Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bye-lo Baby

“Beautiful life, full of grieving…”
~The Innocence Mission, Into Brooklyn, Early in the Morning

Some six weeks ago I discovered I was pregnant. We spent those weeks in the usual way: joyously anticipating the birth of another child, and the addition of another member to our family. Pulling all the pregnancy books off the shelf gave me a secret thrill; and I relished the mornings the girls and I spent paging through one book in particular, “Beginning Life,” which uses real photographs to illustrate what is happening inside the womb during each week of prenatal development.

I cannot but smile now, when I recall the evening Dutch came home looking dog-tired; when we sat opposite each other at dinner, and commiserated about how we’d both felt thwarted that day. I said, “Well, whatever we did or didn’t do pales in comparison to what our baby did – which was to sprout arms and legs!” We talked of names, and Audrey clung to one of her old ideas, that we should have two babies, and name each one carrot. “That way,” she explained, “we could have two baby carrots.”

But then, quite unexpectedly, something went wrong. After only two months I became one of those awful statistics, proving that 2-3 in every 10 pregnancies end in miscarriage.

Driving home from the doctor, I cringed to think of telling the girls, who'd spent the morning playing with friends.... When they arrived home they found me sitting on the back patio, wrapped in an enormous pink blanket, listening to old hymns as water trickled into the pool. They ran to my side and embraced me as though I’d been away a long time.

When I held her at arm’s length, Audrey gave me a look I'd never seen before. A strange mixture of hesitation and interest. “There’s not a baby in your tummy anymore,” she said quietly, as if to relieve me the burden of wondering whether or not she knew. And Evie said, in her emphatic way, “Daddy told me that, and I CRIED.”

Some awkward moments of palpable silence passed, in which I attempted to stifle the flow of tears. Audrey walked to the edge of the patio and peered down into the garden. “Mommy," she said, picking at her fingers, the way she always does when in a state of contemplation. "Mommy, what would you think about if we planted some flowers down there?"

"Flowers?" I said, bewildered because we spent the last two weekends planting winter bulbs. "Okay... but why?"

Audrey turned to face me. "For - for saying goodbye to the baby,” she said, then twirled back around and pointed at a little bed of verbena, its tiny purple petals peaking up through a sprawling bed of green. “Or. Or - Mommy," she panted, excited now, "I know! What about those purple flowers down there? See them? We could name them our Goodbye Baby flowers.”

When at last I could speak I told her I thought this a beautiful idea... and marveled that something, someone, who was a part of our lives, and a part of me, for so short a time could have made such an imprint on all our lives … It may sound strange to say, but the fact that we feel so great a loss has come as somewhat of a surprise to me. A surprise which, I suppose, cannot be explained apart from the fact that God made us to love as He loves - even those things that seem too small to signify.

After the girls had gone to bed, Dutch said to me, “Do you really believe that this life, this soul, was a real…someone we will meet in eternity?”

I was a quiet a moment. At last I said, “If you and I, who are made in God’s image, care so much about this little life — is it conceivable that God could care less?” After all, what are we to God, but a little cluster of cells which is here today and gone tomorrow? Relative to eternity, all life is but a vapor. But God cares for us. “Your eyes have seen my unformed substance,” writes the Psalmist, “and in Your book were all written for me the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them” (Psalm 139.15-16); proof that the life which in our eyes ended before it had fully formed, in God’s eyes is complete – complete and fully known - from the moment it was borne out of the mind of God.

The night before it happened Grandpa came for dinner and while Dutch and I made milkshakes in the kitchen, he read the girls a story about a baby bunny whose future vocation is imagined, in turns, by each of its relatives. As I listened, my heart, which was already gripped by a sense of foreboding, swelled with longing, and I couldn't but hope that one day we’d all be sitting around our baby, exchanging similar speculations.

As the story goes, Baby Bunny did not want to be any of the things his family imagined for him. Instead, writes the author, "Baby Bunny sat in his basket and smiled at his bunny family. He knew what he would be.” I realize now that, in the same way, God, whose ways are infinitely higher and better than our ways, knew – has always known - just what this baby would be: not a mailman or a farmer or an engineer, but a child of the resurrection; where, like the angels in heaven, he can no longer die (Luke 20.34-38).

The following Saturday afternoon I was outside, losing my sadness in the assembly of a dollhouse for the girls when Dutch came and sat down beside me at the table. “How are you doing?” he asked. I couldn’t look up, couldn’t speak for tears; could only listen as he told me, falteringly, that he felt God had given him a name for the baby in prayer.

"What was it?" I asked.

"Do you want to know?"

"Of course," I said, half-choking.

We held each other’s gaze a moment. His blue eyes, normally so clear, were full of tears. His lips trembled, and his whole countenance bore a kind of world-weariness which was amplified by his unshaven face and rumbled shirt. "His name - " he said finally, "His name is Isaiah."


Isaiah. Oh, I thought to myself, in quiet desperation, I love the way it sounds! Suddenly, I saw a little boy sitting at my dining table with sleek brown hair and large blue eyes; I could see myself peaking at him from the kitchen, hear myself calling him, “Isaiah! Bring your plate to the sink and hurry, get your shoes on. You’ll be late for school!”

Late that night, I looked up the meaning of the name. In Hebrew it means, "God is salvation" or "it is God who helps me."

It occurred to me that there is a story about Isaiah in our Jesus Storybook Bible. I looked it up immediately and read it straight through. As author Sally Lloyd-Jones has it, Isaiah's name means, ‘God to the rescue!’ because the prophet Isaiah was chosen to convey the message of salvation to God's people in Israel: "Now, God let Isaiah know a secret..." she writes. "God was going to mend this broken world…” “…He was going to make all the sad things come untrue…” “…Even death was going to die! And he will wipe away every tear from every eye...”

This was the Secret Rescue Plan God showed to Isaiah: “Operation 'No More Tears!’”

Even Ms. Lloyd-Jones admits that it sounds like a fairytale which, as everyone knows, rarely come true... But this one did. Jesus, the Son of God and Creator of all things, made Himself small. He became a man, and died a sinner's death so that all men could become his sons and daughters; so we could live forever, clothed with the garments of salvation, adorned like a bride in her wedding ornaments, for the everlasting display of His splendor (Isaiah 61).

It is no small comfort to think that our littlest one is now experiencing in full the salvation we can only perceive through a glass dimly; he knows in the fullest sense that help which comes from God alone; and of course I relish the thought that perhaps one day – in that place of No More Tears, where all the sad things have come untrue – we will be given the chance of meeting.

“Long roads of orange groves
I try, try to see down.
Joyful arrival may be far, far away.
When will I see you coming so many miles?
It is too early to say.
Out in the backyard I will wait for a downpour.
The sky may open but it won’t be today.
When will I see you coming so many miles?
It is too early to say.
Oh down orange groves, narrow roads
I have been looking.
I am half in tomorrow and half in today.
When will I see you coming so many miles?
It is too early to say.”

~The Innocence Mission, Too Early to Say


Cortney said...

so sorry my sweet friend. my heart hurts for you and your sweet little boy. sad that he will not, this side of heaven, get to experience his precious mommy's arms. love you.

Jessie Thetford said...

Wow. So moved... thank you for sharing this. I truly admire the way you glorify God, even in grief.

Celia Jimenez said...

Heather...I sat with tears streaming down my face reading this post. I grieve with you in this precious loss of life but rejoice with you that he is in the presence of our Savior.
I don't often comment on your blog...but read it all the time. I am encouraged by your insight and challenged by your posts. That you would look upon grief that is so fresh and once again take it to the Lord and find it redeemed is just another reason why your blog is so poignant! Praying for your family during this time!!!

Alexandra said...

I've never commented here before, but always love your posts and glean so much from them. Thank you so much for posting this. My husband and I lost our first in September, I was also about 8 weeks along. We also were so thankful to be able to find some sweet joy in this time of bitter sadness- knowing that God loves that little one more than we ever could, and that our little peanuts are with Him in a place that is far better than here is such a comfort. Thank you for speaking these words of truth, I'm sure that many will benefit from hearing them or being reminded of God's great love and the comfort that he provides. I am praying for you and your family, may you find peace and solace in Him.

Aubre and Gary said...

I am so saddened to hear of your loss, but joyous that God has Isaiah in his arms! Please give my love to Hessel and I pray for peace and comfort for your family.

Love, Aubre Rice (Christy)

Dawna said...

Dear Heather,
I came across your blog today for the first time and read this post. How my heart breaks for you yet rejoices that you and your husband know the TRUTH. Your son is in the arms of Jesus and you have the hope/joy of seeing him one day. Please know that there are those of us out here in bloggy land praying for you and your family. May our awesome God comfort you in His everlasting arms today.

Mrs Bic said...

Heather, I am so sorry. I thank you for sharing yourself so freely.

allison said...

Been thinking of you and praying for you often since I read this post many weeks ago. Thank you for sharing. As always, I love and admire you. xo