October 15th: Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. My husband has had a reminder in his calender for the past few years - it was one of his survival skills with his newlywed bride being slowly covered over by sadness.
The first weeks of marriage was a celebration of finally togetherness after 21 months of long-distance loving through a thousand emails and equal hours on Skype. And all of that celebrating made us a baby. We were shocked and down right scared by the two blue lines and the future-altering reality they represented. We cried. We turned to one another. We invited God to come. And everything changed.
We became that new creation; the two became one and then so quickly three - it was a whole new world out there, our eyes were awake and we relinquished the control we never really had in the first place. That baby changed us, changed the whole world for us. We are grateful to this very day.
And as abruptly as he came, he was gone - our three back to two with this fresh black hole of pain and bleeding and secret ache.
The seasons changed and healing came through raw confession and community, we brought two more babies into the world and they sleep in my bed now as I write. But there was something so desolate and god-forsaken in those bleeding hours. It resurfaces when I hear the breaking news of unforseen tragedy in the lives of people I know and don't know.
We are dreaming and twirling and preparing and hoping and suddenly the wave of chaos crashes; those of us left standing are disoriented in this new terrible world and we can't get home. Even in the past few weeks friends close by and online have suffered these shocking waves of loss and pain: the ends of precious pregnancies, tragic car accidents, bad news from doctors - we are all affected at some point, our own wounds gaping or we're trying to bandage the people we love. The world is much more dangerous than they told us, spinning off it's axis again today. What is gravity's part, where is God's will, who the hell is responsible for all of this? We blame ourselves, our enemies, we blame God - but none of that stops the bleeding, we are all covered in it.
We can let our experiences of pain harden our soil, put up our fences, we can cover our ears. Avoid pain at all costs, stop risking in love for friend, neighbour and self. We piously throw up our hands to fate or the will of the gods, or just slowly retreat behind shiny smiles, empty eyes and skinny jeans. I'm fine. I told you I'm fine. Let's just get back to how things used to be.
Or we get honest. We get loud. We wear black on the street corner holding signs that rage against all that is wrong in this moment, in the world. We cry and swear and let the labour pains of creation finally find a body in our own; we bear them with her, we groan and writhe. We might say things off the record, things we don't mean, things we will regret. God can handle it. Love and truth have nothing to fear.
Instead of desperately plastering our heart back together we let it go, be split wide open in grief and disappointment and loss. And our hearts eventually begin to heal that way - wide open, with room for the world. Our grief, as painful and tragic and devastating as it is, can set us free to love in powerful new ways.
Most women who have lost babies in pregnancy are amazed at how it welcomes them into this underground world of other mothers with their own stories. You rarely hear of these babies until you've lost your own and then it all spills out, giving these mothers a space to share and you're not in this alone anymore. This isn't comparison, it's solidarity. Our hearts heal wider together, and there is room for more.
The only time my heart was broken by a boy, the woman who carried me through those trenches had just spent the year in the shadows of her own broken relationship. She understood, she had room for my fear, she had time for my rambling and my sobbing. Her heart had been enlarged and she welcomed me in. She died in a tragic car accident (that I survived) the next month. Her mother told me later that in walking with me through my heartache my friend finally felt as though she had been healed, defiant flowers calling her winter's bluff.
I don't believe there are "good reasons" why bad things happen, but I do believe that grief and pain can change us in really beautiful ways sometimes. That's not vindication or explanation, but it's the way of a vulnerable God who suffers with us, first one at the scene, hands covered in our blood; God with the widest heart of all.
"We wait for you to ache" -- Walter Bruegemmann
With the energy we have,
we begin the day,
waiting and watching and hoping.
not clear about our waiting.
But filled with a restlessness,
daring to imagine
that you are not finished yet--
so we wait,
quaking and fearful,
boldly and daring.
Your sovereign decree stands clear
and we do not doubt.
We wait for you to dissolve in tender tears.
Your impervious rule takes no prisoners,
we wait for you to ache and hurt and care over us
and with us
and beyond us.
Cry with us the brutality
grieve with us the misery
tremble with us the poverty and hurt.
Attend to us -- by attending in power and in mercy,
remake this alien world into our proper home.
We pray in the name of the utterly homeless one,