Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Dealing with Miscarriage: What to Expect When You're No Longer Expecting

I have read that 30-50% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, most before women even know they are pregnant. I couldn't care less about this statistic until I became one of the 30-50%. If you are as well, it's time to talk. 

A little bit of my story...
My husband and I were so excited to find out that we were pregnant in March. I am a planner, and already had nursery colors picked out, top baby name choices, and yes, even the crib set up in the would-be nursery. We couldn't be happier to be new parents! At our nine week ultrasound, we got the news that every woman secretly fears every day of her pregnancy...there was no heartbeat. Devastation is the only word to describe the feeling. At the doctor's office they were running behind on the ultrasound appointments. They needed the room, and we were ushered out. And so began one of the most difficult seasons that I have ever had to walk through. If you are faced with a similar situation, I hope this helps.

What to Expect When 
You're No Longer Expecting

1. You Will Feel Very Alone Because No One Talks About it

Women do not talk about miscarriage, and I'm not sure why. Why do women wait to tell everyone that they are pregnant? Because they might have a miscarriage. Here's my question: so what? I am so grateful that I had told my family and close friends that we were pregnant before the miscarriage happened! How do you tell your mother, "I was pregnant, but I had a miscarriage." It was really nice to be able to rejoice with all of them for a time, and then let them share in the loss as well. 

The worst part about miscarriage is that you feel so alone, whether or not people know. Others wonder what you are still upset about, I mean, you've been crying about this longer than you were pregnant! When you are still dealing with the pain, they have forgotten that you were even expecting (if anyone even knew at all). And even those closest to you, like your husband, will be sympathetic but will not understand the emotions that you are going through.  You will feel like the only one in the world without a baby, but you're not. There are so many women who are experiencing the same emotional and physical roller coaster you are, but no one talks about it. 

It seems like after I had my miscarriage, almost everyone I talked to had had a miscarriage at some point as well. And some of their stories kept me from having pity parties- women who had 14 miscarriages in a row, lost their baby at 8.5 months, or who had three miscarriages and two stillborn children. Talking to women who had not only lived through such tragedies, but could also praise God for His provision through them were such a huge help for me. This is something we need to talk more about.

This is our 6 week ultrasound when baby was doing well. This is the only photograph we have of our first child.

2. You Will be an Emotional Wreck

You will cry, a lot, and it's ok. Cry away! Months may go by, and you still see something randomly that makes the tears stream down your face uncontrollably. If it makes you feel better, you can blame the crazy amounts of confused hormones in your body (I know I do!). Whatever you are feeling, its ok. When you see yet another baby announcement on facebook, and you want to throw your laptop out a window, it's ok. When you see a newborn in the grocery store and start crying, its ok. When everyone around you seems to be progressing in life, and you are standing still, it's ok. 

A good friend of mine wanted to have lunch a few months after, and since we hadn't seen each other in several years, I just knew she was going to tell me she was pregnant. The whole way driving to meet her, I was physically sick to my stomach because I literally couldn't handle one more person's joyous news. She wasn't pregnant, thank goodness! And then I felt guilty for feeling that way, and you know what, it's ok. 

When I would try to keep the pain away, it would follow me into my dreams! One night I dreamed that I was walking along a road and saw a birds' nest in a tree with a mother bird sitting on three eggs. The nest fell out of the tree and the eggs broke on the ground. Immediately I fell to my knees with heaving sobs, crying uncontrollably, the kind of sobbing that comes from the stomach and you can't breathe. Everyone around was looking at me like I was crazy for crying over such a small thing. I woke up with that renewed feeling that you get after a really good cry. Take my advice- give yourself permission to cry a little every day, just don't let yourself stay there.

3. Others' Ignorance Will Cause You Pain

People who hardly know you will ask with a playful smile if you are expecting anytime soon. Why do they do that? Because they have no idea, that's why. It isn't their fault, but I have decided to NEVER ask this question to anyone. If they are expecting, and they wanted you to know, they would have told you. If they want a child, but are not expecting it is because they are dealing with something very painful, whether it be a miscarriage or infertility. People will ask you, and it always seem to be on the most inopportune days. You don't have to smile and answer like nothing is going on, but then again, you don't have to answer at all!

That was the happiest moment!!!

4. Mother's Day will Come

My miscarriage happened early in May, and the following week was Mother's Day. That was a tough day. I so desperately wanted someone to tell me, "Happy Mother's Day", to legitimize the fact that something real had happened! But at the same time, I was so afraid that someone might say something and I break into a thousand pieces and never recover. If you have had a miscarriage, you have the right to celebrate or not celebrate mother's day.You are a mother. You will always be a mother. And you have lost a child.

This is a painting my husband and I made to announce our pregnancy to family and friends. It is now a precious memory!

5. Your Body Will be Confused

I will not go into details here. Besides, I have a feeling it is different for everyone. But here's what I do know- your body will be very confused, and it will take a while to get back to normal. Your body is probably in shock, which is why it is doing crazy things right now, not to mention the huge amounts of hormones driving you half insane. Quit googling and call your doctor, they will help you know how to deal with whatever the issue is. This won't last forever. And if a male doctor tells you what kind of pain to expect during a miscarriage, keep in mind that he has no personal experience in this area.

6. It Will Shake the Very Core of What You Believe

Whatever you believe, having a miscarriage will call your faith into question. I am a Christian, and I take God at His word. In return, I follow Him with my life to the best of my ability. I had some people tell me that this was part of God's plan. I also had people tell me that my baby was looking down on me from heaven with angel wings playing a harp in a beautiful garden. I'm sure they meant well, but the Bible doesn't say either of these things.

Women having miscarriages was never God's plan! God's plan was perfect, and humans brought sin into the world in the Garden of Eden. As a result, we live in a fallen world and bad things happen, but this was never the plan. However, I do believe that God uses everything that we go through to shape us into people who look more like Him. James 1:3-4 says, "you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
But what about the promise in Jeremiah 29:11? "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." It occurred to me in this process that maybe my plan for me is not the same as God's plan for me. And then the true question- can I trust that God's plan is best and follow Him no matter what? Is Jesus enough? Truly enough? If I lose everything, not just this one thing, will I still trust and follow Him with joy? I wrestled with this question for months, and I think I will never know the answer to that question unless I am forced to by my circumstances in life. But for me, in this loss, the answer is yes! After all, God knows what it's like to lose a child.
God is not punishing you for something that you did wrong, the Bible says that he grieves with us, bottles up our tears, and will never leave our side. He never says that this life will be easy, in fact He promises the opposite! In John 16:33 Jesus says, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." Jesus promises that He will carry us through the hardships and that He is making all things new! The hope and future that He has for us is in heaven, not this world. For more thoughts on this, see my follow-up post.

What now?

The first question I asked my husband after we found out, was "what do I do now?" How do you move on?

1. Take the Time to Figure Out What You Have Lost

This may seem simple to do, but in fact it is so much more complicated than I have even still figured out. This was our first child, and the list of loss to mourn is long. Obviously, you are mourning the death of a child. It is amazing how much you can miss someone that you never met, amazing how deep the loss of a child you were never able to hold in the first place. You will feel like a piece of you has died, and the empty hole it has left is so overwhelming. You are grieving the loss of knowing their gender, their personality, what they would have looked like, and all of the times you would have shared...you know, the ones you had already thought about in your mind with each passing week of pregnancy. First time holding them in the delivery room, first steps, first words, first day of school, learning to drive, getting married- you are mourning all of it at one time. 

But you could be mourning so much more than that. For me as a first time mother, so much hope and anticipation was wrapped up in that plastic stick that announced the news. I have always wanted to be a mother, and I think that it is a miracle to carry a life inside of you. Releasing my "right" to be a mother, the hopes for this new life, the plans that I had for raising him or her is just as much a loss. Each person is losing something different.
The crib is still set up...

2. Take Time to Figure Out What You Have Gained

While you are experiencing loss on so many different levels, you will also gain some things, and have others to be grateful for. Make sure to make a list of those things as well. As this was our first, we are grateful to know that we can conceive. I am more grateful for life in general, and do not take this gift for granted. I am extremely grateful for an amazing husband who has been with me every step of the way, on the good and bad days, when I wasn't sure if I was crazy or sane. He will make a great father :) I am grateful for God's grace, that peace in the storm that is so reassuring that this is not the end, but a step along the way. Take time to appreciate the things that you wouldn't have noticed otherwise.

3. Look to the Future Without Forcing it

I wanted to get pregnant again as soon as possible. How better to recover from the pain than to experience the joy of new life again? Unfortunately, my body has taken a long time to recover, and I am realizing that it will take even longer to emotionally and mentally recover. Don't rush it. When the time is right...I know, it's cliche, but I am hoping that it's true. 

Know that getting pregnant again will not cancel out that the miscarriage ever happened. It will be a joyous day, but it will not take away the fact that you have lost a child. I have spent months waiting to finally be "over it", and I'm discovering that that day will most likely never come. I have yet to decide how to spend December 19, what would have been the birthday of our first born child, and I'm not sure if that day will ever be the same. There will always be a part of you that loves that child and misses them. Progress to healing will be slow- a few steps forward and a few steps back, but it will come. 

4. Lean on Jesus

It make take a while to come to terms with what you believe. I avoided spending time in the Bible for a while, and my prayers would bounce between being deep and vulnerable to being shallow and superficial. It will happen, but don't close out the One who does truly understand how you are feeling and has the power to give you peace in the midst of it. He does have a good plan for you, and He will carry you through this difficult time to show you what He has next. 

If you need a constant reminder of God's truth for you, read this letter. After I wrote it, I read it every day to keep the truth of God's character in mind. 

I don't have all the answers, I am still in this process myself. Please feel free to share your own experiences! It helps you and others be able to come to terms with this kind of loss- it really does.

After a few more months of processing, I wrote a follow-up post. It is a tough read, but I think some essential deep thoughts for anyone processing this on a spiritual level. Click below to take a look.

Eve's Curse: A Biblical Look at Infertility and Miscarriage

If you are in the long, frustrating process of trying to conceive, here is some encouragement for you!