July 4, 2011

What You've Already Got

Four years ago, I became a mom - a few weeks later, we lost our baby to devastating miscarriage. We sought rest in the shadow of the Lord’s wings as we focused on God’s great love for us, regardless of the trials He brought our way (Psalm 36:7).

People consoled us with the cliché, “you can always have another.” My baby wasn’t disposable: she was irreplaceable - I didn’t want another baby, I wanted her. And who was to say that I could have another baby? And how would that make the death of my first baby less bitter? Then in my naïveté I believed the cliché. Surely God would refill my womb, and nine months later He would fill my arms with a squirmy little bundle. And you know what? In His incredible providence (and our huge surprise, retrospectively), He did.

Eventually, I thought I outgrew my naïveté. But the Lord showed me that I was just at the beginning. We had more miscarriages. The cliché from before grew new angles as we were reminded to “be grateful for the child you have.” Why does grieving the death of a child make people assume that I am therefore not thankful for our living child?

After suffering seven miscarriages, I admit we receive fewer less-than-comforting clichés, but they are not eliminated. Frequently, I am told to focus on the living child that God has given me. I smile and nod, sometimes saying thank you, as I understand the intention behind this is generally kind and well-meaning. To an extent, I honestly agree - I never want to dissolve into such grief that I am unable to properly nurture my living child. Yet, reality is: this child’s life doesn’t replace the lives of his siblings. There will be voids in our life, family, home until we reach heaven.

Oddly, I don’t feel the need for reminders to “be thankful for your living child” and “focus on the child God has given you”; I find my thankfulness has grown exponentially for him through our grief, as we have seen the value, beauty, and miracle of life. Our living child has never been more precious to us. So when people “encourage” me thus, I feel discouraged - even downtrodden. Guilt seeps in. If I grieve over my babies’ deaths, I am apparently not a good mom to my living child; if I don’t grieve over my babies’ deaths, in the name of focusing on my living child, I am not a good mom to my babies in heaven. Either way, it heaps guilt upon grief.

Regardless of how many living children a family may have, their sweet presence cannot negate the pain, grief, and loss the family suffers. It would behoove everyone to remember that death is death, no matter how much life is left in its wake. Death is grievous, devastating, permanent. Instead of exhorting bereaved parents to focus on their living child(ren), we could learn to encourage bereaved parents by pointing out how we see their love and care of their living child(ren) growing in the midst of their grief. So often, the Lord simply grows our appreciation of their lives, our tenderness in nurturing them, and our love in living out Christlikeness to them.

I continue seeking the Lord’s grace and strength to balance my motherhood in a godly way - being a devoted mother to all of my children, regardless of where they are. This is just one way God allows us to “…not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).

Melissa seeks to grow in grace and wisdom alongside her husband, Steven, while pursuing joyful domesticity by nurturing her home, garden, and family. She finds joy in writing, music, crafts, cooking, ministering to those in grief, and currently enjoys watching the building of their dream home in the country.