Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Her Story - The Things People Said

After an hour of sobbing alone across the foot of my bed, my husband came home and wrapped his body around mine. We lay together and cried. Here is where the confusion of what we absorbed or didn't absorb of what the doctor said set in. My husband was still hoping that next week the news would be different. He cried, but he did not yet let himself grieve because he still clung to hope. I knew more than he did. I knew how far along this baby was, and I knew that there had to be a heartbeat. It was not just too early. Yet, despite the confusion, we cried together.

Then the inevitable comes. The phone calls. The news must be told. I phoned my parents first, still slightly unintelligible through the tears and told them, "the baby died." Their instant reaction was, "not Bunny?!" (Son #1 will not let me use that nickname for him in public anymore - but it still makes a good threat - if you don't come when I call you at school, I will holler as loud as I can, "Bunny! I said come!)

No, not him. He's fine. The baby, the one not born yet.

"Oh, what a relief! We were so worried."

Ok. I get it. People say odd things when confronted with shocking news and the sheer fact of being stunned is some excuse for stupid things we say. Yet it was only the beginning of learning that people react differently to the death of a baby not yet born.

We went that week to our small group Bible study. At the time, we were in Europe and there was not a group near us that met in English, so we went every week to a small group of primarily American soldiers for Bible study. My one chance to speak in English. It was a good group for us, since they were also young couples and also having babies.

It is so hard to walk into a room in maternity clothes, meet friends you have not seen for a few months with a dead baby. There is no way to stop it or prepare. As soon as people saw me, from across the room their eyes lit up with surprise and excitement, and they began to move toward me with smiles. A round belly simply attracts women.

I cringed. Do I have to say it? Do I have to say it again and again?

Exclamations of happiness, greetings, kisses. "Oh, I didn't know!" "Wow, when is it due?"

It isn't. The baby is dead.

Silence. Dead silence in the room, growing like a wave from near me to the far corner where two people laughed heartily at their own conversation before someone poked them to silence, too.

I wished the ground would have opened and swallowed me. Facing the news reflected back in the shock and sorrow on so many faces was overwhelming. I wanted to hide. Tears, some hugs. If only we could have stopped there...

But no. People feel they must say something. It is built into us all... silence is awkward and we search for words to fill it. To make ourselves feel better.

To give them grace, it was mostly a room filled with young soldiers, young wives. Only two of us even had a baby at the time. They simply did not know what to say.

But that did not stop them.

"Oh, I'm sorry."

This is a good one, but no one stopped there.

"Don't worry, you can have another."

Another?! Another what? This is my baby, not a puppy that I bought. Is she replaceable?!

"At least it wasn't your son."

No. It was my daughter.

"Just be happy the baby wasn't born yet,; that would have been much harder."
Haven't I just spent the last few days sobbing out to God that I wanted to hold her, even just once?

"Maybe there would have been something wrong with the baby. Maybe this is best."

Best? As if I wouldn't have wanted my child if there was something wrong with her?

"Try to be glad. They would have been so close together; it would have been hard."

So, what? This is more convenient?

Never was I so happy for a study to start, and never was I so happy to get out of there! Each "comforting" word felt like a barb into my very heart. Can't anyone just be quiet?! I haven't even been able to come up with something to say - not after hours of melted tears in front of a God who is holding me through this.

I've found no reason.

I've found no answers.

I've found no comfort.

I've found no blessing.

I've found nothing that makes it ok.

All I've found is raw pain. And a God who holds me through it all.

Don't give me your thirty second answers. Don't tell me reasons, blessings, worse things. Don't even tell me that your aunt, cousin, neighbor, friend, sister went through this. My own pain is overwhelming me like suffocating in sludge, unable to even attempt to swim. I can't handle anyone else's too. Crushing pain, numbing pain, sharp pain, all running through me. I look out my eyes like a foreigner looks out at a new country. I don't even know who I am anymore.

Don't give me your thirty second answers. Instead, give me your silence. Come and sit with me in the bewildering mists of questions that float around the three words that took my baby away. Come sit, be silent, and let me lean on you, let me feel the warmth of your body as I lean against you so that I know I, too, have not been swallowed by the cold mists, but am still alive. Sit and question with me in the silence.

Don't give me your thirty second answers. Give me a hug. Take my seven month old son and tickle him. Giggle at him, and throw him in the air. Show him the world still laughs. The poor guy has seen nothing but silence and tears, and he is too young to understand why. Give me a cup of hot chocolate without asking me what I want to drink. Get one for yourself, and sit down and drink with me. Tell me you love me. I need to hear those words. The enemy whispers so loudly to me that God took my baby because He didn't love me, because I wasn't good enough. Be His words, be His love, and tell me you love me.

You have no answers. I know that. I don't either. I don't need answers. I need love.

But they were young, and not yet used to death. And there are always those few who know how to be there. My friend who said to simply come over. Come over every day, any day, come with no warning, no plans, just come. I am at home and you have a spot on my couch just for you. When I came, she did nothing different. We cleared breakfast dishes, did laundry, cooked lunch, cleaned the bathroom. She waited with me the day before the next doctor's appointment. We waited together. I did not have to face my days alone if I did not want to, and yet I did not have to face plans and activities. Just quiet routines at her house, where the sun shone in more than at mine, and the double stroller did not sit empty in the corner of the nursery.

It was this friend I called a few weeks later when I needed someone on a very difficult day to face. She came.


Shan in Japan said...

I want to say thank you for sharing, but that seems like a strange thing to say. I guess it is the need for words. We need to know that silence is okay and the way you have been sharing your story and especially today, I was reminded. For that I thank you. And pray for you.

Cindy said...


Just feel a hug, accompanied by tears and understanding. I still celebrate quietly (others still do not understand or realize the importance after 24 years) of a birthday that never came in a physical way...but one that will forever be in our hearts.

Thanks for sharing

Karis said...

I too appreciated you letting us into your heart this way. You are a wonderful mom!

Iryna said...

I have been hurt by what others say, too, Ellie. I am thankful for the healing and forgiveness that I have found in the Lord. Your comment reminded me to be sensitive with what I say to others. Thank you.

Ellie said...

Iryna, I think we are all hurt by tings people say, and we all hurt others just as fast, too. Sometimes it is just awkward not to say something, so we try. I still do that, but I did learn a big lesson to try to remain quiet or say hopefully less hurtful things.

Now I do sit beside people while their mom or dad dies often in the nursing home, so I try to listen more than talk - hard for me to do! :)

Iryna said...

You are so right, Ellie. I am, too, learning to just be there, sit quietly and just listen. It is not easy for me either.