*this post was originally written on January 1, 2018.
Trauma is a fascinating thing. It causes the body to take an ordinary moment or experience, or maybe even what may otherwise be a really exciting event, and pulls the fire alarm in your brain, triggering sirens and flashing lights indicating "DANGER!" This was my experience upon seeing two pink lines in November after we miscarried the previous May. This was my experience calling to set up a confirmation ultrasound for the first time after our loss in December. And I imagine that this would have been my experience walking into the very appointment where we learned that our baby's heart had stopped just 8 months before, had God in his kindness not intervened.
While fight-or-flight is a brilliant physical response to true danger, trauma twists it and causes this survival mechanism to kick in when there is no real threat, or perhaps even if a threat exists, it causes that threat to loom larger than it should, provoking restless, anxious hearts. During the first few weeks of my pregnancy, I really wrestled with anxiety in a way I never had before, sometimes when there was no identifiable trigger. I was terrified of missing a cue, of growing attached to a baby only to lose it, and conversely, of allowing my fear to prevent me from cherishing whatever length of time I would hold this little life in my womb. I was all too aware of the possibility that I could walk into an appointment under the assumption that everything was fine, only to discover a lifeless baby. I was horrified at the thought of having to relive our experience of inducing a miscarriage. My subconcious coping mechanism with this anxiety quickly revealed itself to be cynicism and fatalism. I concluded that if I simply expected the worst, then I didn't need to fear reliving the shock or being caught off guard by the pain of loss.
After sharing these thoughts with a wise counselor, I received the simplest yet most freeing information: "You can talk to your brain, you know. You can tell it that you aren't truly in danger, that God's grace is sufficient, and that he's faithful." As I embraced her simple strategy, and prayed for the help of the Spirit in discerning what was and wasn't true danger, I began to be able to face the evening hours and enter the restroom without panic. And as he supplanted those anxious thoughts, he revealed that the greatest danger to me in the first trimester was not the shocking news of loss or the experience of having to miscarry again. My greatest enemies in the first trimester were spiritual dangers: the fear, cynicism, and fatalism I had been employing instead of the "power, love, and self control" available to me through the spirit of God. Why? fear and cynicism placed my faith and hope in my own readiness and preparedness, rather than the sufficient grace and abounding care of a God who is never surprised and is always faithful to his promises. They gave way to bitterness and crushed my joy, while faith in God caused me to feel a joy unshakable by whatever circumstances may loom ahead.
As I began to identify and repent of my cynical and fatalistic thoughts, God was faithful to bring to mind scripture concerning his own character and method.
I have never experienced first trimester anxiety like I did following pregnancy loss. But I also have never experienced this power that God has given to live by grace through faith moment by moment the way he has during this season. The peace he has provided hasn't come through conjuring up the positive thought that this tiny baby's heart is still beating, or through supplanting negativity with "good vibes" and determining thoughts that visualize welcoming a baby in July, but in the gift of faith in the fact that he is who he says he is, and he does what he says he will do.
Hope in my circumstances has put me to shame more times than I care to remember. But hope in the glory of God is proving to cause my circumstances to seem smaller and smaller as I behold who he is outside of time and consider the wonderful fact that he is mindful of me.