on carrying and missing

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

We’d planned it perfectly. A baby in early spring, before work got too busy and the summer too hot. The worst of the morning sickness would be passed in time for the holidays, and I could curl up on the couch for football season in the fall when exhaustion set in. We’d have a few months to get the boys adjusted to our addition before the oldest went off to kindergarten, and then I’d have just two at home again.

Perfect.

Of course, in hindsight I see the hubris of thinking we were in control, of micromanaging the most mysterious realities in our lives. We struck out boldly into the prospect of baby #3, assuming that we’d frontloaded our share of heartache on the infertility side of parenting.

But pain and loss know no quota. There was never any divine promise that suffering could be skipped over. Only that we will be companioned the whole way through.

. . .

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

I was early in the pregnancy, far enough along for us to celebrate the giddy joy of finding out and making plans and scheming how to share the news. But even when the signs started to point south and the tests confirmed our fears, I figured that since I was so early, miscarriage wouldn’t be too painful or drawn-out even if it did happen.

Instead I was overwhelmed by pain that felt like the worst wrenching of labor, contractions that came so fast I could barely breathe, shaking and numbness in my limbs that finally made me crawl to the phone and call the nurse who told me to get to the ER as fast as we could. I’d never heard stories of the real, raw truth of what it means to miscarry, so I had no idea what to expect.

But just because a death comes early does not mean it is lighter to bear or let go.

. . .

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Carrying was supposed to be the part I could do. Sure, there would little deaths all along: the wine, the caffeine, the favorite foods, the comfortable sleep. But I knew what it meant to feel sick for six months; I was ready to make the sacrifice again; I needed no convincing that the end product was worth it. Infertility was the struggle we knew, so we figured that once the lines blurred clear on the test stick, we’d be sailing straight ahead till delivery day.

Instead I have to learn what missing means. To white out the appointments already marked on my calendar. To stop mentally scheduling around a due date that is now a ghost. To take the time – the infinite long ache of time – that my body needs to heal. To let a dream die. To mourn a baby that will never be.

. . .

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. In my heart. In our plans. In everyone’s hopes.

But supposed to is a shimmering mirage. One of the few truths I know is that if you’re lucky to do enough living, it will inevitably break your heart. We forget that supposed to means a guess, a wonder, an attempt. We craft an illusion of control believing that supposed to means the right way, the my way, the only way.

Only when life and death crash up against each other in one powerful smack of a wave do we remember that we exist at the mercy of greater forces than our own mind, and that supposed to was never a magic potion to wave away mortality.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. But it is.

I wanted to carry. But now I learn to miss.

. . .

But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels,

that the surpassing power may be of God

and not from us.

We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained;

perplexed, but not driven to despair;

persecuted, but not abandoned;

struck down, but not destroyed;

always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus,

so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.

(2 Corinthians 4:7-10)

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64 Comments

  1. Val on 12 August 2013 at 2:01 pm

    In all the days leading up to and even the moments including the funeral of a childhood best friend last week, I remained (and remain) stuck on the question of which is worse: missing the child you knew for thirty three years with hundreds of other people who the memory of her beautiful life in their own lives, or missing forever (and alone) the child you never got a chance to know. People who say the former of those two haven’t looked at the latter from the inside out. I still don’t have an answer, maybe never will, but on some level — though the two are very different — the pain is the same. Thinking a hug in your direction, blessings for your week.

    • Laura on 16 August 2013 at 2:19 pm

      Your question haunts me, Val. There are never any winners in the Pain Olympics, but we cannot overlook how deep a loss can feel that others might want to smooth over or soften by belittling. Pain and grief, they are the same deep ache.

      • Val on 16 August 2013 at 3:12 pm

        Well the question that haunts me is what to do with my question? It’s too fresh to tactfully write about in my friend’s case, but as I was reflecting to a pastor friend of mine? There is a line between the idea that what best equips me for ministry is that I am a “real” person, but there are also a lot of people who think being a “real” person with “real” problems is a disqualifier for ministry: it’s like walking a tightrope made from fishing line. For so many reasons I can’t just walk up to my friend’s mother and say “I don’t claim to understand, but I understand more than you know.” I can’t say that, but I’m thinking it.

        But on good days my crazy busy seven month old niece beats on me as her personaly jungle gym, trys to eat the rivets out of my jeans and the buttons off my clothes, will attempt to disrobe and strangle me if necessary to get to the particular (sturdy!) cross around my neck, and is generally hilarious and adorable. On bad days I take the stories of Epic Princess Grumpypants Short-Nap second-hand.

        Pain and grief are the same deep ache, or can be, but the grace of providence is the unexpected blessings like so many Flanders Field Poppies in the aftermath of a battle.

        Blessings to you.



  2. Erica on 12 August 2013 at 11:17 pm

    Beautiful and painful. You are held in our prayers as we too know the deep pain of missing our baby Sarah that we only knew for a short time.

    • Laura on 16 August 2013 at 2:21 pm

      Thank you so much for your words, Erica. In the midst of the past few weeks we remembered your family’s experience, and I was strengthened to remember how you honored both the life and the loss of your child. Hearing others’ stories brings me hope.

  3. DefiningMotherhood on 12 August 2013 at 11:44 pm

    This is achingly beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Tuesday Tidbits: Miscarriage Care | Talk Birth on 13 August 2013 at 7:14 am

    […] on carrying and missing | mothering spirit. […]

  5. Roxane B. Salonen on 13 August 2013 at 9:07 am

    Oh dear heart, we lost our third as well…little Gabriel. Our story is included in a little book with others that, if you have found it already, I think would bring you great comfort. I don’t share to sell a book since I have nothing to gain, only because I wish it had been there for me when I was missing…and you’re right. It’s painful. Very much so. Please let me know if you need an ear. rbsalonen@cableone.net. I remember how much I needed to talk to others who had gone through it…just to know I’d live to the other side. I’d love to share whatever insight might help. Know this. You do live, and the living is all the more precious, and heaven, all the sweeter as you anticipate the reunion. Hugs and love from North Dakota…

    • Roxane B. Salonen on 13 August 2013 at 9:08 am

      If you “haven’t found it already” that should say…

    • Laura on 16 August 2013 at 2:23 pm

      Roxane, I meant to drop you a line since I had stumbled across a story you wrote a while back for Catholic Mom (which may be similar to what you share in the book?) and it was incredibly moving for me to read how you had ritualized your grieving with blessing and prayer. I will definitely check out this book – thank you so much for your words, your prayers and your support. They mean so much.

  6. euripides318 on 13 August 2013 at 11:37 am

    I’m sorry for your loss.

  7. Lara Cornell on 13 August 2013 at 2:03 pm

    Saying how sorry I am doesn’t seem to be enough. All my love and thoughts to you and your family, Laura. ♥

    • Laura on 16 August 2013 at 2:23 pm

      Thank you so much for your words and your thoughts, Lara – they mean so much to me.

  8. mary on 13 August 2013 at 3:28 pm

    I am so sorry for your loss, and so sorry you’re now part of “club” of women who have experienced obstetric loss.
    My main advice to you is to put your feet up, be really good to yourself right now, and try not to take personally the dopey things your friends and family might say to you.
    I am praying for you.

    • Laura on 16 August 2013 at 2:24 pm

      Thank you, Mary. I appreciate your words, and have to tell you that your line about the “dopey” things that well-intentioned people might say made me laugh out loud. I am grateful for that! And for your prayers.

  9. Angela Weitnauer on 13 August 2013 at 3:55 pm

    Beautifully said, so sad and yet, so full of hope and faith. After overcoming infertility, the heartbreak of miscarriage shouldn’t be. Our thoughts and prayers are with your family. Thank you for writing.

    • Laura on 16 August 2013 at 2:25 pm

      Thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers, Angela – they give me peace and strength.

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