I had a hard time wrapping my head around writing this. But after scouring the internet for resources for myself, and several conversations with sweet friends who were willing to just listen, I realized I needed to put some words together- for myself, and for other women who find themselves here.
**This post is about loss. Specifically, miscarriage. I’d love for you to read ahead, just know that there are triggers in my story having to do with loss.**
Now that you know where I’m going with this, let me take you back a few weeks. To set the stage, the hubs and I have been trying for baby #5 for over a year. I’ve had some issues with eating properly, and had mostly anovulatory cycles throughout the last 12 months, making conception virtually impossible. I finally faced some demons and made improvements to my caloric intake, and as if by magic, we got pregnant. We were elated. I bought cute little Thanksgiving cards to tell our families we were “excited to announce another little Turkey coming to the family,” and I’d prepped a super-cute FB announcement that listed all the awkward questions I was prepared to answer, you know, since…baby #5. I’d reached out to my home birth midwife, totally stoked about using her again, and set reminders for taking vitamins and eating healthy meals.
Then the sadness. After some unexpected bleeding I went to see a doctor close by, and he wanted to perform an ultrasound. I’m trained as a doula, I’ve had four kids, I totally get that sometimes there’s bleeding in early pregnancy, and it’s usually fine. But this time it wasn’t. Our ultrasound showed no signs of a heartbeat, and at 10 weeks and 2 days, our baby was only measuring as if it were 7 weeks and 4 days. The doctor checked for signs of blood flow to our sweet little embryo, and there was none. Our baby had died, weeks earlier, and we didn’t even know. If there is pain greater than this loss, I don’t know what it is. What I expected to be a quick reassurance was suddenly a complete shock of overwhelming grief.
I cried as I watched him continue to search for any signs of life, but in my heart I knew there was nothing. I don’t know that I’ve ever been so heartbroken, so sad. And then the part I didn’t expect: the clinical part. Because this was a doctor, and one with whom I hadn’t developed a relationship, he had an obligation to explain the “next steps” to me. Essentially, “what to expect.” No time for grieving, no time for tears or processing what was said, just “you have three choices.” Apparently, what I’m facing is called a “missed miscarriage.” Essentially, our baby has passed away, but my body still believes it’s pregnant, and will continue to do so for an undetermined amount of time. That sweet little embryo, no longer growing, no longer receiving blood or beating its heart, just sits there, undisturbed. I can wait, and let things happen organically (apparently they eventually will), I can take some drugs to speed the process along, or I can have a surgical process to take care of things quickly. The whole thing suddenly shifted from personal tragedy and grieving to medical case management. I told the doctor I needed to go home and think about things, and agreed to follow up soon.
I sobbed on the way home. I prayed- begged God to give me back my baby. I’d try harder and eat better and stress less and be more grateful- anything to avoid this loss. I called my husband and we sobbed together. I called my mom and told her- we hadn’t even shared our pregnancy yet and now we went straight to talking about loss. I mourned my baby- what would he or she have been? A teacher? A scientist? A naturalist? A screenwriter? (I like to believe that my children are all of these things and have multiple destinies waiting for them.) I mourned for myself- why is this happening? Why can’t we just have a baby as easily as we have in the past? Why after the million ultrasounds I see on social media, does mine bring bad news? And then I started denial: Maybe this was a mistake. Maybe I was just wrong about the timing. Finally, when I got home, because I am crazy and because I legitimately did not expect the day to go as it did, I loaded my four kids and my mom into my minivan to go see the movie Trolls, because I promised them we would do it and because I already bought the tickets, and, truthfully, because I needed the distraction. (Side note, Trolls is an adorable movie, and if you are feeling sad or discouraged, especially after the events of this election cycle, I highly recommend seeing it. In 3D even. Totally worth the money. So cute.)
The days since learning we lost our little one have been touch and go. The sad part about this particular type of miscarriage is that literally nothing has changed. There is no closure yet. I’m still throwing up, I’m still exhausted, and I’m still an emotional basket case. We’re just doing a lot of waiting and seeing. And while I’ve been tempted to do the waiting and seeing that involves sweat pants, microwave popcorn, and Bridget Jones (who is always my go-to when I’m low), I realized that waiting for this change to come about is going to drive me further down. So I picked myself up. We had homeschool field trips planned, and we went on them. I had meetings with potential clients, and I went to them. I volunteer with women who are transitioning from homelessness to housed, counseling them on their resumes and helping them with interview skills. I met with them and they filled my soul.
Most importantly, I finally started telling people. A sweet mama friend who is a rock and support for me was checking on me and said “I’m so glad you’re talking about this. I know women who are going through it, and it just seems so taboo. I never know what to say.” The truth is, just asking, “how are you?” is enough. Giving a hug, or saying “I’m here for you,” is enough. Being surrounded by people you love is enough. I know I’m blessed to come home to a house full of children, and that most women in this situation go home to empty nurseries. It’s that much more heartbreaking to realize that this silent hurt is everywhere, and we don’t even know it.
My sweet brother shared a beautiful verse with me, Isaiah 65:19-20:
19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. 20 No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed.
Not only do I believe we will see our sweet lost little one again, but I also believe we have a responsibility to fill our days with goodness, to challenge ourselves to grow and become better. As sad as I am, I know we have to get back to living. And as if to offer miraculous encouragement, while on that homeschool field trip I almost cancelled (which involved me taking four kids to a hotel for two nights, by myself), I found what I can only believe is a gift intended for me.
I took the children to Andersonville National Historic Site in Andersonville, GA. It’s the site of Andersonville Prison, the Confederate prison for Union soldiers during the Civil War. We’ve just finished a short study on the Civil War and emphasized how terrible war can be, and I wanted the girls to see firsthand the destruction caused by hatred and fighting. There, on the grounds of this former prison, where 40,000 men sat fully exposed to Georgia heat and more than 10,000 died of malnutrition, disease, and exposure, came up a spring, called “Providence Spring” by the prisoners. It stood for them as a beacon of hope, and many said its presence allowed them to have faith that saw them through to the end of the war. It stands now, housed in brick and stone, and there, just beyond the fountain where the spring flows through, was a Bible, laying on the stone, undisturbed. We were the only people there (Andersonville is literally in the middle of nowhere, and is not exactly a popular tourist site), and I didn’t see anyone coming or going in proximity to our time there. Cora and I opened the Bible to see if its owner left any identification, and here’s what we found:
Presented to: the finder
To the person that finds this Bible. May God bless you and keep you. May He who is in heaven show you His grace and love and may He give you His peace in all things.
We decided this was meant for us, and that it should be our official homeschool bible. I don’t know who left this. I don’t know that they left it for us. I don’t know if they knew the loss I was feeling or how much I needed their words. I don’t know what they do, what they believe, or who they vote for. I don’t need to know any of that. I know that whoever left it meant it for good, and I know that there will never be a time for me or for anyone in my family that we won’t be in need of grace, love, and peace in all things. We will always need to be blessed and kept. We will always need to feel held, and loved, and nurtured. And we can do that for each other.
The past few days have been awful for all of us. We are all carrying things that are heavy. We can’t pretend to know one another’s pain. We can’t pretend to know one another’s frustrations or angers. But we can seek to know grace, and love, and peace, for one another. And we can share it, even with strangers, even in differences, because our humanity is what binds us. In spite of all the vitriol in the world, from whichever direction you choose to find it, there are opportunities for us to love one another. From the deepest pain, I have found the greatest comfort in those who were willing to just sit with me and share it.
God bless you friends.