Empty Arms by Claudia McGregor
It’s incredible how time softens and fades the memories of intense battles once fought. Battles that were so painful and intense for soooo long now feel as though they almost belong to another lifetime––or even to someone else’s story. Over the past nine years, we have been able to hold our “fulfilled promises”––their names are Kate and Sam––and we have watched them take shape; form, grow, and blossom. Each birthday that passes is a wonderful celebration as it reminds us of God’s faithfulness to us along the way.
It was not an easy journey becoming parents, and I share our story here in the hope that it will bring encouragement to those on their own journey, whether towards parenthood or seeing any other number of God’s promises birthed in your own life.
We fell pregnant with our first baby so easily, and so I naturally assumed a beautiful care-free pregnancy lay ahead. Our first scan arrived and I was so excited to see the little person I was carrying on the screen. That was soon followed by an awkward silence and then a few sentences, but all I heard in that moment were the dreaded words, “no heartbeat." It shook my world. The doctor suggested it may be earlier in the pregnancy than we thought. As we waited for the next scan, I wrestled and pleaded with God to fix everything. The next scan showed no change, so a D&C was recommended. I prayed the pregnancy would end naturally to spare me that decision. A few days later after four hours of labor pains, followed by three days of induced contractions it was over. Nothing but empty arms to show for the pain.
Miscarriage does not always bring physical pain like my first did, but it always carries this deep sense of loss. It is hard to grasp how you grieve for a baby you have never seen or held, but a baby you so dearly yearned for. The loss of our first baby was so traumatic I could not bring myself to start trying again for another ten months.
Convinced by my doctor that it was most likely just a once off and that everything would be alright, we started trying, and again, we fell pregnant very quickly. Then came another loss… something was clearly wrong. I remember the fear and panic that started to creep into my thought life. Would we ever be able to have kids? What ifsomething major was wrong? Could I have donesomething differently? Was it my fault in some way?
Soon, it became a daily process to have to choose not to partner with that fear. That anxiety would begin to rise, but I would quell it by reminding myself that God was good and remembering His promises to me. My prayers seemed so futile in that season, like they were rebounding off a glass ceiling. Yet offering those prayers, even if they seemed unanswered, kept my heart open towards God. As I prayed one day I was reminded of Acts 17:26:
“He sets the boundaries of people and nations, determining their appointed times in history.” (Passion Translation)
“Their appointed times”––those words spoke to me so deeply and challenged me; this was about more than us and our desire for a baby. This little person we were waiting for would come with a unique destiny of their own. There was an appointed time in history for them to arrive.The place and the generation they would find themselves immersed into were not random, but carefully and wonderfully woven into a greater plan.
On this journey, God's timing was a little later than our timing; but His timing was perfect. I look at Kate and Sam now, and I only see the destiny strung upon them. God has positioned them perfectly to impact their generation.
I am so grateful for friends and family who loved us well over that time. It is an unseen journey, and not one that we felt to share with everyone around us. After the first miscarriage, we had decided to hold things a bit closer to our chests about where we were at on our journey. This meant we had to live graciously with people around us. It’s really easy to make careless comments around this topic, I am pretty sure I have made one or two myself along the way. I remember one incident where someone pointed at a pregnant lady and said to my husband, “They're having a baby, what's wrong with you guys?” I could see the words cut him deeply, but I watched him respond with such grace and kindness. We chose to not let those things stick but to rather keep our hearts free from offense. Forgiveness really does bring freedom, there’s enough other 'stuff" to worry about without carrying those extra burdens and heartaches.
Whilst we were walking in heartache and loss, many of our friends were having their first or even second babies. And with that came SO many baby showers. There were many times where I just thought, “I can’t do another one, I just can’t!” But choosing to celebrate with others became thisdeliberate act of faith. One day I wanted others to celebrate our victory just as I had celebrated theirs. Was it painful at times? For sure! But what a celebration we had when it was our turn.
So back to our story. After our second loss, I underwent extensive testing and almost, to my frustration, everything came back completely normal. Part of me wanted to find something that could be fixed or at least explained. I wanted a quick fix but this was going to be more of a marathon than a sprint, and one that required us to bringour faith into this area. Key meetings led us to an amazing doctor who spoke such courage into my heart and guided us in the early stages of pregnancy. He insisted on doing what he called “brain scans” in the early stages of pregnancy, along with regular blood tests and some specifically timed progesterone support. These were weekly scans for me from week four until week twelve so that I could see and be at peace that our baby was growing well each week. I had to get up very early, sit in terrible traffic, and wait in a long queue but those brain scans were so incredible for my heart, and it made me feel so supported! Ten months later, our beautiful daughter Kate entered the world––we were thrilled!
Whilst I was still pregnant with Kate, and only four weeks after she was born, four people approached us with prophetic words and dreams about us having a son. At the time I remember thinking ”too soon” as we struggled through sleep deprivation and adjusting to a newborn.Little did I know that two years later those very words would carry us through another two miscarriages before we could meet our little boy! Being given those words at a time when we were not even trying made them even more meaningful.
After my fourth miscarriage, the stress began taking its tollon my heart. Proverbs says, “hope deferred makes the heart sick” and I began to see that heart sickness setting in. The disappointment was wearing me down, and I could see the pain in my husband’s eyes too. I wish I had held him even closer over that time. I had to go back to those promises daily and hold them up to the Lord. I thought to myself if words carry life and death, (Proverbs 18:21), then I was going to partner with God in declaring life! It sounds so easy, but oh my goodness it was hard!
Today as I sit with my six-year-old son and listen to his funny jokes, I can testify that God's promises do not fail! My arms and heart are full as I get to hold two beautiful children. One day I will get to embrace those four beautiful souls who were lost––what a wonderful thought! But for now, they get to celebrate with our heavenly Father, who I’m pretty sure throws the best parties ever!
As I look back, our journey to parenthood was definitely not what we would have chosen; yet God has taken the ashes and pain from those years, and He continues to weave them into something of beauty.
“Make God the utmost delight and pleasure of your life, and He will provide for you what you desire the most. Give God the right to direct your life, and as you trust Him along the way you’ll find He pulled it off perfectly.”