That's the due date the ultrasound tech gave us after measuring our second child on the day we heard its heartbeat for the first time. When I went to write it in my planner that afternoon, I noticed that it was just a few days before Thanksgiving. "Well," I remember thinking, "we certainly will have a lot to be thankful for. And we'll definitely be spending this one at home."
After we learned that our baby's heart had stopped in the womb, my grandmother shared with me that she too had lost a baby due at Thanksgiving once. The child would have been her fourth born. She lost it at 20 weeks.
I told her how sorry I was, explaining that the holiday marker seemed to make it more difficult for friends of mine who had suffered loss.. There was no chance the date would ever sneak by unnoticed.
But my grandmother insisted that I would come to understand the Thanksgiving due date of a miscarried babe as a gift. She recalled that as she sat in her Thanksgiving church service the first time after her loss, the pastor called the members to look for God's good gifts in the midst of their losses; to see his provision in their poverty. She spoke of beginning to feel so glad in that pew where sorrow ruled her heart only moments before. "I lost that baby in July at 4.5 months but I still had so much to be thankful for. Still do."
Today is November 21st. I don't think of it as the day I would have given birth. It's not a concrete marker. But I have had a strong sense of awareness all day of how different things are than the way I imagined it as my husband and I rejoiced over that heartbeat on April 4th, 2017.
The novel Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry is a cherished favorite of mine. As the narrator (Hannah) introduces her tale, she hints at the loss and difficulty that the reader will encounter within it and concludes the prologue with: "This is my story. My giving of thanks." I am grateful to report that my grandmother was right. I sit here tonight typing out this post with tear filled eyes and sorrowful shoulders, but there is no other way to tell this tale than with a heart brimming with gratitude for all that God has done in and through the brief life and loss of our little one, who I affectionately refer to as "April Baby." He did not give us that baby to carry to term and birth and parent, but he has given us a great many things in its stead. Some are great, some may seem less significant, but rather than linger on what has been withheld on this day, I'd like to share a list of thanks, 21 reasons I'm grateful for this baby's life and the gifts God has given through its loss.
I am thankful...
- For the privilege of holding its precious life in my womb.
- For the sweet time of communion with the Lord after being shocked by two pink lines just after Will's birthday when I felt so strongly reassured by his spirit that he would provide everything we needed.
- For the room for growth that grief exposed in David and my marriage, the prompt to return to counseling, and all of the reconciliation and growth that has occurred for us both personally and relationally in the aftermath.
- For the opportunity to receive God's comfort in a way I never had before..
- For the sacred privilege of comforting others and the platform of Gentle Leading and The Gospel Coalition through which God allowed that to happen.
- For the invitation to savor my season with Will as a "baby."
- For every enjoyed glass of wine, tray of soft cheeses, scalding hot bath, cold turkey sandwich, and all of the other things I have enjoyed over the past few months that were forbidden by pregnancy.
- For the chance to get away with David to fly fish in Belize.
- For growth in the ability to relate and understand the suffering of others and to be educated about grief.
- For the exposure of my idols of control and self sufficiency that have led to a new way to worship God in his sovereignty and power.
- For the privilege of being loved on by his people through meals, flowers, books, cleaning, and remembrance.
- For the way that God brought me out of the depression that followed our loss and restored my joy.
- For the ability to say "yes" to things in a season in which I would have said lots of "no's" if I was pregnant (hosting baby showers, books clubs, and bible studies).
- For the opportunity to make progress with the stability of my back.
- For the restoration of my sight through Lasiks eye surgery that I would not have otherwise done.
- For teaching me what it means to rejoice with those who rejoice, even as I weep.
- ESPECIALLY for the privelage of being able to commit to serve as a mentor for teen moms with Young Lives for a full school year knowing I wouldn't possible have a baby before it ended.
- For countless grocery store conversations after answering family planning questions honestly that have opened doors to share the gospel.
- For all of the passages of scripture I have come to love and treasure.
- For the space and room to dream and to breathe between my first and second child (it's taken me a while to not feel guilty about the relief I feel about the anxiety I had about them being close together).
I cannot adequately convey the absolute sorrow that I feel on this day I once imagined as a marker of the day I would get to meet that tiny life I once held in my womb face to face. I long to smell its baby skin. To watch its daddy cradle it in the hospital room, marveling over the miracle of life as he did with our firstborn. To introduce it to its big brother and pull his hands off of its tiny delicate ears and mouth. But I cannot express the joy I feel knowing that
21. My precious little April Baby's soul is in the presence of Jesus. I could not wish anything more for the baby that isn't in my arms today than than it would be safe with its maker, who knit it together in my womb perfectly and wonderfully and numbered its days with his infinite wisdom. And one Day I will be there too. And God has established that as a certainty through the finished work of Jesus, a rescue plan cannot be miscarried.
And so in the midst of loss and sorrow, I, like Hannah Coulter can say, this is my story, in the context of his much bigger story, my giving of thanks. I can look around and see all of his mercies and rejoice for what he has provided through our loss. I pray that the coincidence of our due date and this holiday will make it always so.