To Have Loved and Lost: A Christian’s Experience of Miscarriage

Painful memories can – and do – just hit you out of nowhere. Recently, on one of those rare days that we had sunshine, I was in the garden with my little ones. My three year old son was having a wonderful time watering plants while I helped his one year old sister to toddle after him. My son refilled the watering can, andhappened to give special attention to a single white rose budding in the corner.
You might not think that the scene of my son bestowing such care on a single plant could move me to tears, but it did. The white rose had been a gift to us from dear friends, in memory of a baby that we lost two years ago.

Even though it’s very common, miscarriage isn’t something that it’s easy to talk about. As a Christian, it was an experience that I found incredibly difficult – and often still do. So I hope you will forgive me if this post seems less polished than it could be.

I had never felt easy about that pregnancy. Apart from all the emotions of joy and anxiety that we all feel when we discover that we are becoming parents, my husband and I were worried that the timing of this baby; the pregnancy was unexpected, and our son wasn’t sleeping through the night. We chose to leave the situation in the Lord’s hands, praising Him for His gift of new life and trusting that He would supply everything that we would need to be able to love and provide for our growing family. 

Ten weeks into the pregnancy, I began bleeding. My husband and I both knew that this could be entirely normal, but arranged a scan just to be on the safe side.

As soon as I saw the ultrasound images, I knew that something was wrong. The sonographer delivered the news: the foetus was weeks too small for its date, and had no heartbeat. The baby inside me was dead.

Perhaps you can imagine how we felt. Grief; rage; loss that words just could not contain. Gearing up to welcome a new member to our family, we had lost a child that we had never had the chance to hold – or even name. 

The grief at a miscarriage or stillbirth is not just at the loss of a loved one, but at the loss of a hoped for future that will never be shared. 

In my grief, I wrestled – with God, and with myself. Had I somehow been to blame for the baby’s death? Why had the Lord allowed me to endure such crippling morning sickness for so many weeks when the baby was lost? Why couldn’t He – the giver of life and Creator of all things – preserve this one, tiny life? 

All my husband and I could do was turn to the Lord. We tried to thank Him for the life we had been given, even though we didn’t know why it had been taken away. We declared His power over our lives and the life of our lost little one, blessing Him for that gift, and the gift of our young son. We prayed for His mercy and that, one day, we would have the wondrous of joy of meeting our lost child in heaven. It did not ease the pain – but it helped us to know that God, too, knew what grief it is to lose a child. 

For years, I had lived in horror of the idea of carrying a dead child, of my womb becoming a tomb. So deciding to wait for my body to miscarry fully on its own was something I was initially frightened of, even though it seemed right. And I found that it was not a horror. In those three weeks of waiting, I felt that I cradled my child for a while longer. It was not the lifetime of hugs that I had dreamed of, but it was something. It was time to say that we loved her, and time to say goodbye.

When the miscarriage finally came – late at night, when my son was sleeping – my husband and I both felt the Lord’s hand powerfully over that timing. Even when I had to be taken to hospital and the bleeding was so much that we had to opt for a surgical procedure, I knew that God was with me – in this case, in the talented, loving hands of the doctors, nurses and midwives who had – just as at the birth of my son – intervened and saved my life.

Just a few months after our miscarriage, a family member – who had also had a miscarriage, then gone on to have another child – told me: ‘Yes, it was awful. But we wouldn’t have our daughter if it hadn’t happened.’

At the time, those words had seemed callous, cruel. Unfeeling. But I think I now understand them: the daughter I now have – whose name means ‘My God has answered’ – would never have come to be if were it not for that awful time. It was a time when I learnt something about turning to the Lord in the valleys. Being alone without me while I was in hospital brought my son and husband closer together, and forced me to realise that they could cope without me (a tough, but vital, lesson for a young mother). And the child that we lost has made both of our children so much more precious to us.

It is now two years since our miscarriage. Time is a healer, yes, and the grief is not as it was then. But, even if it is easier to think about, and talk about, the loss remains.

So when my son and daughter both cooed over the white rose in the garden it seemed to me – as they stroked the petals and tended the earth – that they were caring for the sister that they had never known. And it seemed to me also, for the tenderest of moments, that she was with us still.

This post also appears at http://www.annathayer.wordpress.com .

Pleasantly Surprised by Warcraft

An unusual thing happened this weekend: I went out, without my children. I took my husband to a movie. When I was child-free, there was a word for this kind of shocking activity. I think it was ‘a date’.
As a pre-father’s day gift, the movie that we went to see was ‘Warcraft’, based on the hugely popular ‘World of Warcraft’ MMO.
Things you need to know: I do not play the game, but my husband does. We are both fans of Tolkien, and so picking this as our date was perhaps not so enormous a gift of love as it would be if hubby decided to take me to see the latest screening of an RSC production (if you’re reading, love; yes, you may consider that a hint!). But you also need to know that after other game-to-movie escapades like It-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named-(But-Which-Involves-Dungeons-and-Dragons) , we both had reason to be sceptical. And we’ve all been through that experience of seeing something that we love be – well, ruined, in adaptation. The Battle of the Five Armies was the last example of this for me (a movie which I did not expect to actually be all battle).
I was pleasantly surprised by Warcraft. And I thought I would share with you why.
Firstly, I was impressed by the deft way in which the director double-bluffed his audience from the get-go; having led me to believe that his establishing shots would serve to establish sympathy for the human protagonists, we were instead taken straight to the keynote Orc characters – a chieftain and his pregnant mate. This unexpected opening was genuinely tender, and hugely successful – especially, I think, for someone like me – a young mother with little exposure to the game beyond what she has glimpsed over hubby’s shoulder.
There also seemed to be genuine respect for the source-game. I’ve seen my husband’s various characters flying around the Warcraft world, a landscape of Middle-Earth qualities – and many of the shots of the settings looked like loving evocations of places that players have adored for years. And so, while it was a little lost on me, I get the feeling that these shots would really speak to the game’s dedicated fans.
The visual quality of the film was certainly stunning; much like watching a Miyazaki, even if there were plot holes from time to time, the dedication to evoking the world was pretty riveting.
But there was also plenty of story to this film, and characters that you genuinely came to care about – human and Orc. Sure, there were a certain number of ‘sudden but inevitable betrayals’ (if Joss Whedon is remembered for nothing else, it should be that phrase!), but there were also some bold moves that I was not expecting. I won’t say too much more, but I will say that some scenes hit my husband and I, as parents, especially hard.
There were characters here that you could grasp and relate to; scholarly mages, powerful warriors, mothers, sisters, those outcast for their differences. They might have been wearing funny clothes and living in a fictitious land, but they were still us – even the orcs. 
My husband tells me that there were elements of the story that were changed between the very first game that the film is based one, and what we saw on Saturday. He felt that these were, overall, positive changes. It also seemed to both of us that the highly judicious editing left a couple of necessary scenes on the cutting room floor. Even so, there was enough story to carry through. 
Having been left somewhat disillusioned by The Hobbit’s fall into a mediaeval 300, I was genuinely delighted to be watching a film that used battle narrative to further a story, rather than leaving the audience feeling bludgeoned. 
My only real disappointment with the film came from a line of dialogue which left me, as a Christian, rather exasperated; following the self-sacrificial death of a main character, something like the following was declared: ‘He gave his life in sacrifice for all of us, now we must deserve it’. Of course, Warcraft has not set out to give fictitious form to biblical truths, but I felt so frustrated to see an idea so powerful to Christians – the sacrifice of a great King for his people – given a guilt-spin; because, of course, the whole point of the cross is that we don’t deserve it, and can’t earn it. But this, as I said, is a personal quibble, and one which is not fair to level at this film.
Perhaps the most striking thing about the whole film for me was a kind of tenderness; the sense that the director was handling something that he personally loved; an awareness that he was dealing with something that millions of other people also loved, and wanting to honour that affection. In this sense, the film was suffused with care and attention. And, even to a Warcraft novice like myself, it was notable, creating a sense not that I was an intruder to a secret club, but rather that I was being openly and respectfully invited to experience another world.
In short: I came away from the theatre having enjoyed two hours of story-telling which I didn’t feel was a slave to its stunning CGI, and with the feeling of having shared in a story that I know is so important to people across the globe. Now, at least, I feel like understand that passion a little more. And, if a second, or even third, Warcraft film was made, I wouldn’t need much convincing to go and see them. 
Our verdict? A successful date! 

A Name to Watch: Discovering Beth Moran

Jacket Image

Here’s somethingthat I love: discovering a new, post-1830s writer (long in-joke story, to be dutifully explained another time!) who is talented, pithy, and not well known enough. So: this blog post is an attempt to redress that a little. And to write everything that I could not write in my word-limited commendation.

I was approached by the lovely Lion Hudson – who publish my own novels – and asked if I would consider reading a title with a view to giving a commendation. Ego suitably massaged, I said I should be delighted. The quirkily ring-bound proof that appeared on my doorstep a couple of days later was for ‘The Name I Call Myself‘ by Beth Moran – due for publication next month.

Now, I had heard of Beth Moran – like me, she was an award-winner of the IndieFab awards with her novel ‘Making Marion’ back in 2015. Unlike me, she had won gold in her category. Additionally, her praises had been sung highly to me by our local Christian book shop owner who, a year ago, was practically on tenterhooks for the next novel. And I – saturated with the works of Shakespeare et alia – looked at the cover, discerned chick lit, smiled, and thought: not for me.

Wrong.

Maybe it’s that I’m in a different phase of life, now, but Moran’s latest book caught me at once. The blurb was skilled, intriguing – of the kind that left you thinking ‘I can guess where this story is going to go, but I want to read to find out if I’m right, and I’m ready to have the cockles of my heart warmed by a predictable romance plot, and then I shall feel smug because I predicted it. And it will probably be an alright read.’.

Wrong. It was more than alright. And not really predictable.

From the first paragraph, I knew I was dealing with a pro. Believe me: as a novelist whose fantasy trilogy was almost the length of ‘War and Peace’ (that’s a lot of editing!!); as a literary critic well versed in the subtle arts of the grammarian and rhetorician; as a teacher far too accustomed to the pony-story that could use a few more choice structural and descriptive devices… Well, I know quality when I read it. Moran has quality – buckets and buckets of it.

Let me just share with you the commendation that I wrote, and expand on it:

‘Moran is a worthy inheritor of Austen’s mantel: her writing is witty, engaging, funny, poignant. She tackles the realities of love, loss, abuse and redemption with insight; considered without being heavy-handed, light-hearted without ever compromising on emotional depth. This is chick-lit as it should be – a page-turner whose heroine is transformed and whose journey is not superficial, but edifying and emboldening.’

I mean every single word of it.

Inheritor of Austen? High praise, but true. Why? Because Austen looks at the roles, constrictions and difficulties that women find themselves in, contrasting what the heart wants against what society expects. Moran’s heroine, Faith, is caught in a rather Austenian dilemma, replete with social expectations and complications. Like Austen, Moran explores this position with humour and wit, and her heroine, while no doormat, has a lesson to learn.

Something else that impressed me about this book was its ability to weave between a harrowing backstory and the kind of humour that we so expect from our chick-lit heroines. As a mum to a 3 and 1 year old – and a fairly geeky one at that – I found myself laughing out loud at the depictions of the character Marilyn’s life with tiny tots, and enjoying a really broad spectrum of cultural references. Moran can go from these scenes to the truly troubling realities of what it is to be a survivor of abusive relationships, and the shadows that that can cast.

That weaving is part of what makes Moran’s talent so notable, but there’s more to it than that. In my commendation, I mentioned that I feel that this novel is exactly what chick-lit ought to be: far from being submerged in the consumerist superficialities of the chick flick; far from revelling in a series of comical one-night-stands in the quest for ‘true love’; far from reducing the heroine to a quivering, objectified trophy for a perfect man – Moran writes a female protagonist whose journey not only changes and emboldens her, but edifies the reader, too.

Wholesome, challenging, funny, engaging, reality-checked writing, with a sluice of accomplished technical features and exquisite literary devices that gel together into an effortless read? That about sums this up.

Don’t know Beth Moran? Check out this novel when it appears next month. I know one thing for sure: at the earliest opportunity afforded to me by my wee ones, I shall be acquiring Moran’s other novels, and watching out for the next one!

This post also appears on my sister-site, www.annathayer.wordpress.com .