I’ve been waiting to write this "downer" post until after Christmas—so Merry Christmas retroactively. :) But really this post is about love, life, celebration, trust and new beginnings.
About this time four years ago, I was broken. Shell-shocked by what is still the deepest pain and loss I’ve ever felt.
Over Christmas we had made a quick, last-minute trip to Indiana to surprise everyone and give them some awesome news: we were expecting a baby. We had waited nearly eight years to even try for a baby and were shocked that the moment I got off birth control it worked and we were going to be parents.
We began to dream, plan and prepare. But all that was cut short. An early doctor’s appointment revealed something was wrong and our sweet little love wouldn’t make it to our arms. We spent the next few weeks just trying to push through, keep our heads up and wait for the official loss.
When people talk about miscarrying, it’s often thought of as an event. But it’s actually a long, slow process that leaves people hurting both physically and emotionally for weeks.
We hadn’t told anyone except our families and one or two close friends. So we’d do the “proper” thing and suffer the loss privately with little support and masked grief.
I kept going to work, meeting deadlines and leading my team. We attended church and other social engagements like dinners and birthday parties with smiles pasted on our faces.
Then one night we had our church small group over for a board game night. Alex left to pick up a visiting friend from the airport, and I stayed to host. Right in the middle of it all, I hemorrhaged. I had no choice but to tell a close church friend and she took care of me while ushering everyone else out the door.
Alex rushed home and we went to the ER where they got the situation under control. I stayed the night and was released from the hospital, but my doctor told me he wanted me to take off two weeks from work to recover.
While these events were extremely difficult, they actually ended up being a blessing in disguise. They forced me to let the people around me at church and work know that I was in a vulnerable place and needed support.
To make a long story slightly shorter, over the next few weeks I healed up and the grief was a little less sharp. And then much to our wonderful surprise I got pregnant with Pine—as soon as I possibly could have.
While that pregnancy and his birth will never take the place of our first sweet little one, God has certainly used our incredible boy to bring additional healing and joy.
Anyway, I tell this story to make you feel like crap. Nah, just kidding. I tell this story because I wanted to share a few things from my experience that might be able to help other grieving moms in a small way.
Of course my experience is only my own and I can’t speak for everyone else in all ways, but I think there are probably some commonalities.
So here is a very tiny amount of encouragement or possibly a shred of wisdom for other moms who may be going through miscarriage loss today or others who haven’t experienced it but have questions:
1. Tell someone—if not everyone. I know common propriety says “don’t tell anyone about your pregnancy until after the first trimester because you might lose your baby and then you’ll have to go back and tell everyone it didn’t work out. And that would be hard and embarrassing.” So let me counter with this: Hiding your pregnancy and loss doesn’t take away an ounce of hurt or pain that’s caused—in fact it will probably only make it harder. There is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about. You were joyously expecting and now you are grieving. Don’t suffer alone.
You need the support from friends and understanding from coworkers, and that’s ok. You’re not weak or silly or stupid. You are brave and honest and strong. You will be surprised at how many people want to help. We were so blessed by friends, coworkers and family who pitched in and brought meals, sent cards and flowers. And I was so encouraged by the strong women who came out of the woodwork to share their stories and offer support. So many women have gone through this, and when you’re open and share, it creates opportunities for them to share as well. Don’t grieve alone. Please, let others in.
2. Take a break. Rest. And reach out for help when you need it. Losing your child is not something you should have to grind through. And really, you can’t. I thought I would just keep quiet and go to work and keep my busy schedule and maybe I could just push through the grief. But of course it doesn’t work that way. And that’s not even touching on the physical aspect of your loss. I know this isn’t possible for everyone, but if you can, take two weeks off to rest, recuperate and start the grieving process. And if you can’t do that, at least back away from the things you can for a little while.
3. Seek help. After my miscarriage, I just felt numb. In those first couple of weeks, I was struggling to feel like myself. I felt detached and physically off, too. So I reached out to my doctor and she prescribed some medicine to help me emotionally restabilize. I only needed it for a couple of days, but I definitely needed it. If you’re feeling depressed or severely anxious or just off, tell someone and call your doctor. It’s wise to seek help after a traumatic loss.
4. Do something to honor your little one. I know our society downplays miscarriage as just a little thing women go through on their way to expanding their family. But once you’ve been there, you know that’s not true. You lost your sweet, precious little one and you probably didn’t even get to hold them. Of course, nothing can take away grief and sadness, but it really helped me to feel some closure to do something to remember our first baby.
I worried about not having the opportunity to place my little one somewhere nice to rest (I know they are with God, but I still wanted to make sure they were in a nice place here too, and that wasn’t possible).
So I donated my wedding dress to be made into several little gowns for babies who are lost when they are further along but still too small for traditional baby clothes. It was a small thing, but it made a big difference to me.
This will likely look different for everyone, but write a letter to your baby, or get a special piece of jewelry or a tattoo, donate your wedding dress, give a special gift to a charity in their honor. Whatever you do, make it personal and do what feels right for you. It won’t change your situation, but it will help you find a little peace and closure.
5. Know this: You were and are a good mama. Even if you didn’t get to raise your sweet baby here, you did an amazing job carrying and caring for your sweet little one. And if this baby is your first, know that you are just as much a mama as anyone else. You know the tender moments you spent together. You know the fierce protector you were. You know how you love. You know. You’re a mama.
6. Give grace. I know as well as anyone that people will say hurtful things to you in this process. But they truly mean well and are trying to help. Heck, I’ve probably said some things in this post that may not have landed the way I hoped. So as you reach out, and as you are hurting, know that your friends and family love you and want to support you. They just may not always know the most sensitive ways to do that. Gently tell them if you’re hurt by something, and in everything extend grace.
You are not alone, sweet mama. Keep moving forward while remembering the past. It’s hard, but it gets easier even though you will never be the same.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out. I would love to hear your stories and send my love and support. And if you want, please feel free to share in the comments so other moms can be supported and encouraged by your story.
And to my own first precious baby: I love you. :)