Two nights ago I plunged into a place I haven’t been for a long time. It was bitter and angry and full of doubt. It was a place I didn’t want to be, but there I was. As I climbed into bed, over-tired and overwhelmed, the flood of tears returned, drenching my neck and the hair around my ears.
I wasn’t crying because I was having a girl. The real source of my pain was much deeper. Over the past day I had been told story after story after story from friends and family. The evidence mounted quickly that it is quite common for women to have repeated spiritual experiences relating to a specific child only to wait years, often bearing multiple children of the opposite gender (one had fourteen kids by the end!), to finally bear the promised child, or… for some… to heart-breakingly never have the promised baby.
I knew that my friends and family meant well, but their stories only deepened the sense of betrayal I felt. I would almost have preferred to be the only one who had experienced this phenomenon. Knowing that it was insanely widespread just caused me to throw my hands in the air in bitterness and cry to God, “Why do you torment us this way?!” The foundations of my faith had been rattled. I told my husband, “It is almost more comforting to believe that God isn’t even there than to believe that God would toy with mothers like this.” Fortunately, even when I throw tantrums and temporarily “leave the God I love,” I am usually able to keep the back door open for Him.
By morning I was still stuck in that space. I texted a dear friend, “I think I need your help.” She has been a life-saver more times than I can count, helping me pull out of spiritual quicksand and back on solid ground. We talked for at least an hour on the phone. I cried, she cried, we cried together. Thank God for friends who will cry with me. The most important thing she did for me was to remind me that I’m not delusional. Those mocking voices in my head had been pounding me with cruelty: “You’re delusional. You just have an overactive imagination. Elijah is nothing more than an imaginary friend. All those mothers you’ve heard stories about are delusional. Believing in spiritual experiences is a joke. Face it. Elijah isn’t real.” Those words cut so deep and hurt so much. So much. But my dear friend helped me to find what was true. She said, “You are not delusional. You are visionary.”
A possibility had been easing its way into my heart for the previous two days. I had begun to wonder about (and yet also resist) the scenario that Elijah was already mine, already finished with life. I wondered if his brief experience in my womb was all he had needed. Previously I had felt sure he would come in a future pregnancy. But perhaps he will be loving and serving me in his spirit form rather than a future physical form? As I spoke with my friend on the phone, she uttered the words out loud, not knowing I had already been pondering the possibility. In that moment I felt my heart break and began to sob. I acknowledged to her that the thought had crossed my mind. Hearing it validated was so painful. “It feels like I’ve lost a child!” I cried to her. In many ways I have, but there is no gravestone or photograph to make him real.
Another friend shared a story about her mother with me and suggested that perhaps Elijah would be my grandson. Another suggested that he might be a future son-in-law. Or maybe he really will be born to me in Zion at some future time. All I know right now is that I need to focus on the baby girl growing inside of me. After talking to my friend yesterday, I knew that I had to find a way to acknowledge Elijah as real, let him go, and give myself closure so that I can invest myself fully into embracing Hope. Making this realization was crucial, and it somehow allowed me to be on speaking terms with God again.
So yesterday I bought a tree. A weeping fig.
And I pulled something out of my freezer that has been tucked away for four and a half years. After my two home births I saved my placentas, planning to do something special with them at some point… maybe plant them with a tree. Anyway, they have been in my freezer. But I also saved something else along with the placentas. Call me morbid, but I just didn’t feel right throwing it away, and I thought I could bury it along with the placentas someday. I saved the tiny “body” of my vanished twin. So sometime in the next few days, my family and I will bury that tiny vanished twin with my weeping fig tree. Perhaps we will write letters to Elijah and bury them as well. We will listen to a song and maybe say a prayer. And we will let him go.
I love him so much. But I will hold him in my heart until I can hold him in my arms. Whether in this life or the next.
P.S. I also ordered this necklace.