We were going to wait seven years before having children. I thought we agreed on five. “No, seven,” my husband insists.Three years into marriage I suddenly developed a ferocious longing for a baby. It took a year to convince my husband and another 12 months to conceive. But the little white pill worked the first time. I loved being an instant fertility clinic success story. Nine months later our son was born and we were thrilled. “I could have eight of these!” I exclaimed. No—two, my husband asserted. We agreed on two.
Number two kept us waiting. I asked for the little white pill again. This time it didn’t work. Nothing worked actually.
When nothing works, people try to speak hope into your failure or stuff advice into your wait. Many words bounced right off my wall of discouragement. Friends prayed. I had grown weary of praying because it didn’t seem to help. God works better than a little white pill but he didn’t seem to want to get involved.
I got mad enough to try therapy. Therapy uncovers words and emotions more vulnerable than “mad.” I actually felt abandoned, defeated, unworthy, and most of all: unloved. I was drowning in shame and felt like God couldn’t care less.
God did care, of course. He cares by his own definition. I had shoved him into a box from which he was welcome to pop out when he had a baby for me. Then I would feel loved.
I felt like God was making no effort to speak my love language. In the end, he convinced me I was (and am) loved deeply and unconditionally. Something shifted in my soul and perhaps for the first time I believed and trusted his love. Believing you are loved unconditionally means you cannot fail in ways that make love extinct.
I was free to let go of my dream because love would remain. People always said, “It will happen when you let go.” I hated that line. But the day I made peace with unfulfilled longing and told everyone God was enough is the day I got pregnant. I could not believe it. My new-found contentment spilled over into joyful celebration.
My heart danced while my mouth remained silent. I would tell everyone after the first trimester when the risk of loss drops below 5%. I figured this timely God gift was a keeper but you never know, so I waited. I didn’t need any more empty phrases. At last I told everyone everything. The God anger, the letting go, the new baby.
“Awesome! I knew it!” People exclaimed. And, “God is sooooo good.” I was doing spiritual cartwheels too. Then, right in the middle of pregnancy, at a routine appointment—no heartbeat. “When was the last time you felt the baby move?” My heart started pounding. There was no breath to respond. Seriously, GOD?!?
The long-awaited, prayed-over, released and reclaimed miracle baby had silently slipped away. My doctor and I stared long at the ultrasound, the small lifeless body curled up inside. What now?
It takes courage to bear and bring forth life, but who can handle delivering death? “God does not give you more than you can handle” is a nice sentiment often uttered by those who’ve never borne the agony of death and deep despair. Life takes you places that strip your faith of fluffy phrases. We may find ourselves more naked and needy than ever before. We may also find that the goodness of God confidently resides outside our circumstance or reality. The goodness of God is unchanging, eternal, abundant and fills up our most broken places.
Sophie was born the next day. We held and wept over her lifeless body. I wept for weeks, alone, with strangers, in the car, at night. I never truly wept before.
My father taught me big girls don’t cry so I learned to swallow my tears. I didn’t cry after divorce, nor when my grandparents died, nor when I broke up with my long-term boyfriend. Sophie broke the dam. I cried until there was nothing left and I felt strangely cleansed. My back quit hurting. My anger diminished. My faith shifted and is shifting from a theology of certainty towards a faith that leaves room for mystery. I have fewer answers and more compassion. My heart is healed and is healing. My God box has grown larger than I ever imagined. It’s been seven years and two more beautiful girls were born into our family. No one replaces the one you lost.
In April, when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom and branches dance in the wind my heart remembers the way HE loved me through loss. Love is knowing we never suffer alone.
- When Loss Messes With Your Faith - July 29, 2015
10 thoughts on “When Loss Messes With Your Faith”
My cousin labored and gave birth to a stillborn girl at six months, Hallie. They went through a pretty dark time and have had two children since, but they keep photos of Hallie around and her two kiddos know about their big sister. They ended up finding a lot of peace and support in grief groups for parents who have lost children. One thing she has said is that you have no idea how many people it has happened to until it happens to you, and suddenly there is this whole world of women who have been keeping these losses locked up within them because it’s too uncomfortable to talk about for so many people, and she basically decided she’d be doing no such thing. So Hallie’s photo is in the living room and they talk about her openly. That’s how she found the greatest healing, in remembering that Hallie was here, at least briefly. She had a name and a face and she is waiting to meet them again.
Thanks for sharing your cousin’s story. People are often afraid to bring up those you lost but listening to someone’s loss is a gift to the grieving. People who have processed their grief well are lovely, compassionate people. Too bad it often takes a loss to get to that deeper place of empathy and connection.
I am so sorry for the loss of your Sophie. Your line “but who can handle delivering death” struck me so – how can a mother’s heart bear that pain? My God box changed too after the death of our eldest son! You put it so beautifully. I find I have far fewer answers and more mystery also. We love the cherry blossoms and go downtown to Washington, DC right at dawn when the blossoms are peaking – they touch my soul. Your cherry blossom photo is gorgeous. Thank you for sharing your story and Sophie, wishing you a peace filled day.
Thanks, Terri. I think delivering Sophie was my most mortal moment. I never felt so human and powerless before. It also created a deep longing for resurrection, for the eternal, for a life that only ever holds space for more life. I also loved your post about your son.
“…faith that leaves room for mystery. I have fewer answers and more compassion. My heart is healed and is healing.” And that is true for me also, after losing my first husband to Aids and my second to divorce. God uses loss and grief to grow things in us that no other gift can. That is a mystery (and one I don’t always like). Thank you for sharing your story of grief and faith. Liebe Grüsse aus der Schweiz!
” God uses loss and grief to grow things in us that no other gift can.” Yes- so true. I am a completely different person. I spent at least a couple years wishing this never happened but it’s been seven years and I am at peace. I probably would not change this part of my story. Wishing you grace and peace in your losses. Dein Nachbar aus Deutschland 🙂 Astrid
Astrid, thank you for your wise and generous words through loss. I’m so glad your voice is here at The Mudroom. More than that, I love seeing how brokenness opened you to God in new ways.
thanks, friend. I am grateful for this space of honesty and grace. I think I never allowed my heart to be broken by anything but this loss was more than I could handle. It’s took me a while to get there but I now believe the broken heart can be a gift. We’d never ask for it but it can be a game changer for the spiritual life.
So real and raw Astrid, your voice and story of loss and letting go and God’s redeeming. You are such an authentic person with such an authentic voice. I am so glad we connected this year. We have such a shared story with our German background – and faith and motherhood and writing, etc. !