It never ceases to amaze me how I feel when a friend or acquaintance opens up about their miscarriage experience. There is this feeling of awe, that they would trust me with such a powerful, painful experience. And sadness, because I know my own story, and so I can empathize. Even more, though, there is a sense of loss.
Perhaps many of you who have gone through this can relate. Maybe some of you who’ve never had a pregnancy but want one can chip in, let us know if it’s the same/similar for you.
I feel like we as a community of people have lost the ability to empathize. I don’t know if it’s an American/Western issue or just an issue with those around me, but crying with someone just isn’t really a thing. Especially if it’s anyone but your best friend or sister, crying is just… “weird.”
There is nothing else I longed for, though, when I had my miscarriages than for someone to cry with me. We all know that hollow feeling you get when you either say or receive an “I’m so sorry for your loss.” We just don’t know what to say in that moment. Really, words just don’t quite cut it. Actions, though. Actions are a literal balm to my soul. All I wanted was for someone to wrap me in a hug and let me let it all out. Someone to say, “It’s ok to cry. Let me cry with you. Let me be your protection so you can be weak.”
And yet, that’s so far from what often happens.
In my own experience, I thought I had to face it all on my own. Part of it was due to our history: 18 and pregnant isn’t a great place to start, and 21 and pregnant with no money isn’t much better. My mother, God love her, was and is and always will be very concerned with my welfare and that of our family. She is just one of many people who were and are, so this isn’t an attack on my mother. She is amazing in so many ways. I knew, though, that her concern for us would leave her very disappointed in us getting pregnant. I was afraid that she would say, “Honey, I’m sorry you’re going through this, but it’s for the best” or “It’s better this way.” I couldn’t face that. Regardless of better or worse, it was a life. A life that I lost. I wanted to go to her and cry in her arms, let Momma kiss it better. But, I couldn’t be certain that she’d be honestly sad for me. I couldn’t bear the thought of even an iota of thought that the miscarriage was a good thing.
Then, there was the fact that both pregnancies ended very, very early. The first was 4 weeks 3 days in. The doctor was amazed I even knew I was pregnant. Ohhh… the words “chemical pregnancy” still make me tremble. The second passed at 6 weeks 1 day, but the sonogram at 5 weeks was so full of cysts that the doctors weren’t even sure which was the baby. Apparently, it never progressed from 4 weeks gestation. I’d gone in at 4 weeks when I got the positive because of the previous miscarriage (a case of incredibly low hormones). Turns out, I was wise to. Again, it was hormonal. One doctor told me that, at that early in the pregnancy, neither are actually considered pregnancies because they aren’t viable. It was so relieving to have my nurse squeeze my hand and say, “Baby, as soon as that positive sign pops, it’s a baby. Don’t let anyone tell you any different.” Her validation made all of the doubt and poo-pooing of everyone else bearable. To me, they were babies. They might never have gotten past those first stages, but they were still my babies. Every time someone brushed it off as my being dramatic, I died a little inside.
The worst, though, was the pain from those I did confide in.
One that I treasured as a confidant told me I had it better than her because I had a baby to hold when I lost the ones I couldn’t. She said it was worse for her with her miscarriages because she didn’t have a baby yet. I wanted to run away when I heard that. Neither is better or worse. The pain is there all the same. I might have had #1 to hold, but I knew the feeling of the first flutter. I knew the sound of a baby’s heartbeat impossibly emerging from my belly button. I knew the feel of kicks and heart burn and itchy skin. I knew that amazing feeling of birth and the moment directly after. I knew it all, was waiting for it, and lost it.
Another told me that “It just wasn’t God’s timing.” Granted, looking back I can see that it’s all been worked out for the best, but I firmly believe that God is not orchestrating fetal deaths. He might allow it, due to our fallen, corrupted world where our bodies and those of our children are not perfect, but I seriously doubt that God sits up there and rubs his beard and says, “Hmm… Grace needs to become more organized and needs to have more faith in me. Rather than let her have this baby, I think I’ll use it as a chance for her to grow.” The God I love is not cruel, nor is he manipulative. He uses what is presented. He does not force it to happen.
And the worst confirmed all my fears. “It’s better off this way.” File that along with the “You’re too young to have another kid” and “Y’all don’t have enough money for another baby” and “You’re not ready anyway.” I know mentally that they are meant in the best manner possible, and yet all I felt in the midst of my pain was condescension. I’m sorry, it’s not better off without my baby here beside me. And that comment of “there was probably something wrong with it anyway” is no better. I would give an arm and a leg to have a baby I could kiss, even for a moment, rather than not have them here at all. I know it’s selfish, since I do believe in heaven and I do believe that it’s a place of wholeness and perfection. Still, my human heart refuses to accept that away from me is better than with me. It hurts too much to think about.
The only response I really wanted was exactly what that nurse said. I wanted validation for my pain. I wanted someone to look at me and say, “It’s scary right now. It’s going to be scary for a while. But, you will make it to the other side.” I wanted a friend to come up, offer me a glass of wine, and let me cry. A few months after the second miscarriage, I got exactly that with a close high school friend who’d lost her baby at 12 weeks. It was the most healing thing I’ve ever felt.
I will be honest with you all. I’m sure a lot of my pain and suffering emotionally was because I did try to keep it all to myself. Those fears I talked about last post, the voice and the fears and the doubts? I didn’t mention that to my husband. The times that I screamed at God, demanding why? No one else was home. I couldn’t let anyone else see my weakness. After all, I had a toddler to care for and a career to keep up with and a husband to not freak out. So I sat in the bathroom with the door locked screaming into a towel.
It’s not the way it should be. We women (and the men who love us) should learn to empathize more, to break down that invisible personal bubble and offer a shoulder to cry on. How drastically less would my heartache have been if the words I heard had been, “Oh honey, I’m so sorry…” or “Come here, let me hug you.” I don’t know, honestly. And before I hear the “give it to God” comments, I did. It kept me sane. And lemme tell you, it was one of the worst, most beautiful moments of my life. It was one of those prayers where the pain is so much that there just are no words. Where your mind is so fractured that all you can do is scream. And scream I did. If God were human, he’d have slapped me silly. He’s not, though. Instead, he wrapped his arms around me and comforted me. He let me vent all my anger and fear and shame and feelings of failure on him, and he just held me.
We should do the same for our sisters. Maybe you haven’t experienced the pain of losing an unborn child. Have you lost a child after? Have you lost a loved one? Lost a marriage? Lost anyone important to you? The pain of relational void is something we have all experienced to some degree. I’m not saying we should all try to be in her shoes. No one can know exactly what you’re going through, and that’s ok. All you need to do is remember your own pain and then share that pain with hers. Silently is usually best, I’ve found. Just knowing that someone else has hurt like you have is so amazingly healing. And more than that, knowing that you have someone who knows what happened and is willing to be there to listen, to check up on you, and to be your strength when you have none left: those are the greatest friends I have.
The fears left from those sweet babies of mine may never go away. I feared I’d lose #2 up until the moment he arrived. Part of me still fears that he was a fluke, a miracle given to heal my heart. I know, now, though, that I have people who will stand by me regardless. The women I’ve met since who opened up about their own miscarriages have become a refuge from my fears. My husband has been amazing, blowing me away with his compassion and grace and understanding. Without him, I’d still be lost. Most of all, I’ve discovered that for every misplaced comment and painful minimization from one person, there is another personout there who has the wisdom or the longing to connect with me and bridge that gap.
It hurts. It always will. Time doesn’t heal all wounds, it merely pulls them away from the front of your mind. As soon as it comes up, though, it’s like it never left. I will not hide that pain anymore, though. And I hope I can be brave enough to break the wall and reach out to someone hurting.