Grace / Loss
I’m writing this letter to you, and I don’t even know you.
I hope that’s okay.
Something happened today. Something so wide and deep and dark and terrifying, and my heart ripped open again, knowing just where you are. Tears are streaming down my face, and I had to start writing to get some of this out.
You lost your baby today. I’m so, so sorry for your loss.
It’s hard to believe that it’s already been three years since my miscarriage. The raw-ness of this pain, the unexpected force of the emotions that hit me today… took me right back to that impossible time.
Even now, I have sometimes unreasonable thoughts and feelings as I hear friends break their news about a new pregnancy – I cringe a bit at that very-early announcement. Don’t they know they should wait? Don’t they know anything?
And I have to remind myself: We are all on different paths. Why should she limit her joy and love just because I had a bad experience? Why not celebrate that life with excitement and shouting from the rooftops?
In retrospect, I’m so glad we shared our joy with our loved ones during that first pregnancy. Making that next series of phone calls was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do – to break the news that instead of joy, we sat with grief. But in the midst of that abominable sadness, we had the unmistakable love and compassion of our people – our friends, our family. I didn’t have to do it alone.
Sometimes I still wonder – What did I do to deserve this?
Nothing. This was an intensely personal time for me – coming to terms with what happened. This knit me together with my husband, and my understanding of God. I’m still awed by the former and humbled by the latter.
I continue to believe that things happen for a reason. There is a thread of divine grace running through our lives, and every so often we get a chance to see it, to listen to that voice in our hearts and participate in that moment.
I’m humbled and astonished and so very grateful that in a vulnerable moment, your husband asked me a question, of all the people out there in the world.
Did you ever experience this with your pregnancy?
My eyes widened, and I briefly shared my experience with my miscarriage.
He mentioned that he thought everything would be okay, that you had a doctor’s appointment scheduled later that day. And I knew – I know – I couldn’t possibly imagine going through that alone if I didn’t have to. And you didn’t have to. I saw that quicksilver moment, I felt the nudge encouraging me to speak up.
Go to her appointment. If all was well, it would be a reassuring check-in for both of you to see that fuzzy black and white picture, flickering heartbeat and all. And in the course of a life, what does missing an hour of work for an appointment matter?
But if it was the worst thing – at least you would be together. At least you wouldn’t be there in that office trying to navigate alone.
And while I don’t have a perfect phrase or Hallmark card or casserole to “fix” this, I’m incredibly grateful that my experience allowed me to pass on that spark. The knowledge that of all the things in the world, the best thing we have is each other, especially in times of deepest sorrow and dizzying joy.
Take comfort from each other. From your beautiful little daughter. In time, from the joy, beauty, goodness, hope and love in the world.
I’m here. We’re all here, us mothers (and fathers) who have lost a babe. Quietly holding a light for you, holding space for you and your lost little one. Giving you room for your grief and your love, your pain and your hope.
I want you to know that you might feel alone – very, very alone – but you’re not alone. Many of us have quietly borne this burden. The anguish of replacing joy with sadness. The quiet grieving, despairing questioning, hot anger, and inescapable helplessness watching our partners find some way to deal with the pain, too.
Give yourself the room and grace you need to heal. This takes time. This is not trivial. It’s not silly to feel what you’re feeling – whatever that is during any particular moment.
impossible – insurmountable – unsupportable
to make it through the next moment, hour, day, week.
Take one breath at a time. There is no one right answer. You can focus on the next right thing, and not have to take it all on at once. You can lean on those who love you. There are no expectations, no deadlines, no right answers. If you want to talk or share – do. If you want to quietly process – do.
Be gentle with yourself.
In the midst of all of this, I had to write about my own experience in November of 2011. This brings me a sense of comfort to remember, and to know that I’m still here. That things did get better.
I knew something wasn’t right in my gut when I dialed my best friend. I started crying as I told her about my pain and cramps. The frantic call to the nurse line, answering a litany of standard questions, and the encouragement to go to the hospital. Our hurried drive to the ER, glancing at each other and clutching each other’s hands, thinking – no way. This can’t be happening. There must be some mistake.
Shaking while I explained the purpose of our visit to the intake nurse. Trembling, and trying to hold back my fear and tears and fighting to be a grown up. And then my heart breaking when recognizing the compassion and love and pity in his eyes as he checked us in.
Waiting. So much waiting, in a cold hospital gown, in a cold hospital bed, surrounded by busy doctors and nurses, draped in the hush of a midnight emergency room. Waiting for an available ultrasound machine as I was wracked with pain and worry and fear.
I remember the irrational rage at the ultrasound technician as she gently captured images in that dark, quiet room. I have no idea how to read an ultrasound… but I know that I didn’t see that fluttering heartbeat. She wouldn’t answer my questions – why wouldn’t she just tell me? She had to wait for the doctor, she wasn’t qualified or allowed to determine any results or make a diagnosis. I wasn’t really mad at her – I was just scared and alone and hurting.
We called my mom, telling her we were at the hospital. That we were pretty sure it wasn’t going to be okay – could she come? Of course, she was there faster than I could have believed. We didn’t call anyone else. I couldn’t bear it.
The panic started to take over, and I stared at Alan desperately. What if it was the worst thing? What if it was really true?
I’ll never forget what he told me. Even if it’s the worst thing – even if it’s as bad as it can be – we’re still here. Together. Even if it’s the worst thing, we have each other. And with that, we can do one step at a time. We didn’t know our family motto yet, but we felt it then – Forever, for always & no matter what.
My mom clutched my hands too, reminding me where I came from – the love and strength calmly reflected in her eyes. I can only imagine her own pain and frustration and sadness, being there, watching us go through this.
You see, I had no idea to even consider this as a possibility. I grew up hearing the stories of my and my brother’s birth, and what my mother thought and felt while pregnant with us... She never had a miscarriage; that never entered our family’s narrative. So sure, I knew it was out there. But I never ever thought it would play a part for us.
That’s the longest wait we’ve waited. For someone to read the results of that ultrasound, for someone to come in and tell me what I already knew. What I was too scared to say out loud.
The doctor breezed in – he didn’t know us. He delivered the diagnosis - It was determined as fetal demise – a miscarriage. He was so sorry. He would make sure someone from my doctor’s practice came in to talk about next steps.
The air was sucked out of me.
It was the worst thing – it was the worst thing.
The enormity of it yawned in front of me. The grief, the sadness, the anger, the frantic thought – Please God, I hope that baby knew how much I loved him. I hope he didn’t leave me for lack of love – I never even got a chance to start, to show that love. We barely got started. Questions started crowding in. What did I do wrong? What if we aren’t able to conceive at all? Is Alan mad, that I lost our baby? Did we do the wrong thing, sharing our excitement and joy so early on – announcing our news to family and friends, busily dreaming and making plans? What do I do now?
Luckily, a doctor from my practice was on call. She immediately reassured me that there was nothing I could have done wrong. The baby stopped growing at 8 weeks, and sometimes pregnancies just don’t continue. She knew we were healthy ourselves, and explained that more than likely we would be able to conceive a healthy child in the future. She outlined our options for how to continue. Let nature take its course. Take a medication to force my body to expel the tissue. Go in for a procedure to scrape the tissue out manually. Who is ready for this kind of decision? There’s no coach for this, no preparation.
I chose the medication, and then Alan and I went home to my parents house so I could grieve my loss, and labor my way through to the other side. Back to being just me inside myself. Back to before. Back to nothing I knew any longer.
I thank God desperately for my parents. Being there for not only me, clinging to their hands to get me through the agony, but being there for Alan too. Who didn’t know how to help me bear that – who was suddenly bearing his own grief and pain.
We made it through, together. We saw the start of our new path. Bare, raw, uncharted. Hopeful.
And you know the rest. How we’ve been incredibly blessed with the arrival of James, and the love of friends and family. Thank you for being here for us, then and now.