By Jean Chapin Seifert
My heart sank as I read Kara’s message. A mother of five young children, she was six months pregnant and had just learned that her unborn child had died. Tears filled my eyes as I recalled my own experience with this very loss. What could I say that would bring comfort to my young friend? Paging through my old journals I found the heartache I had recorded years previously as I had sought to find peace after a devastating miscarriage. Here are the words I shared: April 29, 1989 I came home from the grocery store with a strange uneasiness. Something was missing. I counted heads; I counted groceries. Everything seemed to be there. The feeling persisted. “All right,” I said finally, “Who is missing?” the girls giggled. They are used to their mom’s eccentricities. It wasn’t until bedtime when Lindsey plopped into my lap with her usual pile of books that I knew. She patted my tummy happily and said, “I’m patting our baby.” “No,” I said quietly, “Our baby died.” She looked at me, perplexed. She doesn’t understand. I’m not sure I do either. But one of my children is missing. I look at the picture of our children on the piano. Each of them is so different. Each of them has come and filled a space I didn’t know existed. I feel a space now. The emptiness is almost tangible. I see it in the unfinished bedroom that beckons less urgently for completion, and the crib still leaning unassembled against a basement wall. I feel it as I fold the baby clothes to put away (some passed lovingly from baby to baby for ten and a half years.) I hear it in the absence of the phrase “when the baby comes, we’ll…” At first, I thought it was somehow selfish of me, a mother of four wonderful children, to grieve for a baby that never lived. Had this been my only child, then I would somehow have a more valid right to feel the loss. But if this child had been born and lived—healthy or unhealthy, sound or unsound—I would have loved him no less because he was our fifth. He would have come and filled that space left empty now. I have a right to grieve. One of my children is missing… Our baby died and I miss very much getting to know him. As I reflected on the son, I never got to meet I decided to honor him with a poem.
The name we chose was Caleb; A valiant name— I longed to hear it spoken Through strong arms— “And by this name he shall be known— A prince’s name, Worthy to bless. Caleb, he was called (Before the circle formed) To leave His blessing sealed Forever on my heart. -Jean Chapin Seifert
There were too many questions and not any answers. I must trust that in some far away time the Lord will tenderly answer each question that pierced my heart right now. He is aware of my pain.
Time passed and yet another message came from Kara, who was pregnant once again. “It happened again,” the terse message read. I remembered all too well my shattered hope when after the loss of our first little son, I had sought to fill the void with subsequent pregnancies. Certainly, the Lord would not deprive me of the righteous desire to bear and raise more children. My husband and I had prayerfully decided to try again. Shouldn’t we be blessed for that faithful obedience to what we felt impressed to do?
After an ultrasound that revealed that yet another of my tiny little sons had died without being born, I returned home and knelt beside my bed in prayer. “Father,” I wept, “I can’t do this again.” In that moment, I felt the Savior’s arms around me, and I knew He wept with me. He knew what I was suffering and He knew exactly how to comfort my broken heart. I will forever treasure this sacred experience.
Once again, I found solace as the words of a poem formed in my mind.
Jesus Wept John 11:35
I prayed with hope
Too firm to voice,
“Thy will be done.”
My joyous plans too full
To let myself accept
The answer of the One,
Who did not lightly
Dash myopic dreams;
But, lingering, knelt
Beside my crumpled soul…
And also wept.
--Jean Chapin Seifert
I still have questions about why I was not allowed to bear the children that I lost in this life, but I know that it was something I needed to experience. The Lord loves me! I know that whatever plans He has for me and all of my children it is right.
Now years later, I can wrap my arms around my friend as she grieves for the children she misses in mortality and know that the Lord weeps for her as well. Someday, I know we will rejoice together as all things are made known to us. Now though, as we mourn for the little ones who have moved on before us, we will keep in our hearts and minds His peace, which surpasseth all understanding.