Under a crisp, periwinkle sky, she flings both arms into the air with her head tilted way back so that her curls dangle in the breeze. She loses herself in unhindered abandon, lifting ear-splitting squeals and small chunky arms and every bit of childlike wonder to feel the movement of the wind.
With everything in her, she yells, “Wwoooooooooooooowwwww!”
Beaming, she gazes up at the towering pear tree, lost in her own toddler world. Leaves dance on thin, clustered branches. Their vibration creates a melody that takes me back in time.
Seven years ago, I sat in the same spot I’m sitting today, while my husband and my dad moved fresh earth with shovels. I watched as deep holes emerged, overwhelmed with all the grief I couldn’t figure out how to bury.
Back to back miscarriages had ripped my heart open and my world apart.
The two worked quietly, and I was thankful no one could read my thoughts. When each hole was deep enough, they dropped a tiny, frail pear tree low into the ground and filled in each of the three holes with the same dirt they had removed.
The trees were memorials, but I wasn’t so sure I wanted to remember this pain. More than anything, I wanted to erase this part of my story, pretend I was living someone else’s. I wasn’t sure my faith was strong enough to keep trusting in a good God.
I named the babies we never got to meet. Only God and me know their names. I can’t even be sure whether the babies we lost were girls or boys, so I just went with my mother instinct on that.
I picked a girl’s name for the first. The second miscarriage was a double loss, and though I can’t know for sure, I imagined in my heart a girl and a boy. I assigned each tree with its respective name very matter-of-factly. I started with the first tree and went on down the line. A girl was first, then another girl, and next to her on the far end, the boy who would have shared the same birthday with his sister.
Today, as I watch my tiniest daughter fling her arms up into the breeze, amazed by those singing heart-shaped leaves, my heart is overcome by the silent version of the word she is yelling. Wow.
Those trees have endured a hurricane and a drought, and whenever the wind blows, they sing.
Though they represent all we’ve lost, I can’t get over how much they resemble the family God’s blessed us with all these years later. I wonder why I haven’t ever noticed this before.
The two trees closest to the street are nearly identical in size and shape. The other, unprotected by the side of the house, is much smaller in comparison. I couldn’t have predicted this when I assigned names to each one. Back then they all looked alike.
But in His time, God gave us a boy and a girl. My Jake and Lillian share more than a July birthday; both have their daddy’s long and lean genes.
Many more years skated along before He gave us our third, a girl we named Anna Joy. It took seven years for me to see it this clearly—His goodness, His blessing, His complete reversal of all I lost.
Like a mirror I momentarily glance into, I see my deepest pain producing a reflection of profound joy.
A friend told me last week that seven is the number of completion. I have my own wow-moment right there in the same place I cried a million tears all those years ago, and a thought crescendos in my mind: God’s story is one of reversal.
Eternal life instead of the death I deserve. The Prince of Peace taking my place to make peace with God on my behalf. An upside-down kingdom where the weak are strong and the poor are called blessed. A kingdom where we’re all invited to be small and things like character and hope are born out of impossible suffering.
Today I think about the woman who could plant a forest in her backyard, and sometimes I hesitate to tell this part of my story.
Chances are, you have a friend or loved one who’s lost a baby, too.
Right now she may be flinging her arms in the air with a different three letter word on her lips, because God doesn’t let us fast forward through the years to see the rest. Instead of wow, she might be yelling, How? Or Why? She might be silently mouthing, Huh? Or praying one word over and over and over: God, God, God?
Watching someone close to you endure a miscarriage feels incredibly helpless sometimes. Look up the word miscarriage, and the very first synonym you’ll find is failure. When babies die before they’re born, it’s cold, hard evidence that we live in a broken world with broken bodies that fail.
I remember failure tightening around my neck like a noose, choking hopes and dreams, squeezing out life until Jesus reached down and rescued me. His word became my place to stand and His promise my only hope. God used the stories of others to remind me of His faithfulness.
The most helpful way to encourage someone through the pain of miscarriage is to tell your story.
Tell your story—not in an attempt to relate and make yourself feel less uncomfortable; tell your story, because your story reveals the heart of God.
Even if your story doesn’t include miscarriage, you’ve probably at some point in your life had to come to terms with the fact that you need God. We’ve all struggled, experienced loss, felt hopeless and alone. Listening to stories of God’s faithfulness helps us remember that He is good and trustworthy, and that He grieves with us.
When I was four months pregnant with our third child, a friend asked me to meet with a girl who longed for a baby. There was no way to know for sure if she’d ever conceive.
I asked if she had mentioned the fact that I was pregnant… and showing. She told me she had and that she was convinced my story would communicate hope. I wasn’t so sure.
Growing bellies were sometimes overwhelming back when I was waiting. I questioned whether this girl I’d never met before would be more hurt than encouraged. I almost said no, but something made me go.
It was easy to share what God had done in my life. Heart-breaking pain seemed to unite us somehow in that quiet corner of the coffee shop. Later in the parking lot, when we said goodbye, I awkwardly crossed my arms over my belly.
I’ll never forget what she said to me.
“Don’t you dare cover up your miracle,” she implored, with hopeful eyes and a gentle smile.
I hadn’t even realized that’s what I was doing. Too concerned I’d cause her pain, I missed how my story had done exactly what my friend felt it would: communicate hope.
No one benefits from hiding God’s goodness. Stories can’t be photocopied and mass produced, because they are uniquely personal. Every story tells a greater story; it doesn’t end with us.
Nothing in this life is guaranteed, but Love guarantees to heal hearts and write wow-endings that are uniquely beautiful and personal. We all get the wow-ending, because in the very end, Jesus is coming back.
Our stories are powerful—and often, all we really have to give—so don’t hold back because you don’t know where someone else’s story is going. God knows.
Your story lets God tell His.
Yes, miscarriage has made its mark on my story, but even in the pain—especially in the heartbreak and sorrow—God spoke His truth over my life: Love never fails. My body failed more than once to carry a precious life into this world, but God’s love has never failed to carry me through difficult times and times of joy.
Our stories are all so different, but every story is authored by Love. And Love will remain long after this world and everything in it fades away.
For those who grieve…
I wrote this post for those who wonder how to encourage someone through the pain of miscarriage, yet I know there’s a chance that you are grieving your own loss today.
You are not alone.
No words can adequately explain or even ease the pain you’re experiencing. My prayer is that you find comfort and hope in the following words.
Allow grief to do its deep heart work. Don’t be tempted to say you’re ok when you’re not. Find a friend you trust, and be honest with her about your pain, your anger, your struggles and questions. Invite her to just sit with you and not say anything.
Find ways to experience closure. Planting trees, naming babies, or setting up some other kind of memorial acknowledges something was lost. It is such an important part of the grieving process.
Start a thankful journal. Nothing produces joy quite like a thankful heart. Someone I love suggested this to me just days after we planted those trees. I didn’t quite understand the power of gratitude back then, but time has a way of making hazy things beautifully clear.
I’ve written a bunch about my own journey through infertility and miscarriage. You can read more of my story here. Most of all, I hope you know today that Jesus loves you dearly.