God is so smart in giving us nine months to prepare for a new baby. Not just physically grow and develop, but to emotionally prepare, grow, stretch, and process. Some days I cannot believe we’ve actually made it past the half way mark of this pregnancy, and other days it feels like we have been on this journey forever. I am now five months pregnant with our sixth child, our daughter Esther. She is active most every morning when I wake up and after I eat sugary foods so I am using that as my excuse to indulge in my sweet tooth. I love feeling her kick and move around. I love feeling the life that grows inside of me.
I know all of my children are alive and well, including Nathan, Timothy, and Evelyn. They are alive in Heaven and I will get to see them again someday. But for now, my heart still grieves the time I would have liked to have with them here. Sometimes I even imagine the chaos we would have with six children in our home and smile as I shudder at the thought. I miss them. I miss the time I would have had to hold them, raise them, hug and kiss them and even discipline their wild personalities. Today, as so many in our nation remember those who have fallen in battle on Memorial Day, I am grateful I do not have a loss such as that to grieve. But I find myself, instead, reflecting on the loss of time I dreamt of with my littles.
This past weekend, Brett and I had the privilege of officiating a wedding for some dear friends. After the ceremony, we took Elle and Johnny and headed to the reception. During the dinner the four of us were seated next to two other couples we didn’t know. Regular conversation ensued and the starter questions began. One of the women mentioned she noticed the age gap in our children: Elle and Johnny being close in age, and me pregnant again six years later, then asked if this baby “was the big oops? You know, like we have a plan and God laughs sort of thing.” My logic totally understood the question, the context (she had just shared that they are expecting baby number two and are absolutely done after he comes) and the innocence of her asking. However, my heart wanted to scream. No, this child was not an oops. This child has been dreamt of, desired, fought for, prayed for, and waited for. I have been through hell and back in our journey of child bearing. This child is a gift from God and one I cherish. Every moment I get with Esther is a blessing, no matter if it is short or long. (Don’t anyone panic. I did not lose it on the poor unsuspecting woman, I simply smiled, said no, and let Brett take the conversation from there).
When I speak to people who have not lost a child, they often admit miscarriage leaves them confused and heartbroken for the person who is hurting, but they don’t know how to support them well. Obviously, I cannot speak for others, but I do love sharing my process to help validate those who have experienced loss, and to help encourage those who have a loved one they want to support. I have found that once you have had a child taken from your life, your arms, your womb or your heart, you truly treasure every moment God gives you with your children. You know it can be gone in an instant and never see it again as a burden or curse. Don’t hear me wrong though- pregnancy, birth, and parenting are HARD! I will be the first to admit that, and in saying I don’t take it for granted I am not denying the hardship that comes with bearing and raising children. But what I am saying is it is worth it. Every moment of sleep deprivation, every day that ends in frustration and exhaustion, every tear shed has a payback that comes in hugs, kisses, and relationship that is worth it all. Even the short time of horribly hard pregnancy I had with Nathan, Timothy, and Evelyn was worth it. Each of those pregnancies were unique and special in their own ways. I treasure the memories I had with each one.
Nathan’s pregnancy was my easiest and I like to think he would have been my easy child. Timothy’s pregnancy was filled with unique cravings and wild dreams. He would have been my fireball. While pregnant with Evelyn, I didn’t want a single ounce of sugar and craved pickles and vinegar all day long. She would have been my unique little lady who ran to the beat of her own drum. Many don’t know this, but in His mercy, God has given me dreams of each of my children. I have met them, seen them, spoken with some and experienced all of them. If you have lost a child, I encourage you to ask God to show them to you in your dreams too. After all, they are alive and well and waiting to greet you in Heaven some day.
Back to the clouded remark of whether this pregnancy was an oops, I am not angry with this woman for her question. It was totally understandable. Shoot, I used to make similar remarks before I experienced what I have. But what I wanted to highlight was that I was shocked how quickly my heart reacted to the comment and I realized that I had a new invitation to walk through another wave of grief I didn’t see coming. It would be easy to write it off and invalidate my heart by saying it was harmless and I shouldn’t be upset, or even shove down my emotions and deny them because emotions can be exhausting. Instead, I have found allowing myself to cry when needed is key. I let the emotion physically manifest and come out, rather than trying to hold it in. This is a big deal as I have never liked crying, especially when I can see logically its “silly” or unnecessary. But crying is cathartic. Even just one tear. As I allow my heart to feel what it needs to feel, Jesus tenderly validates the hurt then begins to comfort me and fill me back up with His joy as I reflect on all that I am grateful for. I have a choice in these moments. I can deny my heart and allow the hurts to build up and create in me a heart of stone, or I can take a moment to walk through it with Jesus and come out more healed on the other side. Some may see this as whining or getting stuck on the past. However, I am seeing that the more I do not deny pain, the more I can also receive joy and see how truly blessed I am:
I am grateful for the short time I got with each of my Heavenly babies. I am grateful to get to raise Elle, Johnny, and Esther this side of Heaven. I am grateful for a husband who is not afraid to walk through the fire with me as we sort through our journey. I am thankful for a Savior who isn’t afraid of my emotions or grief but delights in processing through it all with me. I am thankful for community, family, and friends who love us well and stand by our side. I am thankful for all that God has entrusted us with and I look forward to an amazing, intentional, blessed, and surprising future!