I have written about ten posts in my head this summer, but there hasn’t been time to be still and put words to the swirl of my life. Instead, I’ve been in the glorious trenches of being a wife and a mom – reuniting with my family for a memorable reunion, teaching a week of VBS to a handful of curious and crazy eleven-year-old city kids who ask questions like, “are angels real?” and “how can I avoid going to hell?”, planting flowers and harvesting garden produce, hanging laundry, canning applesauce, teaching ladies’ Sunday School and laughing with the boys who fill my life with messy joy! My online life has been empty, but my real life full.
We planted blue forget-me-nots on the grave. The small grave, just a few shovels wide. I was just nine.
My parents had walked up the front walkway so slowly, as if it hurt to move. They held hands and they said nothing. They came in quiet and the rambling gray house on Pearl Street was unusually still. It was like everyone was walking on their tiptoes and no one knew what to say.
We were all there, all eleven of us Pratt children (eventually there was thirteen of us) with our trademark light hair and blue-green eyes, all there struggling to make sense of a death far too small. We each got to meet him, the tiny child. Everyone went into the bedroom individually and came back crying, so when it was my time to go in, I was terrified.
“You don’t have to come see him,” My dad had told me gently, but I had shaken my head “yes”, that I wanted to meet my baby brother.
So eighteen years ago, I walked through the door of my parent’s bedroom with my Dad and I met Samuel. My mom was propped up against the bed pillows after her long day at the hospital, giving birth to a lifeless child, an eighteen-week fetus – her baby boy, Samuel. My brother.
I held him and I thought that his brown form was perfect. His fingers were the smallest fingers I have ever seen and his body seemed to weigh nothing. I held him and I marveled. And I cried.
Every June, I think of Samuel and I wonder what he is like. Is he quiet or talkative? Strong-willed or laid-back? What does his laugh sound like?
Forget him we will not.
Fourteen years later, after my mother went to her maternity check-up and was told that her body had miscarried, I experienced the same maternal loss. Nothing can prepare you for the surreal pain of a miscarriage.
There are cold statistics like, “10-25 percent of all clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage” and hard facts like first-time pregnancies ending in miscarriage are common.
But knowing all the facts and statistics can’t prepare you for the moment when your body bleeds death. Miscarriage was not something I hadn’t seen up close – having watched my own mother go through a miscarriage four times and my sisters and sister-in-laws more than once. But when all of a sudden, you feel the barrenness of an empty womb and you watch the hopes and dreams of having this baby slip through your fingers and your body keep bleeding and your heart can’t stop oozing, you understand that losing your unborn baby is not a common occurrence.
Because every life is a miracle, at any point of gestation.
And every loss of life is a death. Not just to a dream or hopes, but a real child with a real soul dies.
This summer, within a couple weeks of each other, my sister-in-law and one of my good friends had a miscarriage. Within a matter of hours, these brave, strong women went from talking about baby names and thinking about baby things and celebrating the small lives being entrusted to their care – each first time mothers – to mourning and grieving the death of their wee ones.
I walked into the door of my sister-in-law’s house and she smiled brave with bloodshot eyes, and I couldn’t help but break wide open when I wrapped my arms around her small frame. “It’s going to be okay,” She said, and the strange thing about losing a baby is that somehow you find yourself telling everyone else that it’s going to be okay, because while you feel like life itself is being drained away from you, the only thing that gives you strength to stand-up is believing that somehow all this madness will make sense.
You don’t know when. You don’t know how. But you have to believe that it will, or you’ll go mad.
The hardest thing about losing a baby by miscarriage is how overlooked your pain can feel. And to the Church, to the Body of Christ, I say this one thing – if we believe in the viability of life at conception, we will celebrate every life at two weeks gestation or two hundred-years-old. We will celebrate each life and we will grieve every loss.
A grave stone does not signify life, a heartbeat does.
I speak on behalf of the women who have mothered life and birthed death. Don’t minimize our pain. It’s not “just” a miscarriage. A living, breathing soul has gone to be with Jesus. We will pick up and move forward and we will heal, but we will never forget.
Our Miracle in the Sky.