Monday, July 13, 2009

Birth

It felt like I had been slapped in the face. Or the stomach.
The air came gushing out of my mouth and I choked on the sob that threatened to escape.

Sitting in the third row of church, my back stiffened and I involuntarily tightened my hands into fists. Forcing myself to unclench them, they ran straight to my sides where they stayed clutching my ribs until I could no longer hold my composure. I reached down to the floor, grabbed my purse and tried (unsuccessfully) to make a quiet exit. I knew I shouldn't have sat in the third row, but there was a baby in the back and no where else to go.


Lately, it's been so easy to go to church. It's not like I'm always comfortable there, or really want to go; but the Spirit in me makes it quite obvious that I need to go. I need to hear the good news, the Gospel, and I need the community.

No, they aren't like me in tangible ways that are not always noticeable to those who don't know me or even to those who have forgotten; but we are all in the same boat. We are all foreigners in this land, struggling to live the lives we've been given by our Father.

These truths were easily forgotten yesterday when H. (our pastor) started in on some of most widely used symbols in the Bible. Conception. Birth. Infants.
I thought I could handle it. I really did. I underestimated H.'s ability to get carried away with symbolism and I overestimated my strength that day.

Do you remember these two sweet friends? Well, both their babies were born (living) recently. One just this past week. Oh, how I rejoice with her and over her precious little girl.
H. made reference to the latest baby born and how her mother was back in church four days later- "I had always thought giving birth was a bigger deal than it really is. I guess I was mistaken..."

Ouch.

Yes, he was just joking, but for me, it hurt like hell. And the hurt didn't end there.

With his next comment, I thought things had taken a turn for the better and my heart soared to hear his words. Oh, how they rang with truth. 'We rejoice over M.'s birth, but we must remember that her life began 9 months ago in her mother's womb. At conception. A miracle of God's orchestrating. Life at conception.'
My eyes began to tear and I smiled haphazardly up at H. Yes, I whispered, yes!


As you can imagine, he wasn't done with the symbolism. He hadn't even made his point yet.
I'm trying to remember word for word what he said, but honestly it's all a blur. Birth; I know his next words were birth and cries of shock and then came the details of a birth story I've heard of but not experienced. I'm going to get this all wrong, but I'll try to explain it-

STILLBIRTH.

The word is ugly and harsh after the beautiful details of a baby born alive and screaming.
My vision blurs and I honestly don't know how I lasted as long as I did. I felt like everyone was watching me and no one was looking all at the same time. Was Owen's death so long ago that the word stillbirth would echo in the room without anyone remembering my sweet child?

He spoke for a long time about stillbirth, each time he said the word my grip tightened around my waist. Maybe I could hold myself together...maybe...

I should have gotten up sooner. I shouldn't have put myself through the sermon, I didn't hear most of it anyways. I just kept thinking, 'Get to the point! Get to the point!' My brain kept telling me that the longer I sat there, the clearer it would all be. Maybe he would say what I was hoping to hear- a reprieve, or a nod of recognition. I just don't know what I was waiting for.

I walked what seemed a walk of shame down the aisle, away from the words of a man trying to point his congregation to Jesus. I walked quickly until I got outside the door and then made myself slow down so I could cry and walk at the same time. I fumbled in my purse for my phone and called one of the only people who would know what to say about what I had just heard. S. whose two daughters live in Heaven with Owen. 23 and 18 years ago they died.
'Where you in church this morning? What did he mean? What was he trying to say?' I had a hard time forming the words, but she understood. I knew she would.

Friends, I am still not so sure I can tell you what H. was trying to communicate to us through the imagery of birth and stillbirth. The part of me that was once a young naive Christian who had no wounds from a birth of a baby she desperately wanted...that part of me hidden deep inside, she can hear what H. was trying to articulate; but it is shadowed and overwhelmed by who I have become because of Owen's birth after his death.


The images of conception and birth are so ubiquitous, so widely known that it is something we all connect with. It is as simple and as powerful as this: we were all conceived and born.

For me ,though, birth is something sad. Silent, still, heart breakingly sad.
I pray for the redemption of birth. I pray for a different experience to draw from. I will always have Owen's birth etched in my mind, my heart. I don't want to forget.
I still pray for the redemption of birth.

11 comments:

Rachel said...

We are not like the woman in the book of John who quickly forgets the pain of birth because of the joy that a man is born into the world. We are the women who's pain is far more than physical - it is the emotional and gut-wrenching mental pain of holding a baby so desperately wanted but no longer ours to keep. I'm so sorry that the place where you would hope to find the ultimate comfort was not that. I'm thankful that you had someone you could call in your pain - someone who would understand. I hope H. understands your pain and doesn't let it just pass by w/o acknowledging it. May God give you peace today, Ebe.
Love,
Rachel

Devon said...

beautifully written...i can understand so well how deeply words can affect us. how you hold back the tears and just wish to disappear....

((hugs))

Ruth said...

Cuts like a knife and even tho you know in your head and even in your heart, it HURTS. It is so hard to not grieve in the way that would heal because not many people can handle it or understand it. I totally get what you mean about church being a very difficult place but needed. I hated going and even stopped in the month of December when Renner should have been 6 months old, I just still miss him so much. WHY? does this happen but I do know and I am trying to get the eternal perspective and to realize that this life isn't about me and my happiness but all about God and HIS glory but it sucks! It is hard and it hurts, cuts like a knife, can't breath. But I know you have faith and you know what it means to be held by our loving Father in Heaven and that has to be good enough, right. . .much love and encouragement, we can't do "this" without HIM.

Sara said...

Oh Ebe,
I am so so sorry that happened to you. I can somewhat relate after my pastor gave reference to contractions and childbirth. Whenever I hear of birth it sends me right to the memories of Samuel's birth... so not what we were hoping for. Ebe, I love your honesty. I am praying for you and that birth will be restored. Amen to that... hoping for the same thing:) Sending love from OK.
Sara

Traci said...

I love you.

Emily said...

Wow. These kinds of stories make me wish we still did house churches. A big congregation means that a pastor can speak in generalities about things that are traumatic and very personal- without being sensitive and caring. It's wrong. Seriously, at the very least, a preacher could say- "I am about to talk on a sad subject, and I know at least one couple who has lived through this."
But to treat grief flippantly, to use (use in the negative sense) a tragedy to illustrate a point, is harsh and insensitive. It demeans your struggle. And I can't imagine that the pastor meant or wanted to do that. So perhaps you can write your pastor a letter, and let him known how his words affected you, and caused you more grief, instead of healing and comfort.

Lianne said...

I've been following your blog for a while now, and have be touched with every word you speak of. It's been a little over three months since my son was stillborn, and I too am in this horrid club no one ever wants to join. It's funny how toy companies throw us baby dolls to make believe motherhood and have us to grow up constantly dreaming of the beauty of motherhood. As little girls, we never knew that our precious babies can be born into this world silent. For you, myself, and for EVERY woman... I'll always pray for the redemption of birth. Take care, Hun!

Ebe said...

I have to admit that I am frustrated with H. as well. I wish I could understand his heart in this message. We were sitting right in front of him. I don't know what I would have wanted him to do differently, but I was/am disappointed in how he handled this topic.
Thank you all for understanding.
Chris asked me yesterday after I wrote this what my intention was in writing this post. I told him I wanted understanding. And that's exactly what I got. Thank you all.
Chris is having lunch with H. tomorrow. They set it up for a different purpose last week, but now I think it is God's sovereign goodness in orchestrating this meeting. I hope to come to an understanding with H. I don't want to be angry with him.
There's just so much MISunderstanding about stillbirth in our culture, our churches...it's so difficult to feel so misunderstood.

love you all,
ebe

keishavalentina said...

Ebe,

I love you and am praying for you.

I am so sorry.

Mrs. MK said...

Ebe, I had just written out a long comment, and something ate it! Maybe it's for the best. I will pray about what I wrote and be back to talk with you tomorrow!

I am very very sorry and I'm glad you shared....you are understood!

Zil said...

Your last paragraph says it all - we pray for the redemption of birth...thinking of you.