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A Smiling Face, A Broken Heart

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A picture came up on my phone the other day and it felt like a punch in the gut.

I didn’t post it on Facebook because I didn’t want to look at it, then or later. However, my phone has its own “Memories” feature, automatically pulling up photos taken a year ago, posted or not.

And so a few days ago, here was this photo--me staring back at me.

I look happy (and my son looks cute!) but I was heartbroken. I was pregnant and we’d just had an ultrasound. Things didn’t look good for the baby I was carrying. We were told to come back in a week and “wait and see,” but the doctor was very clear: we should not get our hopes up.

We’d experienced two miscarriages before, but this was our first time stuck in no-man’s land.

A few days later, we were scheduled to take our three boys on our annual trip to the beach and amusement park. We thought about cancelling, but the boys were so excited; it was all they’d talked about for weeks. Plus, it’s not like we could do anything else but wait, so we went.

I was already sick as a dog, but on our trip, things went from bad to worse. It seemed certain I was losing this baby; the follow-up appointment would simply be a formality.

You’d never know any of this from looking at this picture. Here I am, smiling, but I basically cried the entire trip -- in the bathroom, in the car, behind my sunglasses -- whenever I had even a moment alone.

The entire trip felt surreal. I was caring for my kids, helping them build sandcastles, taking them on and off rides, but the entire time, I was just trying to take deep breaths and put one foot in front of the other.

When I see a picture like this, it reminds me that we never know what someone else is going through. People might look happy, or put-together, but things could just as easily be unraveling beneath the surface.

After all, people don’t walk around wearing signs saying, “I’m having a miscarriage.” No one has an “I just lost my job” note on their back. Infidelity, health scares, financial crises -- none of these are labeled for the world to see. If they were, we’d certainly know to handle those people with extra care.

These days, everyone is on-edge. We’re living through a time of national, even global, uncertainty--and that doesn’t always bring out the best in us. When we're frustrated, it’s easy to respond with words that are far from grace-filled.

Yet amidst the backdrop of a global pandemic, people are still going through the “normal” struggles that can completely up-end someone’s world. If ever there was a time to show extra grace to one another, to acknowledge that there may be more going on behind the scenes, this is it.

We should try to treat everyone as if they’re wearing an actual sign--because if they are carrying a burden we can’t see, the least we can do is not add to it.


PS: Our little miracle--from that pregnancy--is five months old this week. We call him The Little Engine That Could.

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