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twelve years ago this week {thoughts on loss & hope}

It happened on a Friday night.

That morning we had been to the midwife, double checking to make sure that the off and on bleeding didn’t mean what we feared it might mean. We saw the heart beating like a pulsing little bean on the ultrasound screen.  The baby is fine. Go home and rest. Come back if you start cramping. 

The cramping began late afternoon.

There’s a lot to tell in that simple story (as there is in most stories, I suppose.) We went in and got checked out. Little heart still beating. They said to rest, gave me Advil for cramps, and kept me for observation.

The bleeding started late evening.

There’s a lot to tell in that part, too. But the main parts are that I survived (which was unsure at one point) and the baby did not.

The next morning, I stared tiredly at another ultrasound screen. The little pulsing heart was gone.

I remember so much about that crazy 24 hours.

I remember the nurse that gently cleaned me up as I wept silently in L & D at 2 a.m.

I remember I was supposed to meet friends for coffee that Saturday morning. The hospital was so close to the Panera where they were that I could almost see it from the window of my hospital room, but I didn’t call either of them to explain my absence. I didn’t have any words.

I remember walking out of the hospital on Saturday afternoon and thinking that it’s not supposed to work like this. You don’t walk into a hospital pregnant and then leave, not pregnant, without a baby.

The loss was so abstract, so sudden, and so gut wrenching.

It had been a season of loss for us. We were coming off our first 18 months as houseparents. In the past month, our assistant had resigned, our sixth teen had run, and people (including us) were questioning if this thing was going to work. We were winded, battered, and unsteady in our work. And then we lost the baby.

It all came to a head in a crisis of sorts. What are we doing? we asked ourselves, looking at each other for the answer. We prayed, cried, talked, and wandered. Our boss gave us permission to not work. We enjoyed our boy, who was just barely twelve months at the time, and  we wondered aloud about what was next- for us, for our family, for this boys home that we loved but could not quite wrangle.

In the end it was Garrett who put it best. In thinking of our question about staying at the home, he was reminded of Peter’s words, “To who else would we go?” It was clear to us that though this work was harder and costlier than we had anticipated, that did not change our belief that it mattered or our desire to see it through. So we stayed there and saw twenty more teens come through our doors in the next five years.

All of that wrapped up into a important moment for the two of us, who we were and who we would become. I see that so fully right now.

In the summer of 2010, the story came again. A surprise pregnancy, an uncomfortable amount of bleeding, a little beating heart that was holding on but just barely. We lost that one at nine weeks.  In some ways it was harder because we hadn’t told many people that we were pregnant. In other ways we had been there and had survived it before. (I wrote about that miscarriage here and a bit more about moving on from it here.)

Our first one we lost in the beginning of February. Our second miscarriage was due the first week of February. So here we are in February with the memories weighing down. Some years I realize it after the fact (Oh, that was all last week…) Some years I miss it entirely. But this year I’m just sitting with it, remembering the darkness of those days and feeling grateful for the steady grace of Christ in both of those stories.

We’re now a family of seven (which does not mean those lost babies are not missed or thought of.) I have friends with kids that were born around those due dates, and so I watch them grow up and mentally pace our lost littles alongside them. She would have been eleven now. He would have turned seven this week. I like that those thoughts serve as a memorial of sorts, remembering their place in my timeline.

In some ways, the grief softens as years flow by. But in other ways, it stings more as you realize more fully what was lost. You knew you lost a baby. But you see with each new season that you lost a toddler…a big kid…a teenager, too.

Loss is such a big part of life: understanding it, processing it, recovering from it, letting it do its work. When we are young, we think naively that our lives will be marked by what we achieve, when instead it is more sharply defined by what we have lost along the way.

A dear friend, in speaking of her own loss, recently reminded me of the profound comfort of Christ as Immanuel, “God with us.” There is a strange and heartbreaking companionship in knowing Christ as a “man of many sorrows”, for how could he really be with us if he had not known sorrow? And so we follow and keep on, carrying both our loss and our hope through the quiet days of February.

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