I am honored to share today’s Story of Hope & Healing featuring Meg Walker.
Meg, thank you for trusting us with your story. I am grateful for your bravery and your joy and your strong words of truth. Thank you for sharing Jacob with us. He is precious.
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF.
My husband John-Mark and I live in Richmond, VA, my hometown, where we are in full-time ministry with college students. We love the gift it is to invest in young men and women as we introduce them to Jesus, build them up in their faith, and send them out into their campus and the world with the gospel. I am a big fan of warm weather and the beach, meaningful conversations with those I love, and spending time with my family. The greatest honor of my life is being a mom of two with babies in Heaven. These days I am in a new phase of my motherhood as I have the opportunity to spend most of my time caring for and investing in my youngest, a sweet baby girl.
TELL US YOUR STORY OF LOSS.
I was 16 weeks pregnant and received a phone call from my doctor on a Friday evening – which is never a good feeling. My blood screen – that I had done earlier that week on a whim – had been flagged, and she had already scheduled an in-depth ultrasound for me the following Wednesday. That Wednesday morning, we watched our baby kick and squirm and flip on the monitor for an hour and fell deeper in love. Then, my doctor looked me in the eyes and tenderly said, “We’re seeing some problems.” Tears fell quietly down my face and I held my husband’s hand as she explained to me that our baby boy had a neural tube defect called acrania (and anencephaly). His skull had not fully developed and therefore his brain could not as well. If we were able to carry to term, and if he was able to survive childbirth, we would have less than 24 hours with him, most likely. That was the day that has decidedly marked the “befores” and “afters” of my life.
In the process of anticipatory grief and planning for both Jacob’s birth and his death, I learned that joy and sorrow can go hand in hand. We were cared for by an incredible local perinatal hospice & palliative care group that walked us through the next five months before he was born (and many more after). We made decision after decision, and my love for my baby grew as rapidly as my tummy. Jacob came quickly and beautifully into the world after his due date on February 9, 2016. Although at first he wasn’t breathing, as our nurse lifted him up onto my chest, he took his first breath and I – through tears – exclaimed, “This is my son! It’s Jacob’s birthday!” So began one of the very best days of our lives.
We had seven hours with Jacob before he went to be with Jesus, taking his last breath on my chest, just as he had his first. In those seven hours, we loved him, made memories with him, bathed and clothed him, introduced him to our family and friends, and never stopped smiling. It was simply the best. But the next day, I walked into my house with empty arms. My house never had seemed so quiet. It continued to haunt me. Jacob had changed me. I was a mother, but a mother without a baby to care for. I grieved. I wept. I ached. But, oh, how I loved.
Ten months later, when I was ten weeks pregnant, we heard words again we never wanted to hear. “I’m sorry. There’s no heartbeat.” Miscarriage after infant loss just felt cruel. Painful. Heartbreaking. I became numb in the shock and the pain. Again, I left the hospital with empty arms. Again, I walked back into my house without my child. Again, everything was too quiet. Jacob had a little sibling now, but his sibling was with him in Heaven, and not with me on Earth.
Experiencing miscarriage after losing a newborn was so confusing to me. I didn’t know how to grieve it. The losses were different and they felt different, but they were so painful in their own ways. They have shaped me and changed me. I look forward to the day when we are reunited around the Throne, and until then, I will continue to walk (or limp!) along this path of healing.
WHAT SURPRISED YOU MOST ABOUT GRIEF?
It becomes beautiful. People would tell me early on that I would never stop grieving. In some ways, that was refreshing. I would always have this ache in my heart that was truly a sign of my love for my babies. But, at the same time, it was daunting. I remember thinking, “You mean, I never will stop hurting??” I just wanted to go back to normal. I hated the feeling of grief. I hated not feeling “like myself” anymore. I didn’t realize that I am still myself, but that Jacob’s life has changed me, and so naturally, grief changes me, too. As time has gone on, the grief is still there. It’s still heavy. It’s still not my favorite thing in the world and it is NO exchange for my son. However, there is this special, intimate, sweet, beautiful depth of love and longing for him and for Heaven that I have now that has changed me. My capacity for love has grown and my relationship with God has deepened (eventually) and perspective has shifted. I’m beginning to see the beauty that grief brings.
WHAT’S THE ONE THING YOU WISH PEOPLE WOULD ASK YOU?
Honestly, now that we are farther away from Jacob’s life, and we have a new baby at home, I rarely get asked about him and his life anymore. But I love talking about my son. I love it when people ask questions about him or when they graciously allow me to tell the story of his birth and life and all the sweet memories we had with him even if they’ve heard it a few times. I would love to hear, “Tell me about Jacob – what was he like?” or “His birthday seemed so sweet… what were your favorite memories?” or even “What do you think was the hardest thing about the days that followed after his birth?” I want to gush over him, just like I get to with my daughter. It just doesn’t always feel as “normal”.
WHAT VERSES HAVE YOU FOUND TO BE THE BIGGEST SOURCE OF ENCOURAGEMENT AND/OR COMFORT?