Three years ago we were headed to Atlanta for a conference and a much needed getaway. Nate was leading a breakout session, we were catching up with friends and were excited to have a breath of fresh air infused into our work with students. I was five months into grieving the loss of my dad and had finally escaped some of the numbness and fog of the early months of grief. I was also traveling with a sweet little secret - I was eleven weeks pregnant.
Pregnancy is a tricky thing for me. I’ve been pregnant seven times and lost six babies (one of the kids had a twin that miscarried), so while two pink lines signal joy and excitement, there is also a fair amount of fear partnered with those feelings. Feelings of uncertainty and anxiety about not only the life of the baby, but also about the possibility of impending heartbreak. I have walked that road enough times to know that hope and healing happen, but sometimes you have to crawl and claw your way through to experience it.
In the early hours of the next morning I had some light bleeding, so we gathered our things and went to the nearest emergency room. It’s a strange thing to hold onto hope that life still exists when the signs of your body and past experience lend so easily to despair. I cried my way into an exam room where an ultrasound confirmed that there was no heartbeat. I left with a prescription for the physical pain and was told to contact my doctor when I arrived home. I wanted the earth to swallow me up, or a magic time machine to transport me to ahead into the future so I could bypass the coming weeks and months. I told my friend Meagan that, more than any other time in my life, I wanted to get drunk. I’ve never been drunk, but anything that would numb my brokeness sounded good in that moment.
Instead, I chose a King Sized Twix bar, a coke and a Fitness magazine and headed up to my hotel room. The irony of this purchase is not lost on me, and I’ve had a good laugh about it since. I let sugar be my drug and I buried myself in articles about flat abs and the lastest cardio moves, because I didn’t want to risk reading a magazine where I would see pictures and articles about pregnancy. I would love to say that it was my moral compass that kept me from getting plastered, or the fact that I was a pastor’s wife at a pastor’s convention, but it wasn’t. It was the hope that they were wrong. That they had missed the little blinking light on the ultrasound that signaled a heartbeat and that life was still present and growing inside of me. I had heard of this happening, and I refused to give up completely until I was certain there was no more baby.
They weren’t wrong. The next week consisted of doctor appointments, returning maternity clothes without the tags and begging them to take me off their mailing list (note: they didn’t take the clothes back and I still got mail for months), and learning what our new normal was. A new normal that didn’t involve planning and dreaming and adding another baby to our family. A new normal where your brain counts the weeks and knows how pregnant you would have been, or when you would be delivering a baby. I had done this five times before, but partnered with the grief of losing my dad, it was like the first time all over again.
Three years later and we are headed back to the same city, the same conference, with the same friends. There is something significant about returning to the physical place of heartbreak once you are restored and that has been ever present in my heart and mind the last few weeks. I have been thinking a lot about the early days after each of my losses, and how I combed the internet for stories like mine. Stories about women who lost babies and what that meant for them and how they overcame it. So I’m here on the internet, telling my story today, and in the weeks to come. I’m praying that it brings hope and life to a heart that was broken like mine, and that those who need it would find solidarity in knowing they aren’t alone in their loss. Hugs to you if you are grieving and hurting today. I promise - there is hope ahead of you.