I have a beautiful life … a blessed life, but it is not the life I ever imagined I would have — one that included burying my son.
Around the time my husband and I had been married four years, we began to talk about growing our family. We learned in December 2015 that we were expecting our first child, but in January, our excitement and joy turned to disappointment and devastation as I miscarried.
Always one to process out loud and via the written word, on the one-month mark of losing our baby, I shared my experience on social media, despite the fact that very few people even knew we had been pregnant. The response I received was incredible.
So many honored the life of my little one. Moreover, many dear friends called me a mother. This outpouring of support affirmed what my sweet husband said as we drove home from the doctor’s office the day we confirmed the miscarriage. He grabbed my hand and said, “Well, you are a mom. You loved him, and you were scared for him. I am pretty sure that is what parenthood is all about.”
While I was certainly angry with God and confused about why He would give us such a precious gift only to take it away so swiftly, it was not long until He began to reveal a purpose for our loss. Through my willingness to share my experience publicly, I began receiving messages, almost weekly, from friends and acquaintances who had suffered miscarriages or were walking the lonely road of infertility.
Through my loss, I had been given a platform to share the goodness of God and His grace in a desert place. My husband pointed out that God had clearly prepared this ministry for me, and that, from now on, I would have the opportunity to love and support women as they walked this unwanted and painful path. It was not a platform I had asked for or ever desired, but God was clearly intent on redeeming our pain for His glory.
About four months after losing our little one, we were again pregnant. Early signs pointed to a healthy pregnancy, and at 12 weeks, we learned we were having a boy. A perfect little boy who probably had Down syndrome.
Nothing can prepare you for the news that your child will live anything other than a “normal” life. In those early days, we cried and fought fears regarding the quality of our son’s life. We had many conversations about all the things he would never do, but by the time we got confirmation that Max did, in fact, have Down syndrome, God had begun to fill us with joy and hope. We began reading, researching and preparing to be the parents of a child with special needs. And, we got excited. We were genuinely looking forward to everything Max and his extra chromosome were going to add to our lives. We began to have conversations about all he would be and do. God made it abundantly clear He was inviting us on an exciting journey meant specifically for us.
In addition to Down syndrome, Max was diagnosed with two small holes in his heart that we monitored throughout my pregnancy. Around 30 weeks, I requested a 3D ultrasound, simply because I wanted one ultrasound where no one talked about what was wrong with Max, but simply “oohed” and “ahhed” over how cute he was. That day, we learned that he had fluid in his abdomen and severe swelling on his neck and face, a condition called hydrops fetalis. Despite the bleak prognosis I discovered through Google, our doctors were extremely hopeful that Max’s issues would be treatable after what would likely be an early birth.
Maxwell Spencer Martin was born at 4:14 p.m. on December 27, 2016, and went home to be with Jesus moments later.
It has been nine months since we said “hello” and “goodbye” in the same breath to our precious son. I have aged a decade in that nine months, and every day feels like I am walking around with a missing limb. I still have moments of very intense anger, pain and devastation. I am frequently caught off guard by the depths of the grief I continue to navigate.
But, every day also draws me closer to my Savior. Before Max, my faith was authentic, but much of it was intellectual and knowledge-based. I had experienced a few close encounters with the Lord, where I felt his presence intimately, but I had no idea what depending on Him daily for strength meant. I had never known devastation like I felt in light of losing Max.
A piece of me is missing and always will be on this side of eternity, but the Lord is truly enough to fill every space in my heart. I can look any person in the eye and tell them, with the deepest conviction, that “He heals the wounds of every shattered heart” (Psalm 147:3).
Not only can I now speak of the Lord’s provision in the desert place, but I do, daily. The ministry I thought He had given me after my miscarriage has grown ten-fold since Max. Thousands have been touched by Max’s story. I now have the privilege to walk alongside friends, acquaintances and even strangers, as we learn to live in the aftermath of losing a child — as we embrace the life the Lord has given us.
Still, despite the fruit I have seen in this season, given the choice, I would take Max back in a moment. I would trade every way I have grown spiritually and every person I have been able to encourage and support if it meant more time with my precious boy, but that is because I am selfish and would choose my happiness over my holiness. His thoughts are not my thoughts and His ways are not my ways (Isaiah 55:8). God alone measures out my days and writes my story.
Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 7:17, that “each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them.” And this is the life He has given me. Each day, I must choose to get out of bed and embrace this life — that of a wife and bereaved mother. As I live that life, I get to spread His name and His glory wherever I go.
I never would have imagined my life would include the death of my child. I also never imagined it would include starting a blog with my best friends and using my experience as a platform to proclaim the Lord’s goodness over and over again. As Spencer and I prepare to welcome our second little boy into the world this December, I do not know the Lord’s plans for Lachlan’s life or mine, but I do know we will embrace it with open arms.
Sam Martin is a local graphic designer and writer who manages gloryinhermidst.com, a blog she started with her best friends. She and her husband, Spencer, enjoy serving in their church, building community and restoring their 100-year-old home in downtown Frisco.