Poppy Jane

It’s a little early to be sharing this, as my cheeks are still stained with the pain of it all, but being that Mother’s Day is approaching, it seems appropriate.

Over the weekend, I was inducted into a club. It’s a membership I didn’t seek out… but still, the invitation arrived. On May 6th, I became a bereaved mother on the eve of National Bereaved Mother’s Day.

It’s something women haven’t spoken freely about for generations, but our voices are beginning to rise up. I too have struggled with whether or not to tell my story. I never understood why anyone would feel shame in the midst of a loss, but I do now. I never understood the depth of grief for a lost baby, never even seen, but I do now. I wondered how it would be perceived if I shared this secret out loud. But then I felt reminded that if we call ourselves “pro life” then we must celebrate ALL life, even the smallest of lives. So… today, I would like to announce and celebrate and grieve the little life of our second child, Poppy Jane Ullah.

Yes. We know her by name. As I did with her big brother Oliver, I asked God to confirm to us her name. And we believe that He did. It’s a name I’ve loved for years and I have giggled, felt giddy even, each and every time I have said it out loud. It’s as happy as the bloom it represents, it even bounces right off of your lips. And the week we learned of her, she happened to be the size of a poppy seed. And then there was a poppy festival in an adorable neighboring town. And then there were the lively poppies playing hide and seek all around us because apparently, they bloomed a bit too early this year. And so, Poppy Jane it is.

On Saturday, I woke up with all of my pregnancy symptoms in full swing. I was cranky and joyful as I got dressed and then sick and smiling as I walked through rows of fruit trees filling a basket with sweet nectarines. And then later, I was whoozy still while roaming the streets of Georgetown, sneaking tummy caresses to love on the hidden life tucked inside. It’s such a sacred time for a mother, those first precious weeks. It’s obvious to no one, but she quietly rejoices over the little bud of life blooming from within. And for me, the sickness and the fatigue comes in waves of reminders of a promise fulfilled. I love being pregnant. And I loved the short time we had smiling at the knowledge of her tiny existence.

And in a moment, while wiping red sauce smudges off of Olivers face in a pizzeria, she began to slip away. And what started as a lovely day, filled with
hope and wonder, became a day of pain and fear and sadness and isolation. I asked Billy to find more poppies on the way home. I wanted one more picture. I knew they were almost gone for this year. He patiently obliged. We stopped the car and I crouched down to cup one in my hand, but as I touched the perfect petals, they quietly blew away. And my heart knew in that moment that our own Poppy Jane had slipped into eternity.

And so… Happy Mother’s Day to my Mama and my Mamaw in heaven. Hold my little one close for me. Mamaw, please humm off key in the lovely way that you do. She will love it as much as I did. Mom, make sure she hears your giggles. I sure do wish I could.

Friends, don’t forget those silent mothers all around you, whose arrows that should fill their quivers, pierce their broken hearts instead. You may find her serving breakfast to her family, but crying lonely tears in solitude. You may find her forcing a smile as she teaches a class just moments before seeing an empty ultrasound. She’s sitting on a church pew, with her hand stretched towards someone else’s baby being dedicated on the stage. She’s holding her first born safely in her arms, while her second child slips away. 

So dear mamas, Happy Mother’s Day to all of us. Those who hold our babies close and cherish every minute, those who hold our babies in our hearts and long to see their faces, and those with mothering spirits who are silently awaiting the sweet embrace of pudgy little arms. We are all precious to the Lord and I know He is near to us today.

Psalm 139:7-10

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there. If I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.