(Please don’t re-post this blog with getting our permission first)
When 2014 arrived, I remember seeing “Flipgrams” from so many of my friends that I follow on Instagram, documenting many of their sweet moments from 2013.
It gave me an idea. I couldn’t quite do it on December 31, or even on January 1st, but once we had our ultrasound on January 3rd, I was going to post my own Flipgram. It would have a caption that said something like, “The Maroons in 2013… fun announcement at the end!” At the end of all of the adorable pics from 2013, there would be our pregnancy announcement: The picture of Jordan, Riley and I sitting together outside while Riley excitedly looked at her new “Big Sister” book. I couldn’t wait for all of the excited responses from friends.
We had found out the weekend before Thanksgiving that we were expecting our second child; a discovery that caused so much rejoicing and excited planning. The timing was great, since we were able to tell each of our families in really fun ways over the holiday.
The months of November and December were filled with excitement and hopeful planning. We talked about baby names, living arrangements and having two kids, all while I was nauseous and tired with food cravings and aversions that strangely made me glow because they led me to believe that everything was going right with our baby’s development.
But on January 3rd, instead of seeing a 10 week old baby with a strong heartbeat, we found out that our child didn’t make it.
I (unfortunately) have several friends who have had miscarriages over the past year. I grieved with them and mourned with them, and listened to what they were experiencing. Now I know. Every single word that any of them used to explain the pain now shoots to the core of my being, flooding me with understanding. Now I am one of them. One of many women to experience the heart shattering death of her child before ever getting the chance to meet them. It is a group of women that offers an extraordinary amount of love and support, but a group of women I wish I were not a part of, nonetheless.
It aches in places I never knew possible. I have never known a pain quite like this. I keep expecting, hoping, to wake up from a terrible nightmare only to find that everything is ok and this baby will be in my arms by August after all. But I never wake up. It is a nightmare that I will have to live for the rest of my life.
The worst part is that from a secular, medical perspective, people may tell you that it was never a baby. We were told that it wasn’t a baby. Many people are confused at this type of mourning because they don’t consider life as beginning at conception, and they don’t understand how you could love someone that you’ve never met. I think this is why miscarriage is often referred to as the “silent loss.” In a culture that makes you feel like it’s not that big of a deal, women end up managing the pain quietly, without many people knowing. There are so many women around us walking through this silent, excruciating battle, because not enough people are telling them that it is normal to grieve.
The statistics are sobering and cruel. When I hear, “One in three pregnancies will end in a miscarriage” what I sometimes hear is a declaration of normalcy and an accusation for mourning something so common. As if losing a child is as normal as buying a house or having a job.
But even if the statistics were three out of three, there would still be nothing normal about it. There is nothing “normal” about losing one’s own child. No one was ever supposed to experience this kind of loss. This is not the way it is supposed to be.
Recently, I read this in a blog about miscarriage: “Before I had a miscarriage, I thought about it as just that, a miscarriage… but I didn’t identify with it as MY child.” It is so true. Until you go through this (and I hope you never do!), you truly don’t understand the loss. I didn’t.
For me, the grief comes in waves.
There are times that I actually feel normal. I am able to do normal things, like empty the dishwasher or put on makeup or make the bed. And I feel guilty during those times. I feel guilty that I can do normal, as if it is offensive to our lost little one. One day, I made a funny comment on a friend’s funny Facebook status, and then beat myself up about it the rest of the day. “You are terrible for making a joke at a time like this,” a taunting voice haunted me.
But then there are times that I fall apart. Times where I can barely breathe because the heaving sobs are choking me, and I don’t know how I will ever survive this. Times where all I can think about is the fact that I will never feel this child kick inside of me, I will never hold him (we believe he was a boy), or hear him say “mommy” or tell me that he loves me, or watch him fall in love, or attend his wedding. During those times, the normalcy and constant motion of the world seem like they are mocking me, and I wish I could numb the pain.
Those times make me realize that I need the normal times too, otherwise I really wouldn’t make it through this. I think it is a gift from God that both the normalcy and the soul crushing grief dance together in our day to day lives.
There are whole days where all I can do is lie in bed and cry, and whole days where I mostly am a mom and get things done, with only a few bursts of tears. The grief would be unbearable without the normal, and the normal would feel cruel without the grief to honor our child.
Being a mother to a two year old during this time is an incredible gift, but at times incredibly challenging. There are times when I am so obsessed with Riley that I smother her with affection, desperate to feel her breathing in my arms. And then there are times when I don’t know how to engage in her child’s play because my heart aches too deeply to think of my child who will never play like that. Times where it is hard to even get off of the couch to change her diaper or make her a sandwich because I feel crippled by sadness.
We have been so blessed by the incredible community in our life. Family, friends, and neighbors have shown us so much support and love during this time. We have had family and friends watch Riley, order us pizza, bring us home cooked meals, chocolates, cards, flowers, Chipotle and Starbucks gift cards, and pamper me with bubble bath and salts and luxurious lotions. All of these speak my love language. I told Jordan that flowers have been really helpful because flowers are something you give to families when they lose a loved one. So the fact that people are giving us flowers validates the sense of loss that we feel, and I deeply appreciate that. The food has been nourishing to us in more ways than one. With each bite that satisfies our taste buds and our appetites, we are reminded that we are not alone and that we have many people surrounding us and taking care of us in this.
But perhaps one of the greatest gifts to us has been those who have wept with us. It might sound weird, but receiving texts or phone calls or emails from family and friends that say things like, “I am sobbing right now,” “I am weeping with you today,” or a friend who leaves a voicemail where her words are undiscernible through her tears, has been one of the most helpful things for me. It assures me that this little life was worth weeping for. That this little life mattered. And that it is valid to ache for our child.
I think that one of the most helpful things that anyone has said to us is a friend who told Jordan something along the lines of: If death is really what we think it is… what we say it is, then you should be falling apart. You should be having a hard time being a good friend, a good husband, a good wife, a good father, or a good mother. Riley won’t remember this time, but if she did, it is probably good for her to see that you had a hard time caring for her. Because it shows her that the loss of her sibling is real, and it is painful. It makes it hard (almost impossible) for life to move on. Death affects us. We are not strong enough to handle it. And if we try to act like we are, we are ignoring what death really is.
I also found this extremely helpful and comforting, from the book “Bittersweet” by Shauna Niequist: “It’s sloppy theology to think that all suffering is good for us… All suffering can be used for good, over time, after mourning and healing, by God’s graciousness. But sometimes it’s just plain loss, not because you needed to grow, not because life or God or anything is teaching you any kind of lesson.”
I think in America, and especially in Western Christianity, we have no idea how to grieve well; how to lament. Even though our scriptures are full of soul agonizing cries and lament, we haven’t seemed to figure it out. We either deny how deep the pain is, or we want to tie some sort of big Christian bow around it, assuring that everything is going to work out eventually and we’ll look back one day and see purpose in everything. We don’t know how to just mourn, and allow others to mourn.
In a recent New York Times opinion piece, Ashley Woodiwisses (who has been through a lot of tragedy in her family) said, “Theology is a grounding in ultimate hope, not a formula book to explain away each individual event.”
Our hope is not that one day every circumstance in our lives will fit together like a puzzle and make sense and bring good. I don’t believe that I will ever look back on this miscarriage and think, “Oh now I see why I had to lose my baby! It all makes sense! I’ve grown so much in my faith!”
No. Our hope is an eternal one. The hope that when heaven and earth meet, we are forever restored in a permanent future with our Creator. In that day, I imagine I will meet my son for the first time. I believe that I will have the chance to get to know him and to show him my love for him. I long for the day.
But until then, our family will not be whole. This child was and always will be our second child.
I have been terrified of entering into any sort of social situation. I’m scared of what people might say, or what they might not say. I’m dreading hearing things like, “Everything will work out eventually!” or “God has a plan and a purpose in all of this, and His plan is always best!” or “You’ll get pregnant again soon and then all of this will go away!” or any form of “You know, I recently read about how _____ (processed food, soda, cell phones, sugar, gluten, oxygen) has been found to cause miscarriage.”
Even worse, I’m scared of people seeing me and pretending not to notice or turning and walking in the opposite direction, not wanting to deal with it. Or people acting like nothing ever happened and acting like everything is fine, not addressing it at all.
I know what it’s like to be scared to say the wrong thing. I feel that way 99% of the time when I know someone who is going through something difficult. As a matter of fact, I’m sure I’ve been the one who has said the wrong thing before or who has walked the other way. But I’m learning that “I’m so sorry. I don’t know what to say,” is always an excellent response.
It’s painfully ironic to me that I used to have a hard time with the ways that having Riley had changed my body. Now it pains me to think that my body has no physical trace of this child. I have stretch marks that prove that I carried and birthed Riley, but the only marks that show that I carried this child are the marks on my heart.
I will never be the same. The marks on my heart may not be seen externally by the world around me, but they will be with me forever. They are now a part of my identity. And they will forever impact my life. A piece of my soul has left forever.
*I do want to mention that I am simply writing about my experience. This is not necessarily representative of everyone else’s experience with miscarriage. It also is not necessarily representative of the way that my husband has been processing it, although it has been an incredibly painful experience for him as well.
*At some point soon I also plan on writing pretty openly about the physical process of miscarriage (which was pretty traumatic for me). I hope that it might help other women who have been through the same thing.