Thursday, January 15, 2009

Her Story - Three Small Words

Do you ever wish that God issued a weather report for our days?

Warning - showers expected, have an umbrella.
Relax - bright sunny skies, enjoy yourself.
Watch Out - a sudden storm is blowing in, be prepared for disaster.

I've wondered this as I've watched different tragedies strike. On the day where several people were killed on a normal Sunday morning in service, what was going on that morning in heaven? Did God watch them get up, stress over getting kids dressed in time, brush their teeth, put on their make up? What was going though His mind? Did He whisper to them that morning? Did He surround them with a sense of His real presence? Or was it a normal morning? Did He sit quietly watching, saying to Himself, "Little one, today you don't know it, but today you will be here with me"?

I wish life came with a daily forecast. I wish He gave us a heads up on our days.

He doesn't, though. For reasons He knows, He lets life hit us full force without warning. When we least expect it.

That day I went in for a check-up was a day like that. Looking back, I know that God had His hand on the day. It was unusual for my husband to take off work to go to a routine first visit with the doctor. But that day, he was with me.

That last moment, standing around the desk laughing and talking. So happy. So unaware.

Then the doctor came out, and in we went. Up on the table for the initial check, and the doctor's confirmation, "yep, you're definitely pregnant again." Smiles all around. He measured my tummy, everything looking good. Asked about how far I was, and I told him what I thought, four and a half months, almost five. All good.

"Perhaps we will do an ultrasound to get a better idea right off the bat."

We eagerly watched the screen as the picture popped up. The doctor was silent as he moved the wand around one way and the other. I was a nurse, so I had seen many ultrasounds. Immediately, something looked wrong to me. The picture was moving too fast that I didn't know exactly what.

I wondered perhaps if I had my dates wrong or something. Maybe that is why it is harder to get a good picture. Maybe I am only four months, not almost five... maybe... But that is not what was missing.

The silence in the room should have clued me in... silence from my doctor and silence from the machine...

After a few more minutes with the only noise in the room being the ticking of the clock and the babbling of my baby boy, the doctor looked up and said the three words which changed my world.

"There's no heartbeat."

The silence should have told me. That was what was unusual. No ba-boom, ba-boom loudly filling the room with a fast tempo like trotting horses. Nothing. On the monitor, no flickering little white dot that is a tiny heart doing its thing. Nothing.

No heartbeat.

It took a minute for that news to sink in, past all the high of minutes ago, past all my dreams of two babies in the stroller, past the roundness of my tummy sticking up on the examining table.... no heartbeat...

My mind tried to scream at me. Do we need a heartbeat? Can't we fix it? Make it better, please ... Other things you can live with - no foot, no kidney, not enough amniotic fluid..... This was so final, so sudden. No heartbeat?

How can that be?! Just five minutes ago, we were rubbing my tummy, talking to my baby. No heartbeat? I think I lay on that table with tears pouring out the sides of my eyes and dribbling down into my ears for about ten minutes before I could even say to myself, "my baby is dead." Dead?! How can she be dead? She hasn't lived yet. I haven't held her yet! I needed to hold her. I just needed to hold her once. Oh, God, how can my baby be dead?

I sat in the car later, curled around my belly, one hand instinctively resting on the bump. A protective gesture - but how could I protect? She died. I didn't keep her safe. And how did she die without me even knowing? When did she die? Had she died and I just had gone on with my day unaware? She can't be dead. I can rest my hand on a round, tight tummy.

We drove home in shock. I am sure that the doctor said more to us, but I have no clue as to what. He did ask us to come back next week for another visit. This in itself became a bit of a difficulty since my husband somehow thought that we would come back next week to see if anything had changed. I don't know if it was his denial or the fact that he might not have put two and two together with how far I was, and he simply thought that maybe by next week, the heart would start beating. So for the duration of that week, I grieved, and he hoped.

We sat silent. Tears poured out of me like steady downpour on a quiet day. No sobbing yet, no crying, just tears without end. When we got home, my husband carried our now fast asleep son up to his crib, and went next door to work to tell them what happened and that he would be home all day. I went to my bed, threw myself down, and began to cry.

I cried. I cried screaming wails. But, my son slept in the next room, so I tried to keep my mouth closed and scream silently in whimpers. Durng the pain of my childhood, I had learned to cry without sound, so I did that now. I cried so hard that one of my eardrums burst. The pain registered only for minutes, and I continued to sob. Eventually, my husband came back from his work and wrapped his body around mine and we cried together.

Yet, in that hour or so before he came back, someone else came into that bedroom. As I lay collapsed across the foot of my bed, pouring out my very heart in tears, there came a stillness. Later on, I tried to explain that moment. The best I could do was to say it was as if God came down and picked me up and carried me to that very still place next to His heart and sat with me in the silence there. In those very special moments, I saw that God, too, was crying over my daughter's death. He mourned, too. He knew my hurt and my pain and was touched by it.

It was that deep closeness at that time which gave me the strength to live the next few days as I did. I saw God's heart, and in that glimpse, I realized that all the accusations and questions that would want to come in my mind to hurl at Him were not based in truth. "Why didn't You save her?" "Don't You care?" "Why would you do this if You love me?" Even the basic, unanswerable yearing "why?" had no answer, and no basis in accusation. He was not uncaring.

In the silence, God let me see His heart. As I lay there in exhausted tears, I determined one thing. I will not question God about this. I will not accuse Him. I sat in the stillness, and it was as if He put His hand under my chin, raised my eyes to look into His, and He asked me, "Do you know Me?" I did. I knew God. I believed many things about Him. I determined that minute to continue to believe those same things and I determined not to question His right to make decisions.

That day, as I lay wrung out from tears which would not stop, I told God the things I knew. "I know that You know what You are doing. I know that Your way is perfect. And I know that You love me." The next day, I added one more "I know" to my list which I repeated over and over to myself. "I know You know how much I hurt." My pain did not simply not factor into His decisions - He knew my heart and the pain that so crushed it that taking a breath was difficult.

At the same time as I knew God had a right to make decisions and He knew that He was doing, I had the deep knowledge that He knew my pain. He was not untouched by it. In the days to come, when I went out of my bedroom and faced the world, I faced many different reactions and different comments by people trying to mean well. In those difficult days, it was the ability to come running back to this place - this place of stillness, just God and me - that let me get through it all. Here was where I came to cry, to sit, to pour out my feelings before a God who Himself cried at my daughter's death.

In a real way, God hid me there, in that still place, and He protected me there. Outside was the storm and the chaos, the questions and the details, but there was that place of stillness where God hid me from all of that. Safe. He hid me in the stillness wrapped around His presence and sat with me. It was, at the same time, the worst time in my life and the best. It was a time where God met me like He never had before. And yet, it was the hardest time of my life. The very roundness of my belly mocked me as I walked or sat and rested my hand on it. How, in the very safety of my womb, could my daughter die?

I cried out my tears to God. Again and again, I lifted my face up and told Him, "I just wanted to see her. I wanted to twist a curl of her hair around my finger. I wanted to put a dress on her with pretty lace. I wanted to know what she looked like. I wanted to see her, to smell her, to cuddle her - just once, just only once. I needed to hold her."

God heard me. He was not finished with His ways of carrying me through that time. But for that day - the day that went from sunny calm to blinding storm - He brought me to a still place and hid me there. It did not protect me from the pain, but it didn't leave me alone with it, either.

God does not give us a weather report in advance, but He is a storm shelter in the middle of disaster - a very present help in time of trouble.

And... oh how I still miss her! My arms still ache to hold her, a solid longing ache which never disappears. Tonight, I kissed my little daughter good night when I tucked her in, and my eyes filled with tears for her big sister who I never got to kiss.

I still miss you, daughter of mine.


Iryna said...

Oh Ellie, to know God that intimately! And to have Him comfort your pain. I am so encouraged by your determination not to question Him. Your daughter's story reminded me of the excellent book by Dr. Dobson "When God Does Not Make Sense." I am appreciating my babies more because of what you wrote. Thank you for sharing and God bless you.

Karis said...

There are tears in my eyes. I have never gone through the loss of a child, and I feel a little awkward when ministering to someone who has although talking to friends who have gone through it has helped me feel comfortable with just being there and not having to say "the right thing." Your story has helped me to get a glimpse into the lasting emotions so that I don't just take time to minister only right after it's happened but am sensitive for years and years later. Thank you for sharing!

Chantelle said...

Hi there. I am a Missionary in Niger and get your blog sent to my inbox for reading. I was touched by your words today. I had two misscarriages at 12 weeks and also had profound feelings of the presence of god both times. You expressed in your words better than I could have written. thank you for being so honest!

Becky Aguirre said...

So glad God meets us where we hurt. I don't think life would be worth living if He didn't. Yesterday at my Coffee Fellowship time I had 3 of the new ladies to the field over for lunch, 2 of them have had at least one miscarriage each. You have a story that can reach women like these...