This guest post is written by Zach Churchill whose story was shared with my husband and me when we lost our Lily. It was at that time that I reached out and asked if he and his wife would pray about sharing their story. This is Zach’s perspective and I am delighted to share it with you!
A Husband’s Perspective on Miscarriage
“Aren’t you going to say something!?!?!”
That was the question that my wife asked me through tears, anger, and confusion as we returned to our car after finding out that our unborn son, J.J., was no longer alive. Just two weeks earlier, we had heard his little heart beating and our hearts were filled with hope that this pregnancy would have a joyful outcome.
Looking back on it, we had reason to be concerned that things were not moving in the right direction. While our doctor found J.J.’s heartbeat two weeks earlier, it took some time for him to do it and we didn’t breathe for those 30 seconds. When he found it, the relief was overwhelming and we tried to put the fear and doubt out of our minds. Though we were still relatively early in the pregnancy (almost 7 weeks), we felt confident enough that everything would work out that we began to tell some of our closest friends and family. We tried to convince ourselves that we were in the clear and that God would be merciful to us.
So when we found out that J.J.’s heart had stopped beating at our 8-week appointment, it was a sucker punch that we were unprepared for. The moment the reality set in, my mind was moving a mile a minute. “Why would God allow this to happen?” “Why would He get our hopes up only to crush them so mercilessly?” As a Bible Teacher, I had wrestled with the question of why God allows suffering in this world on an intellectual level. But this was different. My heart was flooded with overwhelming emotions that I didn’t know how to process. Though my mind was churning and grasping for answers that would help us try to make sense of what we were experiencing, I found myself paralyzed and in a state of shock.
“Aren’t you going to say something!?!?!”
Honestly, I didn’t know what to say and that is why I wasn’t saying anything. I had really hoped with all of my heart that God would spare us the heartache of miscarriage on our already harrowing infertility journey. It blindsided me that God would let it happen. I really believed in faith that He would be merciful to us and spare us from that sorrow.
The Secret List
I think all of us have a secret list of things we hope that we never have to experience because we’re not sure our faith will survive it. While we never talked about it openly, my wife and I definitely had miscarriage on that secret list.
After watching my wife wrestle with her faith throughout our winding and painful journey with infertility, I wasn’t sure how her faith would process God allowing us to experience a miscarriage. As a Bible teacher, I found myself wondering what it would be like to be married to someone who no longer believed in God … or someone who now believed that God was a cruel monster who could no longer be trusted and carried anger in her heart toward Him. Our spiritual unity was what made our marriage so strong. As I sat in the car trying to wrap my mind around what I was feeling, that was the dominant feeling in my heart.
“Lord, help my wife get through this with her faith intact.”
Tears filled my eyes as I left my wife to face a surgery alone, a surgery that would remove J.J.’s lifeless body from her own. That morning, we had a confirming ultrasound just to make sure there was no chance that J.J. was still alive. As the doctor cranked up the volume to the maximum level, we could hear a very faint heartbeat. But even as the smallest hope began to fill our hearts that a mistake had been made and that our son was still alive, the doctor determined that it was not J.J.’s heartbeat, but my wife’s.
As my wife headed into surgery, I sat anxiously in the waiting room. I felt led by God to let my colleagues know what had happened. By this point, I had already told many of them before that we were pregnant and it just seemed like the easiest way to avoid awkwardness was to send out an e-mail to everyone. Here are the words that the Lord gave me at that moment:
The Bible isn’t just a book of answers. It contains some deep questions as well. One such question can be found in Job 2:10, where Job says to his wife: “Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?”
It was this verse that came to mind when we found out yesterday that our baby’s heart had stopped beating at almost 8 weeks. We are heartbroken and confused, but trying to respond in faith and with trust that God has a redemptive purpose in all of this. Many of you know how excited we were to find out that Londa was pregnant again. For those of you who have already reached out to us in love and with words of comfort and encouragement, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We have felt God’s love through you.
Please keep us in your prayers as we grieve and as Londa recovers from the surgery she had today. Our hearts are heavy, but we are reminded of God’s goodness and faithfulness when we think of all that God has done for us and as we hold our 2-year-old, Evan, in our arms. We are sad, but we are still blessed beyond measure.
Within moments of sending that e-mail out, an overwhelming amount of encouragement and support began to flood my inbox. I was very surprised and strangely comforted, to find out how many other colleagues had been touched by the heartache of miscarriage as well. Though we felt alone and singled out, we were not alone. God had allowed so many other godly people to go through this crushing heartache as well. And somehow, through God’s grace, they survived it. Maybe with scars and tears that never fully go away, but they found a way to keep moving … to keep one foot in front of the other. If they could do it, we knew we would have to find a way too.
Don’t Be a Punk
The day we found out we lost J.J., I had a conversation with God that went something like this: “God, I don’t feel very loved by You right now. Does it matter to You that I don’t feel loved by You?”
Even as I said the words though, I knew they weren’t true. On that sad day, I still felt loved by God. I still felt blessed. I still had so much to be grateful for. I thought about our 2-year-old son, Evan, and how we never thought it would even be possible to have a child biologically. But God answered our prayers in the most amazing way back then and gave us more than we could have ever asked for and imagined.
When we lost J.J. last November, God spoke to me in a way that I immediately understood, but it might come off a little bit harsh to you. I didn’t hear an audible voice, but in my heart, I heard the words: “DON’T BE A PUNK.” What a strange message from God in such a heart-crushing moment. But, I understood what God was saying. How many nights did I cry out to God saying, “Lord, if You do a miracle for us and make it possible for us to have one child, I will never stop praising You. No matter what happens, I will always be grateful. We would know You love us for the rest of our lives.”
And I didn’t just think about Evan. I thought about the amazing wife God has given me. I thought about His mercy in placing me in my dream job. And most of all, I thought about the Gospel. And as I thought about the goodness and mercy of God, the anger in my heart gave way to faith and trust.
Cruel or Merciful
My wife began to join me in trying to trust God through our heartache. She continued to worship God and help lead our church in worship despite the great pain in her heart. We cried out to God for answers and God answered that prayer.
Testing was done on J.J. that allowed us to know that he was a boy and the reason why his heart stopped beating. It turns out that he had a very rare chromosomal abnormality called Trisomy 13, which is also called Patau Syndrome. It only took a few minutes of research to come to the conclusion that God had spared us from even deeper heartache.
If J.J. had been allowed to live until birth, we would have had to watch him suffer in a way that would have destroyed us. 80% of babies born with this condition do not live past one week. The ones that do endure short lives of terrible pain.
That day, we no longer believed that God was cruel for taking J.J. when He did … God proved Himself to be truly sovereign over us in this situation. With the knowledge we now had … the answer we had prayed for … we realized how God was merciful to allow J.J. to leave this world when he did. By God’s grace, we were spared from the agony of watching J.J. suffer and die within a week of being born. What we went through was hard. But we have no doubt that path would have been even harder.
J.J. & Maddie
Armed with the knowledge that the unborn child we lost was a boy and in an effort to personalize our loss, we decided to name him Josiah Joseph … but we refer to him as “J.J.” Josiah means “the fire of the Lord” in Hebrew and it is a reminder to us that God sometimes allows us to go through the fire for reasons we don’t understand. He has a purpose in the fire though and it’s usually to refine us and to expand our ability to relate to and impact the lives of others. Joseph means “God will add” in Hebrew and it speaks to our hope that God will answer our prayer and add to our family one day.
Unfortunately, our story of grief does not end there. Almost the exact same thing happened to us six months later, just as our hearts were beginning to heal. It’s a strange feeling to have more children in heaven than we have on earth, but we trust that J.J. and Madelyn Hope (we call her Maddie) are in good hands. And we look forward with hope and joyful anticipation to the day that we will finally be able to see them face-to-face. Though we were still confused and some days are harder than others, we have chosen to trust in God. We are grateful for the reward that God promises for that trust and excited for what the future holds.
There are so many more things I could say, but this post is already so long. I would be happy to answer any questions that you may have for me. I certainly don’t have all of the answers, but I may have a few insights that would help you understand how your husband is processing your loss. If this post proves to be a blessing to people, I will look for an opportunity to share the story of Maddie’s pregnancy and how God gave us the grace to weather two devastating miscarriages in six months. It’s still so hard, but we feel God helping us every day to keep trusting and hoping.
Thank you again for sharing Zach…it has helped me so much to understand my own husband’s perspective and how he may be feeling and processing things that are similar and different from myself. Feel free to leave questions in the comments if you would like to ask friends! ~Kelli
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