I awoke hours before the alarm clock went off. I curled on my side like the swirl of a shell, hollowed and echoing emptiness within. My hand rested on my belly, swollen beside me.
I showered that morning, letting the hot water run down my face, mingling with tears. My eyes were puffy, the whites traversed with spidery red lines like an atlas of the world. They stared back at me from the swiped clearing I made through the thick steam on the mirror. I was a lost girl. My ragged wet hair dripped onto my bare shoulders like I was being pulled down and drowned by the weight of my pain.
We drove to the hospital in silence. There weren’t any words worth saying.
The doctor would explain everything again while Josh held my hand, churning it in his as if wearing smooth a prayer bead.
I’d sign papers and undress. I’d put on a hospital gown and remove my wedding ring, handing it to Josh along with my things. He helped me climb awkwardly into the bed with the railings locking into place like a trap. And I’d lay my arms open offering my veins for the start of an IV. I’d count the tiles in the ceiling as they wheeled me under the florescent lights, clearing my mind out by filling it with nothing.
There would be a rush of people in and out, a swish of hospital scrubs and stethoscopes and the ragged rip of the blood pressure cuff tearing apart to be strapped over my arm as the pressure increased and the thud of my heart pumped in my ears.
It amazed me that my heart could just keep pumping when it was so broken.
The week before we sat anticipating another heartbeat. But the thud was missing when my doctor rubbed warm jelly onto the ultrasound wand and waved it over my belly. Like a magician saying abracadabra, the screen came to life, a whoosh of static and a faint immovable outline. His hand slowed. He’d furrowed his brow then and called me kiddo as he explained how things had gone so wrong. How there should be movement and a fetal heartbeat, how the silhouette of my baby was not a magic trick, it was a disappearing act. An apparition, a loss, how the flutters I felt were never going to get stronger.
I would be asked the same questions over and over as the shifts changed and my bed was wheeled into the pre-op and post-op. They’d ask me to state my name and birthday and what I was being treated for as they checked my chart and lifted my limp arm to match it to my plastic armband.
My voice was even, a monotone recitation. I was there for a D & C. I would tell them 16 weeks. I would tell them Alia, and 22 years old. And then I would add miscarriage just in case. So they would know that the baby they were about to take from me was already gone. My body just hadn’t caught up yet.
I would wake groggy, my throat sore and raspy, my IV tubing falling across my face as I wiped at my eyes, waking to a new reality. And later, when I was discharged, I would pull on my stretchy pants, belly still swollen but hollow all the same, and shuffle out of the hospital.
I wouldn’t ask questions like why?
I’d seen others live a life devoted to their grief. But I feared that relenting to the pain and asking hard questions belied a small faith, not enough trust in the sovereignty of God, and too much focus on the here and now. I believed eternity is what mattered and getting there had less to do with flourishing here as it did a blind devotion to the right answers.
I worried God might not have the answers to the questions I had, so I summed up life in Bible verses, in parables and tidy lessons without looking too hard for the meanings of things. I wanted a shortcut to bypass the pain. An antidote to suffering.
I wasn’t sure my God could stand up to the scrutiny if I let loose all my doubts.
So I learned to fear the unknowns, the emptiness, the messiness of life and indeed death. I feared faith. I wanted certainty and promises I could control. I wanted a God I could contain within the highlighted portions of my study Bible, not One who met me in operating rooms filled with loss.
But grief pushed down comes out sideways.
It’s taken me years to learn to grieve lost things.
I wish I had know this life will ache with emptiness and it’s ok not to rush to fill it. It’s ok to leave some questions on the books. It’s ok to be angry and to admit we can’t see the good of it all right now. To sit on the floor in my baby’s room and weep over the blankets and the onesies and the carseat we hung on to that would be packed up.
I wish someone had told me it was ok to relent to sadness, to doubt, to loss. I wish someone had told me it was ok to succumb to anger, to the great and formidable why? I wish I had understood that God is undaunted by my humanity.
I wish I had understood that answers are not the reason we ask the questions. Sometimes we ask the questions to say, Who are You really, God? Who are You to me right now in this pain? The questions are the place to admit our need, not just for answers, but for awareness of who God is.
I wish I had known the questions are the invitation for Jesus to come to us in our sorrow and reclaim the empty spaces.
I wish I had known Jesus is the God of lost things.