“So how many children do you have?”
She knew. I was confused. Then I realized what she was asking. And my heart exploded.
It was the first time I’ve ever been asked how many children we truly have. It was the first time someone included all of them.
Seven. I have carried seven precious children within me. I don’t count them in normal conversation. Because it’s awkward and makes people feel unsure of how to respond. And they went home to be with Jesus.
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. So, every October, whether I am ready or not, my feeds on social media are filled with reminders of that. Usually, they are tame, just a picture advertising it. But with it, comes another woman, another friend, I had no idea carries this cross. This horrible grief.
Our first was in 2010, and we found out he was along for the ride when I was 3 months post partum with my first. I was neck-deep in the throes of postpartum depression and was five days late. I called my sister, panicking. Begging her to tell me I wasn’t pregnant. But she knew. And I knew. The next morning, at 5 am, I couldn’t stand the fear anymore. I took a test. Two pink lines. At thirteen weeks, he died only 24 hours before my regular OB appointment. I had felt him kick. I had felt his life. And then he was gone.
I was only five weeks along when I lost the next one. I was in denial for a long time because my husband had just deployed. I could not handle grieving another loss, especially alone. So, I told myself it was just a false positive. Until a year later, when I realized it couldn’t have been.
There was no denying his loss. He came unexpectedly. Thanksgiving morning I had a hunch, took a digital test. Pregnant. I had a Masters I was finishing, a thesis I was writing and getting ready to defend. We were getting ready to move. But that Thanksgiving morning, I was so grateful. Another life, another child to love. That pregnancy had a holier, more divine feeling to it than any of my others pregnancies. A few months later, we were almost halfway through the pregnancy. We were on our way to a family friends’ house for dinner. I could feel his strong, energetic kicks on the outside. It’s a boy, our friend predicted. I knew he was right. Over the course of the next few days, those sweet baby kicks grew weaker. From felt on the outside to just inside to just flutters. Someone was pushing rewind. I was going to be empty again. I panicked. No one would listen. I went to sleep the night before the routine OB appointment and I dreamt he was born–a sweet, blonde haired boy who smiled at me. He grew quickly and as he grew, he got further and further away. Until he was gone. I woke up and felt one last, small kick. And then he was gone. The next morning, the dopplers were silent, the ultrasounds still.
They mattered. That’s the comfort of October. That there is a month, at least, that acknowledges my children–all of them–matter. I have two tombstones, three saints, and seven children I have grown. And they mattered.
I had people tell me It was just a miscarriage–get over it. I had people walk away for awhile because we buried him. It’s fine. My children mattered more than that. They were people, beautiful people, with souls. They were made by God. Fashioned by His merciful hands. Just as much as my living children.
And your children matter, too. The ones that are here and the ones that are gone. All of these sweet, beautiful people gifted from God matter.
October 15th is Infertility, Pregnancy, and Infant Loss Day. At 7pm, we will be lighting a candle for our babies we lost. I will include candles for the babies lost by those in my family as well. There will be lots of candles on our table. But there are lots of saints in Heaven for it, too.
As I push through October, I remember those struggling under the crushing weight of infertility. Those who have no children to hold, to love. I have endured the cross of pregnancy loss. I struggled hard to keep the babies alive within me. Sometimes I did, and other times, I wept with empty arms and a deflated tummy. I had never struggled with infertility. That has changed. Forever. And my heart aches terribly, and has always ached for those who yearn for children and cannot fill that hole. What comes so easily to other women, has not come at all for others. Remember them. Love them. Pray for them. Children are not a right, are not deserved. They are a blessing. And they are hard to get and to keep for some.
If you have lost a child or have never had a child at all, I see you. I am praying for you. If your arms yearn for months and years to have your own sweet baby, I am covering you in prayer. If you have lost your babies before they opened their sweet eyes to you, I am holding you in prayer. If you held your baby briefly, so briefly, and then they went away, I keep you in my daily prayer. They all mattered. Each child wished for, each child held for a few days, weeks, months–they mattered. They still matter.
Your aching heart matters.