Should. Shouldn’t. These are loaded words, borne of disappointed expectations. We shouldn’t be living in a world marred by sin, disease and death, but we do. No mother should have to bury her child – much less three – but I have.
I was sitting with several of my mommy friends at church, watching them nurse and entertain their infants, when I was suddenly struck with the realization that I should be nursing a two-month-old right now. But I’m not, because she’s buried under our maple tree. And suddenly I couldn’t breathe.
I’m a tummy sleeper. One of the things I hated most about being pregnant was how difficult it was to get comfortable when I couldn’t sleep on my tummy. But lately, as I curl up comfortably in bed, I weep. My belly should be getting in my way right now, but it’s not, because my babies are gone.
I keep getting maternity junk mail from companies who probably got my address when I registered to track my babies’ development online. Those accounts are deleted now, but the cheerful baby coupons keep coming to torture me, because an automated mailing list doesn’t know when a mother’s hope has turned to grief. My heart shouldn’t sink when I open my mailbox, but it does.
With my confused body trying to adjust to the loss of two pregnancies in nine months, I once again pack away my maternity clothes with the awareness that I still look pregnant, and will until I can muster the energy to lose the baby weight. I shouldn’t dread the innocent congratulations of strangers who look at my belly and wonder whether we’re having a boy this time, but I do.
There are days when I’m able to forget for awhile. When I can laugh with friends, enjoy a movie or get through my to-do list as if nothing happened. But I’m continually nagged by the feeling that I’m forgetting something, like when you walk into a room for a purpose and then can’t remember why. It’s as if I’m constantly looking for something, but don’t know what it is or where to find it. I shouldn’t be haunted by this aimless emptiness. But I am.
My moods unexpectedly swing from numbness to overwhelming sorrow, from frustration to anger, but I never know which wave I’ll have to ride next, when it will hit or what will trigger it. Some days I’m resigned, and others I rage, “Why offer me a precious gift and then yank it back, Lord? Why raise my hopes only to see them dashed? I don’t want promises or comforting words. I want my babies here in my arms! That’s how it SHOULD be!”
But in the end, I know that when I say “should,” what I’m really saying is, “If I were God…” But I’m not. And the truth is, my children ultimately aren’t mine. They’re His. Even the three tucked safely in their beds are just on loan for awhile. He is ultimately their Heavenly Father, who loves them even more than I’m capable of.
The three precious babies He took home were only here for a few weeks, and they were born immediately to a place where they’ll never have known suffering, fear or grief. That must be an extraordinary experience. Their mommy isn’t so lucky, but God knows that our sufferings here are temporary, and eternity is a long, long time to enjoy the healing and restoration of what was lost. It doesn’t feel brief or temporary right now, but in comparison with eternity, it is.
In the meantime, I just have to remember that I’m not alone, and make it through another day…