Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day
The above image brought tears to my eyes. 1998 is a long time ago in many ways, but the memories are still there. Many people who know me, don’t know. Miscarriage is private grief that many experience, but few talk about it.
My experience led to me write and enter the following story in a writing competition in 2005. The piece was subsequently published by Testimony Magazine. I share it here with hopes it will minister to others who grieve and help others understand how profound the grief is for people who experience a miscarriage.
Gifts from a Loving God
Leaves crackle under our feet as we walk. Lois, my mentor, and friend smiles at me. I relish this rare opportunity to spend time with her. “Infertility is a gift from God. I never thought I’d say that,” Lois confesses.
I swallow hard to bury my protest. “Are you crazy,” my heart screams. “How can anything this painful be a gift?”
The only career I want is motherhood. My desire haunts me, like a mirage in a dry, dusty desert. First, an infertility specialist informs my husband and me it is impossible for us to have children of our own. Then, against all odds, we conceive, only to face the crushing disappointment of miscarriage. Conception continues to elude us. Now what? Do we relinquish our dream of parenting children? Do we investigate other options, like adoption or foster care?
Since we have no children, I have the gift of time – time to volunteer in the local school and catering club, time to pray, time to grow. Over time, I learn to navigate the waves of grief as they splash over me – some gentle, others that leave me gasping and drowning in grief. Mother’s Day, the birth of a baby, interacting with nieces and nephews, watching parents play with their children are all bittersweet. Slowly I learn to receive and give the gift of compassion.
A year later, we begin our challenging journey on the road called adoption. In January, we hear about nineteen-year-old Mary and her baby. Mary is unsure she can provide for her baby and maybe looking for an adoptive family. In May, after anxiously waiting for news that never comes, we sit down to fill out an adoption application with a private agency. That night the phone rings! “Hi, this is Sue. Mary asked me to phone and see if you are still interested in adopting her baby.” Four frantic days later, we bring home our daughter. For us, adoption is a gift of joy and celebration, but for a birth Mom, it is a gift of sorrow and sacrifice. Our daughter, Grace (unmerited favor) Victoria (victorious one), reminds us often of God’s loving gifts.
Four years later, we marvel again at God’s gifts – twin boys placed with us by Child & Family Services for adoption. (The boys were born at 27 weeks gestation, weighing less than two pounds each. The fact they are even alive is a miracle.) As we meet the foster parents and compare notes, we are in awe of God’s leading. The foster parents love Jesus Christ and rejoice that the boys will grow up in a Christian family!
Our 18-month-old twins introduce us to a completely new world – special needs. Only those who walk in these shoes know the special joys, challenges, and gifts these children provide. The first thing we notice about our boys is their silence – no babbling, no chatter. We learn they have “global developmental delays.” After six months of scooping with a spoon, our hand over his – every day, several times a day – we celebrate while Luke actually feeds himself. At twenty-seven months, we cheer while Levi takes his first wobbly step. A few months later, he is able to climb up on a chair by himself and stand. We clap, momentarily forgetting that Levi’s balance still needs help. He stands for mere seconds, grinning from ear to ear, before taking a terrible tumble to the floor. He lands on his head with glasses protruding at an odd angle, and blood gushing. We cringe as the doctor interrogates us. “Who was looking after your son when this happened,” she inquires while stitching Levi’s face. We learn to sign, using Signing Exact English, so the twins have a means of communicating with us. Progress is excruciatingly slow. Imagine our joy when we hear our boys, at age four, actually voice the words, “Mom” and “Dad” for the first time! The pediatrician who first saw our twins said they would never walk, talk, or feed themselves. We are thankful God has other plans for them!
Two years later, Jayson joins our family. Although Jayson is a full sibling to Luke and Levi, he has fewer obvious challenges. However, more often than not, we grit our teeth in frustration, quelling the temptation to yell. Jayson stands looking up at us, his brown eyes, large. We search for any sign of sorrow, repentance, or desire to please. It isn’t there. He defies us, again. Then he lies to us, repeatedly, despite the fact that his siblings are providing a running commentary of what has taken place. Parenting skills that have worked with our other children are not nearly as effective with Jayson. God uses Jayson to give us the gifts of humility and total reliance on God.
Several years later, we receive another phone call. “I have good news! You’ve been matched with twins (a three-year-old boy and girl) for adoption.” However, the adoption falls through before we even meet the children, due to circumstances beyond our control. We grieve silently, unable to share details with our families because of legal issues.
Life settles into a comfortable routine. It seems our family is complete. We are thankful for the gift of children God has given. Now that the children are all in school, I decide to take on a part-time position with the local school board. A month later, the phone rings. “Hi, I have some news for you. The boys you adopted have a new baby sister. Would you consider adopting her if she becomes available?”
It does not take long for us to answer, “Yes!” Our file is still open from the “match” that fell through. This makes it possible for us to become foster parents in a matter of days. We drive to the hospital to meet our new little daughter. Although we are excited, we are also nervous. We have never cared for a newborn infant before, let alone one who has heart problems. The staff at the hospital is very gracious. We are patiently shown what we need to know to care for her. “She’s lucky to have you,” one of the nurses comments. “You know, some of the kids in here end up staying for up to six months because we have nowhere to send them. There are so many, we cannot spend the time we would like with them. Sometimes we have to sedate them, just so they stop crying!”
My eyes fill with tears. “God, have mercy on our nation,” I whisper as I cuddle our newest daughter close. She snuggles into the crook of my arm and falls asleep. Her face is a picture of peace and contentment.
There are still many unknowns before us. Each day brings new challenges, some very unexpected. Our stability in the midst of this change is Jesus Christ, our rock, our Savior, our guide.
Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” I can now honestly agree with Lois, “Infertility is a gift from God.” Without this gift, we may not have received many of the other gifts God has chosen to give us on our adoption journey. We are thankful for God’s blessings: past, present and future. Although we may not always understand, we can choose to accept every gift God sends our way and trust Him to work them all together for good.