Early in 2020, my husband discovered mold in our kitchen ceiling. In March, I discovered I was pregnant with our second child. The kitchen renovation is now finished, but the baby didn’t make it to the second trimester.

In the first week of lockdowns and layoffs from COVID-19, we tore down a wall to make room for more counter space. My sister moved in for a few weeks to help take care of our rambunctious toddler, and we celebrated Easter and birthdays together as a small, quarantined family. Then around the fourth week of lockdown, I had a miscarriage.

It was a horrible time. We were trapped at home, afraid of everyone at the store, and unsure when we would go back to work or normal life. With no running water to cook or clean with, I resorted to washing our crockpot in a shallow bathroom sink. At the same time, I was crying and bleeding when all I wanted was to have good news to share with the world, that a new baby was joining our family.

There were some very sad days when I stared at my empty walls and thought about my empty womb and wished things were different.

A few weeks later, the renovation turned a corner. Instead of tearing down, we began building up. New walls, cabinets, and lights were installed. You could see a frame of the beautiful new space it would be.

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My heart was taking longer to turn around. The grief and loss felt unfair and without reason. I knew how much joy my daughter brought me every day, and I couldn’t understand why God would rob me of doubling that. But God continued to put on my heart something I wrote down in a journal hours before confirming the miscarriage:

My dear baby,
I so badly want to see your face, hold you in my arms, and know you. But I have faith that God sees you, holds you, and knows you—and He does the same for me.

So I clung to that word and moved forward. I kept working from home, taking care of Rosie, and watching in amazement as my husband and father-in-law made walls appear in a single day. We had appliances again! Soon—relatively speaking—my husband was installing drawer handles, a shiny green backsplash, and decorative shelves. Our kitchen was once again useful and inviting.

We planted a tree in memory of our lost baby, one that will flower in the spring a year from when the miscarriage happened.

We only told our families and a few close friends, and they grieved with us and lifted us up with pizza and hugs and flowers and kind words.

Months passed, and I found out I was pregnant again. Rather than excitement, I felt cautious and hesitant. The weeks passed, and I continued to be pregnant. I made it through the first trimester, and at 19-weeks we saw our beautiful little boy squirming around and hiding behind his hands while the ultrasound technician tried to get a good photo for us. We never got to see the baby we lost or know anything about him or her. Finally, this next new life inside me began to feel real.

We celebrated our new kitchen by baking bread and cookies and making homemade calzones. As COVID restrictions continued, we made snacks and dinners and carried them outside to share with friends on the front porch or on the lawn. I marveled that just months ago we had nothing but studs and insulation, and now we had a beautiful new place in our home to enjoy.

Today, I sit at our new counter, looking at our finished kitchen project and feeling little fluttering kicks in my belly. I try to think of how I’ve been changed by this experience.

Unlike the kitchen, which gets a “wow” reaction from every person who sees it, the transformation within me has been more subtle.

I now know a kind of pain and sadness I never did before, one that is unfortunately shared by so many. Often I catch myself complaining about the trials of taking care of a now 2-year-old and realize someone else is longing for the chance to do these tedious tasks for their own child someday. On good days, I look at strangers in the park or around town and think, you are a miracle! Do you know how many things had to go right for you to exist?

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I am so thankful for my beautiful girl, who gives big kisses and is learning new words every day. I’m thankful for the little boy growing inside me, for every day he is in there and for, Lord willing, many many days on the outside, too. I’m blessed with a supportive husband who literally built me my dream kitchen, and for the family and friends who helped us through our hardest year yet.

The kitchen is done, but I’m still a work in progress. And that’s OK—we all are. The women who shared their stories of loss with me encouraged me in ways I can’t express, and I wanted to share my story with others. We’re so excited about our new baby, but he’s not the whole story.

The kitchen is new, but we are, too.

Originally published on the author’s blog

Joy Shantz

Joy is a 30-something person, wife, mom, friend, and neighbor—and is still learning to do all of those things well. She lives in Lansing, Michigan, with her husband Ben and daughter Rosemary. You can learn more about her adventures in family, community, and old home renovations at her personal blog, @HometownFound on Instagram.