Goodbye, Dear One

Goodbye, Dear One

“I suggest you prepare yourself for losing this baby,” the gynecologist warned gently. “I can’t find any heart movement.”

Alarmed, I tried to comprehend this sudden turn of events. I hadn’t even had my first appointment, and now here I lay on an examining table—on my thirty-first birthday, in Indonesia, at 9:00 p.m.—beginning to miscarry.

Accepting the reality of this pregnancy had been difficult. I had delayed taking a test and telling others because the timing didn’t fit my plans. But God had determined I should have a third child, so I relinquished control and accepted his gift. Now this surrender added to my confusion. How could this be happening now? Did I do something wrong?

I continued to bleed throughout the night and cramps began in the early morning hours. I knew in my heart this was the end. I silently spoke to my unborn child:

Goodbye, little one. I am sorry that I didn’t want to be pregnant at first, that my body is rejecting you. Now, when I am about to lose you, I am incredibly sad. I regret that I will never know you, hold you to my breast, watch your first smile, and hear you coo. But I will always love you. Goodbye, dear one.

I also talked to God: Is there something wrong with me or the baby? Did my body repel it because my heart wasn’t enthusiastic? Why would you give only to take away so soon? Are you punishing me for not wanting another child right now?

By morning, contractions had begun and my doctor proceeded with a dilation and curettage to clear my uterine lining. The procedure done, he emerged from the operating room, shoved a kidney-shaped dish under my husband’s nose and asked, “Do you want to bury it?” In the container lay a two-inch fetus—a tiny human too small to see the gender but formed enough to know it was his child. Shaken, he declined.

This presentation of the fetus reminded me that I was giving birth in a foreign country and added even more questions. We had not discussed how to react in a case like this. What did they do with my baby? Should we have taken it home with us since were unaware of the local protocol for disposal? Had I been a careless mother?

Since I had no answers to these queries, I picked up life as usual and plowed ahead. I devoted little time to processing my loss. I rationalized that losing this baby was not a big deal because it was unplanned and I wasn’t emotionally attached to it. In addition, I already had two sons that I deeply loved and we still had time for another child. I simply accepted this miscarriage as God’s will for me.

However, as each month, then each year, passed without any signs of new life, the loss of our number three swept over me with renewed force. Finally, during a routine annual physical, a nurse wrote “infertile” on my chart after hearing my history. With that stark word, it was final.

Like before, more questions emerged—this time tinged with guilt. Was I now unable to conceive because I had not wanted to be pregnant? Had something happened during the uterine procedure? Did I fail to ask the right questions or trust too much in the doctor? Would this have happened if I had given birth in my home country?

Over the years, the wondering and the mourning haven’t ended, but they are now framed in time and experience that have taught me trust God. I can look forward to the day when I will fully know my third child and we will spend eternity together.

I also learned that grief comes in stages as my miscarriage touched my life in different ways over time. First, the night when I said goodbye to my unknown child. Then the years I desired another child and could not get pregnant. Later, while enjoying adult children and wishing there were more around the table. And every time I recount this story.

And so, to my thirty-one-year-old self, I declare: “Take time to grieve. This is a huge loss even if you don’t realize it. You can mourn and be grateful at the same time. Your feelings of guilt, inconvenience, and frustration are normal. Go ahead and ask your questions because God knows what he’s doing. He is not punishing you but loves you deeply. Trust his plan, wisdom, and goodness. He has reasons you cannot imagine when he chooses to bring a little one into his arms. He declares every life miraculous no matter how long they live.

What unanswered questions are you asking the Lord? What would you tell your younger self?

4 Comments

  1. Gwen Elm September 10, 2021

    Eva,
    Thank you for openly and honestly sharing your experience and sorry of vulnerability. I look forward to meeting your third child one day too.

    1. Eva Burkholder September 10, 2021

      Thank you for your encouragement.

  2. Valerie September 10, 2021

    I’m so sorry for what you’ve been through. I went through six years of inferitlity and I asked myself similiar questions. I love the words you would say to yourself and I echo those.

    1. Eva Burkholder September 10, 2021

      Thank you Valerie. May God give you grace and strength for your journey.

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