If you were going to have company for an extended period of time, there would be much preparation, right? You would do a lot of cleaning, organizing, and planning. What if that company just showed up on your door one day unexpectedly and you had no idea how long they would stay?
I was challenged recently to re-examine the way I describe my family. Everyone who sees us can tell that I have a husband and two children, a boy and a girl. However, there is something about us that not everyone knows, and part of this challenge involves this part of our family life: there are two other children.
There are two children whom we never touched, never heard, never smelled, never felt breathe. They came as unexpected guests in my womb, growing side by side, for six weeks. Though we waited anxiously, we never heard their hearts beat, either. Some may discount their classification as “our children”, having had no heartbeats and staying within me for such a brief time. For anyone who has ever been pregnant, and perhaps for some fathers walking alongside their beloved women, there is a sense of life within a pregnant body that is unique and powerful. These tiny lives matter, they count, they become a part of us even after they are gone.
While those little twins were visiting us–and I love to think of it as just that, a God-ordained, purposeful, wonderful visit–I think of how many people we told as soon as we knew. What a blessing it turned out to be that we told so many family and friends early on, so that in our sadness, they understood and walked alongside us in comfort and prayer. Once those little lives had gone back to Jesus, I was amazed at how many of those family and friends shared their own pregnancy losses with me–there were so many, many more than I would have guessed!
All of this has gotten me thinking about how we shy away from talking about these kinds of losses with those around us: we don’t want to make others feel sad, awkward, guilty, afraid, unsure…the emotions go on. There are many reasons we hold back, and yet I’m realizing more and more that those six weeks were some of the most meaningful in my life. If I can bless others by sharing my experience, then I will be more bold, more open to sharing that part of my life. I can share the initial shock (“twins??”), the hope, the fear, the hours of humble praying, the sadness, the confusion, the loss, and the grace, joy, and love that flooded our lives in the following months.
We never named them, and we don’t often talk about them. I think we held back so much of ourselves each time we didn’t hear those hearts beating, as if we knew from the start that we probably wouldn’t see them face to face. I still think about them, though, especially when I see my toddler. She was born almost exactly a year after we found out I was carrying the twins. If they had not gone back to be with God, my little Anna would not have come; it would have been physically impossible for her to be who and where she is now. God gives, God takes away, but blessed be His Name. Through all of the peaks and valleys, I am confident of His faithfulness to me, and sure of His great love.
I am not fishing for sympathy, but I am processing and re-examining the way I think about and talk about this part of my life. Just six short weeks, but for anyone else who has walked that path of uncertainty that led to grief, it’s more than “just six short weeks”. I am hoping that more women will feel open to sharing these valleys in their lives with others, to bring about more encouragement, healing, celebration, and hope.