This isn’t my usual sort of post here. It’s been quick and easy to post a Bible verse meme and a prayer, and I’ve meant them, every one.
But I haven’t been completely honest about what’s been happening for me, either.
It’s been a difficult year, and now, just when things are getting better, I’ve been ill all this last week. Terrible heartburn, no energy, joints so stiff I felt stuck. I wanted to cry from the pain, but even thinking about it made the aching burn in my chest and throat worse.
I couldn’t figure out what made me feel so sick and so low. It didn’t feel like just a virus, it felt like something more, something from deep within me. Sure, I’ve been comfort eating a lot to deal with the stress of my husband’s illness, but he’s a little improved now. Sure, I’ve gained a lot of weight, but I’ve been this heavy before with no problems. Sure, we had some financial worries, but God has blessed us and that’s taken care of now. Sure, his mother and my parents have been a concern, in my prayers a lot, but they’ve come through some health challenges okay.
God has been showing me over and how He keeps His promises.
Today, in my quiet time, thoughts came to me of a pet who died earlier this year. Then I realised, this weekend was the anniversary of my baby Rose’s death. Every year, I get depressed around this time. Every year, I can’t figure out why. When I remember, it all makes sense. I didn’t let myself consciously grieve for Rose, so my body grieves for me.
The pain in my chest made me stop eating. And when a comfort eater stops comfort eating, the emotions she eats to suppress with surface.
Fourteen years ago now, but my body still remembers. I’ve been grieving her all year, I see that now. That’s why everything fell apart for me, with my writing, my release schedule, my health.
It sounds silly, but the death of a guinea pig started it all. My husband’s beloved pet fell sick with pneumonia last December. The vet prescribed antibiotics but told us it was unlikely he’d survive. I prayed so hard over that critter and nursed him so determinedly. I loved the little one, and with my husband’s health so precarious, I knew his pet dying would knock him hard.
Just like a baby, his illness meant Dandy Pig couldn’t eat for himself. He needed liquid feeds every few hours. I had a deadline, but writing had to wait. After a couple of weeks, he improved, seemed his happy self again, bustling around in his cage, playful, enjoying his food. I knew all the places where even in the middle of winter I could find the herbs he liked best, dandelion, fat hen, chickweed, goose grass, and I made sure he got them.
Suddenly, one evening two weeks later, he worsened. No sparkle in his little eyes. Not eating again. Rasping laboured breathing.
Back to the intensive nursing care. I sat up all night with him, knowing he’d probably die, feeding him drips of water, making sure he got his prescription pain medication. He kept going, through that night and into the next day. At 2 am, I heard his cage rattle. Bright eyed and alert, he stood, pushing at the cage door, as he did when he wanted to come out for a cuddle.
Joy exploded in my heart. God heard my prayers and had miraculously saved this little one! I picked him up and sat on the bed with him. He nestled into the crook of my elbow, rested his head on my arm as he usually did, let loose a sigh, and died.
So like baby Rose, though she never took a breath. All I knew of her was the butterfly flutters deep in my belly, the winking light of her heartbeat on the sonogram screen, and one short cuddle after her birth. But I prayed and fought so hard to keep her alive too.
When my waters broke far sooner than they should have done, we rushed to the hospital. The doctors said she wouldn’t survive and wanted me to have an abortion. I refused. I went home, lay in bed, and prayed like I’d never prayed before. I could feel her moving, I didn’t have a fever, no sign of infection, maybe, just maybe, she’d hang in there long enough to survive. Just a few more weeks….
But two weeks later when I went back to the hospital for a check-up, it was bad news. Her heartbeat had slowed. Because there was no fluid around her body to cushion her, her joints were pushed out of shape and weren’t developing properly. Worse, her lungs weren’t developing either. That night, she died. The miracle I’d prayed for hadn’t happened.
I let the doctors induce labour, and baby Rose was born just before midnight. I couldn’t cry. I could hardly bear to hold her, or even look at her. My perfect little girl, dead because I failed to hold her inside long enough.
Because she wasn’t quite at the gestation where a funeral is legally required in this country, we let the hospital take care of her tiny body. I locked up my feelings and went home.
Rose never breathed, never cried, never felt me hold her in my arms. I do believe she felt my love though. I’m sure she knows God’s love, too, even if for a long time after she was born I didn’t feel it. Angry with God, I turned away from Him, but He didn’t turn away from me. He kept loving me, even as I hated Him, even as I refused to feel the feelings that would let me heal. And now, He’s lovingly unlocked that door I hid my grief and anger behind.
Dealing with our grief and pain, dealing with the times when God seems to let us down, when what happens makes no sense, isn’t easy. I have no answers.
I know I need to grieve Rose now, and hand that grief over to God. I know he will support me in my grief. I know that somehow, He has a plan and a purpose, and much as I longed for it, motherhood wasn’t part of his purpose for me.
Maybe, if I let myself cry for her, cry for my lost hopes, cry for the fourteen year old she would have been, this burning in my chest will go away. Maybe, right at this moment, God has his arms around me, whispering to me, “My child, my precious child, I love you.”
Maybe, it’s finally time to hand this grief over to Him and let Him take it from me, and start to heal.