On October 25, 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation declaring the month of October as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. He stated, “When a child loses a parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them.”
Over the years, and with the losses we have endured, I wondered (as I am sure many people do), how to live with the losses of these souls we so dearly wanted to live with us here on this earth. My hope is found in a story that comes from Bible. In 2 Samuel chapter 12, David was confronted by the prophet Nathan about his sin with Bathsheba. As Nathan spoke with him, David realized the horrendous sins he had committed. Nathan also gave him the news that although David himself would not die, the son that was born to him would. After Nathan left, the child was struck by an illness.
2 Samuel 12: 16 (NIV) reads, “David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and spent the nights lying in sackcloth on the ground.”
He refused to get up.
He refused to eat.
Seven days later, the infant died. David’s attendants were afraid to tell him because of the way he had acted while the child was sick. Noticing them whispering, David realized the child was dead. Once he confirmed this, he got up from the ground, washed, put on lotions, changed his clothes, and went to the house of the Lord and worshipped. He went to his house and finally ate.
The story continues in verse 21: “His attendants asked him, “Why are you acting this way? While the child was still alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!” He answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” (emphasis mine)
Now, I am by NO MEANS suggesting that each and every loss is punishment for a person’s sins. None of us can know this side of Heaven why these things occur. What I am suggesting is that even in that moment of intense grief and suffering, David acknowledged that he would see his child again. The child would not return to this earth, but David would be with him in Heaven.
Psalm 139: 13-18 has also been a great encouragement to me. It reads, “I will praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand–when I awake, I am still with you.” (emphasis mine)
God saw every single millisecond of the forming and growth of those babies we lost. Every single day of their existence was written in His book long before they occurred. I know that there was purpose and meaning in the existence of those souls, even if I do not know what that purpose was yet.
So, today, on this day of remembrance, let me encourage you with some words I wrote and shared on my personal FB page on this day in 2015:
“There were no services, flowers, or sympathy cards.
There are no memorials or headstones.
It is as if they never existed….but they did.
I have a few ultrasound pictures, medical records, and calendars marked with doctor appointments, notes, and even heart rates. And I have many unpleasant memories.
No matter how briefly (5 weeks, 6 weeks, 10 weeks), I carried these babies until God chose to bring them straight home.
Job 14:5 (NASB) says, “Since his days are determined, The number of his months is with You; And his limits You have set so that he cannot pass.”
This is something I seldom talk about because I know many more women have suffered much more than I have. They have had more miscarriages, they have carried to term and lost an infant, or they have never had a “rainbow baby”-a baby born after miscarriage or infant loss. I can hardly imagine how they must feel.
But in our society’s coldness and complete rejection of life at all stages, let me try to encourage a woman who is where I’ve been.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
As the verse listed above says, God has numbered our days. The loss of my babies did not take Him by surprise. And, He truly is the only One who knows how I feel. He, too, lost (gave/sacrificed) His ONLY Son. Lean on the only One who can heal your broken heart.
And to those who know someone who is going through this, may I offer this advice?
Please think before you speak.
Regardless of how “far along” a pregnancy was, that Mom had already been dreaming of the child that would be. There were hopes and dreams that will never be realized.
Let them grieve.
Let them cry.
Let them talk about that child.
Please don’t pretend to know how they feel. You don’t. Our grieving processes will be as varied and diverse as our own personalities. Just be there and LISTEN.
Because, you know?
Most people see me with my kids, and see #1, #2, and #3.
But we actually see #1, #4, and #6.
This is my true family portrait.”
2015-Photo by Courtney M Thomas.