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Today we have a guest post by Jessica.  Please welcome her.

The pause was pregnant. And I…I was not. Not anymore.
 
Even with my lack of medical training, I could clearly see that what had been my baby, a little peanut-shaped being with a flashing pinprick heartbeat, was no longer there. Instead, what looked like oblong breakfast sausages hovered around the perimeter of my uterus.
 
The doctor’s face was troubled as she adjusted the ultrasound equipment. She gently moved the probe from side to side, searching. Finally, her words broke against the forming numbness in my mind and heart. “I’m sorry,” she said, “but you’ve had a miscarriage. It looks as though the baby died about one and a half to two weeks ago.”
 
Miscarriage. Spontaneous abortion. Whatever you choose to call it, it’s an unexpected end to a promising beginning. The very possibility of it causes some couples to wait fearfully until the second trimester to share their joyful news. The scarring ‘what-ifs’ it leaves can cause paralysis for every subsequent pregnancy. And for those who’ve never walked through miscarriage, it can be a mystery as to why their friends are so shaken.
 
Symptoms
After a successful first visit to the OB and another visit where we got to see our grainy little black and white Peanut on the ultrasound machine, we were riding high. We were walking in faith, reading ‘Supernatural Childbirth,’ and generally just giving God glory for blessing us with a child. And then…

I had a spotting episode. Knowing from “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” that these can be normal, I still decided to call the doc. (Due to my unusual anatomy, I’m automatically in the high risk category.) She told me to come in immediately. I did.
 
Symptoms of miscarriage include spotting, cramping and sometimes nothing at all – which is where I fell. The only ‘symptom’ I noticed was a lightening of the nausea that had been my first clue I was pregnant. Writing it off as evidence of reaching the second trimester (with thanks, no less!) and the ‘safe zone,’ I was totally unprepared for this to happen.
 
Aftermath
I made it back to the church I both attended and worked at, one short block from the doctor’s office. My pastor saw on my face that something was wrong. After a brief, teary explanation, he called my husband, N. His boss, also a good friend, drove him over. We held each other, shocked and sobbing, in the office until N was able to drive us home.
 
The doc had prescribed a medicine to help my body break down and pass “the tissue” a little faster so that I wouldn’t require a D&C. As this process could be a bit painful, she also prescribed some pain meds.
 
I don’t remember how soon the cramping started after I took the first pill. I just remember being thankful for the percoset.
 
There’s blood and then there are blood ‘clots’. We’re all familiar with the blood we pass during our monthly menses. Blood clots are a horse of a different color – rusty red clumps that can range in size from golf balls to small grapefruit. If you’ve had a baby before, these will not be a surprise to you. But if your first experience with the close of a pregnancy is miscarriage, they may take you by surprise.
 
Relational
We sat on the couch, trying to make sense of the unexpectedness of our tragedy. We prayed, cried, sang songs, read through parts of the Old Testament book of Job. A song that we frequently sang in our church became more real to us as we struggled to make sense of ‘He gives and takes away. He gives and takes away. Still my heart will choose to say, “Lord, blessed be Your Name.”’
 
The first day was one of relative quiet as we mourned our loss. Our pastor sent out an e-mail to our church, asking folks to keep us in prayer and give us some space while we healed. This was great in that it saved us from having to answer repeated hard questions over and over again. Several families banded together and provided us with meals for the next few days so that we didn’t have to think about food. Flowers and cards were delivered to the house and were so very appreciated.
 
And then, on the second day, the phone started to ring.
 
The first call was great. The gentleman spoke to my husband and prayed with us. The second call…well, that was a different story. A sweet lady, mother of three healthy children, was attempting to give comfort and failing miserably. She meant well. She really did. And we knew that. But after I finished the call worse off than when I’d started it, N unplugged the phone.
 
Things to not say to a woman (or her husband) who has just lost a child:
“Are you going to try again?” I heard this one from my mother.

“You can always try again.” I heard this one from multiple well-meaning, but clueless individuals. This is a true statement, but it glosses over the pain that is being felt now.

“You’re young and healthy.” Yup…and look what good it did me.

“God has His reasons.” Or, “God needed your little one in heaven.” Excuse me? I think we all need to go read the book of Job again. At least his ‘comforters’ knew to be quiet for the first week or so! Let’s not malign the character of God by putting words in His mouth.

Image by Kaparoff

 
Recovery
“Tomorrow is the day that I have chosen to step back in to real life.” These were the first words I wrote when journaling as I was looking at going back to work a couple of days after our loss. My boss was a bit surprised and offered me more time, but I didn’t think that sitting still and mulling over the unchangeable would be beneficial. There was work to be done and I needed something to keep my brain and hands occupied so that I didn’t sink down into despair.
 
Journaling can be extremely helpful as you heal. There’s something intimate in the act of touching pen to paper and pouring out your inmost thoughts, coaxing emotions, worries and doubts out of hiding. Journaling can also help you put a face to any fears that may linger afterwards, as you can see the recurring topics when you re-read your previous writings. 
 
The next week, after a particularly rough morning, I called S, a friend who was also pregnant. She had two lovely little girls and was due to have her third about a week after my first was supposed to be born. I asked if I could come over for awhile. It wasn’t so much that I needed to talk as I needed to be around normalcy, to feel normal family interactions and to love and be loved on by some children. To remember that life goes on despite our tragedies.
 
It can be easy at this point to fall down the slippery slope of despair. Grieving is good and proper and there is nothing wrong with being sad as you process your loss. The wonderful news is that we don’t have to do this alone. If you are a part of a community of faith, share your loss with some trusted friends that will love on you and cover you in prayer. Understand that you are not going to heal overnight and that being sad is not a sin. Another benefit of walking in community is being able to talk to other women who have been where you now are.
 
The Secret Sisterhood
While S had never walked through miscarriage, she was able to point me to D, a lady who had. I called D a few days later and asked if we could meet. A few days later, she came to my house. She told me her story, listened to my story and reassured me that what I was feeling was normal. Even ten years later, she still thought about her baby, wondering how tall s/he would be or what s/he would have looked like, remembering the due and loss dates.
 
It amazed me afterwards how many other women stepped forward and said that they had also walked through that valley. It’s a secretive sisterhood of sorrow in some respects, as debates rage back and forth over what constitutes life and when it is that a zygote, the fertilized egg, earns the rights, privileges and protection of citizenship. This ongoing argument limits a woman (and her husband) from feeling the full freedom to grieve. We’re told on multiple sides that “This was for the best-your body knew something was wrong with ‘it’” or “It was just tissue” or any of another of a number of asinine, unthinking remarks that denigrate and diminish the feelings of loss we are experiencing. 
 
And Then…

In February of 2006, I started waking up with nausea. After about five days of this happening, I took a home test. It came back negative. After several more days of nausea, I took another home test. It, too, came back negative. My general practitioner prescribed a blood pregnancy test about two weeks after the nausea began. My numbers came back a little high but not enough for them to officially confirm anything, so they asked me to return for another draw the next day. Sure enough, the numbers had doubled and we were officially expecting once more!

Hoo-ray? Oh dear Lord, what if? Please, please, please…
 
The first one and a half trimesters were a mental and spiritual struggle for me. Every ache, every pain was enough to send my brain into spasms of worry and doubt – the exact opposite of where I had been my first pregnancy. I had to continually choose where to focus my faith and it was not easy. I sang the Veggie Tales song “God is bigger than the Boogie Man” more times than I can remember. Childish? Maybe. But, it helped me to keep my perspective in order and remember where to place my faith.
After what we had gone through with losing the first baby, we had decided to only tell our closest friends that we were pregnant again. That is, until our pastor and his wife confronted us about it. “Who will pray with and for you?” they asked. “If it does happen again, who will know to surround you with love and cover you with prayer while you grieve?” N and I realized that, at least for our situation, they were right. By not telling our church family, we were cutting ourselves off from the benefits of their love and prayers. We were walking in fear of being hurt again instead of trusting in the graciousness of God to provide for us.

I am pleased to report that Cassandra Joy was born on October 23. While I still occasionally look at my friend’s daughter and wonder how tall my first baby would have been or what s/he would have looked like in comparison, Cassie provided a balm to my heart and soul.
Image by JoyBelleJewelry 
The Takeaway
In the midst of our grief, we had to consciously choose to give God glory. It wasn’t easy, but it was necessary.
 
What you can do to bless a family walking through miscarriage:
*Hold off on phone calls for awhile. Send a card, tell them that you love and are praying for them and include your phone number. Invite them to call you if they need to talk or cry.
*Ask if you can bring a meal over. Our church took care of organizing this and it was a huge blessing.
*Respect boundaries and only stay to share the meal if invited to do so. Otherwise, it’s a quick hug, a murmured “We love you” and a return to your car.
*Pray! God is the only one who can bring true comfort and healing to grieving hearts.
*If you are called upon to provide a listening ear, do just that – listen. Don’t offer advice or try to fill in the blanks as to what God’s intentions were. Refer to the earlier list about things to not say. Let your friend lead the conversation and close when she’s ready. Hold her hand or embrace her. Let her know that you are present with her and not thinking about what you’re going to make for dinner the next day.
*Offer unconditional love. The grieving process can be long and drawn out. For me, every ‘monthly reminder’ that I was not pregnant was a reminder of my “failure” and set me off to crying and renewed despair. Remember to offer love whether your friend is up or down and if she’s down, don’t condemn her. Remember – being sad is not a sin!
*Encourage your friend to have an informal funeral or memorial. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy – we planted a butterfly bush in our front yard. It’s now big, bushy and a beautiful reminder that I have a child waiting for me on the other side of eternity.
 
 
Photo 3 – http://www.flickr.com/photos/31321348@N05/5013669768/
 
 
Bio:
Jessica is mother to Cassie Joy (4), Sarah (2) and Rafe (11 mos). She got the two-for-one special on wombs when she was born with a uterine anomaly known as ‘uterine didelphys’. Because of this quirk, she requested to be nicknamed the Uterus Queen at her awesome OB’s office. Her request was denied. ;)

This is the writings of:

Kate is wife to Ben and mommy to Bekah (6.5), Daniel (5), Jacob (3), and Nathan (1.5). She is passionate about God, health, and food. She has written 7 cookbooks and a popular book entitled A Practical Guide to Children's Health. She also recently released Healing With God's Earthly Gifts: Natural and Herbal Remedies, which teaches people to use natural remedies to keep their families healthy. When she's not blogging, she's in the kitchen, sewing, or homeschooling her children.

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8 Comments

  1. Having lost four babies to miscarriage, I can attest that these recommendations are exactly right. Thank you, Jessica, for sharing your story and helping people know how to help those who have lost babies.

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  2. Thank you for posting this. It is as if the words had come out of my own mouth. I had a miscarriage at the end of the summer and went through exactly what you described. My husband and I are trying again to get pregnant (we have three children here on earth already) and I know that when I do get pregnant again I will feel everything you talked about. It's wonderful to know that there is someone else out there that knows how this feels!!

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  3. I appreciate this post so much! I read it when I got to the office this morning and was in tears by the end (fortunately, no one gets to the office as early as I do).

    I've had two miscarriages this year and they were difficult to bear. Some of my closest friends were quick to offer "advice" and that part may have been more scarring than the miscarriage itself. We eventually found a couple in our church who had been in our shoes 20 years before and their wisdom and prayers were so helpful.

    And then, last week, we heard the heartbeat of a new little one that will, Lord willing, join us in June!

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  4. Thank you so much for this… I had a miscarriage about three weeks ago. I am blessed to have four beautiful children and although this pregnancy was a surprise I was still welcoming to it. Having had a miscarriage before I thought I would be prepared but I wasn't. Each time it is different and brings on different kind of emotions. I found myself searching through some of my favorite blogs looking for support stories. This post is wonderful and will help those that are going through the loss or those who know someone who is. It is such a tender moment no matter the circumstances and should be handled with care.

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  5. Thank you. I have 10 month old at home and a just had a miscarriage 6-8 weeks ago. I was sad at the things people did to comfort me. I know they were well intentioned, but most people just said "sorry" and then left it at that. Even the ladies that I'm friends with at church. I guess I was just wanting them to offer to talk if I needed it. One lady even acted relieved since I have such a young one already. My first pregnancy and delivery went so well. Now I'm already worried about future pregnancies and I know I should just trust in the Lord. I think what worries me the most is that I'm still breastfeeding. Old literature suggests it can contribute to a miscarriage and that gives me such mixed emotions. I tell myself that it's not related, and that's what my midwife says too, but still….The thought is there.

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  6. I just a few day ago went through this. About 2 weeks before my first prenatal appointment/ultrasound I wasn't feeling particularly pregnant anymore, but just figured it was because I had been busy with life work and taking care of 2 other precious joys in my life. But we had started telling people, which really did turn out to be a blessing.
    I went to the ultrasound that day, no husband, no kids – which we were going to bring them, I am so grateful my almost 5-year-old daughter was not present for this news.
    Anyway, the baby had no heart-beat and hadn't for 1-2 weeks. I decided to just do expectant management (as I had had my other 2 pregnancies and births naturally). It was another 2 weeks of just waiting for something to happen. I finally started spotting and nothing much for the rest of the day. The next day we were supposed to be going a little more than an hour north to see my sister-in-law and nephew who were visiting her mom. She was concerned about me traveling (in my condition) but I had already been waiting for a few weeks I wasn't about to just sit home another day.
    Well cramps started on the drive up with my mom, almost 5-year-old daughter and 20-month-old son. About an hour after arriving they were to the level of a bad period. I felt some stuff happening so I got up to go to the toilet. The short of it everything happened SO fast that I passed out twice, so to the ER we went. Because of blood and energy levels I did end up having a D&C. We arrived home at 1:30am that morning, friends and family were able to get the kids home, bring us food and have continued helping with the kids. I am still pretty weak and can't walk much without my heartbeat throbbing in my head.

    I am grateful for not being bitter towards God about everything. And being able to communicate God's sovereignty and wisdom to our daughter through explain what all has happened. She went through a short time of being very mad at Adam and Eve, but the blame is back where it belongs; on sin and Satan.

    I don't think I have been able to really grieve yet. A lot has been going on through the lat 2 weeks; husband gone on mission trip, parents temporarily moving in with us, work, kids and I am a doula, so I have to face head on babies and birthing very soon. Which I think and pray will be a major healing component of all this.

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  7. Great post. One thing you didnt mention. Not all losses are early on in the pregnancy. Some, like mine are well into the thrid trimester when a proper funeral or memorial are nessessary. It is helpful in the healing process to have a place to visit the baby/babies. I think posts like this are good for people going through these hard times. It lets them know they arent alone and their feelings are normal.

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  8. I am still feeling the rawness of our loss, we were 7 weeks pregnant last week when I started bleeding and cramping. My doctor said not to really wory but to rest and hydrate, spotting became bleeding and bleeding got more intense. A blood test was ordered and taken, the numbers were 2 weeks behind where I should have been but still within the “normal” range. Another blood test was ordered for two days later, emotionally and mentally numb we waited. Friday came, we took dd age 4 to Ballet, I sat amidst the regular group of moms most of which are pregnant or have small babies, conversations swirled around me of how this baby was a total surprise or they had planned to wait and suddenly they were pregnant, etc… we went directly from there to the lab to have the second blood draw. Four grueling hours later the nurse calls and says “yes it was a miscarriage, your numbers dropped from 816 to 209. ” the rest of the conversation which according to my phone lasted 40 minutes is a blur, I don’t remember saying or hearing anything other than “12 weeks to see if your period comes, if not come in” “one full cycle to try again” “just rest” . I remember standing in my kitchen thinking “how do I rest?” “is she serious!?” My husbnad is quitting his job tomorrow, and opening his own business the following week, he was at that time gone in another county arranging things that could not wait and since cell service ther is lacking I couldn’t even call him, supper needed to be cooked, homework needed to be done, baths taken, dishes washed, clothes put away, 5 days of life had piled up and it was a mountain at that time, My local best friend was in another state without phone service, my long distance best friend was in another state 8 hours away, my mil was in no shape to help in anyway, my mom lives 12 hours away and has more than she can handle already with my Dad’s business and my sister and her two children without a husband. I felt at the bottom of the hole an dnowhere to turn. I spent a week dealing wit this miscarriage in silence we told various people about our great news, but I am struggling now since I do not feel supported at this time, lol a week later, a week to the day exactly from when the actual miscarriage happened, I am washing load after load of laundry and trying to climb the mountain of dishes, toys are all through the house, I am sitting in my pajamas and robe and crying my eyes out, while my husband is at work and life goes on. It seems noone cares really that we lost our bab, the baby that we tried monthly for, cried monthly for, prayed monthly for for the past 3 years, yes we have 2 beautiful healthy very alive children already, we are young and healthy, we can try again. But these facts do not change the fact that I am sitting here, needing … I don;t know what exactly, and not knowing how or where to find it. I don’t feel supported , I don;t feel like these busy moms I know who are supposed to be my friends are being supportive or even caring right now, I don’t know at what point I will get done what needs to get done with daily living so I can go bury my head in a pillow and scream and cry.
    If you hear of a woman who has lost a baby, please please please support her, watch her children, wash her laundry, cook her a meal, manage phone calls for her… do whatever you can do to help her grieve and get through one of the hardest times of her life. That’s all I can say, its hard, its hard to breath, its hard to focus, its hard to think past just eating and sleeping, its scary and painful, and you need time and if you don’t have it then the pain seems like it will last forever.

    Reply

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