The Child That Never Comes
05/06/17 (4 weeks)
“Dear Baby, yesterday your daddy and I found out that we were pregnant. We were in Iceland when I took three tests, all confirming that you are on your way! You are already so loved my darling. We have prayed for you for many months, and the news of you is a miracle in itself. We can’t wait to meet you. Your mommy and daddy love you so much. Keep growing baby!”
On Friday, June 9th, Michael and I found out that we had a miscarriage at about 10 weeks. What started out as minor spotting soon turned into our worst fear confirmed, followed by weeks of heavy bleeding, extremely painful cramping, weekly labs and ultra sounds, and countless appointments. We were heartbroken. In what seemed like an instant, we went from giddy parents anxiously awaiting the arrival of our little one to simply two people again, unsure about how to move forward in light of the news we just heard. We prayed that we would get pregnant the first time with a girl, and somehow, I knew we did. We named her Charlotte Jane.
We cried. And then we cried some more. When the doctor broke the news to us, I bit my lip in an effort not to fall apart right there on the spot, telling myself to hold it together and that this was not uncommon and that I shouldn’t feel sorry for myself. All the while, I struggled to focus on what the doctor was saying to us, “…miscarriage…baby stopped growing…no heartbeat…not your fault…chin up honey…” and something else about how there’s good news because I'm young and we can try again right away. I was too angry to be sad, but when I opened the door and was met with three nurses all with teary eyes giving me the sad lip, I lost it. I didn’t even make it out of the building before breaking into heavy sobs as Michael nearly carried me to the car, where we would try to make sense of the past hour.
Waking up the next morning was the hard part.
I woke up, realizing that yesterday wasn’t merely a bad dream, but a reality that now set my life back to “normal.”
No more weird pregnancy side-effects that I would have gladly welcomed at this point.
No more waking up every other hour of the night to go to the bathroom.
No more coffee/dietary restrictions.
No more prenatal vitamins 3x a day.
No more praying over our baby.
No more researching pregnancy-safe products.
No more need for the baby carrier Michael just bought.
No more Charlotte.
On the outside, it looked like life had returned to normal.
Like it never happened.
The weeks to follow were a blur of deep sadness. Because we chose to let the miscarriage pass naturally, the next few weeks were filled with weekly doctor appointments and lab work to monitor my levels and make sure everything was passing smoothly. The bleeding got heavier and the cramping intensified, as the cervix dilates to pass the particles and blood clots, essentially throwing your body into a mini labor (with no mini epidural, I might add).
I hated my body. I felt like it was mocking me. The seemingly never-ending contractions were a constant reminder that instead of going through the pain knowing that I would soon hold our baby for the first time, my body was expelling our child whom I would never have the chance to hold. It was an absolutely terrifying process.
I was suddenly hyper-aware of every pregnant lady, every stroller, and every diaper commercial on TV. I continued to receive targeted-ads on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and Google from all the baby-related googling I’ve done over the past couple months - serving as round-the-clock reminders of what we were not going to be experiencing in the next 9 months.
Studies show that 1 in 3 women will experience a miscarriage at some point in her life. That means that many of the women reading this have already experienced a miscarriage (or multiple), will experience one, or know someone close to you that will experience one.
We didn’t really know who to tell about our miscarriage or how to tell them. I soon realized my miscarriage story made people uncomfortable, and that wasn’t their fault. That’s because it is rarely talked about, and so many women are suffering silently because most view early miscarriage as not a big deal.
I’m not writing for sympathy or to be looked at as a victim, and I know that everybody’s story is different. I’m writing because we live in a hush-hush culture that doesn’t know how to respond to pain or grief or how to simply sit in the brokenness of life, and I think it’s important to talk about.
David Platt describes this grieving process well:
“There is a unique pain that comes from preparing a place in your heart for a child that never comes.”
In the midst of our pain, I know that God is good and that He is for us. I know Him to be sovereign, and He sees things from a perspective I cannot fathom as a mere human. His character and His love for us remain constant.
It is possible to go through painful experiences and have complete peace of heart and a quiet soul. The Lord quickly told me in all of this that He wanted to teach me to release control. He is showing me that worrying doesn’t change the outcome of things that are ultimately not up to me, whether that is worrying about a pregnancy, or uprooting our lives here in Southern California and leaving family to follow the Lord to a new and unfamiliar place. I can play out every possible scenario in my mind and dream up all the ways that things can go wrong, OR I can actively choose to trust Him (often a minute-by-minute decision) and take Him at His Word when He promises that His presence is with us. I can choose to surrender, and when I (finally) do, I am met with His sufficiency and reminded of His complete capability to be God.
He is also showing me that it is to our benefit to walk through trials and difficult things so that we are able to better empathize and show compassion to others in the future. Obviously we don’t go looking for hard circumstances or wish them upon ourselves, but I would rather choose the route of pain in order to see people more clearly in their similar brokenness than simply wishing I knew what they were going through.
We live in a broken, fallen world full of evil and heartbreak, but I am confident that the Lord will redeem it all on that final day. I can’t help but think of how He might use this experience to uniquely minister to the women in Papua New Guinea. Because of the culture in PNG, most of my time will be spent with the women; many of which have or will experience the pain of loosing a baby. Complications surrounding pregnancy is not uncommon in PNG, and now given the experience I’ve walked through, I pray that I would feel and understand their burden as a mother who has lost a child. The Lord does not waste our pain.
Before my miscarriage, I was ignorant. I thought that miscarriages sort of happened overnight and that was it. I had no idea of the physical and emotional side effects, or how to care for someone walking through it. Now, having somewhat of a better understanding and talking with other women who have experienced one, I wanted to share some things I’ve learned in hopes that you might be able to better understand how to care for someone facing one.
What not to say:
“At least you have your other kids”
This is not helpful. Although a woman’s other children may help ease the pain, the pain is for this baby, not the other kids.
“You can always have another one”
People don’t just want any baby, they want the one that was growing inside them that they bonded with. A baby isn’t something you can replace.
“At least you know you can get pregnant”
Getting pregnant isn’t that simple for a lot of women. Maybe she was told she’d never have kids.
“At least it was early”
Does it matter? A miscarriage is a lost child, and there are still many prolonged emotional and physical side effects.
Rather, just be present. Listen. Check in on them. Validate what they are feeling, and give room to process, even if you can’t relate. Offer to stop by, make a meal, or whatever would be most helpful to her.
There was a temptation as I was writing this post to be more broad, lighten things up a bit, and be a little bit more cheerful. I didn’t want to come across as depressing or overly dramatic about something that happens to plenty of people. Even just writing out our story on paper feels risky. Vulnerability is risky, but our prayer is that someone might be blessed by these words and find solidarity in our experience.
I wish I was writing this from a place of complete healing, closure, and peace, but instead, it’s written from a place of brokenness. We are still processing, still walking through this, and still bringing our hearts before the Lord. As easy as it would be to praise Him for His faithfulness if we didn’t lose our baby, we know that in the midst of miscarriage, He is still faithful. And for that we are able to praise Him now.