But I…

I hardly know where to start. It’s not often that a writer is at a loss for words. Really, I’ve got many words, but just am not sure how to communicate what it is I need to write about because there is so much to tell and so much not to tell. This is going to be a five-part series. These words have been written on my heart and have run through my head for several months now. My heart is very fragile right now, but in its broken state, I long to encourage those who may be traveling a similar journey. Much of what I will share with you comes from a very raw, once private struggle. This is not easy to talk about. But I sense the Holy Spirit leading me once again to reach beyond my reach. I need your help to share with those people. I share my story because I do not want to waste my sorrows. They’ve come at too high a price to do anything of the sort.

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Everything God puts in our hands is a resource for His glory.

Moses had his staff. David had his slingshot. Paul had his tent making tools.

In this series, I will share what is not in my hands, or my arms:

My baby boy, Manuel Elias Meyer, who went to be with Jesus in August of 2014.

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Perhaps the one thing more challenging than embracing the truth of “But God” in response to the question of “How will this be?” is when God moves you even further, beyond the impossible that He has given you, to ride the waves of an awful storm.

Soon after we found out that we were expecting, we shared our happy news with some of our closest friends. Most of them knew our background story, so they knew the miracle this was. One of my friends burst into tears when I told her. Two of my friends committed to pray with each other over the phone for baby and me each morning at 8AM.

We could hardly believe that we were finally the ones able to deliver the exciting news that a baby bearing our family name was on the way. The “pinteresting,” window-shopping, discussions of family hand-me-downs, and dreaming was unleashed. My husband took my profile picture every day in the same spot to mark my belly growth progress. Our doggy protectively snuggled on my little bump. My clothes grew tighter. I could not get enough peaches. And I sent my husband on a wild-goose chase around town for something I just had never really tried before but just had to have: blackberry pie. I cried at every sappy commercial and old episodes of the Cosby show. Plans for business trips were adjusted because of my due date. Holiday plans were up in the air till we could determine how I would be feeling at that stage in the pregnancy. We bought a cute little gender-neutral shirt from our Alma Mater. And we began perusing, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.”

This was real. There was a baby inside of me. I felt like it would be “more real” once I saw the baby on the sonogram and heard his or her little heartbeat. I was scared, but wildly excited about our first ultrasound on August 6th. We smuggled a recording device in to capture the heartbeat sound and took a couple unauthorized , but happy pictures together in the tiny room before the nurse came back in. We were ripe with anticipation.

The only comparison I really had to this moment was what I had seen on T.V. I had an image of Ross and Rachel on Friends with their first ultrasound, hearing that strong little heartbeat, looking at their little peanut on the monitor. That’s what I thought it would be like. But it wasn’t.

I didn’t know what the status quo was for heartbeats per minute. But the ultrasound technician did. First, she was surprised to find that the baby was only measuring at 6 weeks and 1 day gestation. We were all expecting for me to be somewhere around 11 weeks. No matter, I thought, because they were going off my irregular cycle information. She was able to find the baby with the attached yolk sack and a heartbeat of 60BPM. I was thinking that was a pretty decent heart rate, but she gently informed us that at that gestation, babies usually had a heart rate of well over 100BPM.

The only prayer I could pray that whole time was simply, “Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.”

We were sent to talk with the doctor. He explained that he was definitely concerned, but the heartbeat could have actually just formed since the heart forms between weeks 5-6 and that could actually have been my heartbeat overshadowing the growing baby’s heartbeat. He wanted to see me back for another ultrasound two weeks later. He called that evening to say that he had also detected a small blood clot in the lining of my womb,but that was something pretty common that he saw each week. I was a wreck that entire car ride home, sobbing between breaths. David shared the news with our families. I holed myself up in the bedroom to watch the funniest movie I could find and drown my tears in ice-cream.

Those were the longest two weeks of our lives.

August 20th came and we went to our second ultrasound appointment. This ultrasound went much quicker. All the while, I prayed the same prayer as the last ultrasound because I could not put into words everything that I wanted to ask God for my baby. The prayer was simply, “Jesus,” over and over again.

The little woman performing our sonogram almost robotically said the words that have changed our lives forever, “Emily, I’m afraid I have some sad news today. There is no heartbeat.” All I could do was clamp my hands over my face to bury it from the harsh reality she had just uttered. “Take as much time as you need. I’ll be back to check on you,” she said.

“As much time as you need” translates to 15 minutes tops so the other mommies with healthy babies can get into that room you’re sobbing in.

My husband and I took turns gasping for oxygen between the waterfalls of tears gushing from the depths of our souls while we embraced each other. I used the restroom in between two rooms and overheard the person next to me receiving the news of twins. Before I even got out of the tiny little room that stole our baby’s birth delivery, delivering news of his death in replacement, I was hit with the reality of the world moving on, though ours had just stopped turning.

Graciously, they whisked us through the waiting room packed full of swollen bellies to talk with my doctor. He came in and I wailed. He stood there compassionately as I sipped my sprite while trying not to throw up, and quietly said, “I’m so sorry. It isn’t fair.”

Something greater than myself overcame me and moved me to speak the words of Job that had comforted me through a song during my dad’s sickness and death.

“The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. But my heart chooses to say: Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

I knew I had a choice for how I was going to move forward from this cataclysmic loss. I also knew that I would not make it if I did not collapse into the arms of Jesus and let Him carry me through this. The prayers that my heart had cried out were realized and my soul was overwhelmed with His presence. He was there. He was there all along. The decision of my heart was not to reject Him for bringing the miracle He had blessed us with home, but to choose to embrace the truth that He is good and has a good plan for each one of us through this. If ever I needed Him, it was then.

We shared the news with our families and went home. It was as if Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall had moved into our home. Random, sloppy cries echoed through our mockingly large, empty house. My sister bolted through the door to attempt to comfort us both, made us some grilled cheese sandwiches, and just sit with us. None of us knew what to do other than to weep. How do you go to sleep after a day like that and not hope it was all a nightmare the next day?

God had given me two dreams while I was pregnant- that the baby inside of us was a boy, our son. As we laid paralyzed in the bed, wondering what to do next and how to medically proceed to deliver the baby’s lifeless body from my body, I shared those dreams with my husband and thought about a name for our son. For some reason, the name of my great grandfather, whom I had never met, popped in my head: Manuel Elias Pereira. For the first time, I noticed that both his first and middle names had the name “El” in them. “Surely, those names must have something to do with God,” I thought. When I looked up both names, I knew they were perfect for our son. David concurred.

Manuel: “God is with us.

Elias: “Jehovah is God.”

In that moment, we named our son, Manuel Elias Meyer. Manuel is with God and God is with us. And no matter what, Jehovah is God.

 

After a conversation with my doctor about medically proceeding, I asked him if he was absolutely sure there was no chance of life in my womb and more. He responded, “Barring a miracle, yes, I am sure.” “That’s the thing,” I said, “I believe in miracles.”

So, that Friday, August 22nd, though I knew it would be extremely hard, I had another sonogram just to confirm that Manuel had left this life for eternity with Jesus. We had the most compassionate ultrasound technician this time. She held my hand and confirmed that his little heart was no longer beating. Later, I found out that my heart rate the day of the first ultrasound was in the 70’s. That gave me peace that the 60BPM recorded that day was from my son. The sweet ultrasound technician sat me up on the table, hugged me, cried with me, and listened to me as I told her that sometimes the greatest prayer we can pray is simply, “Jesus,” and He was the only way I was able to get any breaths through this.

Saturday, August 23rd, I began the most difficult task of labor I have ever endured: labor for the body of my son, whose soul had already departed. It was six hours of excruciating pain. My heart broke as I watched my husband try to comfort me in vain. I knew what it was like to try to comfort someone physically suffering but to have no power to offer alleviation. I prayed and begged him to pray. With every contraction, I screamed out to God for help. Eight weeks I had known I was pregnant with a miracle child. At 8:28, as his body passed from mine, God gently reminded me that His plan for me was still good with His words from Romans 8:28, “And we know that ALL things work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.”

We huddled together on the edge of our bed and sang Amazing Grace because it just seemed like the right thing to do right then since that was what was carrying us through.

A few days later, we bought a rose bush and had a funeral with just the two of us and Jesus in our backyard, as our dog stood guard like an usher. We read a few scriptures. We sang a song my dad had taught me from his death bed which he had learned in his first days as a Christian, “For Those Tears I Died.” We took comfort in the fact that he had met his first grandchild. And lastly, we sang Amazing Grace once more. It sounded truer than ever before as we covered our son’s make-shift casket with dirt and said goodbye to his body.

I’m not trying to spiritualize or over-spiritualize this story of our deep loss. Our son was real. The miracle of having a child in my womb was real. Our loss is real. Manuel’s soul is real. Our grief is real. Our anguish is real.

But God…He’s not only real, He’s the truth.

The truth is, He is with us. He hasn’t left us ever. And He will never leave us or forsake us. (Psalm 23:4, Matthew 28:20, Hebrews 13:5)

The truth is, I don’t know why He gave us the miracle of Manuel for such a short time and then took him home, but I know our sweet baby son’s days were numbered before he was ever even created, just like each of ours are. (Psalm 139:16)

The truth is, Manuel’s life had purpose because each life that God creates has purpose. (Ephesians 2:10)

The truth is, God keeps track of all my sorrows. He has collected all my tears in His bottle. He has recorded each one in His book and He cares for me. (Psalm 56:8, 1 Peter 5:7)

The truth is though the sorrows may last for the night, His joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5)

The truth is God loves me and has a wonderful plan for my life. (Jeremiah 29:11)

The truth is, I will make it through this, because I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

The truth is, He will keep me in perfect peace if my mind is stayed on Him, because I trust in Him. (Isaiah 26:3)

The truth is, He will wipe away all our tears one day and we will meet our son for the very first time, and in the mean time, he is cheering us on from Heaven in our great cloud of witnesses. (Revelation 21:4, Hebrews 12:1)

The truth is Jesus. (John 14:6)

And the truth will set us free. (John 8:32)

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.

The Lord gave us Manuel and the Lord took him away.

But I…

I will choose to say…Blessed be the name of the Lord.

This loss could crumble me to the depths of hopelessness and despair.

Left to my own devices, I’ll die of a shattered heart. I have no way to heal this pain by myself. It’s impossible for me to make it out of this loss without being swallowed whole.

But God won’t let it because He’s in the resurrection business.

My heart will be resurrected.

He will put the pieces back together and make it new by His good plan.

What sentence does YOUR, “But I,” come after?

Whatever, “But I,” you may be facing today, always remember, there is a “But God” waiting to revive you and to do the impossible. 

 

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Stay tuned for next week’s 3rd segment, “And Lo{w},” of this 5 part series…

4 Comments on “But I…”

  1. Cried all the way through this….Emily, may God bless you for sharing this painful story! My children also both have names with “El” in them and I love to tell them what their names represent. I’m assuming Manuel is from Emmanuel, “God with us.” What a precious reminder of the truth of God’s presence through our moments on earth. Sleep peacefully with Jesus sweet Manuel..I am praying many will come to know that God is with them through your short, but purposeful life!

    1. Hannah, thank you for your kind words and prayer! That is my prayer too. My hope is that Manuel’s short life will draw people to Christ ultimately and that His part in our story will remind those who have experienced this sort of loss will know firstly that they are not alone and ultimately that there is hope in Jesus for them too. I know God has already given him a new name, but I love that until I learn that name, I am grateful this is the one I know him by and that he is wrapped safely in Immanuel’s arms. Thank you for reading. Please share with anyone who may be ministered to by this. Blessings to you!

  2. ““As much time as you need” translates to 15 minutes tops so the other mommies with healthy babies can get into that room you’re sobbing in.” –> That line broke my heart. Oh, Emily. Thank you for telling your story, not only that others can share in your pain but that our Great God and Savior can be glorified. I don’t understand how God works through suffering, but I know he does. And his work in your life is beautiful.

    1. Thank you, dear friend! Through all the heartbreak…my thoughts tend to lend to the idea that perhaps the reason God allows brokenness in our lives is so He can put us back together in the way He intended. He is the potter, I am the clay. I don’t understand it all either, but the deeper I sink, the deeper He digs to get the best clay for the vessel He wants to shape me into. Love and grace to you, my sister!

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