My wife had a miscarriage. Today we went to the doctor expecting to hear my child’s heartbeat. Our other kids sat on the floor looking up at the doctor like it was story time at the library. The concentrated frown made for the loudest silence I’ve ever heard. An ultrasound confirmed it. My kid died.
A few weeks earlier at the first ultrasound we let my 4 year old son give the baby a name until birth. We figured it would help him relate to a sibling he couldn’t see. He named our child Bubbles. The first coherent thought that emerged through the haze was to question whether or not we made a huge mistake. It wasn’t that we’d have to explain death to little children. It was that I let a 4 year old name my kid Bubbles. Whenever you catch yourself telling someone “God totally has a plan”, think of Bubbles and realize how ridiculous you sound. It would be hilarious if it weren’t so tragic.
I understand something I didn’t before. I’ve been told more than once that my faith is just an attempt to rewrite reality into something easier to digest. That lesser minds made up the idea of a loving God because the world just seems too cruel. It’s easier to imagine something better than to deal with a reality this harsh. I understand because I don’t want my child to be real. It would be easier. I cut my nails. Goodbye dead cells. This is different. Not just because it feels different to me, but because this child had a heartbeat. I saw it. There’s a picture documenting it on my fridge. I don’t want to have an abortion debate. I don’t want to argue over a clump of cells. I don’t want to use my loss as an excuse to self-righteously call someone a sinner or a baby killer. Right now, I just want to not hurt over the loss of my child, whose heart doesn’t beat anymore. I want to hold my child. I want a narrative without tears, because there is too much pain and not enough words to describe what it’s like to hear absolutely nothing at all.
Faster than I could imagine possible, women all around us took off masks worn to hide the same experience. They shared stories and comfort and compassion and love. They are wounded warriors with strength I still don’t understand. Then again, there’s a lot I don’t understand. I don’t understand what it’s like to secretly question myself and comb over my every action to see if I did something wrong to cause this. I don’t understand the shame or the exposure of having to explain what’s wrong. I don’t understand wearing a mask every day because I even though I bore a child within me and knew a heartbeat, I’m afraid to call myself a parent.
I don’t understand a lot, but I do understand that this sucks. I also understand, because the doctor told me, 30% of women miscarry, though I won’t know them or see them behind the masks they wear. It doesn’t make me feel better to know that 30% of women know how much this sucks, even if the other 70% don’t see it. That can’t take away the heartbeat I saw.
Out of sight, out of mind. If you can’t see it, tell yourself a better story. I understand the temptation. But whether you see it or not, it’s there. Faith is not the easier narrative. It’s trust that there’s more to this world than what I can see. It’s not rooted in my heart or my conviction. It’s founded in the fact that even if I can’t see a thing, others can and have. Ignoring everything you can’t see would be easier. Whether or not you can see behind the masks 30% of women wear, they’re real people with real pains. Even if I’ll never hear it again, I can’t forget the heartbeat I saw flash on an ultrasound screen.
It’s senseless. I don’t know the reason. I don’t know the plan. I just hate it. But so does God. Whether you see it or not, He did something about it. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. He became a fetus. He was born and named Jesus. He put on human weakness and human flesh to bear human sin on a cross only God could carry for us. True God and true man, He bled, He died, He saved, and He rose. He did this with you and your children in mind, even the unnamed ones and the ones unfortunate enough to be named Bubbles. His arm has redeemed us from a broken sinful world, pulled us back from senseless death, and reached out to comfort a mourning people. Not everyone saw it, but it still happened. Hundreds witnessed it. A few of them wrote a book. It’s as real as a heartbeat you’ll never see and the truth behind the masks you’ll never know. The death and resurrection of Jesus means something. Even for this. Especially for this.
To every wounded mother and father hiding behind a mask painted to look like nothing ever happened, find comfort, not in statistics, but in a Word of God that became flesh for you and your children. God still sends His Word into this world for you. It’s potent. It doesn’t just remind us of a nicer time, but affects a future one. It does what God wants it to. It saves.
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. ~Isaiah 55:10–12
That kid heard the Word that does more than we see. It was preached and prayed, read and sung. It will do what God wants it to do, and God wants to save. My child rests with God, whether I see it or not.
Leave behind the guilt and the fine toothed comb we run over our lives until they’re raw with grief. Hang the shame upon the cross. Know Christ rose to put an end to the stigma. He wants life and peace. Know that even though the plan seems senseless, ridiculous, and awful, God works in senseless, ridiculous and awful places for senseless, ridiculous, and awful sinners. He uses a cross to carve a path through the storm. Sometimes His footprints are unseen, but they still walk a path that ends somewhere good for you. I don’t believe this because this world is too harsh for me to deal with reality, but because God, in His compassion for this awful moment bore it bloody on a cross for me and for my wife and for Bubbles.
I won’t sing bedtime songs for Bubbles, but we’ll sing hymns together. We’ll commune together with angels and archangels in a Holy Meal that binds heaven and earth. I’m glad there’s no sin in heaven, because I feel like the name Bubbles would invite bullying. I’m still not sorry about the name. Love shaped it, spoke it. Love redeemed it, and saved it. I can’t see a heartbeat. It still beat. It will beat again on the last great day. Christ is risen. An Alleluia whispered through tears is an Alleluia nonetheless. Selah. Rest.
Psalm 77 – “TO THE CHOIRMASTER: ACCORDING TO JEDUTHUN. A PSALM OF ASAPH.
I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted. When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah
You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I consider the days of old, the years long ago. I said, “Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.” Then my spirit made a diligent search: “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” Selah
Then I said, “I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.” I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah
When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; indeed, the deep trembled. The clouds poured out water; the skies gave forth thunder; your arrows flashed on every side. The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook. Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen. You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.”