I have been wading barefoot into silence for the last several weeks, not having adequate words for the weight of things. Just days after writing about carrying each other, our world crashed into silence with the delivery of our baby at just ten weeks. We held her tiny body and cried. Held by the silence. Early in the morning, before the sun rose and our kids filled our home with rising sounds, we named her Claire.
Time seemed to stop with her heart, but the sun rose anyway. It took my breath away that the world could be so beautiful without her in it. Without her inside me. When our oldest was born and we drove her home from the hospital, I remember being overwhelmed that the whole world didn’t stop to notice the miracle in our car. And people got up and went to work and drove past me on the road just the same now, oblivious to the death of a miracle.
Her birth was every bit as holy as the those of my three living children: anticipated, aching, and real. The thing I love about birthing is the way I cannot be anywhere else, the way that giving birth takes me over completely. And this time, I was overtaken by death instead of life, a death that passed through my body, which I cannot leave behind.
There are no adequate words for the pain of losing a child, no explanation that removes the suffering. In just ten short weeks, half of which we had only hoped for her, she had already changed our whole world. We imagined the places in the house that she would occupy, the rearrangement of seating in the car and at the kitchen table, the adjustment of summer vacation plans. Our hearts had already loved her into the sandbox with the cousins and friends that will be born this summer and fall. Silence will fill the space that would have been her voice crying for us in the night or fighting with her siblings.
God has been so close in this season of silence, in colour and feelings, shadows and touch. The usual words and images that connect me with the Creator have fallen away, at least for now. I am held in an unfamiliar but wonderful way. Perhaps this different way of feeling God will make sense later. Family and friends have wrapped us in care that we knew but did not know. Food and help with the laundry, cards and emails, prayers and thoughts, all of it carrying us forward into a future without her in our arms, but nonetheless changed by her.
The silence has also brought beautiful and sorrow-filled whispers from women and families who have suffered these losses of babies before and just after birth. Though the club need not be so secret, there has been much grace in being held by the ones who remind us that neither we nor Claire is alone.
Six surviving flowers sit on the kitchen counter from the bouquets that slowly die after her. They proclaim the way of things, that death follows living, that I am not in control of either. Nothing I have touched or held, longed for or lost has ever been mine. Everything is a gift for a season.
In simply living her own growth, Claire has given us so many gifts. Growth in our marriage around the invitation to love her. Deep joy at the knowledge of her existence. A changed picture of our future and family. An invitation to sit with the silence of the mystery we cannot understand. A reminder that I need not do anything in order to change the world. The love poured out in response to her life and her death. They are not the gifts I would have chosen, but they are gifts of this silence that follows her.
And so I whisper into this Silence holding the miracle and misery and mystery of it all: hold me here in the holiness and reverence of living and dying, and help me to receive the grace of what is even while we feel the pain of what could have been.