I came across a quote that perfectly describes how my view of God and His plans has changed. It says, “We’re not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.” It’s from C.S. Lewis and it leapt out to me from a book I’m reading called “Finding God in the Dark” that my friend Amy sent me.
This loss has changed me. Prior to this, I had a pretty easy life. I had a perfect childhood. My parents always told me I was beautiful and smart. They are still married. We went to church regularly and I loved Jesus from a young age. My mom taught me about buying things on sale, but we generally got most of the things we wanted. We lived in nice houses with pools. School was pretty easy for me and I always had friends. I had nice boyfriends and got to be on the homecoming court in high school. I got voted “Most Lovable” 3 times. I felt special, safe and loved. As I’ve grown up, there have been some hurts and challenges, but nothing like this. I’m overweight and I really hate that about myself. I got in a car accident and had to have my ankle reconstructed at 24. I got my heart broken really badly at 28. My job can be really stressful. None of that is really so bad though. I always felt like God protected me and gave me extra blessings.
When Josh and I decided it was okay to have a baby, we got pregnant within 2 months, on the first real “try” according to my brief fertility tracking. I thought that God was again blessing me and giving me an easier road. I thanked Him many times for not making us wait a long time to get a baby. I thought since it took me until 34 to get married, He felt I had had to wait long enough to have a family and was helping me make up for lost time. I felt like my wide hips and family history of many healthy babies (my grandma had 7) was paying off. A few weeks before Luke’s birth, my sister was telling me about her new boyfriend’s ex, who suffered from incompetent cervix and had lost a baby girl at 20-something weeks and at least one other baby to miscarriage. I felt thankful that I seemed to be good at getting pregnant and growing babies. I actually thought God had designed me for that. All my life, I felt it was my purpose to be a mom and a wife.
Then we lost Luke at 39 weeks. During this loss, I have felt God holding me in the palm of His hand and catching my tears. I have felt the prayers surrounding us. He has given me comfort and held me up. I think I could be doing a lot worse than I am. But it has drastically changed my expectations of life. I know that He has control of the universe and that nothing can come to me without passing through His hands first, but I’m scared of what else He may allow. Gone is my previous worry that Josh would only want one child—it is now replaced with the fear that I will not have even one child that lives. Now I fear that I will have to walk this painful road of loss more than once. People often tell me I will have other children, but people have multiple stillbirths and miscarriages. Even people who really deserve babies. I’m scared. I don’t think I can do this again.
I know God is in charge, but if He let this happen, what else does He have in store for me? I have to remind myself that He says, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”–Jeremiah 29:11. I have to remind myself that life is hills and valleys, not just valleys. It’s just hard to see the good coming when you’re mired in the sad. But there must be some coming. I have to rely on the knowledge that He won’t give me more than I can handle and know that when I can’t walk on my own, He will carry me. But I long for the relief of heaven in a way I never did before. I think that instead of expecting good things as I naively used to, I may now be surprised when good things come. At least for now. What is best may not be what I want and it may hurt. A whole lot. Lord, please continue to restore me to health and give me back my hope.
My class went on a field trip today. We walked to the high school to watch an adapted PE softball game. I was feeling a little on the fragile side today (I don’t know why, it just is sometimes). There were 2 babies in view as we sat down on the bleachers and I was trying not to look at them too much because today that hurt. I focused on my students and tried to keep them entertained while we waited for the game to start.
A girl I used to have in my class sat behind me. I love this girl especially. She has a horrible home life and I sometimes wish I could take her home with me. She is a pretty and sweet girl who has some anger issues, but who can blame her with what she deals with at home? She used to give me a run for my money with behavior issues, but she made up for it in other ways. She has a good sense of humor and is always happy to see me. She has a beautiful, bright smile. We chatted a little and I turned back forward. Then she said, “Mrs. Hopper, where’s your baby?” I sat there looking dumb. She thought I didn’t understand, so she repeated loudly, “Where’s your baby?” I had to give her some answer. I said, “he died” and her face fell. There was a high school boy sitting next to me who turned his head and looked shocked. She said “Whyyy?” and all I could do was shrug. Then I had to leave the gym quickly, crossing in front of the crowd with tears in my eyes. I went to the bathroom to cry and try to calm down. When I came back, she said, “Mrs. Hopper are you okay?” and I acted strong and smiled and said yes. A few minutes later, she said “I’m sorry your baby died” with a smile on her face (she doesn’t quite get all emotions and social exchanges, but I know she meant it in the right way). I told her thank you and gave her hand a little squeeze. She was very sweet. I wish I had been quick enough to answer that my baby went to heaven or something better than “he died” but sometimes those 2 short words are all I can get out.
I hate these moments. It’s like for just a few seconds I switch into an alternate universe and get a glimpse of what might be happening if Luke didn’t die. Just a tiny sliver of a glimpse of what might have been. I’m reminded how shocking this loss is. And it hurts. Surprisingly, this is the first student to ask me anything about the baby since school started even though I worked up until 37 weeks pregnant last year. Either kids are kind of oblivious or someone talked to them all about it a lot to make sure they didn’t say anything. I guess I’m glad, although it’s just one more way Luke’s existence is kind of swept under the carpet. I can’t wait for the time in heaven when his life can be present and celebrated.
Sunday was my mom’s birthday. It was also the anniversary of the day we found out we were expecting Luke. That was such a happy, exciting day. I will never forget it. I had just started tracking my cycles the month before. I was using the “Fertility Friend” app on my phone. I thought we had possibly timed up with ovulation, although the test strips had never said I was for sure about to ovulate. That morning, I thought hmmm, shouldn’t I have my period today? I had some cheap-y pregnancy test strips that came free with the ovulation test strips I had ordered. I took one just for fun. A faint second line appeared. I took another one. A second line appeared again. I waited for Josh to wake up. I told him. He said, what are you doing taking a cheap test for something so important?! He demanded that I go immediately to the closest store and buy the most expensive test they had. He even said, “I will check later so if you don’t get the most expensive test, I will know” (knowing my tendency to be thrifty) as if the cost of the test helped guarantee its efficiency. I bought the test with great excitement in my heart. I brought it home, took it and we watched it together. He patted my head and started to console me, but then it appeared–a second line.
We were surprised and happy. We lay on our bed and snuggled and talked about it. I asked if I could tell my parents later when they came up to visit that day. (At that time, they lived 80 miles away. Now they live 6 miles away.) Josh agreed. So, when we went on a picnic near the lake for my mom’s birthday, I got to give the most exciting present ever on her 60th birthday–the news that her first grandbaby was coming. Both my parents were overjoyed. We had a fun day. That evening, I fell asleep on the couch while we were all watching a movie (out of character for me) and so began my first journey of pregnancy. It lasted 39 weeks. Although our Luke is not on earth with us, he was still created and he still exists. I miss him though. I wish the story that started on 9/15 had a happier ending right now. I know it will have a happy ending eventually, but sometimes that just seems so far away.