Category Archives: Loss

Oh Holy Night!

I am so excited for our Candlelight Christmas Eve Service tonight.  Gathering with family and friends, worshipping the culmination of our waiting, hearing my 7 year old daughter proclaim the gospel, listening to my husband Scott preach his God breathed words of wisdom and hope, cookies, conversations and hugs afterwards – I can just feel the glow of it all and I am giddy as a child on Christmas Eve!

There is so much to this sweet season that can distract us from all that is so very good.  For this day, in spite and maybe because of all the inevitable noise, chaos and clutter, I am feeling so grateful for the mess of it all and the chance to glorify a Baby who has given us everything.

My heart goes to a stable where a young mom and a first time dad wait and work under stars shining bright to birth a baby who will save the world. I think of each of my children’s births, how I have labored through the night with hopeful expectation.  Body full of pain and a heart full of hope that they would breath life into their lungs when I finally got to hold them in my arms, even when I knew deep down one would not. I still hoped, until they came.  God has never taken that hope from me and it is how he has sustained me.  Even when the breath of life was gone, I have never lost hope that all would be well.

I pray this season you may have hope, and love and joy and peace and comfort too.  All those things we write and receive on all those Christmas cards.  Read them, know them, feel them.  We are loved and we have reason to rejoice.

Merry Christmas!

Here, again is my favorite hymn of the season 06 – O Holy Night, listen loud, sing it louder.
I posted this last year just after Christmas…

A Thrill of Hope in a Weary World

Oh Holy Night speaks of the dual nature of hope and suffering in life like no other Christmas carol.  It speaks to my heart and gives me reason to praise.  As I seek to sing in a season of remembrance and hope, the lyrics acknowledge I am often pining and weary and hurting.  It says He knows this.  He knows our need.  He knows us! And in knowing Him, our soul finds worth, even in the midst – and maybe especially – when we have trials.  We are loved, valued, treasured – of worth.  I will overcome my suffering, because He will overcome it – all oppression shall cease.  At the top of my lungs, in a pitch I can barely reach, I sing my heart out…
.
.
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! O hear the angels’ voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.
Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim

A Thrill of Hope in a Weary World

Oh Holy Night speaks of the dual nature of hope and suffering in life like no other Christmas carol.  It speaks to my heart and gives me reason to praise.  As I seek to sing in a season of remembrance and hope, the lyrics acknowledge I am often pining and weary and hurting.  It says He knows this.  He knows our need.  He knows us! And in knowing Him, our soul finds worth, even in the midst – and maybe especially – when we have trials.  We are loved, valued, treasured – of worth.  I will overcome my suffering, because He will overcome it – all oppression shall cease.  At the top of my lungs, in a pitch I can barely reach, I sing my heart out…
.
.
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! O hear the angels’ voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.
Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim

The Most Awful Silence Part III

I was stone-still, my heart racing, blood pumping, body paralyzed when my husband Scott arrived shortly after I received the awful news.  In a flurry he came into the small dark room dimly lit by a single small light over the hospital bed.  Searching our faces, he looked scared.  Dr. B put her hand on his arm and said “I am so sorry Scott.”

He rounded the hospital bed to be closest to my side and grabbing my hand searched my face for explanations I didn’t want to give.

“We lost him” I said.

Tears broke and started streaming down the sides of my face, into my hair and onto the pillow cushioning my head on the exam bed.  My body was starting to tremble. “Our baby is gone.  He has no heartbeat.”

“No!” His face was pained and his voice started to choke as tears showed in his eyes.

Dr. B offered to do the ultrasound again so he could see for himself.  He looked at me and I said it would be okay not to.  I didn’t want him to have to live with that image.  He said no to protect me and I agreed to protect him.  As much as I dreaded doing it again, I wanted to, thought maybe the answer would be different.  I also desperately wanted to push rewind and have him with me in that awful moment.  I wanted to go further back than that; to this morning when he had hiccups, to Saturday when I had gone into labor and contractions were nearing 5 minutes apart but just went away after I had laid down to rest.  Why didn’t I just come to the hospital then?  Just moments, moments, sooner than this moment he might be with us.  There must be something I still could do, some way to turn back time.  We were so close, so very close to having him with us.  “Oh dear, dear God, how could this possibly have happened to my sweet baby boy?”

I prayed in vain; nothing, absolutely nothing could be done to change the awful truth.  It is hard to describe how utterly painful and terribly helpless a feeling; to have such a tidal wave of life-creating momentum over months and months, building and building and growing and gaining, to be at the precipice of the crest and suddenly, sudden-ly, out of nowhere, there’s flat, lifeless calm and it is the dark of night.  I could blow and cry and howl with everything that is in me and nothing, nothing will bring back the wave of life I was courting.

Hard questions were swimming around in my head as my body took on a new sensation of pain like none other I’d experienced before.  Deep in my chest, and at the base of my throat a hard mass of hurt was taking residence in my body that covered over anything blithe I ever had the luxury of feeling.

Dr. B talked about the rarity of the circumstances, which somehow felt reassuring, affirming.  It was so very wrong to have happened, I needed to hear it was uncommon. She said it had only happened once in all her time of practicing about 20 years or so prior.  She said we might be able to discover why once he is born.

“I took some homeopathic cough syrup, could it have been that?” I asked.

“No” she said reassuringly, “it wouldn’t be that.”

“I ate brie.  I carried my kids up the stairs.  I laid on my back at night…” I confessed my pregnancy sins, desperate and terrified to find out why, horrified at the thought that I may have done something to cause my baby’s death.

“Please God, don’t let it be anything I have done.” I prayed. I am not sure how I would survive the guilt of that.

I felt like a pregnancy pro by now, having done this two times before.  I had felt so self-assured, this pregnancy was so easy, so routine.  “I’m sure women in France don’t give up Brie” I would joke.  How terrible of me.

Dr. B said she’d give Scott and I some time alone and walked out of the room.  We held each other, starting to cry, still caught off guard and in shock.  We hurt so much.

All the statistics about how hard it is on a couple to lose a child flashed through my mind.  We’d already walked through our hard year as new parents after my second child was born when we weren’t sure our marriage was going to make it.  We’d done the hard work to rebuild a solid life-giving relationship and I couldn’t bear to go back to that lonely awful place.  As our embrace loosened I put a hand on each side of his face, looking into his eyes I said emphatically “I promise to be good to you through this” as serious as I was when I said each word of our wedding vows.

He often said how important those words were to him.  This was a promise I would keep to the ends of the earth, through hell and back, which was exactly where I feared we were headed.

When Dr. B returned she gave me the option to go home and rest for the night or go directly to the hospital to be induced.  Without a doubt I said I wanted to go then.  Scott held my hand and we both asked Dr.B when we could try for another baby.  We wanted our baby.  We wanted this baby. She gave a generic answer of a few months.  It felt like an eternity to wait, coupled with a whole nine month gestation all over again.  That felt so hard to bear, so long.

A wheelchair came to get me and my sweet nurse wheeled me over to labor and delivery while Scott went to get my bag of things from the car.  Thank God I had insisted on bringing my hospital bag.  I wondered if somehow I had known.  Somewhere deep in my body where my mind was yet to bring to my conscious awareness, had I known my baby was gone?  How could I have known?  How could I not have known?

And the long night of waiting, laboring to give birth to death began.  I secretly hoped, in the dark shadow that had overcome me, like a single pale star in an overcast grey night sky, that once my sweet baby boy was born he would be the miracle I longed for and take the deep life giving breath he was always meant to take, proving all forces of faulty human technology wrong.  And I would have the boy that I, together with my Creator, had worked so hard to give life to all these long days and months; the boy I already knew and loved with the depths of my whole being.


The Most Awful Silence Part II

My nurse was growing visibly frustrated as she searched and searched for the sound of my baby’s heartbeat with the small round disc.  I searched her poker face for answers, for emotion, for a sign of what to think and feel.  She never made eye contact with me until exasperated she asked

“Didn’t your OB do a doppler in the office?”

“No” I said timidly.

She left me to turn down the loud heartbeats coming from the other machines in the room.  I grabbed my phone to text Scott as quickly as I could like a high school kid in chem class, trying to squeeze it in before the teacher returned.  I felt like I was in trouble, like I was annoying her.  I texted:

“No heartbeat.”

Nearing the library, Scott got my message.  He was was scared by it, but confused as I had been, and deliberated about what to do being so close to completing his task and the threat of icy roads causing further delay. He too thought this was just some fluke thing; things always seemed to work out in the end, and we praised God to be sure, but felt a bit like life would always be good for us, before that day.  He drove one more block then quickly turned around and came to me as fast as he could in Seattle’s rush hour traffic amidst snow and ice.

Anxious and confused, I laid still as I could while my heart raced frantically within my chest.  In desperation she sent a new nurse to work on me.  A tall, sweet cheeked, familiar woman came in.  She had been my first nurse to orient me to this whole business of being pregnant 5 years before with my first daughter.  She knew me, my babies, my stories.  I needed that, I was so scared, felt so alone.

“Oh God, please let Scott come quickly!” I prayed

The first thing Kelly did was look me in the eyes and smile at me.  She said my name acknowledging that I was a human being in her care that needed to be treated as such.

“Now let’s find that heartbeat.”  She said with her characteristic slight giggle.

She was calm and happy.  I didn’t know if I could believe her words, but I appreciated them.  She felt around my belly with her hands, feeling the form of my full grown son and with a start said,

“Oh there he is, I think I felt him move there!  Now let’s get this machine to work.”

I didn’t stop looking at her face, her ever-present dimples, her happy eyes.  She kept talking to me throughout, telling me what she was doing in a matter of fact but sweet way that soothed me.  I was calming but it was my quickened heartbeat that kept giving us hope and causing the trouble.  A baby’s heart rate is around 140 beats per minute in the third trimester of life.  An average adult heart rate is between 60 to 100 beats per minute, the difference is rather significant, usually mine is on the low end.    We’d jump and smile at one another when we heard the fast thump-thump and then both of us would realize it was too slow to be my baby’s. Then she’d gather more goop and go for another swoop around and around my belly before pressing the doppler in again at the ideal place on my lower abdomen his heart should be strongest and we would hold our breath to listen.

“Let’s just get you in for an ultrasound.” She said, again with a smile and a reassuring pat to my arm, “I’ll get Dr. B”

She left me alone again and I stole a glance at my phone.  Scott had texted: “I’m coming”

I was relieved.  It couldn’t be fast enough.

Dr. B, a slight 5 foot tall blonde woman, who makes up for her small stature in wisdom and experience, came just a few minutes later and looked at me with reserved concern.  In a kind but matter-of-fact way she said, “let’s see what is going on.”

She laced her arm in mine to help me off the table and her short legs moved us briskly down the hall.  I wanted to dig my heals in and stop all of this.  I looked frantically up and down down the hallways for Scott.  I had no idea where he was, when he would arrive. I felt like a wild animal being taken to my cage.

The office was barren, thank God, and the windows that displayed a beautiful view of the Seattle’s city skyline had gone dark from the early winter sunset.  Dr. B was quiet as she moved us quickly down the hall except for one question; “Have you felt him move today?”

That was the question I’d come to hate at each of my appointments, for no apparent reason whatsoever, when nothing was wrong.  When she asked it, my body went weak and I nearly collapsed if it weren’t for her strong arm holding me up.    The veil of confusion began to part and deep dark heavy reality crept over me.

“No,”  I stammered, “Well, yes, he had hiccups this morning…”

My mind searched for another moment and panic started to take hold.

“That was it, nothing else.  I haven’t felt him since. Oh God, no, no, no”  I whispered my desperate prayer.  It was starting to make sense to me that something might actually be wrong and I was finding it hard to breath.

As my body weakened and slowed, Dr. B’s became stronger and she urged me forward, around the corner and into the ultrasound room, shutting the door behind us.  I was was scared, anxious and searching around hoping for Scott to walk through the door.  Reluctantly, in slow motion, I got onto the exam table as Dr. B prepared the ultrasound machine and wielded the weapon that would seal our fate.

“Oh God please let my baby be okay! Please let him be ok! Please Lord, please!”

I prayed over and over fast as I could, hoping against everything this machine would make everything right and the whole thing would just be some error in technology.

The ultrasound room was dim, with a soft glowing light like a night light just above the machine to light up the keyboard and controls. Dr. B scrolled over the image of my baby, the outline of his body, his distinct profile with facial features I had come to recognize, fully formed arms, round belly, and large chest cavity where his full flesh heart had once filled and fluttered rapidly while arms and legs flickered and flexed.  His body was still, his chest cavity a dark void, and I knew he was gone before a word fell from Dr. B’s lips.

“Oh Heather, I am so sorry,” Dr. B’s voice was so soft, serious, “he is gone.”

And there I dove into the deep end of grief for the first real time in my life.  The unbearable happened and I hadn’t been able to prevent it, predict it, prepare for it or pray it away.  It swept me down and out into the cold dark waters where breathing gets hard and I wondered if the effort it takes to stay above water was really worth it.