We wanted to wait a few weeks before going to the doctor after finding out we were pregnant again in early Summer of 2017. Doctor appointments during early pregnancy have always caused me anxiety and force me to realize how utterly helpless I am to keep my babies alive. So I waited. For about four weeks I was able to enjoy my pregnancy in ignorant and nauseous bliss.
I had some blood work done about a week before our first sonogram, my HCG levels came back extremely high. Our first sonogram confirmed what I already knew in my heart to be true.
I knew it all along. My sisters and aunts are twins and my husband’s mother is a twin so this wasn’t completely out of left field. I had a feeling early on in my pregnancy that there was more than one baby growing inside me.
But the sonogram that day was not all happy news.
We were able to see the first baby right away with a relatively slow heart rate of 89 BPM, but it was strong, clearly seen and measured. The technician asked about my ovulation dates and cautiously noted that the baby was measuring small and two weeks off. She was able to get a great picture of the first baby for us!
Initially we could see the second baby very clearly but as the ultrasound went on, the technician alerted us to the very deflated gestational sac and extremely small size of the second baby. Though she tried, she could not even get a clear picture of the baby for us.
My journal entry after our appointment:
We left that day so disappointed, and so confused. We walked in thinking that things would probably be fine; in the back of my mind I think I was remembering Glory (the child we lost right before this pregnancy) and reminding myself that we have always had healthy babies right after miscarriage.
What I learned in my struggle after losing Glory was that my faith, the strength or tenacity of it, was never ever a reflection of me.
I had sinfully made it so for years, even taking pride in this idol image of Christian faith “I” had built for myself. But Glory had stripped all of that away. My faith epiphany was this – So I follow Jesus. What else can I do?
So I begin to pray for a miracle – TWO healthy babies, measuring right on track. I have already called on other friends and believers to pray the same. I believe in this miracle – not because I have great faith, but because I KNOW MY GOD. He is a life-giving, miracle-making God. AND I TRUST HIM.
As I prayed for a miracle during those two weeks after our ominous ultrasound, I felt so much joy and so much faith. I was not naïve enough to believe that God had promised me this healthy pregnancy, but I felt bold enough to believe that the same God that split the sea was the same God living in me – and He is a miracle worker. He can do it, not because all of my suffering has earned me the right to carry this pregnancy to a healthy delivery but because He is merciful, He is all-powerful, He is sovereign, and He loves me.
We went in around 8+ weeks for another sonogram. To our grief the second baby was already gone and the first baby’s heart rate had not increased at all. Our doctor expected that a second sonogram a week later would confirm that the heartbeat would stop altogether. She was right.
And so, we were walking into another miscarriage. And not just one baby, we were losing two babies this time and being the furthest along we had ever been in a miscarriage.
I was still very much up to my eyeballs in grieving Hope, Mercy and Glory (the three babies we had lost in miscarriage at this point). The heaviness of losing two more children just piled up on top of the weight of the deaths of my other children.
I think there is this misconception about grief, that those of us who have experienced great loss will at some point eventually “get over it”. We won’t cry about it anymore. We won’t talk about it anymore. That on some magical day our grief will turn into joy and dancing and we won’t ever lament about our suffering ever again. And that if we do continue to remember and lament we are not walking in the joy of the Lord.
I don’t believe that to be true. I think one of the beautiful things about walking with Jesus through pain and suffering is that joy and lamenting are intermingled. We rejoice in our grief because we are the Lord’s; we grieve in our joy because we toil in a fallen world riddled with pain and death.
Walking with Jesus in our pain and suffering does not mean we sprint through our pain – shielding our faith from doubt and questions. It also does not mean we walk with stoic absence of emotion or surrender ourselves to the rollercoaster of despair. Walking with Jesus in our pain and suffering is a steady pace of hope and lament.
The week that we found out that we would lose the twins, happened to be the week that we had long planned for my Mom and sisters to come into town for a visit. The Lord knew. In His kindness and sovereignty, He knew.
The week that my Mom and sisters left we had long planned to join my husband’s side of the family for a long and quiet weekend in Mt. Vernon, Texas. The Lord knew. In His kindness and sovereignty, He knew.
He knew I didn’t want to be home. He knew I wanted a distraction. He knew that I needed my Momma’s cooking. He knew that I needed some help with the kids. He knew that I needed a good laugh. He knew that I needed some alone time near a quiet and serene pond. He knew that I needed physical rest. Thank you, Jesus.
To make things a little more complicated I looked very much pregnant. I had quickly developed the first trimester “bloat bump” and looked undeniably with-child. I spent most of the summer avoiding places where I would be asked about the bump and hiding out in the comfort of friends and family that knew we were waiting to deliver death.
I was truly getting a little nervous about what the physical experience of this miscarriage would hold. We had never been far enough along to see a heartbeat before and there were two babies. I stopped having pregnancy symptoms shortly after the first baby’s heartbeat had stopped, so I decided to wait for the miscarriage to occur naturally.
From mid-July until early August I hadn’t experienced any miscarriage symptoms. No cramping. No spotting. Nothing.
I was simply a walking tomb for my babies.
Then on Wednesday, August 2nd 2017 shortly after my husband left for work, I began experiencing what I can only describe as labor contractions. They became so intense I decided to call my husband to come home and call my doctor for some prescription pain medication. When he arrived home I was already practicing some Lamaze breathing techniques to get through the pain.
I can’t talk about the day we delivered the twins without talking about the gift that is my husband. Between sitting at my side to hold my hand, running his fingers through my hair and helping me with my breathing – he was also fixing snacks for the kids, changing diapers, taking the dog out and staying in touch with my doctor. It matters who you marry. Carson is a quiet and steady rock for our family with an undeniable gift of faith. He expresses his love and caring in acts of service. He has been unwaveringly faithful to continually prioritize his role as a husband and father. I don’t even know how to express how utterly thankful I am to have him as my husband.
Wednesday, August 2nd 2017 will be remembered by both my husband and me as one of the most traumatic days we have ever experienced.
We had asked family and friends to pray that we would be able to pass the babies at home so we could preserve them and bury them properly. Though traumatic, the Lord answered our prayers and the miscarriage happened quickly at home. We decided to name the first baby Faith and the second baby Joy. It feels so right to honor the short lives of our twins by giving them an earthly resting place; to give our earthly grief an anchor of sorts, to come back to and remember the brevity and sacredness of life. No matter how short.
Faith that requires specific answers to its prayers – is not faith. Faith trusts God not because the circumstances make it easy to do so but because there is joy even in the crux of grief – if you walk by faith with Jesus.
We prayed in faith that God would grant us a miracle and give us two healthy babies – they both died.
The miracle that happened is this: the miracle-worker lives in me, loves me and is working in me.
It has been almost two years since we lost Faith and Joy Wagner. I continue to preach to my heart, daily and hourly, that God is good. As a woman who has carried more death in my womb than life I can tell you that death does not change the fact that God is good.
The death of a child does not change the character of God.
The death of a dream does not change the character of God.
The death of a job does not change the character of God.
The death of a relationship does not change the character of God.
His goodness does not bend and sway with our unanswered prayers and it cannot be shaken by fear and doubt. Can we be shaken by unanswered prayers? Absolutely. Can we be shaken by fear and doubt? Of course. But the One who holds everything in the palm of His hand is unshakeable and unchanging and He will never leave us. If it feels like He has, I challenge you to preach to your heart the truth of God’s character. He is good. In my healthy babies – God is good. In my miscarriages – God is good.
I love this quote below, I think it perfectly holds the tension between trusting God and earthly grief.
“Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him. But though I trust Him, yet I shall lament that He has slain me.” – Russ Ramsey
And so I follow Jesus. What else can I do?