Traveling from Risk to Grief to Bitter to Good

***FYI: I wrote this 6-8 years ago, it’s a reflection of my first miscarriage in 2007 and the months that followed. It’s unedited in places, a bit raw and TMI, but real nonetheless.***

A Risky Business

We weren’t planning on getting pregnant. At least not yet.

I realized I hadn’t been feeling well and it wasn’t going away. Then the wheels in my head began turning and something clicked, “Maybe I’m pregnant.” Joe wanted to wait to take a test and I was ready to go buy one that second. We waited a few more days until my birthday to take the test. I was so anxious and excited that I woke up at 4:45am and took the test. Waited those agonizingly few minutes…

There were two lines. One not as dark as the other, but there just the same. We were pregnant! Of course, like any good wife I woke up my husband to tell him. He wasn’t so excited…at least not at 5 o’clock in the morning.

Since the result was a faint positive I made an appointment to take another test at the hospital. I took the second pregnancy test the next day. A few days later the results came back with another faint positive. That night we told our family.

A few days later my doctor ordered a blood test. My hCG’s weren’t increasing normally. So I took one and then a few days later another and then another. My hCG’s were only going up a 100 or so a day, when they’re supposed to double each day. Looking back now, that should have been a sign for concern. But I wasn’t. I was on cloud 9 and my mom had had low hCG’s with her pregnancies we all were fine. All in all, I took six pregnancies tests and all came back positive. I wasn’t worried.

…………………………………………………………………….

We were so excited to start our little family. And then it happened. My mom had been in town for a business trip and was getting ready to leave. Joe and I took a walk before work together. And I started spotting. It wasn’t much. It seemed a normal amount from what I had heard and read, so we preceded with our day as normal.

I got to work, started to settle in, and headed to the bathroom before my students showed up. The spotting wasn’t so little anymore and I knew something was wrong. I was bleeding. I was beginning to lose my baby. I called my mom. She was just getting ready to board the plane. She asked if I wanted her to stay and I said yes. She was on her way back to our apartment. I called Joe and told him to come home.

I cried, pulled myself together a bit, and headed to the office. I got to my boss’s office and told her what was happening. We cried together, she prayed for me, and I stayed in her office until there was a break in the flow of kids arriving and then drove home to meet my mom and Joe. It was a whirlwind.

We all got there within a few minutes of each other. I called my OB and told him what was happening. He said he was sorry and that it sounded like I was having a miscarriage. The only thing he offered me was if the pain was too much I could go to the ER and they’d give me something to help pass the baby. He scheduled an ultrasound for Monday.

I knew I wouldn’t go to the ER. I was going to hold onto every chance that this baby would survive.

So we sat, prayed, ate, and watched Pride & Prejudice–I remember this, because I started with one version and my mom and Joe wanted to switch to a newer version.

By the next day I was feeling more hopeful. My pain was less and I knew God wasn’t going to take my baby. I prayed more that weekend than I have in my entire life. I sang songs. I read Scripture. I had so much faith that our baby was still alive or even if it wasn’t God had the power to revive it.

Saturday we went to lunch with a few friends, because staying at home the only thing to focus on was what was happening to my body. We went to Soup Plantation. We were having fun. Then I had to go to the bathroom.

I sat down and went to the bathroom. Then I sneezed and felt something drop. I looked and there it was…a red mass. So I did what any mother would do, I wrapped it up, put it in my purse, and went back to the table. The look on my face must have spoke volumes, because both Joe and my  mom said, “Is it time to go?”

Everything was a blur after that. I still prayed, I still hoped, I still thought everything was going to be okay. Deep down I knew it wasn’t.

On Monday, we went in for the ultrasound. Joe held my hand as we watched the screen.Nothing. So the doctor did an internal ultrasound. Nothing.

I could feel myself zip up any emotion that might have tried to squeeze out.

He said something about being sorry and these things happen.

My uterus was still enlarged. What I passed was the placenta. Our baby had stopped growing.

No tears. I was fine. It just happens.

I walked out of the examination room fine. No tears. I meet my mom in the waiting room and said something. Shrugged my shoulders and walked toward the elevator.

I was fine. It happens. No tears.

Grieving

September 17, 2007. That was the day we officially knew we had lost our baby. Life continued and I went back to work, but things weren’t the same.

People offered their condolences.

“I’m so sorry.”

“These things happen.”

“I’ve been there too.”

“I guess it just wasn’t God’s timing.”

It was hard to hear, but even harder to respond. I didn’t really know what to say. When we shared our loss with the youth kids we worked with a church there were a few who didn’t understand. One boy had never heard of a miscarriage and asked me if I was joking. Another of our students has some mental disabilities and for weeks would follow me around and ask me what happened to the baby. Finally, Joe had to firmly tell him to stop talking to me about the baby and told him it had died. For weeks after, he would just stare at me like I was the Black Death. He couldn’t comprehend how something could be growing inside of me and then stop. Never could I.

Work was hard, because I was a preschool teacher. I saw children as young as 2 1/2 to 6 years every day for 6 to 9 hours a day. Thankfully, I had not told them I was pregnant. Explaining a miscarriage to middle schoolers was hard, but to preschoolers there would have been an endless barrage of questions.

The next day at work, during our staff devotional one of the teachers read Lamentations 3:21-26 and it brought tears to my eyes. It’s a passage I would revisit numerous times in the coming months (and years).

This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope.

The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail.

They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.

“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, ”Therefore I have hope in Him.”

The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.

It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the LORD.

Later that day I was talking to Joe on my lunch break. He began reading something to me that made me cry. It was the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism:

What is your only comfort in life and death?

That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things work together for  my salvation.

Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him.

A week later one of my students crawled in my lap and asked if I had a baby in my belly. It took everything in me not to cry. I knew it was God’s way of telling me it’s okay to be emotional. It’s okay to be vulnerable. That night I journaled,

Lord, I don’t know what to think…I don’t even know what to say. I’m avoiding it, I know. I guess I’m ignoring what happened and am just shutting myself up from it–emotions and all things pertaining to it. I’m untouchable. At least that’s how I feel like I’m acting and responding to it and people and life…just that it doesn’t bother me. Which obviously isn’t true, but I don’t know how else to do it.

I just put on a pretty face and act like all is well and I’m doing just fine and God is good. The last part is true that I know…but I’m not sure how to appropriate that truth.

It’s true. I knew God was (and is) good in losing our baby. I believed that he would work all things together for my good. I would sing a chorus to one of the Bible songs we sang with the children. I would sing it out loud. I would sing it under my breath. I would sing it in my head.

God is good, all the time

He put His song of love in this heart of mine

God is good, He’s so good, all the time

But I didn’t yet know how to live that truth…How to make it go from knowledge I repeated to myself over and over and over to something I believed with my whole being?

How is this best for me? How is this God’s grace? I don’t understand how this works for my good and completion in Christ Jesus. I know it does. I could answer the question if someone asked…God knows what’s best for me and Joe and little Addison.

I love God and I know He loves me and He only gives the best for His children which is comforting, but how is this best?

I don’t mean it in a ‘angry-justify-yourself’ way, but a I want to know…I want to understand. I want to see how God is working this together for my good, for His purposes. I want to see His plan and appreciate it.

I also wanted to see how it ended. Where was God going with this? I knew he didn’t have (and likely wasn’t going to) show me the end result–the healing. But I thought if He did then the right now would be easier to handle.

That night I began processing my grief in its earliest form.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:1

What do I hope for? Am I sure of it?

What do I not see? Am I certain of it?

I don’t know what to think really. But this is what I do know:

  • That God is not doing this because He does not love me, but because He does love me. (Even if I don’t understand that…)
  • God is doing this so that I become more like Jesus. (Even though this is a mystery to me.)

Bitterness to Healing

As the weeks passed, I began to process what had happened little by little. But life had changed.

We tried to carry on with life as usual. Work, church, youth group, prayer teams, care group. But things slowly started to fall apart. I went to work and did my job, but with little enthusiasm. We slowly dropped events on our calendar. It was painful to see kids. It was painful to see parents leave their children for hours at a time when I had just lost mine and all I wanted was a child.

I’d come home and instead of living life, I’d watch TV and eat. Joe and I watched an hour or two of TV a week before the miscarriage. Afterward, we’d eat dinner in front of the TV and spend at least 3 hours there. It was a coping mechanism. I didn’t have to think about real life in front of the TV. I didn’t have to deal with my emotions. I just had to figure out what the missing letters were on Wheel of Fortune. In the next few months I’d gain at least 10lbs (how little that seems now!).

In the month after our miscarriage, I had been hiding something from Joe. I thought I was still pregnant. An outsider might recognize this as the denial stage in grieving, but I had convinced myself I was still pregnant…that the doctor didn’t know what he was talking about. It was all a big mistake.

When I shared with Joe that I still had all the symptoms of pregnancy–tired, nauseous, hungry, weight gain–he gently told me these were also signs of depression. I started to cry. It was time to ask for help.

It felt like everything was falling down around me. I was exhausted from acting like everything was fine. I was discontent, unhappy, and indifferent to life.

One of the reasons I struggled with asking for help (other than I’m a stubborn, proud sinner) was few people even asked how I was doing in regard to the miscarriage. So few that one hand had too many fingers to count them. Other than Joe, the only people who ever said anything were my mom, my boss, and a single friend. I felt lonely.

I felt like no one really considered my baby real and a loss. To me it was huge, but the lack of voice in my family and friends said the opposite. It got back to me that an older family member was told we weren’t ever really pregnant, because that would be easier for them than the truth. I struggled with thinking that maybe others didn’t really consider our miscarriage a loss because it was so early (9 weeks) or there wasn’t a physical baby to hold or there was no proof other than my own word. I felt alone in carrying the burden of our miscarriage. I felt that Joe and I had to be the ones to make Addison’s existence real.

It was then that I was surrounded by a group of amazing and dearly loved women in prayer. My heart was not only encouraged, but I didn’t have to carry the burden of grieving alone. These women were willing to journey with me.

Things weren’t fixed after this. My struggles were revealed. God’s goodness was reinforced. I had women who were regularly and purposefully asking me how I was doing. But life still happened. In late October we were evacuated due to fires. That same day I shared publicly the question that was burning within me: Am I a Mother? and my fears for Mother’s Day. Even though it was months away our baby would have been a few weeks old and we’d already talked about how wonderful it would be to be able to take part in the baby dedications on that day. Then in November/December we went to Ethiopia for a mission trip, where God continued to engrave on my heart His goodness.

One thing I’ve neglected to share up to this point is the condition of  my heart. Yes, I was hiding. I was pretending everything was okay. I was depressed, but I was also bitter.

I didn’t know how to respond and bitterness is what came out.

Bitterness unchecked is suffocating.

It consumed my life. Maybe that’s why I had to repeat to myself that God is good all the time. I struggled with understanding His goodness and living in my bitterness.

I didn’t enjoy being around children anymore. It was only a reminder of what I lost. Baby showers were a painful experience. All the oohing and aahing as I’d sit quietly by myself fixing the food trying to hid my own tears. There were two baby showers within weeks of our miscarriage that I attended.

And then…there were all the happy pregnant women. It seemed so unfair that women who weren’t even trying to have babies or “shouldn’t” were pregnant. I was unhappy and I didn’t want others to be happy either. In some way, I felt if they were happy and had what I wanted then I could never have it too. Then there were the awkward baby conversations where I use to be included and after the miscarriage ignored.

Every day was a struggle. Every day was a battle to breath. I hated life. I hated that I lost my baby. I didn’t understand God’s purposes. I knew He was good, but still my heart screamed in agony of losing the life I never got to hold. I wanted to yell at every mother that complained about her child. I wanted to tell them to enjoy the sleepless nights, because at least that means they have a breathing, living child! I wanted people to feel my pain.

One day at church a family friend grabbed my arm as we were passing in the hall. She is a woman who has never been able to have children even though she desperately wanted them. As she took my arm and looked me in the eye she said, “I just got to the point where I wanted to be happy. I was tired of being bitter. I just wanted to be able to go to a baby shower and bless someone else.”

As simple as her statement was it rocked my world. It didn’t make everything all better, but it was the light I needed to see. I was tired of being bitter. I wanted to be happy. I didn’t want people to feel how I was feeling, because I was miserable. I wanted joy.

It was then that I purposed to repent and let go of my bitterness. It was doing nothing for me, but wrecking havoc on my life. The journey wasn’t easy, but repentance never is. The pain of losing Addison still remained, but changed. Instead of being an all-consuming, searing pain it began to morph into a holy pain. A sadness that also saw God’s goodness. His mercy. His renewal. His covenant.

Because of this I was forced to trust in God more than I had before.

Because of this I learned to say, even through tears, “You give and take away, but my heart will choose to say blessed be Your name.”

Because of this I know and have seen the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Because of this my heart cries,

One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.

Psalm 27:4

He is my all in all. He is my only thing. He is my life and my death. He is I AM. He knows my pain. He is not helpless, but gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in love.

He sees me and holds me in the palm of His hand and there I find my comfort, my rest, and my peace as I gaze into the goodness of the Lord.

 

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