Grace Like Scarlett- Guest Storyteller, Adriel Booker
The following selection has been re-published on this blog with the express permission of the author, Adriel Booker from her book, Grace Like Scarlett: Grieving with Hope after Miscarriage, and Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group,” 2018. Visit Baker Publishing at http://www.bakerpublishinggroup.com and learn more about this novel at https://www.gracelikescarlett.com .
You can listen to the audio version of this story on the Holy Ordinary Collective Podcast.
Do you remember the feeling of your skin or the color of the walls or the sound of your gasp the moment the bottom first dropped out?
For me it was an ordinary Wednesday afternoon in April inside a tiny, windowless room where a still, black screen confronted us. It should have been alight with the fluttering heart of our thirteen-week-old baby girl. But it wasn’t. It was silent.
I had experienced anguish after Judah’s prognosis, yes, but his heart was still beating. We had hope for his life.
This was different. This screen left us with nothing.
Scarlett was dead, our first miscarriage.
While curled up on the bottom of our shower that night, choking on my own snot, I felt no more equipped to live or die than the refugees of war spread across the evening news. How does one
survive this terror? Suffering is the great equalizer. So this is what a broken heart feels like? I became kindred to a hurting world that day. Am I dying too?
The pain of losing a child starts by breaking your heart and then courses through every single vein and vessel, consuming your body until your bones ache.
All of the events that would make up the next few days are mere details: the newborn’s cry echoing in the hospital hallway while I waited for my D&C, the argument over gender testing with the insensitive surgeon, the dollar store dolphin print hanging crookedly above the examination bed, the nurse with the kind eyes who loved me, the way my husband looked like Jesus and reminded me I was not alone, the statistics and charts and pumping of needles, the shuffling in and out of clinics, the homemade cookies on my doorstep, the words spilling from my fingers, the whisper from heaven shattered around my feet, the image of Jesus carrying me in my exhaustion. These were trivialities propped up like matchsticks on my mountain of grief, folding together to make a story I hated—a story bearing my name.
How does a mother learn to breathe again after her baby dies? One breath in. One breath out. And then again. And again.
Suffering does not choose the weak or the strong, the faithful or the faithless. It chooses the human. When you are caught by waves that are larger than your capacity to stay above the surface, you’ve got to allow your heart to feel the pain all the way down to the bottom, so that when you get there you can
see you’re still alive. There’s still hope. It’s from the bottom that we can begin to heal our way back up to the surface. The human heart is fragile, yes, but it’s also more resilient than we give ourselves credit for.
The deep is not our enemy or a thing to be resisted. But it does command our attention. No matter what form it takes, suffering always commands our attention. It will not be alleviated by comparison to greater or lesser suffering, or even your perception of it. Your pain is your pain and it deserves the dignity of recognition, for that is where healing begins.
My most recent pregnancy resulted in the birth of a healthy son, Micah. He was born full-term and a million pounds strong. (Perhaps not a million, but nearly ten, which is basically the same thing.) In
addition to the concoction of joy, anxiety, and fear of being pregnant after recurrent miscarriages, I also experienced debilitating physical pain all throughout the pregnancy. In layman’s terms, my pelvis was falling apart. It felt like my whole body was coming unhinged.
I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t climb stairs. I couldn’t sit on the floor with my children or sit on the couch among friends. I couldn’t push a loaded grocery cart. I couldn’t clean. I couldn’t take walks around our new neighborhood that I yearned to explore. Even with physiotherapy and braces, exercises and stretching, the pain was relentless.
In a season where I wanted to enjoy a pregnancy progressing as it should after three heartbreaking losses, I felt crushed under the suffering I experienced in my physical body. All the very worst news stories about planes plummeting through the sky or the Ebola epidemic ripping through Africa didn’t cancel out what I endured within my own body and soul. I was suffering, and in my worst moments, all I could think about was my pain.
C. S. Lewis put it this way: “Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection: the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer.”1
I struggled with a false sense of guilt, feeling resistant to naming my suffering for what it was. How could I call this “suffering” after having three miscarriages? What right had I to name this “suffering” when barren women would give anything to trade places with me?
Naming our suffering does not mean becoming defined by it. Rather, it means honestly acknowledging our need in the presence of Jesus. Our humility frees us to receive his grace. It’s his beauty for our ashes—the great exchange, God’s answer to our pain.
Our present suffering is the best reminder that life dishes out more than we can handle, which is exactly why we need Jesus.
Adriel Booker is an author, speaker, and advocate based in Sydney, Australia who believes storytelling, beauty, and the grace of God will change the world. She’s become a trusted voice in areas of motherhood and parenting, Christian spirituality, and global women’s issues. Adriel is also known for her work with the Love A Mama Collective—serving under-resourced women in developing nations through safe birth initiatives—as well as her years spent as a Bible teacher and leadership coach. Her latest book is Grace Like Scarlett: Grieving with Hope after Miscarriage and Loss and she’s also released a free guide on how to journal through grief. Find Adriel across all social media platforms at @adrielbooker or her blog: www.adrielbooker.com/welcome.