Today Courtney Reissig, wife, mom, and writer, joins us for an interview. She is the author of "The Accidental Feminist: Restoring Our Delight in God's Design" and "Glory in the Ordinary: Why Your Work in the Home Matters to God." When she's not wrangling kids, she enjoys reading, spending time with her husband, and running. Courtney blogs at courtneyreissig.com and tweets @courtneyreissig.
Lianna: Some of your writing will soon be over at the Hope Mommies blog in a series about how to help women who have experienced baby loss. Would you share some of your story as a mom to two babies who have gone ahead?
Courtney: I was a mother for two years before I had any children in my arms. I lost our first baby at 6 weeks gestation in what would be considered a typical textbook miscarriage. But it hardly felt textbook. It was devastating. In many ways, it changed our lives forever. Because it took two more years to get pregnant again, every due date we passed for that first baby, every Mother's Day, and every holiday felt like a punch in the stomach. I felt empty and grief stricken all over again. In God's kindness, we got pregnant with our twins two years after we lost our first baby (the very same month) and they were due two days after our first baby's due date. It was a sweet blessing from the Lord. Of course, they came two months early (which is another emotional story in its own right!), but it was still neat to walk through pregnancy with them knowing it was the same timeframe as our first baby. I lost our second baby in between the twins and our third child. It was not a textbook miscarriage and was rather drawn out and complicated. In many ways, it made us wonder if we wanted to go through another pregnancy again. I wasn't expecting it and it took a lot out of me physically and emotionally. Both miscarriages hurt in their own way. With my second, I had the twins to come home to after I saw there was no heartbeat on the ultrasound monitor. It was a comfort to hold them, even as I longed for the baby we lost. With my first, I was grieving for what I didn't know I could have. With my second, I was grieving for what I knew I had already experienced. But with both, I was confronted with God's goodness even when it feels like His ways towards me aren't good. It was a sweet time of fellowship with Christ, the One who suffered on my behalf so I would never be alone in my suffering.
L: What prompted you to write this blog series about how others can help women who are grieving? What are some of the main points of the series?
C: Miscarriage is hard to talk about even for the one who lost the baby. It's even harder for one who is trying to help someone who is grieving a loss. I'm a writer, so I process through writing. I started writing about our losses as a way to grieve, but I quickly realized that there are people who love those who are grieving who desperately want to know how to serve their friends and family. I wanted to contribute to that conversation in a way that maybe a grieving person couldn't in the moment. One of the overarching themes of the series is to know our friends, rather than assume that all people grieve the same. What serves one person might not serve another. People are often afraid of saying something so they say nothing. But knowing your friend and where she is at emotionally requires talking to her and entering into her pain. I also think prayer is key in serving a grieving friend (praying for their faith, praying for their marriage, praying for their recovery). You don't have to have experienced miscarriage to love someone who has. Empathy goes a long way.
L: Would you describe what Bible verse or verses have mean the most to you in your grief and why?
C: Isaiah 43:2 was constantly in my mind after our first miscarriage: "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you." God does not promise that the waters of sorrow won't come or that we won't be threatened by the fire of suffering, but He does promise Himself. This is so hopeful to me. We are never, ever alone. We will walk through deep waters. We will walk through fire. But it will not destroy us, and God will be with us every painful step of the way, making us more like Himself and sustaining us as we go. I also was reminded of the William Cowper hymn, "God Moves in a Mysterious Way", especially the line "Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face." Miscarriage feels like a frowning providence. Life in a fallen world means dark and painful things happen to us, even the death of a child. God's ways are not our ways and that is hard to accept at times. But I kept coming back to His character and His faithfulness even when everything around me (including my own heart) screamed that it couldn't be true.
L: Is there a gift, act of service, or conversation that especially stands out to you as having comforted you in your grief? If so, what was that experience and why was it especially meaningful to you?
C: I cry nearly every time I relay this story because even six years later it means so much to me. My brother and sister-in-law are incredibly thoughtful and sensitive people. They walked through every step of our losses and infertility with us and grieved with us. The first Christmas after our first miscarriage they bought us an ornament for our tree that said "Baby's First Christmas, Spending Christmas With Emmanuel." It meant the world to me because we believe that our baby is with Jesus, and while our hearts broke that our baby wasn't spending Christmas with us, we clung to the hope that one day we would see our baby again. Every year, when I pull out our ornaments for the tree, this ornament brings me to tears. It's a reminder of God's kindness in not leaving us to ourselves in our grief. As we approached the due date, they sent us a gift card to a restaurant so we wouldn't have to cook if we were having a bad day about it. These all seem so simple, but the point is they remembered. And just remembering meant the world to me.
L: What are some other projects you are currently working on?
C: My next book releases April 30, so I'm in the midst of getting read for that launch. It's called Glory in the Ordinary: Why Your Work in the Home Matters to God and it's essentially putting the work of the home in the faith and work conversation. It's a theological and practical look at how the work we do every day (from washing dishes to changing diapers) is a vital contribution to society. I'm also pregnant with our fourth child, so that's a project, too. :)