Realistic Prayers During Pregnancy After Loss

I’ve read pregnancy devotionals full of prayers of hope, expectancy, and joy for women. These are wonderful for most pregnant women, but for loss moms those prayers can sometimes be really hard. As much as I’d like to meditate on prayers of training my children in the way they should go or the plans God has for the long life of my little one, more often I can only muster enough hope to pray for my baby to survive one more day. Personally the prayers below are more realistic for my pregnancy after loss. These are one-line prayers that I often find myself reciting throughout the day. These prayers may not be as hopeful or expectant, but they are trusting. They are not as joyful, but they are still grateful. However I pray, I know the Holy Spirit intercedes for me with “groaning too deep for words.”

1st Trimester:

Help me

Thank you for nausea 

Please no blood

Thank you for a heartbeat

Thank you for no blood

2nd Trimester:

Help me

Thank you for a heartbeat

Protect this baby, but your will be done

Thank you for pictures

Thank you for no blood

Thank you for movement

3rd Trimester:

Help me

Protect this baby, but your will be done

Thank you for no blood

Thank you for hip pain 

Thank you for heart burn

Thank you for movement

Thank you for growth

Please let this baby live, but your will be done

Bless this baby

Your will be done

“The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Romans 8:26

From: Ginny, To: Chet

When taking down Ginny’s nursery, our family asked us if we wanted to keep things for our future children. What if we have a girl? We have so many cute girl things. I agreed to keep the crib, stroller, pack-n-play, and other large items. We bought those with our whole future family in mind. But those clothes are specifically Ginny’s; those blankets are Ginny’s. If we have other children, we wanted them to have their own things. It was too hard to think of Ginny’s things sitting in storage for who knows how long to be kept for a child that may or may not ever exist. Someone could use these things now. We kept a couple keepsakes and gave the rest away. Ginny wouldn’t be handing down her things to her siblings as she likely would’ve if she lived. 

The donation pile in our garage grew. Week after week, we never had the heart to take it to Goodwill.  A few times I said, “We should just call someone from church and ask them to pick everything up and take care of it.” But we never had the strength to do even that. The donation boxes loomed in the garage. It was an emotional chore we were never ready for. We chose to give the stuff away so that it would be used and wouldn’t sit in storage, and here it was sitting. After months the garage was a place we didn’t even enter. It was a shadow that held a piece of our untapped grief.

A few months into pregnancy with Chet, Daniel decided it was time to tackle the garage. We entered with determination and started filling the trunk of the car with stuff. I saw the nursery decor. I saw the birdhouse sign that once had Ginny’s name but now was blank with a little glue residue. I saw her crib sheets. I saw her clothes and blankets and socks. We continued loading the car. I didn’t change my mind… except for two items…

The first item brought back a vivid memory of early grief. It arrived on our front porch two days after we got home from the hospital after delivering Ginny. It wasn’t a care package. It was the diaper bag that I ordered the week before. It was a last minute item that I ordered when the world was still right. When it showed up, it was a cruel reminder of what we had lost. Well at least we can return it and get our money back. I had ordered the diaper bag from Walmart on a baby sale day. The week after it arrived, Daniel and I decided we would venture to Walmart to return the diaper bag. That was a terrible idea. It was still too early. That shouldn’t have been our first outing without family. 

In early grief, going in public feels sort of like an out of body experience. I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin. I felt like no one could see me… or that everyone was staring at me. Everything was fuzzy and felt foreign. We walked into Walmart and were immediately greeted by two friendly greeters. They gave us a sticker for the return item. I’m sure I made an awkward effort at politeness, but I was thinking, “Don’t they find it strange that we are returning a diaper bag? Why would someone return a perfectly good diaper bag if not for the unnatural tragedies of a fallen world?” Now thinking back I know there are plenty of good reasons to return a diaper bag, but that was how my mind worked at the time. 

We stood in line at customer service. When our turn came, the young woman at the counter informed us that since we bought this on the Walmart “Marketplace” we could not return it in store. I snapped at her, “So you’re telling me that I can’t return something I bought on walmart.com at Walmart?!” “That’s correct. You’ll have to go online and print the return label and send it through FedEx or something.” I wanted to scream, “I don’t even want to return this stupid diaper bag!! I want to use this diaper bag, but my baby died!!”  I felt myself turning red and my eyes swelling up. I grabbed the diaper bag and quickly turned around. Tears started streaming down my face as Daniel and I walked as fast as we could out of there. The friendly greeters saw I was crying as I rushed by. One shouted, “Oh no dear! What happened?! I’m sorry. I’m so so sorry!” It wasn’t Walmart’s fault; we weren’t ready for that chore. When we got home, still wrapped in plastic, the diaper bag got tossed on top of the donation pile in the garage.

Months later when we were loading the car full of the donation items, I stopped on the diaper bag. It’s a perfectly good diaper bag that I carefully picked out. It’s still in the plastic. This wasn’t specifically Ginny’s; it never even entered the house before she was gone. I remembered that the lining was blue. I settled for a bag with blue lining because I liked everything else about it. Maybe this blue diaper bag should be Chet’s. Why not? Suddenly this item that brought a painful memory of crying in Walmart transformed into something that held a little hope for the future. We have a diaper bag for our new baby. It was bought for Ginny, but now it’s Chet’s. 

The second item I saved took me by surprise. This item was a soft blue teddy bear. It was actually given to us at the hospital. It was part of the memory box that our wonderful nurse carefully assembled. The memory box means more to me than any other physical item. It is so precious to us. But I didn’t understand the teddy bear. It was very kindly donated by the parents of stillborn twins. This was before I knew that many grieving mothers hold a teddy bear to ease their aching empty arms. To me it was a reminder that there was no reason to have a toy bear in our house. We have no children to play with it. Plus it was blue; it reminded me of a baby boy, not Ginny. I thought it would be better for a little boy to play with it than for it to sit in a box, so I put it in the donation pile.

Months later when I saw that little blue bear in the garage it struck me. That bear reminds me of a baby boy because it belongs to Chet. It is Ginny’s gift to Chet. The rest of the items in the memory box were for Daniel and me, but that bear was for Chet. It felt like when Ginny died, she left behind a gift for her baby brother. A blue teddy bear. 

These two items moved from the garage to the nursery upstairs, awaiting Baby Chet. The remainder of the items were donated and are hopefully being enjoyed by many other families with living baby girls. I wish we wouldn’t have dreaded donating the items or felt guilty for taking so long. It’s important to take all the time you need when grieving and to not feel bad about it. I’m glad we waited to finish that chore. Those months gave us the space to see the items not as sources of pain but as gifts. 

Growing

Last Thursday we had the highly anticipated 28 week ultrasound. It was the first 3rd trimester growth scan. This is how we will catch and prevent what happened to Ginny from happening to Chet. I had been nervous all week; the worst moment of my life was at an ultrasound in the 3rd trimester. I wanted to see Chet’s face and know how he was doing, but I couldn’t help but be anxious.

Daniel couldn’t come in with me, but we’d be able to FaceTime. Even though he could’ve done that from home, he still drove me and sat waiting in the car. He wanted to be as near as possible. He wanted to be able to come in if anything went wrong. 

I walked into the building; it was the 2nd time in two months that I’ve walked through any doors except home. The 1st time was my previous doctor’s appointment. I was immediately given a mask and asked to sanitize my hands. The sonographer was already ready for me. It was an older man. I tried to ease my own tension by joking through my mask, “I don’t know why I put lip gloss on today. That was pointless.” He joked back that he never wears lip gloss. 

We entered the room and started the ultrasound. He immediately went to the heartbeat. I was so grateful for that. It was a strong heartbeat. He showed 4 chambers pumping blood. I exhaled, and called Daniel on FaceTime. We could hear birds chirping over my phone speaker from Daniel in the car with windows down. The sound brought a little cheeriness to the dark room. 

The sonographer measured Chet’s head and abdomen. We saw the stomach and kidneys. He measured the fluid. Then he took picture after picture of Chet’s cute little face! We got profiles and 3D pictures! The sonographer said he could do this all day. He proceeded to print a CVS-receipt-sized series of adorable pictures! This more than made up for the lack of pictures from the anatomy scan. Joy filled my heart as I stared at our son’s face. Daniel was smiling. 

I was brought to a waiting room until my doctor consultation. I sent the pictures to our families. Even though I didn’t yet know if Chet was growing on track, I got so much comfort from just seeing his face. 

The doctor called my name, and as we entered the consultation room she said, “Well you have a big boy!” She said he was growing really well and was in the 75th percentile. I was handed a paper that said “3lbs 7oz”. That’s 2oz bigger than Ginny was at birth! The doctor said we will continue monitoring, but he looks good and healthy. 

Wow! He’s big. He’s already bigger than his sister at almost 7 weeks younger. This doesn’t guarantee anything, but it does give me loads of hope. Perhaps we will welcome him into our arms! 

My next growth ultrasound will be at 32 weeks, and then the following week I will start weekly non-stress tests.  I’m excited to see him again. Until then I will be admiring his cute cheeks, nose, lips, and hands in these precious photos.

Mothers

Even though I live across the country and I haven’t seen my mom since Christmas, I still know the feeling of her soft hands. I can imagine leaning my head on her shoulder. Her touch, her voice, her fast-paced strides across the house are all so familiar and comforting to me. She’s the first person I ever knew. She knows me so well. We are connected in ways I don’t even understand. 

That’s why I couldn’t keep the secret when Daniel and I found out I was pregnant with Ginny. I tried for a couple days. When I spoke to my mom during that time, I felt like a liar for keeping it from her. Somehow she was going to just know. I was convinced her motherly instincts would just know, and then I would have to tell her by answering her questions instead of a sweet surprise. We caved and told family after a couple days. haha I don’t know for sure that she would’ve sensed it, but I bet she would have.

She was the first person I called after we found out Ginny had died. Then I called Daniel’s mom. They were the only two family members who held Ginny’s body. Their hearts broke because they missed their granddaughter, but also their hearts broke for us – their children whom they carried in their wombs. They were broken because we were broken. 

A bond between a mother and a child is powerful. It’s fueled by the mother’s love. I’ve always noticed a certain desperation that appears in a woman’s eyes once she becomes a mother. It’s like she is bearing something so valuable and is so afraid of losing it. She has so much love to bear. I’ve felt that desperation. But the truth is you can never lose the love for a child. You can lose the child, but the love stays with you forever. That’s what makes someone a mother – that love. 

You don’t have to have a child in your arms to feel that love. You don’t have to have given birth or been pregnant to feel that love. You don’t have to have someone call you “mom” to feel that love. 

Mother’s Day was hard last year. I knew I was a mother. I wanted to celebrate and honor that fact, but it just wasn’t obvious to the world. I had no baby. But if anyone could see inside my heart, they would see the love I had for Ginny. They could see my motherhood. So last year, I dressed up and went to church, knowing the Mother’s Day service might be painful. During the part of the service where we greet each other and “pass the peace”, another mother who knew my story came up to me from across the room. She hugged me so hard. She told me that I am a mother, a wonderful mother and that she was so proud of me. Tears started flowing down my face. That’s what I needed to hear. I needed someone to acknowledge my motherhood. 

Daniel took me out to a nice lunch afterward, and I received a sweet bouquet of tulips from a friend back in Oklahoma. I was blessed, and I was proud of myself for not hiding away. 

This year my motherhood is more obvious because of my bulging belly. I love that. 

Daniel and I were on a walk the other day. We passed by a cute family with 5 young children on scooters and strollers. The mom looked at me and said, “Hang in there. You’re almost there, Mama!” It took me a second to realize she was talking to me. I couldn’t stop smiling for ten minutes after that. It felt so good for another mother to not only acknowledge my motherhood, but also give me encouraging words to help get through these last couple months of pregnancy. People have no idea how impactful their simple words are. 

If you are a mother without a child this Mother’s Day, know you are a mother. Know that you deserve to be celebrated and that your love is still so powerful. Know that the bond with your child is real and unbroken. Happy Mother’s Day! 

I’m so grateful for my mom, mother-in-law, and grandmothers this Mother’s Day. They encourage me everyday, and I feel their love always. 

For those of you who are missing your mother or have a strained relationship with your mother or your children, I’m so sorry. God loves you with the power of a mother’s love and much more. 

“As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you.” Isaiah 66:13