Hearts Formed and Unformed

Trigger warning: Pregnancy loss

Three years ago, today, John and I lost our first child to miscarriage.

Nothing prepares you for this kind of loss. It unravels you. After the fact, we learned that at least a quarter of pregnancies end in miscarriage, but no one talks about it, so no one knows. I didn’t tell more people outside of immediate family than I could count on one hand for over a year.

It was the continual questions of, “Is this your first?” when I was pregnant with R that hurt the most. How are you supposed to respond? Do you throw metaphorical cold water over the conversation by saying, no, but there’s not a living kid? Do you grin and grind your teeth?

I was pregnant two Mothers Days in a row but only had one kid on the way.

I had a meeting to go to that night, and I was not sure what was going on, and so I went to the meeting and the only thing I could think about the whole time is, “I think I’m losing my baby.”

The next day, I had a transvaginal ultrasound while the technician spent the entire time speechless. And then I went into the exam room to wait for the doctor and she came in and said, “so you know what’s going on,” and no one had told me, and she went into an explanation of what Down’s Syndrome is… No. I needed someone to tell me I had miscarried, to just tell me and let me sit with it for a little while.

I don’t think it was Down’s. Something just didn’t stitch right. Her heart could not beat. And we lost our child.

I named her Sarah Grace. I’m still learning grace through this experience.

Don’t tell me it was God’s plan. Don’t tell me I should just be grateful for my Rainbow baby. I know this can be uncomfortable, but sometimes you simply need to sit with someone in their grief whether you have experienced the same thing or not, and hold the space of their grief.

The first trimester of my second pregnancy I don’t think I really ever relaxed. I couldn’t write the cheery letter to my firstborn like the one I wrote in the week I knew I was pregnant with Sarah Grace. I didn’t dare to dream until I heard her heartbeat the first time.

My parents, my husband, and I stood around a stand of daffodils in our yard on the first anniversary of losing her and prayed a liturgy for pregnancy loss together. Sometimes other’s words help.

I’m healing, still. I encounter the grief when I think of her, when I remember the experience, when I hear of other women who have experienced the same kind of loss. It’s easier to deal with, to examine, to turn over in my head and consider how I’ve changed because of losing her.

Gradually, my heart mends. Eery so often I’ll find a stitch that slipped and needs to be worked back into the fabric of my heart. The patch remains, but I become more whole.

Life is a very strange thing. It’s tenuous. So many things have to come together in the right way to create a life. But those around us can seem so strong sometimes that we forget the frailty under the surface. We forget the careful knitting that was necessary to form our inward parts and bring us into being.

I pray for hearts formed and unformed.

I pray for hearts broken and healing

I pray for hearts joyful and grieving.

I pray for hearts questioning and certain.

I pray for your heart and for mine.

~~~ ~~~ ~~~

This prayer by Rev. Karen Westerfield Tucker from “A Service of Hope After Loss of Pregnancy” found in The United Methodist Book of Worship (p624) helped me heal. I offer it to you if your heart needs healing.

Lord, we do not understand why this life, which we had hoped to bring into this world, is now gone from us. We know only that where there was sweet expectation, now there is bitter disappointment; where there were hope and excitement, there is a sense of failure and loss. We have seen how fragile life is, and nothing can replace this life, this child, whom we have loved before seeing, before feeling it stirring in the womb, even before it was conceived. In our pain and confusion we look to you, Lord, in whom no life is without meaning, however small or brief. Let not our limited understanding confine our faith. Draw us closer to you and closer to one another. Lay our broken hearts open in faith to you and in ever greater compassion to one another. So raise us from death to life; we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.

Hope Lies in Wait

I have been watching this stand of daffodils for the past few weeks, watching them emerge from the ground, watching the yellow petals form underneath the protective membrane that keeps them from freezing. This stand blooms early every spring we have been here, but this time, they might just wait until spring actually gets here. Perhaps they are waiting for the bitter cold we have had to seep away so that they can take the March winds dancing.

The anniversary of my Grandmother’s death is coming up this Monday. Daffodils were her favorite flower, and when she died the ground around her home was covered in these gaily dancing yellow flowers who lie in wait in their bulbs over the winter, daring to emerge before other flowers are even dreaming about the sun. It is bittersweet to me that from now on, every early spring, when the daffodils come out to dance, I will be reminded of her, as well as of her death. But we need reminders of those we love, those who are alive and especially those who have gone on to join the church triumphant ahead of us.

These flowers display hope for me. They know full well that they are standing in the midst of snow. They know full well that the weather has been deeply below freezing for days on end. But they know full well that Spring is coming, that they will be the first to triumphantly declare the return of warmer days and shorter nights.

I envy them. They wear yellow much better than I do. God has dressed them in radiant silks and glorious shimmering greens. I envy them, but more, I consider them sisters. We are both pregnant with the promise of new life. Hope is seated deep inside of me, waiting for a new season to emerge, to enter the world, not at the violent riot of color that is Spring, but the full breadth of joy that ushers in the Summer months. This hope is taking longer to form, to develop, to be knit together; but as I wait, I am blessed in preparing for this hope that I have carried for seasons, and hope to watch grow and mature over the seasons and years to come.

Waiting

The busyness of Christmas is over. The season of Advent has come and gone, and the new year has begun. Some cultures have yet to celebrate Christmas, they will be gathering together for Three Kings Day, Epiphany, on January 6th. But for most of the people I know, we are winding down on the holiday season, getting ready to pack up the decorations, returning to the regular routine of work and play. For pastors, we are already looking forward to Lent (or at least know that we should be… even if we are adamantly denying it’s coming).

So with all this closure you would think that the waiting was over. We are in a holding pattern, not yet making plans for anything of much import.

For me, the waiting has just begun. I’m now three months pregnant. Which means that for the next six months, I have quite a bit of waiting to do. I am waiting to see what sex our child will be, I am waiting to see his or her face on the ultrasound screen, I am waiting to see whether the baby sticks with the due date, or has us guessing. I am waiting to meet this baby.

This waiting will have preparations and signals: registry lists, appointments and check-ups, showers, thank you notes, new clothes, and the physical reminder of a coming change through a changing body. As my body changes, I will change routines, expectations, and my bedtime, so that I will have enough energy for work, for relationships, and for my body to do its miraculous knitting together of a new life.

This is not the only change happening in our family, my husband is hoping to be ordained this year, and we are looking to celebrating that as well. But I get the feeling that the new baby coming will quickly turn our attention to a new life.

Many times of waiting do not have a tangible marker of the change to come. However, growing a new life creates a myriad of changes in the mother’s body, and changes the relationship of those who are preparing to raise a child. I already do not fit in to most of my pants from before I was pregnant. I will have to go buy a few new things even before I start to really look pregnant.

As I sit in the midst of this waiting, I anticipate that not everything will go the way that I plan. I don’t know what different things I will need to be ready for, but I look forward to finding out what they are, and how I figure out how to handle them. I am looking forward to this new season in my life, but God only knows what it will look like once it arrives.