If Friday was my evening of sorrow, then Saturday was the dawn of my rage. I admit that I held out a sliver of hope that maybe the worst wouldn’t happen and I’d get a miracle. But the heartbreaking physical evidence was progressively showing the contrary.
Boy, did I pace my room in a fury. One miscarriage: Okay. I endured it. I prayed through it. I learned from it. I wrote about it. I trusted the Lord on that difficult journey and watched Him redeem my marathon of distress, eventually welcoming our perfect Hads.
Come on, God. I thought we were cool. I thought we checked off that little “pregnancy loss” box and put it away with a neat little bow on top to never, ever be seen or opened, ever again.
I had already slept in much too late while Doug got up with the bouncy girls, so it was now time for my grand entrance. I dramatically sauntered into the family room in my oversized robe, glasses and bun, finally armed with some words to share.
Thankfully Emmy and Hadley by now were busy as birds somewhere, so my audience was only of one. Doug is such a lucky man, you guys.
“I’m. So. Mad,” I whimpered, on the verge of either screaming like a frantic lunatic or crying like a small little girl or maybe a bit of both. I glared with fiery daggers at my favorite devotional-for-really-hard-times on top of our coffee table, its blue cover suddenly looking much too bright for my red-rimmed eyes, its insides marked up like an ex-con from my travails in motherhood. “I don’t want to have to read F-ing Streams in the Desert one more time! Do you hear me? I’m DONE!” Was I talking to God or to Douglas? Once again, maybe both. “I’m serious. I’m not even going to pray through this. What. Ever.”
I only share this to be transparent with you guys about how godly and mature I am at all times. I did in fact say “F-ing” and not the actual word, if that makes you any less scared of me.
Emmy walked in a beat later. “You look upset, mom! I think you need a donut.”
Sigh/Grrr. “Yes, sweetie. A donut does sound pretty awesome right now.”
“I don’t have a single close friend who’s miscarried twice,” I continued, snippily. See: godly, mature. But then I remembered I did, and my chest constricted a bit. “Blaire. She knows. This happened to her, twice in a row.”
“Yes, it did,” said Doug. “And tomorrow is Grace’s first birthday party.” The beautiful baby girl who followed my friend’s double loss.
I pushed this away. I didn’t have time for good points right now!
But maybe it was time to start telling people. I might’ve sneaked a peak at my Streams first, but don’t tell God. I sent some texts and climbed in the shower.
While towel-drying my uncontrollable mane, I heard Doug yelling. “Ste-eph… You have a visitor…”
Hmm. Hardly anyone knew yet. I mean, I just sent those texts. I pulled on a hoodie and yoga pants and crept to the door.
Who could it be?
Flowers in one hand, donuts in the other.
She wrapped me in a hug and I crumbled into her. She knows because I keep telling her, but I’m not sure she’ll ever truly know how much it meant to me that she came that morning. And so fast! I think maybe she flies. She pulled me into the playroom, lately more like my personal war bunker. She addressed all my most tender fears before I could even say them out loud.
You did everything you possibly could.
This was in absolutely no way your fault.
This isn’t because you’re old.
Nothing is wrong with you.
You’re not broken.
You will have more children someday.
Her face was so full of the purest empathy I’d ever seen. Thank you again, my sister.
By some crazy coincidence (which I would’ve called a miracle if I weren’t still so angry) we already had a babysitter booked from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. that day, for a birthday party up in L.A. We un-RSVPed sadly but gratefully kept the sitter. Doug asked me what I wanted to do all day and my answer was easy.
See the ocean. Grieve. Be with you. See the new Reese Witherspoon rom com.
As we shut the front door behind us, my eyes fell on our new front landscaping, then rolled up into the back of my head. UGH. My mandevillas looked dreadful! The gorgeous deep-red flowers I chose were supposed to be shooting up proudly from their green leafy branches. Instead they flopped to the ground, shaded, soggy and lame, apparently already failing at exactly what they were created to do. Just like me. I quickly dismissed the horrible thought, but I did feel my plants were mocking me.
We arrived at Crystal Cove State Park beach and immediately I knew we weren’t supposed to be anywhere else. What. A. Day. Clear as crystals, not too crowded, the perfect autumn chill in the air. My panicked breaths slowly fell in even time with the waves. Even so: Stay away, God. We’re still in a fight.
Doug and I walked, hand in hand, speaking only when we had something important to say. I saw a massive boulder just begging me to climb upon it, and so I did. On top of that rock, I looked down at my feet. I stomped. It was so… sturdy. Then I looked out at the ocean. It felt nice being up so high with my spirits so low. It felt solid. Sacred. Secure.
Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.
Eighteen years of upbringing at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa had infused scripture verses into my bloodstream. They were always popping into my head when I least expected them, but also when I craved them like air. I didn’t entirely hate the fleeting spiritual thought, which seemed like an itty-bitty baby step. Down I jumped.
“You know what’s so awful about this one?” I asked Doug.
“Well, yeah. But last time, the miscarriage happened so fast that by the time I got to the doctor, I basically knew it was over and I needed them to confirm it was true. This time, I found out it was going to happen first—and now I’m just waiting. For the horror. It’s begun, but I’m in limbo. I know my baby’s gone and I still have to carry it.”
He didn’t say anything for a while.
Then, quietly, “It makes me think of Jesus. He knew He was facing the cross. He was about our age. Can you even image what He was feeling when He begged God for another way? Oh, I’m just gonna go get shamed and brutalized on a cross tomorrow, while bearing the emotional weight of the sins of the world. He really does know what you’re feeling. The emotional pain, and the physical trepidation. And God didn’t even spare His own son, because it had to happen. There really was no other way.”
If it is possible, Father, please take this cup from me.
I pictured Jesus praying and weeping like me, but I could hardly bare it. He must have been so overwhelmed.
I thought of those Warrior Writers I’d recently come to adore. One lost her eight-year-old daughter to a brutal battle with cancer. The other suffered a major brain stem stroke at age 26 when she had a six-month-old baby. Yet another watched her sister get crushed to death by a delivery truck when they were both children. Talk about unthinkable suffering.
But like their Savior, they suffered, and rose.
“Thanks,” I said. “I needed that.”
I noticed a small crowd ahead, gathered loosely around an ambiguous lump. What in the heck was happening? As we got closer, I saw: a seal. Beached, splayed, immobile. Was he okay?! I noted a little movement, but this guy was in trouble.
“He looks so sad!” yelled a man.
“I think he’s just exhausted,” said a lady.
“We called for help,” said another. “He’ll die if he’s left here alone.”
To Doug, I whispered: “He looks like me.”
But then, in one of the most incredible movements I’ve ever witnessed up-close in nature, the massive, majestic mammal pushed himself onto his front flippers, in the slowest motion. He lifted his face to the sky. And he just… stayed there. Eyes closed. Silent. Reverent. Maybe in pain. But feeling the warmth on his face, and seeming to love it.
Lift your eyes to me, Steph. From where your help comes.
God knew I had a weakness for sea life, and He was working it. Could I go cuddle my seal? He laid his chin down once more. I already liked the lady who’d called for help, so asked her if rescue was really coming.
“Yes,” she confirmed. “Lifeguard is on the way!”
Just then, my wedding ring caught the light, and Help Lady grabbed my left hand. “Oh my WORD! I’m blind. This thing is stunning. Is this your man?” she peered past me to Doug. “You guys are the cutest! Are you newlyweds?”
OMG, LOL. If she only knew. “Nah. We’ve been married 10 years!”
I explained that this wasn’t my original wedding ring; that my now-four-year-old had misplaced my original one when she was two. She literally stole it from a mirrored tray in our bathroom, discarded it who-knows-where, and it remains the mysterious loss that drives me and Doug mad. Thankfully, we had awesome insurance, received a check, and replaced the ring. And went for a little upgrade while we were at it. Okay, fine, a big upgrade. 2 kids, 2 carats, I love to joke! People are always both charmed and horrified by this story, and I imagine they go run to call their insurance guy.
I looked down at my finger, diamonds dancing under the sunshine. It really was the most beautiful piece of jewelry I’d ever seen. I flashed back to me weeping over losing my old ring—then opening this new one on the best Christmas morning.
I always restore what is lost.
Was there sand in the air?! *Wipes eyes*
God’s voice was speaking to me. And it touched me deeply that we’d just past for newlyweds on our darkest day. I exchanged good-byes with my new BFF and reached for Doug’s forearm.
My FitBit soon indicated it was time to turn around if we wanted to grab lunch before our movie. A lifeguard tower happened to mark the spot.
“Look!” I said. “Lifeguard tower… #7. That’s the number of completion.”
That you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
“Yeah,” Doug said. “It is.”
I told him I needed a moment alone on top of the tower.
I pulled myself onto the ledge and sat perched, unrushed, still as glass, gazing upon the glittering water. For just a moment, it felt like my unborn baby and I were the only two souls in the world.
I lifted my hands and held them there, and something in me surrendered. I tilted my face to the sun. I prayed words that will stay between me and my God. I released.
I bowed my head and placed my hands on my stomach.
It is finished.
Or would be, soon.
The very first flicker of peace.
I knew I would be heartbroken for quite some time, but I would not be alone.
Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed; for I am your God! I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
As we retraced the strand of sand leading us backward, Doug squeezed me sideways. “Maybe your fifth pregnancy will be our seventh and final family member.”
Doug, Me, Emmy, Angel #1, Hadley, Angel #2, Our Third Baby?
I won’t stop trying until I know in my soul that our family’s complete, and I trust God will make it so.
We climbed the stairs to the yellow, rickety, lovable Ruby’s Shake Shack, balanced on the ocean cliff’s edge, boasting one of the best views in So Cal, no doubt. I ordered the Rare Ahi Tuna Sandwich because I could now. Also a peanut butter cup shake. Also fries. Also dipped fries in shake because duh. Two tables over, I noticed a cute family of five. Two boys maybe 7 and 9, the gorgeous mother nursing a baby. Her blue eyes mirrored the sky; she resembled Giselle. Definitely not American by ethnicity, but she looked right at home—so lovely, serene. We caught eye contact and both smiled. It didn’t look so bad having two bigger kids and a baby. I wondered about their story.
On the way to our matinee, Home Again, I told Doug, “I know the circumstances are nightmarish, but this is one of my favorite day dates I’ve ever had with you. I’ll never forget it. I’m so happy we got to do this.” I can honestly say we were headed to the only chick flick we’ve ever watched during broad daylight together, and Doug was excited, too! We both adore Reese Witherspoon to the moon, and she’s long been my favorite actress. She epitomizes strength, beauty, and humor to me, and her timeless face brings me comfort.
The movie opened with Reese’s character, Alice, crying in her bathroom, staring in the mirror, turning the faucet up louder to stifle her sobs. Oh, GIRLFRIEND! I’ve been there. Oh, wait. I’m there right now. When she finally opened the bathroom door to two wide-eyed daughters, I squeezed Doug’s knee. I settled deeper into my seat, well-aware that I was in for a treat. I smiled and howled and learned. Belly laughs with Reese are legitimate medicine, and Alice found her way home.
Lead me home again, Lord. Just as you always do.
[Continued in Part 3]