I’m a firm believer that everyone has a comeback story. I’m proud to welcome my wife onto the blog, to share a part of her own story. Thank you, Sloane, for your courage and vulnerability. Read on…
There I was, sitting in a crowd of people, as the pastor was sharing a story up on stage. He began to pull things out of a treasure box as part of his illustration. He pulled word cards out of the chest that said AGE, CAREER, and FAILURE… Descriptors we’ve often used to define a person. People can tend to be afraid of some of these words he pulled from this chest. Words like DIVORCE, ADDICTION, and LOSS. As the word LOSS was hanging in the air, my heart began to ache. The speaker didn’t know that I was there quietly trying to heal from such a word, but I was. Like me, many people try to bury these words deep inside, almost as a way to survive. But these words are our stories. They make up who we are. They might be a gold nugget to someone else who may be struggling presently with a similar story.
As I listened, I learned that by keeping my story locked in my treasure box and burying it in the ground it could never help anyone. It would live in the dark instead of becoming impactful in this world. If only I would open up my treasure box and share something hard and vulnerable, maybe it could be life-changing and/or healing to another person.
So here’s my story. For the past two years and two months my husband I had been trying to have a second child and… nothing. I had a minimum of 26 sticks telling me no, you are not pregnant. I went through a roller coaster of emotions through these years. My trust in God constantly needed to be refocused along the way. I watched my friends get pregnant, have the baby, and get pregnant again during the time I was trying to get pregnant just once. I watched my sister get pregnant and have her first baby, my niece Ella. I saw many womb sonograms, posted others’ announcements of their newborns at my work, and gave advice to my younger sister as she got beautifully round and glowy. It was hard and beautiful all wrapped up in one bundle on the verge of unraveling.
The day my sister told me she was pregnant over the phone I was riddled with many emotions. I felt honored she told me first in our family, so I would have time to process it all, as she knew my journey with this had been long and hard. I was hopeful that maybe we could share pregnancies together if my body would just get it together. I also was afraid… afraid of showing my sorrow in the reminder that would come every day from her growing appearance of what she had that I could not achieve. My love for my sister and my love for my niece, you have to know, are far greater than the fear and selfishness that haunted me at times along the way. But I won’t lie to you, her pregnancy was hard at certain times for me…
Then February 1st came and I was extremely eager to get off of work and race over to the hospital! Where little did I know, I would sit for approximately 8 hours before entering the room where my mom would place Ella Lynn Atterbury, my first niece, into my arms… My heart melted. My heartache along with all the pain and fear of what I couldn’t produce in my own womb, just simply vanished. I sat there looking down into Ella’s eyes with only one thing remaining… pure love. This baby was not my baby. But, she was a part of me through my sister and it’s one of the most beautifully strong connections I will ever feel to another human being. God knew I would need her love and I was happy to give her all of mine.
Then, after a long-awaited two and a half years, the miracle I’d be praying for happened, I stared down at two blue lines revealing that YES, I was pregnant. I had pictured this in my mind over a hundred times! I thought of all these perfect ways to share the joyous news with my husband but when the moment finally came I needed to shout it from a mountain top! I called my husband and through sobs I got out “We are pregnant”. Three words I had been aching to tell him with all of my being for far too long. And on the other end, I hear him choking back tears as well as he says “we’re pregnant” a few times just to let the words resonate and chime out: those three perfectly delicate words.
A lot happened in the next couple of weeks as we shared our excitement with our family who had been praying for this day to come with us so many times!
My mom reminded me of a memory that took place this last Christmas. Flashback about 3 months prior to finding out I was finally pregnant. She brought me back in a quiet room away from the hustle and bustle of inside jokes, excessive merriment, and holiday cooking. She had bought an extra stocking hook that year in preparation for the stocking that would one day hang to fill with goodies for Atticus’s sibling, which she tied her hopes up with mine for. This was a reminder that our faith and prayer for this little bundle of joy had finally come to fruition.
My Son, Atticus Ezekiel Winder
Atticus was going to be such a great big brother. We decided to wait a little while to tell him the big news. But when we did, the smile on that boy’s face could fill your heart with so much warmth it would be on the edge of bursting. Dad read to him what his new shirt said “Big Brother” and he wore it proudly to Auntie Skye’s house to reveal his new role in the family. I was so happy. We were so happy. This baby was the most loved baby in the whole world, I’m convinced of it.
A week later those three delicate words started to fade away and were replaced with confirmations of loss… Each week for the next five weeks I would get my blood drawn and I would hear the haunting words “Good, your numbers are going down”. Good? Medically they say “good” when my body is doing what it is supposed to when something is “wrong”….. But my baby wasn’t “wrong” and it isn’t “good” that I was losing her or him. It was devastating. Over the course of the next five weeks, I would watch my body shed tissue, remanence of the pregnancy that my uterus had formed, and even the gestational sac pass through my system. I would weep every time I had to go to the bathroom quietly and alone. Each trip was a physical reminder of what I was losing. This was not even the most difficult part. I had to tell those that knew… my son’s daycare, my extended family, my husband, and my son.
One day in the middle of it all before my first blood draws results had come in, I lay in bed, not ready to face the world outside. I wanted to lock every door in my house and never leave its quarantine. As I was listening to Singer Katie Torwalt’s playlist on my phone and praying for God to save my baby I had a dream… a precious moment with my Jesus and my baby. I fought to the top of a hill with my rescuer at my side slaying every dark thing that intruded upon my path. The sunlight revealed my baby’s fingertips and they held on to me as I woke up. I felt so close to the Lord. It is an odd feeling being so deeply sad and also peacefully comforted at the same time. Brady and I had decided on the name Arlo which means “a guarded fortress”.
Meanwhile, my husband was a rock. He believed we were keeping this baby and that I was going to get better. He made trips to the store, did housework, took care of Atticus so I could rest, loved and encouraged me to have faith. I got through those three days of waiting, which felt like three eternities, to find out our results from my blood draw because of him. And because I felt the Lord was close to me like a father watching over his daughter in a time of need. Somewhere along the way though… I just knew.
The weekend had finally past and on Monday I received a call from the nurse. My results read that a SAB was confirmed. The Midwife estimated I was 6-7 weeks pregnant when my body started what they call a Spontaneous Abortion. They said it wasn’t anything I did or didn’t do. That they don’t know why but that my body was rejecting this pregnancy. I remember nodding and saying “okay… it’s okay… I’m okay.”
Then I sat in the most silent space for a moment.
Once the silence broke I realized needed my friend Mandy, who had brought me to my previous blood draw appointment. I called her and immediately she picked up. I told her about the call I had just received from the nurse and the news that left a whole in the depths of me. She wept with me, she prayed with me, and she acknowledged the loss of life within me. I didn’t know I desperately needed all of those things until I spoke with a sweet friend. I needed to hear the validation that my loss was a big deal because it was… because it is.
IT IS A BIG DEAL. It is okay to mourn the beating heart that stopped inside you.
It felt like a part of me was gone and I was left with this void in my being. Mandy didn’t tell me my body was doing its job… she didn’t point out to me that at least I still have one child and that’s something to be grateful for… All hurtful things I would eventually hear from others who simply just didn’t quite understand my circumstance I concluded. Mandy simply acknowledged the hurt, the loss of life, and the plans that take place from the moment you know you’re pregnant. She loved me right there where I was at. If you are reading my story and can feel this as a relatable pain I want to tell you that I am so sorry you have to go through this. I am sorry for the loss of your precious little unborn baby and that it will get easier with time but it will also stay a part of you. This is a piece of your story. You are not meant to go through this alone. And most of all, that God loves you.
That day my husband was fortunate enough to come home and be with me. His boss said, “Go home and be with your wife; your family needs you.” Watching him face his own pain in losing his future child… I have no words to tell you how hard that was…
Hope and Restoration
Fast forward about 3 weeks as I am picking up the pieces of my life again. I have finally shown up to pick up my son from daycare which my mom had graciously been doing for me, so I didn’t have to face any questions that may send me into a burst of tears. I was pulled aside and told that my son was sitting at the lunch table with a friend at school, one of his close girlfriends, and they were talking. She shared that her mommy had become sick and so she didn’t get to keep her baby sister or brother. Atticus said that it would be okay because the same thing happened to his mommy but that the baby was in heaven and one day they will get to all be together. They smiled and hugged and continued to eat the lunches each of their mommies had packed for them that day. Tears came to my eyes and my heart was so proud of him. He understood. And not only that, he was sharing hope and restoration with a friend because of it.
I will always have many unanswered questions. I will never know why or how this all came to happen, but I will always know who is faithful. God is faithful. The word faithful means true, devoted, constant, loyal, and dependable; giving firm and constant support to a person. In the midst of all my hurt, I found a quiet center, and when I could finally lift up my head and look around I simply knew who was there with me. In my sorrow, I have never felt more comforted. In my paralyzed state I have never felt more hope. In my loss, I have never felt more restoration through the promise that my little Arlo is where my baby is meant to be… safe, loved, free from the suffering of this world. I will meet you someday and that will be a beautiful day, but until that moment comes I know God’s plan is always good even when we do not understand it. I found rest in the hardest circumstance of my life because I simply know Who lies down next to me when I am weak. I pull my strength from a healthy source. He comes to my rescue and He can do the same for you.
Below are a few places I was drawn to in the midst of losing Arlo from my womb
I want you to trust me in your times of trouble, so I can rescue you, and you can give me glory. Psalms 52:15 (Sometimes it’s about seeking his presence and glory more than the display of his might)
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:6-7(It’s in times like these, we find out if our faith is based on what God does or on who God is.)
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.“ (I choose hope over fear)Jeremiah 29:11
~Arlo Winder Estimated D.O.B. November 27th, 2019~
Arlo, my sweet child, I want you to know you had an overwhelming amount of love and excitement all the days you spent in my womb. You are so very special to me and the rest of the family. I promise to set aside moments of prayer for you until I set my eyes upon you, my dear. I’ll keep you close to my heart. Your dad, big brother, and I will love you forever and always. –Mom