Home again, for real. I couldn’t wait to see the girls, but halted abruptly halfway up our front walkway, filled with amazement. My mandevillas. The warm sun beamed down on the strong, exquisite, crimson flowers reaching beautifully for the heavens. Each individual plant must have grown a foot simply from standing up straight, out of the shadows. In a single day. The power of light. The Lord makes His face shine upon you.
I entered our kitchen, or rather, our little holy cathedral suddenly decorated in compassion and kindness. Flowers were everywhere. Care packages, too. Cookies and cards and chocolate. My heart officially melted, and I thought of Elsa; true love, in the end, thawing her. Emmy ran to me.
“There are so many flowers, Mom! Is this a special day for you? Is it Valentine’s Day?”
“Aw, no baby, it’s not Valentine’s Day.” I knelt to her eye level, cupping her cheeks. “But it is a special day for me. I got to feel how much God loves me—and how much our people love us.”
“AW! That makes me wanna cry!”
“Don’t be sad, sweetie. These are from all of our friends!”
“Not a sad cry, Mom. A happy one.”
It’s possible her mommy “happy cries” on the regular.
That moment was no exception.
On Sunday, the sun rose. When grief falls, I start to tally small details, simple markers of another moment survived.
Our little foursome stuck close, hardly leaving the house that day. I was already in awful physical pain by then, and couldn’t shake the anxiety that the worst was ahead of me.
But lunchtime came. Another tally.
I found weird non-physical projects to tackle, and made the hard call to stay home from baby Grace’s birthday party that evening while Doug took the girls. My body hurt and my heart ached and I just knew I wasn’t presently an appropriate party guest. I texted Blaire, letting her know.
She told me how deeply she understood, and how she remembered vividly that she had to miss my baby shower for Hadley because she was healing from one of her miscarriages.
“I was recovering from a D&C, but holding on to the fact that she was your rainbow baby and hopefully by God’s Grace, one day I’d get one, too.”
A rainbow baby is: a baby born shortly after the loss of a previous baby due to miscarriage, stillbirth, or death in infancy.
How could this not make me smile? Fiiiiiiiiiine, God. He was starting to feel like that relentless charmer unavoidably wearing you down, despite your best attempts with the “walk-away” reading glasses and bratty attitude.
Amazing grace indeed.
Then one of my best friends of 10 years, Jenn, kidnapped me for a pedicure in my all-black sweats ensemble and crazy hair. At first I felt reluctant to leave the house, but it turned out to be just what I needed. Four years ago, Jenn lost a baby at 12 weeks’ gestation and her dad within a four-month period. We are always as real as it gets with each other, but that day was special. Probably the deepest, darkest, most refreshing and somehow also hilarious conversations we’ve ever had. The most beautiful instrumental version of “Let it Be” came on during what felt like extra-long pedicures. We swapped our guiltiest-pleasure YA romance novel recommendations, the ones we probably wouldn’t suggest for book club. We realized that ALL therapists (at least the good ones) encourage “self-care.” We didn’t want our little escape date to end.
“I think your miscarriage was good for me,” Jenn said as she dropped me off. “I mean, I can say that to you. And isn’t that cool? I love you.”
And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom
Let it be.
Tallies all over the place.
At nightfall, my dad called. “God knows, Sweetie. He knows,” he said. “I believe with all my heart that you’re going to have your little David straggler. And look at him now! What a straggler he is.”
I come from four kids. We oldest three are each two years apart, with baby David three-and-a-half years behind us. On May 24, 2018, David will graduate from Harvard Law School at the top of his class. Then he will clerk for a judge in D.C., where I hope he someday follows my not-so-subtle urges to run for president and make me press secretary. Anyway. I think it’s safe to say his asymmetrical spot in the sibling line-up did not hold him back.
May 24, 2018, was my due date.
I can’t help but believe this is a nod from God, that He has one more life to give us here on this earth, and that the day and hour of the baby’s arrival will be immaculate.
Also, now that I won’t be giving birth, I will spend that otherwise sad reminder of a date in Boston, glowing with the worst sister pride, supporting my baby brother on one of the biggest days of his life.
I’ll take it. As long as I can meet Elle Woods.
Today is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness day, and I tell you this next part in its honor, for the billions of women who’ve been in my shoes (i.e., cozy socks padding around the house)—so many of them suffering silently.
With the way things passed this time, I held the unborn babe in my hands. Shocked, in horror, obviously. It undid me in a way I’ve never been undone, and I fell to my knees.
But it also helped me release. Accept that God is all things: faithful Giver of life, gentle Taker of things not meant for us, great Healer who reaches into the mire and mends our brokenness. Also it’s a tremendous miracle, all of it—us being here. Conception, to life, to death, to a far better place. I knit you together in your mother’s womb. There had been life. And now it was gone. I believe in women’s rights. But if you try to tell me that there is no baby at six-and-a-half weeks, I will look you in the eye and respectfully, unrelentingly disagree with you.
Anyone who’s ever miscarried knows you can fall in love in two weeks.
I fell apart on that Monday morning, cupping the biggest heartache in the palm of my hands.
And my Heavenly Father pulled me back together, in a moment of Divine operation.
The ICU. I could see it now.
But nobody stays in the ICU forever. You either move on to the next life, or gain enough strength to proceed in your own.
I stood up.
Washed my face.
I walked on, forever changed.
I knew the week ahead was going to be doozy, and sure enough, yes, it was. Follow-up doctor calls, appointments, more physical agony, saying good-bye (for now) to my friend the phlebotomist. When I told him the news, his eyes filled with tears and he hugged me. He then pointed one latex-gloved finger upward, as if indicating a Higher Power, a Plan. Maybe in some small way, I had encouraged him to believe again.
My doctors wanted to monitor my hormone levels until they reached zero, so I basically had to walk my body through becoming unpregnant. Which seemed a bit cruel, but also, right. Slow, unpredictable, and progressive, just like my grief. I felt permitted to mourn as I pleased. Why would anyone feel emotionally obligated to “turn off” her pain when her physical body was still expecting?
Those days were a grueling march in most obvious ways, but I can genuinely say that a peace fell upon me. I did not slip into full-on depression. I did not grow completely hard. Residual rage has come in moderation, but I know that’s okay. I have, in fact, been known to throw some pretty big fits to God when I’m hurting, and you know what? Shocker: He can handle it like a Boss.
It’s like when Emmy slams her bedroom door in my face because I’m a mean mommy and she wants a new one! Then she crawwwwwwwwwwwls out bashfully in basically no time because, you know, a kid needs her snacks and stuff. And she knows that my love (and snacks) never run out.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.
Neither do snacks, right?
I still don’t understand why this happened. I probably never will. But for whatever reason, this is my cup; there was no other way for my path to wind. Not long before the miscarriage, I read this in another one of my favorite devotionals, Come Away My Beloved:
I would spare you if I could do so in love; but this kind of protecting love would be false and rob you of much treasure. I only love you truly as I give you My best. My best cannot come to you without pain, even as it could not come to the Lord Jesus without pain.
Looking back, how did I not foresee that God would soon allow life to turn up the heat on me?! At least He prepared me in subtle ways. Like blinking, blaring, blinding messages around every turn about hardship. But I’m thankful for that. And I know that the fire refines.
One of my best friends, Molly, is a courageous woman of God and teacher of the Bible. I’ve known her since I was born. Since her mid-20s, she has suffered chronic pain from rheumatoid arthritis and a host of additional complex health issues. But you’d never know it. She leads with her beautiful smile, interest in others, and contagious zest for a good time. Her faith is unshakeable; her outlook, remarkable. These words of hers reached me in my bleakest questioning haze:
There’s nothing to make sense of tragedy and suffering except that we live in a fallen world. And hopefully we can find the faith to trust that God makes all things beautiful in His time. It’s hard to see the grace and goodness of God when we understand His sovereignty and know He can stop anything. I guess that’s where understanding dies… and faith begins to live.
I certainly would never have chosen to be “the miscarriage girl,” and I worry a little that I’m taking after my mom there. But love also casts out fear. I have wonderful doctors invested in my situation, guiding me through next steps. Plus, if you know my mom or have read anything I’ve ever written about her, then you know taking after her is one of the greatest privileges a girl could aspire toward. A mother teaches you to stand, walk, eat, say please and thank-you. Mine also taught me to wear great shoes; to pray in the closet; to release with grace and give a voice to the unheard.
Like the flowers in my garden, like the seal, I moved forward with my face lifted up, even while tears streamed down, remembering I was a child of God. And that my baby had been one, too—and that he got to skip the whole messy earth part and go straight to meet Jesus and his small angel sibling.
Blanca played a huge part in helping sweep up the fresh shards of my heartbreak, caring for us practically and emotionally. “Stephanie, how lucky are you. Two actual parts of YOU are with God now.”
I smiled. I’d truly never thought of it that way.
And our friends. Our family. You guys! My invisible God showed up for me in the flesh when I needed Him most. And doesn’t He always, somehow? I don’t know how to describe it besides that our people carried us. Food, hugs, prayers, letters, tears, flowers, and chocolate. Babysitting my girls during the day, a moms’-night-in watching Bridesmaids. Empathy. Love. I wanted to frame some of their texts, but settled for scattering some of them here, lest I never forget. I was awestruck by their generosity and humbled by their genuine mourning for a baby they never knew.
My heart is still hurting, but my hope is alive.
And I’m learning, ever so slowly, to count it all joy.
No, miscarrying a second time—and according to my mom, neither the third nor the fourth—doesn’t get any easier.
But faith can grow stronger.
Light can shine brighter.
Love can carry you through.
Rock bottom isn’t always a bad thing.
It can be the very unmoving foundation from which you rise.
In my baby brother David’s childhood bedroom, where I took a nap while I was recovering…
Five days after God spoke these words to me on the beach.
This book arrived on my doorstep a few days after the miscarriage.
I had forgotten I preordered it.
(The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur)
My perfect rainbow doing her gymnastics rainbow…
In my war room.
Feels & Heals: My Grief Playlist
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down, And death shall have no dominion.
— Dylan Thomas
Only the peace of God will quiet our minds and put our hearts at rest. We must place our hand in His as a little child and allow Him to lead us into the bright sunshine of His love. He knows the way out of the dense, dark forest, so we may climb into His arms, trusting Him to rescue us by showing us the shortest and most reliable road.
— Streams in the Desert
Do not be used by others as a source of information, but challenge others to seek for light from the same source as you have received it.
— Come Away My Beloved
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
1 Corinthians 4:17
For my baby. I loved you. I’m so thankful for the short time I got with you, and I’ll never forget it.
See you soon.