BY MEGAN STOLZ
DAY 5: On the Other Side of the Door | Tuesday of the 3rd Week of Advent| 12.19.17
- Judges 13:2-25. An angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, “Though you are barren and have had no children, yet you will conceive and bear a son.”
- Psalm 71: 3-17. My mouth shall be filled with your praise, and I will sing your glory!
- Luke 1:5-25. Announcement of the Birth of John
It’s striking to me how often tests of faith come on an ordinary day. This was true when Gabriel visited Zechariah to announce that his wife Elizabeth is pregnant. Luke sets the scene in 1:8-9: “Once when he was serving as priest in his division’s turn before God, according to the practice of the priestly service, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to burn incense.” Basically, Zechariah is taking his shift turn at work, and he’s chosen at random to do a certain task (one might say “voluntold”). This is a regular day.
One of my biggest tests of faith came on an ordinary day. In July 2015, I was pregnant for the first time, and my husband and I went in for what was supposed to be our routine 18-week appointment. But it was at this appointment that we found out our child didn’t have a heartbeat. We had what is called a “missed miscarriage” – I didn’t bleed, I wasn’t in pain, nothing. Our child just quietly stopped growing. And suddenly it wasn’t an ordinary day at all – it was the worst day of our lives.
It’s also striking that no matter how universal they are, tragedies and challenges are also incredibly personal. In Zechariah’s case, this wasn’t the first time God had sent an unexpected child. As a priest, Zechariah would probably have been familiar with the announcement that Abraham and Sarah were expecting; and Sarah reacted the same way, saying she wasn’t supposed to be able to get pregnant at her age.
In theory, I knew I wasn’t the first woman to ever miscarry (I knew that, for example, my mom had miscarried her first pregnancy), but the stats don’t really matter when you’re in the thick of grief. The stats were against us anyway – one of my memories that stands out is hearing my husband say on the phone, more than once, how small the chance was of miscarrying after the first trimester. We were supposed to be safe.
We’d had a morning appointment, but it was clear we weren’t going to work that afternoon. We spent the rest of the day at home, each trying to work through what had just happened. My husband trimmed the bushes in the evening. It reminded me of how my mother’s reaction to hearing her mother died was to clean the house – it was one thing she could control.
But Luke includes one other crucial detail about the day that changed Zechariah’s life forever. He actually mentions it twice: “The whole assembly of the people was praying outside” (Luke 1:10), and they are waiting for him to come back out. Luke even adds that they “were amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary” (Luke 1:12), so clearly they were paying attention. Zechariah is talking to an angel of the Lord, getting the biggest news of his life (and not handling it terribly well), and probably the last thing on his mind is the outside world. But the outside world hadn’t forgotten about him.
We’d already announced publically that we were expecting, so when we miscarried, we also had to publicly announce that we were no longer expecting. We made both announcements the same way: on Facebook. At first, I didn’t read many of the comments on our post about losing the baby. But a lot of women reached out to me privately and shared that they’d lost babies too. These were women from all areas of my life: relatives, former professors, friends, colleagues. Sometimes women I’d never had a personal conversation with – strictly business (or school). I was overwhelmed with all the love and support I read in these messages.
There is so much silence tied up in miscarriage. The whole point of waiting until second trimester to announce an expected baby, after all, is “in case something happens.” I think many women who lose babies, especially early, feel very much alone. But there is a community – a large community. I was going through a personal tragedy, but I’d also joined a sisterhood. Frankly, this wasn’t a sisterhood that I wanted to join, but at least I had people to talk to who understood what I was going through. It wasn’t just me.
And this is the biggest lesson about tests of faith. We’re going to get the rug pulled out from under us. It’s going to happen when we least expect it. It’s going to feel like we’re completely alone. But we aren’t. We’re part of a community of faith, and we’re here to help each other. The community is there, waiting for us, just outside the door.
Megan Stolz works at a professional association as a copy editor by day and writes by night. Poems about her miscarriage have been published in Cumberland River Review and the Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts. Originally from California, she lives Northern Virginia with a loving husband, an active toddler, and a patient cat. She tweets occasionally @megan_stolz.