As I open up more about my struggles with starting a family, I find that many people have miscarriages but nobody talks about it.
Because it sucks.
Because there is nothing anyone can do to change what has happened.
And because it usually happens in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy when you aren’t supposed to tell anyone. So, if you talk about it, not only are you breaking the news that you are trying AND that you were pregnant, but you are also breaking the news of the loss of a baby. That is going from possibility, to life, to death all on one sentence. With that kind of emotional whiplash, many don’t know how to respond. How can they, when we don’t know how to respond ourselves, the women actually experiencing the miscarriage?
When I had my first miscarriage, friends and family showed their compassion with flowers and prayers, but also, silence. I think that there are no words for this situation and (most) people know it. It is so private, so raw, and so tragic. Being the one in the center of the experience is puzzling and difficult, and very, very, lonely.
I have had time to grieve. I have had time to pray and understand God’s purposes. But the raw emotions still cut to the core, and always will. So today folks, on this cold day in March, six years later, I invite you into the processing of my own personal, hidden tragedy. This is the silent suffering of the ‘not yet’ mother, Joanna Appel’s version.
First there is a period of wondering if it is really happening. There is spotting or something changes in the way you feel. You hang on to a hope that it is nothing, the baby is fine, and this is just a little bump in the journey. But then there is this point, when things get worse, that you let that hope go and begin to see that this is not going to work out the way you thought.
Once you accept that is what is happening or has happened, you are just sad.
For me, the sadness also attributed to feeling like I had been fooled. The fact that I spent time dreaming that this child would have a life with me and my family, that they would talk and walk and laugh and change the world felt silly. The fact that I believed there was a baby inside me and that now, to be affected by its loss, meant that I was living in a delusion or fantasy grief that was bordering on ridiculous.
You have this massive hope for new life and you never think about any of the negative things that come with raising a child. You might even laugh about the few harmless ‘bad things’ they will do, almost like you are at the end of your life and looking back with the rosiest glasses. But then, to think all this, and have it come to nothing, seems foolish.
But I know now, that a mother is born even if a baby is not. And this is how a mother thinks. There is no shame in it.
There was a period for me, between internal ultrasounds, where I believed that maybe, there would be a miracle or maybe they got it wrong. Maybe the next time I went in, the doctors would be astounded. Where once they saw no movement, there was now, in plain view, life. This is not what happened for me, not that I believe that God can’t do it.
But I know now, in the most personal sense, that His ways are higher.
There is also a bit of self blame. Maybe if I had rested more or eaten better…I forgot to take my pre-natal on Monday, maybe that would have changed things...I shouldn’t have gone for a run that day when I felt bad, I shouldn’t have stayed up late Friday night, I shouldn’t have, I shouldn’t have, I shouldn’t have…
Blame is a hard one to swallow but we learn, we live our lives, and we understand more and can change. Most of the time, there is no one to blame. In that case, often we blame ourselves anyways. Since we are the sole carrier of that life, it must have been our fault.
But I know now, blame doesn’t change anything and only takes away. And with miscarriage, there has been enough of that already.
Because this is often a secret struggle, there is a tendency to downplay it. Saying things like “It happens all the time.” “It was early so it didn’t really have an impact on me”. You push away the very real feelings and try to go on with life as if nothing has happened, because for most of the world, it didn’t. Sometimes this feels like the healthiest option. You feel strong, collected, and realistic.
I did this. I thought I was keeping it together just fine, until 6 months later, I lost it.
In a movie theater.
Watching ‘Marley and Me’.
That look on the ultrasound tech’s face, the quiet “Let’s wait till the doctor can talk to you…” was all too real to me and I just started sobbing and continued to do so for three more days. Everyone probably just thought I really loved dogs.
But I know now that it is ok to feel real, deep, grief. No one can have any expectations of your okay-ness, not even you.
There is then uncertainty, forever, about your ability to conceive. Will it happen again? Will it happen over and over? What if I can’t have kids?...The list of tragic questions go on and on and won’t stop until you do conceive, or have resolved yourself to give up trying. There is a pang in your heart every time a friend, family member, or distant acquaintance on Facebook gets pregnant and has a healthy baby with no complications. There is an awkward fumbling around when people ask you, “Are you going to have children?” or “Are you going to have any more?”. There were nights when Tom and I would leave a gathering, and I would weep in the car all the way home because of that missing baby that everyone seemed to have, but I didn’t.
But I know now that I have no right to define what God creates through me. Though you may be a mother with no child, it does not mean that mothering will not be fulfilled in you and beautifully redeemed.
Now, I wear my miscarriages on my sleeve with the hopes that talking about it openly will help some isolated ‘not yet’ mother. Let’s be proud that we are mothers, whether we have kids or not. That we have loved and lost, and learned through it. And let’s not be lonely in our loss and silent anymore.