I’m Jenny Burghardt, and this is how I’ve been living deeply.
“Matt and I had been married for five years. We’d had a plan: five years of fun together, and then try to have kids. And it basically worked out that way. We got pregnant not long after our fifth anniversary and were set to have a baby just after our sixth anniversary. We were thrilled, overjoyed. When we found out it was a girl, we chose the name Ruth after a dear friend of mine and Ruth from the Bible. We were going to call her Ruthie. Everything with the pregnancy had been going great. I remember going in the week before she was born- they did an ultrasound and the tech said ‘This is the best-looking baby I’ve seen all day. She’s just right on track.’ Then, on October 15th, I just didn’t feel Ruthie very much. I was 35 weeks along so I had been feeling her a lot – she was always kicking and moving- and I just didn’t feel much movement. My doctor told me to lie down and see if we could get 10 kick counts in two hours. So I did and we got those- they were kind of small and I kind of felt like something was off, but since we got those 10 kicks I didn’t really worry about it. Matt was there with me making sure things were okay, and we felt like they were. But I woke up in the morning –it was a Sunday- and I realized I hadn’t felt her at all through the night. So we decided we would just go have it checked out in Labor & Delivery, and then we could not worry. When we got there they started doing the ultrasound and it just seemed like they were having an issue, and they got somebody else and there was still an issue. Finally they got my regular ultrasound tech from my doctor’s office. I just remember her coming in, looking at the screen, then looking at me and saying, ‘I’m sorry.’ I said, ‘What do you mean? What are you sorry about?’ But of course I knew. And she said, ‘There’s not a heartbeat.’
I begged them to just get Ruthie out and do CPR, but they said it was too late for that- she was already gone. So they began induction and the labor process. I was in labor all day. We called our parents and they came up. I remember being in the hospital bed and I had my phone, and I searched ‘What do you call losing a baby at 35 weeks?’ because I hadn’t heard the term ‘stillbirth’, or at least not since watching Little House on the Prairie– I didn’t know it happened anymore. We ended up having her October 17th, in the middle of the night on that Monday morning; around 2 a.m. She was perfect, and beautiful, and we got to hold her, and… you know, everything about her was perfect, but she was already gone. Our parents got to hold her, too. We spent about four hours with her, and then we had to give her back and go home without her. That was the hardest part.
After the funeral Matt and I got away for a week together, just the two of us, and began to process, and then my doctor asked that I take four weeks off work to heal physically. And that time was just really hard and really special to me. I had the time to yell at the Lord and cry and pray and read and search. It was a huge time of wrestling, and He let me. I got to know the Lord in such a deeper way. I felt like Peter when Jesus asked, ‘Are you going to leave me too?’ and he responded, ‘Where else would I go?’ If there had been another option… I was so hurt. The Lord was the only One who could’ve protected Ruthie and He didn’t, but even in the midst I knew He was the only way to healing. He just really saw me in that and He let me work through it with Him. One thing I prayed a lot during that time was, ‘Lord, I want that peace that transcends understanding. And He really didn’t give me that, but He gave me just enough for each day and just enough to make it through. I really clung to that verse that says, ‘My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness,’ because my faith was weak. Everything was weak, but He was strong. And He really met me and encouraged me in just the right ways. I felt like that journey was also a lot about trust. I just kept hearing Him say, ‘Trust. Trust. Trust.’ When we got the autopsy report back and the cause was unclear, I found myself thinking, ‘You could’ve at least given us answers.’ But He was saying, ‘Just keep trusting. Keep holding on to the good that you know.’ The other thing that really got us through was prayer. So many other people were praying with us and we could really feel it. We were living in South Carolina and we had a great community there, but I remember my mom (Kris Jones) sent me a list of people who had reached out to her, most of them fellow church members from Cedar Springs. My sisters both added to that list: hundreds of names of people who were praying for us, and we could just tangibly feel that.
One thing I had to mourn was losing who I had always been. I had always been a generally ‘wake up happy’ person, but I had totally lost that person. And my faith was so connected to that, too, because I had somehow believed this half-truth that ‘people will know you’re a Christian because you’re so happy.’ I felt like I had all of a sudden lost that. I learned so much about the Lord refining me through the fire. I felt like I had been through the fire, and the Lord had more for me than just happiness. And in the midst of it all I found a deeper authenticity and a true joy in my walk with the Lord. People were much more connected to me in my sorrow than they ever had been when I was the ‘happy Christian’ who could give you happy verses. It’s been five years. The Lord has definitely restored so much, and I do look at the world again with joy and laughter. That did come. But in the midst of the hard, seeing Him work in the darker parts of life was really amazing. I had always looked at those psalms of lament and anger and thought, ‘Are the authors really Christians? I’m not going to read these- they shouldn’t even be in the Bible.’ But during our trial of loss I just clung to those. Connecting with other moms who’ve gone through loss has also been so powerful; being able to be there for them. I can tell them they’ll survive, they’ll get there. It’s a journey, but there is hope. And I just love talking about Ruthie, too. She’s my daughter- getting to say her name, and saying the names of other babies who’ve been lost too soon has been a sweet thing.
We now have two living children. Jones is four and Poppy is one and a half. Jones was born three days before Ruthie’s first birthday. That pregnancy journey was so scary and hard and full of faith and fear. I remember begging God to tell me that everything was going to be okay. I knew He could, but He didn’t. That was another time of Him saying, ‘Trust. Trust. Trust.’ And we knew that if the worst happened again, we would survive and still trust the Lord. Having Jones was obviously the biggest answer to prayer and the greatest joy, and the same people who were praying for us when we lost Ruthie were part of his journey. I love to talk to Jones about all those people who were praying for him, and tell him he was the most prayed-for baby in the world. Now that we live in Knoxville and attend CSPC, sometimes he’ll see people at church and ask, ‘Did this person pray for me?’ And more often than not I’ll say, ‘Yes, they did.’ Jones also has such a different perspective on eternity. He knows Ruthie. We talk about her and Heaven often. He knows his sister and I think we love him with a deeper love than we had before, and that’s a really sweet thing for us.”