April 18th

I remember the first time April 18th became a significant date.  I had just taken a positive pregnancy test and plugged in the date of my last period into an app.  Due date: April 18th.

I remember the second time April 18th became a significant date.  I sat in a sonogram room 8-weeks pregnant for my first OB appointment of that pregnancy.  After measuring the size of the baby with an already beating heart, “April 18th should be your due date,” confirmed the technician.

Then it was sometime on the afternoon of December 6th as I sat in our living room trying to grasp the fact that my baby’s heart had stopped beating that I realized April 18th would now be a day I would dread.  A day when something was supposed to be due, a something that would never arrive.

It felt so far away in December, as any woman 21-weeks into pregnancy can relate to, the due date feels so far away.  What a roller coaster the past 19 weeks have been.  There have been many sad days, several days where I just feel numb, and a sprinkling of joy-filled days that remind me it will be different one day.

It has been my empty belly that I have been mourning, but now it is my empty arms of which I am aware.

There are days where I feel crazy.  Crazy that it still hurts this bad.  Crazy that I can’t be the person I used to be.  Crazy that I can’t handle my old workload or pace of life.  Crazy that bellies and babies make me cry.  Crazy that I can miss someone so deeply whom I never met.

Some of the most comforting things over the past 19 weeks have been reading the words and listening to the stories of women who have been through something similar.  Though the stories are different, the sentiments seem to be the same.  In reading their words, I feel less crazy.  My grief seems more “normal.”

I thought by April 18th I’d be holding a newborn or headed to the hospital to deliver one.  Instead, I’m headed to the beach, thanks to the generosity of some friends.  As thankful as I am for this gift, I wish I was at Medical City hospital or home exhausted nursing my days away.

I thought I was crazy enough to have myself fully convinced this baby would come by April 4th and that this week wouldn’t be so bad.  But this week feels like a rude awakening.  40 weeks since conception.  No baby here.  No baby coming.

On December 6th, part of me died.  Since then, it feels like a lot of me has been dead.  I sat in church on Easter Sunday this past weekend and cried my eyes out.  He brings back life.  He brings new life.  He brings life to things that were dead.

I’m hoping with all I’ve got that my Maizie girl is alive, that God’s mercy and grace for the unborn and the infant is unparalleled.

I’m hoping that He will bring new life to the parts of me that are dead.  May flesh return to these dry bones.  May something pure and beautiful emerge from the ashes of this fire.

As I’ve thought about new life, I thought back to a summer in Colorado a few years ago.  Forest fires had swept through the area the year before.  A local explained to us that new vegetation was beginning to grow.  It wasn’t the same trees and plants that had been there before, but a new variety that was fit to grow in hostile ground.  This plant would change the soil and over time, different vegetation would return to the land.  It wasn’t the same as it was before, but it was new life beginning.

I’m hoping for the same.  I can’t go back to life before December 5th.  Maizie’s life and death will forever shape my existence.  But, new life, different life, can grow.  This is the promise of the resurrection: life after death.

Maizie bibleOn Friday as Jesus died, His people mourned.  On Saturday as He was gone, they waited.  On Sunday as He returned, they celebrated.  We live believing that the resurrection has happened but that many of the promises of new life will not be fulfilled until Jesus returns again.  In many ways, we’re living on Saturday.  We grieve.  We wait.  We hope for what is to come.

Even if

I don’t think I will ever figure out the relationship between prayer and faith and how God answers some prayers and others go seemingly unanswered.  I don’t think we’re meant to figure it out until Heaven.

The whole time I was pregnant with Maizie, I prayed for a healthy baby.  I prayed in the exact same way I prayed for a healthy baby during my pregnancy with Emerson.  When we found out Maizie had died, it was the first time we had learned that anything with our baby was not healthy. God doesn’t answer prayers differently than we hoped because we didn’t have enough faith when we prayed.

In prayer we lay the desires of our hearts before the Lord.  We ask for Him to move.  We plead for Him to have mercy.  We ask in faith, believing that He has the power to do whatever we are asking.  It takes faith to ask for God to do something that seems impossible.

“It takes great faith to say to God, ‘Even if you don’t heal me or the one I love, even if you don’t change my circumstances, even if you don’t restore this relationship, even if you allow me to lose what is most precious to me, I will still love you and obey you and believe that you are good.” – Nancy Guthrie in Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow

But it may take greater faith to say to God,  “Even if you don’t do what I desire, I will still love you, follow you, and trust your goodness.”

This is where I currently live and wrestle.  Even though.  Even if.

Even though you didn’t give me the healthy baby I prayed for, I still love you.

Even though you didn’t give me the healthy baby I prayed for, I will still follow you.

Even though you didn’t give me the healthy baby I prayed for, I will trust your goodness.

These truths.  On repeat.

Today I made a list of all my even though’s and even if’s:

Even though you took my daughter from me.

Even if it happens again.

Even if we never get another little girl.

Even if a third sonogram picture never makes it onto the fridge because we never get pregnant again.

third sonogramEven if my heart aches for a long time.

Even if my next pregnancy is really hard.

Even if JR and I struggle in our marriage through this loss.

Even if I feel unheard and unloved in my loss.

Even if some of our strained relationships never heal.

Even if Emerson is the only child I raise.

Even if I’m stuck in a battle with fear and anxiety when it comes to pregnancy for the rest of my childbearing years.

Even if people hurt my feelings with their insensitivity.

Even if everyone else I know seems to have easy pregnancies that work.

Even if all these things happen, I will still love you, follow you and trust your goodness.

God doesn’t owe me anything.  I haven’t earned extra blessings by years of vocational ministry.  I trust and submit to Him, even when it leads to my pain and my worst fears.

Isn’t this the example that Jesus gave us in the garden and then at the cross?

In Matthew 26 he prays these prayers in the garden:
“My father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39).
“My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42)

Jesus made his even if list.  Even if I have to go to the cross.  Even if I have to be separated from you.  Even if I have to endure torture and ridicule.  Even if I have to take the blame for sins I didn’t commit.  Even if you can’t take this cup from me.  I will still love you, follow you and trust your goodness.

He went to the cross with great faith that God would do what only He can do.  It lead to suffering, but it was out of God’s love and goodness.

I don’t know what fears, heartaches and trials are on your even though or even if list.  But they are probably the very things that could cause you to doubt God or give up on Him. They are probably the things for which you pray most passionately.  These are the areas where God is asking you to have even bigger faith.  Even if all of those things happen, will you still love Him, follow Him and trust His goodness?

Even if I never marry.

Even if I never have kids.

Even if I never get the promotion.

Even if my brother never conquers his addiction.

Even if my marriage falls apart.

Even if my parents die.

Even if I fight cancer.

Even if my child dies.

Even if my child is disabled.

Even if my strength or speech never returns.

Even if my kids are taken away from me.

Our situations do not determine the goodness or trustworthiness of God.

Even if all of your worst nightmares happen, God still loves you.  God still leads you.  God is still good.  He sees with an eternal perspective that is difficult for us to understand.  He let everything happen on Jesus’ even if list so that you and me could spend eternity with Him.  That is the greatest gift.

I know that God is good.  I believe that.  But honestly, He doesn’t feel good right now.  So I’m telling myself these truths on repeat.  He will work all things out for good for those who love Him.  Eternal good, not necessarily present-tense good.

Pain in childbearing

During my first pregnancy, I was never nervous or full of worry.  I looked forward to OB appointments.  Besides a pretty significant battle with morning sickness throughout the entire pregnancy, everything else was fairly easy.  I thoroughly enjoyed pressing the red button for more pain medicine during labor.  My daughter entered the world perfectly.  At the time, I thought I had escaped the whole “pain in childbearing” thing thanks to modern medicine.

Smith family birthMy second pregnancy started out similar.  Although, by this time I had more friends who had endured terrible pregnancy stories.  I wasn’t worried, but I also wasn’t naive this time around.  Then on December 6th, at 21 weeks pregnant, we found out that our daughter’s heart had stopped beating.  In an instant, I became very aware of the pain that can be found in childbearing.  Once we entered the second trimester, we felt free to dream and plan for this little life.  With the results of one sonogram, all those dreams and plans shattered.

Oddly enough, my greatest comfort over the past three months has come from Genesis 3.  When God created the world, He created it good.  He made Adam and Eve to be in relationship with each other and with Him.  However, Adam and Eve choose to disobey God and do things their own way.  God lays out the effects of their decision in Genesis 3.  To Eve he says, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children” (Genesis 3:16).

Childbearing.  Noun.  The act of bringing forth children.  Pregnancy.

I had read this section of scripture hundreds of times before.  I always thought it referred to labor and delivery.  But in late December as I studied the words, I realized it actually means all of it.

The longing for a husband to come in order to one day have kids.

The years of infertility and of trying to get pregnant.

The jealousy as others celebrate pregnancies and welcome infants.

The anxiety and fear over what if’s and questionable test results

The unplanned or unwanted pregnancy.

The abortion.

The stillborn child in the third trimester.

The early miscarriages.

The premature infant with disabilities.

The newborn who only lives a few minutes, hours, or days.

My child who left me at the halfway mark.

The lack of care and empathy from others as you suffer in one of these areas.

There is much pain in childbearing.

I’m sitting here thinking of my own pain and the stories of all the people I know.  Over the past three months, I’ve heard so many stories of loss and pain when it comes to pregnancy.  So many of my people have bleeding wounds or scars due to this area.  Many of you reading this know this pain well.  I honestly don’t know how to respond when people share about their new pregnancy right now.  Good Luck? I don’t think I’ll want to hear congratulations in the future, maybe simply a promise to pray for God to be near.

The comforting thing about Genesis 3 is that God tells us the world is going to be this way.  Pregnancy is the area for women where we are going to be very aware of the brokenness in the world.  God is not surprised by our longing, worry, sorrow, pain, heartache or disappointment.  In fact, He has a purpose for it.

Our pain in bringing forth children is supposed to be what makes us long for redemption, for a Savior.  It is supposed to be what makes us long for a new way of living and for a new earth.  It is supposed to make us yearn for Jesus.

There are a lot of things I don’t understand about this form of suffering. There are so many why questions that go through my brain.  But there is something comforting about knowing that God was prepared for this.  I may not have known it was coming, but He did.  None of it was a mistake, especially not her little life.

God wants me to want Him more.  As my longing and wanting for my daughter increases as the day approaches when I thought I would hold her, I am praying that my want for Jesus would be even deeper than the pain.

Pain in childbearing is part of His plan for the redemption of the world.  I don’t understand it.  It is not my plan.  But, I’m going to trust Him.

 

To anyone who is currently enduring this type of pain or has in the past, I am so sorry for your heartache.  I wish I could wipe it away.  But, I do know the One who promises to make all things new and who will wipe away every tear from your eyes.  He is the one who remove mourning and pain.  My prayer is that your pain will push you more towards Jesus.

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart; I have overcome the world” – John 16:33