Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Melissa Joy
Mom to
Covenant Hope, Miscarried July 2007
Glory Hesed, Miscarried March 2009 
Promise Anastasis, Miscarried June 2009
Peace Nikonos, Miscarried November 2009 
Mercy Kyrie, Miscarried January 2010 
and Victory Athanasius, Miscarried May 2010
Washington state

Greetings from a mommy who is the face of loss, edged with hope—my name is Melissa Joy. My hope and prayer is that you would be encouraged and blessed somehow, by reading my story. It is a story of great joy and overwhelming grief—enormous loss and growing hope. May the Lord add His blessing!

I have been married to my wonderful husband for over three years, and praise the Lord daily for blessing me with such an incredible husband. He makes life a joy, even when we are treading on troubled waters. He is my encouragement and support, always reminding me of God's covenantal faithfulness and showing Christlike love to me.

We have always wanted a large (by some standards anyway) family, and in our naïveté never really expected that it would be hard to fulfill those desires. Although we conceived right after our wedding, we lost our first baby. What a shock. Sure, I had heard of miscarriage, but only distantly—in books and movies. Nobody ever gave me the slightest warning that it could actually happen to me. That my own baby might die. I just had no idea. I assumed that once you get that positive pregnancy test, you get to bring home a tiny, pink, squirmy baby nine months later. I never knew that so many things could go wrong in the interim. At the time of our first miscarriage, we had only been married for two months—we were still getting to know one another, and it was hard to be thrown into deep grief together like that. So hard! But yet, looking back, it was beautiful.

Shortly thereafter, the Lord filled my womb again, blessing us with a fairly uneventful pregnancy. He gave us a wonderful son named Gabriel. Our little boy has simply solidified our desire to have more children, showing us the blessing of parenthood and the joy of raising little disciples in the Kingdom of God. We have since found that his life is literally a miracle, surviving physical odds in my womb that we didn't know about at the time. God is so kind! And we are daily thankful for this miracle in our family.

Since having our son, we have been struggling to have more children: finding peace with where the Lord has this aspect of our fruitfulness right now is difficult. Realizing that our hopes and dreams may never come to fruition is its own aspect of grief. Grieving a life that we thought would come easily—now realizing that it may never come at all. Wondering how to cling to hope when it has been so very dashed to pieces.

As of this writing, we have lost six babies to first trimester miscarriage—Covenant Hope (July 2007), Glory Hesed (March 2009), Promise Anastasis (June 2009), Peace Nikonos (November 2009), Mercy Kyrie (January 2010), and Victory Athanasius (May 2010). The grief of losing one child is devastating enough, and the pain of grief upon grief upon grief—can be positively drowning. On the medical side of things, we have recently undergone over twelve months full of testing and research. We have been treating hypothyroidism and low progesterone; and more recently discovered some immunological problems. Statistically speaking, with treatment, our babies’ survival chance goes up from 5% to 80%, and we are so thankful for God’s gift of revealing this to us! We are praising the Lord for providing us with modern medical science to treat the problem! God is good. And although we do not know yet if these treatments will enable my body to nurture future babies, it is worth the try. I’m not a success story with it yet, but I am clinging to the hope that I will be!

We seek to constantly praise the Lord (even when it feels impossible to do so...), for we trust in His sovereignty and providence. We know that He controls the times, the seasons, my womb, our babies’ destinies, and our family’s future. Right now as we learn to wait on the Lord more each day, we pray for hope and faith. We are thankful for our hope of eternal life, and that no matter what our family life here on earth looks like, we have a big and beautiful family to spend eternity with, praising God forever and ever. Lord, hasten that day!

But here on earth, nothing can fully take away the depth of pain that a bereaved parent feels. There are no magic words or simple solutions. Grief has no timeline, and just when you think you’ve made progress, you find that you’re suddenly feeling two steps backwards. It ebbs and flows, sometimes without sense. And just when I feel like I am starting to smile again, laugh again, and find some shreds of happiness around me—I feel guilty, as though I am not honoring the babies who are not sitting as olive plants around my table. Relationships are now harder: no relationship I have is the same as it used to be. Some of them are deeper, while some of them have disintegrated altogether. I have found much healing in online forums (both receiving and giving encouragement) with other women traveling these same sorrowful paths, going hand in hand into the future God provides. But moving forward into the future doesn’t mean forgetting the past. I am a changed woman. A better woman. I am constantly finding new ways to minister, and new people to whom I can minister.

Sometimes I feel like the ocean of grief may swallow me up. Sometimes I don’t know how to breathe. Hope slips away and feels so out of reach. It can feel like a huge accomplishment to simply get out of bed and get myself dressed each day. I have found that crying helps, talking it out helps (although it must be with a select person—I’ve found less than half a dozen people I can really talk with about it), and reading helps. I read lots of books on grief as well as Christian suffering books. My highly recommended titles are,

“Hind’s Feet On High Places” by Hannah Hurnard,
“A Grief Observed” by C.S. Lewis,
“The One Year Book Of Hope” by Nancy Guthrie, &
“The Loveliness Of Christ” by Samuel Rutherford.

These books have helped me through some of my darkest moments. They have helped me take my thoughts captive and think on truths, instead of giving in to my fears and desperation.

Naming our babies also helps with the healing process. All of our miscarriages have been in the first trimester, and many people either ignore these deaths altogether or don’t acknowledge them fully enough. But these are our children. Fully images of God—fully images of my husband and me. One way we acknowledge this is by naming our children, so we can speak of them by name and remember them by name. I even have their names on charms on a necklace I wear, carrying them by my heart everywhere I go. My husband and I work together to name our babies; it tends to be something we are learning from the experience, feeling in our grief, or desiring to focus on as we move forward by God’s grace. Covenant Hope was our first baby: and with that one, we were studying through the covenantal promises of God to His children unto a thousand generations, and were trying to find hope in that. With Glory Hesed, our third baby, we knew that ultimately our baby was living in Glory and also that his death somehow would bring glory to God, and then Hesed is a Hebrew word conveying God’s covenantal love & faithfulness, which we prayed He would pour out upon us. With Promise Anastasis, our fourth baby, we were struggling with the idea that we will see our children again and live in heaven with them eternally praising our Father, so “promise of the resurrection” seemed like the perfect name to help us focus on that. Peace Nikonos was our fifth baby: his name means “peace of the Victor,” and we were praying for grace to focus on the fact that Christ has conquered death and that our little baby was sharing in that peaceful victory. Mercy Kyrie, our sixth baby, was named as a crying-out to our God, for her name means “Mercy, O Lord,” as we beseech our Father to look upon our lowly estate and lift His heavy hand from upon us. Our sweet seventh baby’s name, Victory Athanasius, means “victory of the immortal,” which is a precious reminder that our child is an immortal and is victorious over death because of Christ’s victorious sacrifice for His chosen people.

We have names picked out for live children that we hope to be given the opportunity to use someday. Every time I get pregnant, I can’t even look at our list of names anymore, because it feels like we just have to pick a different name anyway, since our babies end up dying far too soon. My friends are starting to use our baby names (although they are a secret—so they don’t know they’re doing it), and it stings every time I have to refer to someone else’s baby with a name that I thought I would get to use but haven’t.

I am often faced with the alluring temptation to be sarcastic about the dozens of women I know who are either pregnant or who have just given birth. Especially if they have particularly large families or are particularly older than I am. I want to tell God, “I am the young one who is supposed to be fertile; how come they aren’t in menopause or their wombs haven’t turned to mush with so many babies? Why is it that I am the one with the plague?” Of course, that is not how God works. Just because they are all having healthy babies and I am not, does not mean that I am any less loved or valued by God. But that is definitely a tempting thought. I fight it frequently. And as for marker babies (due around the time of my due dates)... I seriously struggle with that. I have at least two marker babies for each of my lost ones. It gets a bit overwhelming. I have given up going to baby showers altogether. Even bridal showers begin to hurt now, because there is always talk about the hope of babies—and I simply cringe, knowing my own hope turned to grief so quickly and so often.

We definitely feel that God has grown us and blessed us through our suffering and grief.   I often feel like “grief” is the overwhelming theme of my life right now. But when I think about it, “faith” does walk right alongside, growing and deepening right along with the grief. It is part of our sanctification, and it is glorious although we do not enjoy it. In the big scheme of eternity, it is beautiful and we are learning (ever so slowly…) to be thankful for it. The Lord has definitely grown us in learning how to reach out to others who experience various forms of suffering (especially, though, in regards to miscarriage and other death); deepened our sympathy and empathy; strengthened our marriage; taught us never to take our son for granted; shown us the blessings of modern medicine; humbled us more than we even knew we needed.... I could go on and on. Most of the time I am not naturally thankful for my life being filled with so much grief. I am not thankful that my babies keep dying. But I am thankful for the growth God has done, and is continuing to accomplish. He is gracious! And I am keen to be used for His Kingdom, in whatever ways He sees fit.

I don’t know if reading another woman’s story of grief and suffering has encouraged you, but it is my hope that this will somehow bless you. As beauty from ashes, may the Lord see fit to bring beauty from my testimony here.

I am the mommy of many. And I will never forget my beautiful babies. They are part of me, and have taken part of me with them. Their lives, no matter how short they were, give me hope.
And as the Puritan writer, Samuel Rutherford, once said:

Go on and faint not, something of yours is in heaven,
beside the flesh of your exalted Saviour, and ye go on after your own.
They are not lost to you that are laid up in Christ’s treasury in heaven.
At the resurrection ye shall meet with them: there they are, sent before but not sent away.
Your Lord loveth you, who is homely to take and give, borrow and lend.

You can contact Melissa through Grieve Out Loud at grieveoutloud@gmail.com


Butterfly-angel said...

Beautiful Melissa....May God bless your womb once again...“Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope. Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices, my body, too, abides in confidence.” Psalm 16

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Kristi B. said...

Melissa, your honest story of faith and grief walking hand-in-hand has encouraged me so much! Praying for you, dear friend.

Melissa Joy said...

I should have mentioned something about the treatments I am undergoing for the immunological issues we uncovered, in case anyone else with similar problems/history wonders about it.
My particular protocols include leukocyte immuno therapy treatments, Lovenox injections, intralipid iv's, prednisone, low-dose aspirin, and metanx in addition to progesterone, synthroid, prenatals, and high doses of calcium.

Melissa Joy said...

In November 2010, we lost our sweet baby Hosanna Praise, in our seventh miscarriage. We pray for God's strength now as we grieve.

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