Words for a Miscarriage

We lost the baby.

We aren’t having a baby in November.

We won’t have a newborn at Christmas.

I will never hold this baby in my arms on Earth.

These are the words I said aloud as I stood in the kitchen crying. My sister told me I should try saying them. She thought it might help me process the loss - both physically and emotionally. One of the weirdest parts of having a miscarriage is that your body and brain are so wholly out of sync.

I was nearly 12 weeks pregnant one month ago. I started bleeding and, instantly, knew something was wrong. I called my doctor’s office and they told me not to worry - some spotting is normal. But I burst into tears and the nurse suggested I come in for peace of mind.

As I drove to the office, I begged God for the baby to be OK. I sat in the parking lot, waiting for Chris, and tried to pray for acceptance - to trust that whatever was meant to be, would be. But I wanted that baby so badly.

It’s crazy how much you can love a baby you’ve never met. From the moment you find out you are pregnant, you begin to dream of and make plans for this precious life.

I found out I was pregnant at four and a half weeks. For nearly two months, we’d been making plans for McCoy’s newest sibling.

We’d talked to him about being a big brother. How good he was going to be at it! We had asked him if he thought it would be a boy or a girl (He didn’t confirm.). We told him about what a big responsibility it was to have a brother or sister just 19 months behind him.

We’d made plans to paint the nursery this summer. I’d researched double joggers. I’d looked up 100 different names, saying each one out loud, feeling it on my tongue. How does it sound with McCoy? And with Mac? Do they sound like siblings? Best buddies?

We hung a fourth hook in our bathroom at the same height as McCoy’s. I’d already pictured their precious towels hanging there after splashing together in the tub. It’s these little things - the nearly meaningless physical reminders - that, on hard days, feel like they’re mocking you. They become constant indicators that you bought into the idea that a baby was coming; you let yourself sink into this joy.

I’d pictured Mac going to first grade as this little babe started kindergarten. I’d thought of them holding hands walking into school, with side-by-side backpacks. They would have been in neighboring grades, just like my brothers. I had already written their sweet, best friend relationship from start to finish.

The dreams, the plans, I’d made in just a few short months were endless and beautiful.

But then, the bleeding started.

There is no need to worry, the nurse told me as we walked into the room. She weighed me, telling me we would treat like a normal prenatal visit. Normal, normal, normal. They kept saying it, reassuring me.

But I was down four pounds. I saw the worry in her eyes as she assessed the number. Has anything been different in your life over the last few weeks? She asked. It hadn’t. By all accounts, in fact, it had been normal.

The doctor wasn’t worried, he told us. He would use the doppler to try to find a heartbeat. Spotting happens all the time in the first trimester, he assured me as he washed his hands.

I laid back and watched his face as he searched for a heartbeat. He was calm, passive. I know now that passive doesn’t mean everything is OK. He didn’t look sad but there was no relief on his face, either. As he ordered the formal ultrasound, he assured me, still, that this could be normal. Sometimes, when they are this little, you can’t find it without an ultrasound.

The nurse walked us to the next room. It was 5:30 p.m. and we were the only ones left in the office. It was eerily quiet. We prayed as I sat on the metal table, feeling exposed in the gown, and even more exposed emotionally in the empty office. For one moment, I relaxed when I saw that sweet baby on the monitor. But then, I realized, it had been almost a month and the baby was nearly the same size as before.

Even before the tech checked for a heartbeat, I knew it was the last time we’d see this baby. I knew we were saying goodbye right then and there to our sweet Thanksgiving baby, Mac’s little sibling, just 19 months his junior.

I’m so sorry guys. There is no heartbeat, she said. And I could tell she meant it. I could tell that, even though she’d probably already said this to at least one other couple today, she was so sorry. We cried right there in the cold, quiet room, the lack of heartbeat somehow ringing in my ears.

I had a D&E two days later. The days feel like a blur and, yet, will remain poignant in my mind for years to come. It felt like something we’d held so fully in our hands was suddenly gone, like sand between our fingers, leaving only the dust behind.

If you, too, are experiencing a miscarriage, there is nothing I can say to make it hurt less. There are no words I can give you to take away your pain. But I want you to know a few things:

You might lay awake at night over the coming weeks, picturing the baby you will never get to meet. You might burst into tears at a birthday party when everyone else is feeling joyful (I did). You might be caught off guard by how happy you feel one moment and how utterly sad you feel the next. Grief knows no boundaries and follows no roadmap. It just descends upon you.

This is, dare I say it, normal.

You might also find that your husband moves through this grief more quickly than you do. Chris cried with me the first week or so. But then, he began to move forward. I still had some pregnancy symptoms, like a heightened sense of smell and aversion to food. I was also still bleeding. It felt so odd that he was moving out of the emotional grief, yet my body had not even caught up.

There are also a few things I try to remember when sadness feels overwhelming. Some might be helpful to you, so I thought I’d put them on paper:

  • When I can’t sleep at night, I picture our baby in Heaven. I think of other loved ones we have lost - my grandparents, my dad’s best friend, my friend’s dad - and I picture them holding our baby, rocking her to sleep. I yearn to be the one holding her. I ache at the thought of never feeling her soft skin, smelling her sweet breath. But I find solace in picturing people I love deeply loving our baby until we are someday all reunited in Heaven.

  • I believe this baby would not likely have been healthy or strong enough to survive on Earth. I don’t know. I can never know. But I do trust the doctor’s assurances that there was likely something life threatening that would have made it difficult for this baby to live more than a year. And losing a baby in its first year of life sounds absolutely unbearable.

  • I look for little assurances that this is not the end: the double rainbow above our house. The sun on my face, warming my soul. McCoy’s laugh. There is life and hope all around us each day.

  • I find hope in other people’s stories. I don’t know when we will get pregnant next, but I have listened with open ears to women who have told me, over and over, that they got pregnant quickly after a miscarriage.

  • I know that you are more fertile after a miscarriage. Statistics confirm it. Friends’ stories confirm it. I will not stress about how quickly we will conceive again; I will allow myself to sink into this fact.

  • I find hope in the numbers. One in four pregnancies end in miscarriage, yes. But just two percent of women experience two miscarriages in a row (source). I hold these numbers tightly in my hands, praying over them, finding peace in them.

  • We memorialized the baby. We planted an azalea in our yard in its honor. I bought a necklace with a November birthstone. It’s close to my heart and reminds me of the life that was. We will not forget the life even as we heal and move forward.

We are trusting that this is not the end. This is simply a semicolon - a pause between two sections of the same sentence.

I wish you didn’t have to go through this. I wish you could escape the pain of a miscarriage. I wish I could hold you, hug you, tell you it will be OK. And it will be OK. Right now, it’s going to hurt. And then every now and then, it will hurt again - out of nowhere. But it will get easier each day.

Take heart, dear friend, there is hope. There is always, always hope. Remember, this is not the end.

for when you feel distant from your spouse

One of my favorite books in the world is Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist. It changed the way I live - no exaggeration there. I think it has a little something for everyone and I pick it up often when I need a reminder on a certain topic. 

I don't remember where it is in the book, but at one point, she says there will be moments in marriage when you are so frustrated with your spouse that you look at him and think: I don't even know you. I'm butchering the quote, but the idea holds. It's the moment when frustration takes hold of you so fully that you can't comprehend how or why you got to this place. 

how-to-fix-your-marriage.jpg

I'm not sure I've been married long enough to experience the exact sentiment, but in the moments when I am frustrated with Chris, her words pop into my head, reminding me that in every relationship, at some point, your paths might veer in different directions, making it more difficult to reach one another. It becomes harder to recognize, understand and empathize with one another

A few months ago, Chris and I were the most distant we'd been in our entire relationship. We've had a lot going on - from the move to our renovation to our baby. It has felt like we've been bogged down and weighed down and it's easy, in those seasons, to forget to pursue one another. To forget to hold hands and laugh about nothing and stay in bed cuddling 15 minutes longer just because. It's easy to talk only about logistics and work, as opposed to making time to be intentional or have real conversation. 

It hit us one day that immediately before our first baby's due date was certainly no time to drift apart.

We both started praying, then, to be less selfish and to serve one another more. We started putting one another's needs above our own - not because we always wanted to, but because that's how marriages stay strong. We tried to be more thoughtful and diligent.

fix-my-marriage.JPG

We remembered to make eye contact, to touch one another and, by gosh, keep our phones out of the bed. We remembered, most importantly, I think, to say thank you for everything. Thank you for emptying the dishwasher. Thank you for going to the grocery store. Thank you for planning such a fun date night.

No more than two weeks after we'd begun these efforts, we were tangled up on the couch one night, laughing at Parks & Rec, when it hit me: I've never felt closer to him and just two weeks ago, there was a gap between us. 

I understand that some gaps cannot be filled so quickly. Sometimes you're dealing with a crack in the sidewalk; other times you're dealing with the Grand Canyon. But I believe, so fully, that the gap always looks bigger before we begin to mend it.

The small efforts might feel worthless in the moment, but, when we pursue one another day in and day out, those little things are like rocks in a bucket. They seem insignificant at first, but slowly they pile up and, before you know it, the container is overflowing. 

marriage-advice.JPG

I also believe that there are no wasted efforts in marriage. Any notion of kindness from Chris - whether it is exactly what I need or not - softens me. Any expression of love makes me gentler. Marriage is not about perfection or performance, but about connection and compassion.

When I burn the pancakes, Chris doesn't mind the brown edges; he's grateful for the delicious breakfast. When he surprises me with a date night, I care so little about where we go, but feel loved that he took the time to plan something. 

So if you're in a sticky spot in your marriage - one where you don't quite recognize your spouse - know that I am rooting for you. I believe in you. The cavern isn't as big as it seems. You may not be able to get back to where you were, but, with a little effort, you might just end up somewhere better than before. Press on.