I never thought this would be my story. Now I find myself as part of a sisterhood I never imagined, one no one wants to be a part of. Yet here I am, and there is no going back.
A few weeks ago, I found out I was pregnant. Seven days later, all that changed. I was only six short weeks along. As a pro-life advocate who strives to be informed on the issue, I knew the risks. I knew it was early. Statistics show 10 to 20 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage, and more than 80 percent of those occur in the first trimester.
But I couldn’t contain my joy. For one week, my heart soared to great heights as I began just barely to daydream. What would our baby look like? Would he have my freckles? Would she be adventurous like my husband? The due date was just two days after my birthday; I looked forward to sharing that day for the rest of my life.
I was now six weeks and one day pregnant. The multiple apps I had downloaded told me that the little one was about the size of a sweat pea. A little tiny heart was beating and beginning to take shape.
Tragedy Strikes Without Warning
Something was wrong. I knew there shouldn’t be blood, but there it was. Trying to be a strong woman of faith, I went on to work—praying over the little one as I drove, asking God to heal whatever was going on.
But within a few short hours, a sense of foreboding choked my heart. Every frequent visit to the restroom filled me with dread of what might happen next.
I tearfully searched the pregnancy blogs, hoping to find someone whose experience would assuage my growing fears. But I knew better. I confided in my boss; after earnestly praying with me, she thankfully sent me home and told me to rest.
Frantically calling my doctor, I had to leave a message. When he finally called back, he confirmed that—by all the signs—I was losing the pregnancy. At those words, something inside me broke, something that will never fully be alright again. All my husband could do was hold me, cry, and pray, pleading for a miracle.
Photo for illustration: Patience Glod / Flickr
I tried to sleep that night, awaiting the doctor’s appointment in the early morning; but I couldn’t. With each passing hour, the slight pain increased in my body and my prayers became more fervent. Still I reminded God of the miracles I had seen Him wrought with my own eyes. I knew nothing was beyond His abilities.
Sometime after 2 a.m. I snuck quietly to the bathroom for what must have been the 20th time that day. When I returned to bed minutes later—an eternity—somehow I knew my womb was empty. It was too late. I knew at that moment that all our pleas for a miracle were answered with a “no.”
How I fell asleep after that, I don’t honestly know. Did I even sleep? It’s all just a blur of emotional and physical exhaustion.
My husband rearranged his schedule and joined me the next day at the doctor’s office. Not that I really wanted that. Already wracked with so much guilt, I couldn’t bear the thought of him having to hear any gory details—especially if they had to perform a procedure to get rid of “the remains of the pregnancy.”
I know full well it wouldn’t have been considered an abortion if they had—the life of my child was already over, and the procedure would only be used to help heal my body. But I couldn’t bear the thought of the sounds of the cold machines that I knew would stay with me for years. Thankfully, that was not necessary.
My body needed no intervention but Motrin to ease the pain. The physical symptoms of the miscarriage were not too bad in my case. The doctor even said he saw no evidence of any long-term concerns. My body has healed quickly. But my heart will not, cannot be the same again.
To Heal from Heartbreak, First Feel the Loss
Now I’m left to wrestle with a thousand questions I don’t know how to handle.
Chief among them all is: why? Not even, “Why me?” Or, “Why for my husband?” I wonder, mostly silently, sometimes screaming: Why my baby?
Some days, I wish I didn’t know it was a baby. In some recess of my heart, I wish that it was just a clump of cells or a potential life. Then I would just be grieving disappointed hopes, the pent-up desires of years.
If that was the case, then the well-meaning responses from friends to “not worry, everything is going to be okay, you’ll have more children…” would offer some consolation. The speed with which loved ones move on to the topics of the weather, hobbies, and hangouts with friends would make sense.
Sorry, world: I can’t move on so fast. Yes, I was only six weeks and one day along, but I didn’t lose a pregnancy. I lost a baby, our baby.
This tiny, precious person had their own unique DNA. Yet the time was so short, I don’t have an ultrasound to look at, or a belly bump picture to remember my baby by. I don’t even get to know if my baby was a boy or girl.
Image: Live Action
If my child had been a year-old infant fighting for her life in an ICU for six weeks before passing away, the conversations would be completely different.
No one would expect me to be answering work emails or getting on with life. Friends and colleagues would censure me for my constant apologizing for being slow in responding to their requests or for being out of it. Not one person in their right mind would try to convince me that other future children will make up for the death of this one.
Even the most antagonistic of acquaintances usually have a tender reaction to loss and bereavement, because we’ve all been there. It is one of the fundamental shared human experiences. We all know what it’s like to lose someone we love.
Yet, for some reason, these responses are the best we can conjure up in the face of this specific loss—the death of an unborn baby for reasons we will never know.
Pro-Life Community, We Need to Do Better
We know the child in the womb is alive. We read and share social media posts all the time about how babies in the womb feel pain at least by the 20th week, how they have fingernails and eyelashes after a few short weeks, even how miscarried babies at 19 weeks are changing hearts by helping people see past the pro-abortion rhetoric that it is “just a clump of cells.”
We give our lives in a thousand ways to teach and show others that all life is precious and intrinsically worthy of protection, from conception to natural death.
Why then is there so little understanding and compassion for a woman who loses her child so early in pregnancy?
Photo for illustration: James Palinsad / Flickr
Don’t get me wrong: thankfully, Jesus has surrounded me with a few precious people who have walked through this pain themselves and understand the unexpected depths of grief I’m wading through. But there are other wonderful, caring people who cannot seem to understand that it was a child I lost. My baby died.
I don’t want to try to qualify my grief by comparing it to those who lost a child who was older than mine. But, if I’m completely honest, it seems we don’t really understand how to respond to miscarriage in general—and especially to an early pregnancy loss.
For the millions of other women in this tragic sisterhood, we carry the heart-wrenching grief of being a mother who has lost a child—one whom many don’t even recognize was alive. And for those of us whose child was so young, we need to be able to come out of the shadows.
We need permission to grieve and to process. We need loved ones to tell us ad nauseam that it wasn’t our fault, to drown out the shame that plagues our hearts—the wondering and what-ifs. We need someone to hold us, let us cry, pray with us, make us laugh, or sit quietly next to us when we feel numb.
Maybe we need to name our child or have an event to commemorate their life—not just in the first few days afterwards, but in the years to come. Maybe we just need you to know that nothing will ever truly be okay again, and that’s going to have to be okay with you.
I’m grateful for my husband who held me and wouldn’t let me go, even when I tried to push him away to protect him from the pain I was feeling. We had daydreamed in weeks and months past about names for a child. In our grief and prayers together, one name came back to us: Shiloh. It means peace and tranquility; and, in Hebrew, the one wished for.
The one comfort my heart is holding on to is that my baby is in the arms of the One to whom she really belongs. I don’t know why Jesus took my baby home so early, but I cling to the hope that I will see Shiloh one day.
Will my baby recognize me? Will Shiloh know how much I loved and wanted him? I don’t know. But I will have eternity to let her know.