Keep Living Until You Are Alive Again
A story of Miscarriage.
I remember as a young girl being told that a woman at church had suffered a miscarriage. I told my friends that I could never do that. Enduring a miscarriage was beyond my capability and God would never give me that. Looking back my ignorance is glaring. I spoke of the woman’s heartbreak as if she had in some way “chosen” it, or at the very least “accepted” it. She must have had some secret strength which God knew allowed her to walk through that tragedy. She was different than me. She could do what I could not.
In one sense, I was right about the woman. She was different than I was. However, she was not different in the way I supposed her to be. She was not stronger and more capable in her grief. The thing that separated her from me at the time was knowledge. She had joined the undesired sisterhood of women who had carried the spark of life within them, only to have it fade and be snuffed out. It is one thing to imagine, fear, or dwell on the idea of miscarriage, but it is another thing entirely to KNOW miscarriage. That woman knew the darkness of miscarriage, just as I do now. Just as many others do as well.
In a way, a miscarriage story is much like a birth story. There is beginning and a middle, but there is no end. Just as a birth story flows flawlessly into the life of your new child, a miscarriage story rushes head first into life without your baby; a life which is never the same as it was before baby. Just as every birth story is unique, every miscarriage is as well. Each miscarriage molds the woman differently and marks her heart in different ways.
I will never forget my first pregnancy and the baby who taught me about miscarriage. I remember the first ultrasound like it was yesterday. It was an early viability check so baby looked like a little bean on the screen before me. We heard the heartbeat, strong and steady, racing on with purpose. Thump, thump, thump. It was instant. I loved him and I wanted him. I plunged carelessly into my happiness and began to imagine holding baby and all the beautiful moments we would have. Then came the second ultrasound. No thumping heart this time, only silence. Until then I had never understood how silence could deafen. Before that moment, I hadn’t known that “nothing” could break your heart. My miscarriage was a rare case, known as a Silent Miscarriage. My little bean had died about a week after the first ultrasound but my body had held on. Refusing to abort the deceased baby, my body absorbed him until there was nothing left but an empty womb pretending to be full. Finally, nearly five weeks after my baby had died, my body accepted it and began to bleed.
I felt as if there was something wrong with me. I was a monster. To make matters worse, just a few months later I miscarried again. I had just begun to suspect my pregnancy when it ended. This time my miscarriage was considered “typical” (as if any loss could be typical). Blood when there should have been none. Pain followed by evidence and eventually I was empty again.
This was my low point. My otherwise healthy body was failing me. Instead of nurturing, my body was destroying. My womb had been meant to be a place of life but had become a graveyard instead. Everything seemed backwards and upside down. There was the way things were supposed to be and then there was the way things were but they never seemed to be the same. It made me question everything.
I was a Christian woman and I believed in the sovereignty of Christ, but that meant my miscarriages were part of the plan. I didn’t want to believe that. That simple idea held too many possibilities that were too terrible to consider at that time. Telling myself that they were unexplained accidents was one thing, but to try and accept that the God I served had allowed such tragedies to happen in my life was something I didn’t want to wrestle with. So I pushed it to the back of my mind. I dove deeper into my work as a foster parent and in the ministries we had begun. I thought if I could just build a life that ignored the pain and sorrow that I could one day be happy. I thought if I ignored the idea of God being in control of my tragedy that I could forget the hurt it caused entirely. But resentment was growing in me and God was pushing me to meet the issue head on.
The final trigger for me was one I hadn’t expected. Though normally a cause for joy, my third pregnancy brought every negative feeling I had to the surface. How could I embrace this pregnancy when I had lost two already? How did God expect me to rejoice when I all but knew that heartbreak was imminent? I wanted to love this new child, to grab hold of the excitement with both hands but fear of loss, anticipation of hurt, and the uncertainty of my ability to cope were strangling me. An innate desire to protect myself overwhelmed me and I tried to distance myself from the idea of a baby. This time my pregnancy progressed and I drew closer to the reality of a healthy birth. Then came the guilt of loving this baby who would likely live to term, as if that emotion were a betrayal of my love and longing for my lost babies and not a natural reaction to the beauty of God’s newest blessing.
Then came the encounter that ignited my fury towards God. A woman I had been to church with in the past ran into me, exclaiming that it was such a blessing that I would be able to hold this baby while Jesus held my other for me. I know she meant well and was sincere in her desire to encourage me, but the comment crawled all over me. In my next quiet time with God, I lashed out. I didn’t want Jesus to hold my other babies. I wanted to hold them! God had stolen my children from me! He had robbed me of first glances, first teeth, first words, and first steps. Two lifetimes of “firsts” had been taken from me. I would never snuggle with my children, feel their soft skin on mine, drink in their scent, or count their chubby little fingers and toes. I threw all of this anger, all the ways I felt that God had betrayed me, and I exhausted myself of tears. I had been raised to believe that you never spoke to God as I had just done, so I braced myself for the wrath. However, none came. There was no thunder, no retribution. Instead I was wrapped in the most concrete feeling of love. He gave me no reason or justification for his decisions, no answers to all of my questions, but somehow I didn’t need them anymore. There no longer had to be a reason why because I now understood something that I had never grasped before. God was broken over my pain and my loss. He understood my heart in a way that no one else ever could because He had created me. He didn’t want those miscarriages for me but He had plans for me that were bigger than I could imagine. Someday all the pain, all the loss, would mold me into the finished product He had always had in mind. He had His reasons, and though I will never know them on this side of Heaven, knowing that I did not suffer alone or in vain was enough.
As I said, a miscarriage story has no real end. I wish I could tell you that one day you forget and that you don’t long for absent babies anymore. Perhaps for some that’s true, but that hasn’t been my experience. I remember and there are times when I still cry. I have since had two living babies and I am anticipating the arrival of my third. These babies that I get to hold do not replace my first two, nor do they cancel out the feelings associated with the two losses. But as it is with all loss, time offers a balm and the hope of seeing my babies again helps turn sorrow into joy. But I think the quote, from the show Call the Midwife of all places, comforts me best. I hope it offers you hope just as it resonates in my spirit.
“You will feel better than this. Maybe not now...but you will. You just keep living, until you are alive again.”