; at the sound, my lips quiver. Decay invades my bones, my legs tremble beneath me. I await the day of distress that will come upon the people who attack us. For though the fig tree blossom not, nor fruit be on the vines, though the yield of the olive fail and the terraces produce no nourishment; though the flocks disappear from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls.
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord and exult in my saving God. God, my Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet swift as those of hinds and enable me to go upon the heights.
The book ends. The end is coming, you can see it on the horizon. Yet Habakkuk trusts God, singing how good the Lord is. Because of the Lord, he is able to go upon the heights and see the big picture.
God is our strength for this painful, beautiful life. He is our buckler and shield. He binds up wounds, heals the brokenhearted. He strengthens our gates, and blesses the children within us.