The morning started innocuously enough. I’d stolen a few minutes away from the chaos of my children’s breakfast to look online at various gestational stages. Somewhere, I found links that women had posted showing their pregnancy bellies, and I remember feeling absurdly pleased that I wasn’t showing nearly as much as most of the women, although I was nearly 16 weeks along and this was my third child.
By evening, though, it was obvious that something was wrong, that against my will (and my prayers), my body was trying to deliver the baby I carried. My neighbor helped my husband give me a blessing. And then we waited.
When the bleeding started, heavy and unrelenting, we went to the hospital. I think I knew, already, what we would find, but it wasn’t until I saw the ultrasound—that too-still shape, the small curve of skull and spine, and the thin line of darkness that was all that remained of the amniotic fluid—that I finally relinquished the last little bit of hope.
After a D&C in the early hours of the morning, we came home. It was Valentine’s Day. When we told my five-year-old that the baby had died, he cried violently for perhaps ten minutes, then told me (with that sublimely uncomplicated air that only children can manage), that I couldn’t be sad because it was a holiday.
I don’t write this because I want to invite you to publicly share in my private grief. (I imagine most of you have had to do enough grieving in your lives without adding mine). Rather, I write this because I have been astounded, not by the miscarriage, but by its aftermath.
In the blessing I was given that night, my husband blessed me to know that I was loved. There were no miraculous promises (in fact, he told me later that he had felt strongly that he should not mention the baby), just that simple statement of fact. But that blessing, simple as it was, buoyed me up that evening and has buoyed me up in the weeks since. Despite what was happening to me and to my family, the fact remained that God loved us. That love was multiply manifest in the phone calls, meals, flowers and prayers from family and friends in the days that followed.
I’ve found myself thinking, more than once in these last three weeks, about the nature of miracles. In the two days that preceded my miscarriage, Segullah posted two stunning posts about miracles: one a miracle of life , one a miracle of death. That same morning, in Sunday school, the instructor shared that just before her daughter died, she’d prayed for a miracle. And she got one—just not the one she had hoped for. Her daughter died, but she found that she had the strength to do the necessary things in the weeks following that death.
What I am coming to realize is that having faith in this life means accepting that things do not always go according to plan, that the miracles we pray for may not be the miracles we get. In a moving talk given almost ten years ago, Elder Lance B. Wickman said that “I believe that mortality’s supreme test is to face the ‘why’ and then let it go, trusting humbly in the Lord’s promise that ‘all things must come to pass in their time.’”Miracles are neither a test of nor a reward for our faith—we are asked to have faith regardless. When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego faced the fiery furnace, they also faced the very real possibility that they would not be saved. They responded, “but if not, we [still] will not serve thy gods” (Daniel 3:18). We, too, face the possibility that God will not save us, at least not in any physical sense.
I don’t think this recognition should lead us to despair, or a belief that God has abandoned us—on the contrary, faith by its nature is fundamentally hopeful. This past Sunday, I had the privilege to teach the gospel doctrine lesson on that beautiful passage from Matthew 11: 28:
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
As I prepared for the lesson, I was reminded that the reason this yoke is easy is the atonement: that the atonement makes possible not only for us to relinquish the burden of sins, but the power of the atonement also sustains us in moments of suffering. (If you have time, check out James Faulconer’s fascinating reflections on the nature of human suffering in relation to the atonement). Alma writes that the Savior “will take upon him [our] infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:12). For me, what this meant in a very personal way was that even in the midst of my grief, I felt the love and succor of my Savior: I knew that He knew what I was experiencing—not just in an abstract fit of compassion, but in a very real, embodied way. This, for me, has been the real miracle of my miscarriage—not that I lost my baby, but that in the midst of my loss I have not been alone.
What about you? What sustains you in difficult times in your life?