How to Find Heart Strength When Pain Sears Deep

  Why? What had happened? Why had we ridden this roller coaster of worry and peace only to finally end up here? I was helpless in the arms of my loving Father.

Written by Karen @ To Work With My Hands, Contributing Writer

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’ ” (Lamentations 3:21-24, ESV)

The familiar pink line confirmed what I had already suspected: we were expecting our tenth baby.

I was excited to see it again because I knew that it could possibly be the last time I would. At 41, the season of new babies couldn’t last much longer.

We shared the news with our children, braced for the reaction we would get from friends and family, and began preparing for another 8 months of waiting.

As the sixth week approached, I honestly dreaded what was coming – the sudden and dramatic fatigue, loss of appetite, endless sleepiness…all the while continuing to homeschool, keep a home, and navigate the next two months of holiday celebrations and travel, and the birthdays of 5 of our children.

The sixth week came, and passed, but nothing changed. I decided to be grateful for strength to persevere through our busiest time of year, but the nagging worries began to mount. 

Frequent checkups with my doctor showed that everything was progressing well, but that I had placenta previa – again. My doctor had told me with the previous pregnancy that it would likely be the case for any future ones as well since I had had so many.

By God’s grace it had resolved during the 20th week, and I had been able to deliver our daughter without a caesarean. I decided that it was nothing to lose sleep over this early in the pregnancy.

It wasn’t the previa that worried my doctor either, but the blood clot that was discovered during the latest ultrasound. Since I was still early in the pregnancy, there would be nothing he could do if I began to bleed. I would certainly miscarry. I took that worry home on a Friday morning, and waited, adding to the uneasy feeling over why I didn’t “feel” pregnant. 

Several weeks passed, the blood clot dissolved, and it seemed like things were going to be just fine. We looked forward with excitement to the day of the revealing ultrasound. 

It was a choice we had not made with most of our children, but with the last two we had decided to learn the gender of our new baby before birth. We would do it again this time.

My husband held our youngest – our only daughter – in his arms as the technician rolled the wand over my growing belly. And then we saw – our new baby was another boy. Beautiful, complete, heart pumping – there he was for our eyes to see!

We had hoped that perhaps we could have one more little girl – a sweet companion for our daughter – but God had other plans. Within hours we had adjusted and began to imagine our new little boy in our family, being “mothered” twice, and having so many big brothers to learn from. Our youngest son was especially excited that he would get to have a baby brother.

More time passed, and I still felt fine. My husband continued to encourage me not to worry, and to be grateful for the grace. We had seen him, he was growing, the scare of the blood clot was gone, and I had passed mid-term.

It was time to get ready for the most challenging part of the pregnancy – the growing bulk and dealing with the increasingly painful varicose veins that had continued to get more severe with each pregnancy.

Gabriel's Flower Bed  

It was springtime and our attention was more and more pulled outdoors. One particularly nice day, I decided to build a new flowerbed around a tree that was right outside the kitchen window. The younger boys were riding their bikes and playing, and one of them stopped by to visit with me.

He told me that he was excited that the new baby was a boy and was looking forward to teaching “Gabriel” all of his favorite boy things. We had not officially chosen a name yet, but Gabriel was one we had considered. 

I smiled, and getting lost in thought as I took in the beauty of the flowers and the crisp, fresh air, I imagined along with him what it would be like while tumbling the name around in my head. 

I posed with our daughter for a picture together in front of the white-adorned bridal wreath bushes – a tradition we had begun two years earlier just after her birth. This year, I sported a swollen belly with her baby brother tucked inside. The spring season was beautiful.

On a bright and warm Sunday afternoon, Tony and the boys decided to take the boat to the river for a ride. Hannah was napping, so I decided to pull out my card-making supplies and work on some new cards. It was perfect. The guys could enjoy the gorgeous afternoon, and I could do something that I enjoyed for a while in the quiet house.

It was very quiet. As I sat at the table with the papers and supplies scattered all around, I had a sudden and startling thought: When did I last feel the baby move? I couldn’t honestly remember. I was annoyed with myself for not being more aware, and purposed to pay closer attention. 

An hour passed – nothing. Two – nothing.

By the time everyone returned home, I was getting edgy. Tony encouraged me to relax and just wait – Sundays were busy with all the preparations of getting to church, the activity of worship, lunch and fellowship, getting home, settling Hannah in for a nap – I probably just didn’t notice.

We went to bed and still – nothing. I lay awake in the dark nudging my belly from every side, moving, getting up and eating yogurt, walking – nothing. It was dark and quiet, everyone was asleep, and I began to feel a surge of panic.

It was then that I remembered. I remembered something that had recently happened to me. For the previous week or so I had woke each and every day with one particular hymn running through my mind. It may have been a while since I had heard it, but it was one I had been familiar with since childhood: “He Leadeth Me”.

Why was this on my mind every single morning as I woke?

I mentally went through the verses, focusing on the words and wondering. It was a long and restless night.

The next morning I called my doctor with concerns and made an appointment for yet another ultrasound. I still had not felt the baby move, and my mind was drawing frightening conclusions. 

We walked into the dim room again and I made my way to that familiar table. She was kind and friendly, and I wondered if she knew. Did she know why I was having this particular ultrasound? Did she know what she might have to say to us? I began to feel uncomfortable for her.

Her eyes scanned the screen that we could not yet see and I watched them with piercing focus. I saw it in her eyes before she said a word. The hot tears began to spill and wet the crisp white paper underneath me.

She looked at me with the most sincere compassion and uttered the words, “I’m sorry.”

“Sometimes mid scenes of deepest gloom”

I was numb. The disbelief mingled with pain and an unbelievable sadness. Why? What had happened? Why had we ridden this roller coaster of worry and peace only to finally end up here?

“Do you want to see him?”

“Yes.”

We gazed at his still form – perfect, complete, right there inside of me – he was gone, but still there. My mind was struggling to make sense of it all.

My doctor was gentle, kind – our friend who had delivered our last two babies and prayed with us before the deliveries, chatted over Scripture during visits and genuinely loved The Lord. It was a comfort.

He explained that according to state law – because I was beyond 20 weeks pregnant – I would have to deliver the baby in the hospital. Official records. Mortuary. How did we want to handle the body?…The words all felt surreal. I wasn’t processing it all. State Law? Official Records? This was our baby! How did the state belong here???

Tears. Hot, bitter tears. “Oh God, Help us!”

We walked into the hospital on Friday afternoon. My bag was light. My heart was heavy. My strength was gone. My God was there!

“Sometimes where Eden’s bower’s bloom,”

It was a delivery like none I had known before. No rush of activity in the room. No bright lights and happy chatter from nurses. It was a quiet, still night as the drug slowly dripped into my vein and the contractions began.

The doctor was finally called just before daybreak. He sat gingerly on the edge of my bed and waited. This was so different. My gaze fell upon the bassinet sitting cold in the dark corner. It wasn’t wheeled under heat lamps this time. It wouldn’t be filled.

I delivered his tiny, still body. All was calm and quiet. No bright lights. No flutter of activity, no music of happy chatter. It was done.

“Do you want to see him? Do you want to hold him?”

“Yes”

For one gentle hour I held him as my grieving husband watched beside me with a helplessness he had never known before. There was nothing he could do to fix this. Gabriel’s tender body fit in my hands and I gazed at his beautiful form. Our son.

“By waters still, o’er troubled sea”

On Sunday morning we left the hospital, picked up our children from a friend’s house, and drove the hour home. What now? How would I know how to take the next step? How would I find joy again when the pain was so searing?

Days upon days I cried. But, an amazing things was happening. I was not alone. I was tenderly shown the way to take another step, to swallow a bite of food, to turn a gentle smile toward one of the children without feeling the choke of crazed insensitivity. God was carrying me, carrying us through the pain.

It’s difficult to explain just how it worked. But, it did. I knew it. I felt it. He kept the blood coursing through my veins and the legs moving under me. He ministered to my heart with tender mercies that I had never known before. I was a helpless infant in the arms of my loving Father.

“Still ’tis His hand that leadeth me”

We held a memorial service for our son, Gabriel Enoch, a couple of weeks later. It was a small affair, attended by our family and closest friends. Beautiful words of grace were spoken, tender expressions of love were wrapped in gentle and meaningful hugs, and we remembered the short, yet powerful life of our tiny son.

And one of the hymns we sang that day rang strong and deep in my soul, “He Leadeth Me”. Yes, He had.

Did I understand? No. Did I ever ask for such pain? No. Did I believe that My God had a purpose beyond my understanding and that He loves me beyond my comprehension? Yes.

A beautiful red rose bush grows and blooms each spring in our garden - a gift from my husband's parents after the memorial service.  

A beautiful red rosebush grows and blooms each spring in our garden – a gift from my husband’s parents after the memorial service. And with it, a small plaque with these simple words: Gabriel Enoch King, April 24, 2010. The words have slowly faded, but his memory remains strong and alive, and the tender mercies of my Father impress upon my heart just how good He is.

I can truly say I am grateful. I am grateful for the experience of walking the deepest, darkest path I have ever known. I am grateful for His mercy, His love, His compassion. I am grateful that He knew the purpose, even though I didn’t understand. Yes, He leads me – still.

He leadeth me, O blessed thought!
O words with heav’nly comfort fraught!
Whate’er I do, where’er I be
Still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me.
 
Sometimes ‘mid scenes of deepest gloom,
Sometimes where Eden’s bowers bloom,
By waters still, o’er troubled sea,
Still ’tis His hand that leadeth me.
 
Lord, I would place my hand in Thine,
Nor ever murmur nor repine;
Content, whatever lot I see,
Since ’tis my God that leadeth me.
 
And when my task on earth is done,
When by Thy grace the vict’ry’s won,
E’en death’s cold wave I will not flee,
Since God through Jordan leadeth me.
 
Refrain: He leadeth me, He leadeth me,
             By His own hand He leadeth me;
             His faithful foll’wer I would be,
             For by His hand He leadeth me.
Three more precious children were added to our family after Gabriel – and lost to early miscarriages. Along with a first miscarriage in 1997, we have 5 precious children with The Lord. We look forward to the day we will meet them.

If you are going through a time of deepest gloom, let Him Leadeth you, he is the Comforter. 

About Karen

Karen is a blessed wife and grateful mom to 7 sons and 1 daughter. When she's not homeschooling her 5 youngest children, she enjoys trying new bread recipes, working on DIY projects, sipping a hot mug of tea, or seeking to find the beauty in everyday life. She loves gardening and is passionate about growing from heirloom seeds. Visit her at To Work with My Hands. 

Comments

  1. Many blessings to you, Karen, and your family! I read the entire story and you are such a strong person. You are so blessed to have so many beautiful children and one day all of you will be together. Very sad, but also inspiring story, thank you for sharing.

    • Thank you for your kind words, Reelika. It was a hard experience, but so full of grace! Any strength I found was from the Lord – I was totally broken.
      I’m grateful now for having walked through it because it taught me fresh just how much my Heavenly Father loves me. I’m glad to know it was inspiring, and if it blesses or encourages just one other person, it was worth it all.

Trackbacks

  1. […] When we lost our unborn son in 2010, that was deep pain. That was searing pain. It was hard. It didn’t come fast or easy, but there were things to be grateful for through the experience, and when I began to grab onto those things: tiny, baby-step gratitude, my heart was held and comforted. […]

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