On May 28, 2019, my husband and I lost our firstborn daughter Faith to stillbirth. I’m now pregnant with what we’re hoping will be our rainbow baby.
But holding those two in tension—the hope of new life and the reality of death—is a challenge.
On most days, I oscillate from one side to the other. There are some days when I’m more excited for the little life currently inside me than I am sad for the one I lost. And then there are other days when my heart is breaking so badly over my baby in Heaven that I don’t know what to do with my growing bump—like it’s somehow intruding on my grief.
I’ve been told that for a pregnancy after loss, the fear and worry often get better after the point at which you lost the last baby. For us, that was at 39-weeks while I was in early labor.
So does that mean we’ll only feel safe once this baby is born?
Yet nothing is safe. About 24,000 babies die before the age of one each year in the U.S., and many more people die before old age because of accidents, illnesses, or other causes. I used to think of those statistics as far removed from me, but that was before my baby became one of them.
So no, we won’t be safe once this baby is born. The possibilities for death lurk around the corner at any age and stage of life. But if I allow fear to spiral down into those endless possibilities, they’ll crush me.
And that’s the truth I keep coming back to during this pregnancy: Anything can happen to anyone at any time.
We have no guarantee of life tomorrow. Not for me, not for my husband, and not for this new child growing inside me.
So how do I live—how do any of us live—inside that tension between life and death?
In some ways, it’s already a familiar concept to me as a Christian. To follow Christ is to live in the constant and seeming contradiction that I must die to myself and my own sinful desires in order to live in Christ and his righteousness. The apostle Paul writes, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).
When Paul was in prison for his faith, he wrote, “For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). To live was to have more time to tell people about the good news of the Gospel, but to die was to be physically present with God.
For Paul, both of those outcomes were desirable, but it was living in the middle—in the unknowing—that was hard.
So how do I walk through this pregnancy after loss, excited about this new life while still grieving for my baby in Heaven? One day at a time.
The tension of hope and death is all around us. After all, anything can happen to anyone at any time. The challenge is to learn how to live in the knowledge and reality of death while not fearing it so much that we become paralyzed and can’t walk forward.