It’s hard to believe that this week is the 4 year anniversary of my first miscarriage. It had taken us almost a year to get pregnant, and we were so overjoyed! I still remember staring at the little bean on the ultrasound, being told that it was too small, and there was no heartbeat, like it was yesterday. The next week was a blur of tests and, eventually, a d&c in the hospital to end the pregnancy. My husband was out of town on his very first tour as a drummer, and I was alone. It was devastating.
4 years have past, and we couldn’t have know that this was just the first of three babies to be born into heaven in our family. I’ve learned a lot since that first precious little life left too soon, and I thought I would share some reflections.
MISCARRIAGE LOOKS DIFFERENT FOR EVERYONE, EVERY TIME
Each one of our losses was different- our first, a “missed miscarriage” at 11 weeks- my body still thought I was pregnancy though the baby had stopped living. The second, a “chemical pregnancy” at 7 weeks- the first ultrasound revealed no baby after I had started bleeding. The third, a horrific preterm labor birth at 14 weeks of our son, Hudson. Each experience was devastating in it’s own right, and came with it’s own emotions and consequences.
Our second miscarriage came after a surprise pregnancy that was due the same week we were supposed to move across the country- and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit comforted by the relief I felt to not have to work out those details. It was an intensely confusing time as I committed to being honest with my emotions- both the deep grief I felt and the strange peace that this must be the best plan.
LANGUAGE IS IMPORTANT, AND YOU CAN DECIDE FOR YOURSELF
This might be slightly controversial, but I feel like it’s been an important part of my journey to identify the language that reflects my experiences the best- which might not be the appropriate medical language. Our son’s birth at 14 weeks is still technically called a miscarriage. To me, this doesn’t at all accurately capture the gravity of what we experienced- he was alive, moving around and healthy just the night before, and his heart was still faintly beating even while I was laboring that morning. I labored for 5 hours and didn’t deliver him until my water was broken. The doctors could find nothing wrong with him, and no identifiable reason for my going into labor.
To me, this wasn’t a miscarriage- it was a stillbirth, or a very premature birth. I have found it extremely important to my healing process to give myself license to use those terms both in my heart and in conversation, because it most accurately reflects my experience and the gravity of my son’s loss. I think this is important for all parents to identify.
EVERYONE IS AWKWARD, EVERYONE IS TRYING
I have had horrible, shocking things said to me after our losses, ranging from “well at least you don’t have to deal with my 4 kids, take some time before you try again” to “well that baby probably had something wrong with it anyway” to “you’ll get pregnant again”. I’m sorry, what? Do people hear what they are saying? It’s unreal that people think these things bring comfort in times of such grief. Would you say those things to someone whose child just died?
I spent much of my time in the first few months and years being really angry at the seemingly insensitive things people would say to me- I just felt like they should know better. But as I prayed through my heart towards them and looked at my closest friends, I realized they couldn’t know better, because they haven’t experienced what I did. Saying anything at all so someone whose grief you don’t identify with is extremely brave, and these people were trying. And so I have learned to prayerfully bring my heart to the Lord and give grace out generously when I hear these comments.
THE LORD REDEEMS OUR PAIN AND BROKENNESS
Let me be the first person to tell you that “everything happens for a reason” is the worst phrase ever and takes the most prayer and grace for me to respond to with a smile. That’s not what I am saying here. I believe in my core that miscarriage and infant loss are not part of the Lord’s perfect plan and that they deeply grieve his heart. However, I also believe in the power of the Lord to take the pain that we experience, and take these little lives that we carry, and use them to build His kingdom.
My decision, early on in our infertility and loss journey, to remain open about our struggles has led to so much prayer and ministry for others in the past 4 years. I have been blessed to rejoice in countless surprise and miracle pregnancies, cry alongside dear friends through their losses, and feel the depth of friendship that I might not otherwise feel with so many women because of the babies I have lost and that I have shared. Do I think that’s why I lost them? No. Do I see that the Lord uses my pain when I let him? Yes. It’s a legacy that my babies will continue to live through in the years to come.
YOU AREN’T ALONE
When you go through any kind of loss experience, you will feel alone. At least, that was my experience- though I now realize that it isn’t true at all. As I have shared my story and my babies’ lives over the years, women have come out of the woodwork with their own stories. I don’t think everyone is called to be as open or as vulnerable and public with their stories as maybe I am, but know this: this affects so many more families than you realize. It’s estimated that 1 in 5 pregnancies ends in some type of loss- not to mention the countless families that struggle to get pregnant at all. If you are struggling, reach out- to me, to a loved one, to a trusted mentor or friend. The chances are that this pain isn’t as far from you as you might think.