October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month. If, like me, your preborn baby has died as a result of pregnancy loss, I pray that the “me too” of my story will comfort you in yours.
Gray shrouded the Colorado sky that particular Saturday morning in 2010. Rain had fallen sporadically throughout the week and, as the color of the heavens hinted, threatened to continue into the weekend.
“How soggy do you think the grass is this morning?” I asked Ted, as he grabbed a bag of coffee beans from the pantry.
“Probably not too bad,” he replied. “Why?”
“Maybe we could take the girls to visit Noah’s grave today,” I said. Ted paused. “I woke up with the same thought. Really. I did.”
In the Wake of Pregnancy Loss
In stories of first-trimester miscarriages, a gravesite isn’t a topic often discussed. Many preborn babies, whose young lives end early in the first month or two of pregnancy, aren’t given a formal, physical resting place here on earth.
Our story was different, though. It did include a cemetery, a headstone, and a grave.
Two days after the ultrasound revealed Noah had died, my body began to miscarry on its own. I lacked the emotional and physical fortitude necessary to say goodbye to my baby at home, as many of my friends have courageously done. So instead, my personal rendition of brave involved an emergency D&C.
It was a different kind of hard, but hard all the same. Rather than being aware of my child’s physical separation from me, I fell asleep pregnant and woke up postpartum.
There was a moment prior to the procedure that holds permanent residence in my memory. It was the moment when our nurse handed Ted and me a form that explained our options regarding Noah’s body.
Regardless of how sensitively something like this is handled, there’s no erasing when someone asks you what you’d like done with your dead child’s remains, no matter how small or still forming those remains are. A moment like this changes you in ways you can’t possibly imagine beforehand.
Of the options, we chose to have Noah buried in a community memorial alongside other preborn babies who had died.
This service was offered to us at no charge, as a gift from a local Catholic diocese. It provided us the opportunity to have something tangible that testified of Noah’s existence and impact on our lives.
When There’s a Grave that Marks Pregnancy Loss
As Ted and I chatted that Saturday morning, it had been weeks since we’d made the first visit to the cemetery, just the two of us.
It was a trip marked by deep sorrow and the longing to lay my body prostrate on the fresh dirt and weep. I mourned the physical body I’d never nurture.
When it came time to leave, all my mother bear instincts made me reluctant to go.
For me, to walk away felt like abandonment.
It meant to turn my back on what had once been my child’s fearfully and wonderfully made frame; one I’d only seen the small shadow of on an ultrasound. Only a month earlier, my body had protected it; now it was sheltered merely by a small coffin and layers of dirt.
Ted sensed my struggle. “Noah’s not really there,” he told me. “It’s okay to leave.”
He was right.
As we’d explained to Ava the morning of the D&C when she’d questioned, “Mama, how can Noah be in two places at once?” Noah’s spirit lived on. The eternal part of our child was alive, whole, and happy in the presence of a strong, tender, and compassionate God.
Noah may have never run or jumped or giggled with us, but I had no doubt that’s exactly what our child was doing in the eternal presence of our loving Father.
What Heaven Means for Pregnancy Loss
I don’t know about you, but for me, loss, more than anything else, causes me to reflect on heaven.
It serves to remind me that the hardship and difficulty I experience here is temporal, but the stories God is writing for me, you, and even Noah are everlasting. Even when our bodies fail us, as Noah’s did, our spirits live on.
This truth doesn’t diminish or lessen the pain I feel, or wrongly provoke me not to grieve.
It is healthy and right to mourn. I don’t ever let anyone convince me otherwise. Every loss you and I experience, and the pain we suffer as a result, is worthy of mourning.
Heaven, though, gives me hope. It gently whispers: Loss is not a forever part of your story.
I’m promised that one day I’ll be reunited with those I love in a place where the Author of all of our narratives wipes away every tear from my eyes. A place where “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore”
The “Me Too” of Pregnancy Loss
On that Saturday morning, Ted and I drank coffee and decided to make our second visit to Noah’s grave. This time we brought our baby’s three big sisters with us.
As the sun emerged and the grayness lifted, we led them to the spot.
With curiosity they studied it, asked more questions, and carefully laid pictures and letters they’d written for their lost sibling next to the headstone.
They soon took to running in the grass, chasing butterflies, and admiring flowers lovingly left by others.
While they did, I sat down next to the community memorial and felt a sense of camaraderie like never before. The gravestone was surrounded by baby toys, flowers, and notes left by other bereaved parents and their families.
I found myself praying for these other moms and dads who walked a similar road of grief. I asked that God would comfort them, and that when they visited this spot, they too would experience His comforting presence.
This post is adapted from my new book, Braving Sorrow Together: The Transformative Power of Faith and Community When Life Is Hard from Moody Publishers, 2017. Used with permission.
About Braving Sorrow Together
How do you cope when life is hard? Is there a way to grieve so that seasons of loss become seasons of growth?
Braving Sorrow Together: The Transformative Power of Faith and Community When Life is Hard is about where to turn when life is hard. Ashleigh Slater weaves together Scripture, personal stories, and guest entries to comfort the suffering and encourage hopeful grieving.
Whether your trials concern health, employment, relationships, or even death, grief can turn into growth when we lean on Christ and others. Braving Sorrow Together provides solace for hard times and advice for getting through them with grit and grace.