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The wound remains.

Time has passed, is passing still, and I hold our long, awaited baby. The pain of the full-term stillbirth and two miscarriages has dulled, but three of my seven children are not with me. The pieces will never be put back together here on earth.

And now, as I hold this newborn bundle growing into a healthy, wiggling child my arms remember the shape of what I have lost. Grief has become tangible, abstract mourning swallowed up by tiny breaths upon my neck, grasping fingers and curling toes…

Today I’m part of my friend Dorina Gilmore’s series on Navigating Grief as Life Moves Forward. I’m sharing about how holding this new precious little one has also brought back memories and grief over my babies that I will never hold. You can click HERE to read the entire post, and I hope it is encouraging to those of you who feel that grief is a long and unexpected road. You are not alone.

“There was no magic formula that took me from the brink of offense to tenderness with Jesus again. It simply entailed daily time with him, reading the Bible, praying, and journaling my heart to him between lines of gray in my notebook. This was the practice I had started, and it became my lifeline. I found that as I kept spending time with Christ, I couldn’t harden my heart against him. It hurt sometimes, reading those stories in Scripture about others who were healed and knowing it wasn’t yet my own story. But Jesus met me in that place, over and over, and I came to terms with my own need for him. I embraced the gift of being his–even if he wasn’t answering me the way I wanted.”

These words by Ann Swindell echo my experience and emotions so closely even though our stories hold different types of pain. I have lived hard seasons of waiting in my life when I walked through pregnancy loss. I have waited to see if a pregnancy would progress, I have waited as I processed grief after losing a child, I have waited and waited for another child only to lose again. I have wondered why God would not heal my body as others held new babies. Most recently God fulfilled my desire by giving me a healthy daughter.

Though I do not have answers for why sometimes God gives healing and other times he allows us to walk through long seasons of heartbreak, I know that He is good, and Ann’s book Still Waiting has been such an encouragement to me. I especially appreciated how she reminds the reader that our faith is rooted in weakness and it is through this brokenness that we draw near to our Savior who is full of empathy. This brave and meaningful book just released this week, and I would encourage you to pick up a copy or listen to it through Audible.

Also here are a couple articles that really resonated with me, that Ann wrote about the message of her book…

What You Lack is Not Who You Are

When Waiting Wears You Down

 

She feels so light in my arms.

What if I cannot hold on to her?

We buckle her into the carseat that is supposed to carry her safely home. I sit next to her, watching her stomach rise and fall, keeping her wobbly little head from falling to the side.

Less than five minutes after we drive away from the hospital a nurse calls to tell us that I have left my face soap there. They saw the Dermalogica label and knew it wasn’t cheap, so they call us to say that already we have forgotten something. We turn around and drive back to get it, and I wonder if maybe we are meant to stay in that room, safe behind the sterile walls.

I have lost babies, and years, face soap – and what if I lose my daughter’s heart?

Now that her body is outside of mine, the doctors’ monitors will no longer search to make sure it is still beating. And the heart that cannot be monitored is a much trickier thing. I know, because I am a woman. What if this forgetting of the soap is just the first of my missteps?

What if I have brought her safely here, just to lose her heart?

We drive home, and all is sunshine, wonder, and fear. My husband opens the van door, and I carefully lift my mending body out. There are our rose bushes; life is the same and yet it is completely new for she is here. This is miracle that I raise her from her carseat and walk those ordinary steps to the front door. Barely inside and my boys crowd round, their eyes full of worship. We stand still. This is a moment you do not rush by.

I shower, and she sleeps, and we are home.

Then the power goes out inexplicably. My mom is cooking dinner over a gas range so she continues, and the rest of us gather in the backyard to watch the sun set as the light fades. It is beautiful – I watch Joy’s face bathed by pink and gold.

But then the rest of her first night at home is navigated by flashlight. I wear a headlamp to change her diaper and walk careful not to trip with my broken and healing body. The panic builds. How will I see her breathing rise and fall? How will I keep her safe without the light?

Shame follows close on fear’s heels… I hear myself believe that I am a mess. I cannot even light the way for her first night at home. On the night I bring her home, I again listen to the lies that my babies have died because of me – my fault, my mess, my inability to protect them.

I tell my husband I should be able to do this, but I simply cannot. So he drives late at night to Lowes and returns with a generator. Several hours, some sweat and many extension cords later, and there is a glow by my bed to watch her by. There is enough light for me to remember this is just life, where soap is forgotten, the power goes out for a night, and sometimes babies slip from their mother’s wombs with no explanation. This is just life, and lying next to me is a babe who will become a young woman who holds a heart more intricate than anything I can see by the light of this lamp.

In this soft glow I remember that I do not hold her heart, and I breathe prayers for our Maker to carry her. We are home together, and we fall asleep til the morning.

images from November 12, 2016 – the day we brought Elizabeth Joy home

for unplugged moments this month check out Childhood Unplugged

These first days after birth melt one into another, a beautiful fog.

She was born at 12:38pm. Tonight I don’t have dinner, but drinking apple juice and being able to move my legs again are glorious, and she is beyond perfect. I drink in her tiny nose; velvet cheeks and eyelids fluttering open and shut. Her mouth searches and closes around my breast, sucking and sucking the sticky colostrum. She is the fourth babe I have nursed, but still every time I’m afraid my milk won’t come in, it feels impossible that this miracle will also happen. I’m floating on cloud nine and constantly worrying that she isn’t getting enough, that my body is starving her. Before we drive home from the hospital her already tiny legs will have grown skinnier, but the kind nurses remind me this is part of the process and to trust.

Trust is all I have held onto for nine months. At every milestone I think that I will be able to breathe after we pass it, but the truth is that we are never safe this side of the grave. And so I continue to hold carefully, to nurture and to worry. But the truth is we are always safe, because we are held by our loving Father God. I cradle my children within his arms wrapped round me.

So now I hold this good and perfect gift, a daughter born after two sons and a daughter lost. Only hours ago I walked into this hospital with her full inside of me and laid down on a table where they cut me right in half. Only hours ago she laid on my chest for the first time, skin to skin, us both finding each other. Hours ago they wheeled me upstairs still in the shine of anesthesia and helped me slide into this bed that will be our home for the next few days.

The first time I rise to walk my legs don’t remember their role and the pain slashes through me, unfelt before. When I birthed Jeremiah after an emergency c-section I was terrified to stand, but this time I am determined that fear will not rob these moments with her. So I stand and slide one foot faltering forward after another.

I will stand in peace this time.

I will walk forward in peace. This time it’s just to the bathroom where I am still raining down blood. After a full-term loss and a torn placenta six years ago panic rose every time I saw the red running down. Trauma takes a toll that’s not always reasonable. But this time I stare the crimson down because I have decided peace will win the day. I look in the mirror at my still swollen belly, knowing the wound that is bandaged there. I feel it every time after birth, the thoughts creeping dark, telling me that because my body is a weeping wound I am unlovely, disgraceful, but this time I know I am not only beloved but blessed in this brokenness. As the nurses take the catheter out and ask about my bodily functions I see the tender awe in their eyes. As they take my babies vitals they scoop up miracle in their arms, sit on my bed and talk of this joy a child has brought. I am thankful for women caring for and reminding me of all the sacred this sterile hospital room holds.

This first night I am afraid to sleep. It feels strange that my body is no longer automatically caring for her, that she needs air and food and arms holding her. So I prop pillows to keep her safe and finally rest my eyes, nurses waking me from shallow sleep every few hours. I know we are watched and I can rest.

Light peeks through the window, heralding the morning and I am relieved to stop my charade of trying to sleep. I lie with her, alone for half an hour as the rising sun brightens the courtyard outside our window and Jesse sleeps curled in a chair.

The best scrambled eggs I have ever eaten, oatmeal, yogurt and cantaloupe are delivered. There will be cantaloupe at every meal that I will snack on through the day. Our whole world has shrunk to this bed, her tiny body, and the tray next to me holding fruit, chapstick, lotion, a pencil and my book. The nurses joke that we are the musical room as classical and worship music alternate out of the tiny speaker I packed in my hospital bag.

Here my husband and I are. Here she is. In this room there is peace and nothing else. There is pain and discomfort, my healing body wrapped in comfortable nightgowns and robes, but I have never felt more blessed. She is swaddled, her ankles wrapped with hospital bracelets, and to look at her is to remember that life holds promise.

Pregnant with her I would stand in the back of the auditorium, hands raised in worship as she kicked in rhythm to songs sung by crowds of believers.

“Like a tidal wave crashing over me, rushing in to meet me here, your love is fierce.

Like a hurricane that I can’t escape, tearing through the atmosphere, your love is fierce.”

We are only lying here peaceful because his fierce love has dreamed us, formed us and fought for us. We will gather her and go home. Real life will resume and I need the peace to rest on us. I will need the peace to come like a tidal wave, washing over me, a force of nature unstoppable.

I need to be the tidal wave, yet I am weak. In this hospital room I realize that strength can flow through me when I lie broken. Miracle can overtake when I enter a story greater than myself.

I search and flail until I sit down to write – my story, and now her story – and then the peace comes. All I know to bring it is to write the next page, a remembrance and a prayer.

In this writing I stay within the mystery, remembering the miracle, overtaken by peace.

“You’ve been my King of Glory, won’t you be my Prince of Peace.”

  • Rich Mullins

Elizabeth Joy, one day old. November 10, 2016

The only place I marched today was to the grocery store and back home for my son’s thirteenth birthday party.

But I have marched many places as a woman – on stage for my college graduation, to my first day at work as a teacher, down the aisle at my wedding, across the threshold of our home holding our first child.

As a woman I have marched to the beach to sprinkle my son’s ashes in the waves, and to the nursing home to hold my grandmother’s hand as she passed away. I have marched those first steps to the restroom after giving birth and having a c-section, and I have marched up and down the aisles of Trader Joe’s week after week as I grocery shop for our family.

I am so grateful to live in a country where anyone can march for or against anything, where I have a voice as a woman and every person has a right to express their joy and discontent.

My first daughter is only a few months old and my hope for the future is that it will be fair. But I know that in this world we will have trouble. Cancer and rape and poverty and war are not fair. It’s not fair that some babies’ hearts stop beating and some mothers’ hearts break. It’s not fair that I was born in this country and across the sea another mother watches her child starve to death.

So I pray for my daughter that she will grow up in a world where the health care that brought her safely here through a high risk pregnancy and c-section will still be accessible and affordable for her. I pray that her body and heart will only ever be touched with respect, love and goodness. I pray that whatever her hair color, bra size or body shape she will know to the deepest core of her being that her physical and spiritual health and vitality are what matter. I pray that if she desires to make her home her workplace and raising children her career that she will never be made to feel less than. And I pray she will be able to develop and utilize the gifts and talents God has given her to leave a large footprint of love in this world and the one to come.

I pray all of this to a God who has described himself to us as Father even though so many have only known abuse and neglect from their earthly fathers. I pray to Christ who calls us all, men and women, his bride.

I know my story is easier than that of so many. I live in a country where I have rights and safety. My daughter and I are loved and cared for by a wonderful man. But none of our stories have a sure ending so I pray most of all for my daughter that I will have the strength and tenderness to march with her through this life, and when I fail her that I will have the courage to say I’m sorry and take another step in love.