I miscarried on a Sunday. By the following Thursday, I felt the familiar need to make sense out of my reality by creating plans, by defining purpose, by scheduling my day. So, I did just that.
By the following Sunday night, at the one week mark, I found myself avoiding sleep because it meant I would wake up to a new routine that didn’t involve me being pregnant.
In between those two extremes, control and avoidance, we said goodbye.
It was simple and beautiful. Just the five of us giving space to the emptiness.
To the unrealized dreams.
To the lack in our arms.
To the sadness that punctuated conversations.
As I thought about what I wanted this moment to look like, I kept coming back to the same simple question: how do you say goodbye to a future?
There is no norm for mourning a child you’ve never held. No black dress. No floral arrangement. No slide show. No eulogy. No norms. Just an overwhelming instruction from those who had gone down this road before us to do “what you need to do to say goodbye.”
Embrace your unique design.
It was a somber morning when my husband and I lay on our bed talking through what that meant for each of us, speaking softly of what we needed and what would be too hard emotionally. We came to moments where we disagreed. We came to moments were we had to expose that vulnerable place of expectation. We came to moments where we had to set aside our needs to consider those of our three young children. Then we decided.
River Haven | March 29, 2020
A life so deeply loved by us, by our children, by our entire family, from the moment the pregnancy test first read positive. A life that became even more real to us with an ultrasound picture and the sweet sound of their heartbeat.
River Haven. A name that will only be uttered with longing. March 29, 2020. Not a birthday, but an ending.
Our beautiful future that will never be.
Though we have a strong community of support, we chose to keep this time of goodbye to just us five. Less than six months ago, my children lost their grandmother. My husband and I anticipated that the barely healed wound of grief from that experience would be reopened by this new one, and with it would bring questions and emotions too big for little hearts to bear on their own. It was and it did. They shared with us with a rawness and vulnerability that reminded me of the privilege it is to be a mother.
A privileged I won’t have with River. That is the nature of my grief right now: a tension of being caught between the joy of what currently is and the sorrow of what won’t be.
We chose the name River because it reminded us of the line from the hymn “It is Well With My Soul” which seems to capture so much of this experience:
When peace like a river, attendeth my way / When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot / Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul
The middle name Haven, a safe place, perfectly described the arms of our Savior where our baby is now held.
In a simple keepsake box, we placed the photo of the ultrasound, our pregnancy announcement (including the baby socks and diaper we used to tell our family), pictures the kids drew for the baby, letters of encouragement my daughter wrote for me as I struggled with morning sickness, a graphic I created when we named the baby, the blog post I wrote announcing the miscarriage, and a letter of goodbye from each of us.
We lit a candle. My husband prayed.
We closed the box.
My husband put the kids to bed.
How do you say goodbye to a future?
The box and candle sit on a side table waiting to be moved to their permanent resting place in the attic, something that requires my husband. He is waiting for me to tell him to do it.
We followed a new schedule this week. One that both reset a life disrupted by Covid-19 and established a new normal without pregnancy. I took midwife appointments off the calendar. I erased the due date from October. The calendar is empty again. New possibilities. A new future.
I keep asking myself how do you say goodbye to a future? But, I know; I’ve had to do it before. This time it just happens to be excruciatingly hard and entirely devastating.
If I’m being honest, I am caught between my personal need to move into our new normal and my personal need to stay right here in my grief. And, I think that’s it probably, that’s the answer to my question of how to say goodbye.
You just do.
So, I say goodbye standing in the tension of the joy of what currently is and the sorrow of what won’t be.
I say goodbye by acknowledging how sincerely I don’t want to say goodbye.
And, I say goodbye by trusting the same good and merciful God who holds my beautiful baby River holds me too.
I say goodbye.