(Written shortly after my loss in late July of 2016, followed by an update. My “double rainbow,” Gideon, was born a year after this post.)
I couldn't stand another month without a baby. Yes, even as scary as the unknown may be, or as strange as it may feel to have another baby inside me during the time I would have been nursing Hope.
Trust me, God says. I won't give you more than you can handle. Be STRONG and COURAGEOUS! (Joshua 1:9) And the positive pregnancy test came right away. In the following weeks of announcing to close family and friends, through the stressful interviews with midwives who needed to know last year's story of loss, to breaking down and crying because I didn't think I could handle another pregnancy . . . God reminded me of that verse:
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."
Even though I couldn't handle things on my own, God was right there with me, promising to give me the strength that I needed.
I was blessed with no morning sickness. For the first time since Hope's passing, my appetite returned. I craved all kinds of food, especially chocolate, which I didn't really care for with my two girls. March 12th, my estimated due date, seemed so far away! I speculated if I was carrying a boy this time, but my experience has been that every pregnancy is so different, it's really hard to tell!
Then the spotting began. I wasn't too worried at first - I mean, it's a pretty common occurrence in early pregnancy. As it slowly picked up, I started to wonder if there was more to come. Something seemed off. I tried to rest, and instantly my mind filled with questions - questions of whether this could be my fault. What had I done differently this time? A little bit of painting before we knew I was pregnant? The kitten we'd recently adopted? The cup of coffee (or less!) I was drinking in the mornings? Maybe I had just gotten too stressed, or maybe it was because, in a moment of weakness, I'd broken down and said I couldn't handle it and I didn't want to be pregnant?? Maybe I just didn't have enough faith?
Finally the bleeding reached a point that I knew I'd lost something. We'd have to go for an ultrasound to find out for sure what that was. I'd been through waiting before, and if you've been through anything similar, you know that a day and a half can stretch out to what seems like an eternity . . . And that's where the battlefield of the mind really began for me.
This time, though, there was a sort of sweetness in it. When I was able to dwell on God's promises, commands, and very nature, I remained in a calm state. I was able to receive the peace that God gives. When I couldn't make the voices of worry or self-blame go away, I began to pray for other's needs . . . And then something else happened. A joy bubbled inside of me and I began to want to praise this God who made me and loves me so . . . Who commands me not to worry, who promises peace, and strength for tomorrow. Right when I need it, and not before.
Yes, we lost the baby. And no, I don't understand his ways. But I think I understand a little more about this walk of faith than I did before.
Worrying wouldn't have changed anything except to make me physically ill and unable to eat that weekend. God's strength came at the exact moment that I needed it. I would be lying to you if I didn't admit that there were a few times I had trouble eating. Or that my hand didn't shake (quite a bit!) as my dear husband held it during the ultrasound. But I think I am learning more about simply abiding in my Savior.
There are always blessings when we learn to look for them. When we lost our daughter, there was a lot of uncertainty about what had caused her condition. There was definitely temptation to blame myself, and even be angry with my own body, because I had those antibodies which may/may not have had anything to do with her death. This time God graciously allowed me to know the exact cause of my miscarriage, and it had nothing to do with me. It was simply an informational error. A very common type of miscarriage that usually only occurs once in a woman's life.
The baby was already gone, too small to leave anything behind that might be seen. Which makes me both relieved and sad - relieved because I'm not attached enough to feel as deeply sorrowful as I might be. Sad because I didn't get to know anything about this little life.
I never had any pain during my ordeal. The ultrasound came back clear - nothing left in the uterus that I had to worry about getting rid of.
I wasn't alone when any of this happened. During the actual miscarriage, I was at a close friend's house with my husband.
We had just found a midwife and were able to receive help from her, instead of wondering where to go or what to do.
In the sadness and confusion following the ultrasound results, I re-read part of Joshua 1, and my eyes fell upon this reassurance:
"I will never leave you nor forsake you."
God has also reminded me that I am blessed because I put my trust in Him. Just because I haven't received my longed for child in the flesh yet, doesn't mean I don't have enough faith. God knows my heart, and I don't have to keep begging him for those desires which line up with his own. He longs to bless me with children just as much as I desire to have children. This was simply a detour along the way.
I do have to wonder, and have asked several times, "Really, God, just REALLY? Why? I was expecting a miracle, my rainbow baby, and THIS had to happen?"
And if I've learned anything through my recent trials, it's that the answers to our "why's" rarely come.
But for now, I'm okay with the not knowing, and to simply believe that God works everything together for our good. I have asked for more intimacy with God, and that is what I'm getting. More peace, more faith, more trusting. More of a heart for the unborn. More compassion and understanding for women who've had both early and late pregnancy losses.
And more joy than I've ever known. Seems appropriate to name this baby Winter Joy, since she came during the winter of my sadness, reminding me of crocuses that bloom just before spring arrives.
(But truthfully, I always just called her "Joy." "Winter" never sounded right. Nor would I have normally chosen that name for one of my children . . . )
UPDATE: Her real name & grief processing
In the days and weeks that followed my early miscarriage, I struggled to put my baby to rest. I still remember sitting in the cheery exam room, with pictures of happy mothers and beautiful babies, waiting to discuss the results of the ultrasound with my midwife. I knew as soon as the tech placed the wand on my belly that it was over. What I wasn't prepared for, was for the midwife to tell me that "it wasn't a baby." She was able to look at what I'd brought with me, the remains of my pregnancy, and did not see a baby there. There was relief and also confusion. It wasn't a baby?? How could it NOT be a baby? If it wasn't a baby - maybe I didn't need to feel sad, maybe I could just continue on as if nothing had happened. I felt the need to name whatever "it" was, but at the same I did not feel a release to grieve.
One day at prayer meeting, one of the ladies suggested to me that I could grieve the 8 week loss just as I had the 30 week one. I wasn't sure what she meant. I had been telling myself that it wasn't a big deal, and in comparison to losing Hope, it certainly was quite a different experience. But "a person's a person no matter how small" (Dr Seuss). Finally, I realized that I needed to know this little person's name and gender in order to let her go. God has given me a name and a verse for each of my children, and I had never asked him what he thought about baby "Joy." I had been told so many different things about that pregnancy, and one of them was, "Well, I guess you'll never know for sure if it was a baby until you get to heaven." But I wanted to know for sure! And oddly enough, I had known the day after I conceived that I was pregnant because of the clear symptoms I had. Deep in my heart, I knew it was a baby, and that I still needed to grieve her.
So I began to ask God to give me a name for this baby. And I told him I needed to know the gender. I pressed in, waiting and listening for a response for a couple of days. And then, while I was outside weeding the flower bed, He spoke. "Lilah."
"Is that you, God? It's Lilah?" (He must have laughed; I mean, who else would it be?)
"Lilah. Gideon is the first boy."
Since my other two girls have flower names as their middle names, He also told me that Lilah's flower is the purple lilac. I ran inside and looked up the meaning of "Lilah" and it's perfect! It's actually Hebrew for "night beauty." Lilah Joy's verse is Psalm 30:5, "Sorrow may last for a night, but His joy comes in the morning."
If you've ever lost a baby, I just want you to know that this promise is for you too! I have seen it come true in my life, and God wants to fulfill it in yours! And please don't compare your loss with others. I know how easy it is to think that what you're going through isn't as bad as someone else's situation. Pain is pain and a child is a child, no matter the age. You will always be their mother and will feel incomplete until you get to live in heaven with all of your children. Let God replace your sorrow with joy. Ask him for what you need to get healing for your heart. He can give you your baby's name and even give you dreams or visions of that baby. In the meantime, don't let other people try to tell you how to grieve.