The Greatest Gift

It’s a year since we found out our baby died early on in pregnancy. The grief has been searing, relentless and so crushing that at times my legs have felt like they may collapse beneath me. Over these months I’ve had so many conversations with people –

I’ve been told that I had a lot going on at the time and I was doing too much and not resting. And that maybe it just wasn’t the right time for this baby. And the suggestion that it may have been a good thing as I wouldn’t have been able to do some of the things I’d done since. There have been lots of taking deep breathes along side well meaning words. Truth is how ever much we desperately try to scramble for the right thing to say, there are no positives to death. Whatever age or time.

Going out with my daughters always seems to bring up two conversation starters;

“They all yours? Are you going to have any more?”

“All girls! Are you going to try for a boy?”

A lady on the bus had come up with the first opener and I told her about our baby, she asked when in the pregnancy and showed her relief when I said it was early on.

The lady doing my hair came up with the second opener. I told her about our baby. “Still, not as bad as my sister” she said and told me that she had three babies die late in pregnancy.

A sweet family friend in her eighties who was so distraught after her little one died she could never bring herself to go through being pregnant again.

“Any more?” one of the home ed mums asked me and this led on to the loveliest conversation as we both shared our experiences of our babies that didn’t make it.

The first time I saw death up close was through a window from the car where I’d been told to stay as it had been decided I was too young to go to a funeral. I watched as the miniature white and brass coffin was carried past.

So many more experiences and conversations that are not for me to share.

So many babies.

There is one conversation that had a huge impact on me. I was sat on the sofa sharing tea and biscuits and letting somebody know about our baby. I was talking about how hard the grief had been for both me and my husband and she met me at this point because she understood, it had been the same for her and her husband. I looked down and my heart sank and I started to feel little bubbles of anger growing bigger from the pit of my stomach and I just wanted to scream “but this isn’t the same, this wasn’t MY choice!”

I started to panic because I couldn’t pop these rising bubbles. I didn’t want to upset her but I didn’t know if I could hold my back my emotions. Then just like that my Prince of Peace rescued me, peace swept over me and draped a warm blanket of stillness around me. I looked up at her and I saw brighter than day how Jesus sees her. Loved. Treasured. Died for. So desperately longed for.

Truth scattered the lies like cockroaches in torch light as I was reminded we are all in this mess together; broken people living in a broken world. I hadn’t made the same choices as her but I was so so so far from perfect in how I’d lived my life.

I saw we were both dealing with the heavy consequences of death and I listened as she opened up about the grief she was going through. We had the same pain, our babies have left huge holes in our families.

So many babies.

I birthed my tiniest baby on Christmas Day, two days after I was told there was no heartbeat. The dark valleys of grief and the trauma of the physical process have not left me and neither has the incredible hope, peace, comfort, joy and love that was poured out to me and that is all because of one little baby given to us all.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Isaiah 9:6

The greatest everlasting conversation we will ever have is the one God has with us. It has never been a question of “Is God speaking?” but rather “Are we listening?”

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

John 3:16-17

A love like no other that at our most destitute facing the punishment of death we rightly deserve, one we can never escape or work to pay ourselves. He took our place and paid the price on the cross. He took our sin, dealt with death by rising again to give us the free gift of eternal life.

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

1 John 4:9-10

The greatest gift we could ever receive from a Father who never gives up on us no matter how far we run and how long we hide. He made the way, the ONLY way that we can return to Him.

We have only two choices when it comes to being presented with gifts; reject or receive.

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Words

Dear Friend,

As I walked home with my daughters, I was enjoying the heat of the sun and marvelling at what a pretty town we lived in. I felt lucky that we moved here. I took a deep breath and exhaled relief because I had recently come through one of the most turbulent few months of my life and everything was good again.

As I was crossing the road, I saw some people gathered on the other side. They took up most of the lowered section that’s built for wheeled access so I struggled to lift the buggy up onto the high part of the curb. It was no bother, I was in such a good mood that nothing was going to wipe the smile off my face.

The words you shouted hit me like bullets in my back. I was stunned. I felt nervous that some trouble was about to begin so I turned to make sense of what was going on. As I scanned the scene it struck me that everyone was still going about their normal activities. No one had even flinched. Then it sank in that you had aimed your comments at me. I tried to make eye contact with you to show my disapproval but when I saw you tip your head back with laughter my heart froze. I realised that the words hadn’t fallen out of your mouth by mistake.

Disapproval was quickly followed by disbelief. Disbelief was replaced with confusion. Confusion then turned into fear. An intense fear. Adrenaline took over and quickened my step, I needed to get my children as far away from you as fast as possible. I was shaking. I felt singled out, hunted down and very frightened. My heart was pounding and I felt removed from my body. I felt like I had been exposed and I desperately needed a pavement grey coloured camouflage to cloak us to escape your glare. I suddenly became very aware of my skin and I needed to disappear.

At a safe distance, I stopped to check my children were okay and felt a huge wave of relief wash over me that one was still asleep and the other too young to understand what you had said. More importantly, too young to see the real impact it had on their mother. I didn’t want them to sense that I was afraid. It was at this point I grew so angry that I thought to turn back to give you a piece of my mind. Had you not seen I was with children? I wanted to report you to the police. In my head, I scrambled for a witty one liner about you needing some geography lessons as I was, in fact, from a different continent than the one you had assumed. I wanted to mock you with the fact that I’m half English. As my anger spiralled out of my control I wanted to phone my husband and tell him that we needed to move and get as far away from this awful town as possible. I kept picturing you cackling behind my back. I was furious.

These horrid feelings were attacking my body and mind. But I didn’t want them to. I didn’t want to be angry. I didn’t want to feel afraid and I didn’t want to feel confused. I tried to brush them off, pretend I felt fine. For goodness sake I am a grown woman, how could a few silly words get to me so much. But deep down I knew the weight of those words. I felt something change within and could foresee its effect on my self perception, consequently manifesting in the way I raised my daughters. I knew I couldn’t successfully mother them if I felt bad about myself. I couldn’t deny that I felt different somehow and I had no idea how I was going to deal with it. I felt sad as I faced and reluctantly accepted my new label, “Victim of Racial Abuse”.

Then I remembered Jesus. Instantly a warm gentle flowing of calm filled my heart and it became perfectly clear that those words that had come out of your mouth had not only intended to spoil my day but to do me long term harm. They wanted to fill my mind with negativity, anger and self hate. Their aim was to breed within me so I could never look at myself or others in the same way again. I smiled as I recognised and rejected those feelings with such ease, they have no place in my life. Confidently I told myself, “my heart has been filled with love” and love can never coexist with hate, fear, malice, viciousness or any other form of poison against our bodies. They are all lies and there is only one truth.

Now I am terrible at forgiving, it’s a struggle for me not to hold a grudge and those words you said really hurt. But when I felt Jesus’ love drench my heart then forgiveness became effortless, natural and instantly those horrid feelings were replaced with joy. A joy that carried me home that day feeling better and happier than before.

What you didn’t know was that when I was nine years old (probably not much younger than you are now) another boy used the same form of attack on me. He spat one word at me. I cycled home so fast that day and I never told a soul. I lay in bed, squeezing my eyes shut as I recited “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me”, over and over. It didn’t work. I was still hurt. There began a journey of complicated self questioning that a young mind was not mature enough to handle.

It’s amazing, I never understood the impact that one word had on me as a child, until today.

From a young age I had been aware of my skin colour. My arm was always the arm classmates would compare their Summer holiday tan on. I understood that it was all natural children’s curiosity, it never had even a tinge of malice. It was the same type of fascination that occurred when someone turned up with a new Pop Swatch, new glasses, a Fanta yo-yo, a perm or their leg in plaster. I knew that this wasn’t the same. That word had struck me like a poisoned dart laced with a viciousness that seeped through my body and made me feel bad about myself. The colour wouldn’t rub off, yes I tried, so I was stuck with it.

It wasn’t until my twenties that I was brave enough to look at my skin again. I discovered there was a beautiful golden tone that ran through it. It looked healthy. There were tiny fair hairs on it that sparkled in the sun. Once I had recognised these qualities in my own skin, it wasn’t long before I started noticing others. I saw beautiful, rich, warm, smooth mahogany tones that shimmered in the light. Incredible pale translucent skin that was flawless. I saw skin splattered with freckles perfectly placed to highlight exquisite features. There were so many different skin types and tones and I began to see how much beauty there was in diversity. Once I’d realised this I was immediately transported back to the mentality I had as child; not to see colour. It’s been wonderful to witness this in the innocence of my children’s minds. When my eldest daughter was 2.5 years old she drew a picture of our family. She used a brown crayon for me and a pink one for her Dad and sister. I expected her to ask questions but she never did. It was just so natural and simple to her. She drew what she could see but she didn’t see that anyone was different.

So back to that sunny day to the moment our paths crossed. I have found that there is an undercurrent of hate in our world, and it will not breed and spread through me, however subtly it wants to. Vicious intent through words has existed long before you were born and I do not doubt that you are a good person with a good heart.

When I put my children to bed that night I said an extra little prayer just for you. I prayed for your happiness, that you would have wonderful people and experiences come into your life and that you would never be targeted by any form of hate. And if one day you happen to remember the moment you said what you said and maybe thought that it wasn’t really that funny after all, I wanted you to know that you needn’t feel bad about it. Please know that all is well.
I wish you good things.

Lots of love
From
The lady who, believe it or not, was once young just like you and who also thought she was a gifted comedian amongst her mates too.

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