I am not alone in my miscarriage
This Spring we were house hunting, and by the end of May we’d settled on a large 5-bedroom house, in a great community. Time seemed to stretch long before us, and we smiled at our ideas for filling these empty rooms.
Our son is 6 years old, our daughter turned 4 at the end of Summer. We’d been told that was a lovely gentleman’s family – but my husband always wanted to be more than just a gentleman. Two children are a nice neat amount, but as a stay at home mum I don’t yet feel ready to kiss goodbye to the baby and toddler years. During the early intense and manic months I shouted that I could never do this again, but as my children age and get more self-sufficient I crave the dependence again! Furthermore, my husband and I agreed that we like the idea of a number of adult children all around our table, and all the blessings that would come from an extended family. Our gaze was very long, and we thought we had everything sussed.
In the busyness of house hunting, home buying and dreaming we were growing in many ways. My tiny secret was that I was pregnant. Only just, and it was early days, but pregnant for sure. Suddenly I was looking forward to the due date, the excitement, the new life.
I had sailed through my first experience of pregnancy and motherhood. My second was much harder – my crippling PND already written about on this site. At my darkest I vowed never again – I’m too alone lacking support, and I just am scared. But, as my children grew I had that familiar urge to add to their number and a strength of character that I could do this again and cope fine. Having a third baby seemed like a great idea. So far, so good. I forgot that I’m not ruler in my own life, and even if I want a baby, or want a certain outcome it isn’t ultimately up to me.
Proverbs 16:9 reminds us all, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
And then, within a month I was pregnant. A heady mix of terrified and proud. We prayed and we laughed, happy with our beautiful secret.
On the Friday night I felt a few cramps, but considered them to be growing pains. The next morning I woke up with tiny blood spots and a lack of symptoms. Again, dismissed as innocent and nothing to worry about.
But I did worry. I kept quiet and my day went on as normal. My husband and I took the kids to the museum, which they always enjoy. I smiled thinking about a few years hence, them showing their younger sibling around, and I could almost picture them in my mind. The cramps persisted, but were weak. Again, dismissed.
In social rhetoric about miscarriage it is often referred to as “losing a baby”, as if it’s carelessness or stupidity which got the woman there. As if she could find it again if she got her act together and looked very hard. To me, the word “miscarriage” always seemed hollow and cold, which is much closer to the truth.
I went to the toilet and at the age of 31 I learnt what the word miscarriage really means. Unmistakable, but I wanted to reason my way out of it. Surely this was not happening to me? But it was happening, to me, in a locked toilet cubicle in the museum. Heavy bleeding, clots, fluid and now the cramps were really meaning something. These were contractions. A fact: a medical term for miscarriage is “spontaneous abortion”.
Somehow I got tidy and got my head straight enough to leave the cubicle and return to my family. Somehow I continued this normal family outing and walked around pointing out artistic beauty, extinct specimens and cold hard marble to my children. Both of them alive and expectant beside me. They wanted experience and knowledge of the world around them, and in my head I screamed. I fought against what my body was telling me about the death within me.
Familiar Scripture of Psalm 139 flashed in my head, and I tried to find comfort,
“O LORD, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.a
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.”
Foolishly I had no idea how long a miscarriage lasts – these facts are not talked about in polite company. I’ll tell you now that the second day is worse than the first and bleeding for up to a fortnight is not uncommon. Initially my thoughts were fear: God, what is happening? Help me! Then quickly anger: God, why is this happening to us? Speak to me! But sitting there I was aware that my body was doing this with no regard for what my emotions or rational brain wanted. And that, above and beyond that, God was working to a higher purpose than I could ever alone. My thoughts soon became: God, what are you achieving through this? Give me strength!
It’s been 4 months since my miscarriage. Four months in which I’ve not been blooming, no scans, no excitement. Just shame as I have bought unnecessary baby clothes as some sort of strange comfort in my grief. In these months I have had periods as normal, I’ve had to force myself to not stand in our empty bedrooms considering what nursery furniture I could have bought, and I’ve been sullen and petty when avoiding the beaming faces of women due months after I would have been.
A shadow follows me around and lingers over the spare seats at our dining table. It is a lump in my throat as I consider how to answer, “so are you going to have any more children?” A naive question, assuming all is easy. Usually I answer honestly as the rude part of me enjoys seeing their discomfort for having mentioned this. Also, I hope to find others who have suffered similarly. This is still a great taboo.
I think about my baby constantly. My dead baby whom I never got to meet. I don’t know anything about them, but I imagine him as a boy. I picked a name, and I know when he was due. These are things I keep to myself, as the inevitable forgetfulness of others is too harsh right now. The due date will come and go and I don’t expect anyone to notice. But I will remember, and I suppose that is really enough.
This date is a shadow on my calendar, and I’m far from being the only one. I’ve been told by several others that they too have suffered a miscarriage, or multiple miscarriages. Many butterfly babies who flitted away unknown. I look at these women and I don’t see a shadow. They laugh and they continue. Extra comfort for me comes when they go on to birth other babies as it buoys my hope for the future.
In the book of Daniel there was a King who made huge ornate statues and demanded praise from his subjects. Three men, believers in God, refused to bow down to the King and were threatened with immediate punishment in the form of being thrown into a fiery furnace.
Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up. (Daniel 3:15-18)
The king threw them into the furnace, and they did not die. God sent an angel to save them and astonish the King. Why am I telling you this? Simply because of their example of faith. They acknowledge that their God is strong enough to save them from the furnace, but in verse 18 they say, “…but if not…” which is their understanding that they are small and God is big. What they hope for might not be what God wants for them. And so it is for us: we want another baby and a healthy pregnancy, but we acknowledge that this may not happen.
There’s nothing to say I’ll have another baby, but I can live in hope. Hope that perhaps I will one day, or hope that I’ll be able to give sage advice to a woman who needs it in her dark days. In this experience which could have crushed me, I am choosing to rest in the safety that God will sustain me in my fears, anxieties and whatever he has planned for my physical body.
Often I think we all can fall into a trap of thinking babies are a good reason to shop and consume, we are obsessed with getting the ‘right’ pram and the best toys. We try to outdo each other as we boast about how long we breastfed for, or how early our babies rolled over. We think about which names best reflect our intellect and wit, we see babies as a good excuse to update our cars. And we all do this, I did it too. One thing I give thanks for is the clarity of thought I have now about whether or not I desire a 3rd baby. After my experience with PND I could have run away at the mere idea of having another baby. But since deciding to try again, and the subsequent miscarriage I am clear that my heart does ache for my family to grow. All in all, I’m aware of God’s will not being the same as my demands. My role is to submit and try to live according to his grace.
I never got to hear my baby cry, or feel their weight in my arms. I am crying and burdened without them here. I carry a shadow of sorrow and grief, but I know this will pass. When I die, I’ll go to be with my Father God and I’ll never cry again. My baby bypassed all the world’s pain and suffering and waits with love in Heaven.
Someone close to me is pregnant, and asked me to write something for them. I struggled to think of what to write as I just wanted to scream, “my baby died!”, but I came up with this poem, and I stand over it enough to add it here to close:
“Children come when God decidesthe aching and waitingare forgotten in criesOf love and placeIn the world, but not of it.Our role is to nurture, to lovein sacrifice. To give gloryas it is due.”