Miscarriage is a quiet grief that so many women carry around with them. It’s the club that no one ever wants to be a part of, yet so many are forced to be. I used to be the one who would shy away from miscarriage stories because they left me fearful. The sadness was too hard to read about. I understand that my story might not be for everyone, but I decided to tell it for multiple reasons: 1. It is therapeutic for me to re-visit my memories, as horrific as they may be, and put them to words 2. I want to let other women who walk through similar experiences know that they are not alone and 3. I believe life is valuable, at every age, and I hope that my transparency would affirm God’s perfect design and ultimately glorify Him. Even in my sorrow.
I had been looking forward to January 31st all month. I couldn’t wait to see my baby on the ultrasound and find out the gender. I always feel more bonded to my baby once I know the gender. I can call them by name and dream up what they might be like. Were we going to add to our little girl club or were we going to enter into the new territory of boyhood?
We dropped Penny off at school and the rest of us piled into the small ultrasound room, anxiously waiting to hear the news. The ultrasound tech scanned my tummy and within seconds she said “I’m going to do some measuring and then I’ll talk.” I didn’t think much of it. She broke the silence with “you guys, I’m so sorry but I’m not getting a heartbeat.” I thought she was joking. I couldn’t even speak. I thought maybe if we kept searching we would find it. She wiped off my tummy and said the baby was measuring around 16 weeks, I was 19. She left to get my midwife and I sat there in disbelief. I couldn’t even look at Truman or the girls. How could this be? I stared at the equipment, tears rolling down my cheeks, wishing I was alone so I could sob like my inside was. The first thought that popped into my head was “God, why? Am I being punished?” We had gone through so many ups and downs with this pregnancy. We were scared to enter into the newborn stage so quickly, but at the same time we were so in love with this little unexpected life. Was it being taken away because I didn’t appreciate it enough? We heard a heartbeat at 15 weeks! How could this be the ending?–my midwife rushed in, gave me a huge hug and said “I need you to repeat after me. This is not. my. fault” and through my tears I obeyed, yet part of me wasn’t so sure. “You loved this baby so much that you’ve been carrying her for weeks when she was already gone. Your body just isn’t ready to let go.”
That was an understatement. My heart wasn’t either.
I feared what was ahead of me. I felt betrayed by my body. I felt different, knowing there was no longer a live baby inside of me. My midwife explained what needed to happen next and sent us on our way with a packet of grief material and the instruction to decide when we wanted to induce labor. I never anticipated walking out of that doctor’s office with the deepest heartache I had ever known. We rode the elevator in silence, completely overwhelmed by all that had happened. I was living in this nightmare that I just wanted to wake up from. I desperately wanted to rewind to 45 minutes ago when I was cheerfully driving to the doctor’s office, full of hope and excitement.
Truman had to go get Penny from school so he dropped me off with the other girls. I put them in front of a TV show so I could process my new reality. I fell to floor on my knees with my arms catching the edge of our chair and sobbed. I cried the way I wanted to cry as I sat on that ultrasound table in silence…and I prayed. I’ve always wondered how I would react in a tragedy. Your faith is never tested more than when you meet despair. I cried out to God, admitting that I didn’t understand why we were facing this trial. I confirmed what I knew to be true: He did not do this. And He does not punish His children. I knew that He felt my sorrow with me. I knew that because Jesus walked the Earth as a human, he could sympathize with the deep sorrow I was in. I so badly wanted to find peace in that. I begged Him to help me fight the lies that were attacking me from every angle. I begged Him for His peace that surpasses understanding. And through heavy tears and a broken spirit, I begged that His glory would shine through our devastation.
Truman and I sat together and cried for a long time. The past four months had been so exhausting and we felt far beyond our limits. We felt beaten and broken, unsure of how to even take another step. We had come to love this baby that we didn’t even know we wanted, and now we were faced with the unbearable task of meeting our child and saying goodbye.
I was so fearful of what was ahead of me. I was scared to induce labor, something I had never done. I was scared for the pain. I didn’t feel mentally prepared to endure this. I thought I had another 20 weeks to get ready for my fourth labor. But most of all, I didn’t want to let go of my baby.
We had a vacation scheduled and it was a week away so my midwife advised that we move quickly to give my body enough time to heal. We decided to go in the next evening so I could labor overnight. I took a shower to calm my nerves before we left and cried as I held my pregnant belly, realizing that I didn’t have much longer to carry my baby. I was supposed to have 20 more weeks of baby kicks and stretching skin and it hurt so badly to have that taken away.
It was dark as we drove to the hospital. Truman held my hand and I remember thinking to myself ‘I don’t think it’ll be that hard to be on the same floor as the rest of the laboring mothers. I don’t think it’ll bother me.’ I was wrong. As we sat at the check-in desk, with visitors coming in and out, a wave of familiarity washed over me. We had been here twice before to deliver two of our daughters with so much excitement and anticipation. There was no joy this time. After getting settled into a room and slipping into an ugly hospital gown, it wasn’t long before we started the first dose of pills to begin contractions. The cramps started lightly and were bearable for hours. The nurse encouraged me to try and sleep but I couldn’t possibly. I felt emotionally numb. I had this huge task ahead of me of delivering my dead baby and I didn’t feel like I could tap into the grief yet. I needed this process to be over.
Occasionally I could hear shouts of pain down the hall from other moms in labor. I did my best to shut off my emotions every time the lullaby would play through the speaker when a baby was born. It made me wonder if there were women enduring this heartbreak on the same floor as me while I was delivering my babies. Perspective is a crazy thing. I managed to drift off to sleep for a bit until my water broke in the early hours of the morning. We inserted the second dose of pills to make the contractions stronger and waited as my body slowly pushed our baby further down. My midwife sat by my bedside, answering all of my questions and talking to us about our options for burial. We spent so much time waiting in silence for the pushing to begin. Truman slowly tickled my arm as I read through my Bible verse cards.
I didn’t feel strong. I didn’t feel brave. But I was clinging to God’s word and praying that His strength would be mine. I had compiled a list of songs to play and as we listened in silence the tears started to roll down my cheeks. Truman held my hand and cried with me as the reality settled in that we would be meeting our baby soon. My midwife could sense a shift in our emotions and suggested that we pray.
It wasn’t long after that the pushing began. I was forcing my body to do something that it wasn’t ready to do so it took a very long time. I held on to those last moments of my baby inside me. I didn’t want to let go and yet I knew that I didn’t have a choice. My midwife could see tiny hands through the amniotic sac and showed them to my mom and Truman but I couldn’t look. As I gave my final push and felt the weight of my child leave my body I wept deeply into Truman and let the heavy wave of grief take over. I was so relieved that this part was over, but I knew that I now had to face so much emotional pain.
When they brought her over to me for the first time I could hardly bear it. My chest ached deeply to feel the weight of a newborn. I longed to feel her head under my chin and hear her tiny cry. The beauty of childbirth is that you endure hours of pain because you know there is joy at the end. When you hold your baby in your arms it’s all worth it. As Truman held our baby in front of me I longed to feel that joy. There was only deep, deep sorrow at the sight of our lifeless, precious baby.
Ten fingers. Ten toes. I had never seen a baby at 16 weeks other than on an ultrasound and even though it was painful, I was so in awe of God’s perfect design. How incredible is the human form that in only 16 weeks a baby has fingernails?! I studied the ears, the eyes, the tiny mouth, the delicate chest bones. My perfect and beautiful baby.
A doctor came by to inspect the body and see if he could detect a reason for death. He was an older man and at first seemed to be unemotional, I suppose you have to be when you deal with so many difficult situations like this. He explained that the umbilical cord was twisted and wrapped too tightly around the abdomen, leaving a bruise and cutting off blood flow. He assured us that this wasn’t an internal issue but improper placement of the cord. I wasn’t sure if that made this easier or harder. A complete accident. I wondered what I was doing when the cord became too tight and my baby’s heart stopped beating. I tried to keep my composure. I didn’t want to make him feel uncomfortable. When he shared with us that our baby was a girl my heart broke. I kept my speaking to a minimum, trying to avoid an outburst of tears. I’ll never forget the look of heartfelt sorrow that he gave me as his eyes became red and wet. “I’m so very sorry he said.” I managed to whisper a “thank you” and looked out the window as he walked away.
Though this information wasn’t easy to digest, I was thankful for it. We held our precious girl and grieved all afternoon at her life that was cut short. Leaving the hospital was the hardest part. We wept as we laid her in her crib and said goodbye. I felt empty as I walked the halls to the car. We were going through the same motions that we had with our other children, but this time we were leaving empty-handed. It was the first time we drove away from the hospital without our baby. When we got home, I held Maggie immediately. I needed to feel the weight of a baby in my arms. I cried at the sight of my girls and I cried for the moms who go through what I went through and don’t have babies to come home to. My eyes had been changed. Our family now felt incomplete. I knew it was going to be a long road ahead as we accepted our new reality.
It has now been three weeks since we met our precious girl. Our Marigold. The pain is still very present. There are so many triggers that catch me off guard and leave me in a weepy mess. My sore breasts, trying to produce milk out of confusion. Putting on regular jeans for the first time and folding away my maternity jeans. June, coming up to pat my tummy and saying “hi baby!” (she still doesn’t quite understand). Pregnant bellies everywhere I look. Newborn babies at the store. Driving past the reserved parking spots for expecting mothers at the grocery store. When the waiter at the restaurant asks if you’re having anything to drink and your initial thought is ‘I can’t’ but then you remember ‘wait, I can.’ I know these things will fade over time. But it makes me wonder… how many other women are silently holding back tears as they go about their day? How many women are feeling this pain deep inside? How many people do I pass by each day are carrying grief of any form?
I struggle to find adequate words that describe the place I’m in. My body feels empty and even in my joyful moments, I carry this sadness that my baby is no longer here. I grieve the way I thought our future would look. A growing belly through the spring. A summer baby like I’ve always wanted. I dread my due date in June. But even in the sadness, I am thankful to have a hope to cling to. I worship a God who has conquered death. I worship a God who knows my pain and feels my sorrow. This heartbreak wasn’t a surprise to Him. He knew Marigold’s number of days before we even knew she existed. I find peace in that, even though I desire a different outcome. The newness of the pain will wear off with time, but I will long for my child for as long as I walk this Earth. It’s hard when the rest of the world moves on but you’re left with this ache in your heart that never leaves. She will never be forgotten.
My precious Marigold. I long to feel the weight of you in my arms. I long to smell your newborn skin. I long to nurse you in the quiet hours of the night. I long to feel your tiny fingers wrapped around mine. I long to see you toddle around in your sister’s hand-me-downs. I long to see you look at me for the first time. I long to hear your giggle. I will always long to know who you would have been. Even though my arms will always long to hold you, I can have hope and celebrate because you are being held by the arms that made you. You are dwelling with the maker of the heavens and the earth. You will never know pain. You live in a place where umbilical cords don’t get twisted and hearts don’t stop beating. Where hearts don’t break. You will only know the peace that God intended for us all. And for that I say hallelujah.
I love you so much, baby girl.
We wanted to honor Marigold’s life in a special way by setting up a fund to benefit a local organization called the Lincoln Pregnancy Center. If you would like to contribute to that, you can find more information about it here. You have three more days to donate. Thank you for helping us make something beautiful out of our sorrow.
(Special thank you to our friend, Holly, for taking photos of Marigold’s birth. We will cherish them forever.)