The other night we were at a friend's house for a birthday party and someone mentioned that the Belmont Stakes horse race was going to be on that evening. Isn't it crazy how the smallest thing can trigger grief? All of a sudden I was transported back to the evening of the Belmont Stakes in 2012. I was pregnant with Charlie and had started spotting. I was unable to get a hold of my parents for the longest time because they were having a Belmont Stakes dinner party on their deck. That stinking horse race will forever be linked to my miscarriage.
Two years ago began the darkest few months of my life. You'd assume my darkest days came after Hannah was stillborn. And we definitely had really hard days. And weeks. And months. But there was still hope somehow. We knew we'd make it through and that God could somehow use tragedy to restore things. But miscarrying Charlie was a whole different monster. Our grief was compounded. Having a baby after a loss should have been so redeeming. Instead we experienced such a whirlwind of hurt. It's hard enough to live in a world where one of your babies has died. Now I had lost two. Half of my children were not part of my family on this earth.
Emotionally, I was a wreck. I was still grieving Hannah and had spent 14 weeks trying to survive the most nerve-wracking pregnancy-after-a-loss experience ever. And then it was over and I had another baby to mourn. Not to mention how traumatized I was after the experience itself. I was completely unprepared for things to happen naturally before I could even see my midwife. I was not prepared for any of it--the contractions, the blood, nothing. Afterwards, I could hardly bear to look at pregnant women or babies. What had I done to warrant going through this twice, when so many people just floated along through life without ever having to experience such loss?
Physically, I was sure I was broken. After Hannah, I could tell myself that it wasn't my fault. It was a fluke. I couldn't have done anything to prevent it. But then it happened again, and I wasn't so sure. There had to have been a reason my body was losing these precious lives. The two losses had to be connected somehow. I had very little respect for my body--it couldn't do anything right. Maybe Jack and Leah were my flukes and I'd never carry a live baby to term again.
Spiritually, I was confused. I never doubted that God was with us and I don't feel like my faith was necessarily tested. And I knew that I needed to hang onto the same Jesus who had carried us through Hannah's death if I had any chance of surviving Charlie's. I thought of the line from "Held": "To think that providence would take a child from his mother while she prays is appalling." I guess I was rather appalled. I spent nearly every moment of the 14 weeks I was pregnant with Charlie so sure that something was going to go wrong, but then when it DID, I was still shocked.
My status as wife and mother were marred. My marriage was in the rockiest season it had ever seen in its 10 years. Some of it was loss related. Some of it was just horrible timing because it added to the mess of that summer. My children had to deal with the fraction of me that I had the energy to give them. It was never enough and I hate that I missed even the smallest parts of their growing up years. It was such a fine line between being grateful for the kids I was blessed with on this earth and being angry that I wasn't allowed to mother the two that were waiting for me in heaven.
Eventually, by the grace of God, the fog began to lift. I distinctly remember going for a walk on a really beautiful day in September and thinking, "Life is still good." I felt like I could breathe again. Hope slowly came back into the picture.
Steven Curtis Chapman's album Beauty Will Rise has been extremely healing, as it is the first album he released after the loss of his daughter Maria. The song of the same title in particular speaks so beautifully to the transformation that happened two years ago. It's SO hard to see anything beautiful in the midst of the ashes. But when you look back, you can see that those ashes were not, indeed, the end. God has so much more for us after the hard stuff. I love the line, "We will dance among the ruins." The ruins don't go away. We just change how we deal with them. I will never stop missing Hannah and Charlie. But we are not held down by the grief that sidelined us. He continues to carry us through it. And I think the beauty we can see now is more amazing because of the ashes we've endured.