Babies in My Heart: Handling Miscarriage and Infant Loss
Grace and Gabriel. That's what I named my twins. The ones who were so bound and determined to stay that I lost my left Fallopian tube along with them. I didn't have the heart to name my third baby, whom I miscarried just a few weeks after bringing home our first-born daughter through domestic adoption. What right did I have to grieve over a child when I held a perfectly healthy one in my arms?
My babies were only the size of a cherry, but in my mind they have chubby thighs and curly hair. One pulls wrinkled toes toward his mouth for a taste. Another smiles as drool threads down her chin. Like my husband and me, they have blue eyes.
Sometimes I still dream that I carry them inside me, all three head-to-foot in a pink swirl. In the dream I cradle my belly as a waking voice winds in and whispers, "This is not real."
I longed to know each one.
I still do.
If you're like me, perhaps you've reached for answers as a way to ease your loss. Genetic abnormality. Infection. Advanced maternal age. Ectopic pregnancy. Knowing why you've lost a baby, however, does not satisfy the emptiness. The grief that smacks like an icy wave and steals your breath.
So often I've brought my "whys" to God only to be reminded that answers were never part of the deal. There are no verses where the Lord declares, "And I will reply to your questions promptly with clear explanations that will satisfy your uncertainty." (Believe me, I've looked).
God, of course, holds every answer, but the task of imparting his infinite knowledge to us would be much like teaching a two-year old the tenets of molecular biology.
In my headstrong search for answers, I've found, instead, that God offers:
(From Isaiah 41:10)
1. Strength (chayil)- Physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. The same power that enables an army for battle.
2. Help (azar) - Protection, aid. A special kind of help the Lord offers to ones who belong to him.
3. Support (tamak)- To hold up firmly, to keep from falling. Especially when we are at our weakest, God braces us like a steel joist in the weight-bearing wall of a house.
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(From Psalm 34:18-19)
4. Nearness (qarob) - To be close. While grief may cause us to feel that God is far away, he is actually nearer in friendship than ever to those with broken hearts.
5. Rescue/Saving (yasha) - Avenging, delivering, preserving, helping to gain the victory. Picture your own personal Captain America times a million. He is always fighting for you.
(From Psalm 23:4)
6. Comfort (nechama) - Reassurance, encouragement, freedom from anxiety. This is the softer side of God, the Holy Spirit that dwells within to counsel and whisper hope.
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If you've recently experienced a miscarriage or lost an infant, you're likely saying, "OK, this all sounds good, but I'm hurting like I've never hurt before. How can I practically put these ideas to use in my life?"
A few suggestions:
C.S. Lewis said, “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time – waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God- it changes me.”
Do you need a change from the hopelessness you're feeling right now? There's no special formula for prayer. If you can't muster words, start with the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6, or shoot your scattered thoughts to God like Katniss' arrows. Prayer puts your troubles in God's hands and opens your heart to comfort and healing.
Sharon Jaynes says, "When I begin to praise God in a difficult situation, even if I don't feel like it, many times the scales fall from my eyes and I begin to see glimpses of his glory sprinkled on the black backdrop of the situation like diamonds on black velvet."
The simplest way to praise God is to finish this sentence. Thank you for...
3. Seek Community
Hang out with other believers whose God stories will strengthen you as you struggle to make sense of your loss and stretch your relationship with your heavenly father.
I know you don't feel like it. Grief draws us inward into a protective ball like the pill bugs I enjoyed poking in my childhood. Serve anyway, in whatever role in which you are comfortable. Rake leaves, serve soup, stick positive post-its on the mirrors in the staff restroom. Serving draws us out of our grief and nearer to Christ.
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5. Find a Life Coach (a.k.a. licensed Christian counselor)
Jesus said in John 16:33, In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
Christian counselors can be a tool used for this "overcoming" about which Jesus spoke. In addition to holding core Christian beliefs, these professionals (not your pastor, unless he has a degree in counseling) hold the knowledge, training, and expertise to guide you through the confusion and doubt that accompany grief and loss. An hour of therapy is not just about lying on a couch and pouring out your sorrows (although that can be cathartic). Therapists offer practical tools for retraining our brains and changing our self-defeating behaviors to help us move in a more positive direction.
Why did an all-powerful God not intervene to save my three babies or the one you are grieving right now? We will likely not glean sufficient answers on this side of heaven. However, as believers, we can cling to the promises set forth in the Bible as we seek healing. We can also rest in the hope found in Psalm 139. That a God who took care to form our babies' inner parts and knit them together will surely hold them with utmost care until we are reunited. And that our heartbreak over babies gone too soon is only an earthly prelude to the joyous stories of lives lived out in eternity.
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