“I lost a baby once.”
I was sitting in a circle of new friends, gushing over the news that a brand new mom had shared with us. She smiled shyly, looking down at her flat belly: “I waited to announce until we’d gone to our twelve-week appointment,” she said, “Just in case.”
As soon as a member of our circle admitted that she had lost a child once, my eyes shifted straight to her, an intense feeling of camaraderie burgeoning inside of me. But then she shrugged off the pity of the circle and said, “It was super early. I didn’t even really see it as a baby. It was more the idea of a baby.”
And my open mouth clamped shut, the “me too” freezing on my tongue. Because when I’d lost our first baby, he had felt like an idea, yes –a dream deferred, absolutely… but he’d also felt like a baby. A little human being whose heart was silent on the ultrasound when it should’ve been humming like the most beautiful music to a first-time mama’s ears.
I felt like a wuss who’d been heartbroken over a glorified two-months-late period. I didn’t dare speak up. The conversation moved along without me as the tiny crew congratulated the new mama on holding back her news so that she wouldn’t have to “un-tell” it.
The News I Never Had To Un-tell
I told it for a lot of reasons, not the least of which being that I had announced my pregnancy pretty broadly. Then my seven-week ultrasound turned into a week-long wait for the missed miscarriage to begin. Three months into my marriage, I suffered the type of miscarriage that only 1% of young mothers will ever face. It was not announced by blood in an ill-fated bathroom trip, but by an awkward ultrasound tech rooting around for a nonexistent little heartbeat.
“Have you had any bleeding?”
“No,” I whispered.
“And you’ve been feeling nausea?”
“All the time.”
My body hadn’t got the message that my baby was no longer growing.
I walked into the imaging center a hopeful first-time-mom and exited a first-time-mom whose idea of motherhood would be forever tainted by the loss of her first child. For me, the positive pregnancy test would never conjure images of 9 months leading to an inevitable birth; for me, ultrasounds would always be the scary precursors to silent funerals bleeding on the bedroom floor; for me, pregnancy would always hold fear.
Mourning Into Dancing
Then my boy was born.
My beautiful boy.
Walter Wynn was every healing thing I needed after my miscarriage. I was sick as a dog the entire time he was growing, but he grew so well! A textbook pregnancy led to my dream of a natural labor in the best birth center in Minneapolis. I delivered him drug-free, unless you count the puff of laughing gas that gave me the courage to usher him into the world with THREE BIG pushes (and a roar that made my husband say, “Uh… Jas… that’s my eardrum”).
They placed all seven pounds, three ounces of him onto my chest and I stared at him in wonder. The process that had been cut short the first time I endeavored it had come to fruition in this beautiful second child.
And what a child he is. I mean, he is the most gregarious, joyful, precocious, and edible toddler who ever lived. I’m completely biased, but I have witnesses to this fact. His birth was a beautifully redemptive moment in my motherhood. It turned “Mama” from a word the doctor said to me to try to encourage me into hard-won hope into a word my sweet son utters whenever he looks into my eyes. It turned the empty contractions of loss into the life-giving contractions that led to my son’s very first breaths.
I look at him and I marvel that someone so fragile made it out into the world.
Mourning Into Morning
I look at him and I’m amazed at just how fragile I was.
For the entire first year of his life, I struggled with crippling depression.
I felt like a foreigner in my own body.
Skin-to-skin, nursing, and nurturing were all beautiful experiences that I enjoyed, but apart from the actual experience of my son, I dwelt in absolute and unshakable darkness. Hormonal shifts, life changes, and growing pains rendered me sad and anxious.
I dreamt over and over again of the day when I’d be ready for another child. When I’d be ready to push past the threat of another miscarriage, and past the threat of another bout with PPD, to embrace all of the wonders that motherhood would have to offer.
I pushed past it this fall.
And the minute that digital test showed me a positive result, I fell head over heels in love with this third baby.
“Lots of people lose their first baby,” my doctor told me. “I’m sure things will be fine this time.”
Morning into Mourning
But they weren’t.
The day before Thanksgiving, I called Phillip into the bathroom sobbing.
It was a completely different type of miscarriage this time. The dreaded ultrasound never came. I didn’t make it that far. I spent Thanksgiving week running back and forth to the doctor for sonograms, blood tests, and empty promises that maybe the baby was all right in spite of all of the bleeding.
It was early. But it wasn’t just hope that I lost. I lost my nerve. I lost my innocence -again. That giddy, upbeat feeling of a positive pregnancy test was shot dead in the heart the minute I saw blood. I lost my baby. I’m two for three in baby-loss.
I’m two for three in reminders that my body is a wonderful, baby-making machine, but it relies fully on a baby-sustaining God.
We named this baby John.
Our first child, we named Hosea.
But this little one was named for John 1:14. Because for the few weeks that I held him, I thought about the fact that the God of the Universe became flesh -that Christ came to earth as a vulnerable baby in the womb of a woman.
I know firsthand just how vulnerable babes can be.
God had a purpose for His Son’s babyhood, just like he has a purpose for my babies. Christ’s purpose was fully revealed in Scripture and carried out in 32 years here on earth (although of course, he rose again). Two of my babies’ purposes were carried out in a much shorter timespan, and they’re mysteries to me.
But I trust God with their lives. And in spite of whatever theological hangups people might bring up, I trust God that they are with him.
My Story, My Song
As long as God gives me the strength, I will tell the stories of my losses. Not just as catharsis, but as a point of identification with the mamas who have been through the same.For the women like me, who sit in the circle of their peers feeling alone and unheard. For the shame that often accompanies miscarriage. With the hope that God is at work, even in our pain.
I write to honor my babies. Hosea, lost December 29, 2014. And John, lost November 22, 2017. I write because their short lives mattered to me, and they mattered to their Creator. I write in gratitude for Walter Wynn, and in hope that someday, he’ll have more siblings earthside.
I write as the mother of three babies, two I of whom I will never get to hold. I write reaching my hands out to my sisters who have experienced a similar pain. You are not alone.
I’ve been in Atlanta all week with my husband. We’re here half for ministry (for me), part for work (for him), and part for some quality time with just us two. We left on the heels of hosting my family all the way from Zambia. In fact, seven of my siblings, my mom, and my dad are back in our eighteen hundred square foot home with our sons. I should be laying in a hotel bed binging Parks and Rec with my husband. And I will be soon. But I have something to say about motherhood and mom guilt.
A few months ago, I wrote an article for Legacy about friendship. In it, I tried to be as honest as possible about the struggle of being a transplant in Mississippi’s foreign culture, and my own hang-ups with making new friends. I hit send. Weeks passed. A couple of months. Then the article went live. And I had more than one friend reach out to me and ask me if we were okay. “I thought we were friends!” Undercover Trust Issues I’m not a journaler, and I try not to use my articles as thinly veiled diary entries. However, there…