I’m Matt Burghardt, and this is how I’ve been living deeply.
“Back before we went to the hospital -more than five years ago now- I can remember a lot of things in vivid detail. I remember telling Jenny just to lie on the couch. I was out working in our yard and I went back inside, and I asked Jenny how many kick counts it had been and she said she couldn’t really feel our baby, Ruthie. But I didn’t think anything of it- she was 35 weeks along and I figured Ruthie’s movements were just harder to detect. I remember asking Jenny the next morning if she had felt Ruthie at all through the night, and she said ‘No.’ I said, ‘Well, then we need to go to the doctor.’ It was a Sunday morning, we were in a small church at the time, and I texted the pastor. I was supposed to be there to do something, but I told him ‘Hey, I’m not going to be able to show up. We’re just going to go get things checked out and I’ll probably see you later on.’ We went to the hospital and got a spot in triage. I had to leave the room and leave Jenny’s side for just a minute, and when I came back Jenny had already gotten the news from the ultrasound tech that there wasn’t any heartbeat. Jenny was asking the medical team, ‘What can you do? Can you get her out of me now and resuscitate her?’ But they couldn’t. It was too late. What sticks out to me was you could tell how much Jenny really loved and cared for Ruth and wanted to do anything to try to keep her and care for her, just as she has been doing for the previous 35 weeks. She was willing to do anything for Ruthie. How hard it was to see that there wasn’t really anything we could do.
After going over what would happen next with our doctor, we called our family. Then Jenny and I actually had some time to really think about what was going on. I was sort of a bystander while Jenny was going through the physical part. I didn’t know what to do– I already felt inadequate with my role in the birthing process. You know, all you can do is give her ice chips and encourage breathing, and now I was even more inadequate to provide Jenny what she needed. The hardest thing was we didn’t know anybody our age who had lost a baby, or lost anybody really significant in their life at that point. I ended up leaning into people who had been around a couple decades longer than me. And Jenny and I definitely had to lean into each other and try to figure out, ‘What is God’s purpose in this?’ We were living in Aiken, South Carolina at the time. One of the hardest things for me, when we were working through the grieving process, was when we would run into someone kind of on the outskirts of our friend group who didn’t know that we lost Ruthie but knew Jenny had been pregnant. They would ask us about the baby. I remember one time walking in Kroger just trying to get some bread, and someone running into us and asking, ‘How’s your baby?’ and having to tell them. That’s just something that you are never ready to say out loud to anybody, especially out in public. And seeing the response of people- they didn’t know what to say. Saying it out loud made it so much more real. One of the great things about moving to Knoxville was the people we ran into out in public knew about us losing Ruthie and were praying for us, or they just simply didn’t know about that part of our past. So it was a little easier to be here. At the time of our move, Ruthie would have been one and a half, so it was still very emotionally resonant for us. That was a really good thing about us moving here, seeing the people from Cedar Springs who were involved (Jenny’s parents, Jeff and Kris Jones, are CSPC members). Hearing ‘I didn’t even know you at the time, but I was praying for you’, that’s one of the beautiful parts of Ruthie’s story- connecting us to the CSPC body, and seeing the Church work.
Going through the grieving process with Jenny and getting through everything, that was a big miracle for us. We knew, ‘If we can get through this, we can get through many, many things.’ Seeing Jenny go through the grief was also difficult because we both had to come to the realization that we had been changed. We were different people after that. Living with that story, Jenny didn’t have the same personality and the same kind of perspective as before; didn’t have the same kind of passion for things as she did before we lost Ruthie. But I think God does allow us to find some sort of comfort in knowing He does work for our good in different ways, and we really had to be patient to see that. Jenny’s a different person, but she’s found her life passions and found a way to embrace our story, and it’s been really great to see that. She’s always felt deeply about coming alongside other people. Now we know people who’ve been in the same situation, and it’s been very helpful for us to offer comfort. After all, when we were in the same position, others helped us. We had just gone through labor and delivery, and there was a nurse who came though when everybody had kind of cleared out and she said, ‘I’ve been through this. If you want to talk, here’s my number.’ Her husband was a pastor. We went over and met with them and talked about what we were going through. They had gone through it years before- enough time to have another baby. It was really good for us to see that someone can continue to have kids after going through something like that. And God has since blessed us with two living children: Jones – who was born just before Ruthie’s first birthday- and Poppy. Going through the pregnancy with Jones and not knowing the outcome, it must have been what it was like to be in the boat with Jesus in the storm and just have to trust him. I remember when Jones got here thinking, ‘Golly, it’s so great just to have my son. I have him and he needs me.’ And that’s what we were always longing for with Ruthie.”