God notices, cares, and gives us the help we need when we ask for it.
In the summer of 1973, my husband John and I happily anticipated the birth of our first child. Several of our friends were new parents. As we held and played with their babies, we looked forward to holding our own. We had taken childbirth classes; we had the crib and the clothes. We'd prepared the baby's room, and we had chosen several names. We were ready!
The pregnancy had been normal and healthy without the slightest complication. Even the labor progressed well right up until the moment of delivery. Suddenly, the doctor was urgently asking me to stop pushing. The umbilical cord was wrapped tightly around the baby's neck. (My husband and I were frightened, but I knew that one in five babies are born with such complications. In most cases the cord can be slipped over the head with no problem.)
Panic set in with the delivery of our baby when the doctor had trouble getting her to breathe right away. Our little girl was born alive but died a few hours later. I can still hear the footsteps in the hallway and the doctor's voice, "...heart just stopped beating," as he and my husband came into my room to tell me she was gone.
Pamela was buried on the day we should have been bringing her home. Because I was still in the hospital, my husband had to arrange her funeral without me. As we went through the motions of the next few days, we learned that an unmarried teen in our church congregation, who had managed to hide her pregnancy, had given birth to a healthy baby girl.
Everything seemed so unreal. I longed to wake up and find that the last few days had been only a bad dream. Much of the next several weeks will forever remain a blur in my memory. There was disbelief, shock and numbness. My husband and I alternately comforted each other and retreated inward when we did not want to add further to the other's pain.
I had an overwhelming need to know why my baby girl had died. What had I done wrong? Was I being punished? What lessons did I need to learn so badly that it took losing my baby to learn them? We were ready to be parents and to share our love for each other with a child. Why was the teenager's baby healthy while mine died? It wasn't fair! Why didn't God heal my baby? Did she die because I lacked faith? I kept asking myself: Why?
What haunted me most was that I had been taught that a child's healing depended on the parents' belief. This meant that Pamela was not healed because her parents lacked faith. Could this really be true? I knew God can and does heal. But I also knew that sometimes He chooses not to. Ecclesiastes:9:11 came to mind as I tried to find an explanation for our loss, "...the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all."
Many scriptures comforted me during this time. One was 1 Corinthians:10:13, "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted (tested) beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." This assured me that God knew I could find the strength to go on. God does not lie, (Titus:1:2) so I knew he would give me strength. Another comforting scripture was Romans:8:28, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."
We had planned for me to stay home after the baby came, but there was no point after Pamela died, so I went back to work. I felt so sorry for a woman from another department when she asked, "Didn't you just have a new baby?" She was horrified that she might have added to my grief. Another coworker, a single woman about my age, came in to show off her new baby. God, why did my baby die?
We went back to church. Our friends didn't know how to respond. A friend told me later that she was afraid we would be hurt more at the sight of their healthy babies. The teenager I mentioned earlier brought her baby to a church gathering. I met a young unmarried woman from another congregation who had recently given birth to twin sons. My baby had two loving parents. God, why did my baby die?
In His time, God gave us a son and then another daughter. Both were perfect and beautiful, and each time my tears of joy were mixed with tears of grief for the baby we had buried. Thank you God, and God, why did my baby die?
Over the years I have come to understand that God has a unique plan for each of our lives. He wants us to become perfect, as Christ our older brother is perfect. That perfection was learned through the things that He suffered (Hebrews:2:10).
Pamela's death helped me learn some incredible lessons in faith and in living. The first is that we can never really know what someone is going through if we have not experienced the same trial ourselves. A woman I knew only slightly wrote a long, comforting letter and told me how she had lost a newborn. We became close friends. I have been able to write that same letter twice to others. I also learned never to belittle someone else's grief by seeming to measure it against my own. A woman expressing her sympathy stated that my grief could not be as great as hers when she lost a 2-year-old child. After all, I didn't have two years of memories. Didn't she understand that I'd have given my heart for two years? Or two months? Or two weeks?
Twenty-three years after Pamela was born I became a registered nurse. Now, because of what I have experienced, I feel more prepared to help others in their trials. I can apply James' words, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience (James:1:2-3). Comfort is in the bond that is established when I say to a patient or a patient's family, "I have also been through this, and I know it is difficult," or "I can't know exactly how you feel because I haven't been through it, but I know this must be difficult for you." That bond helps both of us do what is necessary in the healing process.
My husband and I have hope in the promise of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Pamela will live again. We will have a part in loving, nourishing and rearing her in the coming Kingdom of God. Sometimes it is still hard to know why we lost her. Trials such as these are enormously difficult. But I do know that God notices, cares, and gives us the help we need when we ask for it.
He will make all things right when He returns. In the meantime, the lessons we learn not only enable us to grow toward perfection but also allow us to help others along the way.