For more stories of men and women who share grief over the loss of a child click here.
As I sit, preparing to write this, I admit this: I’m a little nervous about it.
One thing I’ve learned…everyone’s experiences are different, so I ask you keep this in mind while you read my story about hope.
October is the month dedicated to the loss of a pregnancy or infant. I didn’t know anything about it until a Facebook page I follow began promoting it and putting up stories from people who experienced it. I brought it to therapy, to the clients (men and women) I knew who’d experienced this type of loss. I shared in their tears, their memories, their lost dreams…and their hopes.
At the beginning of October 2013, my husband and I rejoiced in a “surprise” baby (the first two were planned). I went in for our first ultrasound. For some reason, I was very worried that this pregnancy was a tubal pregnancy and I asked the lab tech to make sure it wasn’t. Something just didn’t feel quite right (later, my doctor told me many women have a sense of fear or that something isn’t right before they miscarry). I was tired, too. I wrote it off as working too much, stressing over paperwork and having two young children to chase around. However, I literally couldn’t make it through the day without 4-5 “catnaps,” going to bed at 7 pm…and I was STILL struggling to stay awake throughout the day.
On October 15th at 7 pm, I lit a candle for my baby sister who was never born (the 15th is National Remembrance Day). I spoke with my mother about it. She told me the name she’d given the baby and how difficult it was to talk to my father about the miscarriage (she didn’t tell him the baby’s name until almost 20 years later).
On October 29th, I got up and did my normal morning workout. Afterwards, I noticed spotting. I immediately informed my husband and called my doctor…and I had a baby name pop into my head that I couldn’t get out (I didn’t mention this to anyone because it was “crazy”). On the 30th, I had another ultrasound. My husband asked if it “relieved” any of my stress since they didn’t give us bad news and I replied “They didn’t let me hear the heartbeat.” I knew then, but still, I grasped at the hope that things would get better.
On October 31st, I was in pain. And my heart was breaking because I knew I was losing my baby. I may have been “only” 10 weeks along, and I may have had the gut instinct that something wasn’t right, but it didn’t matter. It was my child. I miscarried in the bathroom at my home. I called my doctor and my in-law’s (who didn’t even know I was pregnant). They came to care for my two kids and I went to the doctor’s office so she could do what she needed to do. That’s where I broke down. The nurse who was assisting the doctor apologized to me for being unprofessional and crying with me, but I reassured her that I was far from offended. For me, it was better knowing that others cared about me and my baby, that we weren’t just another “statistic.”
Then I returned home and cried. I tried to contact my husband, but he was unavailable. I allowed myself to sit and feel the loss, to think the negative “If I’d only..” or “If I hadn’t…” thoughts and then challenged those thoughts. It was similar to everything I’d been doing with clients for the past month. I reached out to friends and family, especially my mom.
After several hours, I went on with my day’s schedule. I took the kids trick-or-treating that night. My husband, meanwhile, stayed home and struggled with the news. Later, he admitted he cried for the loss of our child, but it was the guilt of not being there for me while I was experiencing the physical parts of the loss that ate away at him. And he wanted to name the baby. He told me he thought “Jordan” would be a good name, since it could be girl or boy’s name. I finally told him the name that came to me two days prior, when I first started spotting: Jordan Lee. Coincidence? Not likely.
Weeks later, my doctor told me she hadn’t witnessed very many mothers handle miscarriage as well as I did. It’s not a bragging right for me…the truth is, I handled it so well for many different reasons, but I think the main two were allowing myself to 1) FEEL and ACCEPT the emotions/thoughts that came with the loss and 2) REACHING OUT to others for comfort, especially my spouse. I didn’t hide the loss from my kids and tried to explain it to them in a way they understood, as well as incorporating our beliefs. I let them see me cry.
In therapy, and through witnessing loss, it is amazing how often we, as humans, withdraw into ourselves and try to handle the situation “appropriately.” What does that even mean? Don’t cry? Don’t “bother” other people with our suffering? There’s another part of us that fears making others uncomfortable. Our society doesn’t talk about death, even though it’s a part of our lives that we ALL share. As my doctor put it, “It’s a taboo subject, especially when it comes to miscarriages, babies and children.”
I researched miscarriages. One in four women will experience a miscarriage in their lifetime…possibly more, as some women miscarry before they even know they are pregnant. I read posts and blogs about all the “wrong” things to say to someone who’s experienced a miscarriage. I also realized, as I read these statements and heard them for myself, that people genuinely care. They aren’t trying to offend; on the contrary, many are trying to make someone feel better. Their words just don’t match their intentions. I chose to not be angry with the wrong words coming from people who cared about me.
A friend of mine has experienced multiple miscarriages. I took this from her Facebook post:
4 Things That People Said That Helped Me Through:
1. You are not alone. I had no idea how many women have gone through this till they heard we had miscarried. I honestly got a bit overwhelmed hearing so many others’ stories, but it really helped to know others lived through the same season of grief. None of them ever forgetting the child that was lost, but still living with restored hope.
2. Hearing stories of hope. This is sort of like number 1, but for the fact that some stories had a hopeful kind of ending. Sometimes you get to see good come from trials in this life. Sometimes mothers got pregnant after a miscarriage and had healthy babies the next time.
3. You can get mad at God. You can be honest about your doubt or disappointment with Him. He is big enough to handle all of your emotions and questions. And loves you through it all.
4. People say dumb things sometimes. They don’t do it to hurt you. Don’t add to the pain by making more out of people’s comments than you need to. I wish we all knew the right thing to say and when to say it all the time, but we don’t. Not even with all of the training or degrees in the world do we always know the right thing to say.
That’s what has helped me through. That and Romans 12:12, “Be joyful in hope, patient in tribulation and faithful in prayer.” But to be honest, I had to ask for a lot of help with “being” all of these things after hearing news of another miscarriage.
Along with my friend’s hopeful words, I would add that honesty is helpful for healing For example, if an acquaintance tells you about a miscarriage, saying “I don’t understand what you’re going through, but I want you to know I’m here for you if you need to talk” would be appropriate. Then again, others do have a form of understanding about miscarriages, but everyone’s experience is different. Of course, honesty is helpful as the grieving parent…neither my husband nor I hid our loss from others. My husband said each time he spoke to someone about it, he felt better. It also introduced us to the staggering realization about how many of our friends had experienced their own losses through miscarriage and ways they found healing.
Sometimes, not saying anything at all is appropriate. If you can’t find the words to help a friend through a loss, or you’re scared of saying “the wrong thing,” just offering to be there for them, allowing them to talk and cry, and just holding them and allowing them to grieve is healing.
Another form of healing can be found in remembering. Here it is, October again. I will light a candle on the 15th for my angel, Jordan Lee. And I’ll allow tears for the lost hopes, dreams, and experiences I will not have with Jordan. I wear my necklace, a memento from a group called Held Your Whole Life (see the pic with this article). My grandmother died last week and my 5-year-old daughter said “I bet great-grandma can give Jordan a hug from us now.” Hope in a young child; I hope she’s correct and that my grandma gave my baby a big hug!
I will place my hand on my bulging stomach and celebrate our next hope, due on Thanksgiving. It took 6 weeks for my body to recover from the pregnancy (according to my doctor); it took months for me to mentally be ready to have another child because I did not want to feel like I was “replacing” the one I lost. It took my husband even longer because he did not want to experience a loss again, nor did he want to take the chance that he wouldn’t be there for me if something was wrong.
But hope wins out. In our situation, we have been able to have a healthy pregnancy. For others, situations vary and hope comes in different forms: adoption, foster parenting, being the best parents to the child(ren) they already have, etc. It’s a matter of finding the hope that “fits” or “works” in each individual’s situation.
Wikipedia gave this definition of hope: “Hope is an optimistic attitude of mind based on an expectation of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large.” Where would the world be if we didn’t have hope? Where would you be without hope? Where would I be? I can tell you this, because of my beliefs and my hope, I know I’ll get to meet Jordan, someday.
Written by Jessica:
Jessica has lived at the “Gateway to the Sandhills” since 2006 with her husband and two children (and one on the way!), and she’s been a Nebraskan all her life. She grew up in a small town in eastern Nebraska, attended the University of Nebraska at Kearney on a track and field scholarship, and then followed her husband to the Sandhills.
Jessica graduated with a Master’s degree in community counseling and worked for a Kearney entity before moving and starting a private practice. In 2012, she was lucky enough to join Family Resources of Greater Nebraska, P.C. as a therapist. She works with children, adolescents, adults and families. Jessica has coached junior high track and field and does some part-time work for the local newspaper. Her husband is a full-time recruiter for the Army National Guard and he puts in long hours traveling the Sandhills for his job. This often leaves the running of the household, childcare, etc. for Jessica to juggle with her “non-mom” jobs.
Jessica’s passion is horses and she has attended several trainings in hopes of one day being able to use horses as her co-therapist for mental health issues. In 2004, she fulfilled a dream of owning her own horse, although she is rarely able to ride him due to her schedule, his injuries as a foal and her own medical reasons. Hope remains, though!