At thirty-eight, I discovered I was pregnant with twins. My husband, an Egyptian who gave up his military career to start our life together in the United Arab Emirates, couldn’t believe our good fortune.
But at twenty-weeks, I lost the first twin. A few days later, the doctor hospitalized me with severe pre-eclampsia. My pregnancy threatened both the baby and me.
We fought to stabilize our situation in a Dubai hospital. A month into the stay, my placenta separated, forcing me to deliver. A nurse whisked away my preemie baby girl before I could even hold her.
Eight days later, the head consultant and nurses surrounded my bed. They chose that moment—without even waiting for my husband—to tell me that Noor had died.
Though I could barely take in the words, that moment didn’t catch God by surprise. He was prepared for it.
A Muslim visitor brought me a portable CD player, which I used to listen to a beautiful Christian CD my husband brought from home. I burrowed under a thin blanket and wept while the song played full-volume, “…As the rivers flow, I know that you will finish what You start / and as the teardrops fall, I hear You calling deep within my heart….”
God reached out through those lyrics—a connection which sustained me in those first, agonizing moments of heartache. I was halfway across the world from my family and two hours from my husband. When I had no one else, God interceded.
Later that day, my husband arrived. He held me while I sobbed uncontrollably. As I pulled myself together, he broke more unbearable news: he planned to bury Noor that same day in a Muslim graveyard forbidden for Christians to enter. According to Muslim custom, she would be buried in a simple shroud without a casket.
The image horrified me. In what should have been our most intimate moments of shared grief, my husband left me in the company of friends, forcing me to mask my tumultuous emotions.
In the silence that followed our friends’ exit, I prayed a garbled prayer mixed with fits of tears. I anguished over being excluded from my own baby’s burial. I felt cheated from seeing her grave in the years to come and betrayed by my husband who refused to share our pain.
Most of all, I ached from two empty arms that should have held twins.
Later that night, the names we’d chosen for these two precious lives jostled my memory. Like two sighs that stole over me, the comfort came. Celestia and Noor. In Arabic, “Noor” meant ‘morning’ or ‘light.’
As I grappled with my loss, I thought about what joy these babies had brought to our lives. Together they stood for something greater than me or my husband.
Out of nowhere, I realized their names fit together like a puzzle, like one message: “Heavenly Light.”
2013 Amy Bovaird
Guest Post for GateWay of Hope