Josh was far more optimistic than I was about trying for a baby. Doctors had told me a while ago that, due to prior health issues, the odds of conceiving were not in my favor. I went into this next venture fully convinced it would never happen.
Imagine the depth of my shock and joy when I held a positive test in my hand just a few months later. I couldn’t make myself form the words; just handed Josh the test and let him see for himself. He said the words first: “You’re pregnant!”
This new reality took weeks to sink in. In some ways, I suspected long before buying a test, because I’d been tracking my cycle for a year. I felt changes in my body that were different from anything I’d ever experienced before.
By the time I tested, I was nearly six weeks along. Most people wait until the end of the first trimester – around 12 weeks – to start telling people. In my case, after being so sure that my body was incapable of becoming pregnant, I immediately wanted to tell a few close friends. Not just because this news was too joyful to keep to ourselves, but because these were the people who walked alongside us from the very beginning of our fertility journey. I needed their support as much as their prayers.
We drove to Rocky Mountain National Park the following weekend, a place that holds special significance for us because it’s the place where we got engaged. Before that, it was a place I fled to when my life was in shambles after ending an abusive relationship. I spent a summer healing there, as God slowly chipped away at my belief that I was too broken to ever be fully loved by anyone. It’s a place I go to be reminded of God’s faithfulness towards me.
It was a perfect day. We are breakfast at our favorite brunch place. We walked through the city along a partly frozen river, holding hands, rejoicing in our secret of the life that we made. I had never felt more love towards my husband in that moment.
On a whim, we walked into a store that had a display of infant moose pajamas in the window. We didn’t buy the pajamas, but a pale blue onesie with delicate stitching of mountains on it caught my eye. It said “Love you to the mountains and back,” with the city name underneath. It was the first thing we purchased for our baby, and what we used as a prop when we sat on a bench in the sun and Face-Timed our families. Predictably, they were overjoyed.
I hadn’t realized that, for so long, I was afraid of letting myself experience such joy. Afraid of letting my hopes rise, for fear that the crash of hope deferred would hurt all the more. But I gave in and let myself feel it that day. That, besides the pregnancy itself, was a true gift.
I tried not to worry too much when the doctor told me later, at our first ultrasound, that the baby looked underdeveloped for 11 weeks. I figured my due date was miscalculated; a common occurrence for women with irregular cycles like mine. My HCG levels were still high. I was healthy and taking my prenatal vitamins every day. I continued to have hope.
The hope started slipping as soon as the bleeding started…slowly at first, and then steadier by the hour. We had just crossed the 12-week mark. A marker of hope for most expectant parents. But for some reason, not for us.
I can’t dwell on the reasons why. We were given the option for genetic testing at our first appointment, which I declined because we knew that nothing would affect our decision to carry to term. Our child was fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God. We believe this to the very bottom of our souls.
Sometimes things just happen, and we never know why. I’m not sure knowing the reason would make this any less heartbreaking. Everything I’ve read on miscarriage emphasizes that there’s nothing the mother could have done differently to prevent it. That may be true, but I still can’t help feeling like I failed her (Josh believed from the beginning we were having a girl, and a blood test later confirmed it). I feel, irrationally, that I let everyone down who was so thrilled for us.
In the Old Testament, the ancient Israelites set up stones to commemorate how God led them into victory against their oppressors. These stones are called “ebenezers,” a funny word that may conjure images of the bitter character from A Christmas Carol.
For me, though, it reminds me of the line from the hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing: “Here I raise my ebenezer/Hither by thine help I’ve come/And I hope by thy good pleasure/Safely to arrive at home.”
Most of my tattoos are ebenezers: reminders of God’s faithfulness. Despite this devastating loss, I know my God has been faithful beyond my wildest dreams. He healed our broken marriage when we couldn’t afford marriage counseling. He healed me of alcoholism and deep suicidal ideation. He blessed us with a church community and family members who helped us, emotionally and financially, through a devastating job loss. We’ve been loved by them so well already through this current loss.
God will sustain us through this, too.
Do I regret telling people about her, before we could count ourselves officially “safe”? Not a chance. Because this pregnancy itself is a kind of ebenezer. It was a gift to carry this child for as long as I did, after an initial diagnosis of infertility. It was a gift to celebrate her life with our closest friends and family, short though it was. Our hearts are broken beyond description, but we still celebrate what she meant to us. She was already loved by so many.
Maybe it’s too soon to be sharing all of this. I’m sure I’ll be processing it in the weeks and months to come. Yet there is a strong part of me that feels compelled to share my daughter’s life, because she mattered even if she never had the chance to take a breath. God knit her together in my womb, as he does with all unborn babies. I don’t believe there really is such a thing as an unwanted child.
We are grieving, but we grieve with hope. Our hope ultimately is not in parenthood, but in the risen Christ who defeated sin and death. Our hope is in the resurrection.
I never got the chance to hold you, sweet baby. But I loved you so much. Thank you for the gift of being your mom.
Photo by Claire Kelly on Unsplash
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