Editor's Note: National Pregnancy & Infant Loss Day is observed in October of each year. Today, I'm taking a break from "The Gestation Diaries" series to share my own confrontation with loss following a friend's fourth miscarriage earlier this year. To the millions of men and women holding on to faith despite the deep pain of dreams denied and deferred, may you find hope, healing and acceptance in Christ.
He came to us in the tiniest of packages. Eyes closed – the peach fuzz on his head so faint you’d miss it if you weren’t looking closely. But I noticed everything that day down to the smallest details: from the broad nose that so closely resembled his mother’s, to the dark silhouettes that foreshadowed what would have surely been gloriously thick eyebrows, to the pronounced ridge in the middle of his thin lips, to the oversized hospital swaddle that drowned his tiny frame in a sea of cotton.
Everything about him was beautifully tragic.
The nurse gently placed him in a clear hospital bassinet, as we huddled around him in silence. More than anything I wanted to scoop him up and cuddle him close, to whisper comforting words in his ear and tell him everything would be alright. More than anything, I wanted to hear his cry. Would it be shy and faint or loud and demanding? More than anything, I wanted him to live. Hope died with him that day at 20 weeks gestation. And once again, my heart refused to find comfort in a world that took babies away before they ever truly lived.
His bereaved mother told me later (and I sensed a hint of pride), that he had taken a few brave breaths in her arms before passing from this world to the next. We never saw her cry – not that day, or in the hard days that followed. She’d made her peace the night before, when her worst fears materialized and the pre-term labor became so forceful that the doctor ordered morphine.
“It is well,” she told her own mother who barely made it out of the hospital room before bursting into tears.
But it was not well. This was not the first miscarriage. Or the second. Or the third. This was the fourth. This was no misfortune. This was déjà vu. The same time last year, we had huddled around another plastic bassinet in a different hospital trying to come to terms with the same fate of another beautiful baby boy. The year before that, we had huddled in her living room grieving the miscarriage of baby number two. And many years prior, she had silently grieved the loss of the very first baby, which she did not even speak of until recently.
It was not my baby, but oh how it was! I announced my pregnancy just weeks before she shyly told me of hers – an act of courage itself. I was thrilled to learn that we were due days apart, my second and her fourth. We chatted excitedly about all the milestones our boys would experience together – birthdays, adolescence, graduation – and all the while, I prayed earnestly, unceasingly that this baby – baby number four – would be the one. I prayed for the son in her womb more than the one in my own.
Standing in that hospital room, looking down at another sweet, precious child gone too soon, the future we’d imagined for ourselves was erased. I wracked my brain for something, anything encouraging to say.
Everything happens for a reason? But what reason could there possibly be for this?
Don’t stop believing? But hadn’t we all believed this time, and the last time, and the time before that?
God’s timing is perfect? But what about when God’s answer was no?
Everything seemed so completely inadequate in that moment. There were no words as we came face to face with death in the tiny bassinet, yet again. There was no comfort, only foggy doubt and the heavy weight of dreams deferred.
For weeks after, my own grief made surprise appearances in the most random moments. The tears came freely and without warning. On a Sunday morning in church when I could not will myself to sing the chorus of the familiar hymn, “I Surrender All.” During a panel discussion on immigration where the speaker shared his wife’s battle with infertility and their answered prayers for a baby who was now one year old. And most often during prayer, when words frequently failed me.
Grief didn’t give way to reason until weeks and weeks later, and when it did, I allowed myself to confront the one burning question that refused to go away, no matter how much I willed it to.
Why should I be allowed to conceive so easily when she had tried for so long? Why should my second pregnancy be complication-free, while her fourth was over at just the halfway mark? Why would God keep taking her babies? How could this be good?
I want to tell you I found redemption in the story, the rest of which is still unwritten. I want to say that at some point I had a grand epiphany that made it all make sense, or that I found a string of pearls in the pain. But the truth is that weeks have turned into months and I still do not know why.
Two worlds have collided here in this tender space in my heart. Feelings do not trump my faith in a sovereign Creator and His plan, but neither does faith erase the deep pain of loss. They co-exist in the grey space between what is and what could have been, and I am left to cope with the all-too-familiar ache that lessens with time but never truly subsides.
What do we do when life brings us here? To the grave? To what very well may be the end? What do we do when the rest of the story is so beyond our control? When we want to trust but it hurts and we are scared of being disappointed? What do we do when the whispered prayer that hangs between God and us is not for a new job, or for a bigger house, but for life?
I do not pretend to have the answers. Even now, as I think about what the future holds, the tears threaten. I cannot say with assurance what will happen in my life or yours. I do not know whether there will be a baby number five and even if there is, I can’t control his fate. I am powerless to bend the universe to my will.
But I know the one who can.
It is this tiny glimmer of hope, the smallest mustard seed of faith that refuses to die within. When all that seems right and fair in life is shattered like broken glass, these truths remain: God is a good God and rewards everyone who seeks Him. His ways are far above ours. At this very moment, He is controlling the universe. And despite what it looks like on this side of eternity, miscarriage does not win. Stillbirth does not win. Chemical pregnancy does not win. Sudden infant death syndrome does not win.
Death does not win.
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