“There is no heartbeat. I’m sorry. Your baby is dead.”
Lying on the examination table of the obstetrician’s office in Budapest, Hungary, I gaze through a haze of tears at the ultrasound screen, the tiny motionless body, the flat line of the heartbeat. With those words all my dreams and hopes for this new life growing inside me shatter. We have lost our first baby, so loved and so longed for.
A few hours later, I stare at my blurry, tear-stained reflection in the hospital bathroom mirror. In a few moments I will be taken into the operating room for a procedure to help my body through the miscarriage. I am in a foreign country, about to have surgery for the first time. My grief-stricken husband is on a night train from the Czech Republic back to Budapest, the city where we have just moved as missionaries.
“Oh God, losing this baby hurts so much,” I whisper through my tears. Then, strangely, alone in that sterile, cold bathroom, I become aware of a tremendous sense of comfort and calm that gradually envelopes me. This is what people describe as “a peace that passes understanding” I realize, my eyes widening in surprise. The sensation is palpable, warm, sustaining me in the midst of this terrible loss.
The Hungarian nurse knocks sharply on the bathroom door and sticks her head inside. It is time. Seeing me at the sink, she gives me a sympathetic look. I am a pitiful figure – a foreigner in a foreign land, a pregnant woman who has lost her first baby. Not even my husband is present to console me before the surgery. But I am not alone. Sad and grieving our little baby, a bit nervous about the medical procedure but wrapped gently in the peace and comfort of God. I take a deep breath and nod. I am ready.
A few months later, at a missionary conference in Latvia, I think back to that night, to our miscarriage, and my experience of God’s presence with me.
“What do You want to show me through the loss of our baby?” I whisper, curious to know what good He can bring from such a sad circumstance.
Then, as I listen, I sense His voice, gentle and sure, speaking truth, “I am teaching you not to fear.”
Surprised, I puzzle over those words, trying to discern the meaning. Gradually, understanding dawns.
All my life I’ve struggled with fear – deep, real, almost crippling fear – of bad things happening, of not being in control, of losing the people I love. Somehow I’ve held tight to a misguided belief about life, one that assured me that if I worked hard enough, did it all perfectly, balanced everything just right, I could keep all sorrow, all loss, all pain at bay. By my own actions I believed I could ensure my life was free from suffering.
Except it didn’t work. And it’s not true at all. God does not promise us a pain free life. No matter how hard I try, I cannot make everything turn out well. Loss, sorrow, hardship – these are all part of life as we know it. God does not promise to keep all pain away, but He does promise to be with us in the midst of each difficulty, to protect us, encourage us, sit with us in the middle of the pain and sadness and tears. At the center of my loss, God showed me His goodness.
I lost my first child. Nothing will change that fact. There was a heartbeat, a little bright life, and then it was gone. But in the midst of the grief, God was continually with me, bringing peace, bringing the comfort of His spirit. Bringing growth and hope and joy out of sorrow.
The next spring, just as the lilacs burst forth in purple bloom across the city, we welcome our beautiful, healthy son into the world. His name is a Hebrew word that translates “oh, how happy and blessed.” A daughter follows two years later, her name in Latin means “she who brings happiness.”
I am indeed both happy and blessed, not because my life has been untouched by loss. I have already seen the shadow of death, and very likely, I will experience more sorrow and loss in my time on earth – such is the nature of this life.
I am happy and blessed because no matter what my circumstances, I know in my heart that I do not need to fear. God will sustain me, encourage me, wrap me in His love, and give me peace no matter what the future brings.God will sustain me, encourage me, wrap me in His love, and give me peace no matter what the future brings. Click To Tweet