October is a bittersweet time of the year for me. While I love the changing of the weather, celebrating my birthday and watching my 3 beautiful, healthy kids run through pumpkin patches, it also brings about a reminder of loss. October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. October 15th is the official day of remembrance for the little ones who never made it to their mama’s arms, the ones who were born sleeping and those sweet women who have struggled to even get pregnant. It’s a day where I am thankful for my healthy blessings, but also a day in which I spend a great deal of time wondering what my 4 angel babies would have looked like and wonder what their personalities would have been like.
There are many things in my life in which I tend to keep private, but I share my story and encourage others to do so, because too many women carry this loss alone. Miscarriages are often the elephants in the room and people don’t know how to respond or react when a couple announces they lost their baby. This path can be lonely. Sometimes it’s because we chose to isolate, or others push us to the outside because they don’t know how act or what to say. Even those times when we chose to socialize, it was/is an Oscar Award winning performance because you put on the happy face and act like your heart hasn’t just been ripped out of you. Sadly, too many people dismiss it all together and don’t validate it as a true loss. I am thankful to have a month where it doesn’t seem to be the most taboo subject.
I can tell you from personal experience that it is a loss and it’s felt in a way that one would never understand unless they had walked that path. There is often a physical pain brought about by the miscarriage. There is also the emotional impact brought about by the loss. The questions of “what did I do wrong?” “What could I have done different so that my baby would still be here?” Many times there is an actual physical ache in the arms caused by the overwhelming desire to hold the child you lost. After 3 miscarriages there were times that my heart and arms hurt in ways that I could never fully put into words and I am willing to bet many other women could say the same thing.
Infertility issues are just as heartbreaking as losing a child to a miscarriage. I don’t see one loss as more significant than the other, just different. You realize that God created a woman’s body to give birth and when your body doesn’t do what you know it was created to do, there is a sense of failure felt. It is hard to be around friends who are pregnant. Infertility issues come with a reality most of us would rather not face.
It took us 6 months to get pregnant the first time and then it ended in miscarriage just before Christmas 06. The 2nd time it only took 4 months for me to get pregnant again, only to lose the baby a week before Mother’s Day 07. It would take another 20 months to get pregnant with my 3rd and I lost that baby in August 07. It would be another 13 months before I would get pregnant with my daughter. We were then surprised to have 3 kids in 3 years. None of the pregnancies were easy, or without issues, but I am thankful to have my 3 blessings.
My last pregnancy would be bittersweet. I had always dreamed of having twins. When we went in for that first ultrasound, I was over the moon to see 2 tiny babies on the screen. My joy lasted for all of a few seconds when I was told that Baby B had no cardiac movement and was measuring a week behind Baby A. After the radiologist looked at the ultrasound, based on the sac, it was determined that I was carrying identical twins, but had lost one due to a chromosomal issue. When I look at my youngest, I often wonder what kind of personality his twin would have had and what it would have been like to have 2 of him running around the house.
The number of pregnancies around you seems to amplify when you are struggling with infertility and loss. It also seems that certain friends only need their husbands to look at them in order to get pregnant. There are also those who don’t really seem to care about their babies, or see them merely as a paycheck and are pregnant with their 3rd or 4th. There is much about life that seems unfair when you are walking this path. While we walked through this journey early on in our marriage, I stopped going to church on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and when I knew there was going to be a baby dedication. It wasn’t that I wasn’t happy for my friends, or that I didn’t want to celebrate my own mother (my father had already passed at this point), it was just too hard to be around all those happy parents.
There were many nights where I cried myself to sleep and attempted to keep my husband from hearing me. Even in the best of marriages, a wall can go up between husbands and wives. The desire to get pregnant is so strong and when you are charting, your husband starts feel like a tool, rather than a husband. My husband will tell you that he wasn’t happy during that time in our marriage. He felt the need to “perform” and there didn’t seem to be anything more than a physical connection that was devoid of any true feelings. The flip side of that coin is that you can become afraid of being intimate, therefore cutting off your spouse all together and there really isn’t much middle ground. I don’t think many people realize the toll that infertility and miscarriage can take on marriage, or how long it takes to reconnect after going through the pain and the losses.
Your faith can take a hit during this time. I wish I could say that my faith never wavered, but I would be lying. There were days that I was so angry with the Lord because I didn’t have my little ones at home with me. There were times I yelled at the Lord. It was a struggle to read my Bible and to pray. I didn’t like going to church and being around all those “happy” people, who didn’t seem to struggle with their faith. After losing my 2nd baby just before Mother’s Day 07, I stopped going to church for most of that summer. Here I was, a seminary student, and all I was doing was going through the motions at school and at work. I could still give all the “right” faith answers, but I didn’t feel any of it. I felt like I was being punished for something I didn’t know anything about. Mamas, the Lord CAN take it. He knows your heart. He knows you’re hurting. Talk to Him. He is the only One who can give you peace. I would also encourage you to not allow yourself to stay in that place. It is much easier than said when you are in the middle of it,
While you are dealing with heartache of loss, you also have to endure some well meaning, but stupid things being said to you. For example I heard “It’s the Lord’s will,” or “You are still young, it will happen.” “You need to stop trying so hard,” or “If you would only do ______, not do ______ then you will get pregnant.” The ones that hurt the most were “You were only 5/6/8 weeks along, it wasn’t really a baby. Why are you so upset?” There were also many “You will get pregnant when God is ready for you to get pregnant.” Ladies, can I get an “Amen” on how much these comments make/ made you want to scream?
There is nothing about any of those comments that are anywhere near comforting. 1) Yes, it was a REAL baby and my child you are talking about. 2) I know God has a plan for everyone, but this path really just sucks. 3) You can’t guarantee that the Lord is going to allow anyone to get pregnant, let alone carry to term. Please STOP saying it. 4) Stop saying “You can always adopt.” Really, it isn’t that easy. There is nothing easy about the adoption process and your heart has to be in the right place to even begin to start thinking about that process. I have wonderful friends who have grown their beautiful families through adoption, but it isn’t the answer for every couple. Adoption shouldn’t be viewed as settling or plan B. This could be a whole other blog post and should be written by a mama who grew their beautiful family through adoption.
If you are reading this and haven’t walked this path, watch the comments. Don’t give platitudes to try and make your friends feel better. Instead say “I’m sorry and I’m praying for you.” Offer your presence and not your words. Let your friends cry on your shoulders. Be there. Words aren’t necessary. Be conscientious about what you say in front of those friends. I am not saying to walk on egg shells, but be mindful and respectful of what they are going through.
If you are reading this and have walked, or are walking this path, my heart and prayers go out to you. This isn’t a journey I would wish on my worst enemy. If you are like me and have walked this path, but are now a parent to a beautiful child(ren), hug them a little tighter today and let them know how much you love them. Tell them what miracles they are and how you prayed for them. If you are still walking this path, hold on. There is nothing easy about walking this journey, but don’t ever let go of your faith.