He Understands Our Pain

“How many children do you have?”

Simple question, simple answer. Right?

During an average day, I cannot count how many times I am faced with this question.  It should be easy enough to answer, except it is often followed with:

“How old are they?”

 

AtzenGirls

 

Working as a midwife, I spend my days talking with new and expecting moms, so of course these are normal questions.  I have a unique relationship with these women.  They trust me, and they want to draw from my experiences.  If only they knew the flurry of emotions that I go through each time I am faced with this question.  Honestly, depending on the day, you may get different answers from me.

You see, for me the answer is not so simple. I have given birth to 4 beautiful daughters.  Three of whom I still parent, and one who is waiting for me in Heaven.

 

Elizabeth1

 

On November 4, 2002, I received a phone call from my babysitter that she had found our daughter, Elizabeth, not breathing.  She was 3 ½ months old.

I don’t want to dwell on the details from that day.  I have come a long way emotionally, spiritually, and physically since that time.

I will say that losing a child is not something that you ever recover from.  You learn to find a new normal, a new way of living.  You are left with a hole in your heart that will never be filled or healed, no matter how much time goes by.  But, time does help.  Time does make the pain more dull.  And, time makes you appreciate, even more, the things that you do have.

Elizabeth3

When Elizabeth died, I struggled a lot with my faith.  I had a lot of questions, and no one had the answers.  I remember wondering why God did this to us.  What had we done wrong?  About 3 years after she died, our oldest daughter, Olivia, went through AWANA with some other kids in our neighborhood.  The first verse she had to memorize was John 3:16:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

This was such an amazing moment in my journey of healing.  I had heard this verse so many times, but it had never had the impact that it did this day.  For the first time, I realized that God did not do this to us.  And more importantly, he completely understood our pain.  He too had mourned the loss of a child.  I cannot put into words how this verse changed my life.

So often, when people ask me about Elizabeth or want me to speak about SIDS, they want me to focus on the tragedy and the pain.  They are very taken aback when I talk about my blessings.  I have 3 beautiful daughters that I am able to parent every day.  God has trusted me to raise themHe thinks I am capable and good enough, so I must believe this too.  I try to make sure they know everyday how much they are loved.  I know I am not a perfect mother, but I am the best mom that I know how to be.

So, when I am faced with that simple question, “How many children do you have,” understand that most days it is easier for me to say, “3.  I have 3 beautiful daughters AT HOME.”  Elizabeth understands this answer.  It doesn’t mean that I have forgotten her, or that I don’t still feel like her mother.  I cannot handle the awkward silence or the looks of pity.  Don’t feel sorry for me.  I am blessed.  I am the mother of 4 gorgeous daughters.  I had 3 wonderful months with a beautiful baby girl who is waiting for me in Heaven.  I have the privilege of raising her 3 sisters and loving them everyday.

I know that, someday, I will be with Elizabeth again.  Until that time, I trust that our loving father will take care of her for me.  This knowledge gives me great joy.

-Jenny Atzen

 

Elizabeth2

17 Responses to "He Understands Our Pain"

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  1. Nancy Maruyama

    February 4, 2014 at 10:41 am

    Dear Jenny,
    Thank you for such a wonderful and insightful writing! As you well know, this question is one that the bereaved parent faces almost daily. I love and appreciate your response and it gives me peace to see how you honor your Elizabeth! Bless you…
    Nan

    Reply
    • Tifani

      February 4, 2014 at 11:14 am

      Nancy- I have let Jenny know about your comment. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and respond. We are very excited about how this blog and others are touching so many hearts. -Tifani

      Reply
  2. Breanna

    February 4, 2014 at 10:48 am

    So touching…. Thank you!!! And I didn’t realize you were connected to this blog but I met you the day you delivered my son a year ago. Thank you for that too!

    Reply
    • Tifani

      February 4, 2014 at 11:15 am

      Breanna- I let Jenny know about your comment. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and respond! By the way, did we ever get your email subscription figured out? -Tifani

      Reply
      • Breanna

        February 4, 2014 at 7:57 pm

        No:( just says I am already signed up?

        Reply
        • Tifani

          February 6, 2014 at 1:12 pm

          Did you get a chance to check your spam to see if the confirmation email was sent there?

          I also spoke with Becky yesterday. She said it might be because of the school email you ladies are using..?

          Reply
  3. Molly

    February 4, 2014 at 11:41 am

    Jenny,
    That was so beautiful….Little did I know, on that cold Nov day in Iowa….as I watched the maternity dept mourn your loss…..that 11 years later, I myself would be in the hospital, mourning the loss of my daughter….God is amazing! He does understand our pain, and is there every step of the way in our healing….I love how you speak about the blessings, as I am slowly seeing that losing our baby girl has been and will be a blessing to so many….yes, we are sad….and yes, there is a hole that no one can fill, but God has stepped in, in a mighty way as only HE can…and for that we are grateful….Our story will continue to bless those you touch on a daily basis….and I pray that mine will too….I love you….Miss you dearly my friend….And will forever have you in my heart for ALL you have done for me and my babies, both here on earth and in heaven!!!!!

    Reply
  4. Katy

    February 4, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    Jenny was my midwife with my second child (a son). I enjoyed all the time I had to get to know Jenny but never would have thought of her going through that years ago. I know that God placed his hands on her and her family and took them through the journey of mourning and know that her daughter is waiting at those doors to see her family again! It was a very touching read today. Thank you.

    Reply
  5. Laura Bowers

    February 4, 2014 at 9:23 pm

    Absolutely BEAUTIFUL Jenny! My heart smiles to “see” your journey. I know I am BLESSED to call you friend, but more importantly, Elizabeth is BLESSED to have YOU as her MOTHER!

    Reply
    • Tifani

      February 6, 2014 at 1:13 pm

      Hi Laura! I just wanted to let you know I let Jenny know of your comment. Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to respond!! :)

      Reply
  6. Mel

    February 4, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    Jenny the strength and faith you found is amazing…. Thank you for sharing your story and touching the lives of so many. ..I love you lady

    Reply
  7. Amy

    February 5, 2014 at 8:23 am

    Jenny,
    Wow! Great job and so well said. You an amazing person and strong woman.
    I look up to you. It helps to see how you have coped during that time. I struggle at times with my own “life” struggles.
    Hugs to you!

    Reply
    • Tifani

      February 6, 2014 at 1:13 pm

      Hi Amy! I just wanted to let you know I let Jenny know of your comment. Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to respond!!

      Reply
  8. Beverly

    February 5, 2014 at 9:24 am

    Jenny: I am so touched by your vulnerability and openness when sharing your testimony. Motherhood can be full of both joy and sorrow. I am glad to know that you know that you can find all you need for motherhood in our heavenly Father — including all the patience, wisdom, strength, and hope that you require.
    Praying that you have a blessed day in the same measure that you richly blessed my day by sharing your story!

    Reply
    • Tifani

      February 6, 2014 at 1:13 pm

      Hi Bev! I just wanted to let you know I let Jenny know of your comment. Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to respond!!

      Reply
  9. Laura

    February 6, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    Jenny, this made me cry. When I hear a story like this it just reminds me to look at the positives of life and never take one day for granted with my son. Thank you for the reminder and for sharing your story. I feel honored that you were with me for the birth of my son.

    Reply
    • Tifani

      February 6, 2014 at 1:14 pm

      Hi Laura! I just wanted to let you know I let Jenny know of your comment. Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to respond!!

      Reply

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