My second guest story comes from Annie Horn. Annie, her husband Dave, and I went to high school together (go Mustangs!), and after many years reconnected through Facebook. Annie opened up to me about her journey through miscarriage. She is, and always has been, a completely open book — and I’m blessed to share her story with you today!
Annie is a wife, nurse, and mama of “two ginger babies” under three living in Chicago. She loves rescue animals, cooking, crafting, and a good cup of coffee — and makes it a daily mission to live a life that makes others want to know God. Annie has a heart for breaking the Bible down and dissecting it for others to understand. She blogs about this desire at “Being a Mary in a Martha World.”
“Dave, should we get a dog or have a baby?” I asked him, half-joking half-serious. This was in 2009 following our wedding in August 2008. “We will get a dog,” without hesitation he responded, and our rescue Pepper entered the scene in March. Some time later, in 2010, I revisited the “baby thing” with Dave. “Should we have a baby or should I go to grad school?” Again, without hesitation, the immediate answer was for me to go get my master’s degree, giving him at least one to two years of a break before the subject got revisited.
If you haven’t noticed a pattern by now, Dave and I both separately and together are extremely type A, methodical people, planners and researchers in all that we do. On top of it, I’m a nurse by background who knows too much for my own good. So this life-altering, relationship-game-changer of bringing a child into the mix was handled just like everything else.
Flash forward to summer 2011, where starting a family got moved to the top of the list. I had less than a year of school left, and in the middle of my program, Dave decided to go back to grad school as well. We were feeling adventurous I guess. And with that, the first time we tried, it worked. The pregnancy test glared up at me with a huge PREGNANT on it — and we were off! There I was glowing, inside and out, at the prospect of life and how I was going to aide God in a miracle!
Pain, Loss, & Grief
And then, within a week of that amazing test telling me and the world I was going to be a mommy, I got a “period.” A “chemical pregnancy” is what they call it — where you are pregnant with hormones and an egg implanted, but it isn’t a confirmed pregnancy because you can’t see a heartbeat on an ultrasound. I was devastated to say the least.
I had purchased grandparent gifts, started buying things for baby, and I was hooked. But, I managed to chalk it up to how we were a statistic of people who lose their first one. We tried again within months and BAM, pregnant again! This one kept for a time. I remember going to my 6 and 8 week appointment and there it was, a dot at first at the 6 week visit with a flickering heartbeat, and then at 8 weeks an itty bitty body was there just hanging out! Everything was great as far as doctors could see, so I didn’t need to come back until later to see more development.
November 2011 came and I was just shy of 12 weeks. I felt good, and things were going pretty well. Cheeseburgers were the only satisfying meal I could get my hands on, and I already felt pregnant everywhere. We went to go see Dave’s ailing grandmother in home hospice to say our final goodbyes, and within the short visit there, I started having cramping and spotting. I called our OB and she recommended pelvic rest and to be seen the following Monday. It got worse, so off to the ER we went.
We waited, and waited, and waited, and finally were taken back to ultrasound. I was thinking, Okay just growing pains, maybe something isn’t right and I’m doing too much. The tech waved the ultrasound wand over my belly — only this time, nothing was moving. Everything stopped, no wiggling, no flickers, nothing. So, without saying a word, she did an internal ultrasound — and again, nothing.
We had lost our baby, and the worst of it was that the measurements were 8 weeks and 8 days. I had been walking around with a miscarriage — a “missed” miscarriage at that — for over two weeks. We were in shock; I couldn’t say anything, feel anything, just numbness and wondering: God, why did you take this one from me, too? I remember sheer pain in my abdomen, realizing my body was finally trying to do its job that it had failed to do two weeks ago. So, into surgery I went, and within a few hours, we went home.
I’d like to tell you that I bounced up and got right back on the horse within a few days, that I was ready to go at it again, determined that the next time it would work! But the truth is, I slept, and shopped online, ate my feelings in whatever I felt like, and didn’t get off the couch for a few days. I didn’t even cry until about the fourth day when everything finally dawned on me. At that point I cried until I’m pretty sure I ran out of water in my body. It literally felt like a part of me had died. Yes, a part of me did die; but once you get a taste of what being a mother could be … that feeling is something that never leaves you.
It took what felt like an eternity for me to want to try again. We also had testing done on our baby since our doctor felt that two back-to-back losses were worth looking into. I am forever grateful for this. We found out our baby was a girl, and we named her Lydia after the woman in the Bible who opened her home to the disciples. (Acts 16; Philippians 1) As it turned out, physically my labs were a mess indicating possible answers for this whole ordeal. I turned over every rock imaginable to find answers as to why I couldn’t STAY pregnant.
In the midst of all of this, I started blogging as a means to release and process my feelings. In the grieving process I wrote this: “’You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance.’ (Psalm 32:7) He is and was my hiding place, I escape to His sovereignty for my hope and strength. He preserved me and still does.”
In this time, I really started to see the fellowship that comes out of loss for women, the stories you hear once you share with others where you are at, and the comfort that comes from knowing you aren’t alone. We also got a chance to visit a Catholic cemetery that the hospital so lovingly sent our little girl to rest in. I’m not Catholic, but I thought it was beautiful that in Illinois, the Archdiocese has an agreement with every Catholic hospital in the state, that any miscarriage, infant loss, stillborn or child death gets buried in the section of the Holy Innocents as a means to honor the sanctity of life. We went and saw the giant, unmarked grave in the winter after all of this, and the verse Jesus says of “Let the little children come to me” (Matthew 19:14) is on a headstone there. I was up to my knees in snow and cried my eyes out in the car on the way home, but I consider myself blessed to have the closure and the ability to grieve when so many others haven’t been able to do the same. Every time I pass that cemetery now my heart still jumps into my throat, but I take solace in knowing Lydia’s there.
Spending Time in the Word
As time went on we started trying again, and again, and again, this time with nothing. But in this season I dove into the book of Joshua as a means to see what happened to those who followed the Lord without hesitation.
I wrote in my blog: “Life happens in such a way not that it strikes down my faith per se, but in a way where it gets chipped away, like when a sculptor is molding a creation. So one bad thing happening doesn’t cause me to throw my arms up and claim abandonment, but when one thing after another happens, slowly all I hear is clink. clink. clink. and you get to a point where you are wondering where God is getting all of this clay because you are feeling particularly worn down, and at the outside there isn’t a pretty statue to show for it.”
In this book, Joshua is in the middle of a dispute with multiple leaders. What I find great about chapter 10 is that Joshua doesn’t say a word aloud until nearly halfway through the chapter. God makes the first commentary about the circumstances in verse 8: “And the LORD said to Joshua, ‘Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands. Not a man of them shall stand before you.'” There has not been a plan made, an action taken, not even a prayer uttered to God, and He’s saying: “It’s all good, no need to fret, I got it.”
As I’m reading, I realize that God provides not only words of assurance, but actually intervenes on the Israelites’ behalf. He literally throws down large stones from heaven, killing the enemies (v. 11), and then proceeds to hold the sun and moon in the sky while Israel defeats the Amorites. Okay, so … the God of the universe pours down boulders on the enemies and then modifies space so that Israel can be victorious. This is one of those moments where it is obvious that God cannot be contained into the little box we put Him in.
I thought about my faith, about it being chipped away — and realized that the messy stuff that makes life complicated it is not meant to “chip away my faith.” This stuff is the stuff that sanctification is made of. The experiences that make life hard make me realize that God has always “had it” and always will. I am reminded that as a sculpture, I literally am the clay, He’s the potter, and the molding, shaping, and changing is all part of His sovereign plan to make me better (Isaiah 64:8). The place where change for the better truly occurs is where the inward change will produce an outward trust in the Lord.
Aren’t I Entitled to Motherhood?
Everything had finally been evened out in terms of labs and my overall health and then no pregnancy … until August 2012 after I graduated when another pregnancy test showed up positive. Finally, I thought; this is it! In my mind, this was the boy I had always dreamed of. We’d name him Everett and he would look exactly like my husband. The planner in me had it all ready to go. God on the other hand had a different plan, and within the next week or so, again another “period” came.
At this point, I was angry, so incredibly angry, and hurt and really just at my wits end with all of it. I would see other people on Facebook taunting their pregnant bellies, or people giving birth to beautiful chunky babies and here I was, womb empty, again. I remember being in bed, yelling in my head at God, demanding to know why everyone else got to be a mother but me: Why wasn’t it MY turn, and how much more of this would I endure? I remember going online and diving into the world of adoption (with some fervor I might add), not caring if it didn’t fit in the plan of our lives at the time, but knowing that I would be a mother at any cost.
I wrote in my blog: “I always thought of motherhood as an entitlement, something I had ‘earned’ by being a good person and a devout follower. I thought that since I had essentially followed the rules: marriage, abstaining until we were married, going/finishing an advanced degree, saving and spending appropriately, following Jesus, that meant that I should be a mother, that I had “earned” it in a way. This is SO not the case.”
Dave calmly told me that from a money and time perspective, adoption really wasn’t in the cards, and that was when I gave up. I don’t mean like a defeated gave up, I mean like a surrender give up. In a moment of clarity, I realized that it wasn’t time for us to be parents yet and that God would do it in His time, in His plan, not mine. I cried out in anger and tried to “fix it” and make it what I thought it needed to be, but it didn’t matter if God wasn’t steering the ship. So I resolved that it would happen one way or another when it was meant to — and in this idle period, I changed jobs, finished school, adopted another dog, and focused on my marriage — the good stuff.
Hope in the Work of the Lord
Suddenly, in September 2012, it had been a particularly long day at work (and wine was calling my name), but as my husband pointed out, I was late, 9 days late to be exact, and I should probably test. Truthfully, I didn’t even want to know. Couldn’t ignorance just be front and center?
With annoyance I tested, and there it was, positive, but I literally threw it in the garbage and assumed I’d wait for the inevitable loss. Instead of the inevitable, I got sick. So sick, like I am going to die sick. Vomiting three times a day every day for 16 weeks sick. Zofran barely touched it, and at that point I was going to weekly ultrasounds for them to keep an eye on things. I remember at the 9 week visit holding my breath hoping I’d see movement. And there it was: bones, face, legs, arms, everything moving around, and at 10 weeks, it got bigger! As time went on and my belly grew, we still waited for the inevitable.
And then, on May 7th, at 3:17 a.m. Hope Amelia entered the world. We named her Hope for obvious reasons, but Amelia means “work of the Lord.” She is literally my breathing reminder every day to Hope in the Work of the Lord. To remember that in His timing things will come to pass.
God Answers with Joy
Within nine months of Hope’s birth, God decided to have a sense of humor with me (much like Sarah and Abraham), and I got pregnant again. Elliana (Ellie) Joy was born October 27th, a mere 17 1/2 months from her sister. Her name means “My God has Answered Me,” so she is literally “My God has answered me with Joy.” And He has, and how it makes my heart ache, I know that neither of these kids would be here if the others had come. The Lord decided which ones would come down for a bit and which ones would come down to stay as a way to prove to me that He is soverign, that He is the methodical planner that I don’t have to be.
Psalm 46:10 has never been more clear in my life than in that season: “Be still and know that I am God.” Even as my Hope and Ellie grow, it is a daily challenge to be still, to STOP, and lean into the God of the universe — knowing that He has my life, my kids, my marriage, all of it. I know that despite it all, you will probably read this and think: Well yeah, she got her happy ending, two kids while I have none. And to you I am so incredibly sorry. I don’t know what your story is: if it’s multiple losses, infertility, or some combination of these, but know that you are not alone, and there is a community of people who walk this journey with you and continue to walk it even if kids eventually enter the picture.
I miss my three kiddos every day. I want to hug them and tell them I love them every day like I do to my girls, but for now, until I get there, Jesus is the One who holds them for me since I can’t.
God sees you right where you are. He knows your heart, your wishes, dreams and desires. But He is also a God that requires faith, unwavering faith to recognize that He has it all under control. And just like the song “Be Held” by Casting Crowns, sometimes you just have to stop holding on and just be held … just rest in Him knowing that there is so much more to the story that you can’t see yet, blessings He’s preparing your heart for, and ways He will use you to bring others to Him.
To read more from Annie’s blog during her trial of miscarriage and loss, please visit thehouseofhorn.blogspot.com.
For more personal stories, visit my “Your Story” page! Interested in sharing your story and how the Lord sustained you, grew you, and what you learned? Please visit my “Contact” page to download submission guidelines.