[Disclaimer: This post is fairly long (for me) and personal. Maybe to the point of overshare. Like the first post, my goal here is not to describe the general experience of miscarriage, but rather to bring it one more small step into the light. By sharing my story I hope to make it easier for a few other women to share theirs… Even better if it is helpful for women who haven’t yet had miscarriages, but statistically may eventually do so. If this doesn’t sound like your thing, I’m not even a little offended if you head back to whatever you were doing before.]
It’s been a couple months now since my miscarriage and, while it was important to talk about it as it happened, I’ve learned a lot since then. Here’s some of that…
Grief can be slow.
I was basically numb for a couple of weeks. There was kind of a background sense of sadness, but mostly there was a sense that I had this weird dream that I was pregnant, but then I woke up. (My dream life is pretty active and vivid, so this is basically life as usual.)
There are lots of people who want to share their stories.
This was overwhelming, but in a good way. There seem to be lot of people who really want to share about their babies, but just need permission or an excuse to do so. (Even if you’re ok talking about it and you ignore the cultural taboo surrounding miscarriage, it’s not something that comes up frequently in conversation. It feels like a downer.) It was a beautiful and heartbreaking privilege to hear so many of you speak of babies that you miss.
People can be totally awesome at wholehearted compassion, given the opportunity.
I had this really terrifying realization the day after I shared the first post… I shared it Friday night, then Saturday I remembered I was singing on Sunday morning. Now, I love every second I get to help lead worship. But also, when I do, my mother-in-law watches my kids for the morning and brings them to the second service. So I’m there at both services without kids to chase (in this case, hide behind.) Usually, this is awesome. But this particular week, I was pretty anxious about the vulnerable, exposed feeling I anticipated. And, as one person pointed out, going public with a miscarriage could very well mean processing my pain with a lot of well-meaning but casual acquaintances… daunting for an introvert.
But do you know what? My church family is awesome. Kind and compassionate, not awkward or overwhelming. I hadn’t shared it looking for support (which is funny, because that seems like an obvious outcome now), but support is very much what I found. As for processing with casual acquaintances, it turns out a lot of people I know (but not well) wanted to share their experiences in a really positive way. The general sense was, “here’s what I experienced, it’s hard, and it is going to be OK. You’re not alone.”
Also? I found out (again) that worship is a really good antidote to self-consciousness. It turns out that when I’m focusing on the greatness of God, I kind of lose track of how vulnerable I’m supposed to be feeling.
Grief is worth looking for.
So here it gets messy. Brené Brown says in Gifts of Imperfection, “We cannot selectiely numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.” For a couple of weeks, I wasn’t feeling sad, but I also wasn’t feeling… anything. I started to panic that I was doing it wrong, what ever “it” was. So I went to see my therapist. We figured out a couple reasons why I was fighting the sad so hard.
First, it was easier to believe it wasn’t really a baby. When I was a teenager, I had a man in spiritual authority explain logically why babies- born and unborn- go to Hell if they die before receiving Christ. I have no recollection of why we were discussing this and I’ve long since come to believe otherwise, based on scripture and what I know of God’s character, but the words were still there, ricocheting around my brain. (Don’t get mad at him, that’s so not the point. He was a good man trying to handle the Word accurately.)
Then also, I had this thought (apparently a common one) that the reason I lost this baby was because I couldn’t take one more right now. I had this story in my head that one more kid would push me over the edge into psychosis and I’d end up on national news after destroying my family in some horrible way. That being the case, this loss was God’s gracious way of sparing my whole family (baby included) from some crazy trauma. It follows then that I should be thankful, not sad.
Sometimes I need someone to help me figure out what lies are circulating around in my head and point them out for what they are. I have an excellent, Jesus-loving therapist that can help me with that. (Ok, since the point of this is authenticity, I actually have two. But that’s a whole ‘nother thing.) I left her office crying. She apologized for that, but as far as I was concerned, it was a win. Once we found the lies (“it’s not a baby, because if it were, it would be in Hell” and “I would go crazy and destroy my family”) and corrected them (it is a baby and she’s not in Hell and I’d have been a darn good mama to her), I was free to grieve.
Sometimes grief looks like obscene laziness.
I cried some, but not much. But wasn’t very functional. Six weeks. SIX WEEKS sitting on my recliner, basically. Every now and then I’d have a day where there was energy enough to do something, get out of the house, maybe clean something. We ate a lot of corn dogs and chicken nuggets. My internal response to every single thing that came to my mind to do, from cooking dinner to shopping to effectively training my children was “I cannot. I just can’t even.” My husband started getting groceries. (He keeps doing it, even though I could manage it myself now… Bless him. Shopping with three preschoolers isn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever done.)
But… sometimes depression looks like obscene laziness, too.
Another blessing of everyone knowing was that I periodically had people message me just to see how I was. One friend that I like but don’t get to talk with a whole lot did this several weeks in… I gave her the line about grief looking like laziness. She responded, “It doesn’t sound like laziness to me, from what little you said, I thought depression of sorts.”
I laughed out loud.
Not because it was ludicrous, but because it was so obvious. If I heard anyone else talking like I was talking, all the bells would go off in my head, too! But it was me, so I didn’t see it. And neither did the people who were in my life daily. It took someone outside the situation to point it out.
The way God decided to handle this ahead of time was fairly simple- I was already on an antidepressant for postpartum anxiety that showed up after #3 came. (Side note: That’s a thing. And it’s only just now getting any press, but it’s apparently more common than postpartum depression, and, untreated, it sucks the joy out of everything.) The way it was written, I actually had some leeway to tweak the dosage a little while remaining compliant. So I did that. Shortly after that, I was back! Magic! It’s not a forever thing, but it sure is nice to be able to show up to my life again. I’ll take the support.
Hope really does make a difference.
Haha! Now it’s a little confusing that we named this baby Hope. The hope I’m talking about right now is the hope of Heaven. It had been a long time since I’d had much drive to look very deeply at the reality of Heaven. And, honestly, it took a while to come around to it. But (again) a friend who’d been through it sought me out and we talked while our kids played and she talked in great detail about what she’s learned about it, and the reality is, no matter how big and how great and how beautiful we imagine it, there’s no way we will be disappointed. I mean, it’s HEAVEN.
And it’s not just my grand imaginations. Scripture has some pretty great stuff to say about the place, too. There’s lots of light. Better than Fairbanks summers. Also, no more curse. It’s spectacularly, unimaginably beautiful. Jesus is there. Heaven isn’t the entire focus of my existence- that spot is ideally reserved for the God of Heaven, though saying so gives the false impression that I have anything that resembles an undivided focus. But I’d be lying if I said verses that involve it didn’t hit me a little deeper these days.
The loss gives me the ability to fully “weep with those who weep.” Sharing it gives me the opportunity.
|A friend sent me this print not long ago. She’s also experienced loss and she’s one
of many who has known how to grieve beside me.
Here it gets sad again… A few weeks after I lost Hope, my sister-in-law (who was so very supportive through my miscarriage) lost her first baby, a little guy they named Jeffrey. (She also decided to share her loss publicly and gave me permission to talk about it here.) Despite living thousands of miles from Amanda, the freshness of my experience gave me the opportunity to be fully, viscerally there. With some actual, useful information. (Side note: for some reason, very few of the mamas I’ve spoken with have gotten really good information from their doctors’ offices about what to expect when you’re no longer expecting. This is crap. The biggest source of information seems to be other moms who’ve been there.) I hate that we both lost babies. But, given that we did, I’m really grateful for God’s timing and the ability to walk with her.
God gives grace and redeems tragedies. And since he is redeeming mine, I can trust him to redeem hers, too.
The prospect of another pregnancy is utterly terrifying.
For reals, yo.
What if I lose another? What will that do to my heart? What does that say about my body and the ability to carry more children? What if I keep this one? It feels like total betrayal to “move on” from Hope! I mean, she’s mine! How can I possibly grieve her *and* be excited for #5 at the same time? I don’t have a clue in the world how to hold both of those things at the same time. And I’m hesitant to be emotionally engaged with this pregnancy because the prospect of loving and losing another baby is so daunting. But also I want to be as “all in” as possible, in case I DO lose this one, so I can love it as long and as well as possible, however long that might be.
(Yes, I’m pregnant. I figured I already broke the rule about talking about a miscarriage, so…)
Somehow pregnancy went from totally routine for me to reallyreally complicated. And that’s kind of sad. I suppose it’s good to have a more realistic view of my theoretical chances of miscarrying again, but mostly I hate that, on top of the standard scramble of emotions that usually goes with finding out I’m pregnant (Yay! We make awesome little people! and Oh, crap! What have we done?!?) there’s all this other mess.
As before, I don’t have a good, clear way to end this post. I’m still working that part out. Praying for grace and God’s protection. Trusting that, however this winds up, grace will meet me there.