I grew up in a faithful church-going family. My father had deep faith. And his mother, my grandmother was an intercessor. Crippled from arthritis and nearly blind from macular degeneration, she lived with us in her final seven years. Her labor during that time was prayer. Pretty much all day every day she sat, tucked away in our sun parlor, transistor radio tuned to Billy Graham and Norman Vincent Peale, whispering prayers. She had a hard life and owned nothing, yet was profoundly thankful to God.
Grandma was my faith influencer…a little like Jesus in our midst. And I believe because of her example, I had a relationship with God. Grandma made God seem personal, reachable, and relational. I wasn’t really walking the walk. But I believed. I prayed. I journaled to God. I especially turned to God in my times of need. I believed He was listening. And when Chris and I got the news that I was pregnant with twins, I thanked God. We too were loyal churchgoers and we believed God had blessed us with the miracle of being pregnant with not one, but two babies!
Carrying twins was a little extra-special…and something we never anticipated. As my belly bulged bigger and bigger, strangers would smile and say, “Oh congratulations! When are you due?” I was more than delighted to respond, “I’m due in July…with twins.”
Friends and family cheered us on. Frequent comments included:
“Oh if anyone can handle twins, it’s you.”
And even, the occasional, “Better you than me.”
So on that day in March, when I returned to work from my pre-natal exercise class only to discover a little bit of spotting, I was mildly concerned. I called the birth center and their obvious worry turned my caution into full-blown fear within minutes.
“Oh, hi, Elise, what’s up?”
I explained somewhat casually.
I tell you from that moment, a shock of terror shot through my body. I didn’t like the tone in those few words.
“Hi, Elise, Janet says to come in as soon as you can.”
“Oh, okay, I’m at work. Can I come at the end of the day?
“No, honey. We want to check you out as soon as you can get here.”
My stomach flip-flopped and my heart pounded.
I immediately called my husband. He was out to lunch. There were no cell phones, so as soon as he returned to his office, they would have him call me.
I told my boss, who sent me home in a cab from New York to Hoboken, NJ, where we lived.
What was happening? Okay, okay…calm down. You’re fine. It’s probably nothing.
I tried to convince myself.
Chris made it home a few minutes after me and we headed out to see the midwives and docs.
I still felt perfectly fine.
When we arrived at the midwives’ office, they hurried us right into the examination room.
“Janet will be right in.”
Janet did a quick examination, shook her head, and said, “Let me get the doctor.” I heard her swear under her breath.
Chris clasped my hand; we were stunned, and sat in silence as we waited.
The doctor came in and quickly did a second examination. He sat down next to the table. He looked worried…and the shocking words echoed in my ears.
“Your cervix is effaced and you’re two centimeters dilated. Your amniotic sac is slipping through your cervix. It looks like you’re in early labor. We’re going to get you to the hospital where we can run some tests.”
They did everything they could. I lay on a bed, head lowered down, feet elevated, in hopes that gravity would help stave off labor. An IV line delivered labor-stopping drugs through my veins. Eventually, my waters broke. I went into labor and delivered two tiny little girls, too small, too young to live outside my womb. I was fully alert when I delivered the first baby, the second had to be delivered, so I was put under light anesthesia. In recovery, the nurse asked me if I wanted to see them. I didn’t think so. She encouraged me, “Usually our imaginations are worse than reality. I think you’ll be sorry if you don’t see them.”
I nodded and she brought me two tiny healthy looking little girls, wrapped in blankets and even with the little hospital caps on their heads. I looked at them and turned away quickly. It was just too painful. The nursed asked if I wanted a picture. “No, no, I don’t think so,” I said in my foggy stupor of grief. I wish I had said yes…in the weeks, months, and even today, I wish I had a picture of my beautiful baby girls.
The aftermath of such loss was full of pain. In a cruel twist of nature, my milk came in but there were no babies to feed. I felt so set up.
Why would God give us the incredible blessing of twins only to rip them away from us?
Who is this God? He says He loves me…What kind of love allows such suffering?
Did I do something wrong? Maybe I wasn’t really cut out for twins after all.
I cried. I cried out. I was desperately sad, living a nightmare for a time. I just couldn’t square God’s supposed love for me with this loss. He was God…He could’ve prevented this and He didn’t. Turned out this God who I thought was for me, was cruel and heartless.
Yet in all this pain, God became more real to me. As I reached out to Him in despair, I began to sense His presence. As friends from literally all over the world reached out to us, I began to sense His love. The very God I was so angry with was somehow the only One who could really walk this path with me. Even my husband couldn’t know me and grieve with me the way I sensed God did.
Yet, I resisted.
Meanwhile, my sister was growing closer and closer to God. She was listening to Christian music. Was in a new holy roller church, where they raised hands in worship and lived life in community. I watched from a distance, embittered by my loss.
Pregnant again, I had to stay with my sister to escape the fumes, as my husband was painting our home. She now had two children. In fact, one was born just a month before I lost my twins. We had pictured our kids as best friends…another dashed hope.
She was all about God. Talking about how much she loved Him. How awesome her church was.
I sat listening and blurted out, “Easy for you to be all happy about God…you have two healthy babies.” Though my pregnancy seemed to be going along smoothly…who knew? I believed I could lose this one at any time. It had happened before, why not again?
Somehow, she convinced me to attend a women’s bible study that night. It was nice enough. We shared some scriptures, coffee and treats, and shared the answer to this question.
“When did you become a Christian?” << Click to Tweet
What kind of question was that? I explained I had always been a Christian, thank you very much. But I felt a little defensive and I recognized they were talking about something a little deeper, more personal, intentional and committed. They were talking about a personal relationship.
A seed was planted.
Still resistant and not quite sure I wanted all-in with this God who had been so cruel to me, I agreed to go on the women’s upcoming retreat. There was a woman speaking named Rose Marie Miller. Her message pierced my broken heart, “Are You Living Like an Orphan or the Daughter of the King?”
I was living like an orphan…forlorn, searching, feeling abandoned, empty. But God was holding out an invitation to live like His daughter…loved, accepted, full, cared for, seen, and known.
After the first session, we were given an opportunity to go for a walk and enjoy some quiet time with God. I can’t tell you there was an actual lightening bolt, but there might as well have been.
As I walked the fields of this quiet hilltop retreat, I was overcome with faith, with belief, with knowing and accepting the Truth. All that had happened after losing the twins led to this moment. I knew with absolute certainty that God was real, He loved me, and He wanted a closer relationship with little old me. Such knowledge was almost too much for me. Without the perfect prescribed words and with no one else around, I accepted Jesus into my heart and we began a journey together that has gotten richer, fuller, deeper ever since.
As I returned to the communal building, I saw my sister outside. I exclaimed in tears, bursting with great joy, “I believe!”
“What do you believe?”
“Everything…I’m not sure what it means, but I believe everything.”
She squealed with delight, hugging me and crying with me.
We re-entered the building together. We were all invited to share a little about our time alone with God. I was too overcome to say a word, so my sister spoke for me. The women wept with me and prayed over me. Their was great rejoicing.
“You have to go through it to get to it.” << Click to Tweet
In some mysterious way that I’ll never fully understand this side of Heaven, I went through devastating loss only to gain the greatest gift of all. I would not have chosen this painful path, but I have lived the truth of these powerful words,
“I have lost nothing but for the gain of Christ.” (paraphrase of Phil 3:8)
Elise Daly Parker has been married for 28 years and is mom to four mostly grown girls. She is a writer, editor, writing coach, and blogger. She believes we all have stories that matter--big life bios and small meaningful moments. Elise believes our stories are a reflection of God’s glory and are meant to be shared. They have the power to inform, reform, and transform. She loves God, family, friends...and really likes travel!