One "Hell" of a Year
Updated: Feb 3, 2022
September 24th, 2020 - September 24th, 2021
The high highs and low lows of this year have thrown Maria and I into the throngs of suffering and pain. Some days, especially after a week like this, it definitely feels like "cruel and unusual punishment." I am someone who externally processes and I have found that journaling or writing helps me in this process, specially when I am grieving. So, here's what I am processing today as I reflect on this past year.
To give you context, I go back to February of 2017, Nora is almost 2 and Max is less than 6 months old. Something happens within Maria's body in which her pelvis comes completely out of alignment. Her pelvic floor did not regain the strength it needed and she is at a place for the next six months where if I am not home, someone has to be there at the house to help take care of her and the kids 24/7. For six months we are in this season of going to daily appointments at the chiropractor, physical therapy or massage therapy. Add into the middle of that season being let go from my job at my previous church, and it feels like God has abandoned us.
Maria makes progress and by Max's first birthday she does not need the 24/7 help as she did before. I have landed at my new church as the youth pastor, but I am still coming home everyday at lunch to feed the kids and put them down for afternoon naps. From 2018 all the way up until March 2020, Maria sees multiple physical therapists that focus on pelvic floor recovery and we still make our twice a week trip to the chiropractor. Physical progress is slow, her pain has become chronic in her back, core, shoulders, etc. My 30 year old wife doesn't feel like she has a 30 year old body.
In the midst of transitioning into my role as the Senior Pastor two months prior (January 2020), we also decided to move from Woodridge to Darien so we could be just a few minutes from the church. Our Woodridge house goes under contract on March 14th and Illinois shutdowns that same day because of covid. We find a house a month later and spend the summer living with my parents in Shorewood/Joliet while our house is under some renovations. We finally settle into our home in July and in August, Maria is able to see her pelvic floor therapist for the first time in six months...and good news: her pelvic floor has healed and she is cleared to start trying to get pregnant.
Maria still feels pain daily, but this green light is what we had been praying for, looking forward to hearing since 2017. We always wanted more kids, but we wanted them a lot closer in age. It felt like we missed that gap and for there to be a 4-5 year gap between Max and our next wasn't what we wanted, but we were thankful that Maria was physically at a place where we could try for more kids.
Now we get to one year ago today, September 24th, 2020. We get the positive pregnancy test, we're going to have another baby! Our joy and answer to prayer would soon be turned to grief as on October 4th, 2020, Maria had a miscarriage. It was a Sunday morning and thankfully there was a guest speaker already lined up, so I contacted a few of our pastors and let them know what happened. My parents came up and took the kids later that morning and we just spent the day crying and crying and crying. We were in shock, couldn't believe that we had come this far, Maria's body had gone through so much pain and this would happen. Wasn't the physical suffering enough for the last 3.5 years? The final three months of 2020, a dark cloud just hung over us. In the midst of the political turmoil and covid spike, we were just numb to it all because our hearts were grieving over the loss of our little one.
Then comes 2021 and after a couple of failed attempts to get pregnant at the end of 2020, we get another positive pregnancy test! And then almost like clock work, the Sunday after the positive test, Maria has a lot of bleeding and we think she has miscarried again. On that Sunday, I was already at church and Maria called me about an hour before church began. She still came with the kids and I somehow preached this sermon on Philippians 1:12-30. In between worship services we broke down and some people prayed over us. We went home and one of the pastors preached second service; just picked up the script like he was already planning on preaching.
Yet that afternoon, the bleeding stopped and we called our midwife and they weren't so sure we had miscarried. We showed up the next day at the appointment but it was too early in the pregnancy to know! It wasn't until two weeks later that we could first find a heartbeat, and indeed we did! We were relieved, overjoyed with gratitude and thankfulness. Over time, baby continued to have a good heartbeat and every visit was a sigh of relief that we were going to have a healthy baby. And on top of that, our baby's due date was October 4th, 2021...the exact day we lost our previous baby!
We could see God's faithfulness to us through it all. We began calling this baby our "Rainbow baby" as a reminder that God is faithful and He never fails us or forsakes us. Throughout this past year, we saw the timing of this child fit even better than what we had thought. Nora would be in school all day, Max every day until lunch...and so Maria would get time in the morning with our sweet baby, then have big helper brother in the afternoon and then some sweet family time after school for Nora and work for me. God was so good to orchestrate all of these things in His timing according to His plan.
And here we are today, one year later, September 24th, 4 days after we lost our sweet Sophie June to a cord accident and one year to our first positive test for our miscarried baby. Our year of hell has included a miscarriage and a stillbirth. It just seems like a cruel trick that God played on us...He brought us through the fire, the suffering, then gave us glimmers of hope along the way, and then wham, smacked in the face by unspeakable pain, grief and sorrow because of an accident. You've got to be kidding me, how could a sovereign and in control God allow this evil accident to take place, absolutely ridiculous!
Now we sit here, alone in our home, our kids back at school, meals starting to come in, a nursery full of clothes, diapers and baby girl decorations. Plus, we went through every aspect of pregnancy: gender reveal, setting up the nursery, even a small baby shower last week, then labor, delivery and her body now ready to take care of our baby...but no baby to show. It makes no sense at all...for God to be faithful in bringing us to this place of healing and ability to have another child and to take her away from us.
On days like today, we resonate with Psalm 22:1-2 "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer; by night, but I find no rest." This is as far as we can go in this Psalm, we can't get to the end of it where there is peace and contentment despite the awful suffering. We will get there on some days and other days we will stop at verses 1-2, and that's ok. Even though we feel forsaken, we have a broken and shattered faith right now that we know we are not forsaken.
Maria said it this way as we were driving this morning: He doesn't feel good, but I know He is; He doesn't feel faithful, but I know He is; He doesn't feel loving, He feels cruel, but I know He is loving. After a year of hell, this is where we find ourselves today: only a small ounce of faith in the one, true God of the universe, creator of Heaven and Earth, the one who redeemed us through His Son Jesus' death and resurrection and the one who is now holding our Sophie June and our miscarried baby in His loving arms. Somehow we will find the strength to trust and move forward knowing that He is the only one who can strengthen and sustain us today and the days ahead.