When Grief Gives Way to Hope

Today I am overcome with our God who loves to restore. He restores broken lives, broken hearts and broken worlds. March will always be a reminder to me that when our lives are broken by grief, He will restore. There is not any one way that He restores, but He always knows what He is doing and He is big enough to handle even our deepest grief. He is the restoring God.

Ten years ago today marks the day my heart felt like it shattered in a million pieces all at once. The heaviness in my chest was physical and the pain was so deep that I couldn’t breathe. I would lay in bed, heart racing, wondering if I would ever sleep again and wake in the morning wishing I could sleep the day away. A grief enveloped every part of my being and was so deep I couldn’t even go to the store out of fear I would break down. That fear was not unfounded. On a day where my heart felt a ray of light, I ventured out and ended up in a heap of tears in the arms of a near stranger in an aisle at Wal-Mart. Friends would call and fill in the gaps of time to make sure that someone was always near. Our marriage didn’t weather grief like the movies portray. The grief blasted a gulf between us because we now know we handle grief in the most opposite ways two human beings could. It seemed pain surrounded and filled every corner of our home in that season. Our kids were sad, we were sad and it seemed  relief was nowhere to be found. God surrounded us and He felt so near, but the sadness was still all consuming. Most of all, I felt empty of the life I had just held. Our little girl, the one we had just bought a bigger house to make room for;  the one Josiah, our oldest son, had prayed for; the one we had dreams for; the one we had anticipated with much excitement was gone. Just like that – a whisper of a life and she left.

March 14th, 2007, we went for our routine 20 week ultrasound. I had noticed an absence of movement in the previous days. I had heard the heartbeat just a few weeks before and all looked good. I remember trembling while the nurse was weighing me. The morning I had held in anticipation now seemed foreboding. I lay on the ultrasound table and slowly turned toward the screen. The image of our little girl came up. She was strangely still. The nurse frowned and listened for the heartbeat and I strained to hear something, anything. “Shouldn’t I be hearing something?” No answer. “Why can’t I hear anything?” I demanded. She pushed more buttons. “I have to go get the doctor.” She turned and left. My whole body went hot and then cold. I looked at John stone-faced and said, “The baby died.” He tried to calm me. “You don’t know that.” “Yes. I. Do.” I felt much too controlled. The doctor came in and started with the words, “I’m sorry….” and to this day, I don’t remember what he said.  From the words I did understand, I gathered I would go to labor and delivery and the delivery would be a fairly normal one, but there would be nothing normal about it because in a normal delivery you leave with a baby and I would be leaving without ours.

My labor was induced at home through medication and then we made the drive to the hospital. I remember the baby bed with the warming lights turned off, the large fan in front of the door in an attempt to stifle the sound of new cries and sounds of life in the neighboring rooms, the white flower on our door reminding the nurses that our room was not a happy one. I remember thinking that just possibly she would be a miracle baby people would write about and then holding her tiny, lifeless body in our arms and knowing there would forever be a hole in my heart. I really didn’t know if I would ever be the same again. When I looked at John’s grief filled face, I didn’t know if we would ever be the same again. We held her one last time on the little hospital sofa and took in all of her tiny features. March 15th, 2007, The nurse came in with a purple box and said  it was time for Jordan to go to the morgue. We traded our tiny daughter for a little, purple box of memories.

Slowly, God began to help us sort through the grief and see the beauty of her short life. He comforted us with thoughts of her with Him – the perfect Father. Most of all, He showed us in dark situations, we get to see things about Him that we never would have known apart from hardship. We learn that His goodness doesn’t depend on our circumstances, there is a grace in the grief if we go to Him, He truly never leaves us or forsakes us, He wraps us in His love and that is enough to get us through our darkest days. We learn we can trust Him for whatever our life holds because He is strong enough.

Four months later, we found out we were pregnant again. We were over the moon excited. The pregnancy was fairly uneventful and we were happy to be having ultrasounds all of the time. High risk pregnancies do have some benefits. A little after 37 weeks, I went in for a stress test and they noticed that the baby wasn’t responding. His heart was stopping and starting and the medical team didn’t like what they saw. They sent me to ultrasound and they liked what they saw even less. Immediately, I was instructed to call John  and go straight to the hospital. Someone else would have to pack my things. I arrived at the hospital with my mom and John met us there. I could feel the emotions in me shutting down as I struggled to control my trembling. I was too scared to pray. Thoughts swirled wildly in my head. The labor was hard and Drew’s little heart continued stopping. Taking my hands, a nurse told me that they suspected our baby could have a heart issue. They weren’t sure if it was labor induced or a problem with him, but they would have a pediatric cardiologist on hand. The birth was a struggle and NICU was called in. The room was silent as John and I sat next to each other alone in our fears. My parents were also there. All was silent and tense. Alarms kept going off and I noticed worried glances between the nurses. Drew was delivered on March 13th, 2008 with his cord wrapped around his neck three times, totally limp, gray and with an apgar of 1. John and I sat in stunned horror as the NICU nurses tried to get him to breathe. Trying to feel normal, I asked to hold him and the nurse just said, “Not right now. He needs our help.”  John, frozen in his chair, said under his breath, “I can’t do this again.” I said under mine, “I WON’T do this again.” After a few minutes, we heard the most beautiful cry we had ever heard. The whole room breathed, the talking started and after a few more minutes, they laid him in my arms. Our baby, Drew. Perfect in every way.

March 15th, 2008, We sat on the sofa in the hospital room as the nurses did one final check on Drew before we went home. The irony was not lost on me. Out of 365 days in the year, March 15th marked a day of crushing grief and a day of renewed hope. My thoughts turned to exactly one year prior, when we sat on a similar sofa in the exact same hospital with empty arms, a broken heart and a little purple box. God whispered to me, “I am bringing restoration to your heart.” I looked down at the gift of Drew in my arms, our hearts full, and whispered, “Indeed, You are.”

*The picture is Drew’s newborn picture.

*This is dedicated to all those mamas out there who have experienced the loss of an unborn child at any stage. Such a common grief, but there is no such thing as a common child. Though their lives were a breath, they leave imprints on our hearts forever.

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