“Do you have any other children?” is a tricky question to answer at times. So is, “Are you planning on having any other children?” Questions I initially would not have given much thought to have revealed to me a whole new world of people who grieve the loss of babies. Those who have had babies who have died before full term, after full term and for some people, the baby so wanted but never conceived.
I don’t want people to regret asking me these questions if I answer honestly but like many people my answer is not a simple one. In 2007 my husband and I had a baby girl, who was still born at 21 weeks. We then welcomed our son, Caleb, at full term into this world the following year with much joy and since then have had a further two miscarriages.
To answer the original question, my husband and I have four children as we believe three in heaven and our son Caleb here on earth.
I remember being assured by friends after losing our first child that the value of a life is not in its length but in what God chooses to do with it for His glory. This has brought much comfort when I consider the brevity of our three babies’ lives here.
I have traversed what often seems like a long and winding road marked with grief over the last years. A road upon which I never foresaw our feet treading and have therefore become utterly convinced of the fact that God’s ways are truly not ours and that His wisdom and understanding are far beyond our comprehension:
For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Romans 11:34
Returning from a year of studying abroad in 2007 we were expecting our first baby who was most wanted, prayed and hoped for. That same year my grandmother, who had been a shining light in our lives, died suddenly. Her absence brought us all much loss and pain as a family but our unborn baby brought new hope and joy and again we could readily proclaim God’s goodness.
The same day we moved house on a late summer’s day we had a routine midwife appointment. We were excited at the prospect of hearing our baby’s heart beat.
What was in our plan supposed to be a routine appointment turned into hours of unbelievable shock and dismay. No fetal heart beat could be found and the death of our unborn baby was soon confirmed later that day in a small, dark hospital scan room.
At 21 weeks our first baby was still born on the 3rd of September, 2007. A little girl named Charis (Greek for Grace). She was wrapped in a colourful knitted blanket and handed to us. With her tiny fingers and nails, her eyebrows and a little button nose – despite her physical frailness and smallness she was perfectly formed and she was our daughter. As I looked down at her, with her little mouth opened I was reminded at some point unknown to me our baby had quietly died. This memory can often cause me pain but God lovingly reminds me that He knew our wee girl and all her days and that He was with her and still is:
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them. Psalm 139: 13-16
To know that your baby is dead within you is beyond words and to give birth to your dead baby totally unnatural; death where there should be life. The hours in labour and especially the latter minutes before delivering Charis, I walked the shadow of death:
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4
I was very aware while in labour that our Heavenly Father will only bring into our lives those things which he will give us the strength to cope with:
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13
The hours, days and weeks that followed were testing, difficult and distressing. I initially considered all the things I could have done to cause the death of our baby. I knew deep down I was not to blame but I think as a mother you have an innate instinct to protect your child and so do question like this. I remember the first night in our new house after we had found out Charis had died, lying in bed considering our circumstances – a miscarriage, a new home in a new area, a new church and us both starting new jobs.
Was God still good?
In the months that followed we learned anew together what it was to rejoice in the Lord with a broken spirit and to find blessing through suffering. Please don’t ask me to explain this as it must be one of the mysteries of the Christian faith that in our pain we can know a deep contentment. Someone once said that joy is not the absence of suffering but the presence of God. Somehow we continued to proclaim that God is good. In a children’s memorial garden in Glasgow is a plaque which reads:
In memory of our baby
3rd September, 2007
“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation”
We were greatly humbled by the love and support that was given to us by people in the church and community – many of who are treasured and lasting friends. God truly humbled us. We had moved with the perception that we primarily would be ministering and serving, and we ultimately were stilled, and were ministered to.
Time went on and at the start of 2009 we were excited and daunted by God’s leading to Robroyston Church, where my husband would be minister in his first charge. I had purposefully given up my paid work when Caleb was born to care for him, and in our mind to have more children, as well as be involved in ministry. We were therefore delighted to find out just before Caleb’s first birthday that I was pregnant.
A few weeks later however I was to have my second miscarriage and once again we were to walk a new path of grieving.
Informed after a scan our baby appeared to have stopped growing at 9 weeks I was assured that were I to miscarry it would be nothing like my first experience of miscarriage. After returning home, a few days later my husband rushed me into hospital with sudden, heavy bleeding, resulting in a blood transfusion.
My dignity was left at the hospital door that Sunday evening in November and it took time to return as I called out to God, telling Him of my pain and distress. I had been so terribly afraid, my miscarriage feeling out of control compared to our first loss. Where was God? Why had I been unable to sense Him or His presence? To not see your babies at all and know the manner in which they have been “lost” appears so wrong in light of each one of us being made wonderfully in the image of God.
As we approached Christmas that year I couldn’t believe how much pain and previous emotions from losing Charis were raised. I distinctly remember thinking, “Lord, what You are doing?” We were so thankful for our son – though he did not replace the child whom we had lost to this world.
At the start of 2010 my life seemed far from what I had imagined it would be. I battled feelings of inferiority and worthlessness, often saying to God, “I have given up my work for a family and we can’t give Caleb a sibling”. I saw my peers balancing part time or full time jobs with more than one child and I compared myself to them and felt somehow unproductive in my role. God lovingly reminded me that my worth was not relational to how many children we had, or whether I was in paid or unpaid employment but that I am His child and there chiefly is my worth and purpose.
At Easter 2010 I had a third miscarriage. Investigative tests into our losses had now been commenced but results were inconclusive. We attended the hospital in fear in trembling for an early scan, convinced that there was some thing wrong with the pregnancy. We were however amazed when a positive fetal heart beat was found and we thanked God. The following week our scan revealed no heart beat as we were met with the familiar words from the sonographer, “I’m so sorry …”.
Somehow I felt the most assured of God’s goodness and sovereignty after our third loss despite not understanding God’s plans or way. Like Paul, I was learning more what it means to be content in all circumstances (Philippians 4:11) and to truly be thankful for what I had, though undeniably through great pain.
I am convinced now of many things that I knew vaguely four years ago about God. Like Job, I can proclaim that I have seen Him. I have been told more than once after a miscarriage that “It’s not my time”. I am totally assured that God’s timing is perfect. It was my time, it is my time now and will continue to be my time as God works out His will for my life.
Moreover the children that we have lost to this world were loving purposed by God and were significant. I am living under God’s will just now despite the fact that I have suffered, and I know that I am blessed, not cursed.
My hope is living and it is not ethereal. My God is the one true living God and my saviour is Jesus Christ Who has defeated death and is alive now and for evermore.
I am loved and I can trust Him.
What’s in the future for us now as a family? I do not know but God does. What I am certain of is captured in these words from a hymn we sang at a thanksgiving service for Charis:
“When peace like a river, attends all my way,
When sorrows like sea-billows roll,
Whatever my path, You have taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul”. Horatio G. Spafford
Thank you to everyone who has prayerfully and practically supported this web site from its initial inception as an idea to its launch. Special thanks to David Rowbory for originally designing the site.