It was the summer of 2013, and the mood in our apartment was light and celebratory. My first pregnancy had made it to 14 weeks, and Jon and I were certain we were “in the clear”. In an attempt to shield our family and friends from any pain a miscarriage would bring, we hadn’t yet told anyone we were expecting. Our baby-to-be reveal plan included a pregnancy announcement photo.
We staged a picture of three pair of Sperrys: one for me, one for Jon, and in the middle, a tiny pair for the baby. Tiny shoes to fill, our announcement read. We had postcards made up, and on the day we revealed our pregnancy to our most immediate family, we mailed the cards to extended relatives.
I was so confident that we were past the point of hurt. We had waited the customary 14 weeks, I was confident it was long enough. I couldn’t imagine my first pregnancy was anything short of a sure thing. It was my confidence in my identify as a “good person”, my self-imposed sense of security from all the “right” things I had done, that set me up for the biggest fall of my life.
I felt the harsh sting of betrayal when the doctors found all the abnormalities at 20 weeks. I was so mad. I found myself on the losing end of a statistic.
We had waited until 14 weeks to tell. I had taken my prenatal vitamins, I had given up caffeine, I hadn’t touched wine, and we had even started the process for our life insurance policy. All the boxes were checked, there had to be a mistake. I had always wanted to be a mother, and because I was a good person, I felt entitled to an easy path.
This wasn’t the kind of thing that I had signed up for when I prayed for a baby. It’s amazing how many conditions we try to put on God. My hopes were ground to down to a fine feathery dust. It was too soon to see life beyond the laundry list of abnormalities ticked off by the doctor we had just met.
My baby might die. My worst fear was happening.
The thing about redemption is that it starts with a fall, and I fell so hard. I endured the pain of carrying Darla to 30 weeks. I lived the trauma of birthing her, bore the sorrow of losing her, and was left broken in the grief that followed. I told God I needed space, but instead of running like I planned, I drew closer to Him. A shell of a person, broken and worn, I stop trying so hard. I waited. I felt everything. I leaned in.
And in all the mess and all the loss, in a sloppy pile of tears on a sectional couch in a dark apartment by myself, I was saved.
Had I accepted that my story ended when Darla passed, what a sad conclusion it would have been. What a life I would have missed. Thankfully, our God is an artist, able to take the most wrecked ashes and make them shine. Yet, an unfinished work cannot fully reflect His intended glory. Everything seemed bleak, but He wasn’t finished working.
“Trusting God when the miracle does not come, when the urgent prayer gets no answer, when there is only darkness—this is the kind of faith God values perhaps most of all. This is the kind of faith that can be developed and displayed only in the midst of difficult circumstances. This is the kind of faith that cannot be shaken because it is the result of having been shaken.”―Nancy Guthrie, Holding on to Hope
After eight months, despite the best-guess 25% chance of recurrence, we opened our hearts again. When I saw that second pink line show up on my test, I waited to feel the fear I was anticipating; it didn’t come. Instead, a calming gratitude set in. I felt warm all over.
And nine months after that, the tiny shoes were filled by our Gracie Kate.
To me, the word “healed” doesn’t really fit when I reflect back on the journey with Darla. Healing indicates being restored to a previous state; that isn’t what happened. I can’t ever be the same. Instead of returning to a previous state, I have been transformed. The tiny little baby that never made a peep in this world altered the direction of my life forever.
God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 1 Corinthians 1:27
Darla didn’t need shoes; angels have wings.