Holding On to Hope

Sometimes I have a hard time sleeping at night. The flashbacks – they’re intrusive. In them, I’m still pregnant and it’s always the same. Recollections of Christmas Eve, when we found out we were having twins. Memories of me the day I was first admitted to the hospital the week before I lost the babies. Bursting images of the Sunday everything went wrong. Overwhelming feelings that I should have done more. Flashes of losing them. Sometimes the flashbacks happen during the day, too. They hit me at random moments. Not a day goes by that I don’t have them. I’ve even had nightmares of losing my husband.

So I distract myself. I try to divert my attention. I watch endless episodes of whatever TV show I might find interesting on Netflix. (I’m currently re-watching and cherry-picking at episodes of The Mindy Project.) I help my husband edit images for his photography clients. I workout. I visit my parents. I read books on theodicy (the defence of God’s goodness in the face of evil) and grieving the loss of a baby. I’ve even recently started reading Ellen Degeneres’ book Seriously … I’m Kidding so that I can immerse myself in something funny. I obsess over my health, which is, oddly enough, a strange and apparently normal reaction to losing a pregnancy. I try to have a day.

I’m no solider and I’ve never been to war. I’ve never been physically abused. A stranger could look at me from across the room and think that my life is put together. I could laugh and smile and they would have no idea that, inside, I’m just trying to hold on. Trying to keep it together. Trying not to fall apart. If it’s a good day, sometimes I forget that I have to try so hard.

We do this though, don’t we? It’s what we do. We try to keep it together and not fall apart. We soldier on from whatever mess we find ourselves in and keep going. We keep going because we have to. We must. There’s got to be more than this darkness. There has to be light.

There has to be.

Eternal Springs

Alexander Pope, the 18th-century English poet, once wrote that hope springs eternal. Until now, I’ve never really understood what that means. (Hope springs eternal? That’s not even a proper sentence.) I guess there are just some truths that you can never really understand until it’s been true for you.

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never is, but always to be blessed:
The soul, uneasy and confined from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come
– Alexander Pope,
Essays on Man

Since losing the babies I’ve learned that, in the aftermath of a loss, you really only have two choices: to give up (whatever giving up looks like) or to keep moving forward. Of the two, I truly believe that the decision to keep on going is the most painful and the most difficult. It means living your life with not only the knowledge of what’s happened, but also the terrible experience of having lived through it. Here on earth, you don’t lose anything or anyone unscathed.

Between giving up and moving forward, the most logical option is probably to give up; it is, after all, the path of least resistance. And while there are those who, sadly, choose to give up (whatever that looks like), there are others for whom moving forward is the only dreadful choice, as if someone has a rope tied around your waist and is forcibly pulling you in their direction when all you want to do is plop hopelessly onto the ground. The world keeps on moving and, somehow, you have to move with it. You have to catch up even though you feel stuck. When your world falls apart, the rest of the world doesn’t stop even though you wish it would.

It’s hard, isn’t it? Moving forward. But we do it. We keep going. And even though we leave the past behind, it never really leaves us. When you walk towards the sun, your shadow always follows you.

Maybe you, too, have lost someone you love, or your job, or your marriage, or your health. There are far too many losses that we experience in life. Far too many. It’s a wonder that people are as resilient as they are. But that’s it, isn’t it? Resilience. It’s the stuff that hope is made of.

… we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
– Romans, Chapter 5

I tell people that what separates me from my babies now is time and space. Time, because I’m still caught in the present and one day – some day – I believe that I will see them both again. And space, because I can’t transcend my own existence and bring them back.

When I was in the hospital, probably a day after I had them, I started having images in my mind of standing on a beach somewhere with the wind blowing across the waves and against my hair. The images were so vivid that I could smell the fresh air and feel the cool breeze. And in the distance I could see my sweet girls running towards me. “Mommy!Mommy!” they both cried. In my mind, I could feel them run into me, almost knocking me over, and wrap their little arms around my neck. With my knees digging into the sand, we embraced so tight that I just knew we would never be apart again.

Those who don’t believe in life after death might dismiss this vision as no more than wishful thinking on my part. And maybe they’re right. Maybe it is wishful thinking. But maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s hope. Maybe it’s faith in the things that are still unseen and yet to come.

One response to “Holding On to Hope”

  1. Beautifully written Janzel. Can we see you soon?
    I would love to be able to hug all the hurt away and make you smile again……


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