Written July 14, 2012
A few days ago, I heard some sad news. A friend shared that a couple from church had gone in for their 18-week ultrasound, only to find that their baby had died. My friend had emailed asking me to pray as she knew I'd understand.
This isn't the first time I've heard a story so similar to my story of Matthew. And it won't be the last, I'm sure. In the past almost two years, I've heard of several women whose babies were lost right around the 17/18 week mark. Each time I hear such a story, I'm jettisoned back to my own experience and the memory of lying on the ultrasound table, in shock and disbelief as I stared at a perfect-looking baby, save the absence of any flicker in his heart. The memory of being induced into labor for a child I knew was already gone. The memory of the nurse taking away his body, knowing I would never hold or see him again.
I hear the stories of these other women and I'm awash in my own memories while I simultaneously ache for their experiences, too--knowing that their lives are forever altered, their dreams shattered, their hearts broken.
There's this part of me that secretly hopes that if I tell Matthew's story enough, then this will never happen to any other mother. That his life can be some sort of talisman to protect other babies. That if I just speak with courage enough, somehow I can shield everyone else from this horrible experience.
But simple awareness of late miscarriage and stillbirth doesn't stop it from happening. My story doesn't prevent anyone else from having to go through a similar nightmare. Matthew's life wasn't a sacrifice to keep other babies safe.
There is something, however, our story does do. It lets people know that they are not alone when and if (God forbid) this happens to them. It lets them see that it is ok to talk about and there are others who "get" it. In my darkest moments, I was so grateful for the other mothers I knew who had lost babies prematurely who were courageous enough to share their stories with me and help me see the light over the edge of the horizon of what felt like an impossibly dark night.
So tonight I mourn. I mourn for those acquaintances and their fresh pain. I mourn for Matthew and all I miss about him. I mourn for the babies of my friends' that have been lost and also for the stories of loss that are yet to come. Because, I've come to realize, there will be more stories. More people I love will lose babies that they love. And there's not much at all that I can do about that.
But I can be there when it happens--to say "this stinks!" and to cry with them and mourn. I can also be there to shine light into dark places and inspire hope and help buoy them through the rough waters. Today author Donald Miller tweeted this, "Finding something redemptive about the suffering we've expereienced could be the beginning of healing." I think he's on to something.
And so I keep telling my story, sharing my thoughts. I'll be unashamed of my moments of sorrow and adamant about the resiliency of the human heart. And in that, I keep my son's light alive, in hopes that it will kindle that light in other mamas' hearts.
May God's mercy cover this family in their difficult time.