I coughed a few times, sniffed, and tried to swallow the tears as if I could just swallow the pain welling up inside. Pain that I had been burying because of the shame. I've done it before, I should know by now that I would do it again. I feel the anger burning without stopping to realize that the anger isn't directed at someone or even something, it is part of the grief.
I didn't really want to share that I lost a baby. I felt a shame I hadn't experienced before. I was very early in my pregnancy, "Does it even count?" the question burned deep in my heart, although I would've never voiced it out loud. I'm usually pretty transparent with the grief I walk through, and I know that I've been comforted by many others sharing their stories of loss, so I wanted to do the same. What I didn't expect were the many people encouraging me and asking how I'm doing, the women who opened up about their own stories or loss, or the box I found on my doorstep when I came home today.
I was waiting for another package and bound up my steps when I thought I saw it perched on the door, I got close enough to read a message: Handle with Care. "That's strange. I thought my package would come in a bag?" I picked it up, looking at the return label and instantly recognizing it as a local ministry who sends care packages to women who have lost their babies. Loved ones contact the ministry to tell them about a mama who has lost their baby and pays for a care package to be sent, then the ministry prays over that mama as they prepare and ship out a package to help families remember their lost baby, grieve with Jesus, and encourage them. I've sent these packages to friends before, so I was familiar with this incredible organization.
What I wasn't familiar with, or really prepared for were the emotions that surged through my veins in the fifteen seconds it took for me to read the Handle with Care label, recognize the ministry, pick up the box, and walk through my door.
I mean, of course I'm familiar with anger. But I wasn't familiar with feeling angry when a package arrives on my door step. That usually makes me really happy. I wasn't familiar with feeling angry over being seen, loved, or cherished. I wasn't prepared for those fifteen seconds of anger to burn into my cheeks, flushing them bright pink while my heart pounded and my cold fingers fumbled to open the front door.
I walked into the kitchen, set down my stuff, and cut the tape on the box, bothered with the hassle and embarrassed that someone sent this to me. The familiar feeling that occurred every time someone asked how I was doing in the last two weeks, overwhelmed every part of my body as I opened this box. "I'm fine! I'm actually totally fine! Thanks for asking. Now, how are you?"
Or maybe avoidance.
The moment I lifted the lid, I was stunned by the instant tears that stung my eyes and poured down my cheeks. I coughed a few times, sniffed, and tried to swallow the tears as if I could just swallow the pain welling up inside. Pain that I had been burying because of the shame. I've done it before, I should know by now that I would do it again. I feel the anger burning without stopping to realize that the anger isn't directed at someone or even something, it is part of the grief.
I wasn't angry that a package had arrived at my door. I wasn't angry that I was seen, loved, and cherished. I was angry that I had to get a package like this in the first place. I was angry that my phone dinged with an email-update from Pregnancy Center about what my pregnancy should be looking like this week. I was angry that the new pair of pants I bought were not maternity pants, but just a pair of high-rise jeans that fit my waist perfectly.
But all of that anger was really just pointing to one thing: Grief.
A deep and present grief that this Christmas miracle baby will never be in my arms on this side of heaven. A grief that will linger no matter how much I smile when people ask how I am. A grief that sits in the pit of my stomach when the emails comes through. The emails that I haven't stopped from coming because its a way to remember our baby whose life here on earth was so short, I've wondered if I should even be grieving the loss at all.
"I just want to stop the tears - to stop this feeling." I told the Lord. But as the thought crossed my mind so did another and I was quickly reminded of something He's taught me a lot... feeling the tears is important. Sitting in the moment, feeling the pain to the fullest extend I can feel it, is sacred. Inviting God into my grief with me, is holy.
With a deep and shaky sigh, I picked up the things in the box, turning them and examining each one. My hands found their way to a book and reluctantly I opened it to skim the first few pages... but I couldn't even get through the first page.
"Dearly Beloved, I'm so sorry. Let me offer my sincerest condolences. I wish I could wrap my arms around you. Catch your tears. I've been there."
...Catch my tears.
Our family reads through one of Louie Giglio's "Indescribable " devotions every morning and this morning we talked about tears. After giving a little science lesson, Louie always brings it back to something we can learn about the character of God, and this one was telling us that Jesus wept when Lazarus died. Just as He wept with Mary and Martha, He weeps with us when we're hurt. Louie reminded us of the Psalm that tells us God sees each tear that falls and stores them in a bottle. He catches our tears. I smiled at my girls and said, "I think this is a perfect one for you today!" As their little hearts continue to navigate big changes and sisterhood and learning, tears are common with these three.
But I think that this devotion was also for me.
As I continued reading the book from the box, I began reading a little bit of the author's story.
"Then I felt it - the sure sign that everything wasn't fine. I instantly knew I was losing my baby... My thighs warm and wet. I sprinted to the bathroom. I saw the red. I knew my dream had just escaped my body."
I couldn't read any more because the black words against the white pages were blurring into a sea of grey. A bubbling sob escaped my lips, then another. I sat down on the stool left in there from breakfast, and leaned back against the cabinets while the tears trailed down onto my neck.
"Just sit here." I thought, willing myself to take some time to feel the actual weight of everything I was feeling. My thoughts drifted to eternity as I imagined a sweet baby, whose gender we don't even know yet, being held by my sister. A baby who would never know the pain of this world, a baby who would never know brokenness the way I know it. I had struggled to imagine life moving on without my sister. I'd struggled to imagine having a baby that will never know her auntie on this side of heaven. But never once had I imagined that my sister might know my own baby before I do.
After some time, I stood back up and looked through the box again, rereading the description of each piece in the box, including the hand-written note from someone I don't even know telling me she's praying for me.
I'm going to guess I'm not done grieving.
I hate grieving.
It is exhausting. I've had enough grieving in my life.
But I also love grieving, because if I can't feel the actual person I'm grieving, then I can feel the weight of the pain of not having them here.
If I can never feel the weight of my baby on my chest in the middle of the night, then I can feel the pain in my chest from the ache of longing.
If I can never feel my baby kicking inside my womb, then I can feel my insides twist and hurt from missing them so much.
If I can never feel my sweet one's soft skin and fuzzy hair against my cheeks, then I can feel the constant sadness and remember.
I can grieve and know, because I've learned it before, that I'll always miss this baby, but the grief won't sting quite so badly one day. And I can invite God into my grief, knowing He will catch each tear that falls, and He holds my heavenly baby just as He holds my earthly babies.
And to you who sent me this box: thank you. From the bottom of my heart. I didn't know that just receiving this gift would cause me to wrestle with so many deep thoughts and hard feelings, but I needed to and I'm so thankful you thought of me and of our little one.