Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Lost Children

How many children do you have?
Two, we answer, thinking three,
or three, thinking four;
they are always with us…
…they disappear on beaches,
they shine at night in the stars.

  --from “The Lost Children,” by Barbara Crooker

Driving to the hospital, I remember the radio was playing Sinead O’Connor singing “Nothing Compares 2U.” In the waiting room, on TV, Erma Bombeck was talking about the stillbirth she had, years before. I tried to shake a feeling of foreboding, as I was called in for a routine ultrasound. I had lost a baby between Rose and Patrick, in the first trimester, but this time everything had seemed fine. Felt great, no cramps or bleeding.

But everything was not fine. Moments after the technician looked at the screen, she turned it off, and abruptly told me to get dressed. She then left the room, and for the next several minutes I was utterly alone, horrible thoughts racing through my mind. What had she seen? What was wrong with my baby?

Finally, she returned, and said my doctor was on the phone for me. And that was when I was told that there was no heartbeat. It was the saddest drive home to my other kids. And as I gathered them all into my arms and held them, I thanked God for them, even as I ached for the little one I would never get to hold.

That was 25 years ago. One year later, we would rejoice at the birth of Julie, full term and healthy. But in the meantime, I needed some spiritual comforting. I talked with Mike Carlson, our pastor, about developing a memorial service for all the lost children, and inviting parents of all ages who had lost a child. On December 9, 1993, we held the service in our chapel. There were readings, and roses for each mother, and tears. Even the older moms whose miscarriage or stillbirth had taken place 50 years previously—a part of them was still grieving too. Because back then, these huge losses were barely acknowledged. They happened; people needed to just move on.

But we are part of a club no one ever, ever wanted to join.

My writer friend Robin took her pain after the stillbirth of her daughter, and created something beautiful: a book called Journaling Away Mommy’s Grief. This book has blessed many hurting people over the years, and is a lovely testament to a mother’s love for her baby in Heaven.

Do I say I have five children, thinking seven? Only now and again. I am lucky beyond measure to have amazing kids that are alive and well. But I will always wonder: what would they have been like, these foreshortened little lives? I love them still, and they are a part of me that will never die.

If you pray, please say a prayer for those who have lost children. Pray that they will feel God’s arms around them, and around those precious babies too.

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