IMG_7650Let me put this disclaimer out there: I cannot even pretend to touch the subject of grief. It’s big and it’s personal, and from my standpoint, it suffers by comparison. In recent months, I have had friends who lost a infant, lost a young child, lost a husband. All these losses blow my mind and my heart. I can’t speak to them. I can only speak to my deepest grief thus far…

“I will trust and not be afraid. I will arise and go forth by His name.”

Recently, I had a conversation with some friends about a mutual friend who is pregnant. The theme of the conversation was fear. It was, “Yikes. That news is out there early… what if something bad happens?”

It is a reference I understood. When I first confirmed I was pregnant with Miranda (April 12, 2006 lives in infamy for me!), I had NO intention of waiting to share the news. In my spirit of storytelling, I’d certainly shared my monthly disappointments with people (& this was before Facebook). Why wouldn’t I share the good news? That whole “wait until the second trimester” thing was far from my mind.

Rod told me later how worried he had been. Miranda was my first pregnancy after a diagnosis of infertility. She was my first pregnancy ever. Chances were good (about 20%-ish) that we’d have a miscarriage. And in a moment of celebration at Aurelio’s Pizza, a moment I told few people about, there was spotting. At our first doctor’s appointment, after I had taken 1-2-3-4-5-6-SEVEN tests at home, there was a faint enough line to cause the doctor to put me through a blood test and a 24-hour wait.

You know what I did after we left that doctor appointment? Went to Babies R Us and made a registry.

Please know, it wasn’t because I was not scared. If I paused to think about it, I would have lost my mind with doubt and terror. I am a story gal – I have a pretty large and intense imagination. Because of this, I am at times forced to compartmentalize. It is all too easy for me to vividly imagine the worst, to put myself in different shoes. I have to selectively ignore possibilities sometimes. It’s not me being naive; it’s rescuing me from me.

As the story goes, the blood test was positive, the spotting was nothing, and Miranda Rose arrived in all her glory 7 months later (ironically, by the time I knew I was pregnant, I was almost in my 2nd trimester).

Perhaps that is why a miscarriage eight years later knocked me down so hard. Miscarriages, in my vague frame of reference, happened to young women, first-timers, people in accidents… not to older moms with previous perfect pregnancies. The idea of pregnancy #3 resolving that way was not something I had considered for one single second.

So what do you do when you get pregnant after that?

Let me back up. David, the baby we lost, was not planned. He was a huge, amazing surprise. Jack, however, is the only baby we ever “tried for” and got. With Miranda, I did not think I could get pregnant. With Kaity, who was conceived when Miranda was 6 months old, I was mentally in a place of “it happened once but it probably won’t happen again.” (Irony is the story of my life, y’all). With Jack, there were calendars and stuff. Apps, because it was 2014. In fact, I know the day he was made (I’m not gonna write about it here, but if you ask me, I will tell you something about Disney World and pixie dust…)

On the Sunday before Memorial Day in 2014, a new friend of mine announced on Facebook that she was pregnant. She also announced a due date in February 2015. Because I was tracking dates and possibilities so closely, I looked at that and said, “She must be like… 1 day pregnant!” I was in awe of her anyway, already a mama of 4, a champion, and a wealth of knowledge who’d already helped my confidence about pregnancy and birth and mama-ing. Anyway, I went to bed that night and dreamed of her. Nothing specific, just my friend and babies and a blur that held when I woke up (When a dream stays with me, I tend to know it has meaning). And so that day, I knew I was pregnant too.

Rod said I should wait to take a test. It was really early, and though he didn’t say it, he was really worried. We’d told ourselves we’d give it 2014 to get pregnant again, come what may, but I had already confessed how unsettling it was to think we wouldn’t have another baby. I did not want my childbearing chapter to end with a miscarriage…

I am normally pretty submissive to my husband, but that Tuesday, on the way to work, I stopped and bought a pregnancy test. My heart was racing. I needed to know (I’m an information addict). There was a five minute drive to the church. I played one song: Crystal Lewis, “Lord I Believe in You.” Crystal’s range is far higher than mine. I sang along anyway. I might have shouted.

“Lord, I believe in You
And I’ll keep my trust in You
Let the whole world say what they may
No one can take this joy away
Lord, I believe…”

Because once again, I found myself in a place where I needed to choose to believe. Even if this story didn’t play out how I wanted, Jesus loves me. Even if I don’t see a joyful ending or a hopeful next chapter, even if my childbearing years end with loss instead of life, God already performed amazing miracles – giving an infertile woman *3* babies, 2 on earth and 1 in Heaven. It would be ok.

And it was ok. I walked into work, stepped into the public bathroom in the empty lower level, took the test. I wish I could say I was surprised when it was POSITIVE, but somewhere in the midst of the last 9 years, from infertility diagnosis to two babies to miscarriage, I’d become a hopeFUL person instead of a cynical one. God had already confirmed in that dream about my sweet pregnant friend that I was pregnant too. I hung up and called Rod (who also wasn’t surprised I’d taken the test and who laughed with me on the phone), I called my mom (she is so used to me. Thank you for knowing me, Mama), and then I marched upstairs and told all my co-workers, who had loved me so well through my miscarriage (oh, you guys… I am so grateful for you).

I was something like… 3 weeks?… pregnant at that point. Common sense and a million pregnancy articles would have told me to wait to tell anyone. Crystal Lewis and amazing grace told me to SHOUT THAT OUT. God was giving me life after loss. LIFE.

I will tell you that the following weeks were a battle of my mind. There were some days of spotting, and even one night of some bleeding. There were moments I could not stop my imagination from running wild. There were days of not only fear but of guilt and grief – I still very much missed and mourned our David (I still do!).

uncle jack
Ultrasound/Celebration Meme by Allen :)

I had some amazing people pray with me (including an impromptu “call down the fire” at my Pampered Chef party. Thank you, Chris. I will never forget that, or the early baby gift of bedding you gave me). I had a sweet surrogate dad send me Bible verses and songs right when I needed them most (Junie. I love you!) I had a prophecy of a pea-pod, sprouting forth with life (Kelli! Thank you, thank you <3 ). I had a playlist I put together of songs to affirm me, which I listened to over and over again. I had a husband, my champion, tell me over and over again that no matter what, I was going to be ok.

On June 26, I had an ultrasound scheduled.  For the 24 hours before, my heart raced and my stomach churned. I was relieved that my girls were in Illinois with my parents. I flashed myself forward to scenarios of celebration as well as grief. I prayed and declared victory and life. I thanked God for the person inside me, even as I held that little person at a distance.

My first ultrasound with David had been a nightmare. At first, Dr. M. couldn’t find an embryo at all (turns out my uterus was tilted). Then there was a baby who was smaller than he should have been and whose heartbeat wasn’t visible (in the years since I’d had Kaity, that process had changed. Before, we were only waiting to hear the heartbeat and that wasn’t until 10-12 weeks). I was confused and angry and quite quickly broken.

This time… oh wow. I have told people about the song in my head in those seconds leading to the ultrasound:

“We wait for you.
We wait for you.
We wait for you to fill the room.”

The song talks about the Holy Spirit. I was, of course, waiting to see my baby, but it was both of them who greeted me the moment I looked at the screen. Now an ultrasound veteran, I immediately saw a heartbeat flashing beautifully. I immediately felt the reassuring presence of a life-giving God fill the room. I cried and said, “Thank You, Jesus” over and over again.

I was something like 8-9 weeks along at that point. I could go calculate but I don’t care anymore. There was still a long way to go in my pregnancy, and there would still be battles of fear and worry to face, but I declared life.

And I would do it all over again.

To the friends I referenced earlier, who were sweetly concerned about sharing baby news too soon, I said, {paraphrase, because I am rarely eloquent on the fly}, “Sometimes you have to battle fear by calling it out. For me, I had to declare life quickly and loudly and to everyone.”

Our faith does not change situations all by itself. I could have just as easily lost another baby. In fact, that friend, the one who I dreamed about, lost one of her precious twins, born 6 days before my Jack, at 9 weeks old. Loss and life are intermingled in ways we cannot even fathom. But God made us to persevere, to live, and to love even through the darkest tragedies. When I see my friend smiling at her children, functioning through her grief, I am in awe of her spirit and of the God who sustains her.

There will always be loss. But there will always, always be life on the other side.