It was autumn. The leaves were turning colors and the air was crisp. The cool temperatures were intensifying daily and making way for snowflakes that would soon fall to earth. It was beautiful. And lovely. And pain-filled.
A few weeks prior, I had lost my baby at 13 weeks. Since retailers gear up for Christmas months in advance, every store was filled with green and red bulbs, twinkling lights and snowy displays. At a different time, in a different situation, I would have objected to how early Christmas items were being sold. But not now. In fact, I was incredibly thankful. You see, after I lost my first baby I became desperate to find the perfect ornament. I needed something tangible to incorporate our baby into our Christmases. The search was also something I could do while I grieved. The search for the perfect ornament connected me to the baby that my arms ached to hold.
So I began looking. Driving store to store. Wearily walking down endless aisles of what should have been winter wonderlands. I was determined to find the right one. I didn’t want just any ornament. I knew once I saw the one, I would know. And after seeing hundreds, maybe thousands of ornaments, not one of them was it.
The only time I even spoke of my quest was in conversations with my husband and prayers to my God. I had spent much time praying, “Father, please help me find the ornament my heart yearns for.”
Christmas quickly approached, and still, no ornament. And then, something miraculous happened…
A small package arrived.
It was from an “adopted” aunt. I opened it up and inside was a wrapped present that fit in the palm of my hand. I gently pulled away the wrapping paper. My heart began pounding. My hands began shaking.
A remembrance ornament.
It was the ornament. I had never seen it before, but my heart immediately recognized it. My aunt had no idea how many stores I had searched, how many hours I had spent looking up and down Christmas-packed aisles, how many tear-filled prayers I had whispered in the night to God. My aunt may have mailed it, but my God had sent it. And I could feel His faithfulness fill my lungs as I made deep, breathy sighs of awe.
The following Christmas I was holding a healthy baby. My aunt mailed me a “Baby’s 1st Christmas” ornament. That Christmas our tree displayed our 2 precious ornaments. One for the baby I held in my heart, the other ornament for the baby I held in my arms.
Another year went by and Christmastime quickly approached. My husband, newly 1 year old daughter and I had gone to a local Christmas tree farm and chosen our tree. After we brought it back home and my husband was getting it set up, I noticed tiny pinecones nestled on the branches. I was immediately overwhelmed with regret. Why did we get a real tree? What were we thinking? Now these pinecones would never grow. Between my hand motions, pointing to the pinecones, and the words I could partially utter in between the sobbing, my husband picked up on what was going on. He gently told me, “I’m sorry that’s so upsetting. I understand. And…umm…I think you need to take a pregnancy test.”
And sure enough—surprise! Double lines. I was pregnant. We were absolutely thrilled. A few weeks went by and Christmas Eve had arrived. I didn’t care what presents were under the tree because I had already been given an early Christmas gift in the most precious form—life. But that excitement was short lived. I spent Christmas Eve in the ER having blood work and ultrasounds taken. And it was confirmed…we had lost our baby at 5 weeks.
Once everything was finalized, we left the hospital. When we were in the car, I told my husband that I had to get an ornament for this baby. Christmas Day was less than 12 hours away and I needed this baby to have an ornament so that I could place it with our other heaven baby’s ornament.
My whole world had been shaken. Again. And because my heart and mind had been so focused on our baby and all the tests being done, it wasn’t until we were in heavy traffic that I realized every store would also be overflowing with pushy crowds and last minute shoppers. I was depleted physically. I depleted emotionally. So I asked my husband to just head home instead of stopping at the mall. The ornament would have to wait.
We pulled into our driveway. My body hurt, but I couldn’t walk fast enough just to get inside and hold my daughter and see my mom. (No matter how old I get, nothing comforts like the presence of my momma.) As we got to our porch, we saw a box at the front door. My husband grabbed it as I headed inside.
“It’s from Aunt Anna” he said.
I opened the box and there was ornament for my daughter. But there was another ornament also. I unwrapped it.
It was heart shaped just like our first remembrance ornament. The beautiful white color was the same as our first remembrance ornament. This ornament was not sent as a remembrance ornament…yet it matched our first remembrance ornament.
This package had been mailed days prior to losing our second baby. My aunt didn’t know I was pregnant, much less that I would spend Christmas Eve in the ER. No one could have predicted those details. Oh, but my God knew. He knew I would feel broken. He knew I would be aching. And He knew how to speak to my heart in a way that I knew I was not alone. And once again I experienced His faithfulness in the middle of heartbreak. That is where His love is most tangible. That is where it can be sensed the strongest—in loss and brokenness.
The next day my tree was not only adorned with ornaments specifically representing each of my children, but the faithfulness of my God was on full display as well.
So this Christmas Eve, when the only lights on in my home are the twinkling ones wrapped around our tree—when the anticipation of morning’s arrival is hanging in the air—I will take a deep breath. I will hold in that moment and just…feel. The sadness. The excitement. The ache. The joy. Remember His faithfulness.
Because moms who have lost babies understand that grief and joy, sadness and hopefulness, life and loss, very often reside in the same spaces of our hearts at the same time. Heaviness and happiness coexist inside certain days—or even in a fleeting moment. So this season, allow yourself to feel. Love yourself. Protect yourself. Give yourself grace when the life and loss of the season fills your heart at once.
Merry Christmas, mama.
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18