Blog | Lindsey Smallwood

Miscarriage

There's Nothing To Do But Wait

Best of...Lindsey Smallwood

On the ways joy makes strange company with grief and other realities of Advent this year...

I miscarried six weeks ago.

I keep thinking that I’m over it, that I’m okay. What right have I to grieve when I have two tiny boys at home to cuddle and read to and tuck into bed? There are longing-to-be-mamas and those who’ve had to bury the children they’ve nursed and held in their arms. Surely my loss is insignificant in comparison.

But then I see my sweet friend across the room, her belly swollen with new life and hot tears begin to fall down my cheeks. The hurt is not over, grief still hovers close. It aches during insurance commercials and bubbles up when I hear the baby crying next door.

There is nothing to do but wait—for healing, for another chance, for the mercy of passing time.

Now Christmas comes, the story I’ve loved since childhood, of far-off kings and unexplainable stars, of angels and shepherds and unlikely hotel rooms. The story of hopes finally fulfilled, promises made true. All of it centered around pregnancy and birth and a baby. I’m not sure I can hear it so readily this year. For as angels fill the sky and prayers are answered in Bethlehem, my own prayers end in questions.

There is nothing to do but wait.

I hate the powerlessness of hope. Waiting to find out what comes next is uncomfortable, unsettling, hard. And yet as I listen again to the long cherished story of Advent, I remember that those who wait are always in good company. Elizabeth had longed to become a mother for most of her lifetime. Anna had prayed for years for God’s kingdom to come to Jerusalem. Even Mary, with her angel visits and promises from God, had to watch and wait, year after year, as her miracle baby grew into the dying Messiah.

The stories we tend to tell are the ones with action, climax, conclusions. But life—real, faith-building, character-shaping, soul-growing life—happens in the waiting, where it’s hard and lonely and unclear.

Advent reminds us that our waiting is not in vain. God is working behind the scenes to make the world right. He’s answering prayers and fulfilling promises in strange and surprising ways. Because only God could bring kings and shepherds to the same stable. Only God could grow new life in a virgin’s womb.

I don’t know what comes next, how the prayers I’m praying now will be answered. But I know that the same God who hung the star in Bethlehem has plans for me, for hope and for a future. So I sit to hear the good story of Christmas once again. The joy throughout makes for strange company in my grief. I listen anyway, treasuring its mysteries, longing for Jesus’ Advent in my own story.

But, for now, there is nothing to do but wait.

 

This post originally appeared at SheLoves Magazine.
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There is New Life in Me

Lindsey Smallwood

Sometimes grace comes in unexpected places, like waves of sadness in the Mom's group bathroom. I'm over at Middle Places today on loss and grief and hoping again.

It took me by surprise. 

I hadn't been to my mom's group in a few weeks. A work meeting, a rough bout with illness that cycled through our family, and a speaking gig in a nearby town had kept me away from my usual Tuesday morning meet-up with other mom friends in the area. I had missed being there, I love the community we have together. 

As I was feeding my toddler the last bits of his breakfast, I saw my friend Gina from across the room. Her back was to me as she unfolded a tablecloth and set out the name tags. I smiled, I really enjoy Gina and hadn't seen her at book club or happy hour lately.

In fact, the last time I saw her was the week I found out I was pregnant, when I was still absorbing the news. We'd stood in line together with our kids at the pumpkin patch. As we'd made small talk, her daughter mentioned something about her baby and I'd raised my eyebrows, smiling. 

"Are you expecting?" I'd asked.

"Yes, I'm about 5 weeks along," she'd said shyly. "We haven't really told anyone yet."

"Me too," I told her, still feeling the strangeness of that reality as I said it.

Her eyes lit up and we hugged, sharing a realization that we would have these babies together. 

Three weeks later, my pregnancy ended in an unexpected miscarriage. And in the month since then, I've cried and healed and shared our loss with family and friends. I've felt sadness, thick and hard to push through and I've felt it loosen, dissipate, lift. If you'd asked me this morning how I felt about everything, I might have told you that things are back to normal. 

Then Gina turned around and I saw that underneath her darling dress she was sporting a sweet little baby bump.  I had already lifted my hand to wave hello, but stopped, frozen at the sight of her swollen middle. She came over, smiling, unaware of the out of control way my heart was pounding or the growing lump in my throat. We said hello and caught up briefly, I tried not to look at her midsection.

After she walked away, the tears began to come. A few quiet ones at first, followed by a flood I wasn’t expecting.

“There’s no new life in me.”

I saw Gina’s baby bump in my head and kept thinking this strange sad thought:

“There’s no new life in me.”

I muddled through the rest of the morning – mom’s group, followed by a work meeting and lunch with a friend. I fought back against the lump that made it hard to swallow, the waves of sadness I thought I’d already addressed.

That’s the thing about grief. It’s not neat, not easily contained. You don’t get to decide when it starts or stops. It doesn’t wait a requisite three weeks and then move on. It hovers, floats. Sometimes it comes in gently, a cloud of remembrance, a longing. Other times it hangs heavy, cloaking everything else in the weight of loss.

This afternoon, as I prepared to put my boys down for a nap, the phone rang. It was Mary Carole, my mentor from my Bible study group. She asked about my day and I recounted the whole story, ending with my surprise at how unsettling it had been to react to Gina this way.

“Perhaps unsettling is exactly what you need,” she replied. “Maybe this unsettling is God’s way of showing you that you’re not settled with all of this yet, that there’s more healing to be had, more recovering to be done. I think the best thing you could do is to take all of this to Jesus and just sit with it awhile.”

So I did.

And as more tears welled up and my heart began to ache again, I invited Jesus to sit with me in it. There, in the quiet, I sensed this sweet correction.

“There IS new life in you Lindsey. I am the Life.”

What words of grace. I’ve been thinking on them all day.

There is new life in me, and that life will last forever.

There is new life in me. It gives me hope here in my sadness.

There is new life in me, even in my grief, my loss, my feelings of failure and inadequacy. There’s new life because He is making all things new. He’s growing Gina’s baby and He’s growing my ability to trust Him. I don’t understand it, but I know it to be true.

There is new life in me.

 

 

This post originally appeared at Middle Places.

 

I Don't Want to Forget

Lindsey Smallwood

At Middle Places this month, we're ReCounting - preparing our hearts for Thanksgiving by taking time to remember. Today I'm holding on to sticky fingers and chubby-cheeked smiles... 

I’ve been feeling schmoopy this week.

That’s the word my husband and I use when we feel sentimental and all overflowing with a gushy kind of love.

I keep looking at my kids – two boys ages 1 and 2 – and feeling sad that some day they’re going to grow up and leave home. I am enjoying this season so much and the thought that someday they’ll be big giant men who don’t need me makes my heart wilt a little.

Jen Hatmaker keeps telling me that teenagers are fun too. Carol, our MOPS mentor mom, told our group of mothers-of-preschoolers that her favorite season of parenting has been having adult children. So I’m trying to believe them and know that I’ll enjoy what comes next too, but oh, the cheeks! The lisps! The cuddles! It all seems so exquisite right now.

The other night as we were reading bedtime stories to the boys, I leaned over to my husband and said wistfully “We’re going to forget this, you know? These days, they’re all just going to seem like a big blur of diapers and legos and swiffering the floor all the livelong day. We’re going to forget the smiles and the storytimes and the giggles.”

He looked at me thoughtfully.

“Yeah, maybe, “ he replied. “But we’ll have your blog. Don’t you think your writing will help us remember?”

I’ve been turning it over in my head, wondering if he’s right.

I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I started again in earnest in February, during Lent, finding my voice after taking a sabbatical from social media. At first it was a rush, giving voice to stories with no other place to be told, welcoming feedback from friends new and old.

Then it was a personal challenge, writing as a way to grow my skills at the craft, submitting to magazines and websites, working with editors and learning how to revise my work to fit in other contexts.

More recently it’s been a discipline. After a miscarriage last month and a long bout of illness at home, I’ve been fighting exhaustion and some feelings of depression. Writing has been a means of getting in touch with my real self, tuning into the sadness and confusion, rather than trying to drown it out with busyness and Netflix reruns.

In the midst of all of these, it’s been my hope that my writing will be a way to give glory to God, to find Him in the midst of my ordinary life and point to His grace for those who are willing to see.

But maybe in addition to praising God and processing feelings, beyond connecting with people online and growing my skill set, maybe writing is a way of remembering, of chronicling now for someday.

For someday when my babies aren’t babies and life doesn’t look the way it does today anymore.

Their baby books are mostly empty, save a couple locks of hair and their teeny-tiny hospital bracelets. But as I watch them grow, as I watch me grow, as I’m changing and learning, I’m writing it down to remember. I’m recounting today so that it’s gifts and lessons can be cherished for the days to come.

You guys, their little heads smell like heaven and their chubby hands are the most perfect things I’ve ever held.

And I don’t want to forget.

 

This post originally appeared at Middle Places. 

When Life Falls With The Leaves

Best of...Lindsey Smallwood

I'm back at Middle Places this week, on the changing seasons, the good news of the gospel and making room for hope again after miscarriage...

There’s a tree in the courtyard near our apartment building.

When we moved in last January it was leafless, covered in a blanket of snow. On Easter morning we took a picture in front of it, delighted that spring time had brought soft green leaves and bright pink blossoms to decorate our common area. As summer came, the blossoms became some kind of tiny cherry-apple hybrid, a fruit adored by the squirrels that share our little community.

And now, as the days grow shorter and the air becomes cooler, our big green tree has set it’s leaves on fire – they blaze orange and yellow, blanketing the ground below as each day more and more flutter off the branches and down to their resting place in the grass.

Autumn has arrived.

I’ve never really noticed the seasons this way before. I grew up in Alaska, where some describe the seasons as nearly winter, winter, still basically winter and summer – short and sweet. There was high school and college in Texas, which was a bit of the same in reverse. And then nearly a decade in California, where the seasons change nearly imperceptibly as we enjoy life outdoors all year round.

But Colorado does it right. There are four beautiful seasons here and for the first time this week, I’m entering the fourth, autumn. The tree in our courtyard is like those on the hillside and the ones I see lining the streets around town, alive with colors, leaves blowing through the air as the sense that the world is changing is everywhere.

After watching it now for nearly a year, I find myself considering the lesson of that tree outside our apartment, dying then resting each year to allow for new growth in the season to come. It reminds me of the promise of the gospel that a new life awaits us, if only we’ll die to this one. I see myself in that tree, a thousand little leaves beginning to turn. And I hope that what’s dying are the places I no longer need, the mask of having-it-all-together, the stains of dishonesty, the false pride in feeling important for using my gifts.

There was a literal death in my body last week, a miscarriage that caught us by surprise. As I’ve grieved and rested and begun to heal these last few days, I’ve fought the impulse to ask why. Why another baby lost? Why more death? Why not this time?

It’s not that why isn’t allowed, I can “why” all the live-long day. But why is less helpful than “What’s next?” And for me, I know that what’s next has to be letting go of the dreams I’d started dreaming, the plans for this sweet little life that is complete much sooner than I might have chosen. I have to let those hopes die here in my tears, as I’m held by my Comforter and Keeper, so that my heart can start to hope again.

Death isn’t easy, but it makes way for something new. It’s happening in my courtyard and it’s happening in me, if I’ll let it. I want to surrender, to open my hands and let the leaves I’m holding onto fall where they may. It’s scary, letting go, but I can do it if I trust that I am rooted and established in Christ, who holds me together, redeeming these little deaths into something full of new and lasting life.

 

Any death dangling on your tree this week, friends, waiting for you to let it fall? Hear this gracious word of new life today:

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16

 

 

This post originally appeared at Middle Places.