There is a special plant blooming at our house, and I am remembering someone I never got to meet.
This month marks the time when our baby, whom we lost through miscarriage, would have been born. The Sweet Autumn Clematis I planted in remembrance of the little one is blooming beautifully, and it has this wonderfully light and sweet smell that seems quite fitting.
While going through the grieving process after the miscarriage, I knew that there were a few things I wanted to do to help me honor and remember the life that began. One was to choose a name for the baby. Not knowing if the baby was a boy or girl, I didn’t want to choose something gender-specific. I had been reading Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan to the children, and liked the way Bunyan named the people in the story after their prominent character trait. One character was name Hopeful, and though not as strong and determined as Faithful, he was always positive. I felt his character fit our situation, and so this baby was named Hopeful. I am hopeful that I will be given the opportunity to see him or her when this world passes away.
Second, I knew I wanted to plant a perennial that would flower annually around the time the baby should have been born. I couldn’t be more pleased with the way the clematis has done. It hasn’t climbed very high this year, but I am hoping that it will continue to grow tall (I’ve read they can reach over thirty feet!) and climb to the top of our two-story deck so that I can see and smell it when I am in the kitchen, living, and dining rooms.
Third, I wanted to write a letter to the baby, and also asked Jesse to do the same. A friend who had two miscarriages had done that, and being someone who often writes letters when there is something important weighing on me, I knew that following her example would be a great help to me. Jesse and I were both helped through writing to the baby, and it gave us a sense of connection with the little one. While the letter is long, and I considered only sharing a few pieces, I decided to share it all.
My precious Baby Hopeful,
One month ago we lost you before we ever got to meet you.
We learned of you the week before, and felt a little overwhelmed at first. Everyone had been sick in the house for weeks, and we weren’t sure if we felt quite ready for another baby to join us yet. We didn’t tell anyone but my doctor about you, as we were trying to get used to the thought of your arrival for ourselves. After a week had gone by, and we started to feel less anxious about you, we began to lose you.
No matter how unprepared and overwhelmed we may have felt to think of you joining our family this fall, we never wanted to lose you. We believed your life to be a blessing and a reward from the Lord, and we wanted to see you grow through the nine months of pregnancy, welcome you at your birth, and train you up in the ways of the Lord. Losing you was very hard.
At first, I felt like a failure. All I wanted to do was to apologize to you for not being able to carry you to term. I felt that my body had failed you, and that it was my fault that you were gone. I felt a great burden of guilt, and I felt so ashamed to think that I had lost you. I knew in my mind that those feelings weren’t true, but during that first week, I was haunted with a great despair of failure, guilt, and shame. I wanted you back.
Though that first week was so hard, I want you to know that God used it to show me His comfort. Every morning, I woke up with a little more hope for the day. I felt God’s strength increase in my heart daily, and I had never before felt the interceding prayers of others lift me up when I couldn’t lift myself like I felt that week. Then, one week after you left us, God delivered me of the despair that had been weighing me down so heavily. He reminded me of a sermon preached weeks before, even before we knew about you, and I knew that as God watches over the sparrows and knows when one falls, He knew all about you and the loss I was feeling. Though your loss was invisible to everyone else, our Heavenly Father saw it all, even before I did.
I still think about you, and often wonder what things might have been like if you hadn’t left us. I look at your siblings at their different ages and wonder what you would have been like at that age. I wonder if you would have been a boy or girl, if you would have had dark hair like your daddy or hair like mine, what kind of personality you would have had, and what kind of dimension you would have added to our family. I think I will always wonder while on this side of Heaven. I often times wish that I could see you and hold you, but I have to lay it at the feet of Jesus and trust Him in all things, knowing that He will one day wipe every tear from my eye, and not one of those tears are lost or forgotten in His sight.
If I could have you back, I wouldn’t need to think for a moment about it. I would take you back in a heartbeat. But my dear Hopeful, you have touched my heart in a way that L~, M~, and A~ have not. The hurt I have experienced by losing you has been unlike anything else I have felt, and yet God has used it for His glory. He has been a very near and real source of comfort, and His people have proven themselves to be friends that stick closer than brothers. I have been so encouraged by the love shown to me by people who I have never met, or hardly know, and I have felt first-hand how effective the prayers of the saints are. Though your life was short, it was not in vain.
I am giving you the name Hopeful for a few reasons. I read to your brother and sisters the book The Pilgrims Progress during the time we found out about you and after we lost you. The characters have names based on their personal strengths or weaknesses, and the character Hopeful was always ready to be positive. When I think about you, I want to stay hopeful in the Lord, and positive towards His promises, even when it feels so sad. I am also hopeful that I will see you with the Lord after this earthly life has passed away. I trust that as God knew us all before we were ever formed in the womb, He also saw you. Though I have lost you, our Lord has not. He loses nothing, and so I have hope in my heart for the day when I see you for the first time. His Word promises that our trials and sufferings produce experience, and experience gives us hope, and hope will not make us ashamed. Hopeful, as painful as this has been to lose you, this experience truly gives me hope for God’s promises, and I now look forward to His coming with a greater desire, trusting that I will meet you there.
In a short time, we will be planting a vine that will flower this September. If you had been able to join our family here, you would have learned that I like to garden and watch things grow. I wanted something that would help me memorialize you, and I found the perfect plant. It is called a Sweet Autumn Clematis, and it will bloom right around the time we would have welcomed your birth. It will be covered in tiny white flowers that are supposed to have a sweet smell, and it will be something for me to see, smell, and hold when I cannot do that with you. I will think of you when I see the vine, and someday when we tell your brother and sisters about you, we will take them to the vine and tell them why it was planted. They are too young to understand what it means to lose a baby before it is born, and so we will tell them about you when they are older.
I still mourn for you, Hopeful. You would have been welcomed into a very special family. Your daddy is the best man I know, and L, M, and A would have fallen all over you. L would have been a little mother to you, and tried to be a teacher to you, too. She is very loving and helpful. M would have played with you and laughed when you were silly. You would have enjoyed his singing. A would have been fascinated to have a real baby at home, instead of just baby dolls. I think she would have liked having someone smaller than herself to look after. I would have enjoyed having your tiny body next to me and watching you grow and become your own little person.
We are trusting the Lord to give us another child someday, but no baby will ever replace you or push you from my memory. You will always be a part of me, a part that makes me sad and yet hopeful at the same time. When we go through another pregnancy, I will think of you. When we have a new baby to hold, I will think of you. And every September when the Clematis vine blossoms, I will think of you and look forward to the day when I meet you for the first time.
I love you dear Hopeful, but I believe that you are with the One who can love you better than I ever could.
I still cry. I still think of the baby, yet I realize that we wouldn’t be expecting the child we are now if we hadn’t lost Hopeful. That is a strange thought to me sometimes, and one that I can’t fully get my mind around, but in all things I have to learn to trust the Lord. While I am not thankful for the miscarriage, I am thankful for what the Lord was able to do through those very hard days.
I think that September will remain a very special time for me.