As tears crept like fire up my throat and like knives into my eyes, I studied her face. She kept it steady, tilting her head slightly as she grew more quiet, her light-hearted conversation hushing. The minutes were hours as I began to realize what this meant. Tucking her doppler away, she ushered me to a separate room where they used a sonogram to look for my baby’s heartbeat. An insensitive question in the first five seconds still resonates pain today, “Have you been feeling pregnant?” Like I shouldn’t have. Like I had been making it up from the beginning.
Even five years later, I vividly remember tossing and turning all night, feeling the gnawing hunger pains as my body was still unaware of the death inside. All of this for nothing repeated in my thoughts and kept sleep at bay. When my husband finally returned from his business trip, he walked in silently, pressed himself between the narrow couch and my exhaustion and simply lay down. He wrapped his arms tenderly around me and kept them there, joining my heaving sobs. I needed to know this was a hurt worth feeling.
We got up at four o’clock a few days later to check in at the hospital. Although my dreams had been envisioned, and my heart had already loved, we entered a sterile room. So many signatures and four hours later, I would be empty.
As life began to resume normalcy, the most haunting sadness would creep when I would begin to doubt my sorrow. If I never held my baby, how did I love him so much? If there were no memories, no mementos, no proof of her life, how did I feel such loss? Though my world had changed within a matter of hours, nothing around me had changed it all. Simultaneously, I struggled through shame for my grief, found myself questioning the legitimacy of my emotions. I felt embarrassed that I ever shared my initial joy. We all hope, feel and grieve differently through miscarriage, but at the same time, I felt so alone.
As the years have passed, however, I’ve realized how many other women have suffered through miscarriage. Sobered by how many were coming out of the woodwork, we began finding solace in the sharing of our stories. Why don’t we talk about it? What was it like when you miscarried? Gathering, embracing, knowing we would be waited for, wept with, and when we were ready, heard, this is what was said:
It’s so hard to acknowledge something you have never seen. A baby that is held in your arms is relatable. People can SEE the loss. A baby lost in the womb, often early, is unseen. There are no cute stories or memories to share at a memorial service. There is ONLY loss, only pain, only shattered hope.
When we miscarried, I felt like a failure. I had failed as a mommy before I ever got to hold my child.
When we miscarried, I felt like the baby was gone. There was nothing different, nothing to show my loss.
Although the physical effects of miscarriage are very real, they are private as well, involving parts of our bodies we’re not comfortable discussing in mixed company. So, when we miscarry, we don’t talk about it. They buck up and press on, because that’s what they are “supposed to do.” And it sucks.
When we miscarried, I discovered that many people don’t feel that a miscarriage should be grieved and think you should just get over it. Or they say the totally wrong thing like “Don’t worry. You’ll get pregnant again,” (How do they know that??) or “Be thankful. There probably would have been something wrong with that baby,” (That would make him/her no less perfect to me and I still love and want him/her!), “Well this was just God’s will” (No! God didn’t want my baby to die any more than He wants people to die of cancer.)
When we miscarried, just days before, every thought I had was how to keep this baby safe and healthy… no caffeine, no deli meats, no lifting heavy things, drink lots of water, change my lifestyle to grow a healthy little baby. My life had changed pretty drastically, but no one else’s had yet. I think that’s why I felt so lonely. Right after the miscarriage, I’d think “Oh wait I can’t eat or drink that!” Then instantly I’d think “Oh crap… yes, I can,” and I would weep again. It felt so dark and empty. I felt like there was a major gap between me and God, but again at the same weird time, I’d never felt closer to Him.
Five years and three children later, my heart still hurts for the baby we lost. And yet, when another woman reached back to me with the following, I found a sort of comfort.
When a friend told me several years ago about having a small service and naming the baby she lost, I thought it was weird. Opening up this discussion has helped me really see that it is a child lost, no matter how far along in the pregnancy. My brain has had a paradigm shift – it’s not merely a miscarriage. It truly is a loss of a child. When I encounter others in the future, this will help me to be more sympathetic and caring.
The sorrow for a loved one never known with anything other than the heart is indescribable. Although I don’t believe there was a reason my baby died, I’ve found meaning through pain. First, my profound awe and appreciation for conception and pregnancy has deepened exponentially. I will never take life’s beginning for granted. Secondly, I’m grateful that I can more earnestly grieve with other hurting sisters in this otherwise unexplainable brokenness. In fact, it is through opening the door to these conversations and freeing our vulnerability, that a unique strengthening, unparalleled comfort and lasting camaraderie can be established.