When God and Grief Collide

School begins this week at the Scheibner home. My 21st year of homeschooling! Since my brain needs to be fully engaged with our kick-off this week, I've asked a couple of my favorite young women to guest blog for me.

Today's blog is by my precious daughter-in-love Rochelle. Rochelle is married to my oldest son, Peter, and she has a story to tell that will encourage your heart and strengthen your faith. I'm so thankful I have the privilege to share her…with you!

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My mother-in-law asked me to write a blog some time ago that dealt with the loss of my daughter, Alexis. My first reaction was undecided; I knew that writing a post about that difficult time could be helpful to others, and that excited me, but writing out a time of such incredible pain really didn’t sound like a good idea.

At the time, I couldn’t have done it.

Since then, I’ve shared my testimony to my ABF at church, which had a deep impact on many of the ladies in the class, and a friend I’ve been praying would get saved for 10 years accepted Christ after I explained how my relationship with Christ got me through losing Alexis.

I think God was trying to tell me something: this story is HIS story!

Just like my father-in-law, Steve, has his amazing 9/11 testimony; I have this. This is MY 9/11. And I think it’s time I shared it with you.

Last year, I was expecting Peter’s and my first child, a little girl we had already named Alexis. Peter had loved this name since first reading it in a Russian novel when he was young, and had always said that it would be the name of his first daughter. He was fortunate that I loved it, too! 

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My pregnancy was, as my doctors described it, “boring.” For those of you who are mothers, you know that’s a wonderful word to hear when you’re expecting. Everyone wants a boring pregnancy!

The previous November, I had miscarried at 5 weeks and was very fearful that something could happen with this pregnancy, too, but by the time I reached my 20th, then 25th, then 30th week, these fears had evaporated.

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At about 38 weeks, I began having fairly sharp Braxton-Hicks contractions. Not uncommon, but certainly annoying. I ignored them, till one evening they were coming 5 minutes apart and increasing in intensity. I quickly realized that this was probably early labor, and called the hospital. They had me come in and said I was definitely having contractions, but to just go home and rest until they were closer together. Of course, as soon as I got home they became very intense and closer together… but then after 30 minutes or so, they just stopped completely.

These contractions lasted for over a week. Never getting closer than 5 minutes, never too intense, but a constant presence. Needless to say, I was exhausted. My doctor told me I had been in early labor that whole time, but not to worry; that happens sometimes.

Three days before my due date, I went in for a normal check up. The doctor, Peter, and I chatted for a few minutes, then he grabbed his Doppler to check on Alexis. He listened for a second, but there was no comforting whoosh, whoosh of a heartbeat coming from its speaker.

Instantly, I knew something was very, very wrong.

Two ultrasounds and only about 20 minutes later, we were told with absolute certainty that we had lost our baby. We’d lost our little girl at 39 weeks, 4 days.

I kept telling myself, “This doesn’t happen. People don’t lose their babies this late when there are no health problems. They just don’t.” It didn’t take me too long to find out how wrong I was, and that, tragically, many women share my story.

The next day I was induced. While I was still in a fog of pain and confusion, I had already learned the most valuable lesson I took away from this whole experience:

God is absolutely, positively, always in control

That is a wonderful thing, and I am grateful for it.

That whole day, I strove to be encouraging to my nurses and the many church friends who came to support me. Something kept telling me that, while this was the hardest thing I had ever gone through, they were hurting, too. And worst of all, they were probably confused about how to talk to and encourage me. After all, how would I feel in their shoes?

The thought forced me to take me eyes off of my pain, and myself, and transferred it to something I could actually DO.

Just 10 hrs after being induced, I held my baby girl in my arms. She was perfect: long, dark hair (like her daddy), tiny fingers, and extremely long feet (not sure where she got those!).

That moment was the single most amazing and most awful moment of my whole life.

I’m so, so glad I had that opportunity, yet I truly wish I never had needed it. The doctor confirmed what he had previously thought: there was no visible problem with the baby, the cord, or me. To this day, we simply trust that God took her home for His own purposes.

In the days following, our church and our families wrapped us in love in a way that still staggers me. Our executive pastor and his wife, and long time friends of Peter’s family, let us stay in their basement for probably a week total while I recovered, and many others sent cards and encouragement to us. Most of those people we had never even met.

The memorial service we held was the first time I realized what this was all about.

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Peter and I were both approached by numerous people telling us how our story had already changed their lives. Some said they had come back to the Lord after years of pushing Him away. Some said they were now realizing just how fragile life is and that nothing is certain. Some said they were touched that Peter and I were striving to honor God through everything that had happened, and they were convicted.

If that isn’t the makings of a God story, then I can’t imagine what is!

Later, Peter and I sat and discussed what we were learning. It was a calm, but deeply emotional conversation that, in addition to the events of those past few days, grew us closer to each other and to God. I said I was learning that:

  1. God is in control. We have absolutely no say in our lives, and He WILL be glorified in everything that happens, good and bad. Who are we to rebel?
  2. The joy of the Lord is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10). It is completely true. In all of this, we had found joy in places that, without God, no joy existed.
  3. Every life has a purpose, and Alexis’ had been completed before she even left the womb. And I can tell you with utmost certainty that she has had more impact for Christ in her short life than I have had in my 23 years. I stand confident that when she entered God’s presence, He said to her, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
  4. Life is fragile and given of God. Nothing is certain. We should never assume God’s plan for us or our loved ones. Each day is a gift from God, and we should be grateful for it.

Happily, the story doesn’t end there. I am sitting here typing this post with a big smile on my face, because God has blessed not just in what I have learned, but what He has done.

I’m 16 weeks pregnant with our second!

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While there is a great capacity for fear with this pregnancy, I can feel the prayers of so many friends, acquaintances, and even those I have never met. By God’s grace, I rarely find myself struggling with fear.

There are moments, but God quickly reminds me that He is in control, the joy of the Lord is my strength, this life within me has a purpose, and life is fragile and given of God.

 These are comforting thoughts and they sustain me as I go through monthly OB visits coupled with ultrasounds and extra monitoring.

Due to losing Alexis, I am considered high risk, though the baby and I are perfectly healthy. Because of this, I will be induced around mid-January, or between 36 and 37 weeks; basically as soon as the baby’s lungs are mature. Of course, I wish that I could go full term and give this little one as long to grow as he or she wants, but there are pluses to this, as well! I get to have a scheduled day when I have my baby. That’s pretty neat! I’ll know exactly how much time I have left to finish the nursery (deadlines are always a good thing).

And most of all, I know that God is, as always, perfectly in control.

 Please let me know if you have any thoughts or questions by writing them in the comments below; I’ll answer as soon as I can. I hope that this has been an encouragement to you and a reminder of how God shapes and uses a life for their good and His glory. I pray that I never forget what I learned from this and that it is able to touch many more lives for Christ!

Rochelle