Sunday, September 12, 2010

Life in Exile


I've heard the words hundreds of times. "I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future" (Jer. 29:11). Words often spoken with the intention of instilling hope, but so often they bring back that ugly bitterness in my heart. What hope? What future, when the child I planned to raise is gone?? When I don't know if I'll ever get pregnant again?  I have been harmed – physically, emotionally, spiritually. What kinds of plans are these, God?

Sometimes, though, I forget that these words were spoken to a people who had as little reason to hope as I feel I do. The Israelites were in exile in Babylon. They were a conquered people; their city and temple had been destroyed; they were far from home, and decades away from the Lord restoring them to their land.  The older ones would not live to see that day.  What hope, what future could they have? And yet, God gave them a task while they were in exile: Build houses. Settle down. Increase in number; do not decrease; seek the peace and prosperity of the city where you are exiled. In other words, live. Don't put life on hold, waiting to return to the Promised Land.

When I lost my daughter Naomi, I felt like I was going into exile. I had been in the pregnancy "club" where women talk about birth and labor and nurseries and baby showers, where the doctor's office was full of pregnancy magazines. When I went back for a check-up after our loss, they scheduled me at a time for gynecology appointments, not pregnant women. The waiting room was the same, but I noticed – the magazines were gone. In their place were women's magazines that didn't scream "baby" on the cover. And while I'm sure they did that to save women the heartache of the reminder of what they'd lost, to me it was a stark reminder that I had switched club memberships, from expectant mother to mother of a baby in heaven.

I'd been exiled from the Promised Land. I felt conquered, defeated, without hope.

And yet – God had a task for me, too. To "increase, not decrease" – by committing myself to continue growing spiritually, emotionally, and relationally. Would my time in exile end with a less mature woman than I had been at the beginning? Or would I use this time to grow? "Build houses" – I needed to commit to building the family and marriage that I have been given. Marriages have the potential to suffer terribly after the loss of a child. Would mine become a statistic, or would it come through stronger? "Seek the peace and prosperity" of my city of exile. I do not like the city of Pregnancy Loss. I don't think anyone who lives here does. But while I'm here, I can seek the peace and prosperity of those who live here with me – through prayer, encouragement, and a shoulder to cry on.  I can build friendships with others who have been exiled here with me and help bring them back to the Promised Land – not the Land of Pregnancy, necessarily, but the Land of Hope and the Future, where we seek and find the One who does have plans for us and who longs to hold us in his comforting arms. And by seeking their "peace", I find peace, too, both within myself and with God.

Are you in exile, too?  Join us in fulfilling God's purposes - even here.

Monday, September 6, 2010

How many children do you have?

This question can take many forms.  If you are pregnant after a loss, "Is this your first?"  If you had children before your loss, "Are you going to have more children?"  It's an innocent question, and a very natural one.  I don't think the one asking it ever imagines the sting it can cause.  How I answer depends on where my heart is that day.

"I have one daughter."  The one who lives in my home and delights me everyday with her giggles, smiles, and hugs.  The answer I give when I don't want to go into a lot of details.

"I have four children."  The one I get to raise and her three younger siblings in heaven.   One girl-for-sure, and two who were lost too soon to know, although we gave one a girl's name and one a name that could go either way.  The ones who I cry for on the anniversaries of their losses and on their due dates.  This is the unspoken answer of my heart, even when I give answer number 1.

"I have one on earth and three in heaven."  This is the answer I give when my heart feels strong enough to handle the questions and compassionate looks that are sure to follow.  When I do, I am often surprised at what the other person shares of their own heartaches and losses.  There are so many of us who are members of the same "club" and when we find each other, it is a moment that is both sorrowful and sweet.

I was recently reminded that there is no "right" or "wrong" way to respond to this.  The answer we give to this question is for our sakes, not our dear children.  Their feelings are not hurt by how we respond, as they are happy and content worshiping before God's throne.  And how you answer does not diminish their importance or value -- in your heart or in God's eyes.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Introducing Naomi's Circle

Naomi's Circle is an online support group for parents of babies in heaven.  It's particularly for those in the greater Columbia, South Carolina, area, but anyone is welcome.  Our group is hosted by BigTent.com and you can join or access it from the links on this page.

This blog will serve as way to share thoughts and resources about the loss of a baby at any stage of pregnancy.  So many people don't know how to respond to someone who has lost a baby in pregnancy, especially when it is earlier.  So we'll talk about that and the range of emotions that come with it. 

I'm writing as someone who has walked this road three times since March 9, 2009, when our daughter Naomi went to be with the Lord at 18 weeks' gestation.  The journey God has brought us on since then is one I would not have chosen, but looking back I can clearly see His hand at work and how He is bringing something beautiful out of our pain.  May He do the same for others walking the road of pregnancy loss.  Looking forward to connecting with others here.