What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil. – Job, Chapter 3
Almost nine months after losing my two babies, I’m still looking for peace.
It’s hard to believe that a little over a year ago, on November 8, 2015, I found out I was pregnant. I remember that it was a Sunday evening and my husband and I had just come home from grocery shopping. Despite having the weekend together, we were both stressed out of minds. Not only were our jobs busy but, on top of that, we had thousands of images to cull and then edit for my husband’s side portrait and wedding photography business. So I guess it was no surprise that we both managed to pick a fight that day.
To be honest, I don’t even remember what we were so upset about. (Isn’t that the way with stupid arguments?) All I know is that I planned to buy a pregnancy test at the store because I had been feeling a little off the whole week before. Oh, and I was nearly two weeks late. Naturally, I attributed all of that to stress, but just to be sure, I decided to get myself tested.
When I was a kid, I remember watching that episode of Full House when Aunt Becky tells Uncle Jesse that she’s pregnant. To break the news, she decides to prepare a romantic dinner consisting of baby shrimp, baby corn, and baby back ribs in hopes that he’ll catch on to the obvious baby theme of the meal. After failing to deduce the message (he thinks the theme is finger foods), Becky finally tells him the exciting news over a family game of Pictionary.
Just before I found out I was pregnant, I remember taking that test in absolute frustration. I was upset that my husband and I were leading such busy lives with little time for each other and I was upset that, yet again, we managed to fight over something so infinitesimal. (It must have been, because I don’t remember what it was about!) As I waited impatiently for the results, I could hear my husband’s deadening silence downstairs as he sat with his arms crossed on the couch. I remember thinking, Great, if this test turns out to be positive, I get to have a baby with thatguy! The things that cross your mind when you’re furious.
I don’t know why there was a part of me that thought that test would actually come back negative, but there was. My husband and I had been trying on and off for two years (with very little commitment I might add), and I had taken a few pregnancy tests in the past that told me, no, I was not pregnant. I guess at some point I got used to the rejection. If a pregnancy test could talk, it seemed that I was always hearing it emphatically tell me, No, sorry, no baby for you! in the voice of the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld.
That night, there was no such rejection.
As soon as I saw the word ‘YES+’ flash across that tiny little screen, every negative feeling I had seeping through my bones disappeared. Somehow, none of it mattered any more. At least, not in that moment anyway. I was pregnant. Pregnant! I had a tiny organism growing inside of me that would become not one, but two humans. And I was in the middle of an argument with my husband. How could that be? I was in the middle of an argument with my husband? Why weren’t our lives more like Full House? For a second, I considered keeping this news to myself until he was in a better head space and then I thought, What else could put him in a better place than this?
After making my way downstairs and around the couch to face him, I said, “I know you’re upset right now, but I thought you should know, I’m pregnant.” For a moment, I think my husband thought I was just trying to frustrate him some more because I saw a look of disbelief (the dismissive kind, not the awestruck kind) flash across his eyes, but that moment didn’t last. Once he took in my words, tears started streaming down his face and, as his voice quivered, he said, “Seriously?” before pulling me in close and hugging me tight.
Needless to say that there was no romantic dinner or elaborate setup when I told my husband I was pregnant. When I told my husband I was pregnant, we were in the middle of a fight.
Joy and Peace
Despite the difficulties that day, as I revisit this memory I long for that imperfect, beautiful night. I long for the absolute joy of that moment – that pure, unadulterated, precious joy of learning and sharing my pregnancy with the man I love. That joy that I had no idea would slip away from my fingers like sand. Since losing our babies, there has been very little joy to speak of. Life today is much harder than it was one year ago. It has been filled with unspeakable trauma, incredible pain, crushing depression, debilitating anxiety, and profound heartache. And for what? Two little babies I never knew. Two beautiful babies whose loss has wrecked my life.
Don’t get me wrong, I have loved my babies every minute of every day since they came into my life. And for every minute of every day for the rest of my life I will ache for them and thirst for them and long for them in a way that only mothers can for their children. When I say that they have wrecked my life, I mean that since losing them my life has not been the same. It has not been the same because they have touched it in ways that no one else, not even my husband, has or can. Their little hand prints are all over my broken heart.
I don’t know that anyone who has not lost a pregnancy or a child will ever understand how I can still be so affected by this. To be honest, many times, I don’t quite understand it myself. Would I be this devastated and ruined if I lost them much earlier? Do I feel the way I feel because I birthed two fully formed babies? What would it say about me if I didn’t have the same reaction had I lost them sooner? At what point do I really, truly start to value life?
I look at other women who have lost one or more pregnancies go on with their lives and wonder if there is something wrong with me. I deliberate over whether I should continue sharing some of my most intimate feelings concerning this loss so publicly because no one wants to be brought down and reminded of how awful life can be. I question whether I am making too much out of this and consider if I should just suck up my feelings, blaze this trail and never look back. In fact, I find myself constantly being pulled in two directions: to allow myself to grieve and be sad and angry and hurt and broken because these are the raw emotions that link me to the memory of my babies – to their birth and their death, or to completely let go of all of these horrible feelings by untethering myself from the one set of emotions that I feel bind me to my daughters. How do I let go of one and live with myself? Either I am to live out my life carrying this darkness everywhere I go, or I am to feel like I’ve abandoned the babies that I lost. And if it’s not one or the other, then how do I live with both and survive this constant civil war inside of me? I suppose this is the noose of grief. It hangs around your neck the moment someone or something is taken from you and, somehow, you have to find a way not to let it strangle you.
I suppose this is the noose of grief. It hangs around your neck the moment someone or something is taken from you and, somehow, you have to find a way not to let it strangle you.
Besides joy, I long for peace. I long for that feeling I get when I’m lying by the water on a sandy beach on a warm summer’s day. That feeling of absolute weightlessness. That feeling of inexplicable calm. I long for still waters to take place of the stormy seas of my soul. I long for shalom.
God seems distant these days. The space between us has grown so much this past year, wider than ever before. Sometimes I feel like He’s so far away that He’s no longer visible to me. Just a minuscule dot far off in the distance. Or maybe He seems distant because I have walked away to be alone. To be by myself. To be lost by myself in the dark wood.
Why haven’t I taken Him with me? Maybe for the same reason we don’t go on journeys with strangers. Maybe it’s because I don’t trust Him. Or maybe it’s because I don’t really know Him.
But then I think of Jesus and, almost instantly, that distance between me and God disappears. Suddenly, no matter how far I’ve walked, God is by my side again, in a flash. Wrapping His strong and gentle arms around me, I find Him grieving with me. Sobbing with me. Desperate with me. Broken with me. This God I recognize. This God I know. This God I trust.
And then I realize … what I long for is Jesus.
But you, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me. – Psalm, Chapter 22