This is a new thing for me, this Threads of Hope, Pieces of Joy Bible Study. I used to participate in Bible studies similar to this when my boys were younger with nearby friends, but now it’s gotten difficult to schedule this type of thing. But I think this one, where I can “meet” with people on a time more convenient to each of us, may just work.
Allow me to introduce myself. I call myself the Purple Moose and our family members (pictured to the left) include my husband of ten years, The Bull; our seven year old son who we call Calf #1, our five year old who is nicknamed Calf #2, and our little girl who we lovingly refer to as Calf #3.
And then there is Shelomith, or #4.
In July 2009 we were excited to learn that we were expecting our fourth child. It was a normal pregnancy. . . normal for me that is, which means over a month of all-day nausea and extreme tiredness. I had no idea that anything was wrong with the baby until early in the morning of October 4 when I miscarried. This was not something that I had ever done before, and I certainly was not expecting it.
How to describe seeing our baby. . . wow. I had spent about a half hour convincing myself that the “gas pains” that would not go away kinda was just a bad reaction the chili dinner. The thought did come to my mind that something might be wrong with the baby, but I disregarded that. After all, I have never miscarried before. Anyway there was no denying what was happening when I held my tiny baby in my hand.
At sixteen weeks gestation, he was about four inches from the top of his head to his rear end. His skin was a darkish brown which surprised me; my hubby and I are both fairly light complected people. I was amazed at how perfectly formed he looked; yes, I’ve seen the “before birth” pictures but it’s different when you see it in reality, not just a picture. Arms and legs, fingers, toes, ears and nose; you could even see his dark eyes beneath his eyelids. His ribs that stuck out too far from his body. A tiny baby and so, so skinny.
My initial reaction was to scream for my husband, who is a fairly heavy sleeper. Then we called our midwife and she came over right then. I held my son for a long time, not sure how long. I couldn’t look at him, and I couldn’t look away! It was a gross sight and yet it was all I would have. (But that didn’t really sink in until later.) When I think back to that time, it is like I am having an “out of body” experience. Like I am standing across the room and looking at myself holding my tiny baby, and not being in my own skin.
Right now, I would have been nearly to the “finish line” with my son. It has been a difficult, painful road; every time I think “this is the hardest it could possibly be” it seems that it hurts more. Some days it seems that I will never get through this, that I will always mourn and grieve for my son in this gut-wrenchingly painful manner (although those who have gone this road before me assure me that it will.) (And yet, on some level I know this too as this is not my first experience with loss of a close loved one; I was widowed almost seventeen years ago.) (You can read more about this story here.)
Christmas was hard, what with all the talk of babies. I hoped that the pain would subside afterwards but it has grown–even while I have not. Maybe after I pass that ridiculous “due date” it will get better?
When I heard about this Bible study I thought this might be a good way to move past this difficult spot. To some extent, this is a very basic Bible study as I have learned many of these verses and concepts before. But there are a few t hings that really impressed me about this Bible study.
Initially, I searched for answers to the biological questions. What went wrong? What had I done wrong? Was it the lunchmeat? The Tylenol I took for my headaches, maybe? (Or were the headaches themselves an indication that something was wrong?) I had gotten electric shocks from two different lamps with electrical wire problems, did that harm my baby? Searching through a few trusted websites and talking with my midwife gave me no answers, except that it probably wasn’t anything that I wrote up there; likely, something was genetically wrong with our baby, some problem with chromosomes or vital organs. But we don’t–and won’t–know.
And aside from a generic answer, such as the nature of human frailty or the consequences of the fallen nature of this world, I don’t think there is in the Bible a solid answer to the biological Why. But I know, too, that the LORD knows more than me and I’m sure that He knows the answer; I’m just not sure I will ever know. And I guess, really. . . if it’s not something that I can do something about if we ever conceive again (I mean something like “avoid the lunchmeat” or that kind of thing) there’s no point in my knowing.
Psalm 139 and I have a love/hate relationship these days. I memorized it early in 2009. It’s such a sweet, wonderful Psalm, all about how much the LORD cares for us, knows us, how great is His love for us. All through the spring and summer, when I would lay in bed and start to worry or fret or find my mind running a million miles an hour, I would mentally recite this Psalm. By the middle part I would find that I could not remember what verse came next as I was slipping into sleep.
And yet, two days after losing Shelomith I couldn’t think about it without pain. You know how things become a habit and you just “click into” something? Well. . . I couldn’t sleep so my mind turned to good ol’ 139 and when I hit the “you knit me together in my mother’s womb” part (verse 13) I bawled. Partly because my baby was no longer being knit together inside of me; partly because I was knitting him an afghan and no longer needed to work on it.
(Side note: I cast off right where I was then and we buried him wrapped up in that little afghan, it was about 47″ wide and 9″ long and the perfect size to fit in the little box we used.)
Verse 16 strikes me as being important here for me: “Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (NIV)
Wow. Even though our baby had only a few days with us, the LORD still knew it. In advance. Before the first day. Before I even knew I was pregnant.
Ecclesiastes 11:5 is another great verse I read in this chapter. “As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.” (NIV)
I have learned enough about the Bible to understand that sometimes there are different possible meanings for words and phrases (I don’t claim to be an expert on this. . . I know enough to get myself in trouble I guess!) I was amazed at the other possible translation of this verse:
“As you do not know how life enters the body being formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.”
or it could read:
“As you do not know how the spirit enters the body being formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.”
Significance? Early on, two of my biggest questions were:
- When did our baby start to live? (I know that an unborn baby’s heart begins to beat at six weeks. I learned in December that the brain begins to function slightly before this. But what is it that makes an unborn baby live? When does that happen? Had my baby ever lived? I am certain that if his heart had never beat, we would not have gotten to sixteen weeks.)
- When did he die? (That second question is easy; because of his size and condition my midwife estimated 24 to 48 hours before the miscarriage. I am shocked and amazed that I was so out of tune with my body and my baby that I would have been carrying him, dead, for a day or two and not known it!)
(Unanswerable questions. I got lots of ’em. And sometimes I get a partial answer and it raises more questions. It’s not much fun having a brain sometimes.)
But anyway. . . No, I can’t answer the question of when Shelomith first started to live. And I certainly don’t understand the “whys” of “Why God allowed this miscarriage?” or “Why did God choose us to be his parents?” or “Why did Shelomith spend so little time with us?” Or even “What good did all of that do?”
As far as God’s comfort. . .I have long liked the verses in John chapter 14 where Jesus promises the Holy Spirit. I like that I don’t have to rely on myself. I like that the Holy Spirit is called the “counselor,” because there have been many times that I needed advice or counsel, someone to listen to the scattered questions in my head and sort them out for me. Have you ever noticed that sometimes just talking to a friend helps to sort these things out? So many times as I am praying things clear up for me. I love this!
In the New International version it reads: “If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever–the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” Then my favorite verse: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”
Love that part there, about not being orphans. Wow!
Anyway this time as I read this passage (verses 15 through 18), I re-read it with a focus on the Holy Spirit as a Comforter. Which is how it is translated in the King James version: “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter. . . I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.”
Early on friends who understood miscarriage (by experience) come around us to comfort us. It was lifting, encouraging. As the months have passed, life has gone on; I think I should be feeling better and yet each month is harder than the one before. People are busy . . . so many have great pain and difficulty in their lives and I really don’t want to bother or trouble them. And I wonder if they are tired of my whining. I read other peoples’ stories and realize that I really did have it easier, it was a fast and simple miscarriage.
And yet, I still need another Comforter. . . . people do the best job they can but nobody can fill this hole or make me feel all better. I guess that’s His job.
The “I will not leave you” part, too, that is great. Very comforting to me these days.
I like the title of the next chapter: This Can’t Be Happening. I have thought that many times over the past few months. And yet, it did happen, it is happening. I buried my son way before I expected to and I am not pregnant as we had hoped right now. Tune in next week to see what the LORD shows me next. . .