“Mommy, what if baby doesn’t come out in October?”
We were in the car, on our way to a routine pregnancy check-up when I heard the little voice pipe up from the backseat. At nearly 35 weeks pregnant, we’d been talking a lot about the baby that was due to arrive in a month’s time. My son had accompanied me to each prenatal appointment, listening to the heartbeat and watching my belly grow. With his head pressed up tightly against my stomach, he’d talk and whisper to his little sister, kiss her good-night, and eagerly count down the time until her arrival. There was no doubt that our entire family was eagerly awaiting the birth of this little one.
From the driver’s seat of the car, I smiled. We’d had a conversation about birthdays earlier and I assumed that this was where his question was coming from. I snuck a glance at him through the rear-view mirror, noting the thoughtful expression on his face. “Baby will definitely come by October,” I replied cheerfully. “The doctors won’t let her stay in longer than that.”
“Unless she goes to be with Jesus first.”
My heart skipped a beat.
Lately, we’ve been having more and more of these conversations. Perhaps it’s because he’s four-years-old now and starting to process more, to question more. Or perhaps it’s simply because he’s never known a sibling to come home from the hospital. For as long as he can remember, brothers and sisters go straight from mommy’s belly to Jesus. To him, this is fact.
The conversation that followed took up most of the drive to the obstetricians office. The gut instinct is to try and protect him, to whisper not to worry and to promise that this time everything will be different. But even my four-year-old knows that mommy isn’t the keeper of those promises; that when it comes to pregnancy, there are no guarantees. And yet, there were reassurances to be found: that each check-up has shown his sister to be healthy, that not all babies go to be with Jesus, and that he was in the hospital when he was born and then came home to live with us. His questions flowed one after another and I broke things down for him as simply as I could. I was determined to provide answers without stirring up further fears.
Nowadays, we’re more understanding of the challenges and emotions that come with a pregnancy after loss. But it’s easy to forget that this isn’t just an emotionally charged experience for the mother. It affects the entire family.
As we approach the birth of this new baby, each family member fights this mental battle against our history of miscarriage and stillbirth. We each feel the tug of previous loss experiences playing against the hopes we desperately cling to. Sometimes, in the joy of celebrating new life, we overlook the pain of loss that still lingers and are surprised when it rears its ugly head.
Our kids grieve too. Our kids feel the weight of loss. And as much as I wish my son didn’t have to carry this yet, this is a lesson he’s had to learn early.
As parents, we carry as much of that weight as we can. We answer questions and allow our littles to feel heard and supported in their own worries without overwhelming them. We nurture and protect but also gently allow them to see the effects of the sin-laden world in which we live as means of pointing to Christ. As we teach and model Christ through our parenting, we give our children a lens through which to better understand the hurts and pains they encounter.
And so, we pray for wisdom. Wisdom as to how to answer these heart-heavy, messy, and entirely-too-real questions under the light of God’s ultimate redemptive plan.
These aren’t discussions we have everyday but when they do appear we encourage them. My heart may cry over the knowledge that my four-year-old worries about whether or not his sister will come home from the hospital; but despite the ache that accompanies these answers, I try not to shy away from them. I need my son to know that there is a faithful God who holds the aches of today in the palms of His grace-filled hands. I want him to see that this pain can point us to the cross.
A pregnancy after loss is never easy. It is, however, another daily opportunity to lean into the God who cradles all of His children close; to believe that no matter what tomorrow brings, He remains unchanged and His promises are sure. Today, like all others, is a day to glorify God in the midst of our own uncertainty and worries.
And so, like our children, we too learn how to embrace these messy, ache-filled questions. We parent through the storm as best we can and in the process, we learn to trust the One who holds the answers we cannot see.