Fair warning, this is going to be the longest and most personal product review I have ever written. It is certainly the most emotional and least objective I have ever been while reading a book for review. This book took my heart right where it is in the here and now and convicted my soul in exactly the ways that I needed. If at least one person doesn't click over and buy this book for themselves or someone they know I have failed in my review.
Grieving the Child I Never Knew is a devotional written by Kathe Wunnenberg that covers the full spectrum of pregnancy and infant loss. The hardcover volume is the perfect size and quality for repeated reading and gift giving. Included in the devotional:
- 31 Readings (organized by topics: more on that later)
- Scripture, prayers, and personal reflection questions for each reading
- Extensive indexing of devotionals (suggestions for specific days, scripture indexes)
- Tips for sharing your own story
- Discussion questions for small groups
- Additional prayers and scriptures for various events surrounding pregnancy and infant loss (I plan to keep this list close for future for card writing)
- 8 suggested ways for using the title
- Full contact information for the author on twitter, Facebook (author and organization), and website.
Now that I've covered the nuts and bolts promotional stuff, lets get real. I knew almost from the moment that I received this title that it was going to be hard to read at times. I put it next to the chair I most often nurse Tomas in and pulled it out regularly over the course of the last few weeks, sometimes reading through several devotionals at once and sometimes sticking with just one.
I made it through the sections on hiding and suffering fairly quickly, nodding along and relating but not needing to do a lot of feeling work as I had done that already.
Then I got to Part Three: Questioning.
The introduction/cover page to this chapter has a quote from Dr. James Dobson, from his title When God Doesn't Make Sense:
Clearly unless the Lord chooses to explain Himself to us, which often He does not,... many of our questions - especially those that begin with the word why- will have to remain unanswered for the time being.
Also included, from Ecclesiastes 11:5:
As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.
I have been contemplating a blog post on this for the last several weeks now. I have been stuck right here, in questioning, for quite some time. Much of the last year, from the time of Siena's death, was spent in dealing with the purely physical. First my own health, surgical recovery, and diagnosis of hormone issues and then the challenges of being pregnant again so quickly.
This was ok because in many ways I processed Siena's death throughout her short life because I knew it was coming. Admittedly, my mother's heart knew even when I held out hope for another outcome. I had been down this road before, grieving Kenna, and I knew to be gentle on myself emotionally and when to process quietly and when I needed to reach out to others. I was blessed to have so much support throughout all of it, both in this space and my daily life.
And then came the NICU.
You guys, I did not handle this well. I was (and am) angry and full of questions. Throughout my pregnancy many people told me that we deserved for everything to go well and smoothly. People had no qualms about telling me that surely it would. While this was all meant to encourage me and I certainly held out hope that it was true, I actually asked a couple people to stop talking about it as a forgone conclusion. Because I knew that anything could still happen and that what I deserved actually had little to do with what God would actually choose to do.
Except in hindsight I am forced to admit I believed it too.
I believed that I deserved a happy ending. A c-section made beautiful, followed by a sacred period of cherishing my newborn while introducing our new son to the world loud and clear as a statement of SEE, GOD NEVER LETS YOU DOWN WHEN YOU ARE FAITHFUL. Tomas was to be the completion of two years of significant family trial.
In hindsight I shake my head at my naivety. I roll my eyes and whisper to myself, "No pressure, buddy!"
Instead of the ending I wanted to write (and I fully admit this ending was my own creation and probably a bit of a coping mechanism for a physically challenging pregnancy), however, something entirely different happen. We had the NICU with its tubes and wires and separation from our other kids. We had a horrible start to feeding and the struggles that have continued in that regard (some day I'll probably write about that again). We were back to relying on the generosity of others to take care of our most basic needs. In the midst of cold and flu season with a premature baby instead of being able to fully embrace life with a new baby we are doing a good bit of hibernating.
I admit that I was and still am at times a mess. I was/am angry (Devotion 12), guilty for feeling so horrible (Devotion 13), and drowning in a "Sea of Why" (Devotion 11). I was even struggling with a bit of Where are you God? (Devotion 14), something I honestly never went through with Siena.
But, Jesus Has A Rocking Chair (Devotion 15). Only it wasn't my child this time who needed rocking, but ME.
Part Three: Questioning was written for me. Originally published in 2001, before I was married or had any children of my own, Part Three was written for me in the year 2016.
I'm still working on all of this, and I suspect that I will be for some time. Even before coming across Part Three: Questioning, I had made the need for healing in this area a personal prayer intention of my Lenten journey this year. And now I'm almost excited about this pain, the renewed suffering, and a place/direction for all of it to go.
Even before all of this, I started a conversation with my publisher (44 Corporal Works of Mercy for Children & Families or some such title like that is coming soon!) about putting together a small booklet of Rosary Reflections for Pregnancy and Infant Loss. Not just for the Sorrowful Mysteries, which has been done before, but for all four sets of mysteries. Because while there is a fundamental draw to relating loss to the Passion of Our Lord, there is
to these stories.
When I reflect back, this is the story that God has written on my heart through the lives of my girls. There is light, joy, and glory to accompany the sorrow of pregnancy and infant loss.
This is their legacy.
Their perfect, beautiful ending (well you know- their earthly perfect, beautiful ending!)
So I'm going to go back to the messy job of working through all of this in my heart. I suspect that Grieving the Child I Never Knew is going to continue to help me on that journey. But I will also be back talking about this again.
That you can count on.
In exchange for this brutally honest and personal review, I was provided a free copy through the BookLook Bloggers Program. It almost feels unfair though, feels like I should have paid them for the honor of reviewing this title. Same goes with the Amazon links. Feels like I should actually buy you all a copy so you can see for yourselves, rather than benefit from your purchase, but alas do you have any idea just how much it costs to fly in a helicopter as a newborn? Praise God for good insurance!