Friday, September 21, 2018

by name

Dear Nahum,

Not long ago, we met the sister of a friend. We had never met before, but on a lovely summer evening, she welcomed us into her back yard and fed us a wonderful meal. Her little girl, just a month or so younger than you, was crawling around the yard like a wild child, and making mealtime a much more interesting (read: challenging) venture than it is at our house.

At some point in the evening, I mentioned something about my last pregnancy in the conversation; I just assumed she knew I had been pregnant before and would not be surprised.

She followed up my comment with a question about you or about your birth. I don't remember what she asked, but Dad and I both remember that she called you by name. "Did Nahum....?"

It meant a lot to us that someone who had never talked to us about you before immediately used your name when she spoke about you.

She didn't call you:
"the baby" or
"your baby" or
"the child" or
dance around you altogether by referring to "your pregnancy" when she spoke to me. She talked about you as if she knew you. And I think she did "know you" in a sense, through the words of her brother. She was expecting a baby at the same time as me, and probably prayed along with us for you, although we didn't know that.

Just hearing your name from an almost-stranger's lips was a gift.


PS - If that meant a lot to us, imagine how much it means to us to know that the God of the universe knows you and calls you by name! 

"But now thus says the Lord, he who created you... 'Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.'"

Saturday, June 16, 2018

"do you have any children?"

Dear Nahum,

It's been a long time since I wrote a letter to you. Don't think that it's because I don't think of you. I think of you often and will think of you always.

Did I ever tell you how sometimes we don't know if we should tell new people about you or not? Don't be mad at us for this — but when someone asks us, "Do you have any children?" sometimes we say, "No". It depends who's asking, when they're asking, where they're asking, and how they're asking. Sometimes we tell them about you right away. But sometimes it would just be too awkward to start talking about you in a particular setting. Or we know the conversation has to be short and we don't think we have time to start into your story. So we say, "No".

Dad and I always seem to tell each other that evening, when we've been in a situation where we felt we needed to say, "No." Almost as if to reaffirm to each other, that we do have a child. We just didn't feel we could mention you at that moment.

A few weeks ago, a bright-eyed, smiling young lady whom I had met about half an hour before asked me about the necklace I was wearing.

"What does it say?"

"It says Nahum," I said. "Like the prophet..." I explained, as if that really explained anything.

"Oh, OK..."

"It's the name of our son..." I added, seeing that the first answer wasn't enough.

"Nice." She was still a bit puzzled, "Is he at home right now?"

You can see how these conversations go, son.

"No...he died at birth." What was I supposed to say now? "Hence, the necklace."

There was surprise and then sadness in her youthful eyes; eyes that were too young to know how many people see a broken baby in an ultrasound. Her early-twenty-something friend leaned in too; they both looked sad and didn't know what to say. Later when I told Dad about the conversation, he was a bit surprised, that I had told two brand-new acquaintances about the story of you.

So the next time the topic came up, I tried to veer away from the subject. Sightseeing in another city, I ran into a friendly bookstore owner. I had some questions about his city, and he had lots of answers. At some point in the conversation, he turned the questions my way and found out that we have been married for three and a half years.

"Do you have any children?" he asked.

"No," I said. Easy, compact answer for the stranger.

He smiled and nodded, "Still just enjoying the newlywed life, huh?"

Um...that didn't sound like an accurate description either. Not that we're not enjoying marriage (after all, I married your Dad! You remember how sweet he is), but our marriage feels past the newlywed stage. It's in the we-didn't-expect-to-still-be-just-two-of-us stage. In the I-thought-I'd-be-sightseeing-with-a-stroller phase. We are a family of three, a family that lost one third of itself. So I couldn't stop the conversation right there.

"Well, we lost our first baby."

He was a decade or two older than me, and could relate, to some degree. He and his wife have four living, healthy boys but two miscarried children as well. I thought of a quote I heard from someone's grandmother: "Having babies doesn't make you old. Losing them does." 

Losing you made our eyes and our marriage older, Nahum. Sometimes when I look at young, bright eyes that have never known a heavy loss yet, I feel a twinge of jealousy that I'm on the other side now, as someone who has known the kind of loss that makes one feel old. I look forward to Heaven, where our old souls will be refreshed and renewed, where a kind inquiry about my family won't lead to a conversation about death....where there will be no more death. On earth we will always struggle to provide an easy, compact answer to the questions "Do you have any children?" or "How many children do you have?"

Here's how I wish I could always answer the question "Do you have any children?"
"Yes! We have a son named Nahum, and we love him very much."



Friday, December 29, 2017


Dear Nahum,

Today I visited a doctor I'd never met before, a woman about my age. She was treating me like a number: staring at her computer, typing in a few details, looking bored. At one point I happened to mention to her that I was pregnant earlier this year, not to garner sympathy but because I thought that information might be helpful to her. She tried to show some interest in me, finally, and asked, "So, is your baby well?" I said the horrible thing I have to tell everyone who asks that, "He died at birth."

You know what, Nahum? As soon as she heard what had happened to you, her look and her tone changed. She said two or three times, "I'm so sorry to hear that" and "I'm terribly sorry to hear that." And suddenly she became kind, open and helpful for the rest of the appointment.

You bring the best out in people, sweet baby. If there is anything kind in their souls, you draw it out. I saw that over and over this year. Even people who have never met you are kind to me because of you. What a special boy you were, and are, to show me everyone's kindest side! It makes me think that you must be an especially sweet, kind boy yourself.

What a kind God I must have, to give me such a kind son.


Monday, December 4, 2017

the new stroller

Dear Nahum,

Nothing prepared me to walk into our apartment building last night and see a sweet new stroller lined up next to the stroller which is usually parked on the main level of our apartment building — right next to our door. There is only one child in our building, on the second floor, so I thought, "Maybe the neighbours with a toddler have company over tonight."

But this morning when I left for an appointment, the sweet new stroller was still there. Empty, as before, with no clues as to whom the owners might be.

Tonight, our doorbell rang and it was the young couple who moved in on the fourth floor last spring when my belly was just a little bit round, but maybe could have still been mistaken for the belly of a woman with a penchant for too much pizza after 10pm. The new neighbours' packages often come to our door instead of theirs; they come pick them up when they get a chance. "There should be two packets for us," said the neighbour with her arms outstretched and her partner standing next to her. And she added with a wide smile, "They're probably things for the baby."

Well, she said something like that. When I heard das Baby, I realized that the child the stroller belongs to is theirs, Nahum. My German words stopped coming and I just tried to smile, say something like Bitte and shut the door. I don't think they know about you, Nahum, they couldn't have known that it would bother me to see their stroller, or to collect their packages of baby articles.

I miss you, Nahum, and would have bought five — no, fifty — strollers for you and lined them up all around the block if it had meant there'd be a warm, cuddly baby living on the main level of our apartment building, too.


PS- Please tell the kind people who read your letters that there's no need to feel sorry for us or worry about us; we're dealing with our loss of you quite well. Just not tonight, I guess.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

four months

Dear Nahum,

Today Mom told someone that it has been four months since your —
and then she hesitated —
birth day.

She'd much rather call it that, than call it your death day.

Although, unfortunately, it's four months since both.

Today Mom did what she always does on the fifth of the month — texted the neighbour whose baby has the exact same birth and death day. Although we never would have wished it upon them, knowing that there's another couple down the street missing their baby, too helps somehow.

We haven't been to your grave in a while, but Dad said we should make sure it's looking OK. Your little patch of earth isn't so far from his office — maybe Dad will go by on his lunch break. Would you like that?

Mom and Dad

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

snakes and stones

Dear Nahum,

Last month I came across the Bible passage from Matthew that speaks of our good Father in heaven. It reads,

"Is there anyone among you who, 
if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 
Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 
If you then, although you are evil, 
know how to give good gifts to your children, 
how much more will your Father in heaven 
give good gifts to those who ask him!" 

The passage stung, because of course my first thoughts were:

I asked my Father in heaven for a healthy baby and I got a sick one.
I asked my Father in heaven for living baby and I got a dead one.
If my Father in heaven likes to give good gifts to His children, and if a baby is a good gift, then why didn't I get what I asked for?

When I remember holding your cold, bruised body and then watch another mom holding her warm, cooing baby, I'm not going to lie — it feels like I was given a cold, hard stone to chew on, instead of the warm loaf of bread I requested. I wondered how I could reconcile this passage with my experience, Nahum.

But one day when I was looking for the Matthew passage, I realized that Luke mentioned a similar saying of Jesus. The beginning sounds like what Matthew recorded, but Luke wraps it up with a phrase that perhaps helps me to understand what Matthew was meaning.

"What father among you, if your son asks for a fish, 
will give him a snake instead of a fish? 
Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 
If you then, although you are evil, 
know how to give good gifts to your children, 
how much more will the heavenly Father 
give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

No, I did not get the "good gift" of a warm, healthy child — but the specific "good gift" I am guaranteed to receive is the one Luke mentions — the Holy Spirit. And Him, I did receive! His peace, His joy, and His comfort surrounded me. The midwives said I was more peaceful than they were, during your delivery. When I held you for the first time, I felt overwhelmed with joy. When it came time to leave your body behind at the hospital, I wept salty tears over you, but still I knew God's deep comfort. And I still receive His peace, joy and comfort every day.

This is His good gift: because I have His Holy Spirit, it is well with my soul!


Thursday, August 24, 2017


Dear Nahum,

Today a narrow, white envelope with a small cross on the front was waiting for us in the mailbox. It contained a card with a photo of green trees on it, signed in blue pen by Dad's former coworkers at the university. They sent the card to say that they're sorry you died.

You might remember how on the day of Dad's doctoral defence, we told all his former coworkers that we were expecting you. You were already eleven weeks old, and we thought it would be a while until we would see them again. So we told them the good news. They pumped our hands and patted our backs — they were happy with us.

Just eight days later, we received the bad news, your diagnosis. Sometimes Dad wished we hadn't even told his old coworkers that we were expecting you. They wouldn't really have needed to know. Occasionally on a business call, one of them would ask about you. What could Dad say, from his open-concept office? He would just say yes, it's a son. Yes, he's busy kicking and growing. Yes, we look forward to meeting him.

A few weeks after your death, Dad finally told them what happened. He told them all at once, with one round of email, so they'd all find out at the same time. Today, it was bittersweet to find their card in the mailbox. They shared in our joy, and today it felt like we came full circle — they shared in our sadness.

In a world where instant communication is easier than ever, our culture's slower but more tangible communication traditions are still important. Sending cards is a formality we have, Nahum, but a good formality.

A card says to someone else:
  Your joy matters to me.
  Or, your sorrow matters to me.
  What happens to you matters to me.

Mom eventually pastes each card or letter into your bursting bright blue notebook. It's so full that it almost won't close anymore; the elastic band around the end is taut. It's a notebook overflowing with kind words. Cards help us close the circle of our grief, offering comfort over and over again.

Mom and Dad

Saturday, August 5, 2017


Dear Nahum,

One month ago today we finally met you and
everything about you was long.

Long torso.

Long legs.

Long feet.

Long toes.

Long arms.

Long fingers.

Long fingernails.

Long creases and dimples.

Only one thing about you wasn't long:
Your time with us.

We miss you,
and will for a long time!

Mom and Dad

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

i saw her

Dear Nahum,

Just the other day I saw her,
the young doctor who hurt me when
she inspected me in the hospital.
The one who made me cringe and Dad pray,
when she came to give me stitches.

This time I saw her not at the hospital
but at the local drug store,
blonde hair pulled up and sports gear on,
buying too many baby wipes and
trying to contain a busy, noisy child.

I saw her packing her squalling baby
and purchases into her bike trailer and
pushing her bike toward home,
just like any young city mom,
just trying to keep up with life,
just trying to get by.

In the hospital it felt like
her against me,
and I didn't like her.
I complained.

But in the drug store I realized
that she's just a normal person.
She's maybe even my neighbour.

By the bike racks I remembered
that we're all in this together,
just doing our best with our normal.

I saw her.
More clearly this time.


One of the teachers of the law....asked [Jesus], 
“Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” 
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this...
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul 
and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 
The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 
There is no commandment greater than these.”

Sunday, July 30, 2017

feathery wisps

Dear Nahum,

It surprised me. I was at a follow-up appointment and the doctor said she would do an ultrasound. I lay down for the inspection without really thinking twice about what was happening — after all, I had so many ultrasounds in the last eight months. But I kind of forgot what this scan would show, and the surprise was a sad one: on the screen we saw my womb, but there was no Nahum in it.

Every other time I remember seeing my womb, you were there. First as something so small and "gummi bear”-like, and later as a full-grown baby boy. But this time my womb was just an empty sack...
there was no woosh-woosh of your heart beat,
no lanky limbs rolling and punching,
no giggles when the doctor felt you head-butt her…
no Nahum.

Just a feathery wisp of fluid which the doctor pleasantly told me would

Nahum, sometimes I fear that the memories we made with you are like that feathery wisp in my womb — short-lived, on their way out. Even just a few weeks after meeting you, I worry that I will forget the precious details of our short time with you. Forget the other-earthly thrill of seeing and touching you for the first time. Forget how soft your skin was. Forget how much you weighed in my arms. Forget watching Grandma give you your first bath and dress you. Forget how Dad and Grandpa's tears bathed you again. Forget how the doctor went out of his way to tell us how beautiful your hands were.... Forget, because we have no fresh, new memories of you to keep replacing the older, fading ones.

Giving birth to a baby that most people didn't get to meet or hold feels like what the Bible calls "giving birth to the wind". I guess that is why I write, Nahum. Why I will make scrapbooks of your cards and albums of your pictures. Why we will talk about you regularly, especially with any little brothers or sisters God gives to you.

You were the first to inhabit my womb,
and we will never forget you.
Your place in my womb may have been temporary,
but you have a permanent place in our hearts.


Saturday, July 22, 2017


Dear Nahum,

The other day I dealt with a cashier who was not particularly friendly. She was offering service, but not with a smile.

If this had happened eight months ago, I would have felt a bit grouchy about her unpleasant demeanour. Why couldn't she just smile? As you know, I was the type who would play funny pranks, wear a dinosaur hat just to get a reaction out of people, and paste smiley face stickers on your dad’s water bottle, wallet and Bible. I didn’t understand, when I met a serious stranger, why they couldn’t be a bit more pleasant.

But you made me understand, Nahum, that smiling isn't always possible. Now, when I see someone who can’t seem to smile in public, I can relate. There were days in the past eight months when Dad and I had a hard time smiling, too. You taught me to be slower to judge people whose story I don't know, whose suffering I have not experienced. You taught me to be more compassionate.

You might like to know that the other day after I saw the sad-looking cashier, I reminded myself of this: Maybe that person just got a heart-breaking diagnosis.
And just that thought made me want to give that person the benefit of the doubt. To not expect her to conjure up a fake smile. To give an extra measure of grace and compassion, just in case.

It makes me sad to think that people who meet our family in the future won't meet you, Nahum. After all, as the social worker told me just days after we received your diagnosis, you are and always will be our firstborn! But maybe if we remember what God used you to teach us, and reach out to others with extra sensitivity and compassion — which you helped us to learn — in a small way they will meet you, after all!

With appreciation,


Friday, July 14, 2017

goodness and mercy

Dear Nahum,

A few weeks before you were born, the words at the end of Psalm 23 tripped me up: "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me, all the days of my life..." 

"All the days of my life, God?"
I almost could not believe those words, as I prepared for your delivery.
"What about the day when my newborn son dies?"
"What kind of goodness and mercy will I see on that day, God?"
I couldn't really imagine it.

Last night, as I prepared a slideshow for the celebration of your life, I remembered Psalm 23:6 again. My thoughts from a few weeks ago came back to me, and I realized that even on the day of your birth and death, God's goodness and mercy followed me. 

Here are a few significant ways in which I noticed it:
  • Even though the hours before you were born were difficult, God was good to give me a clear enough mind, a settled enough spirit and a strong enough body to carry through to the end of the delivery. 
  • In His mercy, God timed your 7:33am birth perfectly. Fresh staff was just starting their morning shift and helped the tired staff who were finishing a long night with us. When the midwives were running out of ideas to know how to encourage you to come, new midwives and doctors showed up to help. Also, our friends on this side of the pond were just waking up right around the time we needed prayer the most. They checked their phones and prayed us through the last hour before you were born. 
  • You got stuck making your exit, and the doctors decided I needed to be put under general anaesthetic for you to be removed. But minutes before I was to be put under general anaesthetic, God gave me one more contraction and you came sliding out miraculously. I was finally relieved from incredible pain the moment you came out, and Dad was not left to cry over your body while waiting for me to awake from the anaesthetic — I will forever be thankful for this miracle of mercy.
  • When I first held you on my chest, God gave me fullness of joy. You made me a mother and just being able to see you, touch you, and hold you was gift of God's goodness. I think I expected to weep upon seeing you (as when I saw you, I could see your head was damaged) but somehow I could only smile over you, and gush over you. What a wonderful boy you were, and are!
God's Word proved my fainting heart wrong again. God's goodness and mercy followed me, even on the day of your birth and death, and always will — all the days of my life!


Monday, July 10, 2017

three hours of darkness

Dear Nahum,

Two mornings after your birth, I woke up in my hospital bed crying. It almost seemed like my tears had started before I awoke. As I lay there on the pastel yellow hospital sheets, aching for you before I was almost even conscious of what I was doing, the sequence of my thoughts was as follows:
  1. I'm awake.
  2. I'm crying.
  3. God the Father mourned His Son, too. 
Along with my tears came the thought of the three hours of darkness that God the Father brought "over the whole land" as His Son was dying. 

Three hours in which God was not
checking His phone,
doing His freelance work,
inviting over guests, or
talking to friends.

Three hours that were separated for darkness —
three black hours,
three somber hours,
three inexpressibly sad hours.

I don't know what our mourning for you will look like, but remembering that God mourned His Son's death gave me some freedom. Freedom to let my tears soak through my sleep mask if they need to. Freedom to not think I have to work up some happy when I'm struggling with our loss. Freedom, not to be self-centered, but to genuinely acknowledge
how deeply sin has broken our world,
how deeply that brokenness has hurt us,
and how deeply we long for Jesus to heal our broken world.

We will mourn with our own version of "three hours of darkness". And that's not only OK, I think it's right. Because so much in this world has gone wrong.


PS - Another thought came to me as I was writing this letter. God the Father willingly saw His Son die, so that when I saw you die, I would have hope. What kind of God is this, that He would choose His own suffering in order to someday end our suffering? He is clearly not a God who wishes evil upon us. Nahum, this is the God to whom we entrust both you and ourselves.

Saturday, July 8, 2017


Dear Nahum, 

The table is filling with casseroles
the counter with baked goods
the window sills with plants
the hallway with cards
the inboxes with messages 

All good things,
from kind people 
who offer comfort

But really I just want
my sweet, sweet child.


Thursday, July 6, 2017

a child of the light

Dear Nahum,

The church bells outside the hospital window ring six o'clock this morning. Yesterday morning at this same time Mom (and Dad) were experiencing the agonies of childbirth (in different ways) and don't remember hearing the church bells.

After labouring through the night, Mom started to realize that we probably wouldn't meet you until after daybreak. The midwife was distressed — although not as much as we were — that you were taking so long to meet us, but she told us,
"Your son is waiting. He wants to be born in the light."

Even in her agony, the midwife's words stood out to Mom because of the imagery from Thessalonians:
Nahum, "you are [a child] of the light and of the day; 
[you] don't belong to darkness and night." 

You are a child of the light, Nahum John, born at 7:33am on July 5, 2017 — after the sun rose. A good gift, given to us by the Father of Lights with whom there is no changing, no darkness, and no shadow. Taken back by Him just after the sun rose yesterday morning.

There are no words to accurately describe our joy or our grief, upon meeting and losing you in the same instant. Your short life changed our lives forever; you are our little "child of the light."

Mom and Dad

Friday, June 30, 2017

last doctor's visit

Dear Nahum,

Today was probably our last trip to the ob-gyn together. As you may have noticed, she's been having us visit her every other day since your due date, just to make sure you are safe and sound. Today she asked me what we had decided about induction — about trying to help you come sooner rather than later. I told her that we plan to start tomorrow morning at the hospital at 10:00am with the midwives and doctor there. She nodded her approval.

Our ob-gyn is caring, but usually she keeps some professional distance. However today, at the end of the appointment, she wished me viel Kraft for the next days. Then she stood up and gave me a long hug. It was not one of those quick, formal, "I-probably-should-do-this" hugs, but a heartfelt, sincere "I'm-doing-this-because-I-care" hug. You probably felt when she patted you and wished you well. The doctor looked a bit emotional and of course, I more than just looked emotional. I cried.

She is going to miss seeing you.
So am I.

We said goodbye and after I cried in the doctor's bathroom for a while, I headed outside. Just as I was unlocking my bike, I heard a friendly voice call my name. It was an acquaintance who has always cared about your situation and asked about you. Do you remember her? I've never run into anyone I know on that street, but today, when I was feeling extra weepy, I did. I think God placed her there to encourage me again.

As we enter what could be some of the hardest days of our lives, I am reminded that God puts His help around every corner. Literally — whether its a kind word from the doctor's receptionist, a long hug from the doctor, or a praying acquaintance appearing outside the doctor's office — He has shown up in these and 1,000 other ways in the last six months. And I'm sure He'll show up in 1,000 other ways in the days to come.

This is not the lot we would have chosen, but it's the lot God chose for us — for you, for Dad, and for me. Since He chose this path for us, we know He'll watch over all the details of the next few days.

Let's do this.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

june 25

Dear Nahum,

After hearing your due date, it took us a while to realize that it was exactly one year from the date when we moved to our new city last year. On June 25, 2016 we packed up a big van, drove it 150km down some windy roads, and unloaded our belongings into an empty apartment in the heart of our new city.

Anyone who has known us for more than a year knows that it was hard for us to move (again) and to be the newcomers (again). At least, it was what we thought of as "hard" at the time. But by this year on June 25, 2017 we had come to know a different level of hard — a hard that made the hard of moving again seem not as hard after all. (Thank God that when He gives us a new level of hard He gives us a new level of peace to deal with that hard.)

So, June 25, 2017 has come and gone, and we don't think you quite understood what was supposed to happen on that day. You were supposed to come out and meet us! Every day people are asking us if you've come yet, but you're taking your sweet time. If you don't show signs of coming by the weekend, we're planning to ask the midwives at the hospital to start encouraging you to come. After all, Grandpa and Grandma can't stay here forever and they want to meet you, too. But wouldn't it be better if you just came on your own?

We sure think so!

Mom and Dad

"This God is our God for ever and ever:
he will be our guide even unto death."
Psalm 48:14

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


Dear Nahum,

We're so glad you're
still here
still kicking and rolling
still responding to dad's voice
still showing off your strong heartbeat
still making us giggle when you head-butt the doctor
(you little rascal)
...still here.

Remember when they said you might be born very early,
when Mom worried she might miscarry anytime,
when we wondered if your grandparents would get here in time...?

At 39+2 you've exceeded our expectations. You're still here!

Mom and Dad

Thursday, June 15, 2017


Dear Nahum,

One of the surprises of having you as our son has been how open strangers or near-strangers become with us when they hear about you. We would expect and hope that close friends and family would cry with us, or be open with us, but strangers? German strangers? We didn't expect them to be so moved by hearing about you that they would also share in our pain. Here are a few of the people whose eyes have gotten tear-y and red as they talk with us about you:

  • The lady who lost multiple loved ones in the last year.
  • A midwife when she talked about the strangeness of experiencing new life and death within a few hours.
  • A childless lady who told of weeping upon seeing strollers after finding out she'd have no babies of her own.
  • The older couple who told us their third child was stillborn many years ago; he died two days before they met him.
  • The coworker who told Dad how he still chokes up remembering how his daughter nearly died when she was six weeks old.
  • The doctor whose eyes got wet when she heard your diagnosis.
  • The local mom with a baby like you who sat on the sofa and cried with Mom even though they had only known each other for an hour. Her husband who met Dad for coffee and whose eyes got shiny listening to Dad share.

We feel honoured particularly that people who hardly know us would somehow enter into our suffering. Their openness is a precious gift.

Given the choice, of course, we still would choose to be the ones with a happy baby story and not a sad baby story. To be the ones whom people smile (not cry) upon seeing. But if we're going to be the ones with a sad story, we're glad for so many open hearts to share it with. Their tears and stories remind us that everyone goes through hard times, and that talking openly about those hard times makes the load a little lighter.

(Now, if we can just take care of the nosy cashier-stranger at the corner store, who pesters Mom with questions and pregnancy advice.... Thankfully there's only one of her, and many other kind strangers.)

You are beyond special, Nahum, and we're not the only ones who think so. You open strangers' hearts.

Mom and Dad

Thursday, June 1, 2017


Dear Nahum,

On Sunday morning I woke up around 4am, like mommies with babies in their tummies often do. After my typical trip to the bathroom (do you realize you're pushing on my bladder?) I had a hard time going back to sleep. The minutes slowly ticked by and of course I was thinking about your birth — which is probably just a few days or weeks away now.

Dad was fast asleep, but he had left the door between our bedroom and the hallway open a crack, and he had also left the hallway windows open to let some breeze into our room. (Dad is smart like that.) As you and I lay there awake in the darkness, I realized that even though it was still nearly black out, birds were beginning to sing. One or two were giving a beautiful performance right near our hallway window, here in the centre of the city. Because the city was so still, I could hear one particular melody perfectly.

Last week we read the story of a prophet named Elijah, who needed food. God sent ravens to bring him food. Who has ever heard of birds bringing food? But these ones did, to show Elijah that God was very aware of Elijah's needs and more than able to provide for them.

God sent you and me birds too, Nahum, to remind us that even when no one else is awake, He's awake. He's is very aware of exactly what we need, and more than able to provide. He will give us everything we need until your birth, during your birth, and after your birth. And if we need more songbirds, He'll send those, too.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

the truth

Dear Nahum,

I hate to see their faces when
they ask us how our pregnancy is going

— those people who haven't seen us in a long time
the ones with a chubby-cheeked baby in their arms
and a round belly indicating one more on the way —

I hate to see their faces fall
when we can't lie but we also can't say
what they want to hear,
that our pregnancy is just peachy
that we too have a chubby-cheeked baby
who will soon be in our arms.

I love to be the one with the good news.
I hate to be the one with the bad news.

I tell my friend and she says that
if they don't want to know the truth,
they shouldn't ask us how our pregnancy is going.

I suppose she's right, but it doesn't make telling the truth any easier.


PS - Your due date, Nahum, is one month from tomorrow!

Friday, May 19, 2017


Dear Nahum,

The doctor checked on you and me again today. I've gotten used to the routine now, and the results of all the regular tests they do on you and me are always good.

heartbeat - good
movement - good
amniotic fluid levels - good
position - good

blood pressure - good
urine - good
blood sugar - good
weight - good

You are almost 35 weeks old, and such a good baby!

It would be easy to forget that you have a not-good diagnosis because everything else seems so, so good. I still pray that somehow that your skull and brain — which we haven't been able to see properly for a few months anyway — are miraculously now "good" too. But no diagnosis changes this: the God who made you is good.


You are good
and what you do is good;
teach me your decrees.
Psalm 119:68

Tuesday, May 16, 2017



Dear Nahum,

Did you know that when Jesus was about your size, a new star appeared in the sky, so that some smart people could use it to find Him? I think that's pretty cool. But what I think is even cooler is that the star was soooooooo far away that it actually had to start shining thousands of years earlier, so that those smart people would see its light at just the right time. God planned everything way in advance so it would all be perfect for His Son.

And He did that for you too, Nahum. He chose just the right parents, who would love you and look after you. He picked just the right time and the right place for you to be born.

I think God was pretty pleased that He worked everything out for his Son's birth, and I think He is pretty pleased with all the work He did getting your birth ready, too.

God gave us rainbows as a reminder of His love. Maybe He gave us stars as a reminder that He has everything under control, and that His perfect plan will make sure that good is done to those "who love Him and are called according to His purpose." God had everything in your life planned long before it started, Nahum, and I believe you will see good worked out in your life.

Your friend,


Thursday, May 11, 2017

peace be still

Dear Nahum,

I don't know if you saw it, but a wild wind whipped through the city late this afternoon, while I was making our supper. It knocked over flower pots and rearranged any light or loose items on our porch. Around the time Dad needed to bike home from the office, a hard rain began, making him thankful for all his rain gear. As the evening progressed, the storm stopped, but a thick layer of clouds still hung grey and heavy over the city.

We went out for a walk in the calm dark, under the overcast sky. Dad asked me which direction I wanted to walk, and I told him I wanted to go by the clinic where I received your diagnosis again.

Tomorrow your brave Dad is planning to tell his coworkers about the clouds hanging over our life right now. He'll explain why he's taking parental leave in June, and tell them why his happiness is mixed with sorrow. So as we sat on the rough, pebbly half-wall outside the clinic, Dad set down his umbrella and rehearsed the German words he wants to say tomorrow. Words about good news and bad news, about death and God and you. I tried to help him rehearse his sentences as we sat there in the shadow cast by the clinic, until the darkness came over me, too and I cried.

Sometimes being your mom has felt like being whipped around by the wind, or being rained on but forgetting my rain gear. But more often it has felt like what the disciples experienced when Jesus calmed the storm just by speaking to it. We couldn't sit in front of that clinic with peaceful hearts if we had chosen to kill you there. But neither could we sit in front of that clinic with peaceful hearts having chosen to continue your life...if it weren't for Jesus. The same One who created the water and wind and our hearts can calm them just by speaking.

He pins us down when the wind whips everything up.
He dries our tears when they mix with the rain.
The clouds still hang over us, but 2,000 years later His words,

"Peace, be still,"

have the same quieting effect on anyone who calls on Him.

"And there was a great calm."


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

you are

Dear Nahum,

This is your 33rd week of life. And who or what are you so far?

  • You are a wonderful creation of God. Every time we hear about your development or feel you wiggle and squirm, we're amazed that a real human being is growing inside of Mom.
  • You are a boy. Somehow we are so happy to start out our family with a son; it just seems right. 
  • You are a Daddy's boy. He's been kissing you and training you for months to respond to his voice by kicking. (We're not sure if it really works, but we like to think so.)
  • You are a sportler. Sometimes you seem to even be kicking both sides of Mom's belly at once, if that is possible.
  • You are a night owl. Night is your favourite time get your wiggles out.
  • You are friendly. Because of you, old friendships have deepened and new friendships have started. 
  • You are a stuffed toy collector. You now are the proud owner of two lambs, an elephant, an owl, a ninja, an angel, a star and a turtle. Gifted to you mostly by your aforementioned friends.
  • You are easy-going. Never once have you made Mom throw up. You like doing most anything Mom needs to do. You're already positioned with your head down, ready for an easy-going birth (we hope!) when it's time.
  • You are strong. Despite your condition, you've kept on growing and developing almost exactly like healthy babies would. Some babies with your condition can't swallow the amniotic fluid around them and their moms end up with excessive fluid build-up. But you must be a strong swallower, since Mom's fluid levels are fine.
  • You are loved. By God, by us, and by many, many others. You're our beloved firstborn, and nothing will ever change that.
  • You are worth it. Yes, we've cried a lot about you. But you've also given us so much joy.

We're excited to meet you in person, and learn more about who and what you are. 

Mom and Dad

Tuesday, May 2, 2017


Dear Nahum,

Do you see us?
Two tearful, trembling lumps
under the crumpled comforter
with lumps in our throats
and lumps for hearts
because we can't comprehend
that the lively little lump inside Mom
—the lump whom we love—
is the same lump
whom the doctor still says
won't make it.

Mom and Dad

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


Dear Nahum,

This week I sat in the office of yet another doctor whom I had never met before. (Dad jokes that I know all the doctors in town now, but it's not quite true.) After we discussed the reason I had come, she asked kindly, "I noticed on this form that you said there is a problem with your baby — what is it?" It didn't really have anything to do with the reason I had come to see her, but since she asked, I told her that you have anencephaly.

"Do you know what that is?" I asked. Her eyes got round and then sad like someone who does know what that is. She said she was troubled to hear that, and I said that I was too. Then I started crying, and her eyes got shiny-sad. She explained that she has two grown-up children and gently commented that a parent's love for his or her child endures no matter what the child's diagnosis is. She knew that my tears came so quickly because I love you.

You made us parents for the first time, Nahum, and I am amazed at how much love your Daddy and I have for you. Even though you've never done favours for us. Even though we don't even know what you look like. Even though an onlooker might say that you've given us tears, stress and a wearying string of doctor's appointments. But our deep love for you is not based on your achievements or because of your good health or because of what you'll do for us. When we hear what the doctor says will happen to you, we might almost be tempted to wish we could love you less, so that losing you would not hurt so much. But we cannot do that — we love you deeply, simply because you're our son.

This reminds me of someone else; it reminds me of God. He describes Himself as a Father who loved us to the point of death while we were "still dead in our...sins". Dead people don't do God favours, so that must mean that He loved us before we were any good to Him. We each brought God more stress than joy in that sinful state and maybe sometimes He almost wished too, that our pain didn't pain Him so much. But He continued to love us with His deep Father-love, simply because we are His children.* I think God gave us the parent-child relationship so that we could understand in some small way His unconditional love for His children.

I wonder sometimes how conscious you are of God's presence and our presence with you while you are growing in my womb. Do you already know that He loves you? Do you already know that we love you? We hope that you will always be surrounded by deep parental love. We hope that when you are wrapped in God's forever-loving Father-arms it will already seem familiar. Our imperfect parent-love here on earth is just a shadow of the perfect love your Heavenly Father has for you.



*(Don't be confused, Nahum — God's love doesn't somehow mean our sin doesn't matter. We still have to be honest about our sin and acknowledge what God says about how serious it is. But when we do that, we see His love even there. We see that because of His love, He made a way for us to be rescued from our sin. That's what we celebrate at Easter time, and every Sunday, really.) 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


Dear Nahum,

Sometimes I hear people complain about their babies. They fuss because their babies are fussy. They grumble that their babies aren't sleeping through the night. They're cranky because their babies are cranky or because their babies are waking up too early due to Daylight Saving Time.

I never liked hearing people complain about their babies, but you have taught me to like it even less. I wish I could just say to those people: at least you have a baby. At least your baby has a brain. Please look at your baby's round little head — which is perhaps screaming right now — and rejoice. Please be thankful that your baby is alive — even though at two-thirty in the morning he or she may seem all too alive. Please stop your grumbling and be thankful.

It's not that I feel sorry for us or think that we have a right to complain, either. I feel sorry for them, that they don't remember that their babies are miraculous gifts from God. I don't need to complain because I know God has a job for you just like He has a job for their babies. Maybe this is one of the jobs God has made especially for you: to teach us to wonder at God's handiwork every time we see a healthy baby. To put our lives in proper perspective. To remind us to be thankful instead of complaining.

We would not be learning these lessons so well without you as our teacher. You do your job so well, and I'm your thankful


Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Dear Nahum, 

Soon I will leave on a trip to Amerika. You've never been to Amerika yet, but you're kind of from there, because that's where I'm from. While I'm there, I plan to see your grandpa and grandma for a few days. Then I plan to attend a conference about my work for a few days. I wish you and Mom could come along, but maybe I can send you pictures of the things I see and do while I'm sixteen airplane hours away.

I'm writing you this note to remind you that you're the man of the house while I'm gone. I need you to watch out for Mom and make sure she's OK. This is the longest Mom and I been apart since we got married. Please behave while I'm gone!

I already look forward to seeing you both when I get back. Save some kicks for me! I wonder if I'll be able to see that you've grown in just a week and a half?

Missing you already,


PS - I'll be flying on a Boeing 767-400 and 737-900. Mom doesn't care about these details but I'm sure you do, Nahum.

Friday, March 17, 2017

was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan

Dear Nahum,

Some time ago I heard a poignent vignette about Dietrich Bonhoeffer's mother and older brother. Dietrich's brother went off to fight for the German army and not long after he left home, the news came that he had been killed. I believe he was only nineteen. His mother was — as any loving mother would be — heartbroken. But the song she chose for his funeral showed that even in her devastation, she knew God was still good and trustworthy. Here is the first stanza of the song, written by Samuel Rodigast:

Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan! 
Es bleibt gerecht sein Wille; 
Wie er fängt meine Sachen an, 
Will ich ihm halten stille. 
Er ist mein Gott, der in der Not 
Mich wohl weiß zu erhalten, 
Drum laß' ich ihn nur walten.

Here is the translation, by Francis Browne:

What God does that is done well! 
His will remains just 
However he deals with my affairs. 
I want calmly to place my whole trust in him 
He is my God, who in my troubles 
knows well how to support me, 
therefore I let him alone rule over me.

If you will indulge me, here's just one more stanza:

Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan! 
Er ist mein Licht und Leben, 
Der mir nichts Böses gönnen kann; 
Ich will mich ihm ergeben In Freud' und Leid; 
es kommt die Zeit, Da öffentlich erscheinet, 
Wie treulich er es meinet.

What God does, that is done well! 
he is my light, my life 
who can have no ill will towards me. 
I want to entrust myself to him in joy and sorrow.
The time will come when it will be clearly apparent 
how faithful his intention is.

(The rest of the song is also beautiful.)

When I heard this story, I was impressed by this German mother's faith in God in the face of suffering. I copied down the beautiful first stanza of the song. But I never expected I'd be thinking about the funeral of my son a year or two later. My list of ideas for songs for your funeral lies under my arm as I type this. "Her" song is on the list, and her example strengthens me.

There is so much peace in knowing a good God is watching over us. We trust Him — we entrust ourselves to Him and know He has no ill will toward us. I'm sure you feel His peace too, inside my womb. The same God who supported Dietrich's mother through sorrow supports us, too.

Because God is good,