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Processing miscarriage and grief

I was reading some blog posts recently and they were discussing how we as parents should be more vocal about our miscarriages and open about whether or not we are trying to conceive. There were a lot of points in these posts that I agree with-- how isolating miscarriages can be, how heartbreaking a negative pregnancy test feels, the emptiness and longing as you pass your due date without a baby in your arms. But some of the other points made me think about my own experiences with miscarriages and my current pregnancy. I think I have finally sorted out my thoughts into a blog post...

So, first of all, I'd like to clarify that we do not struggle with infertility; my fertility is normal. When I talk about trying to conceive, all of this is within a year of trying to conceive without fertility treatments. I am adding that only because I am not trying to misrepresent myself or to represent a journey that I have never taken. I have many friends that struggle/have struggled with infertility and their stories are different than mine.

When I announced that we were 16 weeks pregnant with baby #5, a lot of people were surprised. Sadly, even a lot of my close friends were caught off guard. I received phone calls and text messages and many face to face conversations where people said, "I didn't realize you were pregnant!" I had hardly shared the news with anyone. I did not expect to keep the news that tightly under wraps when we went into this pregnancy.

I had my first OB visit right before I was 6 weeks pregnant. From that first visit on we received bad news after bad news regarding my pregnancy. Nothing was looking right. They were worried it could be another molar. The ultrasound readings weren't looking good. I was devastated. I remember telling my husband, "I have to have you come with me in case we get bad news," and my absolute shock when we did receive bad news. This is our 6th pregnancy (7th if you count a confusing and brief chemical pregnancy, which my husband does). Previously we had had 2 miscarriages, one of those ended up being a partial molar pregnancy. We have had our share of bad news in the OB office. When we received bad news regarding this pregnancy, I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. Again?! How could this be happening again?!

Right before 11 weeks we were told that the pregnancy may progress normally. From there we received more tentatively positive feedback until 16 weeks when they said that the baby was indeed progressing normally and that everything should be fine. At 18 weeks we got the all clear. By that point, my head was spinning. I remember each of our previous 2 miscarriages vividly. I remember those feelings, the words my husband comforted me with. The late night prayers and the early morning longing. I remember the long showers and sobbing, sobbing, sobbing at all the blood and disappointment and failure. How could I have let this all go? How could my body do this to me?

With the molar pregnancy, the months of returning to the OB office each week for blood work, the waiting room full of pregnant women. The entire year passing before we conceived again, my due date passing, the age gap between our twins and baby #4. The comments we receive, "If we had twins, we would have waited to have another baby too!" We didn't want to wait. We tried for a baby. We had a baby. The baby is gone.

This pregnancy was different for me in that I had no idea and have no idea the support I wanted or needed. I felt lost. I didn't feel ready to open up and to start fielding the routine comments. I didn't even feel ready to face the day each day. I felt beyond overwhelmed with our 4 children, the Navy schedule, the complications I'm experiencing due to past pregnancies, the distance between me and my family, and the depression. I felt like crawling into my bed until it had all passed.

Combining the rough start and my past history, I have strange feelings regarding this pregnancy. I keep trying to keep my emotions in check as the weeks march forward, "Don't get too excited... hold it in... you don't know how this will work out..." As I've started to shed my depression, I have started to see that much of dealing with this specific grief is forgiving myself. I have held on to so much shame from miscarrying my babies. I feel like my body failed. I scramble sometimes to find the "why" and the "what I could have done differently." Those thoughts hurt. What if I do stumble upon the why? If I hadn't done this then my babies would still be alive? Oh, those thoughts hurt. If I can't tolerate those kinds of comments from other people, why do I tolerate them from myself? I have been praying for forgiveness for myself, to hand this over to God and let him heal the pain that I have sheltered.

With each of our miscarriages and with this current pregnancy, I have handled the "bad news" differently. With this pregnancy, I had depression. I knew we would get through this-- one way or another. I knew what each step after a miscarriage felt like. The breathless feeling as you move each day away from your baby. Yesterday I was pregnant. 2 days ago I was pregnant. Last week I was pregnant. Last month I was pregnant... On and on until suddenly you are far enough away from the baby, the pregnancy, that it isn't relevant anymore and people don't understand. The idea of hearing the same comments I heard during my first miscarriage, the second miscarriage, the molar pregnancy... I couldn't do it. With my complications from baby #4, I knew that this was it, the last pregnancy, our last go. If this pregnancy fails, would we dare try again? I don't know. I don't think so. Could I even try again?

People are well meaning, I know they are. I cannot even express how thankful I was during my molar pregnancy to receive a handwritten condolence card from a friend. I had something tangible that this pregnancy happened and mattered and that someone was praying for me. The hugs and tears shared with friends. The long phone calls with my mother. These things matter and the support is real. I am so thankful for that support and that is the support I crave when things go wrong.

What is hard is the other comments, the ones made by people you don't know well or people who don't understand. I remember the devastation when a neighbor flippantly told me that "everyone has a miscarriage their first pregnancy." Everyone loses their baby at 12+ weeks pregnant? This is normal? Why didn't I know this? Or when you are trying to conceive again and month after month your cycle arrives, your pregnancy tests are negative. "It will happen in due time. Don't worry." I'm not worried. I know I will eventually get pregnant. What I want is to be pregnant with the baby I lost. What I want is to go back in time and tell my body to do it's job, to protect what was inside of me, for my womb to love the baby as much as my heart did. The worst comment: "That baby didn't survive for a reason. There is a reason you had a miscarriage." Logically, yes. Emotionally, no. I honestly don't care what the reason is. Obviously something happened or I would pass my due date with a babe in arms. Every time I hear this comment, I want to cry. I want to burst into tears and cry. The way people say it to me-- not doctors, just people-- is that I shouldn't be sad. That I should let this baby pass because they, a bystander, are telling me that my baby miscarried due to a congenital failure that I do not know about. It doesn't help me. I do not want a diagnosis sitting at Starbucks.

I do not want the dismissive shrug, "God has a plan," as though my grief is in defiance of God. God does have a plan for me. I know this. I trust him. Did Job shake it off and say, "Whatevers. God's got a plan, you guys." No. The first thing Job says is, "May the day of my birth perish." (Job 3:3a). Yet he is praised for his patience and trusting of God. "I loathe my very life, therefore I will give free rein to my complaint and speak out in the bitterness of my soul" (Job 10:1). Job trusted God and held fast to God's promises. He wept at his hardships. I can be sad and weep and long for those babies and fully trust God. God's perfect plan will happen. My life will be lead to the glory of God. I can count down the days until I am in heaven praising the Lord and holding those babies of mine that have been waiting for me to get there. My grief is not separate from my faith. My grief is my very human need for God. I do not think God took those babies from me; there is sin in this world; I am not blaming God. I know that whatever happens to me, I can hold firm to the gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:27), that all things can bring glory to God. That is what I do. I hold firm. Job 42: 2-5:
I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?' Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, 'Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.' My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you..." 
It is easy to focus on the comments I receive during these times of grief, the times where I felt 2 inches tall because of a misplaced sentiment. Sometimes people really are trying to help and my grief takes their words personally. It isn't their fault. It isn't my fault. It happens. There are times, like with my first miscarriage, that comments were bound to happen because we had shared my pregnancy with everyone. During the second miscarriage it felt more personal because I had only let a handful of people in. It is easy to put the blame on them, "I would share, but people need to learn what to say and become more sensitive and mindful." True, manners go a long way, but sometimes people are being sensitive and mindful. They genuinely mean God loves me and has a perfect plan for me. They are not trying to tell me to put my tears away and my sensitive heart is processing their words differently than how they mean them. While I will never forget some of the comments I have received during my times of grief (grief has a way of imprinting in your mind while also merging days and weeks into a blur), I can forgive them. I can hand them over to God when they pop into my mind. I do not have to give the off handed words people said either by mistake or with genuine feeling power over my actions. I know that once a hurtful word is spoken it is easy to be paralyzed. The times that I lowered the wall and tried to let people in only to have that trust broken-- real or perceived-- make it very difficult to be vulnerable again. It is hard. It is a struggle.

When I read posts that demand that women have a right to discuss their miscarriages, that each of these losses are real, I agree. What I do not agree with is that we have to. I choose to blog about my losses here because I know how isolating a miscarriage is and how uplifting and encouraging it is to read someone else's story who went through the same thing. I know how hard the late nights and early mornings are and what the Google searches that bring people to my page looking for someone else who has been there. But in real life, I am a woman that feels the tears burn the back of my eyes when a comment feels insensitive, a woman who changes the subject when I don't know how to put into words the emotions those losses bring up, a woman who thinks about each of the babies that are waiting for me in heaven each and every time I see a positive pregnancy test. I do not boldly preach about these miscarriages at each opportunity in real life, but I will quietly grab your hand when you hint at yours. I will relate with you. I will pray for you and cry with you when you tell me that your pregnancy isn't going well. I will tell you my story. I will answer your questions when you ask. I will share with you. I hold these babies of mine dear to my heart. My story of them is my only connection with them here on earth. I have 4 precious children sleeping upstairs right now that I get to spend each day with. I make memories with them and I have seen them grow. I do not have that same gift with these babies that weren't born. My time with them was fleeting.

What I am saying is that I do not believe there is one answer out there regarding sharing about miscarriages and processing loss. I have felt differently during each of my miscarriages. During my first miscarriage, I wished more than anything that I hadn't shared my pregnancy with everyone-- the gas station attendant, the cashiers at Wal Mart, the pizza guy, every single one of our neighbors I waved at, all my friends and acquaintances. The weeks and sometimes months afterwards of, "How's the new baby?" or "How's the pregnancy?" kept me hiding at home to avoid the explanations. With my second miscarriage and subsequent molar pregnancy, I wished I had shared more. I gathered local support after the pregnancy started miscarrying. I told people after the D&C. I felt so alone and felt so horrible with the awkward, "Oh, congratulations on the pregnancy, honey. I'm so sorry to hear that it isn't going well.." People didn't know what to say when I said I was pregnant and miscarrying or had miscarried and was having complications. It was all hard.

How each person processes that time with miscarried babies is different-- and each pregnancy is different. Grief is messy. It is really hard to say ahead of time the support you would want if the worst was to happen or if you were in someone else's shoes.

Have you had a miscarriage? What comforted you during your time of grief? What was one of your biggest challenges? Did you feel sharing helped?

I also want to say thank you to everyone who has shared their stories with me via email, messaging, and in person. Every time I post blogs on miscarriage I am blown away by other people's stories-- from friends to my blog readers. I am so blessed to pray for you and to receive your prayers.

John 16:33
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."


Comments

Candace Sessums said…
I am so sorry about your babies :( I had a chronic placental abruption and at 19 weeks I delivered my baby, Isaiah, stillborn. This is a great post and so truthful! Grief is so hard but I remember praying when I came home from the hospital and just asking God to be with me in every step/stage of the grief process and He has been so faithful with me. I have learned that there can be joy in grief and that is a miracle from Him. Thank you for sharing your story!

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