Ten days ago we found out that our babies had died. I’m not even close to being ready to write a nice, neat blog post outlining all that God has taught me through this and how I’m going to move forward from this. Honestly, other than a few little glimmers of insight, I have absolutely no idea what God is doing or why He chose to act in this way, and functioning is still difficult as I walk in deep, deep sadness, so I really don’t know how I’m going to move forward, either.
I do know this: I do not want to walk forward unchanged. And I do not want to miss the work God intended for this to do in my heart. The wounds that are still so fresh on my heart will one day turn to scars, but I do not want their mark to ever disappear, go on with my life like nothing ever happened, walk forward the same person I was before I ever heard of embryo adoption. The only way I know to make sure this is not wasted in my life is to feel every feeling as deeply as possible, let the sadness do its work to give me more compassion, make me long for Heaven, and whatever else the sadness is intended to do in me. To dig through the pain and rubble in my heart and find Jesus there. To wrestle with the glaringly apparent contradiction between a God who loves life and cares for the unborn and the God who chose to let my babies die in my womb, and not stop wrestling until I rest in Him. To be honest about my confusion and anger and hurt, but to fight to keep my hand open and not let a defiant fist form. And to not stop this fight until I can move forward changed, but at peace in Christ.
As I have barely begun this fight, I don’t have much progress to show yet. But, over the past ten days there have been some random thoughts that have formed and taken shape, random insights from the Lord, random mercies I have seen.
A RANDOM MERCY, one that came in the timing of the phone call itself. Every other time I’ve had blood work done on a Monday, the call with the results came either while we were in the van on the way to Paducah, or while I was in the waiting room at dance class. I was already aware of this timing issue, and wondering how I would keep such a happy secret from my kids if the test was positive, or such a sad one if it was negative, since we wanted to tell them all together. However, this time the call came early. We were still at home, and Clay had for some reason come home a little early, so he was there. A random early call, a husband home randomly early. These mercies were not random at all, and I was able to weather the initial storm of grief in privacy at home with my husband’s arms around me. Sounds minor, but I clung to the mercy in the timing of that phone call over and over again those first couple days. I was questioning God’s goodness, to be honest, and at that time, that was the only immediate mercy I could see in this whole thing, and I played it over and over in my mind to preach to myself that here was a sign of His goodness.
SOME RANDOM THOUGHTS, during my initial processing. First of all, a miscarriage is such a strange, lonely grief to bear. Many people won’t fully understand that an actual human being was living and then lost. We’ve had several people say to us in the last 10 days, “Sorry it didn’t work out.” But this wasn’t something that “didn’t work out.” It was two babies who were already human, alive and growing, and then they died. It’s an invisible kind of grief. Looking in from the outside, nothing looks different. No one can see a hole, a person who was once there and is now gone. It’s a very private grief but a very real one. We had already embraced those babies into our hearts and lives, ordered our future around them being here, and now it’s a constant mental readjustment. We knew our embryos. We chose them. We had pictures of their genetic parents, family history, details about their grandparents. They were already ours. No one else can see the change, but to me, everything has changed. This time is actually much harder for me than my other two miscarriages because of the two years of planning and the weeks of preparation and anticipation before we even had the transfer. So much time that I already loved them. We worked hard to prepare my womb for those babies, to make a safe and welcoming place for them. Every shot, every pill, every dose of medication that confused my body and threw me into an emotional roller coaster was an act of preparation and love for them, much like decorating the room for when a baby is expected. And this one has the interesting twist of being a failed adoption along with a miscarriage. This wasn’t just an adoption plan that had to be scrapped. Imagine an adoptive family being matched with a child, having pictures of the child, knowing where he lives, filling out all the paperwork, paying all the thousands of dollars in fees, traveling overseas, and then finding out in country—but before they got to hold him in their arms—that he had just died. Throw in the physical effects this is still having on my body, the moment-by-moment reminder of death that I’m experiencing as my body miscarries these babies, and you may come close to being able to imagine what this feels like.
Second, just as it is God who opens and closes the womb, it is God who determines who can adopt. There are three ladies, all very dear to me, whose words of sympathy and shared grief meant the most to me last week. One is a friend who was never able to get pregnant, finally adopted after years of infertility, longed to adopt a second child, and was never able to get matched with a baby. She finally stopped renewing her home studies after a long time of waiting. She has one child, and longed for more, but that wasn’t the plan God had for her. Another is a friend who had a healthy first pregnancy, a healthy delivery and now has a healthy preschooler but has had two miscarriages since then and isn’t sure if she will be able to have more children. She has one child, and longed for more, but so far that hasn’t been God’s plan for her. The third is a friend who had a healthy son, then had a difficult miscarriage, turned to adoption, and had two failed adoptions. She has one child and longed for more, but that wasn’t God’s plan for her. The obvious difference here is that I do indeed have more than one child already. But last week I couldn’t help but notice that all the longings and best intentions in the world add up to nothing if God does not open the womb or complete the adoption. It’s so easy to ask someone who has an only child when they’re going to have more. It’s so easy to make comments and assumptions about one-child families. It’s so easy to look at a family of any size that isn’t adding children currently and assume they stopped on purpose. And it’s so easy to promote adoption and encourage adoptive families without ever realizing that there may be any number of families around you who wanted more than anything to adopt and were prevented for reasons they can’t explain other than it must not have been God’s plan. I guess the moral of the story is: don’t make careless comments about family size to anyone, because parents of an only child may have desperately wanted a houseful, and parents of a large family may look at their six and think what a small number that suddenly seems. We don’t always know what is behind the smiles. In evangelical circles today, families with lots of children are often praised and admired, and adoption is rightly encouraged and also praised and admired. This is fine, except that it can lead to some smugness or self-righteousness on the part of those who have lots of kids or who have adopted. If you were ever tempted to make judgments or assumptions based on family size, or on whether someone has adopted or not, let these stories remind you that compassion is in order toward all families, and it is God who determines family size. There is no room for smugness here.
FINALLY, ONE RANDOM INSIGHT from the Lord. The biggest question I have right now is why? Why would God do this? Why would He put this dream in our hearts, lead us down the road of following Him in embryo adoption for 22 months, go through all the financial struggles and expense, go through all the physical struggles and pain, go through the excitement of having them placed in my womb, seeing them on the screen, knowing they were inside me, only to let it all die and never get to hold them in our arms? And like I said last week, I still have no idea why. But through some wise counsel from my shepherding husband, one really helpful sermon from Ligon Duncan, and several tear-stained passages in my Bible, I do know this: God is my greatest treasure. And in His perfect wisdom and love, He will take His followers and strip everything away from them until they see the truth that He is the greatest treasure. This seems so harsh and unloving and anything but good right now on the surface, and last week rocked my faith more than anything ever has. But in those darkest moments, when I was questioning everything I’ve ever believed and written and taught, I finally realized the most important truth: “Lord, to whom shall I go? You have the words of eternal life, and I have believed and come to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69) God has laid an affliction on me that feels like it will crush me, but where else can I turn? There truly is nowhere else to find life and hope. This doesn’t feel good, but I will cling to the truth that He is good. This makes no sense to me, but I will rest in the One who does everything right. I still have much to figure out, much to learn, much to fight through. But my first battle was to wrestle down the very core of my heart: Will I still believe that God is who He says He is and trust Him with my life and with my family? By His grace, I can say yes to that even now, even when I still hurt so badly, even as death is working in my body, even when I still can’t see why He chose to do this. He alone has the words of eternal life. I will rest in that.