Yea Though I Walk Through The Valley…

The Lord is my shepherd; 
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley…

This week I had a miscarriage. I realize many of you family and friends didn’t even know we were pregnant, and I am so sorry. We had just gotten to the point where we were excited to start telling people about the baby when I started having complications and everything became very uncertain. At first it seemed like the baby was strong despite the difficulties, but ten days later, the pregnancy was over.

I am tired, and aching, but grateful. Grateful for a husband who holds me, even as I am coming to peace with things hard to understand. Grateful for my girls dancing around me oblivious and so priceless. Grateful for a sister who held my hand in my darkest moments in that doctor’s office and a mom who took us in like she always does to carry our burdens and meet every need. For a dad who prayed and held me tight, and friends and family who called and texted and brought flowers and meals and prayed countless prayers that broke light into our darkness. They carried me through this experience. I’m grateful for practical mercies too – insurance literally days before we needed it, and a Christian professor and a Christian boss who allowed me to disappear from my life while I walked through this valley, no questions asked.

As this unfolded, I was astonished by what I didn’t know about miscarriage, and what I wish I had known. Not to make this experience easier, because frankly I don’t think there is a way to make it easier, but so I could have had empathy for my friends who have gone before me in this, and also maybe I could have anticipated this past week better. Because in general people don’t talk about it, except in very clinical, sterile words that aren’t accurate, but I wonder if maybe we should.

I just didn’t know. I didn’t know that a miscarriage sometimes takes days; days of fear and blood and pain and exhaustion and prayers and confusion and labor. I didn’t know the vulnerability and fear that came with simple acts such as standing up or going to the bathroom. I didn’t know that doctors and hospitals really don’t have answers when you are facing something like this. I didn’t know that hope and despair battle in your mind as you pray for mercy and a miracle. I didn’t know how hard it is to tell people what is happening because it is private and messy and terrible; plus most people didn’t even know you were pregnant, much less that the pregnancy is in jeopardy. I didn’t know about the feeling that your body is betraying your baby, the what-ifs and guilt  (that you must fight through because there is nothing you could have done to affect this outcome). I didn’t know about the moments begging God to make it stop, and then the moments where you have to reconcile yourself to the idea that it isn’t stopping, and that God is still good. I didn’t know how it drags on and on, as your house gets messy and your laundry piles up and kids need to be held and hugged and fed and taken to school and picked up and bathed and put to bed, but you can’t do any of it. So you rely totally on all of the precious people around you, and they do it all, balancing your life and their own, and you feel so guilty, but you also know that every time you stand up it gets worse, so you lay there, and they all work hard and carry your burdens.

I didn’t know, and I am sorry. I am sorry for people who went before us, I am sorry for anyone going through this now. This was so much harder than I thought it would be. I’m sorry if I ever judged your pain, or your reaction to pain. I’m sorry I didn’t help more or understand. I’m sorry for the little life that never grew up and for the moments you didn’t get to have and the loss of your sweet little baby.

I’m sorry that any of us ever had to go through this.

And the sad part is, this happens so often and many, many people I love have experienced this hurt, and many others will certainly walk through this valley. So let me tell you about what I learned about the goodness of God in this, because there was much I didn’t know there as well. I didn’t know about the way he prepares your heart for news you don’t see coming, or about the fog that surrounds your mind as you work through each step in this process, or about the peace that truly is beyond understanding even as you are facing things you never imagined. There are small mercies that help make this bearable. He allowed this to proceed slowly because he knows I am a person who needs time and he gave peace when I needed it at each step. He also brought people beside me who grieved this with us – family and friends who carried the burden of grief and cried with us and for us. I needed that so badly and for those of you who carried that, thank you. Looking back at this entire thing, from day one, I can see his hand of mercy. I returned to school today and my professor stopped me and told me that I looked good and that she was so thankful I was smiling, because she could tell that the Lord was with me. And I feel that. I can tell you that he never left me alone, not for a moment.

Now I am at the point where I am struggling to wrap my human, planning, finite little mind around this tiny life that was lost, and the idea that a child that is part me and part Justin is in heaven, who would have been my girls’ sibling, my siblings’ niece or nephew, and our parents’ grandchild. I’ll be honest and tell you that doesn’t feel real yet. But even in that – the Lord has spoken.

He spoke through Angie Smith’s amazing book What Women Fear, when she wrote these words, “I am still standing, and I still believe.”

I am still standing, and I still believe. I believe that God is good. I believe our child is safe in the arms of the Lord. I believe that death didn’t win.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;  always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 2 Corinthians 4:7-11

I know this post was personal and heavy, but I had to write about it. I write about it because I need to process the lessons of this valley. I write about it because I cannot imagine writing about anything else until I have written about this and explained how I was changed by it. I write because I wish I had something like this to read when I was in the middle of this searching for answers on the internet. And I write because I always share what I learn from my children, and this child is no different. I’m grateful for the lessons this little baby taught me, lessons of empathy for other moms and cherishing my girls and the mercy of God during dark frightening days. I write, and I heal, and we move on toward heaven ourselves and toward Jesus who does understand all of this.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.  (Psalm 23)