For years, Mother’s Day was a time of grief for Megan Pattinson—until God gave her a new hope.
There’s nothing unusual about the scene in the central city café: a baby sits in a highchair, eager to eat. The mother is fully prepared with snacks, toys and all the other essentials for an outing with a six-month-old. The one thing the mother hadn’t prepared for was how long and hard the journey would be to get to this ‘picture perfect’ moment.
Not every little girl grows up wanting to be a mother, but for Megan Pattinson it was her dream. After four years of marriage, Megan and husband Tristan decided it was time to extend their family beyond their fur baby, Gus the Labradoodle.
A year later—to the day—they were pregnant. They couldn’t believe it had taken a whole year but they were ‘finally’ going to have a baby. Nine weeks into the pregnancy Megan got a horrendous flu-type sickness, but the midwife wasn’t too concerned.
Two weeks later, while out for lunch with friends, Megan realised something was wrong. ‘I knew, but I didn’t want to believe what was happening to me,’ says Megan. She raced to a nearby hospital where Tristan met her and staff performed a scan. There was nothing—just an empty womb. ‘We looked at each other as if to say, “Oh my gosh, seriously? How? What?” ’ Megan recalls. ‘We went home saying, “Why did this happen to us? This happens to other people, surely not us?” ’
They chose to be very open about the grief they were going through. They experienced much love, support and encouragement from their church family and others. ‘There was a 70-year-old woman who came to me and said, “I lost a baby but we weren’t allowed to talk about it, you just carried on with life”,’ Megan says softly.
Some people’s response of, ‘Oh well, just try again’, was hard to swallow and the couple knew they needed to go through the grieving process. ‘We grieved together, but for me, I carried that baby and even though it was only 11 weeks, in my head I’d already thought about this, or doing this, or having this. When you’ve wanted something for so long and for it to be taken away …’ Megan struggles to find the words to describe her sense of loss.
She remembers clearly the midwife saying they would do a scan in a few days ‘just to make sure there’s no baby’. ‘I held onto that,’ says Megan. As her body went through the physical motions of labour, she didn’t take any pain relief just in case the baby might still be there. But deep down she knew …
As Megan and Tristan grieved, it felt like everyone around them was getting pregnant. Megan ran baby showers for others and says she was genuinely happy for them. Her pride led her to try and prove to everyone she was fine. ‘I’m good, it’s hard, but I’m all good.’ But it wasn’t—she was dying inside.
Choosing a ‘word for the year’ became popular on Facebook and, while hosting friends for New Year’s Eve, Megan asked everyone what their word for 2016 was. ‘I said my word was going to be hope,’ she says, recalling the response from her friends—‘Oh yeah, Megan wants a baby, we’ll pray into that’.
August 13, they found out they were pregnant for a second time. It was harder this time as they wondered ‘do we get our hopes up?’ But Megan’s emotions won out over her fears and she got to the 12-week mark without any problems and feeling great.
The all-important baby name discussion had occurred. ‘I said to Tristan, “I really feel like we need to call this baby Hope if it’s a girl”. And he was like, “Yep, no question about it”. We’d gone back and forth with names but as soon as I said that, we were in complete agreement.’
They went for the 12-week scan at the same hospital. ‘I told the nurse that last time we were here the news was really bad, we’d lost the baby and it was really horrible. She put the scanner on my stomach and I saw a baby on the screen.’ But the nurse instantly took it off, looked at Megan and Tristan and said, ‘I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry. I don’t have good news to tell you today.’
Megan recalls looking over and seeing Tristan put his head in his hands and cry out, ‘What? Again?’ As they walked out of the clinic for a second time with the devastating realisation that their long-hoped-for baby had died, they had to again tell family what happened.
It had taken a whole year to get pregnant with their second baby. ‘I remember going through fits and starts of being really angry with God and saying, “What the heck?” Megan recalls—the evidence of that struggle flickering across her face as she speaks.
‘I felt like everything had been lining up perfectly—my word for the year, getting pregnant, everything was falling into place … and then that happened.’ The disappointment was overwhelming and they began to question if there was something wrong with them, with their bodies.
Megan met her mum Lynley in a café early that December and recalls a conversation that was laced in the miraculous, even if neither of them fully understood it in the moment.
‘You know I never remember my dreams and I know you really don’t want to hear this right now,’ said Lynley. ‘But I had a dream that by Christmas next year, you’d have a baby and it would be baby Jesus in the church production.
Megan remembers that her mum didn’t say it was from God, ‘because I think she wasn’t sure herself. But she told me how in the dream she was in the hospital holding the baby, she knew its first and middle names and that it would be a girl.’
Megan’s initial response of ‘oh yeah, good one’ was reasonable considering they’d only lost their baby two months earlier. ‘But in that moment, as much as she wasn’t sure it was God, I knew! I said, “Don’t tell me. I’ll take that, but don’t tell me the name”. I knew that this was a God thing,’ Megan says, with a sense of excitement evident in her voice as she retells that moment. ‘Mum said she wouldn’t tell anyone, she’d put it on a piece of paper, put it in an envelope and stick it in a drawer until the time was right.’ They didn’t talk about it again.
Megan and Tristan were facing another Christmas and no baby, so decided to stop feeling sorry for themselves and buy a jet ski. Just two weeks later, Megan said to Tristan, ‘I think I might be pregnant’. They waited 10 days to get a pregnancy test, which sat in the bathroom for another few days while they gained courage to take it.
The test was positive and once again the battle of emotions began. ‘For those first 12 weeks, it was, “Don’t get emotionally attached”—when I desperately wanted to,’ recalls Megan. This time they only told their parents and kept things very low key.
‘A friend gave me a verse, 1 Timothy 1:7, “I don’t have a spirit of fear,” and every day I would pray that. There were things that I would be scared to do in case something happened. I’d constantly repeat to myself: “I do not have a spirit of fear, I do not have a spirit of fear”.’
They had a new midwife and went to a different hospital for the scan. Megan remembers feeling sick with nerves the day of that 12-week scan. They’d never made it past this moment. Megan remained silent, not wanting things to play out the same. But Tristan said, ‘We haven’t had positive experiences before so we are really nervous.’ Megan says it was like the nurse somehow knew this was a God moment and said, ‘Well let’s find that heartbeat right away.
‘We saw the heartbeat and it was like that instant …’ Megan exhales and relief shows on her face, like it must have that day. ‘She was the size of a plum and that’s the picture that sits in our lounge. We have scan photos where she’s waving, almost like she’s saying, “It’s ok, I’m here, I’m here”,’ Megan says, looking over at her daughter who is smiling back.
Megan recalls moments when she had seen God supernaturally speak to her through others. When she was struggling to get pregnant, Megan said to her doctor, ‘Oh well, maybe I’m not meant to have a baby.’ Her non-Christian doctor looked her in the eyes and said, ‘Stop! You are going to get pregnant, you are going to stop speaking like that!’
After the birth, Tristan rang their parents to tell them the good news. When he rang Lynley she asked him what the name was. ‘Hope Marie’ Tristan said. Lynley burst into tears and Tristan didn’t think anything of it at the time. When the grandparents all arrived at the hospital Lynley pulled out an envelope.
To my precious grandchild’ it read on the outside, and inside was a piece of paper that read ‘Hope Marie Pattinson’. Unnoticed by Lynley until that moment, on the bottom of the note was an inscription, reading: ‘Blessed is the person who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord’ (Jeremiah 17:7).
‘Being able to share that story with friends who aren’t Christians and they say, “Wow that’s weird”, and we can say, “It’s not weird, it’s God”—the power that comes from those conversations—it’s amazing.
‘We’ve got friends who have struggled to have babies and wouldn’t talk about it with anyone. But because of what we’ve gone through, we’ve become a safe space for them.’
This Mother’s Day is different for Megan. Last year she announced to their church family they were halfway through a healthy pregnancy. The previous few had been a painful reminder of what she had lost. ‘The desire of my heart has been fulfilled, but it was a journey to get there. It was a lot of faith and pressing into God, to have that knowledge that God has my back.’
Megan and Tristan know that this isn’t the outcome for everyone, and they are forever grateful that God chose them to be Hope’s parents. ‘I would never wish this on anyone, but I also think the journey we have been through has given us a different perspective. When it’s something you’ve desperately chased after, when you’ve wrestled, been angry at God and cried out to him, it makes it even more special, more important.’
As they raise their daughter Hope, they’re praying ‘she would continue to personify her name, that as she grows she would continue to do life with Jesus and she would be so much more than who we are as people—that she would start where we finish, that she raises hope in others.’
(c) 'War Cry' magazine, 5 May 2018, pp6-9. You can read 'War Cry' at your nearest Salvation Army church or centre, or subscribe through Salvationist Resources.