*The following post recounts a miscarriage and may be triggering for some.*
The doctor stood authoritatively at my bedside. A rumbling, roaring river of medical jargon fell out of her mouth and somewhere in the torrent she said she was going to take him away.
I sat there holding the little baby curled in a specimen cup—he was length of my palm and his hand was outstretched toward me. I focused on his beautiful white fingernails.
It’s a recommendation. I heard myself say.
She persisted. Words like testing and disposal jumped out at me like piranhas.
It’s a recommendation. I repeated.
She persisted. We are going to take it.
And I could feel it—the lion that lives in my chest next to my heart—rose up on her haunches.
I understand what you are saying, but this just happened and I’m holding him. I’m holding him. So just give us a moment!
The doctor turned abruptly out the door—running—as the lion roared from deep in my chest. The moans of a mother fighting ghosts and a lost battle.
Two hands slowly brushed over my face. They were calm and steady—the hands of my pastor, my birthing coach, my friend—and she delivered the confirmation I needed.
You don’t have to.
She placed her hand over mine—over my baby. This is yours. This is yours.
My husband left the room and stood outside the door like a lighthouse in the storm and he told the doctor how it would be.
Anders. We nervously gave his tiny body a sink bath and washed him in our tears and baby soap. A fully formed boy with his brother’s profile. He was the smallest, flawless human we had ever seen. There was nothing wrong with him. We held him but he was not there—his body and my body were empty. That emptiness created a hazy fog we stood and walked and sat in as we maintained during those first few days.
We anointed him with peppermint oil and wrapped him in pink silk—a handkerchief I had gifted to my husband a decade earlier. We wanted to tell him his history, our story, but instead we wrapped him in a memory of the beginning of everything.
We nestled him next to photos of his family and personal letters that would dissolve into dust. We played hymns and sang “Moon River” while my firstborn chased chickens in the yard and a friend shoveled dirt over our second son’s grave—around the foot of a Teddy Bear Magnolia that I prayed would thrive and accept him.
That was a rainy Monday afternoon.
Sometimes at night I wake up with a start. I run up to check my strong and healthy firstborn and when I see him sleeping soundly I return to the kitchen and stand feeling light—too light—and un-pregnant. I’m not hungry. I’m not tired anymore. I can think clearly. And it is all a gentle reminder of what last month looked like. I experienced subtraction in its most fleshly sense and the balance of being a solitary person in body has slowly returned to me.
But, also, when I stand in the kitchen in the middle of the night I can feel a presence. The one of my Lord—a God whose ways are higher than mine. The author of life. My constant. Unlike this earth and my body and everything in my body—He is permanent.
And it doesn’t make sense. And I don’t know how. But I feel His empathy and I know He is still good. And deep in my chest where the mother lion waits, I can feel joy—even now. A heartbeat. Life.
Eventually I find myself crawling back into bed, curling up to my husband, and falling into a deep, God-given sleep.
One night after another, that is how we move forward.
A song of ascents.
1 When the Lord restored the fortunes of[a] Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.[b]
2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
3 The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
4 Restore our fortunes,[c] Lord,
like streams in the Negev.
5 Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
6 Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.