In the late summer of 2016, my husband, Seth, and I decided to start trying to have another baby — it did not take long. We found out we were pregnant in August.
This second pregnancy felt so different from the first because we knew much more intimately the amazing, difficult, beautiful moments of carrying and caring for a baby. We knew what we had to look forward to. We were overjoyed to have this added blessing to our growing family, to imagine our sweet son, Joseph, as a big brother, to brainstorm how we’d fit them both in one smallish room in our apartment. All of it was wonderfully exciting.
Just like with Joseph, our plan was to keep this news limited to close friends and immediate family until after the first trimester, just in case. We knew we probably didn’t have anything to worry about.
But I never imagined our joyful news would soon become heartbreaking news.
Our Worst Nightmare
I developed a crippling anxiety over the possibility of miscarrying. It is a common fear for moms, but my worry was out of control. It started with me checking for blood multiple times a day. Then I had recurring nightmares. I tried to trust God with it, but that is so much easier said than done.
So when I learned a local clinic would be offering a one-day special of free ultrasounds, and knowing my first OB appointment wasn’t until October, I jumped at the opportunity. I thought if I could just see a gestational sac, yolk sac and heartbeat, maybe I could find some reassurance and peace. Although it wasn’t a diagnostic ultrasound, everything looked healthy. We got to keep a picture of the baby. It’s the only picture we’ll ever have.
That was Monday, September 12th. The reassurance of that ultrasound was short-lived.
The next day, I started spotting. It didn’t seem like cause for alarm — just typical, first trimester stuff — but I struggled to stay calm nonetheless. Just to be safe, I called my OB’s office and got an appointment to check my hormone levels. The test results indicated everything seemed fine. The bleeding even seemed to stop.
I woke up the next day with a tentative hope that I would resume my happy pregnancy. But by lunchtime, I was bleeding heavily. I knew something was not right, so I called Seth to come home.
We took Joseph to a friend’s house and went to the ER. There my symptoms worsened, and it became apparent we were only there to confirm the obvious. All the anxiety I tried to reason through, all the nightmares I tried to shake off, all of it was unfolding in real life, and there was nothing we could do to stop it.
Our baby was dying.
The ER ultrasound showed the gestational sac was no longer intact, and the heartbeat we saw Monday was gone. We went home with instructions for managing the pain and were told to expect what the doctor called a spontaneous miscarriage. The tentative hope I woke up with turned into incredible grief.
I lost my baby that night.
I held the tiny, 6-week-old body in my hand. There was no protection, no motherly comfort I could offer my baby. There were no baby’s cries to soothe, no little hand to hold — just my sweet, precious little child in my hand and my husband and me, weeping in each other’s arms.
Despite the indescribable sorrow Seth and I were both feeling that night, we recognized God’s bittersweet providence that we were able to salvage our baby’s body. It meant we could have a proper burial.
Laid to Rest
We soon made a trip to the farmland where Seth grew up and where his family still lives. There, his mom helped us pick out a place to bury our baby. Later, we planted a flowering cherry tree to mark the grave and honor the beautiful and short life our baby had with us here.
At a local store, we found a beautiful box and cushioned it with a handmade pillow my sister-in-law tenderly made. And in that box, we laid our baby to rest with dignity and love.
The ceremony was simple. Seth and his stepdad co-led it. We read Psalm 23 and sang the hymns, “It Is Well With My Soul” and “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” and meant every word. Our family laid hands on us to pray for us before giving us some intimate, final moments together with our baby.
I had the privilege to pray alone with Seth in the moments before the burial. In my prayer, I acknowledged to my Father in Heaven, through tears and heartache, that I knew the time He gave us to care for this baby was over — that I was entrusting our child back into His hands. I thanked Him for six weeks, although I deeply wish we’d had our baby much, much longer. And I asked Him to please help our hearts to grieve without sinning and to heal. I kissed the box cradling my baby, wept over it and said my last goodbye. Then Seth placed it in the grave.
Hope in Our Hurt
The Bible tells us God is “near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). I’m not sure I understood how true that is until now. God’s comfort does not negate the reality of grief; the Bible makes no pretense that faith makes life a bed of roses. But God’s comfort absolutely changes the grief experience in ways only explainable by His love and help and the truth of Scripture.
In my moments of deepest grief, the moments when my head was spinning with screaming pain and sadness, God clearly reminded me that His promises and His Gospel, Scripture and songs of worship — though they clashed with my grief — rang true. He touched my heart with the tender affection and comfort only a loving Father would offer.
God provided, and He was present for us in ways I didn’t realize were possible. Even in the hospital, I felt relief I wasn’t going through it alone. I knew God and had His limitless help on my side. He gave me hope — He still does. And it’s not a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps, the-sun-will-come-out-tomorrow hope that’s determined by my strength or my circumstances, which are unreliable under the stress of life’s storms. It’s living hope that is much deeper than my strength or circumstances. It’s an anchor for my soul (Hebrews 6:19).
Without the hope of Jesus, I would be despairing, destroyed by the what-ifs and whys, angry and bitter, or some combination. But with Him, I am able to grieve and be afflicted without being destroyed.
Grace in Our Grief
Having a miscarriage showed me God’s grace in fresh ways through our family, friends and church community who came around us with prayer, support and words of kindness. I know their promises to pray weren’t just empty platitudes of Christian etiquette but were powerful intercession along with God’s will to help us.
And they didn’t stop at praying.
We had childcare when we needed it, when I was too unwell to manage my energetic toddler or needed a kid-free trip to an uncomfortable doctor’s visit. And friends and family gave us food, so I didn’t have to worry about cooking and dishes.
God has used this trial to further mold my husband and me into the people He wants us to be — in our character and our love for one another. At a time when we could’ve easily grown distant, grief pulled us closer together. God helped Seth to be my strength and provision of comfort and service when I was physically recovering, despite the fact that he was also grieving and tired. We wept in each other’s arms in a way only parents weep for their children, and it has strengthened our intimacy and made us each more tender toward one another.
I am often reminded of the prayer our dear friend and former pastor, Al Jackson, prayed over us at our wedding: “Grant them enough tears to keep them tender, enough hurts to keep them humane, enough adversity to keep their hands clenched tightly in Yours…”
It is no mystery that this time of suffering is a time God used to continue answering that prayer. I find special encouragement and comfort in knowing that, while we are grieved by this trial, our faith is being tested and proved genuine, worth more than gold. (1 Peter 1:6–7)
No Sting in Death
Finally, the most comforting grace God reminded me of so strongly in the sorrow of miscarriage is His proclamation of victory: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). He brought that to my mind when we were driving home from the hospital. We were overwhelmed with shock and sadness after we learned our baby was dead, but God made me unable to ignore those words of victory over death.
I felt such tension between my present grief and those words. How could death have lost its sting when it does sting — so much? What could God mean by making me focus on this? Later, I realized the point isn’t that death is suddenly okay, or that it isn’t incredibly painful and wrong; the point is that, despite all those things, death does not have the final say.
Without Jesus’ sacrifice, there would be absolutely no hope after death, no peace. That’s the sting of death. But I know there is hope and peace after death for those who belong to Him. And because I know and believe my baby was taken up to Jesus to spend eternity in joy and peace, I can believe death has lost its sting.
Death does not have the final say in my baby’s life. Jesus does.