12 years and 11 losses: My journey (in honor of October 15th)
October 15th is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness day. As someone who has been through many, many miscarriages, I thought I would share a few of my thoughts on this topic that is near and dear to my heart, as it has become a big part of our lives. A while ago I was asked to jot down some of my experiences during this journey, both initially and as it has repeated itself over and over again over our almost 12 years of marriage. Of course everyone comes through these things differently, so I don't speak for others in my shoes, and I will admit, much of this is still pretty raw for me. But talking about it has been helpful, and I don't want contribute to the silence surrounding miscarriage, as so many women go through it and think they are alone. Miscarriage in and of itself is hard enough- those hopes and dreams for that baby are left without a little person to belong to, and you have to find a way to move on knowing you won't be holding that child and watching them grow up. No one should have to suffer through that alone. So without further ado, here's a little snippet of my past almost 12 years...
1. I had always gone with the assumption that being "young and healthy" meant easy pregnancy...I mean, look at our society. It seems that way, doesn't it? But I learned that the young and healthy factors certainly don't mean you can't/won't miscarry, unfortunately. We were married when I was 18, and just a year later we went through our first miscarriage, followed by another the next year. Because of my age, it felt very lonely, and almost as if my peers considered me a "freak of nature" for even wanting children at that point (definitely not the college-age norm), and more so because for whatever reason, I was "different" from all the girls in high school who obviously didn't have a problem with pregnancy. Wanting children = weird. Wanting children and not being able to get or stay pregnant = weirder.
2. It seems that most people don't really want to talk about loss, and I've noticed it's because THEY are uncomfortable- for whatever reason, miscarriage is somewhat "taboo" in our society. Having it ignored or swept under the rug can make it so much more painful, though. One of the most healing things for me has been people who want to talk to me about my experiences (and share their own), but they've been few and far between. However, I've learned that helping people understand how to respond can make a big difference for the next person they come across who might be in the same situation, and therefore if I feel safe, I try to be as open and honest as I can with them.
3. Sadly, announcing pregnancy is an entirely different ballgame when loss is involved. I often hear people say they "want to tell to get support if something bad happens", but unfortunately it doesn't always work out that way, and in fact, can be even HARDER to deal with when people around you haven't experienced loss themselves (likely because of what I previously mentioned). And "untelling" people about a pregnancy is an interesting thing...miscarriage news spreads MUCH slower than pregnancy news. People just don't really know what to do with it, I guess. So while a whole town can know of a pregnancy within days, after a loss, people will still be asking how far along you are, when you're due, how you're feeling, etc for months on end. It just makes for more complications in the early weeks...do I share my special news at the risk of having to go through "untelling" if I miscarry? Do we keep it to ourselves until a certain point, hoping that we don't lose the baby during that time and then have to endure the loss more "quietly" since we never announced the pregnancy in the first place? Lots of conflicting emotions.
4. Bitterness and envy can be some of the hardest things to understand and deal with after losing babies, and having successful pregnancies and living babies eventually doesn't necessarily make it all go away. 11.5 years after my first miscarriage and some days I still struggle just as much as ever. There are times I think I've become a terrible person with a horribly hard heart, and feel like if anyone knew the "real" me, they'd be disgusted. I know I have so much to be grateful for, and that even as "bad" as I've had it, so many women have it worse. And yet I struggle on a daily basis to take every thought captive, to pray before every single move I make, and to be content.
5. On a similar note, I have found myself stooping to some serious lows in efforts to get people to remember my losses and what I've been through. It is so selfish, but knowing that I have to LET GO of those and understand that I may very well be the only one to remember my babies in the end, and there's nothing I can do to change that, is a very difficult thing to accept. I often wonder if that particular aspect would be easier if there had been more acknowledgement in the beginning, but there's no way of knowing now...
6. I had three of my precious children after my first two losses, and then I started having trouble with miscarrying again. I was surprised at how juvenile it felt. I guess, for some reason, my experiences had made me feel as if I'd "outgrown" that stage. It was a harsh dose of reality. One of my losses was in the late first trimester, and I had no idea that it would result in actual, full-on contractions and labor. Having it so like real childbirth, which is something I LOVE (call me crazy!), made knowing that I would not be holding a baby even more difficult. But even before that point, walking around with a non-living baby inside of me was a strange thing- part relief that I had an answer as to whether or not my baby was okay, part anxiety waiting for the miscarriage to happen, and part horror that I was still pregnant, but with a baby who was no longer alive. All topping off the grief that naturally accompanies the loss of a very wanted baby. Then our seventh loss was my most traumatic miscarriage, a "midsagnosed" ectopic pregnancy. Hindsight is 20/20 and I desperately wish I would have allowed myself to rely on my intuition and knowledge more than the doctors confidence and my past experiences. Perhaps I wouldn't have lost my tube and gone through one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. There were so many red flags. Modern medicine is absolutely wonderful when needed, and once I was at that point, it certainly did save my life. But it doesn't have all the answers, and not only educating yourself, but having CONFIDENCE in the knowledge God has provided you can be the most important aspects of a situation. I doubted myself because I assumed the doctor surely would have had some concerns if it was really that serious. And that's where I went wrong.
7. Being pregnant at the same time as friends/family- no matter how exciting the idea used to seem- begins to become a dreaded experience, because being "left behind" over and over again can really wear a person down. It is SO HARD. You want to be happy for the other person, you want to celebrate their baby, but everything about their pregnancy and their little one reminds you of what could have been, no matter how much effort you put into trying not to keep making it about you. This one has almost destroyed some of my relationships when there has been no attempt at understanding from the other side and there I am just begging God to help me make it through each day. And then there is the flip-side...those people who don't know how to act around ME with their pregnancy. I hate making it weird for them, and oftentimes I don't even mean to- I certainly don't WANT to be the one people feel the need to tiptoe around! Learning how to cope with those particular situations becomes a challenge all of it's own.
8. I had no idea that different "styles" of grieving (is there such a thing??!?) could cause conflict. Even some people close to me, who knew loss firsthand, would grieve TOTALLY different than myself, and that affected our relationships because I tended to struggle "more" with the grief (or maybe it was just more outward for me?), and it came across to them as something I needed to change. I'm still not sure how to handle this one...I've learned that "stuffing" the grief is definitely NOT the way to go, but I also don't want to come across as whiny. There is a fine line that I guess I have yet to find.
9. I won't even get into the comments that people make regarding miscarriage (you know, the "it just wasn't meant to be" or "you can always try again"...things like that), but I will say that it seems to be a common trend after miscarriages, whether it be one or ten, where people begin watching your every move and trying to find reasons for why "you" caused your miscarriages. I'm not sure if it's an attempt to be helpful, or if it's a way for people to curb that awkwardness I mentioned earlier (by giving them some measure of control over the situation?), but it's unpleasant. And then many people start deciding that you should be done having children because you keep losing them. Therefore, if you get pregnant again, you're treated as if you're irresponsible. Of course this is along the same lines as people giving you input on when you have too many kids, or when you need to have one (or more)...something that you just have to learn to take in stride, not that it makes it any easier.
10. Future pregnancies will never be the same. Loss changes everything. Finding out you are pregnant is a wonderful, exciting time...but it's also terrifying because you have experienced loss and you don't want to go through it again. And if you're like me, you already feel the cards are stacked against you, and that based on your history, things don't look very promising. To me, those two lines are always a wonderful, long awaited answer to prayer. But they also mean I have to be vulnerable. One of the most difficult things in my life right now is understanding God's Will, and learning to take comfort in His presence no matter what the situation, find joy in each moment He gives me, and trust Him, whatever the outcome. I know it's true, but it's a battle, folks. It feels like the epitome Mark 9:24.
I never stop praising God for our four sweet children. They are such precious gifts, and having experienced what we have, we have a much deeper understanding of that. But the trials have certainly been there and they've shaped me in ways I'd never seen coming. God has been faithful, and He's sustained me during the hard times. But there have been days where I've wanted nothing to do with Him (at least I've been honest...there was no holding back when I was very angry and hateful toward the God I KNEW had the ability to save my babies but for whatever reason, allowed me to lose them!). I don't enjoy being used as a vessel to "usher souls straight into Heaven" (as I've seen it put in some miscarriage ministry materials). And I don't know if I'll ever get used to it or be okay with it, but I know our God- the ONE AND ONLY Author of life- works all things together for good, and I pray that one day He will reveal His purpose in this to me. I do know that, having gone through many losses, God has allowed me to be part of a ministry that only really exists because of women who've been in the same situation. And that's what helps bring me joy- knowing that even though it's hurt like heck at times, I can relate to other women who are going through it too, and I have a testimony that I wouldn't have had otherwise, that I can share in hopes of helping others cope with their own grief.
Thanks for listening. I'd love to hear from others who need to talk, too!
Me (30) - DH (32) 12 years!
DD (9.5) ~ DD (7.5) ~ DS (5.5) ~ DS (2.5)
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Mama to 11 babies in Heaven
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