I saw a meme the other day that said, “If God only gives us what we can handle, then apparently God thinks I’m a badass.” Well, God must think I’M a badass.
Some of you may know our story, but I wanted you to hear it all, because man it’s a doozie. We’ve lost 4 babies. Yes, you heard me right, FOUR. Our journey through this “baby-stuff” started a year after we got married. We got pregnant on our first try. At our 18-week anatomy appointment, we found out our baby wasn’t going to make it. She had a severe neural tube defect and couldn’t survive outside the womb. Our doctors said she wouldn’t make it through term. It’s really all a blur now, but we made the heart-wrenching decision to early induce at 20 weeks. That is a decision I’ll always feel a twinge of guilt about; should I have waited, had more faith, prayed harder? And the only thing that gives me peace is that as soon as we delivered her (stillborn), the doctor looked at us and said, “You’ve made the right decision.”
After that experience, I became obsessed with getting pregnant. I wanted a do-over, I wanted to make it right, give Daniel a healthy baby, give my parents a grandchild. So over the next couple years we began the agonizing process of “trying” to get pregnant. I understand the horrible process of hope, sorrow that comes when you realize you didn’t get pregnant, and then the hope that arises again with a new month. We went on to have two very early miscarriages at 6.5 weeks (while I was in Napa at that – horrible experience but at least I got to drink wine the last day in Napa) and at 4.5 weeks (to which I didn’t even get to be sad on this one because my husband went into the hospital for his 3rd surgery that year – a whole other story).
About 6 months after my last miscarriage, we got pregnant with our little girl, Kennedy Grace. We finally had a healthy and perfect pregnancy with a healthy and perfect little baby girl. As I’m sure you’ve seen from the obnoxious amount of pics I post of her, she is absolutely perfect in every way, and absolutely a miracle of God.
You would think our story was over there or God was like, okay, that’s enough for you guys, now it’s time to move on to the good life I have for you. But, when Kennedy was about 13 months old, we found out that we were unexpectedly pregnant once again. This time I struggled with being pregnant. It wasn’t a good time for me. It was too hard having a toddler at home. I didn’t enjoy losing my post-baby body again and having to start all over, etc. (You get the point: I complained a lot.) At our 12.5 week appointment, we went in for our second sonogram to find that the baby’s heart stopped beating. Well, that sucked. I had to have a D & C which I had never experienced before, and that also was not a fun experience (except for the pain meds after).
But, I tell you all this to say, that I’ve been through almost every situation you can go through when trying to have a healthy baby. God has put us through the ringer, but I believe He redeems all of our storms for His glory and our good. I’ve already seen it happen. So, what have I learned through all of this? Here’s a few things I’ve learned that I think you should know too:
ONE: It’s okay to not be okay, because one day you will be okay again. After going through what we have, I now realize that I know more women who have either had miscarriages or suffered through the agonizing wait of wanting a child without being able to conceive. I don’t have a stat here, but I’m going with 80% of my friends have gone through some sort of heartache when it comes to having children. ALL of them have gone on to have beautiful babies through healthy pregnancies or through the powerful ministry of adoption. I think the most common feeling for us is that we are alone. We feel alone in our sorrow, alone in our pain. No one quite understands what we are feeling (we don’t really even understand ourselves), so no one can really be there for us because they just don’t get it. Well, I’m here to say, I get it. LOTS of women get it, and you are not alone. No one can tell you how to grieve or how to cope or how to get better, everyone is different. I can’t tell you how many times I was told I wasn’t processing it or I wasn’t grieving the right way. What I’ve realized is that it’s okay to feel all of the feelings you feel. You want to be sad, be sad. You need time to yourself, do that, but make sure and reach out when you feel yourself slipping into that hole of sorrow and self-doubt. Let your friends and family LOVE you, but don’t let them tell you how to feel. It’s okay to not be okay, because believe me, one day you will wake up and you WILL be okay. God can heal all broken hearts, and although you will never forget, you will be yourself again.
TWO: God will redeem it. I remember being at such a low point at one time that I heard the song “Worn” by Tenth Avenue North, and I just broke down crying because I could relate so much to the words. He says, “Let me see redemption win. Let me know the struggle ends. That you can mend a heart That’s frail and torn. I wanna know a song can rise From the ashes of a broken life And all that’s dead inside can be reborn. Cause I’m worn.” God will work in your story differently than in mine. But I just remember being finally mad at God, hadn’t we been through enough? I remember asking God if he still loved Daniel and Carol Gilham, because I didn’t feel like He did anymore. Someone told me that it’s okay to be mad at God, just make sure I’m leaning in to Him and not away. So from that point on, Daniel and I made ourselves start a “quiet time” each morning on our porch. He bought us composition notebooks, and we started journaling (I was like, UGH, journaling?). We started going through Hebrews together because I felt like I was being punished. It started out as something we did begrudgingly, and turned in to my favorite time with God and with my husband. We read John 15 most days, so that no matter our circumstances, we would ABIDE in Him and HE would be our joy. He brought us together, strengthened our marriage, and deepened our knowledge of our Heavenly Father through the process. I would never wish the loss of a child on anyone, but He did redeem it for us in that He made our marriage better because we truly learned that putting God first makes us better.
He also taught us how to increase our faith, as we went on to be pregnant with Kennedy. I read Matthew 17:20 everyday to remind myself that God can move mountains, raise people from the dead, and even if my body wasn’t capable of making a healthy baby, HE COULD, and He did.
THREE: People say some stupid sh*t (insert cuss word here). Everything happens for a reason. God won’t give you anything you can’t handle. God has a plan. Thank goodness it happened now and not later. It always happens because that is God’s way of saving you from having a child with abnormalities, etc. As I went through different stages of grief and waiting, different words encouraged me. In the beginning, I loved and needed to see pics of all of your friends who had similar experiences who went on to have beautiful families, but then after two years of trying and failed pregnancies, I was more like, “Please stop showing me pics of your friends who went on to have beautiful kids and please stop asking me if I’ve looked into adoption.” I say that to say that if you know people going through a storm, be careful with your words. To be safe, just be there, be present and tell them you love them. Some of the most powerful prayers over me were from friends who just said, “I don’t get it, God. This sucks.”
FOUR: You aren’t broken. I mean, we are all broken in the Gospel sense of the word. We all on our best day still in need a Savior. But what I mean is, you aren’t a broken woman if you can’t conceive, can’t conceive naturally, or only have one child, or no children at all. For some reason, we compare ourselves with what we don’t have. We look at those women who have the perfect two, three kids and think that is what we are supposed to be like. But God is the only one that gets to define you, and He says you are beautiful, valuable and loved. When I didn’t have kids, all I wanted was to have a child. Then when we lost this last child, now I have started looking at my family as broken because we should have at least TWO kids to be a complete family. Where did I get this nonsense? I think it just comes down to wanting what we don’t have, a husband, a child, two children, etc. and all we really need is Him. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ll be the first person to tell you those desires are legit and don’t ever let anyone tell you that, “Once you are okay with just you, God will bless you with those things.” That’s crap. Those are healthy, God-given desires, and it’s okay to want them. We just have to be careful to ABIDE in Christ, give that desire back to God everyday, and trust Him that His timing is better than ours because He does work all things out for His glory and our good (believe it or not right now).
I hope that reading this has encouraged you, or at least made some of you feel less alone in your journey to motherhood. Believe me, I would take all of the pain and loss to get where I am today in my relationship with Jesus as well as have the perfect little child that Kennedy is. But it’s taken me about 4 years to get here.