When my wife and I were married, we both expected that one day we would hold a baby in our arms that would be ours to love and raise. We expected it would be ours genetically as well. When after one year of marriage she was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, we began to wonder what that would do to our dreams. I wanted a houseful of children, she wanted at least one. We went to an endocrinologist and even visited a fertility specialist. Nothing.
Six years later I was transferred to a church setting as pastor located over three counties away. During this move, we discovered, much to our surprise, but also to our great joy, that my wife was pregnant. We tried to be careful to do everything we were told in order to make this a successful pregnancy. But after the twelfth week, we were entertaining a guest preacher for Campmeeting one night when my wife called me into the kitchen to tell me something bad was going on. We didn’t show up at the services that evening, but made our way to the hospital to be checked out. There was an attempt to find a heartbeat with an Ultrasound, but to no avail. My face was flushed, and a painful feeling began to grow in the pit of my stomach. The Dr came into the room and began explaining that we needed to have a D&C procedure, a surgical operation that would remove the fetus, which the doctor called “tissue” from the womb. Some looks of pity were about all we got as the Dr said, “This happens. I’m so sorry.” According to the American Pregancy Association, some 10-25% of all pregnancies will end in miscarriage, and most of these happen in the first 13 weeks.
I became numb for the next things. I remember being in the prep room of the hospital, talking with my wife, trying to be encouraging as they were prepping her for the procedure. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as lonely and sad as when they pulled her away to go to surgery. I was told to wait in the lobby in front of the hospital, but I sped with all my might for a porch I knew of between the hospital and the parking garage. There was a private place there to look out. I lost all composure and stood there, alone, crying. In this building, I was born. But I was standing here confronting the knowledge that my wife and I had lost our greatest hope of having a child. The tears didn’t relieve the pain. I was sad and angry and weary all at once.
I finally stopped weeping and found my way back to the lobby, knowing that I needed to be there in case they needed to contact me during the surgery. I heard the noise of the other people in this crowded waiting area, but they could not know what I was feeling. I felt so alone I didn’t know what to do. Just then, a member of my new congregation, with whom I had never had a conversation, and whose name I wasn’t sure of at that point, came over and said “Rev. Scott, it’s good to see you.” I looked up, kind of surprised to hear my name, and wondering who this was. He told me his wife was having a non-life-threatening procedure. I don’t think I had the presence of mind to offer any care at that point, but he inquired as to why I was there. I told him the facts. He told me how sorry he was and that he would be praying for us. He was called out to see about his wife, and I sat there alone again, wishing I could be in a cave away from other human beings.
Finally, they called for me and in a few minutes we were headed home. I don’t think much was said on that trip. From Kingsport to Gate City to Duffield across Powell Mountain to Stickleyville to Dot to Jonesville. A long and agonizing trip. This was the first time my wife was living this far from her home, and we didn’t have friends here yet, and the church was pretty demanding to serve. I did exactly what I knew I shouldn’t do, I got buried in my work. Guys do that. Its how we cope. It isn’t the best way, but it is what we do. People in the church were polite, and neighbor pastors came by to see us and pray. But friends were far away and we didn’t feel like taking the initiative to talk to them. And so we grieved. And grieved. And grieved.
I won’t say that things got better right away. In fact it took a good bit of time. While we were trying to figure out our options, we were undergoing trials by a family in the church who seemed to resent every effort we made to care for them. They had been able to have a child just days before my wife miscarried. We enjoyed holding their child during those days, as it helped us to just hold a baby. Yet they had issues that bewildered us the rest of the time we were there. Try as I might, I just couldn’t work them out. So we tried to find other ways to handle our grief. I found myself for the next year or so unable to talk to God. Songs just came out flat, I couldn’t make melody to the Lord anymore. I was definitely in a wilderness time in my life.
We began to explore what options we might have besides a genetically related child. The local Department of Social Services asked us to go to Commonwealth Catholic Charities in Norton and talk to them about a home study. We had looked into private adoption, and everytime we inquired about it, agency representatives discouraged us. It’s like we had a stamp on our foreheads that said “reject.” We were told unless we had plenty of financial resources, we should either look into fostering to adopt or just forget it. So we went to Norton and took the parenting classes they offered and started the home study process. Months went by with no information from CCC. Things at the appointment in Jonesville came to an unmerciful end in spring of 2003. About a month after celebrating paying off the church’s debt, I had to terminate a staff member, after which I was heavily pursued by her friends in the church. My name was suddenly “mud” among a small but vocal minority. I was told between the first round of appointment-projections by the conference cabinet and the first round of “reviews” that I was to stay at that church. Yet what happened in between was an effort to discredit me which caused the DS to want me to move out. Some of my friends thought I should leave, so I finally relented and threw my hat in the ring. About that time I received a phone call from CCC stating that we were about two weeks away from a possible placement of a young boy from Roanoke County.
I sent word to the cabinet that I was in this process for fostering to adopt, with a state-funded home study. I asked something not many people ask in my twin-state conference. I asked to stay in Virginia. Southwest Virginia is seen by some in my conference as a place to avoid like the plague. What those people don’t know is that Southwest Virginia is the best part of the conference. But my need to stay had nothing to do with better or worse, it had only to do with this home study. Apparently the cabinet didn’t care about that. We were projected to move to Tennessee.
As I drove the moving truck up Powell Mountain for the journey to Jonesborough, I stopped on top of the mountain. I looked out over the ridges that spread out before me into Tennessee, ridge after ridge. I promised God that if He would be with me, I would never go back to this place again. Not only because of the painful way some had treated me there, but because of the pain of loss and loneliness that had beset our family here. A part of my dream of having a family died on that mountain top. I shook the dust off my feet, figuratively and literally that day. And I climbed back into the truck and followed God to a new place. And I haven’t gone back. And I won’t either, God being my helper.
Part Two to Come . . .