As I look ahead toward the finish line of this pregnancy (cue the nesting season), I am also looking back.
One aspect I wanted to share with you about this specific PAL (Pregnancy After Loss) journey is how I shared the amazing & petrifying news with my family.
Here’s a peek into those sacred moments last winter, which I wrote about at the time:
I was waiting for just the right moment. I had a congratulations Daddy card and a hunting arrow stashed in an easily accessible place in case the moment presented itself. Dinner happened. House tidying happened. I turned on a video for our two younger children and began to fold laundry. They sat on the floor, propped on big decorative pillows, at the foot of our bed, watching the television with gleeful abandon. I had a mound of clean clothes and towels on top of our bed—I stood there making order from the chaos, folding piece by piece, sorting them into piles according to whom they belonged. I could hear my husband coming. I sneakily put the card and the arrow on his bedside table, and I stood on the opposite side of the bed to match socks and smooth shirts. He came in—he walked to his side of the bed to begin helping me fold the things which clothe our nakedness, warm our chill, and dry our damp. He stopped, seeing unusual items on his bedside table—he glanced at me quickly, then opened the card. His face! He saw the arrow, he read my words, and knowledge of our baby’s life seeped into his bones and changed his world in a nanosecond. He hurried to my side—kissed me, embraced me, touched my belly.
Such a real life family moment. The biggest boy at a sleepover for the very first time. Two year old sister and three year old brother, watching cartoons in the background, oblivious to the joy and the secrets and the conversation. Mound of laundry, half folded thus far, grounding us in reality. Our entire world taking a new shape while we stand here in the bedroom where we share this bed—the bed where thirteen children have been planted from seeds, in a love that only we know—and where there are memories of every child, the joys and the griefs, behind and beside us. Wedding photos—family photos—baby memorial photos—nine little wooden boxes where the bodies of babies rest. This is a sacred moment in our own sacred place. I did not plan it, but I waited for it. In this real life family moment, our family life is changing forever, one way or another. And all I can think of is how desperately I want this baby to live! And subsequently, how I never want to be pregnant again—how I want this moment to be the last time I share this sacred secret with the husband whose heart is knit into mine and whose body is my other home. I nuzzle my face into his shoulder, and I sigh—please Lord, save Lord, life Lord!
Telling our children has been a game-changer for me. Right from when I told Steven over a week ago about this little one in my womb, he was eager to tell our three munchkins, while I have been very reserved about the whole thing. Scorched into my memory as a burn whose scar will never completely heal is when I had to tell my oldest son that our baby girl had died. That was over a year ago. And then just a couple months later, I had to tell him again that God once again had said no. That was almost a year ago now. But the guttural, visceral pain I tangibly feel all over again when I relive the memory of telling my son that his beloved baby in his mother’s womb had died is indescribable, inconceivable, inexplicable. So telling our children about this new baby was not at the top of my to-do list.
My mother hen instinct is too strong—I want to cluck about, covering these precious chicks with my wings, distracting them with shiny bugs and grain on the ground, protecting them with every ounce of my being from the hawks that circle, no matter how far overhead. But my husband had a different perspective. He said, Our children pray frequently for us to have a baby—they deserve to know how the Lord answers when He hears their prayers. We should not try to protect them from what the Lord is doing here. These children are part of our family, and this baby is part of our family. The Lord put each of us together in this story for a reason, and the kids should know this chapter of the story too. We should give them the honor, the joy, and the privilege of rejoicing with us and continuing in prayer alongside us.
He got me there.
So I made a little notecard to give the kids, and right before we started our weekly tradition of a Sunday evening “family fun night,” we sat them down on the couch—the oldest, the only fluent reader, in the middle—and told them we had a gift to give them. With the three year old on one side and the two year old on the other, the 6 ½ year old read aloud the note that there was a baby in Mommy’s tummy, in answer to their prayers—and now we would get to pray together for God to care for this baby and to keep it healthy and safe. Two year old Evangeline remained pretty oblivious, slurping away on her sippy cup of cold milk—three year old Asher took a decidedly toddler response by scowling and repeatedly dropping his fist into the arm of the couch without actually saying anything—and biggest brother Gabriel’s eyes got big, his cheeks dimpled into a smile, and he said, “is it true? Is there really a baby in your tummy?” And less than a minute later, he wanted us to hold hands, bow heads, and pray for our Father in heaven to keep this baby alive, to let it live, to keep it healthy and safe.
And now I feel like anxiety is bubbling up around me in more noticeable, tangible ways than it has yet in this pregnancy. I feel naked, exposed, vulnerable. My children now know my secret. My son who can read me like a book and see through me like a piece of glass will interpret every attitude I have, every emotion I show, every comment or action—and he and I will now go through constant unspoken communication, where he will try to uncover every secret every day, and I will continue trying to hide his eyes and distract his gaze so that he will be as sheltered as I can keep him for right now.
Suddenly my weakness is plain and my strength is gone. My hope feels precarious and wavering. Even my praise and joy feel translucent, thin, wispy, fearful. There is no more hiding, no more pretending. I know what comes next: the children who pray at half a dozen intervals throughout the day for the baby in Mommy’s tummy, the kisses to my tummy, the spilling of the secret to everyone we see next.
Thus begins my time of needing to regularly preach the truth to myself. To cover myself with the armor that the Lord has prepared and given to me. To speak the truth to my family, to myself, to my God—regardless of what fears, feelings, anxieties, hopelessness tries to sneak in. I will bless the Lord with my words and my actions. I will do what He has called me to do, and I will follow Him in that wisdom. I will trust Him, even when that means giving up my entire set of spiritual and physical weakness to Him—because only He can give me the strength of soul and body that I need right now to accomplish the work He has set before me. So as I go to bed tonight, carrying a child within me that nobody can see or touch or help, I will recite His Word to myself and to Him, asking Him to renew my strength, to crown me with love and mercy, to satisfy me with His goodness.
Over seven months since I wrote that, I am still daily needing to preach the truth to myself, and asking the Lord to cover me with His armor. Just last week, I wrote a PAL prayer using Ephesians 6:10-20 as my skeleton. Looking back and looking forward are both good things, because they both remind me to throw myself on my King and trust Him for His mercy.
If you have lived through a loss, and have found yourself on the other side of that storm carrying a rainbow inside your womb, I would love to hear from you ~ what was it like for you to hear that news and to share that news?
The conversation will continue again soon…