I distinctly remembering thinking about this, right around the time myself and 8 other friends got married within a 6 month window. “The odds of at least one of us having trouble getting pregnant are really good,” I said to myself, worried for those around me. Armed with my copy of Toni Weschler’s Taking Charge of Your Fertility, I knew that it wouldn’t be me.
Flash forward about two years, when my husband and I prayerfully started trying to conceive our first child. Several people close to me had recently been through miscarriages, which I figured only bettered my odds of getting pregnant quickly and carrying to term without a problem. And yet, month after month went by, as we did all of the ‘right things’ the ‘right way’, but still, no baby.
Even though I knew several people who had gone through miscarriage, and even a few who were struggling to conceive, words can’t really express the loneliness and isolation I felt during those long months. See, infertility is a silent battle in our churches. For many couples, it is a private struggle for years, with private grief and private wounds. And I understand that- because infertility is an intensely private issue. But I think that there will be major healing in our churches when we are able to put our emotions aside and talk about this issue, because it affects so many families around us, and many times we don’t even know. So I want to tell my story. I understand that a pregnant woman is not usually the one that you want to hear from when talking about fertility issues or miscarriage, but my story is real, the pain I bore (and still bear) is real, and I want to share it with you, in hopes that somewhere down the line, my story brings hope to someone struggling with the same things I struggled with, silently, for months.
Infertility as a medical term and infertility as an emotional obstacle can be somewhat different. The medical community defines infertility as ‘a disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse’. For some couples, that can be the longest twelve months of their lives, as the emotional tolls of infertility set in much faster than that. I want to validate those feelings, and say that no two women’s fertility journeys are alike- and the bottom line is that we must support one another, whether a few months or many years into it. I think it was around the second or third month of trying to conceive that the emotions started to creep up in my heart- feelings that something was wrong, that we would never get pregnant, that my body wasn’t doing what it should, that I would never be a mother. Jealousy at the other pregnant women around me, no matter how happy I truly was for them and their growing families. Feeling like I was the only one that had this struggle. Not wanting to talk about it, for fear that naming it would make it real. Each month that passed became more difficult, and hope seemed farther and farther away from my heart.
Much to our surprise, around our ninth month of trying to conceive, we found out that I was pregnant.
Some people, upon finding out they are pregnant, are secretive about it for a while, waiting to tell family for a few weeks and not making anything public until the first trimester was over, in case something were to happen. I was pretty much the opposite of that. I immediately told my parents, called my husbands parents, and drove around Westminster visiting people and making calls for the rest of the day. I was elated. My heart was full. I was going to be a mom.
In the next few weeks, we made many plans for our little birdy. We knew we didn’t want to find out the gender, but we already had names picked out and that we wanted a grey and yellow nursery (okay, my husband didn’t care much about that) and that even if it was a girl she wouldn’t wear much pink because I’m a nonconformist and I don’t want her to feel like she needs to be Barbie. I was choking down leafy greens and red meat and trying to sleep enough but also stay active and do and don’t do all the crazy things you do and don’t do when you’re an expectant mommy. When the time came for my first appointment, Matt and I were elated. A picture of this little life! I couldn’t think of anything more special.
It was July 10. I still remember pacing in the waiting room trying not to wet myself because I was told that I needed a full bladder to be able to see the baby, and I was going to see that little one no matter what! I remember the coldness of the ultrasound gel, the soft lights, and the little bean shape that popped up on the ultrasound screen. That was my baby! Right there! It was incredible. I was flooded with emotion.
But our joy was soon trampled as we were told that things were not right with our perfect little life. Over the next 24 hours, a series of ultrasounds and blood tests confirmed the worst: that though my body still thought that I was pregnant, our little one was no longer growing. On the afternoon of July 11, I received a call and was asked to schedule surgery to remove the baby. It was the worst, darkest day of my life.
My miscarriage is without a doubt one of the most painful, confusing things I have ever gone through in my entire life. Yes, I learned many lessons through that time, and I can see how the Lord used that baby to draw me closer to Him, to trust Him, and to speak to others. But it doesn’t change the hurt. It doesn’t make the grief go away. Even being pregnant again doesn’t make the fact that we lost a baby disappear. I still think about how old our child would be, marveling at the children of friends who had their babies right around when my due date would have been. One of them even named her son what we would’ve named the baby had it been a boy- a haunting reminder of what could have been.
Painful months passed as we continued to process and grieve this loss, with little direction of what that was even supposed to look like. Scripture doesn’t tell us how to mourn a lost baby, and the church, normally silent on the issue, doesn’t help either. Did the baby have a soul? Will I meet the baby in Heaven someday? When people ask me if I have any children, do I include this little one who isn’t with us anymore? Do I stand when all the moms are acknowledged on Mother’s Day? When people ask if we are going to ‘start trying’, do I launch into this tear-jerking tale? Miscarriage leaves you with a mess of questions and pain and very little finality. I still don’t have the answers.
My tiny glimmer of hope through the loss of that baby was that almost everyone I knew that had miscarried got pregnant again within 3 months, and now had beautiful children. “You’re more fertile after a miscarriage,” they would encourage, “it’ll happen.” Well, it didn’t. Three months came and went, then six, and before I knew it, it was February 14th, our due date, and I was a mess of tears in my bed, not knowing if I would ever be a mother, if my body would ever cooperate, if the Lord would ever bless me as He had seemingly blessed everyone around me. I recounted the miscarriage and all of the emotions surrounding the surgery to my husband that night, who sadly had been on the road when everything happened. As we sat and cried together, the Lord brought us closer, and yet the pain continued to grow. The feelings of loneliness and isolation only intensified.
Several weeks later I was diagnosed with a 7-cm mass that was encasing my right ovary and fallopian tube. I was referred to a gynecological oncologist, who seemed optimistic that I didn’t have cancer (which was obviously good) but told us that realistically, I was going to lose half of my reproductive organs, and that there was a chance that the same thing could develop at some point on the other side, as well. I was devastated. I couldn’t even have a baby with all of my organs intact- how was I ever supposed to start a family with only half of them? Both my husband and I felt strongly that our first child would be biological, and besides, adoption wasn’t financially feasible for us (and still won’t be for a long, long time, sadly), and so I just resolved that whatever was going to happen, would happen, and that I just needed to be honest with myself and with the Lord about where I was and what I was going through.
The Lord really met me in that place, in those dark weeks of doubting and questioning. I found myself beginning to surrender, to trust, to just let go of the emotions I was facing, the doubt, the lack of hope, and I just tried to move on with life. As good as that sounds, as I look back, it felt more like giving up than giving over, though that surrender was there, too.
And then it happened- out of nowhere, almost a year after our first pregnancy, we found out that I was pregnant again. We were overjoyed but also completely terrified. That positive test launched us into a frantic week of ultrasounds and bloodwork, trying to make sure that history didn’t repeat itself. I lived in complete fear for the first twelve weeks, always expecting the worst, because that’s all I knew- it was how I protected myself. Every cramp I felt was the beginning of the end- I over thought everything. I could’t help it. I wasn’t even excited for the first ultrasound because I KNEW that something would be wrong, and I would have to start the grieving process all over again.
To our surprise, our baby was perfect. Her heartbeat was strong- though I only saw it for about 2 seconds before I bawled my eyes out for the rest of the appointment. And here we are today-25 weeks into this journey, the little girl is kicking me as I write. What a testimony of the Lord’s faithfulness.
I want to share this journey with you to make sure that you know that you aren’t alone. You don’t have to be strong if you aren’t. You don’t have to hold it together if you can’t. It’s okay to cry, to be angry, to be disappointed, confused, frustrated, scared, lonely. It’s okay to question the Lord and to petition Him honestly. But we must remember that our identity lies in Him and who He has created us to be in this moment. Our hope must lie in Him, and not in medicine or our bodies or our education or the experiences of others.
The months that we spent unsuccessfully trying to conceive, both before and after our miscarriage, were some of the darkest, most difficult months of my life. I felt like no one understood, like I shouldn’t feel those emotions because somewhere someone was in a worse situation than I was, and like I should just suck it up and pretend that everything was fine. But it wasn’t. So I want you to know, again, that you aren’t alone. I am here for you, I understand where you are. There is hope, but the point of this isn’t even the baby at the end. It’s the camaraderie, the community that I want you to know is surrounding you in this. You don’t have to feel alone like I did, because so many women are dealing with this very thing right now, or have dealt with it in the past.
Church, I think it’s time to take off the silencers and tell our stories. We need to fill our young women with stories of hope, yes, but also real stories of tears and grief and the Lord’s redemption and healing. We need to be honest about these struggles so that women don’t have to isolate themselves anymore.
Women, if this is your story, your journey right now, I am here for you. It’s okay to break down, to feel your emotions, to cry, to be frustrated. This is an intensely difficult thing to go through. There is so much pain and emotion and frustration and confusion involved. Be honest with yourself and with the Lord, and with those around you. You’ll be surprised at how ‘not alone’ you truly are, as people start to come out of the woodwork as they hear your story. The community is here for you- we just need to all find each other.
If you’d like to use this blog as a venue to tell your story, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Let’s be a light, a voice of love and truth and healing.