I rolled away from him on the narrow examination table and toward the wall. The stark white sanitary paper crinkled and crunched beneath me as I pulled my knees up to my chest and allowed hot, heavy tears to flow down my cheeks. My defiant recoil coupled with that hard, dry lump in my throat halted the conversation. I pulled my legs tighter to my chest and formed a protective cocoon in a feeble effort to find some semblance of solace, some comfort from within. There was but a brief pause in conversation to acknowledge grief's looming presence before my doctor resumed our discourse, this time a little slower and a little more emphatically.
"Christina, you don't want this baby. Trust me. There's something wrong with it. It's human tendency to... to nurture life, but sometimes our bodies take control and tell us to let go through... natural selection. Again, I'm sorry."
I clasped my husband's hand tighter to brace myself against the anguish of finality. How wrong that doctor was; I would have given anything to hold my baby-- then and now.
For over four years we worked with a team of doctors and medical professionals to conceive. Through tests, surgeries, medicines, invasive procedures, financial sacrifices, tears, and prayers, we hoped against hope with each new step, and each new day. And then to finally conceive a little one whose heart stopped beating just as mine was beginning to beat again, was nothing short of devastating. It simply didn't make sense or seem plausible. Yet, here we were. Crestfallen. Broken. Devastated.
The months following my miscarriage were laden with grief. Everything in me wanted to retreat from the world. I wanted to shrug off all responsibility. But of course, I could not. And, thankfully, I knew enough to know I should not. The Lord had given me people and opportunities to steward, and I had to learn what it meant to do so even in the middle of a storm. Those years of infertility and my miscarriage taught me four valuable lessons about living through pain by leaning into the Lord.
1. Pain deepens our intimacy.
There was something distinctly different about the pain associated with the loss of a baby. In this particular trial, there was no one at whom I could point my finger as the cause of my pain. The loss wasn't my doctor's fault, or my husband's, or even mine. And it was tempting to harden my heart to the goodness of God. I found the greatest hindrance to tasting the goodness of God is the lingering taste of bitterness. And so, I chose to lean into the Lord for understanding, and push away from the bitterness. I needed then-- more than ever-- to taste the goodness of God in the land of the living. Trials are an invitation for deeper intimacy with the Lord. God walks beside us in our victories, but He carries us in our trials. He carries us through our pain because He longs to be near, and it is in this nearness we find a joy and fulfillment nothing else on Earth can satisfy—not even bearing children.
2. Trials solidify our identity.
When we embrace our trial and fall on the cross, we come out the other end more secure in His love and in our identity. The enemy is out to kill, steal, and destroy our identity and joy in the Lord. Satan’s rebellion in Heaven consequentially made him history’s first orphan, and he wants God’s children to feel the same way. Satan wants us to feel ashamed, abandoned, and isolated in our disappointment. But the Lord calls us his children (John 1:12). We are given a new identity (Romans 6:6) and a double portion inheritance (Isaiah 61:7). Brennan Manning articulates this well when he writes, “Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.”
3. Grief strengthens our relationships.
After our miscarriage, there was an outpour of love from friends and family. They carried us over the finish line when we didn’t have the strength to walk alone. They brought cards, flowers, meals, scripture, and one dear friend even wrote and recorded a song out of shared anguish. Community petitioned God on our behalf. Together, we believed for children in faith, but we also echoed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s proclamation when we, too, declared, “but even if he doesn’t,” He is still worthy of our praise! In our trial, we better learned how to live the Biblical charge in Acts 2:42-47 of immersing ourselves in the body of Christ. Community alone cannot give what God intends we find in Him, but community can carry you to the throne when you’ve lost strength to go unaided.
4. Pain overcome is a testimony of hope renewed.
Several months after grieving and processing the pain of our miscarriage, we felt ready to try IVF again. This time, it worked! Ten months later, we welcomed our son, Christopher, into our family.
Doctors told us we had less than a 1% chance of conceiving on our own based upon the statistics of how many years we’d been trying. So, you can imagine our surprise and joy when, on Christopher’s first birthday, what I thought was a case of flu was actually the first weeks of pregnancy with my second son, Corban. We named him, “a sacrifice dedicated unto the Lord,” because our trial taught us that our heart was the sacrifice the Lord was after all along. God not only made beauty out of our ashes, but He also gave us a double portion inheritance.
My journey through grief wasn’t perfect, and that’s okay. Ultimately, God is not after our perfection; He is after our heart.