On February 25th, 2010, David and I became members of a secret society. We weren't seeking membership in this group; no one does. Membership in this club doesn't really conjure the idea of prestige or success. The dues are unimaginable. But since that time, I've come to find out that many people we knew had become members long before us. The society? Couples who have lost a child to miscarriage.
Our journey to pregnancy and miscarriage was really very uneventful. In early January 2010, we learned that we were expecting a little one...tentatively schedule to arrive on September 18, 2010. We didn't tell anyone we were expecting...not even our parents. We'd read all the books that caution expectant parents to not tell about the baby until after the first trimester...you know, to save yourself the "embarrassment" of having to tell people that there won't be a baby in the event of miscarriage. David and I are cautious people, so we took the advice, but we never really believed that miscarriage would be something that would happen to us. It's something that happens to other people, after all. We were so excited for my second prenatal appointment. It was the first time David had ever been in an OB/GYN office, and he was so very uncomfortable! There weren't any other men in the waiting room that afternoon, and to make things worse, there weren't any "man" magazines in the waiting room! But my sweet husband toughed it out until the nurse called my name, when he could escape from the estrogen sea of the waiting room.
Kelly, our nurse, told us that Dr. Basham would just be listening for the heartbeat and measuring that day. We didn't care abotu anything except hearing our baby's heartbeat. Until this day, it had been so hard to believe that I was carrying a little life inside me. Hearing the heartbeat would make things so very real! Dr. Basham came with the Doppler device and proceeded to listen for our baby's heartbeat. she mentioned before she started that she might not be able to find it using the Doppler, but that we shouldn't worry if that was the case. If she couldn't hear it with teh Doppler, we would go to the ultrasound room to catch a peek at our little one! How exciting! Dr. Basham worked and worked to get our baby's heartbeat, but she couldn't pick it up. Even though she'd told us not to worry, we did. I'd had the nagging feeling all day long that my baby wasn't okay, but I hadn't shared it with anyone...not even David. I tried to look at things positively though...and that's not something that's in my nature. I tried to think of this ultrasound as a "bonus"; we'd get to see our baby early, and be reassured that he or she was growing normally.
In the ultrasound room, Dr. Basham worked diligently to locate our baby on the screen. I couldn't make anythin gout, so I just prayed that she would see what she needed. David stood by my side and held my hand. We never looked at each other, and we didn't have to. I knew that he was very concerned. After five minutes, any hope that I had faded away. As gently as possible, Dr. Basham said that she could not see our baby or his/her heartbeat. She said that what we were experiencing is called a blighted ovum, when the baby begins to develop in the gestational sac, but fails to continue to develop, generally because of some chormosomal defect. The embryo is then reabsorbed by the mother's body, leaving an empty gestational sac and a placenta. David moved away and sat down, stunned. I couldn't speak. When I finally got myself together, my first words were, "Was there ever a baby?" First and foremost, I was afraid that I had somehow convinced myself and my body so thoroughly that I was pregnant, when in fact, I never had been. "Oh, yes," Dr. Basham said. "You were pregnant, and there was an embryo." As strange as it may sound, I found a tiny bit of comfort in that. At that moment, at least, I knew I wasn't crazy. She proceeded to tell us that a blighted ovum is a type of miscarriage, but that I hadn't experienced any of the classic miscarriage symptoms, such as bleeding. Together, David and I decided to schedule a D&C early the following week to remove "retained products of conception," a term I despise. Tearful and brokenhearted, we left Dr. Basham's office through the back door, in order to avoid frightening any of the happy, oblivious pregnant women in the waiting room.
There are times in our lives when we can identify a turning point. The point at which things will no longer be the same. The minute we know that we'll forever measure time as "before" and "after" this event. This, unfortunately, was my moment. On the horrible car ride home, I spoke to God. I don't remember much of what I said, but I clearly remember telling Him, "This is going to make us or break us." And when I said, "us," I knew I didn't mean anything about Him. He's unbreakable, unchanging. I knew that I was talking about my ability to continue to believe and have faith.
On this ride home, I remembered something I had prayed about weeks, if not months, before. My car radio dial is set on 91.5, the station where KLOVE broadcasts in this area. KLOVE is a contemporary Christian radio station based in Rocklin, California, and I'd been a devoted listening since I'd found the station about a year earlier. I remembered driving home from work one day and hearing a caller talk about her struggles iwht addiction and I was moved by her ability to share her testimony regarding God's grace in her life and her ability to turn her life around after accepting Jesus Christ as her Savior. I remember praying, "God, give me a testimony! I'm a 'flannel-board Jesus kid'. I've been in church all my life. I can't remember not believing in you. You've been so good to me...my life has been darn near perfect. What is it about my life that could inspire anyone to believe in You?" This prayer flashed back into my mind, and I knew that God was answering my prayer for a testimony, but I certainly didn't approve of the way He was going about it.
The next days and weeks are still a blur in my mind. David and I told our parents, siblings, an dclose friends about our loss. I had two D&Cs, referrals to endocrinologists and hematologists for testing, and spent a small fortune on bloodwork. We tried to move on. Our families tried their best to comfort us, but David and I both struggle with accepting help. We both desperately want to be strong all the time. I wish could say that I was a support to David during this time, but I was falling apart. He was my rock. Grief is never an easy thing to experience, but the grief associated with miscarriage is complicated. In many cases like ours, there is no physical body for parents to mourn. While the baby was very real to us, it never really existed to anyone else. Our parents never even knew tha tthey would be grandparents until the momen they found out that, well...they wouldn't be. Some people don't consider our loss to be that of "a real baby." Aside from losing a child, David and I also found ourselves mourning the loss of dreams. In my mind, I had already taken my baby trick-or-treating, to Christmas parties, to Story Hour as a toddler, and a million other activities. We were suddenly confronted with the fact that these things would never happen, at least with this child. It also doesn't help matters that miscarriage just isn't discussed. When we were able to begin sharing our loss with others, I was amazed at how many others had experienced it as well, and I was saddened because I wondered how many had grieved alone because of the stigma. While I knew many people who had experienced a miscarriage after a successful pregnancy, I hadn't found anyone who had miscarried their first child. I felt incredibly alone, and knew that I could only turn to one person for comfort: God. After all, only He knew the magnitude of my pain. I reminded myself that He loved me so much that His only Son died to set me free. I knew the intense love I felt for a child that I had never seen or felt, and was awestruck at his ability to let His Son die for the sins of the world. He loved us that much. He thought I was worth the price.
Even though I knew these things, I still struggled with the overwhelming sadness and anger that I felt. On really bad days, I felt as though God had left me. I would cry out to Him, asking Him where He was in my time of need. They say hindsight is 20/20, and now I can see that He was always there, just as He promised. In the friend who called regularly to ask how I was doing, He was there. In the cards, letters, and emails we received, He was there. In the tight, silent hugs from family, He was there. In the friend who stopped by on Mother's Day, just to sit and cry with me, He was there. In the blog posts from people I barely knew, He was there. He was there all the time, giving me everything I needed, even though I didn't always recognize it.
I wish I could say that I had an easy time of accepting this as a part of God's plan for my life. It hasn't been easy. It's been a tough road, and many, many times, I've felt like Jacob...wrestling with God, not wanting to let go until being given a blessing. Some of my favorite contemporary Christian songs deal with praising God in times of trial and pain. As I would sing along, I would hope that I would be able to praise God during the storms of life I knew were to come. now that I was in one, it seemed impossible. How could I praise a God who would allow the death of my child? Was I supposed to set aside my grief and anger as if it never happened, so that I could praise God? I wrestled with this question for days, until I found Angie Smith's blog, "Bring the Rain." Angie's husband, Todd, is a singer with the group Selah. In January of 2007, Angie and Todd learned that their fourth daughter, Audrey Caroline would likely die in utero, and if she lived to be born, would not live for long. Angie's doctors told her that their little Audrey was "incompatible with life" and some encouraged her to terminate the pregnancy. "Bring the Rain" documents Angie's feelings and conversations with God as she carried Audrey, delivered her, and held her as God welcomed her home 2 1/2 hours after her birth. Through Angie's words in her blog, and her book I Will Carry You , I found a way to grieve and praise God at the same time. She showed me that I could be incredibly sad and angry without turning away from God. In fact, I could feel those things while praising Him!
For much of my life, I thought that as long as I was "good," I wouldn't have any trouble in life. Let me ask you this: can you find any scripture in the Bible that indicates a promise that being "good" will bring a trouble-free existence? You can't! It doesn't exist! But you know what I did find? An abundance of scripture that promises that life will bring us pain, but that we belong to an all-powerful God who will comfort us and care for us during those times. I could praise Him for that. I could praise a God who held every tear I'd ever cried, who had numbered every hair on my head, who had named every star in the sky, and who had ordained every single moment my child would live. I began to realized that I couldn't live a life that demonstrated faith if my life never required me to have faith. Angie Smith puts it much more eloquently in her blog, but I realized that I should stop praying for God to give me a perfect life...the life free of pain and worry, but instead to pray that God would bring me anything that would make my life a fertile ground for spreading His word.
A year later, I can clearly see that God has been faithful in His promises to me. I knew that only He could bring me the healing I needed, and through lots of people and experiences, I know that my healing is still in progress. He led me to attend a support group for women who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss. What a blessing that group (and those ladies!) have been. Through those meetings, I was able to connect with other women who had shared a loss similar to mine. I was able to have a place to share my feelings, knowing those women would "get it." They understood my confusion, anger, frustraton, envy (of pregnant women), and feelings of emptiness. That group was the place wehre I first really felt like I wasn't alone. He has given me friends who have comforted me and inspired me with the way they've faced pain and loss. He has given me the opportunity to share my story with other women who have experienced miscarriage, and has allowed me to help them carry their burdens, as numerous other women did for me. And on September 18, 2010, the due date for our first child, He gave us another blessing...we found out that we were expecting again! We are so very excited that God has granted us this second miracle. The baby that we lost on February 25, 2010 will always be my first child, even though the child I'm carrying now will be our first born.
I spent a lot of time over the last year wishing that I could just forget my first pregnancy and miscarriage ever took place. Now, as I look back, I pray that I never forget that tiny little life that God used to show me how much He cares for me. God is good...all the time.