In The Eye Of The Storm
It all started in August of 2016. After being a bridesmaid no less than seventeen times, and waiting until I was 33 to get married, my new husband and I of only 6 months found out the wonderful news; we were pregnant! What started out as exciting, joyful news, was quickly “clouded” by the reality of a very difficult pregnancy. You see, I had something called, “Hyperemesis,” which meant almost 9 months of severe nausea and vomiting that left me either hospitalized for dehydration or resigned to the couch/bathroom for the better part of my pregnancy. For the first four and half months of my pregnancy, I told myself (and the Lord!) that as awful as my pregnancy was, it would be all worth it when I could hold our sweet baby in my arms, something I had waited so long for.
During our 20 week ultrasound in December of 2016, our doctor found out that our little girl, Mary Rose, had multiple very serious heart defects and polydactyl (multiple digits) on her hands and feet. After an initially “clean” genetic testing, my husband and I got a call from the University of Michigan Hospital; the initial testing was wrong, our daughter had a chromosomal abnormality called 3p Minus Syndrome, a syndrome so rare that U of M Mott's Children's Hospital (one of the best in the world) had never seen it, and one which had only been reported 35 times EVER. What U of M knew about 3p Minus wasn't good; the reported cases included severe cognitive, physical, breathing, eating, and seizure issues.We were given two options by our doctors: 1) Invest in multiple very serious heart surgeries for Mary Rose after birth that would save her for a life of projected serious suffering or 2) Allow our daughter to be born and “keep her comfortable” until the Lord took her home. How in the world could we make such a decision?
To make matters worse, around the 33rd week of pregnancy I started to faint out in public, and once while driving, I blacked out and hit two cars (luckily not hurting anyone). To say that I was brought to my knees during this time would be an understatement, to say the least. At 37 weeks, my husband and I started praying in a specific way for the Lord's mercy over Mary Rose, and that He would make His will for her life on earth unmistakably clear. On the third day of this specific prayer, we found out that Mary Rose's heart had stopped beating in-utero at 37 weeks, and so I gave birth to our stillborn daughter on March 30th, 2017.
I wish that I could say that Mary Rose's birth and death was the end of our sufferings this year, but the morning after we came home from delivering Mary Rose, we found out that my father-in-law had been diagnosed with Stage 3 Esophageal Cancer. After a few months of allowing our hearts/bodies to heal and process everything we had been through, we found out in August that we were pregnant again. After a month of day-to-day uncertainty about whether this pregnancy would be able to sustain itself because of low rising HCG levels, I started miscarrying our second child in mid-September. We have now lost two children in six months.
What the Lord is Teaching Me
At this point, I think I could honestly write a whole book about what the Lord has taught me this past year. For the sake of this sharing, I have a few “top” take-aways:
“My power is made perfect in your weakness” (2 Corinthians. 12:9)
For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with fear and being afraid of awful things happening to those that I love. Well, this year some of my “worst nightmare” situations have actually happened, and here I am, still standing and actually joyful most days. The reason for my joy is 100% the grace of God, and nothing more. I have never felt so much grace in my life, and that is because the Lord has promised that our “yoke is easy and our burden light” with Him at the helm. He never promised a life free of suffering if we follow Him, but He did promise that in the suffering, He would come and “make all things new.”
If you would have told me two years ago that I would have to undergo what we have endured this last year, I honestly probably would have thrown up, and run in the opposite direction. The reason for this is abundantly clear to me: I didn't yet have God's grace for whatever situation He would allow in my life. Even more so after this year, I believe that He gives us “grace sufficient for today,” nothing more, nothing less. The reason that we can look at someone else's situation and say, “There is no way that I could ever endure something so awful” is that the Lord hasn't called us to their situation; if He did, He would give the grace, and the “yoke would be easy, and the burden light.” In a very real way, the Lord is teaching me that worrying about the future or “what-ifs” is fruitless because I don't yet have the grace for these things. If in the future I am called to endure, “X” situation, He will provide all that I need. The more “weak” and hopeless a situation, the more He can come and show Himself to be my Savior.
Sometimes, We Won't Know Why until Heaven
I have spent more time than I care to admit this year feeling sorry for myself, and asking the Lord, “Why me? Why us?” I have come to find that the short answer to this question is, “I might not know until Heaven.” There has actually been great peace that has come in relinquishing control of trying to figure out the “whys.” The truth is this: I know the Lord is beyond good. I know that He loves me with a tenderness that is beyond my understanding, and that He knows what I need to conform me more and more into His image. The rest is up to Him.
We are not Home Yet
As I was delivering Mary Rose's body, I had one of the most profoundly spiritual experiences of my life, a vision of her standing by my bed through the delivery, praying for me and cheering us on. I know exactly where our daugther is, and that I will see her again. This life we have here is nothing but a fleeting moment, and I know that I will be able to spend eternity with our fully healed little one, in our true Home. It has helped me enormously to focus on the beauty of Heaven and what I know Mary Rose is even now experiencing.
To Be Served, rather than to Serve
As I'm sure is true for many of us, I find it much easier to serve than to be served. This year, I had no choice but to let others serve and love me, which was a very humbling and beautiful experience. In particular, I feel more deeply in love with my husband than I ever thought possible; to see the ways that he laid down his life day after day for me and his daughter is nothing short of awe-inspiring. I truly believe that the Lord allowed us to carry such a cross so that I could learn to be reliant on Him loving me through those that He has placed in my life.
Suggestions on How to Speak to Someone who has gone through Pregnancy Loss
I offer the following as loving suggestions about how to best speak with those that have undergone the sorrow of pregnancy loss. Please do not be hard on yourself if you have done or not done any of the things I am about to mention; before this year, I know that I would have been at a loss of what to say or do myself.
It Doesn't Matter What You Say
I often think that people are afraid to “say the wrong thing” to someone who has gone through a pregnancy loss, and so they choose to say nothing. I can tell you from experience that silence is the most painful response that anyone can receive. At the end of the day, it actually doesn't matter what you say, as long as you let someone who is suffering know that they are not alone, and that you are with them in their pain.
You Will See Your Child Again
It might seem obvious, but for someone who has gone through a pregnancy loss, the best gift one can receive is hearing “truth,” sometimes over and over again. Please tell us the truth of our Faith: The Lord never intended death; He hates death and came to do something about it so that we can see those whom we love again! Sometimes, we just need to be told that our children matter and are not forgotten, and that we will always be their parent, as they will always be our child.
The Lord will Satisfy the Desires of Your Heart
It is so tempting to tell someone who has gone through pregnancy loss that there will be another child, that there will be a happier outcome next time. However, the truth is that no one except the Lord knows the plan for our lives. Of course, I hope that we will have more children, but more importantly I have the hope that the Lord will satisfy the desires of my heart for children, even if that means adoption or spiritual parenthood. What has meant the most to me these past 6 months has been people referring to me as a “mother,” or even wishing me a “Happy Mother's Day!” Hearing this truth from those that love me most has been incredibly powerful and healing.
I entitled this sharing, “In the Eye of the Storm” because of the common knowledge that there is a great peace, a great quiet that is in the midst of the worst storms that rage and attack our lives. In many ways, this year has been the hardest of my life, but because the Lord is at the helm of my life there has truly been a peace that surpasses all understanding. Only with Him, can I still be standing and know that He is working all things together for my good.
“Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, until the destroying storms pass by.” Psalm 57:1
By Elizabeth Naida
Elizabeth Naida is an elementary music teacher in Metro-Detroit, Michigan, and has been a member of the Sword of the Spirit since her college days at the University of Michigan. She has been married to her amazing husband Chris since December of 2015, and likes to spend her free time running, playing the piano, reading fabulous books, and being around the Great Lakes.