May 4th. This day was supposed to be very, very different for us. Rather than just another normal Thursday work day, Seth and I were supposed to be at the hospital, welcoming our first child into the world. Today was my due date for the baby that my husband and I lost this past September.
I never realized how common miscarriages were until I had one, and people started coming out of the woodwork left and right, telling me their stories or just saying “Hey, I’ve been there, and I’m here if you need to talk.” Out of all the women I know who have children, more of them have dealt with miscarriages or infertility than haven’t. I mentioned months and months ago that I wanted, at some point, to share our full story on the blog, and I am just now getting around to it. Today seems like the perfect day to share it with you – on the day that we were due to meet our little one. It seems like the perfect way to respect and pay homage to his or her life. Losing this huge piece of our heart in September was the hardest thing that my husband I have ever gone through, that is absolutely true, but there were so many beautiful pieces to this experience as well. And watching the way that God moved through this time and the blessings He bestowed upon us throughout those weeks make it such a complex experience. So dang hard, but with so many special moments, too.
There are a few reasons why I want to share this story. One is because it pays respect to our baby that we never got to meet. It makes him or her more tangible when we share our story with the wide public like this. It reminds me that, even though we only had this little one for seven weeks, he/she was such a huge part of our lives and hearts, and his/her story deserves to be told. The other reason I want to share our story is because I feel like God was so present in this situation, and I think it deserves to be shared for that reason. How He moved in our lives in and how He orchestrated things should be shared with the world so others can see how awesome He is through our story. This post is probably the longest one I’ve ever written, and it is definitely the most raw. But this experience deserves a long story – it deserves every detail to be shared. And it deserves raw honesty.
It started on a Saturday in the middle of September. Seth and I went to the Kansas State Fair with my sister-in-law, Jess, and her two-year-old daughter, Elise. I went to the bathroom and noticed some spotting, but I didn’t really worry too much about it because spotting is pretty normal in the first trimester.
We went home, and I was still lightly spotting throughout the rest of that night and into the next day, Sunday. Still super light, and I still wasn’t too worried. The next day at work was when things got really bad. The spotting turned into more – a lot more. As the hours passed, I’ll spare you the morbid details, it became very, very clear that I was having a miscarriage. But I was still at work. I didn’t have sub plans. I didn’t feel like I could just get up and leave. But I was so devastated and terrified that I also couldn’t teach. I gave my students busy work and just sat at my desk and stared at the wall, trying as hard as I could not to break down and start sobbing in front of all my students.
I was texting Seth the whole time. We were both trying to keep it together. I made it until lunch. I walked into the staff room to eat with the teachers, and my friend Ceaven was in there. She’s my closest friend at work and one of my closest friends in general, so I told her, trying to keep my voice as even as possible, that “I think I’m having a miscarriage.” I don’t remember her exact response, but I know she said something about how she understands what I’m feeling and that she’s been there. She’s been there several times in her past, actually – more times than any woman should ever have to.
The other women who ate lunch with us could tell something was clearly wrong, so they asked if they could pray for me. I told them I was pretty sure I was having a miscarriage literally as we speak, and they all held my hands and prayed for me and cried with me for I don’t know how long. We were all a big teary mess, but it meant more than they will ever know that they cared enough for me and my family that this news and this experience affected them so.
They also told me I needed to go home, and they worked it out among themselves on who would cover my classes for the rest of the day. So I texted Seth, and he left work to come pick me up. At this point, I had still kept it together relatively well. But when Seth got there, I just lost it. I gathered all my stuff and walked outside. He had gotten out of his car and was walking in to get me, but I met in him the parking lot. I ran to him as soon as I saw him and just sobbed, wept into his chest for minutes in the parking lot. He just held me, and I cried as hard as I had been trying not to cry all day long. He brought me to his car, we got inside, and we went home.
I needed to go to the doctor to get a blood test so they could test my HCG levels and officially confirm whether or not I was experiencing a miscarriage. Even though I was pretty dang sure I was, I still held out a tiny shred of hope since we hadn’t gotten any official confirmation yet. But when I was on the phone with them, that last tiny shred of hope was completely smashed. I was at home, in my kitchen. Seth was sitting next to me, and the lady on the phone at the OB’s office said, “We still need you to come in so we can have the confirmation on file, but based on what you are experiencing (again, I’ll not share allllll the details with you) we can confirm right now that you are miscarrying your baby.” I got off the phone and just felt like I couldn’t breathe.
I didn’t know what to do with myself. I didn’t want to sit. I didn’t want to walk. I didn’t want to stand. But I couldn’t be still. The weight of what I knew was happening inside of me felt like too much to handle. I remember just walking around the kitchen, sobbing, stopping every few seconds and bending over with my hands braced on my knees because I felt like I couldn’t stand up. Seth stayed so strong for me. Even though I know he was hurting just as badly as I was, he stayed so strong. He knew I needed him to be my rock then, and that’s what he was – firm and steady and just there.
Then we went to the OB to get the blood test done. I walked into that waiting room that was filled with pregnant women, all in different stages. I looked at them and just sat there. Just sat while they were all there to get sonograms and checkups for their healthy babies while I was in the process of losing mine that very minute. It was like a clawing pain, having to sit there with them. They took me back to the lab, and I sat where I had just been not so many weeks before when they confirmed my pregnancy with a blood test. I remember thinking that it was ironic. I remember thinking how polar opposite those two visits were. I remember being so desperate to feel that happiness and excitement again and to wake up from this awful, painful dream that I was in now.
We went home and just sat on the couch. I don’t even remember what we talked about. I just remember crying – I didn’t even know I had that many tears in my system – while Seth just sat and held me. Then the physical pain started. This doesn’t happen to every woman during every miscarriage, but some women can go into labor as they are miscarrying their babies, which is what happened to me. So I was in labor, having solid and steady contractions, and they were excruciating. We called the doctor, and they said it was normal up to a certain point. But if it got to where the contractions didn’t stop (meaning they weren’t coming and going like regular contractions) or got to the point where I couldn’t bear the pain, to go into the ER. So we sat there, and I dealt with the contractions for probably an hour or so. I remember thinking how cruel it was that I had to go through the process of labor and feel these contractions, which usually are so exciting because it means your baby is coming! But not for us. After about an hour or two, the pain got worse. Much, much worse, and my body stopped breaking between contractions. It was just one solid, long, excruciating contraction that wasn’t ending. So we went to the ER.
They gave me lots of pain medication, tested some different things, and did a transvaginal ultrasound. They took me away from Seth for this part. It was my very first ultrasound. Instead of sitting in a room with Seth, holding his hand while we watch a screen that contains a video of our tiny little bouncing baby, I was alone, staring at a video of my empty uterus. They needed to check and see if there was any remaining “tissue.” It was painful, it was awkward, it was emotional. And then they took me back upstairs.
The doctors came in and were talking about how the ultrasound showed no remaining “dead tissue.” They kept saying that phrase over and over again…”dead tissue,” “dead tissue,” “dead tissue.” Twenty-four hours ago, this was my baby, and now he/she is being referred to as “dead tissue.” I remember it felt like a punch in the gut every time they said those words.
The hospital was rough. It was hard to be around people. We were so raw at that point. Seth was still holding it together – he hadn’t shed a tear; he was still trying to be so steady for me. But at one point, when we were alone in the room, I looked over at him with tears streaming down my face and just choked out, “I’m so sorry.” I knew deep down it wasn’t my fault in the slightest, but it was my body that couldn’t hold our baby. It was my body that rejected it. So at the time, it did feel like it was slightly my responsibility.
That was when he broke down, too. He couldn’t bear that fact that I felt any fault in this, and it just crushed him. He just put his head in my shoulder and cried and whispered “No, no, no,” over and over again. He kept saying, “It’s not your fault. You can’t think that – it’s killing me.” And then we both cried together, just holding each other and letting it out. And even then, during this raw, ripping, crushing night, I never felt closer to him. And I was aware, even in those awful moments, that this was a huge growing experience for us as a couple. When you go through hard things together as husband and wife, and when you stick together and lean on each other through those hard times, you come out so much stronger on the other side. And it doesn’t get much harder than losing your child. And we were definitely sticking together.
We went home from the hospital later that night, and they gave us detailed instructions on what to pay attention to for blood loss. If it got to a certain point, we needed to come back to the ER. Well it got to that point later that next day, and they were afraid I was hemorrhaging, so I went back in. This is two ER trips in two days because my body was not only miscarrying my baby, but I was experiencing potentially severe complications. Again, it all just seemed cruel. They checked my blood levels, and everything looked fine. So, after a while, they sent me home. And from there it was just recovery. I didn’t go to school for the rest of that week, and I just stayed at home and processed.
The next few weeks were actually relatively surprising. Seth and I have been pretty resilient as a couple in the past, but I really wasn’t expecting to be with this loss. I was expecting to be depressed and constantly sad for weeks or even months. But a few days passed, and I felt so much better. We both felt okay. I went back to work, and my students had all written me this big pile of sweet, thoughtful cards. While I was out, my volleyball girls that I was coaching at the time sent me the picture below and said “We’re playing for you tonight.” Everyone was so kind and supportive.
We just pushed it down and tried not to think about it – we stayed in denial about what happened. We had the mindset that we could just get pregnant again and replace this one so we could forget this experience ever happened. Just replace it and fill the hole with a new baby. I know that sounds harsh, but it was our honest mindset at the time. Little did we know, this was not dealing with it. It was pretending that it didn’t happen so we didn’t have to feel the hurt. And little did we know at the time, this baby was irreplaceable, and as long as we had this backwards mindset, we weren’t going to get anywhere, even if we felt like we were.
Not long after that, we went to our OB appointment that was kind of a miscarriage “followup” visit to talk about things. Our doctor is awesome and was obviously super sweet and supportive. She told us miscarriages early on have nothing to do with us, and that it was not in any way shape or form my fault. We asked her when we could start trying again, and she said once my cycle starts back up (meaning once I get a period…sorry for the TMI). She said the earliest I could expect my cycle to start again would be the very end of that next month – October, but it takes some women way longer for their bodies to reset and regulate, so she told us not to rush it or expect anything soon.
So a few weeks passed – we were still totally in denial, and we thought we were just fine, but then Seth went in the field for a week, and I was all by myself at home. Before, I had my students distracting me during the day, and I had him distracting me in the evenings. But now it was a weekend, and I had no distractions. There was one day, it was a Sunday, and I went to church and out to lunch with my sister, who was also pregnant at the time. She was extremely sensitive towards me and handled it very well, but it was so hard at times to be sitting right next to her and seeing basically a mirror of what I could have had, not that it was her fault in the slightest. So I got home from church and lunch, felt raw from the reminder that I was no longer pregnant, and was all by myself. That was the day I realized that I really hadn’t dealt with it…not at all, actually. I had just pushed, pushed, pushed it down and pretended that it didn’t happen. And that might have worked for a little bit, but not for very long.
So I just broke down. Almost as bad as I had that first day when the miscarriage was actually happening. And at this point I had so much time to think, and my mind was going, going, going. I remember realizing that I hadn’t turned to God barely at all throughout any of this. That would have required actually dealing with the situation and accepting that it happened, which I wasn’t doing until now. So I let my mind turn towards Him, and I remember the questions that popped into my head: “Why? Why would you let me get pregnant and then just take it from me? Why would you do this when my sister and two of my friends are all pregnant? Why now? Why when Seth is going to deploy next year and we need to get pregnant soon so he can spend as much time with the baby as possible? Why?” And then I realized that I can be bitter towards God for this, I can be angry, I can be questioning, I can blame Him and yell at Him and attempt to abandon Him, or I can accept that crappy stuff happens to everyone whether you are a Christian or not, and I could lean on God to get me through it and fill me with a peace and acceptance that I couldn’t get from anyone else. That’s something that a lot of people misunderstand about Christianity (Christians included). God isn’t some fairy who’s going to zap all your problems away and give you a perfect life. Life is hard. The world is broken and messed up. Awful, painful things happen to EVERYONE, whether you are following Christ or not. So you can either go through it with Him or go through it without Him, but you’re going to experience trauma and crisis regardless. So I chose Him.
In that moment, I chose not to be angry with Him or upset with Him for not stopping this; I chose to lean my full weight on Him and just cry to Him for comfort and peace. I chose to let Him wrap his arms around me and make me feel safe and loved and make me feel like it’s okay to break down and feel it – really feel it. I journaled pages and pages and pages that night in my prayer journal, and, through it all, basically came to the realization that in order to move on from this (as much as you can move on from losing your baby), I really needed to accept what happened and let the emotions flow. Not just for a night before pushing it away again, but continuously. Let the waves come – some days would be good, some days would be bad, but no more pushing it down and having this idea of “replacing” our son or daughter with a new baby.
The best way to express and describe my thought process that night is to share word for word what I poured out into my prayer journal:
I feel like I have been avoiding feeling this in full. Of course, when we first found out, I was forced to feel it. But since then, I feel like I have just been trying to get over it quickly. So I wouldn’t have to feel the pain. But it hurts so much. It feels like a gaping hole has been ripped through me where my baby once was – where our hopes and dreams were. Lord, I don’t understand. I don’t understand why you let this happen when the timing seemed so perfect. I’m not mad. I’m not angry. I am just so hurt and confused. And now I have to watch so many people so close to me experience their pregnancies.
Is my baby there with you? Is he happy? Were you happy to see him? I’m so glad he is with you and is able to feel your arms around him and your love, and I know you will take care of him so much better than I would have. I feel so empty without my baby growing inside of me anymore, and Seth is in the field. Lord, I need you more than ever right now. I need you to show me that your timing is perfect and your plans are good. It hurts so deeply that my baby was taken from me, and I truly don’t understand why this happened. But I feel no anger, and I trust you. Help me with this feeling of anxiety. I feel rushed – I want to be pregnant again right this second, and every day passes so slowly until my body is ready for that again. I just want to trust you and rest in that trust. Rest in the situation you currently have us in and enjoy what we are blessed with right now. I want Seth and I both to grow in you through this season. But this loss is so great, Lord. It’s so huge. I don’t know how to get through it. I need your help – to grieve, to take the next step, to move on.
And at the end, in the spirit of fully accepting what happened to us, I wrote a letter to our baby that we never got to meet.
To our baby,
You were so loved by your daddy and I already. The size of a blueberry, but already holding so much of our hearts – of our hopes and dreams. I would have given anything to meet you, to feel you wrap your tiny hand around my finger. To hold you in the night when you cry and feel you fall asleep against my chest. I desperately wanted to meet you…see whether you had your daddy’s nose, your mommy’s eyes. I’m so sorry I couldn’t, and I miss you desperately, even though I never got the chance to hold you. I’m so happy that you’re in heaven. I’m so happy that the first thing you saw when your heart stopped beating was Jesus’ face. I can’t wait to meet you some day. I love you so much.
There were Bible verses I found that night through this journaling and grieving process that were lifelines to me throughout this experience:
- Isaiah 43:2 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze”
- Psalm 34:18 “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
- Isaiah 66:9 “In the same way I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born, says the Lord…”
I felt like I finally accepted what had happened and could start to move on and not push it down anymore. And from then on, it stayed that way.
I was able to text Seth throughout that night, but that was the extent of our communication since he was in the field. It was killing him that he couldn’t be with me during my super intense breakdown, but he couldn’t really get too deep into letting himself feel it since he was around a bunch of people in the field. His breakdown/breakthrough came later.
It was about a week or so later, and we were on our way to Kansas City for a little weekend vacation. We were in the car driving down, and it was dark outside. I don’t remember how we got to talking about the miscarriage, but we did get to talking about it. And out of nowhere – I remember it being so sudden – Seth just completely broke down. I’ve never seen him like this before, not in the seven years we have been together. I’ve never seen him hurt or fall apart like this. He was sobbing, just sobbing, and kept saying over and over again, “I can’t believe we lost our baby, I can’t believe we lost our baby.” I just had my head on his shoulder and rubbed his arm and back and just said “I know. I know. I can’t either,” and cried with him. Then we talked about how we need to stop pushing it down and pushing it away. We need to stop trying to have the mindset of “replacing” the baby. We decided that we weren’t going to try and get pregnant again until we didn’t have that “replacement” mindset anymore. Our baby deserved more than to just be “replaced.” And we felt like we needed to move on the right way, the healthy way, before getting pregnant again. So we did, and from there on out, we didn’t hide our feelings about our loss anymore. We were open and raw with it.
And yes, more difficult and emotional days happened when we took this path instead of denial, but they were good. They were cathartic and freeing, and it made Seth and I’s marriage so much stronger. We turned to the Lord during this time and poured our pain out on Him. We told Him that we trust him completely with our lives and with our situation. We kept Him at the center of our marriage throughout this grieving process.
After some time passed and some more healthy processing happened, we started to feel like we had really stopped seeing our baby as replaceable. We were seeing him/her as a child that we had and that we lost. We felt like the bulk of our grieving had passed. Of course we were still sad about our loss, but we felt ready to start trying again. Well, we felt almost ready…there was still something tugging at us. Something unfinished. We felt like God was still waiting for something, some type of closure in our hearts. My student had given me this sweet little bag that his church put together for women who are experiencing a miscarriage, and it had a bunch of encouraging scripture and notes and things like that inside. It also had something called a “Certificate of Life.”
Seth and I were looking through the bag, we saw this, and it just kind of hit us. We felt this need to name our baby. It felt good, and it felt like closure. It was like a birth certificate, and it affirmed that, even though we lost our baby so early, he or she was still our child, and the loss was very real. We picked a name, and we decided to just keep it between us – Seth, me, and our baby – for the time being.
We named our baby Riley. It was on our list of names that we loved, and it works equally well for a boy and a girl, which was needed since we obviously didn’t know the gender of the baby yet. Something clicked when we named Riley and signed that certificate of life, and we felt the last little puzzle piece fit into place in our hearts. We felt like that was what God had been pushing us to do – to take that final step.
We named our baby and signed the certificate of life on the night of October 10th. The very next morning, October 11th, I woke up, and my cycle had started. My OB said the earliest I could expect a cycle would be the end of October…so I was three weeks early. I was so blown away and in awe, I ran to our bedroom and woke Seth up and told him. Probably the weirdest wake up call that he’s ever experienced…
This was one of the most crystal clear times that God has ever worked in our lives…where he made himself so known that it was just in-your-face blatant. He was just waiting for us to get there, waiting for us to take the steps we needed to be ready for our next little one. And the second we got there, He didn’t make us wait until the end of October. He made it happen immediately.
Of course, we didn’t expect to get pregnant the very first month that my cycle started. My body would most likely be relatively irregular for a bit. But, nope, on November 3rd, I took a positive pregnancy test. Our baby boy (that we will meet in less than three months), was conceived on October 25th. We were pregnant again before I was even supposed to start my first post-miscarriage cycle. The earliest I was supposed to start was the end of October, and I was pregnant before that date even hit.
If that’s not a miracle, then I don’t know what is. Yes, we went through such a dark and painful time losing Riley. And yes, we will never ever forget that baby and the place he/she holds in our hearts, and May 4th will always be a little bit harder than other days, but the ways that God blessed our lives and the miracles He worked through our grieving in this time are absolutely wonderful, and I don’t have words to describe the emotions that surround that particular part of our journey.
Here’s the thing that I think a lot of people don’t understand about miscarriages who haven’t experienced them: even though I was only pregnant for a handful of weeks (seven to be exact), that doesn’t make it any easier or less significant. It doesn’t make our baby any less of a baby. At seven weeks, Riley had hands and feet, eyes that could track objects, a nose, left and right hemispheres of his/her brain, a liver that was churning out red blood cells, etc…Riley wasn’t just “a tiny bundle of cells.” And even throwing away the biological part of the pregnancy…even though we had only known about the baby for a month or so, Seth and I had built up a lifetime of hopes and dreams surrounding this child. And those were taken from us through this loss as well. So, understand that just because someone hasn’t been pregnant very long, they still lost their child. Even if the baby was teeny tiny like Riley was, it doesn’t feel teeny tiny to the parents who just lost this huge part of their hearts.
What comforted me most throughout this grieving process was the fact that I knew Riley was in heaven. The Bible has multiple verses about knowing us before we are in our mothers’ wombs and his eyes seeing our unformed bodies. So just because our baby died before we got to meet him/her, we knew where Riley was, and that knowledge really comforted us. And we can’t wait to meet that baby some day.
So here I sit, in my living room, writing this super long and emotional blog post, while my little miracle rainbow baby is kicking away in my belly. And I just can’t not think about how God moved in our lives through this difficult process. I think all of our lives can really change if we try and see our trials and difficult seasons in life as gifts. It seems backwards, but when we go through hard times, that’s really when our relationship with the Lord is strengthened the most (if we lean on Him). And any experience that strengthens my relationship with Him and my relationship with my husband is worth going through. Because those relationships are the most important things.
If you got all the way to the end of this, you’re a champ, and thank you – really – for reading our story. I promise I’ll get back to posting yummy food next week 😉. Love you guys!