38 weeks. I’d never had my child develop in me this long before. What a milestone!
I’ll never forget that day. We were both focused on the road, lost in our thoughts, when all of a sudden, Stephen looked at me and broke the silence.
« We are excited about this baby. »
It wasn't a question. It also didn't sound like a statement. He was simply voicing his thoughts, waiting for my confirmation.
« Yes, we are. »
I said it simply. With a smile, but without hint of excitement or change of tone. It was a fact and I had confirmed what he had hoped we were both thinking but had both seemingly been at a loss of words to discuss. I instantly felt guilty for my lack of enthusiasm in my response, but quickly reminded myself « it has been this way this entire pregnancy ».
Here we were, going about our daily business, working so hard to avoid being hurt and shielding our hearts from being broken once again. We did this so much that we had reached the point of needing to voice our thoughts to one another. That is how we continually reassure ourselves about our happiness for this new child’s upcoming arrival.
How could this beautiful new life- this answer to so many’s prayers, including our own- bring about so many old emotions of grief and reminders of pain. Why were our thoughts crowded with unending memories of difficult nights, weeping mornings and long, dark days? Why were we so hesitant to demonstrate love or signs of attachment when considering or talking about this child in my womb? Why weren’t we the bubbly, happy parents-to-be we had once been?
Death. Fear. Selfishness.
Those were the answers to our many « why’s .»
Death shook us up when we saw our son walk through it’s shadowy valley.
Fear overcame our thoughts since we knew that even with our greatest efforts, we couldn’t be in control of life itself.
Selfishness rooted itself in our hearts as we realized that we wanted God’s help with this pregnancy but didn't want Him to allow anything to happen that would be unpleasant for us.
We wanted to bring God glory, but we selfishly wanted to do it on our own terms and dictate our own preferable outcome.
The day we found out we were blessed to be expecting another child, we trusted Him fully with our little girl’s life and acknowledge. As He had been before, God was still in complete control. We quickly reminded ourselves that His plans are not always our plans. We knew she was a gift from Him, but we lived in fear that He would take her back.
Im ashamed to admit these thoughts. I wish I knew how to better handle the burden we have been given to bear and to have let it affect what should have been another joyful time in our life, preparing for a child’s arrival.
As « second » first-time parents, we saw ourselves going though the « steps » of pregnancy like a checklist. We knew why I was sick and how to handle it. We looked at what we already had in stock and didn't need to buy. We already knew at exactly what weeks we needed to go see the doctor. We told family the news. We told friends the news. We made plans for the birth. We took monthly belly pictures. It was just like reliving a part of our life we were hesitant to relive.
Every step of the way, we prayed God would allow us to keep this child and keep her healthy. We begged Him. Our family begged Him. Our friends begged Him.
The further the pregnancy progressed, the more we thanked God for allowing us to keep the child, and yet, the more we feared what had previously happened and missed our son. We were excited about the day we would meet her face to face, yet we were terrified of what events that day may bring.
We spent most of the pregnancy going to baby stores, not buy anything, but simply looking at each other and saying « Well, we’ll come back and get this book/carseat/toy/outfit/etc. after she is born »
I’d feel her moving and immediately would ask God not to let that be her last kick, roll or hiccup.
We’d see her on sonograms and try not to get overly attached, continually shielding our hearts.
We encouraged one another to trust God and begged Him on behalf of our daughter.
Yet, in the intimacy of our home, we struggled to live out our faith and trust God concerning this child.
Every day was a fresh start; a renewal of our trust in God. Some days were more difficult than other.
We were scarred and we were scared.
Through all of this, God helped us.
At the end of certain days, when we were weary and worried, He would always put our hearts to rest. He’d remind us that even through dark valleys, He is there and He is good.
He was there to comfort us when Nathan died. He was as good to us then as He presently was. He hadn't changed. He was in complete control of our life and of our baby’s life, no matter how long or short that life was meant to be.
As difficult as it may be to understand and after all we had previously gone through, we were comforted.
The birth day came, and although a bit unnerved about the entire process, we were at peace with whatever the outcome would be. We were mentally prepared to grieve or celebrate, but we wouldn't focus on any of that until baby’s arrival.
And came, she did!
I could never justly explain to you the agony and anticipation found in the minute moment of waiting to hear your child cry for the first time. After experiencing the loss of a child, it is difficult to describe that decisive moment between as you are preparing to grieve or be overtaken by joy.
But what i can explain is the tremendous relief and gladness we experienced when she did cry.
We were immediately awestruck. We knew she was alive. We saw her moving. We heard her wonderful voice. We felt the warmth of her body.
God had answered our prayers and decided to let us keep her. We could open our hearts fully to her without fearing her immediate death. The weight of the agony we experienced throughout the entire pregnancy was finally lifted away. She was alive and she was healthy- what more could we ever ask for? We held her, stared at her, prayed for her, thanked God for her, and contemplated how good God was to let us experience such joy.
Many people refer to these miraculous children as rainbow babies. I could not find a better term for them. A beautiful rainbow after a treacherous storm. A comfort. A new beginning.
Thank you Lord for this precious blessing. For this heritage. For such a sweet gift.
If you know anyone who has lost a child and is expecting again, remember to pray for them. Keep encouraging them and seek out ways to help calm their fears. Understand that their lack of talking about the baby may be rooted in hesitancy, not a lack of joy. They will likely smile with you and tell you how happy they are about this little life forming inside them, but will likely be struggling with old memories, fearing that the past may become another present reality. Keep praying for them. Keep encouraging them. Keep trying to be understanding.
"Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward"