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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

To the Child I Carried After A Loss


I remember the moment so clearly.

We were driving down the mountain on Governors Drive, just my daddy and me. It was just a few weeks after Melissa had died. Ann Catherine was still in the NICU. Chris had gone back to work and loneliness had started to creep in. My dad had talked me into “getting out of the house” one day and we were driving around and talking, when he gently asked the question.

“Do you think you’ll ever have more children?”

“I hope so,” I replied. “I really want Ann Catherine to have a brother or sister. Maybe we’ll adopt, because I know one thing for sure: I never want to be pregnant again.”

And I meant it.

I had suffered a traumatic pregnancy full of unknowns and what ifs. After seven weeks of hospital bed rest with my twin girls, full of hundreds of moments to ponder whether they were going to live or die, I found myself in a terrifying situation. Melissa was in trouble and they had to deliver both she and Ann Catherine on a dark and rainy June morning. I can’t tell you how many nurses ran into my hospital room that morning and worked frantically to prep me for surgery, while trying to save my daughters’ lives. After those scary and chaotic moments, I was rushed to the operating room where I delivered my girls via emergency C-section. They were 14 weeks early. 

Trust me, a situation like that changes everything.

It was always in the back of my mind after Melissa passed away: my desire for another child, but my absolute panic over the possibility of ever living through that nightmare again.

After 68 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Ann Catherine finally came home. I put all of my energy into taking care of this premature infant, one who required more care than a healthy full-term baby.

My favorite time of day was when I would rock her to sleep for her morning nap. During this time, there was a show on television about adoption that I loved to watch. Each episode told the story of a family adopting a child, whether in the United States or overseas. The storyteller inside of me loved watching these stories unfold. I often cried at the end as the family finally met the child they had been waiting for.

I began to believe that adoption was the road we were going to walk down. After all, I had no desire to be pregnant. Maybe this was what God intended for our lives?

On one particular morning, as I watched another couple’s story unfold, I realized I couldn’t try to control this any longer. I closed my eyes and prayed as I held Ann Catherine in my arms. I remember the words more than 11 years later.

“Lord, please allow a child to find its way into our lives. I don’t care the path that child takes. I don't care how that child gets to our family. Just please let a child find its way to us.”

I immediately had a peace that I can’t explain. To this day, I remember the feeling I had after I prayed that prayer. It was a prayer of total surrender. I hadn’t experienced that often. You see, I would often pray for something and claim I was turning it over to God, but when He didn’t act quickly enough or in the way that I thought He should act, I would grab it and take it back. Not this time. This time was different. Amy was no longer going to try and pull the strings (because up until now, Amy was pretty obsessed about pulling the strings). At this point, I was at total peace. I was going to let God be God and work it all out.

A month later, I was pregnant.

What????

At this point, I really believed that adoption was our next step. I was preparing my heart for it. Then, as is often the case in life, once I truly turned it over to God, He took us down another path.

I was elated.

And I was terrified.

If you’ve ever carried a child after a devastating loss, you know the feelings. Worry. Fear. Doubt. They all crept in.

What if this pregnancy ended like the last one? What if we had to say goodbye to another child? What if we ended up back in the NICU for months with an uncertain future?

I cannot go through that pain again, Lord. I cannot walk down this road for it to end in sadness again. I won’t survive it this time.

How can elation and trepidation be so intertwined? How can you be so excited about something, while completely fearing the worst? How can what should be the most joyous news of your life, carry so much anxiety and dread?

These feelings were the beginning of a faith journey that God would carry me on over the next nine months. It’s as if He said, “Okay, Amy. You’re going to have to learn to trust me. Not just say that you trust me, but truly trust me.”

I would love to tell you that I did. I would love to tell you that I jumped in and said, “Alright, let’s go!” and held on for the ride. I would love to tell you that I didn’t doubt. I would love to tell you that I didn’t worry. I would love to tell you that I didn’t have fear.

I would be lying if I told you those things.

I was scared to death.

I was scared to bond with this child for the first half of my pregnancy, because I was so sure that something was going to happen to her. I was afraid to buy things. I was afraid to decorate her room. I was afraid to give her a name. I just couldn’t go through the pain of losing a child again. Maybe if I just go on with my life, I thought, the pain won’t hurt so badly when she’s gone.

It may seem irrational, but fear isn’t rational.  And I was so afraid.

It was a bumpy journey. God teaching me how to trust, and me trying to learn exactly what that meant. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to believe Him. It’s just that I knew that sometimes you could have all of the faith in the world, and life still didn’t turn out as you had planned. I just couldn’t go through it again.

I was like the man in Mark, Chapter 9, who asked Jesus to help his son “if you can.” When Jesus reminded him that anything is possible for those who believe, he cried out, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” That was me. I believe. Help me overcome my unbelief. 

As the days moved on and turned into months, I began to learn more about faith. Faith isn’t believing that I’ll receive what I pray for. It's believing that my God is big enough to take my fears and love me through them. Faith doesn’t mean I’ll get the outcome I’m praying for. It means believing that my God hears my prayers, especially when my heart is breaking. I didn’t suddenly stop being afraid. I just learned how to slowly give that fear to Him.

Over those nine months, I began to learn what it means to truly trust God, to realize that my only hope is in Him. Sometimes, I failed at it miserably. In fact, I still do. I'm grateful that my God isn't just a God of second chances, but a God of endless chances. His mercy and grace cover me, even in my weakest moments. 

Faith is a journey. A never-ending, scary, exhilarating, frightening, joyous, hold-on-tight journey that leads us to the most amazing moments. It has led me down the road of saying goodbye to my firstborn, and it has led me down the road of welcoming the child I never thought I would have. Ten years later, I can look back and see how He was shaping me as her life grew inside of me. So to her I say:

To the child I carried after a loss,
You are a picture of God’s unending grace.
You are proof of God’s unwavering mercy and his absolute sovereignty.
You were carried by an imperfect mother who was afraid to believe, but who believed anyway the best that she could.
Your faith will be shaped by many circumstances during your lifetime.
Some of those will be devastating.
Others will be breathtaking.
You, in turn, will be shaped by these events, but they won’t define you.
Instead, how you react to them and what you learn from them will shape your journey.
Will doubt creep in?
Absolutely.
Will you worry about the things you can’t control.
Most definitely.
Will you fear the things that seem insurmountable?
Without question.
And when those things happen (because they will), hold tight to what you know about God.
He is trustworthy.
He is faithful.
He is strong.
He loves you more than you can imagine.
He is big enough to take that doubt, that worry, and that fear and turn it into something breathtakingly beautiful.
You, my child, are proof of that.
In my weakness, He is strong.
And I can be strong for you, because His strength lives in me.
You are loved by a God who makes all things new, in His perfect timing.
It won’t always make sense.
It won’t always be the way you would have planned it.
But during those magical moments in life, when he allows you a glimpse into what he is doing, you’ll “see.”

And that, my child, is the most beautiful gift of all.


My Rainbow 

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