Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right. 

United States


Making Sense of Suffering

alec vanderboom

Today is day three of a light, but lingering depression. It's anniversary grief. Saturday I felt this weird, phantom pain. Jon took the kids out for a massive three hour swim. When I was home alone with the baby, I suddently felt so odd. It's like I wasn't sad, but my body held the memory of sadness. I couldn't figure out what was going on. I finally looked up Francisco's file in our file cabinet. July 19th was his funeral.

I had totally forgotten. I knew we had passed the miscarriage date in the flurry of our trip to Vermont to visit Jon's hospitalized father. I thought I was sort of past it this year. I didn't remember the actual date of his funeral. It was so strange. It was like my body remembered. My body remembered this feeling of intense, physical sadness on this date and threw me back there, even when my conscious mind was somewhere else.

So July 19, 2008 marks two years since my son's funeral. Right after it happened, things were so intense. Each morning I would wake up and the first thought was "I'm not pregnant anymore." My first thought, before I even registered that it was morning or that we had moved into a new apartment or even that my husband was sleeping next to me. My first thing each morning was this loud shouting sentance "I am not pregnant!" I would just realize that my stomach was fine and my muscles weren't sore and the whole host of physical sensations that are so annoying when you are pregnant were missing. Feeling back to normal was my punch in the gut. My grieving thing would start all over again.

I spent most of July 2006 not wanting to get out of bed. Jon would go to work and leave me alone with a 3 year old and 1 year old. Hannah would just pull on my hand, "Mom get up. Get up. I need you." I felt this weight of sadness that was like a physical presence hovering three inches over my bed. I'd snake my body under it, not being able to sit up like a normal human being. I'd have to snake out of the bed, get on my knees and crawl to wherever she needed me. I'd make her a peanut butter and banana sandwich or find a misplaced toy. Then I'd crawl back into bed.

It was such a weird feeling. I loved Hannah and Alex with so much intensity after losing my third child. At the same time, I was so numb with this raw 'missing something" feeling, I could barely concetrate on fufilling their most basic needs.

Last year, at the one year marker, I had a shiny, six week old newborn. The rawness of that anniversary grief of my miscarriage hit me with such a surprise intensity. My whole pregnancy with Maria I was totally convinced there was a real possibility that we would not be taking her home. My c-section doctor said "It's almost baby time!" as he made the inciscion. I immediately mentally added "If God wills. If He takes her, that's alright!" Both Jon and I really thought it was a possiblity to leave the OR without holding a live baby.

The mental image that got me through my fear a picture of newborn baby in her Winnie the Pooh carrier next to Francisco's grave. If Maria is safely born by mid-July, that first anniversary isn't going to be that hard. I'll just miss knowing my son. I won't worry that my body will continue to fail me for all future babies, in addition.

So it was a complete surprise, when I suddenly start throwing up with grief before July 4, 2007. The Fourth of July used to be my favorite holiday. It was a big Rupp family celebration at my grandparent's Lake House. I loved the colors. I loved marching in the funny parades. I loved sailboats and silly patriotic deserts and endless recitations of lines from the Declaration of Independence.

Suddenly, I sat in the middle of the capital of the United States and I hated everything. Everything made me cry. Everything made me throw up.

On July 4, 2006, my family had a beautiful day. We went to the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival. I sat in the sunshine on the National Mall. I rubbed my big, 4 month belly while I watched my older kids ride the same Carousal I rode as a kid. "Everything is going to be okay," I thought optimistically. We'd been through some rough water. But now we had a new start. My husband had a new job. We were finally living in our own apartment (after 4 months of living with relatives.) I rubbed my belly and gave thanks. "Thanks for bringing us home!"

July 9, 2006, was a Sunday. Jon and I had an unbelievable Sabbath. We were on fire. We felt so incredible. We were planning on how to bring cellphones to the Congo, and decided that this feeling must be proof that we were one to this micro-finance task that was supremely blessed by God.

The next day, I went for a routine ob appointment. The doctor couldn't find a heart beat. She wasn't worried and I wasn't either. Fifteen minutes later, I had an ultrasound. The baby had died the day before. Jon and I had felt so incredible during the Sabbath, not because of anything we had done, but because one of our children had entered heaven.

This year, I had thought I'd already skipped over the "hard" dates of 4th of July, of the ob appointment and of the miscarriage itself. But my body remembered. My body remembered carrying him and my body remembered the grief of suddnely not carrying him.

This year, I'm not bowed down by sadness (or the hormones of carrying for a newborn). This year, I'm going to sit a little more quietly with my sadness. I'm offering it up for a woman who is sad after having an abortion. This pain of lost children hurts all women. Even if you kid dies incredibly young. Even if you won't admit to yourself that your fetus had a name.