Editor's Note: January is recognized as Sanctity of Human Life Month. For some, the discussion of preborn life focuses on the scientific discussion of when life begins, or the freedom of women to choose what happens to their bodies. Some will focus on the statistics and number, including that some 57 million children have been aborted since the 1973 Supreme Court Case Roe v Wade legalizing abortion in America. But for a select number of men and women, preborn life has a name though not necessarily a face. These are mothers and fathers who experienced the thrill of pregnancy and the heartbreak of miscarriage. This article is from a father's perspective. A mother in the same situation wrote her perspective here.
“Are you serious?” Those were the words of excitement that came out of my mouth after our two-year-old son toddled into the kitchen (followed by my wife holding the video camera) and handed me a gift bag that contained a positive pregnancy test. The Christmas tree was up, but this was better than any gift under the tree. Rebecca and I were expecting our second child.
We kept the news quiet until we were able to make the four-hour trip home for the holidays to share the news with our families. We did, and it was a big celebration! We planned to tell our close friends and church family after we returned, but we never got to.
A few days after Christmas I went with our students – I was a youth pastor at the time – on a mission trip while Rebecca and our son stayed with her parents. One morning during the trip she called and told me that something was wrong.
Once again my words to her were, “Are you serious?” But there was no sense of excitement in them this time, rather a sense of concern and helplessness. I’m not one to panic or overact, but I could tell by her voice this was serious.
She got in touch with her doctor and made an appointment for that afternoon. The ultrasound revealed a faint little heartbeat, but the grim news from the doctor brought about unexplainable pain.
I have never felt as helpless as I did on this day, being 10 hours away from my hurting wife and our baby as he was passing away inside of her. The pain of not being able to do anything for them at this point was excruciating. It still is. I had in no way prepared myself to lose a child that I had instantly loved. Unlike my wife, I never got to see our baby via ultrasound or even hear his heartbeat. That made it even harder for me.
Being in full-time ministry, I was supposed to be the husband and father who had the right answers. But the right answers seemed beyond me, and words would not come. There was nothing I could say that was adequate to ease the emotional pain Rebecca was experiencing. All I knew to say was “I love you” and “I am coming home.”
Not only was I “supposed” to have all the answers, as a man I was also supposed to be tough and not let my emotions get the best of me. So I tried to keep my emotions in check by staying busy at the mission until we could figure out how to get me to her.
We had driven to northeast Texas, and Rebecca was in northeast Mississippi. The winter season was at its prime in Arlington, so the freezing temperatures only complicated the situation.
My father-in-law spoke with an airline and was finally able to get me on a flight from Dallas to Memphis that night. A one-hour flight with an additional one-hour drive to her parents would not pass fast enough. Added to that was a two-hour delay because the door of the plane had frozen shut. This iced over door was keeping me from getting to where I needed to be, and once again I felt helpless. There was nothing I could do about the frozen door. Feeling desperate, I kept thinking surely someone had a blow dryer we could use to thaw the door.
I finally arrived at her parents’ house after midnight. I went straight to the bedroom where she was. I thought finally I would be able to console her and ease the pain she was feeling. I was wrong. Seeing her face-to-face only made it more difficult. My sense of helplessness grew— “Mr. Minister” didn’t know what to say or do.
Needless to say, neither of us slept much that night. There were too many tears and too much pain. We didn’t say much either. I would hold her and wipe away her tears. Then I would turn the other way and shed my own tears of grief, while still trying to be strong for her.
I also turned to the Scriptures. I remember reading 2 Samuel 12:15-23, the account of King David losing his son. I also read through the Book of Job in which the author lost everything including his family.
After lying all night on the ground and fasting, David learned of his son’s death. He then got up, washed himself, changed clothes, worshipped the Lord, and said: “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:22-23).
Then after losing everything but his own life, it is recorded in Job 1:20-22 that “Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’ In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.”
I was struck by the faith in God that these two men had amidst their turmoil. Based on their responses, I think both David and Job had the same understanding of God’s goodness. I prayed then as I still do that my faith would be like theirs.
Oh how I wish I could tell you that God chose to give our baby life on this earth with us. But He didn’t. Why? I don’t know. But I do know that He is still good even though my sense of helplessness remains.
The pain is still visible in Rebecca on some days more than others. She tells her perspective of our loss here. As bad as I want to take the pain away from her, I can’t. But I can and will continue to love her and be there for her as I seek to trust the Lord like David and Job did—all the while living out my faith in a God who is always good.
John Davis is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Shannon, Mississippi. Prior to pastoring, he served in youth ministry for 15 years and worked as a high school teacher and assistant coach of a high-school football team that holds multiple state titles. He is married to Rebecca who works for American Family Association as associate editor of The Stand and as a writer for the AFA Journal. They are the parents of two young children.