Monday, March 11, 2013

The Naming

It's been over four years since we lost our second child. That first year was full of pain and secrets and transitions. The second year was full of questions and anger and the first stirrings of healing.The third year was full of hope and waiting. This fourth year has seemed to roll all three years into one huge, emotionally chaotic experience. One constant, though, through these four years has been the namelessness of that little one. Calling he or she an "it" or a "baby" but never being able to refer to that child with a name. It's kept that baby distant from me. Nameless, far, removed. 

When I first began to share what had happened, that loss, people always asked me how far along I had been. And each time I was asked that I was reminded again that our culture, including myself, thought of the pain as less real, as that child as somehow less human, the earlier its death had occurred. So with each asking of that question and each increasingly timid response of mine, I felt that my pain should be somehow less than it was. This wasn't really a baby, it seemed. Just a positive pregnancy test. Just a blip on a screen. Nothing that should have had a hold on me.

But it did. SHE did.

I've written recently about the time I spent at a retreat center. During that time, God was very present. And though I hadn't spoken to Him about our miscarriage in a very long time, I felt the freedom to bring it up again. To bring the loss back into the light. To ask some hard questions. And all the while, I grew tired of saying "it." I began to wonder, for the first time, if it would be alright for me to name this child. This faceless little one that I never met. And the moment I asked the question, I already knew the answer. Why not? God already knew this little one, had already given her a name, knew her intimately. Why shouldn't I? And as I sat there, just listening, just being quiet, I knew two things. I knew she was a girl and I knew her name was Amara.

How do I know that? No idea. Does God regularly speak audibly to me? No. But there was just this absolute quiet and a sudden knowing. And I have never been more sure of anything in my life.

That night I got home and looked up the meaning of the name Amara. I've actually never met anyone with that name. I hadn't chosen it in the short time we had to plan for her birth. And as I looked it up, I was astounded to see that it means "eternal beauty." After all, this is the only kind of beauty that I will ever get to see of her. The beauty of getting to carry her little body for a short time and the beauty I will see in her when I one day pass on and finally meet her. Eternal. Not earthly. Not here and now. But someday. And forever.

Recently I stumbled onto an e-book titled "Naming the Child." In this book, the author, Jenny Shroedel, describes infant death as "the forbidden room." It's a place no one wants to go, an off-limits place full of painful memories, secrets, images. A place no one wants to engage or deal with its stirred-up questions.

But it's a place all too frequented by so many of us. Because we don't want to speak of it or burden others by the silent deaths, we keep them silenced. We don't name these little ones. And for some people, I recognize, the naming will only be too painful. It's not what they need. But for me? This has been a long-awaited step of healing. Naming this child, naming this daughter has once and for all helped me to unashamedly declare that she IS. She is not a positive pregnancy test, she was not just a blip on a screen, she should have and still does have a hold on me. She always should.

For three of these years I have worn a sapphire necklace just about every day, the birthstone of the month she should have been born. Sapphires, a symbol of truth, sincerity and faithfulness. And the day I named Amara, I stumbled upon the following scripture:

"For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, 
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, 
and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you. 
O afflicted one, stormed tossed and not comforted, 
behold, I will set your stones in antimony and lay your foundations with sapphires."  Isaiah 54

I would never have asked for these four years. I would never have wanted to lose our daughter. I would never say those trite words that "this is for a reason," like some have said to me, but I do know one thing. Amara is a gift. And the years I've experienced after her death have been years that have changed me in different ways than maybe her birth would have. I'll never really know. I cannot. But since I cannot change the fact that I will never know her this side of heaven, I can continue to hope. I can be reminded that God's steadfast love has not departed from me during this time. I can, every time I glance down at my sapphire, be reminded of a precious baby girl who is a part of this family and is treasured.

Amara. Of Eternal Beauty. You have been named. You are no longer an "it."

You never were.


  1. Love you, friend. I am so moved by the tenderness of the Lord with you in this. I love her beautiful name.

  2. Beautiful.....thanks for sharing your sweet Amara with us.