October: Hope in the Darkness

Last year I was asked to speak at a holiday women’s event at my church. The theme was “Hope in the Darkness” and I was specifically asked to share my story of miscarriage. October is Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month and this is simply the transcript of what I wrote in preparation to speak at that event, with a few headings added.

Welcome and Intro

Good evening, ladies. Thank you for being here with us tonight.

I’m Rebekah, daughter of Pastor Andrew and his wife Becki. I’m wife to Tyler, mom to Colter and Abram.

I always feel that with each of my babies God’s given me a special gift, that their presence has been almost a tangible embodiment of that special gift given in extra measure. 

Colter is my joy baby. And if you know Colter, you can probably understand why I say that. He’s busy and curious and thoughtful and affectionate. Colter loves life and he seems to exude that love of life everywhere he goes. 

Abram is my grace baby. He came at a time filled with stress and uncertainty. The week before I found out I was pregnant with him I think we had like three stressful things happen. As a newborn he was so easy, just calm and happy, and in the midst of that stressful time I felt his presence as such a gift, such a grace in my life. 

I’m not pregnant, but I’ve known for almost two years that the next one will be my faith baby. 

But our first baby, the one before Colter, was my hope baby.

Tonight our theme is the light and hope of Christ. I’ve been asked to share my story, and my prayer is that it points us all, both those who know Jesus and those who don’t know him yet, toward the hope that can only can be found in him. So I’ll be sharing my story, but also weave it in with a couple characters in the Bible who also experienced darkness and hope.

Me

When my husband and I first got married I was very excited about the possibility of becoming a mother. Most of the women in my family have big families, not because they’re careless or irresponsible, but because they love children and they value the mission of motherhood. 

I knew that I had some health issues that had potential to make it harder to get pregnant. But you don’t know until you try, right? So I tried not to worry too much and I was hopeful that all my fears of infertility and childlessness would be invalidated and that I would be pregnant within a few months of my wedding.

Well, that didn’t happen. Over a year went by and the uncertainty of whether or not I would ever be a mother was a deep sadness and anxiety in my soul. I wanted to be like the other women in my family, and I felt so defective, like I couldn’t accomplish this basic task that the female body is so clearly designed for. 

Finally, a year and a half after we got married I found out I was pregnant. We were thrilled, thankful, hopeful. Though I was exhausted and throwing up constantly, the brief time I got to mother that baby was filled with joy. 

At ten weeks we found out our hope baby was no longer alive. Not only that, but rare complications put me at risk for an aggressive cancer, and for several months I had to do weekly blood draws to monitor that risk. 

Though being able to get pregnant had given me hope and been such a joyful time while it lasted, the months that followed were some of the darkest of my life, and it’s not like I’d never done anything hard. 

I was sad, depressed, pessimistic about the future, and fear became my constant companion. I was nervous to stay alone in my house at night. I startled at my own reflection in glass doors. By the time I left the hospital after the blood draws each week, I would be shaking and often vomiting. I had nightmares for well over a year. I was far from home, and most of the time I felt completely terrorized in the immediate aftermath of miscarriage. All those feelings of being defective as a woman overwhelmed me again.

I wasn’t usually angry with God, but I asked Him why a lot.

David

In the midst of all that darkness a verse from 2 Samuel 12 was a great comfort to me. When David’s baby son dies, he says, “He will not return to me, but I will go to him.” My one comfort was that someday I would die and see my baby in heaven.

A few months later Tyler’s enlistment in the Navy was complete and we moved home to Michigan. The fog was beginning to lift, though I still felt very fragile. A few more months went by and we were expecting again. This time, despite all my anxiety, all was well, and our oldest son Colter arrived safely. Every moment with him has been a gift, and he and Abram have filled my life with incredible joy.

Over the months and years that followed, often when I felt sad about losing my first baby, I would go back and find comfort again in those words from King David – “He won’t come back to me, but I will go to him.”

But one day I started reading earlier in the chapter, the part where the prophet Nathan confronts King David with his sin. David’s immediate response is confession. He says, “I’ve sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan says, “The Lord also has put away your sin. You shall not die.” And that is the greatest source of hope. That is our light in the darkness, that God has taken care of our sin in Jesus.

You know, David didn’t have the whole Bible like we do. He had a limited knowledge of exactly how God would save His people. But he had faith to believe everything God had revealed to him, everything from being able to see his baby again, to his sins being forgiven, to the hope of a coming Messiah. We don’t have to have all the details figured out to believe what God has clearly revealed in His Word.

Well, David died, and hundreds of years went by. Prophets came and went. God’s people went into exile, came home, and came under foreign rule again. God’s people sat in darkness, and for hundreds of years God was silent.

Jesus

And then the Messiah that David had hoped for came. As a real baby, to a real mother, in a real world with all its hurt and brokenness. 

And He came as the Son of God. I think sometimes we forget about the fatherhood of God, how our own imperfect but powerful love for our children is part of being made in His image. It’s part of reflecting His character back into the world, but it’s just a dim reflection of the love God the Father has for God the Son. And even in all the love the Father has for Jesus, He still sent Him to us. This is what we celebrate at Christmas. 

Baby Jesus, the Messiah, grew up. He lived a perfect life of obedience. He loved God with all His heart and mind and soul and strength and His neighbor as Himself. He kept the law of God that we broke.

And then He gave Himself for us.

Bartimaeus

In those weeks leading up to His crucifixion, as He traveled toward Jerusalem, Jesus encountered someone who sat quite helpless in both physical and spiritual darkness. This someone was Bling Bartimaeus, a lonely beggar, apparently with no friends or family to help or care for him.

Jesus was leaving Jericho and Bartimaeus could hear the crowd with Him. And then he hears someone say, “It’s Jesus of Nazareth!” So he begins calling out, “Jesus! Son of David! Have mercy on me!” Mark 10 tells us the people rebuked him and told him to be quiet. “Sit down! Shut up! Jesus doesn’t have time for you.”

We don’t really know how much Bartimaeus knew about Jesus at this point. But he knows who He is, he knows He’s his only hope, and he believes He can heal him. So he calls out all the more!

And through the din of the crowd Jesus hears him. He stops and says, “Call him.” His voice is soft enough that Bartimaeus can’t hear it. The crowd has to relay the message to him. They say, “Get up! Take heart! He is calling you!”

And Bartimaeus springs up! There’s no hesitating! You can almost see him running, stumbling through what’s still darkness to him, reaching out for Jesus. 

He reaches him and Jesus asks him a simple question – “What do you want me to do for you?” And Bartimaeus says, “Teacher, let me recover my sight.” Jesus says, “Go your way. Your faith has made you well.” And immediately Bartimaeus is healed. The first thing he sees is the face of Christ. He follows Jesus and Luke’s gospel tells us he glorified Him and that the people who were there to witness his healing praises God. 

This is the last healing miracle Mark records before the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Jesus is on the road to the cross. He’s just taken away Bartimaeus’s darkness, but he’s about to face the darkest suffering a human being has ever experienced. He’s on His way to the cross knowing the suffering He will face for Bartimaeus, for David, for you, for me.

He loves Bartimaeus enough to stop and heal him, but what’s even more amazing is that He loves him enough to suffer for his sins.

You

The hope that David had in the midst of his darkness, the hope I have in the midst of suffering and grief is that Jesus suffered for me and that He conquered death in His resurrection.

If you’re a believer in the midst of a dark time, remember Jesus knows suffering. He’s there with you in your darkness. This pain is temporary, but life with Him is eternal and completely incomparable to the suffering that’s present now.

He’s coming again, not as a little baby, but as a triumphant King. And when He comes He will destroy death and sin and suffering, and He’ll cast Satan into Hell. Remember, Satan wants your soul. He wants to take you with him. 

So if you’re here tonight and you’re not a believer, I urge you to seek the Lord while He may be found. Turn away from loving your so and to loving Jesus. If you don’t understand, ask Him to take the blinders off your eyes, just like Bartimaeus did. Ask Him to give you eyes to see Him as He truly is, faith to trust Him. If you just can’t seem to accept His forgiveness as a gift you can’t buy or earn, ask Him to burn your pride away.

And when you’re stumbling through the darkness of sin or suffering, when life is completely overwhelming and you’re wallowing in despair, know you desperately need Jesus and that if you come to Him, He will never cast you out. 

Remember Blind Bartimaeus, how he boldly and humbly asked Jesus for mercy, and how Jesus freely and lovingly gave it. There is hope for you in Jesus, not just for this brief life, but for eternity.

So get up, take heart, He is calling you!

Closing Prayer

Let’s pray. 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus, our Redeemer, Healer, Hope in the darkness. Please let Your Word do it’s work in the hearts here tonight. If there are unbelievers here, don’t let them rest until they are at peace with You. To you be the honor and the power and the glory forever. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Thank you.

October: Trauma

Terrorized

The lights.

The smells.

The wide hallway.

I walk down

To jab a needle in my arm

Again.

Watch the numbers fall.

Unrelenting reminder

Of what almost was.

Everywhere

Is fear.

I wasn’t always this way.

A car –

It’s not where I expected.

I jump.

I see

My reflection

In a glass door.

My heart races

And then calms.

It is only me.

– Rebekah Miklusicak

I wrote those words a few years after my miscarriage in 2013. The memory, and the trauma, was still fresh. It isn’t so much now. But miscarriage is common, and trauma following a miscarriage is common too.

Different sources say that between 10% and 25% of confirmed pregnancies end in miscarriage.

A UK study that examined PTSD, anxiety, and depression following a miscarriage showed that the prevalence of these symptoms has been previously underestimated with miscarriage trauma lasting “longer than we realized.”

Those of us who experienced the trauma are probably not surprised by the statistics.

One month following a first trimester miscarriage, 29% of women had symptoms of PTSD, 24% had anxiety, and 11% had moderate to severe depression. A year later 1 in 6 still carried PTSD symptoms.

In miscarriage, we’re met with our own helplessness and often with feelings of guilt, shame, and inadequacy. We labor on our own with no support or knowledge of what to expect. Future pregnancies are met with fear. Our grief is often invalidated, so we are quiet.

Medical professionals tell us we have to have three miscarriages to do any tests, and they’ll let us miscarry “as a diagnostic tool” and refuse to test our progesterone. They refer to our babies as fetal tissue, biowaste, products of conception, and say things like, “Why were you even pregnant?”

Why am I sharing this?

Because the experience is lonely. If this is you, you’re not alone. Talk to someone who’s gone through it too. Even those of us who have experienced miscarriage won’t always have the right words to say, but sometimes we need to share the story and hear someone else’s just so we know we’re not crazy.

Because people are unaware. If this isn’t you, you almost undoubtedly know someone who has had this experience, and a friend to be present and patient in the midst of it all can be invaluable.

Because the terminology and the medical care should change. Care providers, take your cues from the parents. Talk about the baby and the loss the way the mother does. Save your clinical talk for other clinicians. You might not be able to make it better and that’s ok, but please try not to make it worse. Talk to mothers about their mental health. If you can’t help them or give them the care they’re requesting (like testing progesterone) send them to someone who can.

For so many women, their motherhood had traumatic beginnings, traumatic chapters, and holds lingering trauma. Please be gentle with us.

We might not ever go back to “normal”. Sometimes that’s a hard truth, but it’s because our babies mattered enough to change us.

Note: Because I know a lot of people who follow me know me in real life, I’m ok. I’m just sharing this, because some mothers aren’t.

Resources:

Still Birthday

For those who want to try again:

NaPro Technology

NaPro in West Michigan

FEMM Health