God’s presence in both grief and hope

Written by Alexandra Christine

*Trigger warning: This article describes pregnancy loss. Please take care of yourself while reading or come back to this article when you are in a different mental space.

After Embree died, I wanted to join him.[1] I wanted to go to heaven, the place where I hoped my baby was; where I would be free from pain and could demand that God answer why he allowed us to lose our first child. Or, if heaven didn’t exist, I wanted to die to be done with the misery and grief. Losing Embree made me wonder if a caring God existed. If he loved me, wouldn’t he have granted me the children I had wanted my whole life?

When the walk-in doctor phoned to let me know my pregnancy was likely ectopic, I collapsed in tears on the floor outside a gynaecology and obstetrics clinic. A dermatologist’s office administrator from across the hall compassionately brought me tissues. An ectopic pregnancy is when an embryo attaches in the wrong place. The embryo can attach inside one of the fallopian tubes, to the uterus’ outside wall, or to another organ.

Ectopic pregnancies are non-viable because the embryo cannot be moved. If undetected, ectopic rupture usually causes life-threatening internal bleeding in the mother. And in this case, Embree was stuck in my right fallopian tube, requiring surgery to remove the tube.

Afterward, people attempted to console me by saying things like, “Well, at least you know you can get pregnant,” or “You can always have another one.” I doubt those people would ever say these things to someone who lost their toddler! The worst response I received was a blank look and a change of subject, as if I had not shared at all.

Clumsy and insensitive comments like these do not usually imply malicious intent. But they failed to acknowledge my grief or recognize that I was already beating myself up with guilt for what I saw as my failure, even though the ectopic pregnancy and subsequent required surgery were not my fault.  

In an online training course I took through a pregnancy loss centre, we were taught better reactions such as “Thank you for sharing,” “I can hold space for you to grieve and talk about your baby,” and “Can you tell me more about your baby/pregnancy?” These comments accept a parent’s grief and invites the mother (or father) to keep sharing. Regardless of whether we ever have living children, I am still a real mother with pregnancy stories and children for whom I mourn.

I remember the day my first pregnancy test showed positive. My husband was in Europe on a business trip when I excitedly video-called him to share the news. “We’re expecting!” He asked groggily what we were expecting. I had forgotten it was the middle of the night where he was!

I also remember lying in bed, two weeks later, the night before the emergency surgery, telling my little one that I wanted him, that I was sorry, that I wished he could stay as I cried silent tears into my pillow.  I remember waking up after the surgery, confused and hung-over from the general anesthetic, calling out for my husband as the reality hit that our baby was gone.

Two years after Embree’s death, I had a second ectopic pregnancy in my remaining tube.  I was diagnosed slightly earlier because my doctor was prepared; ectopic pregnancies are more common in women who have already had one. Kathryn was in my other fallopian tube. I prayed for God to miraculously move her to my uterus. I asked for a second ultrasound. I asked if she had a heartbeat. (She never had one, she was too malformed). As the ectopic was confirmed, I took pictures of the ultrasound for remembrance. 

I am still healing from losing Embree and Kathryn. However, the following truths eventually helped me get out of bed most mornings.

God doesn’t change, even though it may feel like it. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” The Old Testament constantly reminds us that “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind” (Numbers 23:19a).  

I don’t know why my children’s deaths happened, but because of them, I began to better comprehend that Jesus’ resurrection gives us the hope of heaven. Heaven is more real to me because God gave me the gift of motherhood.  He’s also given me compassion for women who have been through similar experiences. 

In my grief, I thought about leaving God, but God never left me.

God was there with me in those hospital beds. In the Book of Daniel, the Babylonian king threatens to throw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into a fiery furnace if they won’t bow down and worship a statue of himself. They respond that if he does, their God would save them, “but even if he does not, we will not serve your gods” (Daniel 3:17-18). The king throws them into the fire anyways. 

Losing my babies was like being in a fiery furnace, but God spared my life. God showed me he is still good, even if we never have living children. He stays present in difficult circumstances. He guided me to find a support community in Hope Mommies, an organization based in the U.S. that runs online Bible study grief support groups for hope moms (mothers who have experienced pregnancy loss).

He sent our small group to gather around and pray for us after my surgery. Our pastor’s wife brought us a casserole and the best coffee cake I have ever had! Before our second pregnancy, God gave us a family doctor who knew about ectopics, resulting in an earlier diagnosis. God saved my life twice by having my ectopics diagnosed before they ruptured.

Because of the resurrection, we belong to God. I believe my babies are safe in heaven, and I sometimes imagine Jesus was the first person they saw when they opened their eyes. I will someday join my children, and there will be no more pain or suffering, but peaceful rest. In the meantime, Jesus is always here to comfort and encourage us. Hebrews 6:19–20 says, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf.”

Help is available

One in four women in North America experience a miscarriage. About one to two per cent of diagnosed pregnancies are ectopic. If you or someone you know has experienced a pregnancy loss, you are not alone—and there is hope.

Please reach out to a pastor or local crisis pregnancy centre if you would like information on local resources or grief groups. You can also find support from organizations such as Hope Box Canada; they send free care boxes to those who have experienced a pregnancy loss.

You are loved, God still cares, and many other people do too.

Alexandra Christine lives in Kelowna, BC. She is married to Bradley and hope mom to Embree and Kathryn. She writes reflective Christian articles and poetry and works in an after-school program. You can find her on Instagram @indentionintention.

[1] Throughout this article, I use male/female pronouns for our two children, although we don’t know whether they were girls or boys were since they passed away before eight weeks.