I haven't written much these past several months. That's mostly because my brain is so full that I can hardly get a thought in edgewise, much less get words out on paper (or in this case, on screen). Looking back over our time here in The Netherlands I can see a pattern repeated over and over: waiting, wondering, despairing, hoping, and rejoicing. This school year started with waiting and wondering; we called out to God and asked him to make his plans for us clear. We asked him to be our compass and help us find the path ahead. He showed up. We were hopeful and ready to rely on Him to lead us forward. We had a few months of leaning heavily on God's provision, and he came through in miraculous ways. He provided and we praised him.
We found out in November that we were expecting another little one, and we rejoiced! He had given us another life to love and nurture! The pregnancy was difficult. I could hardly leave the house, hardly move from the couch, due to intense motion sickness. I also suffer from prenatal depression (while many women have postpartum depression after the delivery, I've had it on the front-end of both pregnancies). This coupled with living far North during the winter (where the days are very dark, cold, short, and wet) made enjoying our many visitors throughout December and early January extremely difficult.
Side note: Depression is an extremely dark beast. It attacks your enjoyment of life, your ability to see things rationally, your understanding of your identity, and even your will to live. In the case of prenatal depression it can be very confusing- there's excitement about the little life that's growing, yet depression clouds every thought and feeling, making it very hard to feel positive emotions. If you are struggling with prenatal or postpartum depression, talk about it with someone. I know it doesn't sound like it would help, but I promise that it does. It helps to let people in on your thoughts, and it helps bring rationality and truth to some of the more persistent thoughts.
In late December the sicknesses began. Viruses of every shape and size, from the stomach bug to the flu to ear infections to sinus infections; we had it all. It started the week before Christmas with throwing up- first little Kev, then big Kev, then on Christmas morning, me. Weeks of viruses and sicknesses came one after the other- for months we were (and still have been) hit over and over with new variations of similar sicknesses.
In early January I received extremely shocking, heavy, sad news about a very close friend who we learned had been living a double life, unbeknownst to everyone surrounding them. Living so far away meant that we were unable to lend any support. We couldn't be shoulders to cry on and we couldn't offer meals or our presence to the hurting family. We were separated by an ocean and weren't able to be there for our friends.
The next day I was driven to my ultrasound appointment by our friend Miss Patty. Kevin stayed home with Kev during nap time- we didn't suspect anything was wrong. I had called Kevin on FaceTime so he could see the baby moving on the screen; we were excited to see her again! When the ultrasound tech put the wand on my low belly I immediately knew something wasn't right. The baby looked no bigger than she had looked at the last ultrasound. The tech slowly confirmed my fears by saying 'I can't find a heartbeat...lets try one more time'. Kevin asked quickly for me to repeat what she had said, and through tears I repeated the words. They sounded hollow. It felt too impossible. I laid on the table, my cheeks wet, Miss Patty's hand clutched in mine, as the tech repeated 'There is no heartbeat- I'm sorry, your baby has died'. My friend Karin, the midwife who was with me through my labor of little Kev and who we had asked to be with us through this pregnancy, happened to be the midwife taking appointments that day and was in the next room on a break. She immediately came into the room and hugged me. God was there. He immediately surrounded me with women who knew me and cared for me from the moment I heard those devastating words.
I wanted to wait and try to let the baby come naturally. Through the next few weeks I could feel the baby and the sac that housed her moving around within my belly- I felt her body press against my side as if she were alive and moving. I still had the symptoms of pregnancy- the nausea, the exhaustion, and the depression. My stomach still continued to grow and I looked more and more pregnant. I still had the cravings and heartburn and mood swings, only now there was nothing to show for it. I asked for two more ultrasounds during the next four weeks to just confirm in my heart that she truly was gone. I felt like a walking tomb. My daughter wasn't with me any longer but my body thought she was. It continued to prepare for an event that would never come to be. As the weeks progressed and nothing happened, I decided that it would be best to have a D&C procedure to allow me to move on physically as well as mentally. I was 14 weeks along when they removed my daughter from my body. I could finally move through the grief and begin to heal.
How do you deal with the loss of a child? One that you never knew but that you had loved and longed to meet? I still feel the weight of that sadness within me, although through the last few months it's become more of a longing than an overwhelming grief. One day I'll meet her, and until that day the knowledge that she had life for 9 short weeks is enough.
In mid-March our world was rocked again for the third time in three short months when we received the news that Kevin's uncle had suffered a stroke. The next few days were filled with questions and a dwindling hope for survival. A few days later he passed away. Kevin decided to go back to Pennsylvania for the funeral and to offer support to his family, but the difficulty of distance was highlighted once again in this tragic time. Facetime is a poor substitute when, instead of talking, a long hug or a shoulder to cry on is needed.
We are closing in on our last month here at Tyndale Theological Seminary. Through the struggles of the Winter we have been upheld by this community. We've been served so graciously and without any need for returned favors. So many people have offered practical help and encouragement. People have brought us meals, given us flowers, sent us boxes filled with love and encouragement, driven us to the hospital/midwife for the many various appointments, babysat little Kev, allowed Kevin and I to go out and talk, bought groceries for us, prayed and cried with us, and so much more. We are tired- emotionally and physically drained. Yet we are hopeful. We are at rest. We have been loved. We are filled with gratefulness. God has not left us. The community of believers around the world has reminded us of his constant love and compassion for us.
As Kevin finishes his last weeks of classes and we begin the process of moving to the next stop in our journey (more on that in another post next week), we are hopeful. We are rejoicing. God has brought us through darkness and He didn't forget us. We are in the last few weeks of a long, hard, incredibly growth-filled, difficult, wonderful three years and we are filled with wonder and hope at the prospects of our future. Even as we approach the end of our time here we still don't know what our future holds. Nothing about our life has gone as planned though, and because of that we can trust that our next move will be just as unexpected and just as growth-filled as the last.
Spring has brought joy and expectancy. We're ready for Summer, whatever it brings. We're confident that God is here, and he is leading us onward.