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We Named Her Noah

We named her Noah, our child who ushered me into this season of bright sadness.

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We named her Noah. I will never forget her.

News of her death came at my 10-week OB appointment. I woke up that fateful Wednesday to the thought, Today your life is going to change. Two hours later, it did. A doppler failed to detect a heartbeat; an ultrasound revealed a body much smaller than my due date required. The doctor estimated she had stopped growing at five weeks gestation.

For five weeks — 35 days — I was unaware that I was a walking tomb. I avoided caffeine, exercised with care, and jotted down lists of potential baby names, not knowing her tiny body had ceased to grow within mine.

A week after my D&C, a friend asked my husband Ted, “How’s Ashleigh doing? Is she getting over it?”

I wasn’t.

Life felt as if it played out in a bad dream; a nightmare from which I longed to wake up. I wept, paced, and had to force myself to climb out of bed and to eat. At times, anger overwhelmed me.

And then I hit resigned.

Resigned was worse than numbness; worse than a pillow wet with tears. It was the acceptance that this was just the way it was and there was nothing I could do to change it. It was realizing that we wouldn’t have a baby on or near Ted’s birthday, and that when Christmas came, there wouldn’t be four smiling kids on our card. It was a place where the comfort of weeping came to me less often.

But in the early weeks, the scariest moments were the ones where I felt better. Because in those moments when the sadness wasn’t so bad, I felt disloyal to Noah.

The Amputee

I’m not alone in struggling with feelings of disloyalty. My friend Amy, who lost a baby several years ago, told me, “I know just what you mean about feeling disloyal. We moved across the country, from Indiana to California, six months after my miscarriage. I felt very disloyal, as though I were leaving my child there. When I became pregnant again after losing the baby, I felt disloyal to be excited.”

And Angie Smith, whose daughter Audrey died two and a half hours after her birth, writes in her book, I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy:

The process of healing has been winding and unpredictable to me. One day I’m starting to feel like myself again, and even that can make me feel guilty sometimes. I don’t feel like I have a right to be normal.”

The truth is, there is no such thing as “normal” after the death of a baby. There is, as my friend Jennifer — whose sister and preborn nephew died in a car accident six years ago — points out, a “new normal.” She shared with me:

From my experiences there isn’t really a moving on … but a new “reality,” a new normal…. I think you will gradually “acclimate” to your circumstances but there will be a lingering of what would have been…. You will think of how old Noah would be and what you imagine her to be doing.”

In A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis’ journal turned classic work, he captures this new reality Jennifer speaks of well:

To say the patient is getting over it after an operation for appendicitis is one thing; after he’s had his leg cut off it is quite another. After that operation either the wounded stump heals or the man dies. If it heals, the fierce, continuous pain will stop. Presently, he’ll get back his strength and be able to stump about on his wooden leg. He has “got over it.” But he will probably have recurrent pains in the stump all his life, and perhaps pretty bad ones; and he will always be a one-legged man. There will be hardly any moment when he forgets it. Bathing, dressing, sitting down and getting back up again, even lying in bed, will all be different. His whole way of life will be changed…. At present I am learning to get about on crutches. Perhaps I shall presently be given a wooden leg. But I shall never be a biped again.”

I’ve come to understand that Noah’s death is not something I’ll “get over.” Her short life and untimely death are ingrained into who I am. It’s something, as Lewis points to, with which I have to learn to live.

But as an amputee, as Lewis now labels me, I have a choice on how I will live with it. What will my “new reality” or “new normal” look like? Will I equate a depressed state with loyalty to Noah and her memory? Will I feel guilty in those moments when the sorrow isn’t as strong? Or will I choose to honor her life with what some have labeled “bright sadness”?

Bright Sadness

Jenny Schroedel, in her article “Rachel’s Tears,” describes this term bright sadness as “a kind of ‘bitter joy’ or ‘joyful mourning.'” To the logical mind, this figure of speech is an oxymoron. Pairing the contradicting emotions of “sorrow” and “joy” together simply doesn’t make sense to the rational. But as I and many others who have walked through grief have learned, these two antonyms can and do co-exist. The joy doesn’t negate the sadness; rather it mingles with it. The two dance, as Angie Smith writes.

For me, bright sadness has come after slowly and painfully wading through the raw emotions of grief. I simply had to walk through this anguish first. And the truth is, when the pinlight of joy began to shine into my sorrow, I didn’t know what to do with it, except accept it as a gift from God.

As I’ve started to make sense of and embrace this “joyful mourning,” I’m seeing that I can honor Noah through it. And it’s this realization that I took with me on my second visit to her grave.

Joyful Mourning

Many babies who die through miscarriage aren’t given a physical resting place on earth. We were fortunate that the hospital I had my D&C at holds firmly to the sanctity of life. As a result, we were given options on what would happen to Noah’s body after the procedure. We chose to have her tiny frame buried in a community memorial alongside other preborn babies who have died. This service was offered to us at no charge; a gift from a local Catholic diocese.

Ted and my first visit to the cemetery was marked by deep sorrow, tears, and the longing to lay my body prostrate on the fresh dirt and weep (which, I held myself back from actually doing). I mourned the physical body I’d never get to nurture.

It was a surreal experience. One that left me reluctant to leave. As a mom I’d been taught to never leave my babies alone. I felt like I was abandoning her, in the ground, unprotected and left to the elements. It went against everything my mother’s heart felt was right. Ted had to remind me, “She’s not really there, Ashleigh. She’s not there. It’s OK to leave.”

I determined this second visit would be different. My tears of sorrow would intermingle with exclamations of praise to the One who promises that, though memory of Noah may fade for many, He will never forget.

As the sun emerged and the grayness of the day lifted, we approached the grave marker. There, Ted read Psalm 34. We both cried as he spoke aloud the words in verse 8, “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” Through my tears, I whispered, “Yes, Lord, You are good.”

There was a peacefulness to the memorial gardens that day. Not only externally in the beauty of the trees and spring beginning to make its appearance, but also internally within my heart.

Yes, I was sad. I mourned the baby I would never hold in my arms. But this bright sadness that accompanied me brought with it a hopeful reminder: Noah is not lost. She isn’t abandoned to the cold ground of a cemetery. Her spirit is alive and well in the presence of a strong, tender, compassionate Savior. While my arms may not hold her, His do.

We named her Noah, our child who ushered me into this season of bright sadness. I will never forget her.

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Ashleigh Slater is the author of Team Us: Marriage Together and the editor of Ungrind. As a regular contributor at several blogs and websites, she loves to unite the power of a good story with biblical truth and practical application to encourage others. She has 20 years of writing experience and a master’s degree in communication. Ashleigh lives in Atlanta with her husband Ted and four daughters. You can follow her on Instagram here.

9 Comments
  • Beautifully said. It made me sad that no such “gravesite” option was given to us–just a polyp in a biggie that I was told to bring in to the doctor so they could see that enough had passed out.
    I’m sending a link for this to a dear friend who just recently went through miscarriage, learning to live as an amputee just like us.

    God bless you, sister in amputation,
    Chana

  • Chana, I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. I’ll be praying for her.

  • Dedra Rainey

    Ashleigh,

    I’m Chana’s friend she mentioned. Thank you so much for these words. I have a feeling I will read it many times in the next weeks. While I really want more children, I feel like I am betraying my lost baby with that desire, and am just terrified that it will happen again. How do you go through another pregnancy wondering when or if it will happen again? How do you let your heart get attached to a new life when it may not last?

    • Dedra, I’m so, so sorry. My heart aches for you.

      Your questions are ones with which I struggled. Noah died almost two years ago. Since then, we’ve had a daughter named Dorothy Jane. My pregnancy with her was my fifth and it was very different from the others. In her book, Naming the Child: Hope-Filled Reflections on Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Loss, author Jenny Schroedel writes:

      a … split occurs in the pregnancies of hundreds of thousands of women around the world — a before and an after — the innocence they had before all the cards were laid out on the table, the sweet silent hopefulness of the early weeks before the bleeding started or the cramping began or before the diagnosis was made, before the knowledge set in that this baby they’d been given to carry might not be theirs to keep.

      I definitely experienced this split. In my pregnancy with Dorothy I struggled with fear; with the questions you’re asking. I clearly remember telling the Lord early on, “OK, Lord, I know this baby is yours. But please, I’d really like to keep her.” The ultrasounds were no longer fun and exciting; they were terrifying for me. I wondered if they would bring bad news. It was a day-by-day journey of trusting God and reminding myself that no matter what happened He was good and I could trust Him. Even though it was a difficult pregnancy to walk through after losing Noah, Dorothy is an absolute joy. I often whisper in her ear, “You are better than I even imagined.” Yet, at the same time, I still can’t wrap my mind around the fact that if Noah hadn’t died, we wouldn’t have Dorothy. I don’t even like to think about it. I wish we could have them both.

      A big thing is going to be time. Give yourself time to grieve deeply before you even think about another baby. I needed to be able to be raw and sad and angry and hurt. I needed my friends and family to understand that I wasn’t ready for hope yet and be OK with that. I needed to be extremely loyal to Noah until I was able to grasp the fact that she’s not lacking anything where she is now. She’s home. I remember even being angry that those in heaven got to meet her before I did. It does get easier with time — although I’ve never stopped missing Noah.

      One of the biggest things that helped me through the early weeks was my good friend, Jennifer. We live in different states, but she called me every week to see how I was doing. She had gone through a couple miscarriges, so she knew what I was feeling. She let me cry, be honest about what I was feeling, and just mourned with me. She was a godsend. I also had a family member who had lost a baby who did a bible study with me on pregnancy loss. Do you have a close friend — maybe Chana — who has been through it too and can help you walk through this?

      I’ll be praying for you, Dedra. I wish I could give you a hug and cry with you too.

      • Beautiful words, Ashleigh. Thank you so much for reaching out to my friend, Dedra.
        Keep up the beautiful ministry :)

        Hugs,

        Chana Keefer
        http://www.chanakeefer.com
        Jesus Freak, wife, mom, author (in that order :)

  • I happened across your essay while on faithvillage. Thanks for sharing- it is beautiful, and helpful.

  • Amber

    Ashleigh,

    I am so sorry for your loss. A friend sent this to me today. 7 weeks ago, I gave birth to our beautiful boy ,Noah, who was born sleeping. He graduated from this life to heaven.
    Your words, “Yes, I was sad. I mourned the baby I would never hold in my arms. But this bright sadness that accompanied me brought with it a hopeful reminder: Noah is not lost. She isn’t abandoned to the cold ground of a cemetery. Her spirit is alive and well in the presence of a strong, tender, compassionate Savior. While my arms may not hold her, His do.” Were beautifully written! Amen we have a Savior to care for our littles ones while we can’t be there to do that. What an amazing comfort to rest in. May we both feel the comfort of our Father hugging us and holding us tightly. <3

  • Elizabeth Davis

    How beautiful. I’m so sorry for y’all’s loss. But I am grateful for God’s love and mercy knowing that He has little Noah in His arms and she is safe.

Articles

When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds

If your compassion far exceeds your capacity, here’s one way you can be sure to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

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One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It is one of my favorite verses because my heart has been so moved by the love Jesus has for me and the sacrifice He made for me that I am grateful to have a way to express my gratitude through acts of justice and mercy while walking humbly with God.

I have found at times, however, the call to do justice and love mercy come in conflict with the call to walk humbly with God. For me, one of the ways to walk humbly with God is to recognize my limitations. I have to put skin to the fact that I am not God which means saying, “no” to ministry requests. It means going to sleep when I could be spending time advocating for the harrowed and helpless in the world. It means limited seats at my table, limited funds in my bank account, and limited energy in my body cannot be ignored but respected and adhered to.

This is hard for me at times, especially when I scroll my Facebook feed and see friends who are caring for their really sick children, spouse, or other family member all while millions of refugees flee war torn countries and babies are slaughtered by the hundreds each day in our country through the abortion industry.

As I scroll, I receive texts about one family member’s surgery gone wrong and another family member announcing a new baby is on the way. I have in mind my neighbor who has inpatient surgery scheduled this week and another neighbor who is trying to hold down a full-time job, care for twins all while battling profound “morning” sickness.

Folks at church are fighting for their lives in physical and spiritual ways, and strangers who pass me on the road are clearly battling something as demonstrated by their impatient honking because I won’t take a right turn on red. I want to meet the needs of all; I want to do justice and love mercy, but I’m daily confronted by the fact that I am so limited.

What am I to do when doing justly and/or loving mercy seem to come in conflict with walking humbly with my God?

God keeps bringing me to this answer: prayer.

God invites us to cast our cares before Him because He cares for us.
God tells us to be anxious for nothing BUT WITH PRAYER present our requests before Him.
God commands us to pray without ceasing.

And, when I walk humbly with God, I see the immense kindness in His command.
He gives us a way to do justly, love mercy WHILE walking humbly with Him.
It is by praying without ceasing.

I cannot take a meal or give money to every sick person or family I know. I cannot extend kindness to all my neighbors all at the same time they’re in need nor conjure up sustainable solutions for the refugee crisis and contact all the necessary world powers to make it happen.

I cannot heal all, but I know the Healer.

I cannot provide for all the needs, but I know the Provider.

I cannot rescue everyone in need, but I know the Rescuer.

I cannot comfort all the broken, but I know the Comforter.

I cannot speak peace over every situation, but I know the Prince of Peace.

I cannot be all to all, but I can go to the Great I Am through prayer, lay all the people, problems and pleas for help before the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of all Creation.

I can do this through prayer.

Recently, via an Instagram contest of all things, I came upon A–Z prayer cards designed by blogger/author/speaker, Amelia Rhodes. It is a simple concept packed with a powerful prayer punch. It has served me personally in this tension of wanting to do far more than I practically can do. It provides prayer prompts starting with each letter of the alphabet along with a scripture that coincides with the prayer focus. It ranges from Adoption to a creative “Zero Prejudice” for the letter “Z.”

The cards are well thought out, color printed on sturdy cardstock with blank lines for the user to write in the names of people and/or organizations that are personal to them.

If, like me, your compassion far exceeds your capacity, pick up a set of these prayer cards and unload your burdens onto a God whose competence matches His kindness, both boundless.

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Facing Our Fears in Motherhood

Do you have fears tied to motherhood? If so, here’s encouragement for you.

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“Are you scared?”

I was taken aback by his question. Scared? Of what?

“Of anything,” he answered.

I had just shared my due date with a new class of trainees.

“He has three boys,” another new hire volunteered. So fear is to be expected, I reasoned. I’m just about to face the most frightening experience in my life.

Of course I was scared.

I was scared…

  • I’ll lose my temper.
  • I’ll whine about sleepless nights.
  • I’ll breastfeed too often or not often enough.
  • I’ll leave piles of unfolded onesies in the middle of the nursery floor because I’m too tired (or lazy?) to fold teeny-tiny baby clothes for the upteenth time.
  • I’ll go with disposable diapers when the better choice would be cloth.
  • I’ll work too many long hours at the office and miss precious moments with her.
  • I’ll sign her up for too many activities and push her to become Miss Achieve-It-All.
  • I’ll pass on to her my ugly pride, self-righteousness, and perfectionism like a dreadful contagious disease.
  • I’ll miss countless little joys in life while pursuing worthless dreams.

Facing Our Fears in MotherhoodIn short… I was afraid I was going to fail miserably as a parent.

And now, holding my second-born daughter in my arms, thinking back on that brief exchange just a few years ago, I realize those fears were well-founded. I’ve failed many times. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve raised my voice. I’ve worked too much and played too little. I’ve seen my own sinfulness reflected in my daughter.

Yes, I’ve failed, but over and above it all, God’s grace has covered my parenting imperfections and made me run to the cross day after day. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:

Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

When it comes to fears, we have two choices: Will we fear the unknown or will we fear the Lord? Will we allow the uncertain to grip us in its clutch or will we turn to God’s Truth to set us free?

Scared? Oh yeah. There was so much to be scared of that day. And even now, if I’m completely honest, there are still fears nibbling at the edges of my consciousness. Fear that we won’t outgrow the temper tantrums. Fear that the two girls won’t get along. Fear that I’ll mess them up and cause them interminable hours on a psychologist’s couch.

I’m sure you have fears, too.

But rather than allow those fears to consume and paralyze us, we can take them to the Lord, acknowledging His sovereignty over our parenting, pleading His grace over our mistakes, and entrusting His provision over their futures. He is not only able to handle it all — He is far more capable to be trusted with it all.

If I say one thing to that frightened 9-month-pregnant me standing in that room years ago, I would say this: Don’t let fear rob today’s joy with tomorrow’s unknowns. Each day has enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Instead, let us keep seeking God, running to Him as our secure fortress and resting in the knowledge that He will care for us and our children one day at a time.

What are you scared of today? Name your fears and bring them to the Lord, allowing Him to replace them with His peace that passes all understanding.

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He Gives Shade To The Weary

If anxiety is a struggle for you right now, remember that He gives shade to the weary.

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Do you ever have those moments of fear because you don’t know what lies ahead? When do those thoughts tend to happen to you?

For me, most of those thoughts happen when I lay my head down to sleep at night. The vulnerability comes forth every time. That’s what happened the other night to me. I shut my eyes and immediately anxiety welled up inside me.

What if we don’t succeed in this new venture? What if we have to move? What if we can’t pay our bills?

I laid there with the covers drawn tight over my head (I still think that I am safer if the covers are over my head), praying scripture over my anxious heart. Assuring myself that God sees me and that He cares.

In the morning, I turned to Isaiah 41, specifically verses 10-20.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)

Yesterday, the “what if’s” piled up as I anxiously looked about me. My daughter needs tutoring, however at this point in life, tutoring feels like a luxury we can’t afford. So I listed some items online to sell hoping to make just enough to cover the tutoring. I’m buying groceries on a Visa reward card. I’m holding my breath until the next paycheck comes. But what did God speak over me: Do not fear. Do not look anxiously about you.

“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:13-14 NASB)

Why shouldn’t I be anxious? Because God will hold me up. God will help me. When I first read the word “worm” as a description, I took it as a slam against Israel. Like, gesh, God. What animal does He relate me to? But through further study, He calls them a worm because worms are helpless. They are viewed as insignificant, despised and weak. God will help me — seemingly insignificant, helpless me — because He is my Redeemer. He is my go’el — my next of kin. The Redeemer is the one who provides for all my needs. Rent. Car payment. Credit card bill. Gas. Food. Clothes. Debt. God will redeem.

He Gives Shade to the Weary

“Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, And will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, And the storm will scatter them; But you will rejoice in the Lord, You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:15-16 NASB).

God is transforming me from a helpless one to a powerful one. The description of that type of threshing sledge is like a modern day earth mover. Powerful. Strong. Immovable.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 41:17, NASB)

He will come to our rescue. God, Himself, will answer you and me. Can you hear how personal that sounds? Have you ever pleaded with someone important whether your boss, public figure, or even a parent, and they responded to the need themselves? You expected for them to send their assistant, but instead they — the most important one — responded to you.

“I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress.” (Isaiah 41:18-19, NASB)

This passage describes the wilderness-like times in life. You are barren. You are thirsty. You are hot. You are in need. God will provide what you need. God will quench your thirst. He will provide shade when you are weary. During those times, God can provide in creative, innovative ways. He can provide something out of nothing. Doesn’t that give you great hope? Even when you can’t answer how He will do it, He is creative enough to figure it out even when the odds are stacked against you.

“That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:20 NASB).

God will do all of this so that His glory will be put on display. People — including yourself — will see that He is powerful.

So you can see how after a night of wrestling with fear and anxiety, reading this was like shade and water for my soul. God is a god who sees. And God is a god who acts on your behalf.

What do you need His help with today? What are you fearful about today? What keeps you awake at night? Where do you need some shade?

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Hi, I'm Ashleigh Slater, founder and editor of Ungrind. Here at Ungrind, it’s our goal to churn out biblically-based encouragement for women. We strive to be honest and transparent about our struggles in a way that inspires hope, faith, and perseverance.

As you read, we hope you consider us friends, the kind you feel comfortable sitting across the table with at the local coffee shop. You can read more about me HERE and our team of writers HERE.

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We Named Her Noah

by Ashleigh Slater time to read: 6 min
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