Carrying Lost Hearts

This week I will be sharing pieces I’ve written about our miscarriage over the past 6 years. They have been scattered across different blogs in different seasons, spanning the full arc of my faith deconstruction and grief journey and I wanted to bring them together in one place to make them more accessible, and also as an act of remembrance for our Selah. March is Pregnancy After Loss month, something I couldn’t fathom in the wake of our miscarriage and have been wrestling with ever since the arrival of our twins just over a year later. If you have experienced the loss of a child, please know you have a home here, that I hold space for your pain, and that you are not alone.


March 25, 2015

Tuesday will be two years since we lost our little girl. Selah was an unexpected Lenten mystery in our lives, one I will never understand. She launched us into giddy parenthood and bottomless grief in one swift week. When I began miscarrying on Easter Sunday, the last bits of my feeble faith crumbled.

I will never forget the hours I spent in the shower that week, crumpled on the floor sobbing as I contracted and bled out what should have been my daughter, passing the clots that should have sustained and nourished her. When the water ran cold Drew would bundle me back into bed and we would shiver into each other, exhausted. I felt so dry when the tears stopped, parched for words and life and hope.

It is hard to talk about a lost child. I can’t remember the last time I cried for our Selah. Life with Evelyn and Rowan is so consuming, weeks will pass and I haven’t even thought about her. We’ll be out grocery shopping and as I’m bagging up some spinach a woman will walk up and coax a wave and a giggle from R&E and gush “oh twins! Are they your first? What a blessing! And look, one of each, now you’re done!” Ladies in the grocery story don’t mean to make young moms cry about their never-to-be-born child, so we put on brave faces and lie.

I don’t know if we’re done having children. I don’t even know if we’re going to survive today, growing another human is the farthest thing from my mind. But so is swearing off them all together. And one of each? Why do people say that, as if the genders of children are limited edition collectibles that depreciate in value if you have duplicates?

But she doesn’t mean any of that. She’s just forgotten what it feels like to be young and overwhelmed with needy children. She just wants to be friendly. I look at her kind eyes and stutter a reply and then she says they are beautiful and “God bless” and wheels her cart towards the deli. And there I am, plastic bag in hand, swept up momentarily in the impossibility of life and death and our ability to mourn and move on and mourn over and over again.

And then Evelyn is chewing on the index card that was my grocery list and ink is smudged around her lips and Rowan is howling because he wants paper too and so I’m digging in my purse for the Tupperware of snacks that will get us through to the checkout line. All thoughts of new life and motherhood and death are crowded out by the realities of my needy children and the clock ticking down to naptime.

And it really isn’t fair. There’s no good time to ask about the child I lost at 8 weeks. Even if you and I were sitting in my living room and we were drinking tea while the children played quietly and peacefully at our feet, if you asked about what I’ve been thinking about my Selah I would be overcome by the guilt of being a woman who hasn’t thought about her dead daughter since the last time someone reminded me in a grocery store. I would stumble for words and feel the need to try and sound like I think a devoted grieving mother should, but I would come up empty.

Selah flung open the door to my motherhood and then she left me standing awkwardly on the stoop, waiting to be let in. When Rowan and Evelyn came along I was suddenly shoved through the door with such force that I spent the next many months stumbling for footing. Now, as we round the corner on their first year and the dust is settling I’m finally finding some brain-space to feel all that we have become together. Because of Selah but also without her.

Dear friends, there are more people in your life who have lost children than you would expect. There are brave women who have labored and birthed beautiful babies and had to say goodbye to them the same day. There are mothers and fathers and grandparents who carry the broken hearts of parents who have outlived their children, taken too soon. Always too soon. There are family members and friends, people who were in our life one day and gone the next, leaving us in the void. We all know grief in some way, the weight of the world cannot be shouldered alone.

When grief is fresh, carry it together. When it rushes in and out again unexpectedly, accept and acknowledge it without guilt or fear, as much as is possible. If grief abides, do not be alone for too long. Remind others that you are hurting and let them stumble along beside you. It’s the best we can do, to offer our open hands and beating hearts in love for another. We do it for the ones we’ve lost and the ones we still have. We do it because love was meant to be given, to flow freely in the way of grace. We do it because we are alive and this is hope. This is the way we push back against death and press into life.

My faith is still in shambles, scattered and splintered like a shipwreck on a rocky shore. But I am picking my way through the debris when the tide is low and the sun is warm and, somehow, I am finding hope in these smashed bits. I’m grateful that whatever can be resurrected from this mess will always bear the marks of my heartache, that Selah’s story is forever my story too.

I carry her in my heart.

 

selah's memorial

The view from our little memorial site for Selah on Lake Ontario.

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Four and Seventeen Months

This week I will be sharing pieces I’ve written about our miscarriage over the past 6 years. They have been scattered across different blogs in different seasons, spanning the full arc of my faith deconstruction and grief journey and I wanted to bring them together in one place to make them more accessible, and also as an act of remembrance for our Selah. March is Pregnancy After Loss month, something I couldn’t fathom in the wake of our miscarriage and have been wrestling with ever since the arrival of our twins just over a year later. If you have experienced the loss of a child, please know you have a home here, that I hold space for your pain, and that you are not alone.


August 9, 2014

After a miserable week and half of a sleep strike/return to newborn hell, we’ve knocked out the 3am feeding! We’ve now got a bedtime routine that gets the kiddos down by 8:30 or 9, they wake up between 1-2 to eat, again near 5-6 and then sometime after 8. Maybe they just gave us those miserable 10 days so we’d remember what a treat it is to enjoy multiple REM cycles. I’ll take it.

With all this newfound energy and evening downtime, the reflective and introspective part of my brain is starting to re-emerge.  It rolls in like a fog, disorienting and distracting, sweeping me away in big unanswerable questions and dreams and fears. Lately the fog has drifted in with the goose pimple shivers and aching sadness of loss – a dear friend lost her two perfect twin girls, Livia and Lucy, last month and mourning with her has brought a fresh wave of grief for our Selah.

And then I’m remembering all the moments I have not mourned, the moments that I have lived and celebrated and giggled and cuddled with Rowan and Evelyn and how sometimes it is hard to imagine our sweet girl being in our present reality. And I feel so guilty for that. Guiltier still when I wonder if this is “progress”. Grief is all I have of her in my memory – the fleeting few days of marvelous hope and joy before she passed feels like a dream and her dying is the anchoring reality. I hate that.

Then I think of the plausibly long lives ahead of all of us – Rowan and Evelyn, Drew and I – and I’m lost for how to live them. How to be fully present in each moment without the fear that any one of them might be our last. And of course it’s not the END as much as the being left behind to grieve that really terrifies.

So while I’m marveling at tall the ways Rowan and Evelyn are growing and changing,  I’m also trying to imagine our next 30, 40, 50 years together. What the world look like, what our relationships will be? The fear I feel about the unknown in each sphere is suffocating, and then ridiculous. Is it possible to live between the two? To both revere and make peace with [the possibility of] grief enough so that I might really live in the present?

These little people who were but a few hundred dividing cells a year ago – maybe just the size of our dear Selah –  are learning to roll over and scoot their giant diapered bums across the floor. They giggle when I kiss their double chins and coo along as I sing to them. And I guess I just want to confess that they feel more real. How can I remember the little girl who barely was?

So I’m back at the beginning. Trying to celebrate month 4, wondering about month 17 and an older sister who isn’t here. Couldn’t be, if they are.

The two babies who are here are filling my life with such joy and purpose for all the small moments when I would otherwise be lost in my head. I marvel at this gift of time and presence with them, soaking up the goofy expressions and the post-nursing cuddles, participating in the rhythmic work of laundry, cleaning, reading, resting, laughing. It all flows together so naturally and I am grateful. I know this is a gift, one that I want to live well.

Maybe I will spend month 5 returning to my monastic family, men and women who have taken on the outcasts and weary children of the world as their own. Perhaps they can teach me about how the rhythm of grief and the rhythm of grace can make a life together.

I think I am thankful for the fog. It reminds me there is much about life that I cannot see or record or instagram. But I can open myself to feeling it, even the difficult grief/not grief of a lost child. And that’s grace, isn’t it?

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claiming resurrection

This week I will be sharing pieces I’ve written about our miscarriage over the past 6 years. They have been scattered across different blogs in different seasons, spanning the full arc of my faith deconstruction and grief journey and I wanted to bring them together in one place to make them more accessible, and also as an act of remembrance for our Selah. March is Pregnancy After Loss month, something I couldn’t fathom in the wake of our miscarriage and have been wrestling with ever since the arrival of our twins just over a year later. If you have experienced the loss of a child, please know you have a home here, that I hold space for your pain, and that you are not alone.


April 1, 2013

About a week ago Drew and I found out were pregnant. We were filled with joy and anticipation at this surprising answer to prayers for direction and purpose in this season of confusion and closed doors.

In just a few short days we began re-imagining our year ahead, what sorts of job opportunities could provide for a little family of three, where we might find housing, how we might move closer to friends or family. We talked of how fun it would be to surprise our moms with the news on mother’s day (if we could wait that long!) and I marveled at how this little one would carry me through the church year: growing quietly all through lent, announcing its arrival just before our resurrection celebration, finally joining us during the season that remembers our Christ’s own birth. Such peace.

But then, while shouting our alleluias and “He is risen indeed!” and smiling at rows of little kids on stage singing “Up from the Grave He Arose!”, I began miscarrying.

At first I didn’t even realize what was happening. I wanted to just think of it as a late late period, as if nothing had ever happened. I felt so sheepish for my joy, for all the planning that we managed in a short week. As I googled my “symptoms” and learned that this is commonly called a “chemical pregnancy” – the failure of the embryo to properly implant in the uterus – I felt even more silly for my grief. I was barely even pregnant. This brief burst of new life, just a few hundred cells woven together and gone rogue.

Just a few hundred cells.

But when I stood in the shower last night, trying to soothe wretched cramps and relax for bed I found myself praying somehow for God to receive our little one. This one he created in my womb, this one who was snatched by death far too quickly. And the grief came in great waves, shaking my whole body, making me feel small and frail and so exposed. How could it be that death could lurk even in my inmost being? I felt so violated. And on THIS day! Resurrection day. A day to celebrate conquering the dark shadow of death. Why?

Drew found me and held me and the hot water beat down with our tears and somehow in that embrace there was comfort in the midst of suffering. What a mystery of marriage to have the presence of another person to say “No, this is not right. This is not what we were meant for” and to cry out to God for his kingdom coming. To speak His promises of life over me and petition God for the peace we so desperately need in this broken place.

Addie Zierman says it beautifully:

“God is here, and I feel him close and real these days. But also, still, there is this hole. There is the empty space where a baby should have been. And I feel that too, tender and sharp.

I know it will get better with time – these things always do. But also, I know that this world is cracked through. The people who are supposed to love us best fail us in the worst possible ways. The pregnancy doesn’t take, or the baby is gone before you can hold him. The lump is malignant. The crash is fatal. Over and over again, people keep leaving before we’re ready for them to go.

We are, all of us, punched through with holes, living with a little bit more emptiness every year. And it’s possible to be filled with the Spirit and still feel the void.

It’s true that God is the best kind of Father. And also, the absence of your flesh-and-blood Dad matters. There is the way things should be and the way they are, and between them, there are a hundred thousand hollows, echoing with emptiness.”

The absence of my flesh-and-blood dad matters. And so, this Easter monday, though I am reminded all too intimately why this Jesus needed to rise from the dead, I mourn his distance. The Spirits’s presence is a mystery that abides within and around me, but it is not enough for this woman, meant for a new earth, fully realized, bathed in light and life.

But my resurrection hope is in this: I refuse to accept this as a mere blip of life. I refuse to feel silly about my sorrow, to downplay the death of our first child. (My confidence is already waning as I type that sentence. Child? Can I call it a child? Statistically, so many women experience this kind of miscarriage and never know. Does that mock the miscarriages of women whose sweet babes are birthed still so much farther along? Or the mama who loses a little one to a casualty of the “real world”?)

Because I have nothing else to lean on, because Easter is the ushering in of the sort of hope that sustains in seasons like this one where so many doors are slammed in my face and this one is just impossible, I claim the resurrection as a promise that I was not meant for death and neither was this little life that grew oh-so-briefly inside of me. This indignation in the face of death, this is grace. To be brought up from the despair that has so trapped me for many long months and into sorrowful hope, this is resurrection. I claim the grace to wonder if perhaps this little one is already continuing to develop elsewhere in whatever home heaven may be. I miss you, little one. May you be in peace.

“Easter was when Hope in person surprised the whole world by coming forward from the future into the present.”

     – N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope

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