I want to write about true things. About real things. And in this season, a real thing for me and Nicholas is mourning.
In early August, we found out that I was pregnant. These family photos feel extra special, since Lauren took them about a week after I had a positive pregnancy test. A few weeks later, the day after our seventh anniversary, I went in for an ultrasound and we found out that I was expecting twins. Identical twins, two heartbeats, two babies, two little souls.
We were overjoyed. Two babies, just the thought of it was thrilling and in the words of Nicholas, the best possible news. For days and weeks, we would just look at each other, and one of us would say, can you believe there are two? The night before my first official OB appointment, we made an offer on a house. Big life changes, in full swing, all around. After a hiccup, the sellers accepted our offer, and we moved forward with the inspection, etc. all with the dreams of having a full house, dreams of being a family of five, of having three kids.
I went a bit quiet as pregnancy symptoms came hard and fast. Daily fatigue and nausea, nausea persistent for most of every day. As some say, it felt reassuring that I was so symptomatic and that I had already seen the babies' heartbeats. My belly started to grow more, and I felt like I was on the verge of showing, rather early this time. We shared the news with our families and with some close friends. We were so excited about the twins.
We took our little getaway to Michigan, just the three of us, in anticipation of being a much bigger family. It was a precious time with the three of us.
And then, I had an appointment on September 22, the "big" one, the first official prenatal appointment. I went alone, since that's clinic policy at the moment, and after the usual vital signs, weight, etc. three nurses tried to find heart tones with a doppler, unsuccessfully. The nurse midwife commented on my heart rate being higher than usual, since she knew I was worried. I texted Nicholas, trying not to worry him, but so frightened that something was wrong. There was discussion about my tilted uterus, and that maybe being a reason they couldn't hear the heartbeats. They got me in for an ultrasound, and after several minutes of silence, the ultrasound tech, the same one who told us we were having twins, started crying and said, "I'm so sorry."
I've never felt the way I did in that moment. I remember turning to my side, sobbing, asking her if she was sure. She apologized again, and said that she couldn't find either heartbeat, and "I keep looking and hoping," and "they just look so perfect."
It's difficult to convey the ache of the next days and weeks, the anguish of waking at three AM, a wave of grief and sobs overcoming us, remembering all over again that the twins were gone. I've never seen Nicholas so heartbroken, nor have I ever felt such pain in my heart.
I walked around Target, like an empty shell, desperately trying not to cry when I saw families together. I didn't want to walk alone in my grief, but in that very acute pain, sharing it felt impossible too. For a brief moment, I wondered if we should have waited to share our news. But the joy, the joy of celebrating the twins' lives, their little heartbeats, their little lives with some of our nearest and dearest, and the aid of sharing the burden of their loss reassures me that this was the right choice for us. What joy they brought us in their short lives. And to share the news of their lives meant sharing that joy, that blessing, however brief.
We met the news of my miscarriage with confusion and deep sadness, but as we played worship music, hugged one another and Cooper, and cried in each other's arms, deep in my bones I felt, And yet, I know He is a good God. I wrote out verses of hope and comfort, markedly ones that involved setting my mind on hope in Him, as my heart felt preoccupied and heavy.
Even as our hearts are prone to question, filled with dread and doubt, let us take confidence that our God personally understands us, not hypothetically but concretely in Christ...his ache and struggle give new meaning to our tears and suffering: God cares about our sin and distress so much that he enters into it himself.
Kelly Kapic, Embodied Hope, pages 91-91
It's been a month since that difficult appointment. I've since been back to the clinic for my follow up, leaving with news that "everything is normal." My OB offered words of reassurance,"Hopefully next time we'll see you for a happy reason." The nail polish I had on when I was pregnant has worn off. My pregnancy symptoms have subsided completely. The weeks go by, the temperatures cool, the leaves change and fall.
My thirtieth (golden) birthday was the week after we learned of our miscarriage. The night before, I was uncertain of how I would feel, but I decided I would bake myself a cake, as is our tradition, and Nicholas said he wanted to help me. We made a gluten free vanilla bundt cake (subbed in ghee for butter) and left it unglazed. We ate it on paper plates, since our real plates were packed. Doing something productive, something that brings me joy with Nicholas was the best part of that week.
My actual birthday was a Wednesday, and a normal day, or as "normal" as it could be as we mourned, packed, and prepared for our move. I made a frittata for breakfast and we ate some cake with it. I drank coffee out of beautiful mug I received as a housewarming/consolation/birthday gift. Cooper and I met a friend and her littles at the park. I ordered special coffee in the afternoon from our favorite local coffee shop. I received an amazon pantry package from sweet friends with so many nutrient dense and convenient foods as I recovered and we prepared to move. I held Cooper close, we played outside. I cried. He did a million tiny things that made me genuinely and wholeheartedly smile. And the afternoon sun shone brightly through the clouds.
More than anything, I have felt so loved and seen in this time. Practical gifts, gift cards for easy meals, texts and calls to check in without expectations, cards with prayers, space and listening ears as I shared some painful private details. Friends who sent helpful books I will read in the future and a new beautiful journaling bible, meant as a birthday gift that arrived the week we learned of our loss. Strangers from my brother's small group who sent us a picture book, in hopes it would be a comfort (it was) and a way to share with Cooper about his siblings, in time. Friends and family who mention the twins, ask how we're doing, give us space to talk or not talk. Friends bringing meals by. Coffee sent as a comfort. And a devotional that is so helpful for my heart and mind:
But [Jesus] did not come in human form just to be able to identify with us in our suffering. Jesus suffered so that he could redeem our suffering. He came to die so that we would never have to endure the greatest sorrow imaginable: eternal separation from God. [...] Dear sister, God is intimately acquainted with every detail of what you are experiencing and feeling. Jesus was born in order to know your suffering, and died in order to redeem it. Let the suffering of Jesus be the lens through which you see your own today. Cling to the Man of Sorrows, who suffered for your sake, and come to know more of him as you feel known by him in grief. (pages 26-27)
The ache is still there, but it's not as heavy as it was at first. There is no replacing these babies, and our lives will forever be marked by their brief time with us. But as a wise and dear friend of mine frequently reminds me, "You're allowed to feel more than one thing at once." I can grieve the loss of the twins and greet Cooper in the morning with joy. I can inhale crisp fall air, deeply grateful that we live here, in the midwest. I can marvel our God who thought to mark the seasons with a color palette so vivid, the brightest reds and golds and oranges bringing tears to my eyes from their beauty. I can settle in melancholy and ache for the thought of April, the month we expected to meet the twins, now a month where we will grieve and miss them, rather than bringing them home. We can enjoy making our new house feel like us, and seek the respite it offers, a place of healing and growth. An empty womb and a heart soothed by the presence of the Holy Spirit and his comfort, offered through His Word and through our community and family. Grief and joy, all in one breath.
I'll share more about our new home soon. There's much to say about it. A place to come home to, a place to make our own, to grieve and recover in, a place to remember the twins, and a place to rejoice in the goodness of our God.