Last year, I wrote an essay for a contest held by Real Simple magazine called “The Life Lessons Essay Contest.” The prompt for the contest was “When did you first understand the meaning of love?” In attempting to write a strategic entry that might actually win, I wrote about our 3 miscarriages. Though my essay has no mention of God, who is the truest form of and actual essence of love, I believe that the love I describe in this essay is ultimately modeled best in our God through the person of Jesus. Despite all our sin and flaws, He chooses to show us grace “just because.” It has nothing to do with what we’ve done or not done, it has everything to do with His character and grace.
Though I didn’t win, I enjoyed writing for this contest and thought I would share this essay with you all. Enjoy!
written by Kelly Needham
Two lines. I love those two lines. I hate those two lines. They have become welcomed friends and also hated enemies. I first saw them unexpectedly in the Fall of 2007, and then a second time with more anticipation in September of 2009. But it was the third time, around Thanksgiving 2009, which rocked me.
It was with an uncontrollable smile that I welcomed those two wonderful lines on the freshly-peed-on pregnancy test in my hand. “I’m pregnant! I just knew it!” I sat down on the floor in my bathroom pondering the massive implications of what those two lines told me. Using the already downloaded pregnancy app on my phone, I immediately calculated my due date. July 23, 2010. A perfect birth date! I’d be showing by March, having baby showers in the summer, and this time next year would be holding a baby. Everything felt right. Sure the first two times, things hadn’t quite turned out how I expected, but that was just a fluke. Two random, unfortunate mistakes. But this time was different. This baby was coming!
The following month brought a whirlwind of emotions that I welcomed with unmatched fervor. We picked out names, told friends and family, and daydreamed about nurseries, play time, and baby sounds. I had an inexplicable feeling that this baby had purpose and meaning, that his or her life was bound to be something remarkable. Even when the familiar bleeding started a few weeks later, I was unwavering in my hope. After all, the other babies had lasted just 4 weeks and I was already at 9 weeks and had heard its heartbeat! Solidifying my sense of hope, my doctor sent me home without any worries and a prescription of bed rest for a week. It wasn’t until I found myself holding that tiny one-and-a-half inch baby in the bathroom late one Sunday night that I finally gave up hope.
I hate those two lines.
Trying to pick myself up off the emotional floor of raw sorrow and disappointment took more energy than I had. Somehow this third loss caused a deeper and more poignant sense of hopelessness. Once or twice might have been a fluke, but three times felt absolute. I once more faced the grueling task of mourning another miscarriage. It’s hard enough to tell all your excited friends and family members that your little bundle of joy is no more. But worse than that is finding a way to mourn the death of someone you’ve never met.
Miscarriage is peculiar kind of grief. When a friend or family member dies, you have memories, pictures, and mementos to help you grieve. After all, that is part of the grieving process… remembering. But how do you mourn a life in which there are no memories, no pictures, no physical remnants? All I had left was a positive pregnancy test and a vague ultrasound photo. The ambiguity of gender, personality, and appearance mocked me as I grasped for any facet of my child to cling to.
One truth continued to surface through out the grieving process: I loved that baby. But how was it possible to love someone I’d never met? This little life hadn’t done anything good or bad yet. No kindness had been extended, no love shown in return. Nothing. On the contrary, the presence and then absence of their life had caused me much pain. So much hopelessness. Yet the fact remained: my love for this baby was rich and deep for no other reason than that it was my baby. My love was a “just because” love. I didn’t expect anything in return. My love wasn’t a reward given. It wasn’t based on positive experiences. I simply loved just because I did.
Perhaps we’ve all misunderstood love at one time or another. Maybe you thought it was having all your desires fulfilled by someone. Maybe it was the warm fuzzies when he held your hand for the first time. Or the confidence you had in knowing she’d be there for you when you fell. For years I had mistakenly assumed love was something that grew out of a series of good experiences and mutual concern. Yet it took one of the most “unlovely” experiences of my life to teach me what true love is. It is a love without condition or clause, never needing a reason or cause. True love is just because.
Those miscarriages revealed something else. They uncovered my ability to give that kind of love. Once I knew my heart was able to love regardless of what I get out of it, I no longer had an excuse. I knew from that day on that this was the way I was to love people. When failed expectations came in my marriage, I was able to respond in “just because” love instead of anger and hateful words. When a friend didn’t show the kind of response I had hoped for, I could choose love instead of holding a grudge.
I still think about the babies I lost and wonder what they would have been like. I often meditate on the immeasurable impact their lives had on mine. A few months and two surgeries after losing baby number 3, I found myself holding those two lines again. A strange mix of joy and fear swirled around me. With much apprehension, my heart slowly poked out of its hiding place to embrace this unborn life. Though my pregnancy was an emotional rollercoaster, I was given the gift of holding my baby girl on January 8 of 2011. And even now when she pushes boundaries and screams when she doesn’t get her way, my love for her remains. It will always remain. My love for her is a “just because” love.