Nine Pregnancies, Two Sons, and a Mother’s Journey Toward Easter

I will never forget our first night in the hospital after my son, Shepherd, was born. The room was quiet and dark, everyone else had come and gone, and only his father remained sleeping soundly next to me. My body was flushed with adrenaline, and for the life of me, I couldn’t have drifted to sleep if I tried. It was magical. I could not stop looking at him, holding him, feeding him, adoring him, and holding my breath in sheer amazement that he was alive, and well, and here. He was ours. He was my very own, real live, baby.

Shepherd’s birth was preceded by three unexplained miscarriages. His birth was followed by two more unexplained miscarriages, and then we received the gift of another live birth: our son, Stone. Stone’s birth has been followed by two additional and also unexplained miscarriages.

Life is strange this way. I have noticed, the older I become, the more aware I am of so many agonizingly difficult struggles we encounter: many things seem to happen with no rhythm or reason, and are often accompanied by great pain and loss.

Our most recent miscarriage occurred this week, the week before Easter. I have to admit, my first thoughts were: I cannot believe this is happening right before Easter! This is going to ruin everything. No more cute family picture, because now I am overweight, and with no good reason to be overweight! No more happy, sunny, fun holiday plans, because nothing feels happy, sunny, or fun anymore. And finally, how I am going to pull it together for the children I have, today, in my home?

Which I suppose is why I find myself thinking of Mary, the mother of Jesus, who walked through this week, just like me, over 2,000 years ago. I find myself thinking of the stories woven throughout scripture that reveal the scared moments between a mother, her child, and her loss. I find myself envisioning the mother’s journey in this grand Easter story. How she journeyed with her child as he suffered relational rejection from those nearest him, endured physical torture from those in earthly power, and died in seemingly hopeless defeat. How did she survive? How can I?

Mary’s Story

Although Mary’s pregnancy did not begin within the cultural norms (Matt. 1:18–25), I imagine the beginning for her, much like any mother, was magical and frozen forever in her memory (Luke 2:19). Angels appearing and foretelling a great and wonderful destiny (Luke 1:26–38), family confirming and exclaiming with joy (Luke 1:39–45), strangers appearing miraculously and speaking aloud what had only been known to her privately (Luke 2:8–20, 25–33).

But as her son grew, I am also certain Mary experienced the typical, but certain realizations of motherhood…

  • Her child’s purpose would force her to move into foreign and unknown destinations (Matt. 2:13–15).
  • Her child’s purpose would push her past the known limits of comfortable and comprehensible (Luke 2:43–50).
  • Her child’s purpose was apart of a greater story, as was her own (Matt. 1:22–23).
  • Her child’s purpose would require Him to prioritize His purpose over her and her desires (Luke 8:19–21).
  • Her child’s purpose would cause Him to suffer and her to suffer as well (Luke 2:34–35).
  • Her child’s purpose was NOT her own (Luke 1:31–38).

No matter how the story unfolded, the word given to Mary, was as true on her best day as on her worst: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb (Luke 1:42). The Lord is with you… Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God (Luke 1:28–30).”

I can only imagine, as Jesus hung to the cross, naked and dying, that something must have crossed Mary’s mind concerning the first words her mother’s heart had received from God. I wonder if she questioned herself: did I really hear from God? Maybe I did something wrong? Maybe I made this whole thing up? And yet, she must have also remembered clearly the words, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have no end (Luke 1:32).”

“No end…” And yet he hung, dying! How could this agony and disgrace be the fulfillment of what she had been promised?

As a mother, I am not in the least bit surprised that one of the last remaining faces present throughout Jesus’s suffering was hers (John 19:25). Where else would she have been? But also, how did she remain? I wonder if the same power that produced His human form within her own was also the same force that enabled her to walk with Him and remain present throughout his unthinkable suffering. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy — the Son of God (Luke 1:35).”

When her son looked into her eyes one last time, before taking his final breath, and said, “Woman, behold your son (referring to John).” And to John, “Behold your mother (John 19:25–27).” Was she able to comprehend, in her shock and grief, what He was saying? Did she resent the offering of another, as a pitiful replacement to her beloved son, or did she receive him as provision, a gift, in the midst of her pain and loss?

And when the tomb was found empty, did she grieve, as a mother would, that her son was gone from this life and the grave, leaving a void as empty as the grave itself? Or did she lift her eyes automatically, with a renewed sense of light and hope, as she remembered the treasured promises she had stored in her heart long ago (Luke 2:19)? Somehow, I imagine, it was a mixture of both. Her human heart aching with the loss only a mother can know, but her spiritual faith knowing, just like the emptied wine glasses of years gone by (John 2:1–11), empty is never really empty with Jesus.

What I am learning from Mary’s journey as I move toward Easter:

  1. How my story or my children’s stories begin, continue, or end does not dictate my standing with God or His approval of me.
  2. I am just as “blessed” in human abundance and joy, as I am in heart-breaking defeat and life-shattering loss.
  3. My children’s purposes are not my own.
  4. I can receive provision from God, in the midst of suffering and loss, IF I remain present in pain and am willing to accept something different and new.
  5. My womb is empty, but so is the tomb. With Jesus as the Son of God, empty is NEVER final.

What I am listening to as I journey:

Elllie Holcomb — Red Sea Road, The Broken Beautiful

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