Remembering the littlest ones

Something about autumn makes me sentimental. I think it’s the chilly weather forcing me inside where I light holiday candles, pull out the afghans, beg the mister to build fires, and sit on my comfy chair, which has a perfect view of the changing leaves. From this spot, I can hear Baby Boy in his room playing in his crib, and as I cuddle Baby Girl, I reminisce to 2 years ago when we were experiencing our first fall in this bungalow and I was pregnant with our son. Our sister in law was also pregnant with a little boy, and we loved texting back and forth, dreaming of these children being best friends, wondering if they’d look alike, planning when we could all get together.

Six weeks after our son was born, I was feeding him one night when Aaron’s phone rang. It was his brother. I knew from Aaron’s tone of voice something was not right; in fact, something sounded very wrong. Our sister-in-law had gone in for her routine OB appointment right before her due date, and there was no baby heartbeat—their son had died. The doctors couldn’t explain exactly what happened; no answers could make sense of this horrific loss. As I nursed my own son in that moment, tears fell onto his small body for the boy who wouldn’t feel his mama’s embrace until she joined him in Heaven. For months, we cried over this death. We knew that Timothy was with Jesus, and for that we were grateful. But we loved him and missed him, and more than that, we hurt for his mama and daddy, whose pain we knew was a hundred times deeper than our own.

That was in the midst of a strange and difficult season for us. Many people we loved were suffering the loss of their children. One friend, a woman I’ve known since she was 7, left me a voicemail saying she had something very important and exciting to tell me. I knew in my heart of hearts that she was pregnant, but I never got her return call sharing the good news; instead, I got news that yes, she had been pregnant, but she had subsequently suffered a miscarriage. I was devastated for her—I knew how much she wanted that baby, how loved that baby was already. The next Sunday in church my shoulders shook with uncontrollable gulping sobs. I couldn’t process this loss or the pain that this woman—someone I love so dearly—was experiencing.

Friends of ours who were in our wedding suffered two miscarriages during this time. More tears were shed as I read the blog of a cousin who is a missionary across the world. She described delivering her stillborn baby in the bathtub with her husband’s brave and compassionate assistance, and the grace of God that never left their hearts. Another friend also wrote about her loss on her blog; I have read this post countless times and marveled at my her faith in the Lord right in the middle of awful. She wrote in the midst of her grieving process, which struck me as brave and trusting. Another friend describes her miscarriage and offering up her suffering while her child passed from this life—a beautiful testimony to God’s sovereign and compassionate hand. I tried to imagine her in the ER alone, praying for her friend giving birth, dealing with this compassionate, mysterious God who gives and takes away.

I know God is in the business of redemption. One part of that for many of our friends has been the babies God has blessed them with, including a set of twins due in the spring. But the arrival of new life doesn’t erase the pain of loss. October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, and October 15 is a specific day set aside for parents and families to light a candle in memory of these little lives lost. I never knew this day even existed until Timothy died. We prayerfully, sadly light a candle for our little nephew and shed big crocodile tears. I pray for mamas and daddies who have lost a baby, especially my sister-in-law and her empty arms. I praise God for the story he is writing, even when it hurts. I thank him that someday we will all get to meet Timothy and spend eternity with each other, never having to part again. This year my sister-in-law and I texted back and forth a bit; she assured me that she was doing well and been able to celebrate Timothy. She is blessed in that she has friends who engage her in conversation about her loss, but I know a lot of people are uncomfortable talking about this subject.

Friends, it’s an ugly and unbearable loss. It’s an awkward subject to talk about. It’s something we wish couldn’t exist in our world, much less happen to someone we love (or ourselves!). But please don’t let the pain keep you from asking a parent how they’re doing in their grief; don’t pretend like everything is okay when it’s not. Honor the short, tiny lives; reach out to parents no matter how long it has—or hasn’t—been. Ask questions about their baby if that would be encouraging. Ask to see pictures if they exist. Lend dignity to the babies’ lives and comfort their parents. Let’s remember together the littlest ones.

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