I had a long conversation on Skype with my mom yesterday. Skype is a wonderful thing, it's quite bizarre to think that when I was in high school dorm, I spoke to my parents maybe once a month. Then, they got a satellite phone, and I could call them if I had anything urgent, and I thought that was absolutely amazing. Then, they moved to Jakarta, and I could call them with my phone card whenever I wanted. And now, with Skype, we can talk as long as we want, as long as their internet permits. My mom marvels at it as well, especially with the video on. Technology has done wonders for communication.
Anyway. I had a baby sister die when I was about two. Koreans don't talk about miscarriages and stuff much – it's not as talked about as it is here. So, all I knew about it was, that mom had lost an almost full term baby, and I was under the impression that she was still born. Sometimes I wondered why she had died in the womb, what had gone wrong. Talking to my mom about my early dilation and being careful, the subject of her came up. It was the first time we had ever really talked about it in depth... Turns out, the baby was not still born. Turns out, the baby wasn't almost full term, she was full term.
Mom was about 10 days before her due date, and her, me, and my aunt had gone out shopping. Mom was carrying me on her belly during the trip, and that night, her water broke and she started bleeding. So she went to the small clinic that she had been going to, where the baby still had a heartbeat. They told her to go to a bigger hospital, so she takes a taxi, and when she gets to the hospital, the baby's heartbeat is very slow, and they take her immediately into emergency C-section.
When she wakes up from anesthesia, the doctor tells her that they did everything they could but the baby didn't make it. And it was a girl.
Throughout the conversation, mom kept saying, “It was my fault, I should have been more careful.” “I shouldn't have gone out shopping.” “Maybe she just didn't want to be in this world...” She was shopping for an outfit to wear the next day, when they were to meet my dad's friends out in town. I distinctly got the impression that she felt terrible for losing the baby over something so frivolous. Not that it was really her fault – the baby was full term, and she should have been fine once she was born. The doctors apparently told mom that the baby was in distress... But I just don't see how my mom was responsible for it. Even if the shopping trip triggered her labor, it should have gone smoothly. There was something clearly wrong in there, that my mom couldn't help.
I told the story to Kris, and we got tremendously sad. To me, before I got pregnant, it was just, “Mom lost a baby, and I might have had a little sister.” But now, carrying a babe of my own, the thought of losing the baby 10 days before the due date, when she is fully viable, tears my heart to pieces, quite literally. After feeling all the movements and hiccups, after watching your belly swell for 10 months and rubbing it, after all the anticipation of a new Little One... Poor mom. I feel so bad for her... And back then in Korea, I don't see her getting much comfort and support from anyone. My dad isn't the type to be real... comforting. And she was living with her in-laws at the time, taking care of the house and stuff. I wonder how much of it she had to go through alone, without support.
I don't pretend to know where babies go when they die. All those unborn babies – are they playing happily somewhere? When do babies get a soul of their own? I don't know. But one day, I would like to meet the little sister of mine, who probably could have been my best friend and confidante.
It is strange to feel like I have lost something I never had. Something precious, that could have been. To feel love and longing for someone I've never met.
And then, I'm reminded of my little brother, whom I treasure. What a gift he is to me, a sibling, who I love dearly. What a privilege it is to have him as my brother, and how much he adds to my life and our family. I'm so thankful for him, and I can't wait to see my children love each other and cultivate friendship and bond that is so special among siblings. What a wonderful thing, a family is!
This is definitely something I've thought about a lot lately, being pregnant myself. I have gone through the agony of miscarriage vicariously as my best friend and her husband lost several children in utero. I often remind myself that this baby is not a sure thing-- she still could die at any time... and that actually holds true for any child, born or unborn. Life just isn't safe. SO yeah, I feel your pain on this in a way... it's scary and every time I think about it, I have to remind myself of Whom my faith is in-- not what happens, but in Who ordains it, for my good and His own glory.
The Bible never comes out and unquestionably states where infants (born, unborn, or stillborn) or very young children "go when they die." Those who believe in the God of Scripture take refuge in knowing His character-- He is merciful, kind, and good. There are abundant passages affirming God's individual, personal creation of each and every human-- He's the One knitting babies together in their mother's wombs, knowing them and their true names before they ever draw breath or are given a name. It seems babies are conceived with souls. That's all comforting to know in dealing with this heart-aching issue.
But there is one story that I remember my dad pointing to whenever this issue came up. King David was warned that his baby son would die because of his (David's) sin. From the time the infant took sick, David was on his knees, fasting and praying fervently that God would change His mind and have mercy, letting this little one live. When the baby died, the servants were afraid to tell the king, thinking "he took it so hard when the little boy was just sick- what will he do to himself now that the child is dead?" David saw them muttering, and asked point blank if his son was dead. When they nodded, he shocked them all by sighing, getting up, and cleaning up for dinner. "Why are you suddenly not mourning anymore?" everyone asked. Here is David's answer, simple, and full of faith: "While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, 'Who knows whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?' But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me."
Those words seem to indicate that David was not only certain that his son was secure, but that he was now in a place where David fully expected to go himself when he himself died. From the Psalms, it's clear that David's understanding of life after death wasn't just some cold land of the dead, but that he expected to there find the wonderful, joyful presence of God Himself, forever-- as Christians today would put it, Heaven! It seems to me that that was the place David -who knew quite a lot about God -was sure his little baby boy had gone. I've long taken refuge in remembering that.
One day, I fully expect to meet thousands upon thousands of children in Heaven, your baby sister among them- not just those whose parents miscarried for some unknown reason or who died of childhood hardship- but even and especially those who died at the hands of those who should have protected them (abortion, infanticide, child abuse and neglect). These will rise up along with the children of Bethlehem (whom Herod murdered trying to get Jesus), and will praise the One who has given them joyful life, perfect bodies, and a new Heaven & new Earth where everything sad is untrue, because God is reigning fairly forever. I can't wait.
that story is found in 2 Samuel 12... and sorry about posting twice-- I wasn't finished the first time.. .;)
It's really great to get your take on this Christina. The insights of fellow Christians are always appreciated. I try to stay away from the very very gray conversation of when an embryo gets a soul, but I tend to agree with you. I prefer to believe we will see them all again.