We lie flat on our backs next to each other, our faces toward Heaven. I feel his warmth all down my right side, and he stirs as I nestle against his left side. In the quiet of the day’s busy end, my husband begins our nightly ritual.
“Thank you for the four children you’ve given to us,” he prays.
Eyes heavy, bodies tired, his words unlock a routine so old it began before exhaustion had more to do with little people madness than the number of our years. With the slur of sleep on our tongues, we bring our four children and their families far above the bedroom ceiling and up to the throne. Every night we lay them at the King’s feet. We relinquish them as the priceless treasures they are before sleep’s muddy sludge folds over us.
“. . . and for the one we never knew,” he continues as he does sometimes.
My eyes fly open. Blackness fills the gap above me all the way to the throne. Images of a foreign hospital bed block the sound of his ongoing prayers as he lists the names of our children and their needs. I hear their names in the backdrop of my mind. Long after his prayer has ended, his sleep breathing tells me he is out, but I still stare at the dark.
My husband’s unpredictable thankfulness for an event that happened so many years ago always surprises me. The mention is as random and inconsistent as the first falling snowflakes. And I wonder why?
Each time he prays about “the one we never knew,” I’m startled into recalling something not seeking to be remembered, yet not really wishing to forget. His gratitude cherishes an unborn child we loved but never held. In our nightly routine of laying down our children much like we lay down our own tired selves, the incongruity of life and death jars me awake. His prayer resurrects another season in a different place, and I’m too tired to want to remember. But I do.
Sad undertows tug inside me like somber waves, and there next to the sleeping father of our children, I think back to my pregnancy loss. I was in my sixth month, far from home, and my dad was dying. I remember again the quiet doctor’s office and the concerned look on his face as he searched for a heartbeat.
Three little girls raced through the house, accentuating my nausea and swollen belly, excited about another baby. I felt I’d let them down.
When news came of my father’s death, I wondered if I’d somehow disappointed him as well. Across the ocean from my grieving family, I mourned for my dad and the child he would never know. And I buried my face in the soft, blue sleeper that would never swaddle our baby. I am a mommy and he is a daddy to the child we never knew.
I finally ask him after the sun is up and another day is born. It takes guts to put the question in front of us both, “Why do you thank Jesus for the baby we never had?”
There is no answer for what seems too long.
“He created a soul,” he finally says.
Something from inside my heart washes me, like a warm cleansing. My husband’s acknowledgment of the baby we never knew reveals to me true loss is birthed from something of worth. It reminds me of the privilege we had to bring a tiny life from my womb into the hands of a waiting Father, and it assures me the baby we never knew was known by God.
“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16, NIV).
“It was our baby,” he whispers.
Precious losses observed give tribute to God’s faithful gifts. Thanksgiving testifies of His presence through good and difficult, amid full and empty realities within life’s brokenness. This is what my husband reminds me of with his gratefulness. What he can’t yet see but knows will come—an eternal hope—rekindles a love for a child never born, and a determination to remember life’s sacredness.
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13, NIV).
I am a mother to four wonderful children who laugh and love, who breathe and move. I am a mother to one child I never knew yet who I love and who dances with Jesus.
“You carried it for as long as He wanted you to. Then He took our baby home,” he finishes. Blue eyes connect with mine. Together, our vision swims a bit in an understanding pool of happy sorrow.
“. . . all the days ordained for me were written in your book . . .” (Psalm 139:16). Life, even in its absence needs to be celebrated.
I snuggle deeper against the man who compels me to remember and offer praise for precious loss.