Tuesday, June 18, 2013

On Grief and Healing

It's been almost a month since we received the phone call that our transfer had failed and the babies had died. The following week brought the most excruciating physical pain I've experienced outside of labor as my body fought to cycle itself. I physically felt this loss in a frightening, overwhelming, exhausting way. It was actually harder than my only loss that is "technically" considered a miscarriage.

I cry. A lot. At least 3 or 4 times a week, even now. Every loss has been hard, and I've cried after every one. But I don't remember ever grieving like this. The tears just come without warning.

I think it's because I'm unraveling so much that has been smashed into this last month.

I still ache to my core for the babies that were ripped away from our family a year ago.
A woman who was trying to adopt them emailed me (good naturedly and well-intendedly). It really was surreal and forced me to come to terms with the fact that even if not her, someone out there is trying or will be trying to be my babies' mommy. That breaks my heart wide open every time I think about it.

I ache for all of the babies I have in Heaven. 7 now.

I ache for my son, who has lost 13 siblings already, and who will probably have no more.

I ache for the fact that I will probably never have any more children. I think about pregnancy and breastfeeding and snuggling a little tiny baby and first milestones and I realize that I'll never get to do any of it ever again. I look at the tubs of baby clothing in the garage, lovingly packed up for the brother that will never come. The next time I open them will probably be to give their contents away.

I ache that seemingly everyone else can have as many children as they do or don't want and we've had to fight tooth and nail every step of the way. I have really let go of that in recent years but it's all come back to me to smack me in the face again. It's so hard-all around us, people make a plan, and it happens. And our story is full of waiting and losing. Over and over again. It's so hard not to feel entitled for this to go our way. We waited for marriage to be intimate. We waited to get married until we were out of school. We waited to start trying to grow our family until we were financially stable and until our relationship was established. We did everything in the "right" order (whatever that is)--in the way we thought best honored God, and our marriage, and our children. And yet, babies are born to parents who don't want them or to people who can't provide for them all the time. And I try SO hard not to ask the "why" question or to tell myself that for those people, having a child is perhaps as much of an ache for them as not having a child is for me, but still, that question nags me in the back of my head. It taunts me.

And I am just broken. The tears and the grief consume me.

I saw a friend last week after I'd been crying and she asked me what was wrong. I told her that I was missing my babies. She replied that I was just tired and that our emotions are often tied to that. I snapped back at her that my fatigue has nothing to do with it. I hated that my grief was dismissed as an irrational response to a physical need. As if the fact that I have 7 dead children and 6 stolen ones isn't a legitimate reason to be broken. That same friend said a few weeks earlier that after thinking like it, she understood that this really was like a loss, even though she never thought of it that way before.

Which takes me to another source of heartache. People (in general) don't behave as if we've really lost children. We'll stand outside of abortion clinics and protest embryonic stem cell research and say life begins at conception (as well we should), but very few people behave as though my children have just died. And I know I'm more blessed than most because I did receive some flowers and a few condolence cards (thank you to those who sent things), where others in similar situation have received no acknowledgment. But for the most part, this is such a silent, lonely grief. No one offers to make you a meal. After a few days, most people stop asking how you are. You don't take time off of work. You're expected to keep up your regular responsibilities as if nothing has happened. You have nothing to show for your loss. No memories. No photos. No baby blanket. No funeral or headstone. Nothing. Nothing.

And then you feel like you have to scream at the top of your lungs, "EVERYONE JUST STOP FOR A SECOND! MY CHILDREN WERE HERE AND THEY MATTERED!"

I feel like a mom with an *. A mom who has to explain her kids. Defend them. Justify the right to grieve for them. And I'm so tired. I just want to be mom, period. I want people to automatically behave as though they're children, without me having to explain it or them having to realize it. It's not even that I really "campaign" for embryo adoption anymore, but even in my grief, I find myself on the defensive against a general attitude of, "Aren't you over this yet?" No one would say or think such a thing if I had lost a parent, or a spouse, or a born child. On a fundamental, subconscious level, people think of early life differently. I know this is a cultural phenomenon borne out of people's lack of exposure to life on such a technical, tiny level, and that it's not a conscious endorsement of the sentiment that early life is less-than. But it still hurts. And it hurts for every person in my shoes. I guess that's why I bring it up. If you know someone who has lost a baby, even in very early pregnancy, please acknowledge their child's life to them. It will mean the world to them.

Gosh, this post is depressing. Lest I give you the wrong impression, know I do not grieve as one who has no hope and I don't want any of you to (for I know too many in similar shoes), either. I believe that Jesus died and rose again, and I believe with all of my heart that I will be reunited one day in Heaven with my children (though in Heaven, they won't actually be my children anymore). I think part of the reason that this time around is so much harder is that I maybe did not grieve enough before (though I thought I did). But the finality of this time brings things to the surface that I've been carrying for years. But I believe the tears are healing. I believe God's Word where it is written that He collects all of my tears in a bottle. I know this grief and this pain is not wasted. I know that He will work all things together for good according to those who love Him. I know that He will bring ministry from pain. I know God will heal my heart. I know that now we see through a glass dimly, but then we shall see face to face. I know that now, faith, hope, and love remain. I know that God loves me. I know God loves my babies. I know that He will redeem this pain and I know that He holds me in His hand. I don't know much beyond all of that, but those things are enough.

I recently went and painted this. It was a tangible exercise to say, yes I really believe this. I painted and cried and painted and cried, all the while crying out, yes, I believe You.

I'm hanging on to that hope. This HAS to have a purpose. God wouldn't be God if it didn't because it would mean His character is cruel and chaotic, and it's not. So I hold onto hope that this has to mean something, even though I have no idea what that is and I find myself weary of waiting.

I had another breakdown at church and so I took my Bible and my tears to a quiet place to read. I came to Psalm 63 and I caught my breath in my chest as I read this:

You, God, are my God,
    earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
    my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
    where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary
    and beheld your power and your glory. 
Because your love is better than life,
    my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
    and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
    with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
On my bed I remember you;
    I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
    I sing in the shadow of your wings. 
I cling to you;
    your right hand upholds me.

I forced myself to read it out loud as I sobbed, and added this editorialization to verse 3: 

Because your love is better than life, even the lives of my babies,
    my lips will glorify you.

I can't really explain the pain I felt to confess that out loud. To choose to subordinate this pain, and my babies and my love for them, to God and His Will. To confess that He is enough. It was a spiritual pain and sacrifice that I'm not quite sure I've experienced before. But I cling to these words because I know they are true. God is good. God is true. God is faithful. God is trustworthy. God is loving. God is just. Amen.


  1. I understand completely. Even the pro-life community doesn't treat these deaths the same as they do that of born children. It is hard and sad. ((Hugs))

  2. Yes, you're quite right. Even the church can be rather clueless on early life ethics. We think of you guys often!! Sending love,

  3. I feel your pain, Jen. I'm so sorry you've had to experience all this heartache and pain. Thank you for pointing others to Jesus in the midst of the pain. Praying for you!