“We’ve seen this happen many times with much older women, but at 29 we’re not sure why this is happening to you. Unfortunately, this baby will not make it and we expect him to pass away before we see you next week.”
I was 26 weeks pregnant with my first child when these words were spoken to me in the early months of 2020. The year had started off great; New Year’s Eve was spent decreeing and declaring with other believers, and my husband whisked me away afterwards for a romantic baby moon at Niagara Falls. I was finally getting the hang of things at work and as hard as my anxious self tried, I could not find anything to complain about in my near-perfect life. God had been good, and the baby growing inside me was the icing on the cake.
Growing up, Nollywood movies taught me that pregnancy + bleeding = miscarriage so when I woke up to my blood dripping like water out of a leaky faucet, I thought I had lost my baby. A visit to the emergency room revealed that I had a sub-chorionic hematoma (SCH) and the bleeding was because the placenta had partially detached from the uterus in my first trimester. By the end of the second trimester, the option to terminate was offered and consultations with my doctors always ended with what I thought were premature condolences. As dire as the situation seemed, I was oddly optimistic. I remember laughing when the final diagnosis was shared with me, because I could not believe that a whole “daughter of the King” could ever lose her unborn baby. “God forbid,” is what I told myself. If anything, hearing seasoned medical professionals use words like “unfortunately” and “nothing we can do” multiple times boosted my faith in God. I was so sure that there was a testimony with my name on it and practiced sharing my good news in the mirror with a hairbrush as my microphone! I would quote Bible verses about faith, defeating the works of the enemy, and even started setting up the nursery, while the doctors repeatedly told me every Tuesday for a month that my son was going to die.
“Oh my God. Oh Afua, I’m so sorry…there’s no heartbeat. I’m so sorry…”
Heartbreak is brutal enough when it’s caused by mere mortals, but when God Himself seems to allow trouble into our lives, it can feel like a betrayal of trust. Yes, He knows what we feel when something we’ve desired for years is taken away from us and how much it hurts to see everyone’s plans proceed as expected, while yours seem forgotten in a corner, gathering dust. So why does He let these things happen? Sometimes your heartbreak comes right in the middle of everyone else’s moments of victory, making you feel isolated and forgotten. It’s been said that when your neighbour has a testimony it means yours is on the way, but what if it’s not? Well, here’s something you don’t hear every day: everyone will experience heartbreak as long as we live in a fallen world. We can say things like “pass over” and “God forbid” from dawn till dusk but until Jesus returns, there will still be unpleasant moments that we all have to endure.
At 30 weeks, I was so sure God would save my son that I was shocked into silence when the doctor broke the terrible news. A week after enduring 8.5 hours of labour, his tiny body had been cremated and all that was left of my ‘dream come true’ was a handful of ashes that I held close to my chest every time I cried.
I felt betrayed whenever a friend shared the news of their newborn baby, and reading about the rates of miscarriages and stillbirths among women my age made my future as a mother seem bleak in comparison to what I had imagined for myself. Sadly, I know I’m not the only one who’s been disappointed. There are heartaches that we all privately nurse while plastering a smile on our faces for the world, as if we aren’t frustrated about unemployment, mourning a failed relationship, crying over a broken engagement, worrying about a delayed marriage or a missed opportunity, sickness, or death.
So, what do we do when our dreams are crushed? There’s nothing wrong with feeling cheated and grieving what you’ve lost. It hurts even more when you have a whole timeline planned for your life to ensure that you’re married by 27, have two kids by the age of 30, dominate your chosen field or make the Forbes Richest list by 40, only for your plans to be scattered beyond your control. It’s worse when you’re a woman and everyone around you is committed to reminding you daily of your biological clock. The slightest upset makes you want to scream at God, “I LITERALLY don’t have TIME for this!”.
While I’m sure God understands (and appreciates) our outbursts, that’s not where He’d like us to leave things. After you’ve had a good cry, meditate on these 4 truths:
- Remember what God has done (Psalm 77:11) : This is hard if you’re in a situation you’ve never dealt with before, but God’s goodness transcends all of life’s issues. Did you get passed over for a promotion today? Try to remember a time when you cried about a loss only to gain something greater. It’s easy to focus on the present and determine the outcome of our future based on what’s happening now, but sometimes it helps to revisit your past and reminisce about the good times. Life isn’t always good, and it’s not going to be terrible forever. If you want to go way back in time, read your bible and study the journey of the Israelites from Egypt into Canaan. You’ll find stories of God’s awesome power and faithfulness, and if He could perform amazing miracles back then, I’m sure He’s still able now.
- You are not alone (Hebrews 4:15): When I was a kid, there was a popular picture frame with a background image that showed two pairs of footprints that gradually merged into one. A poem written on the picture called Footprints in the Sand, ended with an individual asking Jesus why the pairs of footprints became one pair at a time that they were going through a struggle. Jesus answered, “When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you”. I think about that line a lot, especially when the horror movie that is adulthood keeps me awake at night. It’s easy to associate God’s presence with the bright and sunny days, but why would we assume that our Father would abandon us when we need Him the most? Unlike people, God is always present, so much that you couldn’t get rid of Him if you tried. Just like the reassurance we feel when a friend sits with us during a difficulty, God’s presence is with us to provide comfort and renew our strength. Jesus showing up won’t always put out the fire (remember the Hebrew boys) but it does mean we won’t perish in it.
- Sometimes your test IS the testimony (Romans 1:12): I was born a bookworm so the first time I read the entire Bible, I was barely ten. At the time, I thought it was a very old novel and didn’t think much of it. I read it again as a teenager, and then in my twenties as a mature Christian, but I always skipped the book of Job. Why wouldn’t I? Who wants to read one man’s story of losing his kids, a mysterious illness and being misunderstood by his only friends? It is interesting though that while Job’s story ends on a good note, that’s not what preachers tend to focus on. That’s because Job’s actual testimony isn’t that he got back everything he had lost, but that he stood firm even when in my opinion, he had a good reason not to. Today if you can, pause and ask yourself what the people around you can learn from how you have handled your hardships. Have you mumbled endlessly like the Israelites, or will you choose to remain faithful like Job?
- God will restore you (Joel 2:25-26) : There’s good news: Soon there will be no more heartbreaks! It’s a wonderful future to dream about if you’ve ever woken up with a heaviness in your chest that won’t go away. In Christ, we are promised an eternity with Him that is filled with joy and endless worship. The tricky part is we can never tell when our restoration will happen or if it will ever happen on this side of eternity. That’s not to say He won’t mend your brokenness now, but the hope we have in Jesus is that even if we are not restored in this life, it will definitely happen in the next one. No matter what, you’ll always have something good to look forward to.
Eternity has never felt so near and every day I pray Jesus comes very soon. Until then while you wait, know that you are dearly loved and can never be forgotten by the One who has inscribed your name in the palm of His hand.
Afua Mankosah Alagbe