photos by NicTay Photography
Tanisha Garnier lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with her husband Victor and their spirited tortoiseshell cat Calliope. She loves baking, barbecue, big hair, bright lipstick, and quality time around the table with friends. Tanisha can be found on Facebook and Instagram.
This was not my plan.
My husband and I had tried to conceive for about one and a half years when I finally got that long-sought-after positive pregnancy test. We were ecstatic and terrified. Though this conception was a miracle, for some reason, things still felt tentative and unsure. Things were going well for the first trimester. Then, 19 weeks into my pregnancy, I was diagnosed with a short cervix and two short weeks later, despite efforts to delay it, my son Xavier Lawrence was born.
It was a bright and sunny day as I held our miracle with piercing sadness alongside immeasurable joy. We lay skin-to-skin and I watched him take his first and last breaths. I studied him — his tiny nose, microscopic fingernails, delicate toes. To the naked eye, he looked whole. Two eyes, two ears, one little nose, 10 fingers and 10 toes. Everything you’re supposed to look for was there. But 21 weeks was just not enough time for all of his vital organs to form. In that moment I felt like my body had declared mutiny against all dreams and hopes and in a matter of minutes, it was all over.
Being mother to a non-living child is an anomaly. So often the quiet, lingering moments of the day seem so empty, like something is just not right.
Over the past months I have questioned God’s goodness. I’ve doubted his sovereignty and I’ve wept indignantly over the death of my baby. Yet even at my lowest of lows, when I’ve nearly turned my back on Him altogether, He has tenderly loved and provided for me in the sweetest ways.
I have a friend who also has suffered the loss of children. Like a child-loss doula, she has handled my heart with such care and kindness. A few weeks after my son was born, she invited another child-loss mama and me for breakfast. Waffles and coffee. Not bread and wine, but the communion was just as holy. There was a moment that morning when the three of us were just silent. No praying. No clichés. No fake smiles. Just silence. Quiet tears. Lamenting together. I believe in that moment the Lord was knitting our hearts together as a tangible provision of His love for each of us. These women have become my sisters and I’m forever grateful for them and their willingness to walk the hard and rocky road with me, beside me.
Infant loss is so wrong, and serves as a desolate picture of our broken world. But simultaneously, our Lord has pulled so much beauty and redemption out of Xavier’s story, and all the babies I’ve gotten to know through their amazing mamas. Beauty out of something so wrong, so ugly. It’s hard to believe that these deep, rich friendships could grow out of what looks to be a pile of garbage. I hate that we share the experience of these losses, but it feels so good to know I’m not the only one. Hearing the stories of others underscores how important it is to share our stories, be vulnerable, grab a hand and say “Me too.”
So with Mother’s Day around the corner, this is for you, mama. Whether you’ve just tossed out another negative pregnancy test, are counting the weeks of your lost pregnancy, or are wishing you were still holding your sweet baby in your arms, I want more than anything to assure you that you are not alone. If I could do anything to stop you from being ingloriously inducted into this club no one wants to be a part of, trust me, I would. But I can’t. What I can do is continue telling my story and highlight the only thing that gets me out of bed each morning: hope. Hope that I’ll see Xavier again. Hope that maybe I won’t always feel the grief this intensely. And hope that our God is strong.
Even with all my doubts, I cannot argue with the truth of His sustaining power. He meets me each morning, and wakes me with life and breath in my body, even on days when I’d rather sleep in death (Psalm 13:3). On the darkest of days, in the marshiest pits of this Deepest Darkness, and on the days when I treat Him as they did when they sent Christ to the cross — yelling, cursing, spitting in His face and ripping His beard — He is steady, and does not move. He doesn’t look away or wince for one moment. He holds me fast and pursues me tirelessly despite my hiding. Sisters, we can never be truly hidden from Him. Oh what relentless love … a Great Love who will not let us go.