No waiting

7weeksRecently, a friend shared with me a series of images of life in the womb. While I found them all absolutely breathtaking, I was particularly drawn to the one that showed a fetus at just seven weeks gestation. I’d always imagined a fetus at this stage to look more like a tadpole than a baby, but as you can see from the image to the left, while minute, s/he is clearly a developing human being with eyes, arms, legs, fingers and toes and more.

This was particularly striking to me because between my two youngest children, I miscarried a baby at this stage. I’m not sure that you can truly understand the pain of miscarriage until you experience one for yourself, or are closely bonded with others who do. I caught some inkling of what it was like when, as an expectant mother myself, others around me experienced losses. It was a bit terrifying honestly – because from the moment I saw that positive plus sign on my pregnancy test, a child had been born into my heart and soul – my dreams, my imagination, my vision for my life and my family’s life. So it was difficult to see others lose theirs in what seemed to be a cruelly random and inexplicable fashion.

And then, after two healthy, complication-free pregnancies and childbirths, it happened to me. I was more fortunate on one hand as it happened so early, I’d only known about my pregnancy for about three weeks. To this day, I don’t know how women who lose babies significantly later in pregnancy cope, and I was also very grateful that it happened before I went in routinely at 12 weeks to discover no fetal heartbeat because that would have broken my heart even more. However, on the other hand, the baby that I lost was too small to be seen, and in our culture, no personhood is conferred upon these tiny lost ones. We rarely name them. We don’t talk about them – even we women rarely discuss them, often because our friends are pregnant and worried enough about their own pregnancies as it is. Society expects us to grieve briefly and then move on. There will be another baby. There will be another thing.

But look at the photo. Eyes. Arms. Legs. Fingers. Toes. Clearly human. Clearly a person in the making.

In the aftermath of my miscarriage, I remember praying to God, and saying that I KNEW that this child of mine still existed – had been born into Heaven as they say. But then it hit me that the very saddest part for me was that the arms s/he had been born into weren’t mine. What better arms to be born into than God’s, and yet my baby being in Heaven without his mother was too much for my heart to bear.

I’m not one to claim that God spoke to me though I believe he does, always, quietly, communicate with all of us – in terms and with images that we can understand and that could help us see larger truths about him and about his love for us. There are distinct times in my life when I have received almost undeniable assurances, and I believe this was one of them. As I cried about my child being without me, the whisper that I caught was that my baby had indeed been born into Heaven – but into MY arms there.

How could this be?

I believe it is because God is not limited by time. That Heaven is not a distant reality, but unseen, all around us. That there is no waiting there – no loss.

In human time, I was here without my baby. But the incredible assurance I believe I received was that my baby wasn’t waiting there for me, but I was there too and we were together. (Not just me, but very likely everyone I’ve ever loved.)

We’ve always been together.

My husband and I went on to have another successful, healthy pregnancy once we got up the courage to try again six months later. The pain of my miscarriage was healed and faded, almost forgotten, consciously at least, in the process. Our lost baby had been due on Christmas Day, 2011 – nearly a year later to the day, our beloved Erica was born. We couldn’t imagine life without her, and somehow, life is exactly as it should be.

Lately though, as I face the end of my childbearing years, I have felt sometimes that our family was not complete. Our family needed a fourth child. My son with four sisters (two from my husband’s previous marriage) needed a brother.

It wasn’t until I saw the image like my lost child of seven weeks that I remembered.

I don’t need to have a fourth baby. I already have one. A real person is missing from my human life. This was not a depressing thought, but a freeing, joyful one. Life won’t ever be complete for us here on earth, but in acknowledging that, it CAN be complete. As complete as human existence can be.

When you lose a baby, you often hear that it was “Nature’s way” of weeding out the sick and the weak. If there is one thing I know about Triune God, it is that this is NOT the way they operate. I don’t believe that a single one of these is ultimately lost. Our losses here feel cruel and random – ultimately though, I believe they are not because this dimension, if you will, is not our real home. We just sojourn here. And if we mothers love these tiny, unseen ones — and oh, we do — so does God because he is the source of all of our love. They are not unseen to him. If we know what it is to desire and sacrificially love a child, it is only because he does too.

Dads love them too, as evidenced by a longtime friend’s recent Facebook post: “I miss you just as much today as I have every day for 19 years. Here’s to the day I never have to be without you ever again. Love Dad.”

Here’s to the day indeed, What happens here is not the final word. What happens here is painful and it’s natural that we grieve, even for a lifetime. But what it isn’t is hopeless. We have so much to hope for. Thank you, God!

~ by Jeannine Buntrock

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