Tag Archives: loss

5 weeks, 6 days

Standard

Worship the Lord your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you,  and none will miscarry or be barren in your land. I will give you a full life span. Ex.23:25-26.

Last Thursday I woke up 5 weeks 6 days pregnant. That night, I went to bed 0 weeks 0 days pregnant because I miscarried for the fifth time. This is my third miscarriage at 5 weeks 6 days. We did not plan for this baby; pregnancy was a surprise mingling anxiety and hope. I did everything right to overcome the genetic disorder that strips babies from my womb. I swallowed the vitamins and the blood thinners at the precisely recommended amounts and times. I prayed in faith on my knees, battering heaven with a request for mother-grace. But this baby emptied from me, my seventh child and my fifth to die.

I am so sorry, little one. I am so sorry that my body cannot take you past this one day in your little life. 

Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Rev.21:3-4.

(Someday, someday, all of this will be untrue. Can I wait until that day?)

Long ago, when the world was still new, a woman named Hagar was a slave in Abram’s household. She served Abram’s barren wife Sarai. Sarai would not wait for the child of promise, so she gave Hagar into her husband’s arms. Since Hagar was considered property, not person, her child would technically belong to Sarai (a loophole in the promise?) 

In Genesis 16, the Bible says that when Hagar conceived, she despised her barren mistress. In response, Sarai mistreated Hagar, spilling out all of the rage of an empty season. Hagar fled into the desert.

The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert.  And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?”

(As I attempt to control and manage these pregnancies so that not even God can take these babies from me, He says, “Heidi, my daughter whom I love, where have you come from and where are you going? Who are you? To what have I called you? When will you live my story instead of the one you hold onto?”)

Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.”

No thank you, Lord. 

The angel of the Lord also said to her, “You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael (which means GOD HEARS), for the Lord has heard of your misery.”

O Lord, finally, some good news. You are going to fix this….

Right?

“He will be a wild donkey of a man…

Excuse me? What?

…his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”

WHAT??? No thank you, Lord. I didn’t ask for this. This isn’t my fault. You are supposed to fix this, not make it worse. You are punishing my children for something that I didn’t even do?  No. No. NO.

No.

I am Hagar. I live a suffering I cannot manage or control, that takes my children away from me and I cannot save them. God comes to me in my desert with no solution; only the razor’s edge of this reality, You could have saved them, but You did not…..

That is hard news, almost too hard to bear. The Via Dolorosa, the Way of the Cross, the walk of tears. The Cross before the Crown.

She gave this name to Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God Who Sees Me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

(Do you see it, the deepest mystery, the paradox of glory……..?)

Hagar’s response was worship, not rage or despair or a shaking fist. God gave her no words of comfort or alleviation; He offered no earthly intervention to lift her cross. He told her to go back to the abuse of her mistress and wait to bear a child whose life would be marked by conflict and rejection.

He gave her nothing but His Presence, and it was enough.

He saw her in her desperation and he came to her with the Truth of Who He Is alongside the full weight of what He required of her….(Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going…?) .  

Suffering and glory are parallel tracks. Yes, I lose my babies whom I love at 5w6d because my body and my blood are broken in their genetic code. Yes, God could have saved each and every one of them, but He did not. Those things are true. Also, He is the God Who Sees Me, the God who reaches for me in the desert because my heart matters to Him. That is also true. Our hearts were made for glory, so we falsely believe we have to choose which is more real, which to believe.  The tension feels like it will rip us apart, but it will not if we will bear it. Suffering and glory – they are both true.

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body….Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Cor.4:10, 16-18.

I have learned that childbearing is dangerous for most of us. We each live our own surrender story, our own version of the parallell lines. Some have too many children, some not enough. We live under fear or anger or grief or exhaustion or guilt or some combination thereof because of the brokenness of our life giving stories. What is it about this season of life that is so fragile and vulnerable? I have two healthy and dazzling children that call me Mommy. I know life as well as death. I worship in joy as well as grief.

Give me Hagar eyes, so that I may see the God Who Sees Me. Help me to lock eyes with you, to bear the tension of the parallel lines of suffering and glory that are both true. I choose to look up at you as Hagar did, to see the One Who Sees Me and to worship in response. I choose to believe that the death that happens deep in my body is not the end of my story, not even the defining part of my story. Show me the life of Jesus revealed in my body, in my story. What is seen is temporary; what is unseen is eternal. This life is just a shadow of the glory to come. I cannot see the glory, but I can see the One Who Sees Me. I trust You, I love You, I choose You.

Barren

Standard

It is not a question of God allowing or not allowing things to happen. It is part of living. Chip Brogden.

The question of suffering is, really, the only unanswered Question that really matters. Every theological construct unravels in the face of undeserved suffering. Even truth feels trite in the teeth of deep pain. Those who live long enough to see darkness overshadow glory wonder if it can really be true that a world exists that can make fallenness un-true. Is there really an eternity where I will not be defined by my Question, my loss, my suffering? We all ask the Question differently, with our specific queries, like –

Why do I miscarry my babies somewhere in the fifth week of pregnancy while all around me mothers procreate at will?  

That is my Question. Well, one of them.

I used to cling to Bible stories.  Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Samson’s parents, Hannah, the Shunammite woman, Elizabeth.  The Bible bloats with barren women who gave birth to miracle babies who advanced the Kingdom of God. I used to pray with flamboyant boldness to be a Hannah – to birth my miracle baby then a family full.  Lord, I know you have given us two miracles, but, O, Lord, I cannot let go of my strong belief that our family is not complete. There is a hole in our family.  An emptiness.  After four miscarriages, I started to dwell on other stories.  A planet distended with childless women who never held a miracle.  Instead, they wept the empty, unanswered tears of a Question. To them, perhaps I have no right to my Question, and I do not blame them.

Why do I miscarry my babies somewhere in the fifth week of pregnancy while all around me mothers procreate at will?

One Daniel rescued from the den of lions; forty Roman catacombs swollen with the decayed bones of martyrs fed to the lions.  Lazarus, Jairus’ daughter, the Widow of Nain’s son raised from the dead; millions of lost loved ones buried in dust while Jesus walked out His mission.  Half a million people miraculously saved from Egyption slavery; half a million people perished in the wilderness without laying eyes on the Promised Land.

There are more unanswered Questions than intervening miracles.

What are we to learn from this? That our response to what happens is more important than what happens. Here is a mystery: one man’s experience drives him to curse God, while another man’s identical experience drives him to bless God. Chip Brogden.

I read Job in my quiet times now.  Job is bloody, slashed with gaping theological wounds, like raw meat. There is no book like Job for Questions.

 My complaint today is still a bitter one,
and I try hard not to groan aloud.
If only I knew where to find God,
I would go to his court.
I would lay out my case
and present my arguments. Job 23:2-3.

Everybody deals with the Question of suffering in their own way.  Cynicism, idealism, political justice, personal vengeance, nihilism, suicide, addiction, a cause, denial, grief, rage, hedonism, philosophy.  What I love about Job is that its haunting archetypal Question does not end with answers.

It ends with worship.

It ends with God revealing Himself, and Job responding on His face.  Job has just flamed endless savage rage, and God simply acknowledges his pain, then tells Job Who He Is.

Isn’t that how the cancer of suffering heals?  Not with resolution, but with recognition.  The stages of grief:  denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.  We cannot un-suffer; our story is what it is.  We make our peace with the grief of our story in our own ways.  I cannot make your peace for you; that was Job’s friends’ mistake (well, one mistake among many).  For me, I choose to worship.

Job’s wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”

 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

Shall I accept only the amount of miracle children I desire, but not less than that?  Shall I accept the story of Hannah, but not the story of a barren mother?  Shall I accept the miracle, but not the emptiness?

Why do I miscarry my babies somewhere in the fifth week of pregnancy while all around me mothers procreate at will?  

Shall I accept the Answer, but not the Question?

Opaque

Standard

My super-extra-mega-ultra-amazing-and-fabulous mother and father-in-law took Jack and Lucy to Disneyland this weekend. They spent three days at the Happiest Place on Earth while Scott and I spent the weekend alone. In our house. Just the two of us. Together. Without our kids.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh……………

(We had the best.weekend.ever.)

Jack and Lucy came home last night. As I held them a bit too tightly in my arms, they laid their little heads on my shoulders for one suspended moment before they began to chatter simultaneously, clamoring for Mommy to acknowledge their big adventures.

My eyes blurred. Just let me hold you for a few more moments. I missed you so much.  I am so glad you are safe.

They prattled endlessly, eyes wide and clear, bounding in their seats as they gave me their memories, treasures slipping from their hands into mine.  Now they are our treasures.

I tucked them into bed with extra cuddles and one more story.  They slept with their Disney toys.  I told them I had missed them a hundred times.

They were gone for three days.  It was precious for all of us, but I ached for them to come home.  As I stood outside of their rooms last night in the stillness of bedtime, I wanted to blast back in and wake them up – to look into their eyes and breathe them in.

On this question of fear.

When I began writing these pages I believed their subject to be children, the ones we have and the ones we wish we had, the ways on which we depend on our children to depend on us, the ways in which we encourage them to remain children, the ways in which they remain more unknown to us than they do to their most casual acquaintances; the ways in which we remain equally opaque to them.

The ways in which our investments in each other remain too freighted ever to see the other clear.

Joan Didion, Blue Nights 

I wonder what I do not see in those little faces.  Lord, give me grace eyes to see who they are, to see through the veil of my blind spots.

When Hagar wandered in the wilderness, God came to her.  He led her to water, He promised that she would survive and bear a son, a leader.  She worshipped God there; she called Him Jehovah, El Roi, which means The Strong One Who Sees Me.  

God sees my little ones.

He has engraved their story on the palms of His hands.  Right now I am a central character in their stories, but it is my choice whether I will remain in the heart of those pages or write myself out.  It seems to me that the fastest way to disappear from the story of a child is to miss who they are.  To believe that their story is mine to write, that the plot lines and characters and conflict are mine.  To see me instead of Jack, or Lucy, or the God Who Sees Them.

So I stood outside of their rooms last night, I thought for a long time about who they are.

  • Jack sleeps face down on his pillow, his mouth slipping off in order to breathe.
  • He hates to be alone. His relational need is endless.  I want to be with you, he says.  Who is going to play with me?  Who is coming over today?
  • He is terrified of water in his face.  He used to cry in the bath, but now he sings.  You brave, Jack? says his little sister in wonder.  He trembles a bit, but says, Yes, I’m brave.  And he sings.
  • When he feels disconnected, he clings.  He climbs up my body and wraps around me like a vine. I want to be with you, Mommy.
  • He adores his sister with a fierce and protective force.  He went to a birthday party last week.  The guests all painted hats with puff paint.  He brought home his hat swirled in pink, Lucy’s favorite color.  I made this for you, Lucy, so you wouldn’t forget me while I am at school.
  • He is a theologian and a student of character.  Mommy, when Adam and Eve were in the garden of Eden, they believed a terrible lie that God didn’t love them.  When the Devil tells me that God doesn’t love me, I tell him, YES, HE DOES and that protects me from sin.
  • When he is angry or threatened, he lashes out to protect himself. We wear thin helping him manage his mercurial emotions, which range from ecstasy to despair.  Sometimes I let anger be my leader, Mommy.
  • Like most firstborns (his Mommy included), he feels compelled to please authority.  When my voice is brittle, his chin sinks into his chest. Mommy, your voice is grumpy.  You don’t like me.  He tries to hide his disobedience, like the time he hid a book of matches into his room and lit every single one.  (What will he try to hide from us through his years? Lord, I pray we will always see him hiding and honor him – as we teach him that everything is safer in the light.)
  • Lucy sleeps on her stomach, her pacifiers in a clump under her belly.
  • She is happiest when our family is together at home.  She radiates light and movement when we gather for a simple night at home.
  • When I put her to bed at night, she fervently and repeatedly yells “I LOVE YOU, MOMMY!” as loud as she can manage as I close the door to her room.
  • She wants to read the same story every single night before bed.  The Little Mermaid.
  • When my Mommy-patience crumbles, she gazes straight into my face with steady eyes, then pads silently into the living room to play alone.
  • She races downstairs in the morning in a desperate daily commitment to arrive in the kitchen first so she can bring Jack his chocolate milk and Juice Plus gummies.  Here you go, Jack!
  • When Jack cries, her brow knits and she puts one tiny hand on him. You crying, Jack?  You sad, Jack? Awww, Jack.
  • At Christmas time, she sat on Santa’s lap.  She trembled, so I waited for her to cry.  Instead, she hunched her shoulders, settled her body into immobility, and stared at the floor.  I lifted her away into my arms; her body was stiff and still.  She did not look at me.  (How can we protect her heart from withdrawing from us?  Lord, I pray we will always be safe for her.)
She was already a person. I could never afford to see that. 
Joan Didion, Blue Nights

I want to be a student, not a master, of my children.  I want to see them, to learn them, to know them.  Lord, give me grace eyes, wise eyes, brave eyes to see who they are.  We saw a movie called Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close about a family whose story was marked with the claws of ripping loss.  To me, it was a love story about the beauty and the ashes of sacrificial mothering.  This woman chose to see her son, to meet him in his heart instead of her own, which left her to mourn alone two separate and heavy griefs.  That kind of strength is its own redemption; I want to be just like her.
(You should go see this movie, but be aware that I didn’t have tissue so I was forced to improvise with my silk scarf.  So bring tissue.  Thanks, scarf, you took one for the team. You might never be the same again.)
I type in the silence of bedtime as my children sleep off the heady elixer of a magical weekend.  Sometimes, when I snap at them or when we are apart, fear punches me.  I am afraid that I will lose them, one way or another.  Life is fragile; it unravels so quickly that it takes my breath away.
 All that I know to do is to lean into them while in the grip of grace.