There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.
-Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith
Last month, our twins would have been 2.
I know miscarriage happens to a lot of women– you find out just how many when they emerge from the corners of your life to give you words of encouragement as it happens to you; but sharing the experience doesn’t negate the terrible loneliness you feel– because, there are some kinds of fire you must walk through alone.
“Do you think about them mom?.. the babies you lost?” I asked my mom one day, not too long ago. My mom has had three miscarriages. She paused and then said, “yes, I think about them. I remember when I would have been due, and I still get bluesy when their due dates come around”, she answered. “Even all these years later”.
I still think about our babies when this time of the year rolls in. Wondering what they would have been like, looked like, sounded like… our precious children, born into the arms of Jesus.
We had moved back from the UK in May of 2010. We had been working at a music and bible college over there for 3 years and moving back was hard. Really hard. We basically were in a season of decisions. Do we move back to the U.K.? Do we stay here (in Memphis)? Or do we go somewhere else entirely? After a lot of prayer we finally made the decision to stay in the states. During this time, God kept bringing up to me back to the story of the Israelites entering the promise land in Joshua 4.
1 When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the LORD said to Joshua, 2 “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, 3and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.”
4 So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, 5 and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, 6 to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 7 tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”
I felt like he was saying to me, “you may be in the middle of the Jordan, but pick up the stones in front of you. Make preparations to worship me now, while you are still in the middle of the river… In the middle of your crisis point. Make an altar that you can look back on and remember that I am faithful” I thought God was telling me this because the move back to the states was so hard and heartbreaking to say goodbye to friends who had become like family.
In July we found out we were pregnant. We were thrilled… and terrified. In one sense, it came at the worse possible time. We had just left a country with free health care and we had no insurance to speak of in this country, let alone secure jobs or a 5 year plan. We didn’t have a 6 month plan, but we were so excited. We waited to tell anyone for 3 weeks because we had planned to take a trip to Michigan to see our families and we wanted to tell them in person. Those 3 weeks felt like they took ages. I counted down the hours and days and dreamed and dreamed of what the future held. I had the room decorated and several name options already picked out in my mind. I could already see them in my mind, feel the weight in my arms. I was ecstatic.
This was taken the night we saw those two pink lines.
Finally, it was time to drive to Michigan. We made the trip with in a Chevy Blazer that Trevor’s dad had given us when we moved back to the U.S. The air conditioning was broken and it was unbelievably hot. I remember the sweat running down my back and shivering– then laughing because for a brief moment I felt relief from the heat.
We crept across the states, and as we heading north, we slowly started feeling some release from the heat. I felt like I had finally figured out why the south has become the bible belt; its because every summer, all the southerners get a tiny taste of hell, and its enough to cause at least a mild case of repentance.
My parents met us in Wisconsin where Trevor would be staying to work for a few days and we were able to joyfully announce our news to my parents and sister. I left with them while Trevor stayed to work for a festival and we talked the whole way back… dreams for the future, who the baby would look like, names etc. etc.
I had been at my parents for 2 days when I went to the bathroom and noticed some spotting. I frantically checked everything as fast as I could but there didn’t seem to be any more blood. I yelled for my mom to come upstairs. She came up and her smile faltered a bit as she saw my face. “What is it?” she asked. “I found some blood” I said and showed her the tissue. She looked at it for a moment and then looked up at me, “don’t worry honey, I’m sure its nothing– but we will maybe take you to the care clinic just to get you checked out. You may have just overdone it a bit”. Her voice was steady but I saw a trace of uncertainty in her eyes that was enough to cause me to go into a mild panic in my mind.
We were able to make an appointment at a pregnancy services clinic and though they were beyond kind, I hated being there. I hated the colors and smells of a perfectly lovely waiting room. I hated that I was taking a pregnancy test again… even though it slowly came up positive. I felt a bit better after that and I called Trevor with the news. They were going to give me an ultrasound a few days later once Trevor got back.
Nothing else happened for two days and I felt the fear uncurl in my stomach and excitement grow again. Soon Trevor was done with the festival he had been running sound for and came to Michigan where we told his family of our news.
Fast forward to the day of the ultrasound. I sat anxiously at the edge of the examination bed, clutching the thin hospital sheet around me and the backs of my dangling feet thumping periodically against the drawers of the examination bed. I’ve never been able to figure out why they don’t make anything but stirrups for you to put your feet on. Finally the ultrasound technician came in and introduced herself. I laid back and she squirted the warmed jell on my stomach and started to look around. Trevor and I glanced at each other with nervous grins. She tapped on her keys and then looked at both of us. “Well, here’s the thing… I’m seeing two babies”. “what?!” I shouted. I sat strait up and grabbed the monitor. “but… but”… I floundered. “We only ordered one!”. Yes, yes. I know that’s the dumbest thing I could have said, but there you have it. Trevor just had this stupid grin on his face. “You sure there are just two in there?” he asked. I couldn’t believe it. twins. She told us they were in the same sack, meaning that they were identical. Twins. I had never expected this news. She took us to another room of the pregnancy services center and gave us two small blankets for our babies. Our babies.
I held the blankets in my arms stroking the silken edge of the fabric as we made our way over to my dad’s office. We walked in and he smiled. “how’d it go? Did you get to see the baby?”. There was a pause and then. “babies.” I said, holding up two fingers. “She said there were 2”. “No way!” he shouted. He started laughing. I should explain that my brother had twins earlier that year, so I think we all figured he had won the lottery on that front and the rest of us were safe. We showed him the ultrasound and then made the rounds calling family to tell them the news.
Around this time I started spotting blood again. It was just a bit at first, but it didn’t stop. We hadn’t told very many people at this point, but I started asking for those we had told to pray with us. My best friend Louise arrived from the U.K. to spend a few weeks with us. A week later the three of us drove back to Tennessee stopping in Illinois and Indiana to see family. All the time, the symptoms were getting worse, but my mind just refused to believe what I knew my body was telling me… I was losing them. I had them for so little time and they were slipping away from me already. I frantically googled anything that would give me hope. Stories of women who had bled and remained pregnant, but deep down, I knew why God had been bringing me back to Joshua 4… telling me to remember his goodness and prepare my heart to worship from the middle of a crisis point.
Two mornings after we arrived back in Tennessee I woke up at 3 in morning and I knew without a doubt that I was losing our babies as waves of contractions came on me. I clutched my stomach and sobbed into my pillow. I went and sat in the living room because I didn’t want to wake Trevor. I knew he would hold me… that he would love me and share this with me, but selfishly I didn’t want to tell him yet. It made it more real, somehow.
Finally I just went into our bathroom and sat in the bathtub with the shower running. Draining and filling it up over and over again as the water grew lukewarm, and then cold. I just cried and cried. I begged God to make me be pregnant again. To make me wake up and it all just be a dream. “Why did you allow me to be pregnant in the first place?” I yelled at Him.
I stayed in that bathtub for I don’t even know how long… hours possibly. The hot water ran out and I just waited for our water heater to refill and reheat, over and over again. Finally, I had no more tears for that morning and nothing left to say that could be put into words. I pulled the plug up and just sat there as my body became heavier as the water drained from the tub. And I swear, in the silence, I heard God cry with me. I told him, “God, I don’t feel like worshipping you. I’m close to not feeling anything right now. But I do worship you… I don’t know if saying those words is enough, but I know you are good. I will say you are good when I don’t feel it. I will put my children on the altar and someday I trust I will look back and say that you are faithful”
I came out into our living room to find Louise reading her bible. “Will you pray with me Lou? I… I lost the babies”. We cried together and she prayed words that were balm on my soul. I don’t remember what exactly she said, but truth was spoken. Love was spoken. I remembered things about God that I had forgotten in the darkness. This is why community and Godly friendships are necessary.
One of the hardest times for me was when Trevor came home that afternoon. He asked how I was doing and I just shrugged with tears in my eyes. “As good as can be expected I guess. I think the worst of my miscarriage is over now”. He just stood there. “You are sure you are having a miscarriage?” he asked. It had never occurred to me that he didn’t know for certain just because I knew for certain. “Yes, love… I’m sure”. Then he crumpled. Oh, to watch your soul mate in pain.
The next few days were hard. We got a congratulations card in the mail that said, “a baby changes everything” and well intentioned friends called and asked about details I wasn’t ready to talk about yet. I also didn’t expect the shame I felt. Like some part of me had failed at being a woman. Even at the time I knew that was foolish and a lie, but I still felt it. I also struggled with resentment towards any woman that had ever not wanted her baby or friends that complained about their pregnancies as I stared with envy at their beautiful round bellies.
But God is good. He is good. And every day the haze of my pain cleared a little bit more and I remembered his goodness. I remembered his beauty. Joy became a little easier to find until it wasn’t a hard choice.
C.S. Lewis is my favorite author. He is a master of marrying deep principles with simple concepts. One of my favorite books from the Chronicles of Narnia series is the Horse and His Boy. Its about two talking horses and two children that escape captivity together. They finally arrive in safety at the house of a hermit only to be terrified by meeting Aslan, (Lewis’s Lion portrayal of Christ) in the garden of the safe house.
Then Hwin (one of the horses), though shaking all over, gave a strange little neigh, and trotted across to the Lion.
“Please,” she said, “you’re so beautiful. You may eat me if you like. I’d sooner be eaten by you than fed by anyone else.”
And that is the crux of what I came down to. I walked through the fire and arrived where I had always been: joined with the frailty of humanity, and dependent on the grace of God.
I had never learned so much about my relationship with God or the choice of joy before. I had never learned more about worship.
I wrote this in my journal a week after I miscarried: I can’t wait to meet our children someday. But I choose to raise my ebenezer. The Lord is faithful.