A Sacrament of Water and Lavender

Infant Loss and Grief

For six weeks, I carried our son Carter in my belly, knowing that his days were numbered. While the day we’d say goodbye loomed ahead of us, ominous and unknown, I could not ignore that I still had a very alive, squirming baby boy inside me. He would not be able to sustain life outside the womb—but he was not gone yet.

Nothing became sweeter during this time than my nightly bubble bath. In a great act of kindness and compassion, my next-door neighbor brought me a gift of aromatherapy bath supplies and lotions. The labels promised to promote stress relief and sleep. The Lord knew I needed them both.

That night I ran a warm bath—the smell of lavender, vanilla, and chamomile filling the room. I climbed in, sunk down into the bubbles, and breathed deeply. The water washed over my body, and I closed my eyes, begging God for relief from the heaviness of the day.

I had filled the tub as full as possible, but no amount of water could cover my 35-week pregnant belly. So I lay there, my belly button staring back at me. As I watched my stomach rise and fall with each breath, it began to move involuntarily.

One result of Carter’s condition was that my uterus had very little amniotic fluid. For most women, this fluid (in addition to other functions) serves as a cushion between the baby, the mother’s organs, and the outside world. But without it, I felt Carter’s every move. I imagine he experienced more than most womb-bound babies, too.

I sat there in the lavender bubbles and watched Carter wiggle and squirm. He was positioned breech so I could see his little head rise up above my belly button, hands and elbows quickly poking out to the right and the left. I’d gently poke him back.

“Hey buddy.”

I began to talk to him out loud. As much as I could tell, he seemed to like it. He had never moved quite that much, so I kept talking. I told him how much his Daddy and I loved him. I talked about his big brother Cohen and stories from the day. All the while, my belly rising and falling, bulging in exaggerated jabs and shifting from side to side. The movements didn’t always bring me physical comfort, but they were cool water to my dry and thirsty soul.

The following night after our oldest son Cohen was sleeping soundly in his crib, I again filled the tub with warm water and bath oils. Carter wiggled, and I watched. I’d talk to him and sing him songs—songs that I would have sung while rocking him to sleep or soothing his cries. Songs that I would not otherwise get to sing. Sometimes, I’d just soak silently and rest the palms of my hands on my belly, waiting to feel his every move.

Bath time became our time.

God took warm water and essential oils and turned them into something sacred. The world around us, with all my pain and questions, faded into the background. Joy and peace were ours in abundance. I’d climb in to the waters jaded and emerge an hour later wrinkly but content.

While it’s been seven years since Carter wiggled inside me, I still take a bath at least once a week. I return to this sacred space not only to wash away the stressors of the day, but also to remember God’s goodness and to hand over my burdens. I fill the tub with warm water and bubbles, my body looking for rest and my heart seeking His salvation. I breathe deeply the scents of lavender and vanilla, and without words or fanfare, He meets me there.

Happy birthday to our Carter Benjamin, who was born and went to be with Jesus on February 2, 2011.

Grief and Child Loss

11 comments on “A Sacrament of Water and Lavender”

  1. Janine L. Bender says:

    Love you sweetie…. and love your heart for our God…we have a Big God that loves us and is with us all the time…. thanks for sharing. Praising Jesus for Carter’s life.

  2. Cheryl Myers says:

    Beautiful Sarah, I feel your pain, your love, and your God! ❤️ Great is our God and worthy to be praised.

    1. Worthy indeed. Thanks, Cheryl.

  3. Barry Bender says:

    Thanks for letting us into that part of your journey, Sar. That is such a great memory and an encouragement to the rest of us of God’s presense and comforting hand during seasons of unspeakable pain. So glad He blessed you with those special moments. Happy 7th Birthday Carter Benjamin!! You willl NEVER be forgotten! Love you guys!

    1. Thanks, Dad. Love you too. 🙂

      1. Christal says:

        That is beautiful Sarah. Love and prayers to you and your family.

  4. Richele says:

    Oh, Sarah, your words are so sweet as you tell of that sacred space God gave you. Hugs to you! Happy birthday, Carter!

  5. Amanda Drury says:

    Sarah, this is beautiful. Thank you.

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Amanda.

  6. Lauri Fisher Meyers says:

    Sarah, you are such and inspiration to me! My husband and I also lost a child at 28 weeks, my little girl! I was angry at God for a long time for allowing this to happen. It took me a long time to realize that she was his child, not mine and she is a shining light right now! Praise be to GOD for all his many blessings! Prayers and comfort to you and your family!

    1. Lauri, I’m so sorry you also experienced this pain. It’s not fun club to be in. Anger is something I definitely experienced as well…still do at times. That’s why inviting God into our pain and our hurt is just something we have to do over and over and over again. I’m glad you wrestled with that anger and found God faithful in it. It’s so easy to just get stuck and let bitterness take over. And thank you for your prayers…always needed and appreciated.

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