The month of October is Pregnancy, Infant and Child Loss Awareness Month. Throughout the month, we will be sharing stories from families about their loss and honoring their pregnancy journey and their angel babies. Today’s story comes from Jody Gray. Jody and her husband, Zach, have been a huge inspiration for me (Jess) and so many others in the photography world. But I will never forget when Jody first shared about their pregnancy journey a few years ago. Her strength and honesty and continued trust in God during such a difficult time just really touched me. Thank you, Jody, for sharing your story with us. We are so honored to have you and your family be a part of this. This post originally appeared on Zach & Jody’s personal blog.
From the Heart | Our Pregnancy Journey
It is with great apprehension that I (Jody) write the below. Zach and I are pretty open with our lives, and especially when we’re with people one-on-one, we’re very inclined to share things that maybe we wouldn’t necessarily share from the platform. However, our pregnancy journey to get to this point has been very personal and only a few close friends and family have been walking with us over this last year of the hardest struggles we have ever been through. The reason I have decided to share our story here is 1) I want you all to know where we are coming from. We treasure where we are right now and are who we are today because of what we have walked through, and 2) for those of you may have experienced what we have gone through, we want to let you know that you’re not alone, and that there is hope regardless of your circumstances.
Have you expected to get something and there’s never a question in your mind that you won’t get it?
Kind of like going to sit on a chair… unless it looks really old and sketchy, you never doubt that a chair is going to hold you. I think of pregnancy like that for the majority of women. As soon as you see the two pink lines, in 9 months you’re expecting to have a baby whether you’re ready or not, and from then on out, you’re never the same! The planning, the dreaming , the lists are made, and you’re on a ride that will never slow down. That was us when we got our first positive pregnancy test in early 2012. “Holy cow! Soon we’ll be putting in reservations at restaurants and we’ll be Gray Party of Three.” After the 24 hour period it took for us to come to terms that we actually were pregnant (25 google searches “How to have a false positive pregnancy tests”) we were so pumped and I had no idea how fast our child would capture our hearts. Not too long after finding out, we found ourselves in the doctor’s office with my OBGYN confirming what I had begun to suspect – we were losing our child. Shortly after, we lost our child.
You hear the terms “blind-sided,” “caught off guard” but there are no appropriate words to describe the shock we felt over this happening. It was not even a POSSIBILITY that we would lose our child. My mom never had any miscarriages, my sister didn’t have any – all of their pregnancies were fine and great. How in the world could this be happening to us? It’s like any chair I go to sit in – I have every confidence that it will hold me, but this one collapsed under my weight after a minute of sitting in it while it mocks me saying, “Gotcha.”
I had heard of other women having miscarriages and it just kind of went in one ear and out the other and I have never thought too much about them. Now I know differently. I understand the devastation and sense of despairing loss that comes with a miscarriage.
So here we are, being taken on the biggest emotional roller coaster of our life when we lost our first child.
To make a fairly long story short, it took a couple weeks for us to start recovering, and then a month after our loss we found out we were pregnant again. Six weeks into that pregnancy, we lost our 2nd child, and then 2 months later we had another bun in the oven. Everything looked great and we passed the mark where we has lost our last two pregnancies. We made it to our 9.5 week ultra sound feeling great with no indication anything was wrong, and moments into the ultrasound, our OBGYN begins to tell us that there is no heartbeat. We had lost a baby once again. Child #3. As we waited for my body to naturally miscarry, we prayed for 3 long weeks for a miracle only to have our hopes dashed at the end.
Going through a miscarriage once, sucks. Going through it twice, even suckier because you were hoping the first one was a fluke. Having a 3rd miscarriage… well, let’s just say it almost did me in.
I can honestly say that that period was one of the darkest in my life. I had never felt so abandoned by God. So truly hopeless. I just didn’t get it. We prayed all the right things, we begged, we petitioned, we had our church elders and close friends standing with us in prayer, I had HUGE faith, I believed so hard! I knew my God was healer and the giver of life and could heal my baby…. But nothing. No answer. Just one more child of ours gone.
I honestly questioned my faith. Did I really believe in the God who I had known ever since I was a little girl? Was God and Christianity just a great security blanket when things were good and when things got only a little tough? I honestly didn’t know.
My saving grace was me being slotted to speak at a Christian women’s conference 3 weeks after our latest loss. I knew from the get-go I was supposed to be there and months prior I was already planning my talk. I was going to share about my one or two losses and then say “but look at me now! I’m pregnant again and have triumphed and God is so good!” but now I found myself in a really hard position after the latest loss – talking about faith to a group of women when I had none of my own. I thought about asking the Lord if he knew what he was doing but at that point, 1) I wasn’t sure if he even existed, and 2) if he did, I wasn’t talking to him anyway. Somehow, I knew I was supposed to still go, and I forged ahead slowly putting together my talk the few days leading up to the retreat.
I arrived the first day and I remember sitting in my room trying to polish my talk while sobbing, wondering if I would even be able to do this and get through it. The next morning, I got up to speak and let me tell you something – I walked up in front of all the women without hope and without faith and 45 minutes later walked away a different women. You see, as I stood in front of those women and shared honestly and with tons of vulnerability where I was at and shared the scriptures I knew as a little girl, and shared the bits and pieces that friends had been speaking over me and sharing with me during the last few weeks, I was changed. You see, the Bible has power. His word cuts through soul and spirit, joints and marrow (Heb 4:12 ASV ) and the tongue has the power of life and death (Prov 18:21). So as I was speaking truth and life, the Word was coming back to me and providing healing.
The retreat and the dear women there were definitely a turning point for me. The loss was still there, and will always be, but my faith was renewed.
Over the course of time and continuing to dive into the truths of God’s word I have realized that in order to have healing, we don’t have to do a song and a dance or pray the right words so many times…we simply don’t. God already defeated death and sickness through the sacrifice of his son – it’s covered and already taken care of. Striving is the last thing we have to do as believers to get God to come through for us or give us the healing we are asking for. Now why did all three of our children die? I don’t know. I’ll never have all the answers or claim to. All I know is that 1) God is in control. 2) He knows his plans for me. 3) His plans are to prosper and not to harm me and plans to give me a hope and a future (Jer 29:11) and 4) he calls me to trust him regardless of the circumstances.
I had a great devotional recommended to me by a sweet, sweet woman and the book is called “Streams in the Desert”( L. B. Cowman).
This was one of the entries:
“Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. (John 15:2)”
A child of God was once overwhelmed by the number of afflictions that seemed to target her. As she walked past a vineyard during the rich glow of autumn, she noticed its untrimmed appearance and the abundance of leaves still on the vines. The ground had been overtaken by a tangle of weeds and grass and the entire place appeared totally unkempt. While she pondered the sight, the heavenly Gardener whispered such a precious message to her that she could not help but share t.
The message was this: “My dear child, are you questioning the number of trials in your life? Remember the vineyard and learn from it. The gardener stops pruning and trimming the vine or weeding the soil only when he expects nothing more from the vine during that season. He leaves it alone, because its fruitfulness is gone and further effort now would yield no profit. In the same way, freedom from suffering leads to uselessness. Do you not want me to stop pruning your life? Shall I leave you alone?”
Then her comforted heart cried, “no!”
It is the branch that bears the fruit,
That feels the knife,
To prune it for a larger growth,
A fuller life.
Though every budding twig be trimmed,
And every grace
Of swaying tendril, springing leaf,
May lose its place.
O you whose life of joy seems left,
With beauty shorn;
Whose aspirations lie in dust,
All bruised and torn,
Rejoice, though each desire, each dream
Each hope of thine
Will fall and fade; it is the hand
Of Love Devine
That hold the knife, that cuts and breaks
With tenderest touch,
That you, whose life has borne some fruit,
Might now bear much.
-Annie Johnson Flint
The final thing I learned is 5) My life is not about me and making Jody have the best life in the world. It’s about Christ and bringing glory to Him. Some of you may not understand that and it may make no sense, but all I can tell you is, I have hope.
We have a sweet couple that we know who has gone through their own difficulties of having children. One of her recent blog posts shared their latest devastating loss with adoption. And she referenced a song by Ginny Owens that I have known for year, but the words are so fitting for the walk we have gone through.
The pathway is broken and the signs are unclear
And I don’t know the reasons why you brought me here.
But just because you love me the way that You do
I’m gonna walk through the valley if you want me to.
Cause I’m not who I was when I took my first step
And I’m clinging to the promise You’re not through with me yet.
So if all of these trials that bring me closer to You
Then I will go through the fire if you want me to.
And it may not be the way I would’ve chosen
When you lead me through a world that’s not my home
But you never said it would be easy
You only said I’d never go alone.
So when the whole world turns against me
And I’m all by myself
And I can’t hear you answer my cries for help
I’ll remember the suffering that your love put you through
And I will go through the valley if you want me to.
(Listen to the song here).
The loss of what we have gone through will never be forgotten – I know every single one of my due dates of when I should have been celebrating the birth of a child. Yes, it was hard for MONTHS to see other baby announcements and people’s baby bumps getting bigger. And then there’s the dreaded question, “When are you guys going to start trying?” and I think to myself “If only you knew.” But through and in it all, I began to trust and have confidence that my time would come, and we’re not alone in this, whether that would be bearing our own children or adopting… and praise God, it’s looking like I will finally be experiencing pregnancy in its fullest. God has this and is not through with me (or us) yet.
I never thought one miscarriage, much less three would ever be a part of my story, but it is, and someday I know our whole family will be reunited in heaven. Pregnancy to me is such a gift. I will never take for granted getting pregnant and being a mom and I hope for those of you out there who have kids with no struggles or problems, or have been “inconvenienced” with an unplanned pregnancy, that you thank the Lord that you can even have children. I know some women who would give their right arm, and probably more, to be in your shoes. Enjoy it all – the weight gain, the morning sickness, the swollen ankles, the sexy pregnancy pants – everything. You have such a gift.
Thanks for reading and sharing on this journey with us.
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If you would like to hear the talk that was shared at the women’s conference, you can download the MP3 here. Feel free to share with others as the need arises.
Jody Gray is one half of the photography and business coaching team, Zach & Jody. Known for her business & marketing savvy, she and her husband (of 10 years) have become international speakers on business and shooting and have personally instructed over 1,200 photographers at their IN-CAMERA workshops. They are Top Endorsed Pro’s by Westcott Lighting, are members of the exclusive SanDisk Extreme Team, and have been featured speakers on creativeLIVE, Photo-Vision, WPPI, PPA, London’s SWPP, Toronto’s Exposure show, and MyWed Conference in Moscow. Their work has been published in leading publications including People, Rangefinder and Southern Weddings. As of 2016, they launched a software, ShootFlow, which provides photographers a proven workflow to succeed in business. Zach and Jody live in Franklin, TN with their son, Jaxon, and daughter, London.