On Thursday, February 19, 2015, at seven and a half weeks of pregnancy, we went in for a sonogram to check on some bleeding I was having. We saw a fetus measuring more than a week behind with a very slow, faint heartbeat. We were cautioned that the prognosis was not good, but not to give up hope yet. Bloodwork the next day revealed hormone levels that indicated the baby would be lost. On Wednesday, February 25, 2015, our tiny love was passed and buried at our home. This was our fifth child and second loss.
I was unable to sleep the night after getting our bloodwork back, and as I lay awake, these six points came to mind. I took notes on my phone and was finally able to sleep. This post was written the following morning. At the time we both held the hope that there may be a miracle and everything would be fine. I am thankful for the opportunity to write it then as I am not sure I could do it now.
It goes without saying that I am coveting all of these things in prayer. Thank you all for your support.
Ministering to someone who is grieving the loss of a pregnancy–especially if the pregnancy was in the very early stages where it is easy to keep it a secret–is a difficult task to face. The loss is unique; it’s difficult to understand if you’ve never experienced it yourself. It is often deprived of the closure of a memorial or funeral or even a grave. The connection between a mother and her unborn child is not easily observed or shared by a third party, and as a consequence the deep sorrow following a miscarriage often goes unaddressed and overlooked. Or, if the pregnancy hadn’t been announced, it is simply kept secret.
How people handle the grief of an early miscarriage is as varied as the personalities of the people themselves, and so knowing what to say or do can be an enormous challenge, even for those who have experienced the same type of loss. But their need for prayer is universal, and their spiritual, emotional and mental needs are the same.
I experienced my first miscarriage in the late autumn of 2007; after the birth of three healthy boys over the past three years, I am currently experiencing my second miscarriage at eight weeks of pregnancy. In considering the effects of my first loss, I’ve compiled a list of six things (or, five things and one admonition) to pray over the one who is suffering the early loss of a baby; things beyond the given requests for peace and comfort.
Pray that they would grieve in truth.
“…Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
I Peter 5:8
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadow.”
“God doesn’t care”; “God caused it to happen”; “God is teaching you a lesson”; “people are expendable”; “your baby didn’t matter enough”; “you don’t matter enough”. These are all things that permeated my mind in my grief after our first miscarriage. The loss was as unexpected as the pregnancy itself had been; I was completely blindsided by it, and in my attempts to find a reason and clarification for what happened, I allowed myself to be consumed by untrue explanations that were straight from the Father of Lies himself. The common and well-meaning but unbelievably cruel maxim of “everything happens for a reason” frequently offered to the grieving was, for me, a springboard for the thought processes that invited the lies of the enemy to take root.
Pray for the truth to remain at the forefront of their thoughts: that God is good; that He loves them; that He does not rejoice in their loss, but grieves with them; that He will cause this event to work for good. Pray that in their darkest moments they would be able to remember the times they clearly experienced the Goodness and Grace of God and find immeasurable comfort in that memory.
Pray that their hearts would not be darkened.
“His grief he will not forget; but it will not darken his heart, it will teach him wisdom.”
J.R.R.Tolkien, The Return of the King
It is so easy for bitterness, fear, and anger to take root in grief. Then as time passes, the grief subsides as the darkness of fear and anger and bitterness grows and overtakes it. I remember vividly the day I realized I was no longer felt sad over our miscarriage, but instead intensely angry at God and with everyone else that we had had to suffer it. That place of bitterness was a nightmare worse than the loss itself; it has taken years to become disentangled from it. Last night I lay awake thinking about what the next few days, months, and years may bring after our loss, and it was the thought of going back to that very dark place that filled me with anxiety and fear; I am afraid of that even more than the loss itself.
Pray for discernment in the midst of grieving. Pray that the grieving process would be a season of strengthened faith. Pray for protection from the attacks of the enemy during this time of extreme vulnerability.
Pray for the burden to be shared.
“For what could be simpler than for you to think to yourself that since I am there to be troubled instead of you, therefore you needn’t be troubled? And what can be easier than for me to carry a little while a burden that isn’t mine? […] Haven’t you heard it said that we ought to bear one another’s burdens? […] To bear a burden is precisely to carry it instead of. If you’re still carrying yours, I’m not carrying it for you–however sympathetic I may be.”
Charles Williams, Descent into Hell
My first miscarriage was, hands-down, the loneliest, most utterly solitary thing I have ever walked through. This was partially my fault–I’m a private person, and in the face of suffering I withdraw. Immediately after our loss, the very last thing I wanted to do was talk about it. I went to the hospital for my D&C alone. I spent the next day in bed, recovering, alone. Then the following day I went back to work and tried to be normal. I was grateful for the people close to me that expressed condolences and then dropped the subject. I desperately wanted things to be normal again. I thought about the loss constantly, but strove not to mention it.
It wasn’t long before I realized I had to talk to someone to be able to process, to be able to move on and deal with what I was feeling. But what I found was that I had missed my opportunity, and everyone else had moved on. Bringing up the subject of my loss brought a reaction of discomfort in most people, and some even reacted in anger and bewilderment that I was referring to it at all.
Pray that the they would be able to share the burden with another person, and if they can’t find anyone, pray that that person would find them. Pray that they would not be blinded by pride from seeking help. Pray for strength and peace for the person who will carry the burden with them.
Pray for the grace to submit.
“And [Jesus] withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.'”
Denial and bargaining are generally accepted as part of the mourning process, but doesn’t healing begin with the final stage of acceptance? I truly think it was years–probably not until well after the birth of Ephraim–that I was able to move past the stages of anger and bargaining over our miscarriage. The searching for reasons, the seeking that elusive answer to the ever-present “why?”, the heartbreaking “if only”, and the methodical analysis of everything you might have done (or didn’t do) that could have caused the loss is overwhelming.
The hardest thing but the best thing, the only thing that can really bring me rest and peace and acceptance, is submitting and letting go of those whys and what-ifs. I don’t think it’s something I can do on my own at all.
Pray for the grace and the supernatural ability to accept what has come to pass. Pray for the early stages of grief, if they are necessary, to pass quickly. Pray for rest from the unrelenting questions of the unknown. Pray that those who speak to the grieving would have the wisdom to not give answers where there are none.
Pray for the happy ending.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
It is extremely unlikely that I will ever know what caused our miscarriages. We had no genetic testing done with the first and won’t this time, either, so unless there is another loss in our future that somehow sheds light on the subject, we are currently in the dark.
While we will not know the reasons behind it, we can be assured that these losses will be used for good. That this grief is not the end of the story. It may be days, months, years, or even decades, but what we’ve walked through will bring forth fruit–fruit that is sweet, not bitter. For our first miscarriage, one good is that my grief made me resolve to mother intentionally in a way I don’t think I would have done had I never experienced that loss. For our second, there is this list of ways to pray; I am hoping it will encourage at least a few people who feel lost in regards to how to help their friends or family who are grieving.
The rainbow baby, the ability to help others that grieve, the deepened relationship with God–pray for the good to come and be bold in asking it come quickly.
“You never get over a loss like that. You get used to it but you never get over it.” Jeremy Brett
It’s understandable, really, how quickly the outside world moves on after the initial sympathy shown for a miscarriage. To most people, the baby is more of an abstract idea than a reality. There is a huge disconnect between the unborn child and, well, everybody–except the mother and father. They have already spent hours, days, weeks or months dreaming about the child, speaking to the child, planning for the child, naming the child; there is a bond there, and the breaking of that bond through untimely death is excruciating. There is a general assumption that the grief will–or should–match the amount of time that the bond was formed over. This is simply not true.
A miscarriage does not inspire grief for a few weeks that gradually dissipates before disappearing entirely. It is not something that a mother “gets over”. They may tell you they’re fine, but they don’t mean it in the way you think. They’re changed; things will never be the same.
This is not the time to murmur a few words of peace and comfort and then believe that the time for prayer has passed. They will need your prayers as much in five years as they did the day they miscarried. This is not intended to sound hopeless–it is merely a fact of the gravity of the situation. Personally, I thought I was doing pretty well handling my grief until about a year following my miscarriage. That’s when I remember things taking a turn for the worst and spiraling into that bitter, angry darkness that enshrouded me for so long. I’m sure most people thought I was “over it” by then, when in reality the real mourning had just begun.
Pray these things as often as you remember the parents mourning. Pray that God would continue to bring them to mind, to remind you to pray. Pray that others would do the same. Let them know you are praying for them, that you remember, that you haven’t forgotten what has been lost.
We’re still waiting to jump onto the mobility train (and I thought he’d be an early mover!) though he’s getting quite proficient at pulling himself along when he has Mama’s hands to hold onto. He’s also started holding himself up on all fours for (very) very short periods of time. I’m just hoping something clicks in the next four weeks so I don’t have to go to another twelve-month appointment with an immobile one-year-old.
While Big Brothers Ephraim chose his eleventh month to decide he didn’t like bananas anymore, Anselm used his to make peace with the fruit, deciding that they weren’t so bad after all; he has added them to his very, very long list of Foods That Are Delicious (which included essentially everything except bananas and most baby food.) The boy is an eater. We haven’t really had one of those, yet. Anselm will be the one to eat us out of house and home.
He still enjoys squeaking and squealing. “Squeaky Mo” is a persistent nickname.
He’s learned he can make his brothers laugh by making farting noises with his mouth and the arm of his highchair. He can also get a good giggle out of everyone by making a few other silly vocalizations. (They are hard to describe.) He observes these interactions with the scrutiny of an anthropologist, and only laughs if someone else does. If not, he stops and moves on to something else, no doubt making a mental note about the exchange for future reference.
He’s stuck for the moment at two teeth, which are perfectly displayed in his favorite facial expression: the Scrunchy Face, of which there are no pictures presently but surely will be soon as he does it All The Time.
One more month to go, then we aren’t really a baby anymore, are we?
Two weeks ago, all the small members of the household were stricken with a nasty respiratory bug (well, all the small human members–the cat was fine.) It was a very long six or seven days of miserable babies, cuddly babies, miserable mommies feeling terrible for their miserable babies, but very grateful for their cuddly babies…In the midst of it all, I took a day trying to document by photograph what things were like when everyone is sick, but of course I wasn’t able to photograph the really key moments: doctor visits; midnight crying and consolation; the many, many hours spent in the rocking chair holding a sad and sick little one. The moments in the pictures are the brief ones, the ones where I wasn’t entirely needed and could wield the camera instead.
We watched a lot of shows during this time. Clive was incredibly unhappy and whiny (can you blame him?) and was pretty much only content while watching something or rocking with me.
Their favorite shows? Peter Pan, The Many Adventures of Winnie-The-Pooh, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Ephraim had the easiest time of all three boys, but he still reaped the benefits of the temporary lift of the TV ban (we usually only watch on Fridays.)
These photos were taken before Anselm’s fever spiked and he refused to eat solid food for a few days. Have I mentioned how glad I am that he’s better?
Anselm Ioan turned ten months yesterday. New this month: he has two teeth. Finally! I think he was latest teether of the three, though he still managed to slide in under ten months, though only just. “By the skin of his teeth?” I’m perfectly fine with my late teethers, as the presence of those two little pearly whites can really change the whole breastfeeding relationship thing.
Note to self: if you make him laugh while nursing, he will bite.
This is kind of difficult, because he pretty much laughs at everything.
I’m serious, I can’t even make eye contact with him.
While Big Brother Ephraim has had the corner on the Anselm Belly Laugh market, this month found him hamming it up with all members of the family equally, as if he’s finally decided that we’re all cool enough. Ephraim is still the favorite, though. (Will any monthly update ever show anything different? I’m beginning to wonder. I think I say this every time, but it’s true. Anselm + Ephraim 4-EVA.)
It’s because he hasn’t bitten him yet.
On New Year’s Day his little life was forever changed: instead of rolling around in his carseat snapped into the double stroller (which I usually do because it’s just easier) he was buckled into the front seat where he could see! Everything! It was amazing! It was like being strapped to mama’s chest, except lower and not as hangy! Needless to say, he doesn’t take kindly to being strolled in the carseat anymore. Who wants to ride backwards with a moose hanging in your face, anyway?
Right on time with his brothers, he’s developed his own special scrunchy-face grin that he whips out when he really thinks you’re funny (or when he’s hoping to charm you a little.) It works like…um, well, a charm. He’s just really good at it.
He’s really, really working on crawling…or maybe working on working on crawling…fortunately he likes to be on his belly on the floor, which puts him light years ahead of Clive at this age. I’m savoring these last times of putting him down someplace and coming back five minutes later to find him in the same spot.
He’s a pro in the Johnny Jump Up, and jumps to get around in the walker. It’s great.
Except when he uses those great jumping skills to hop himself over to the houseplants so he can eat them. I’ve had to move them where they are unaccessible to His Royal Hoppiness.
I sat him on my lap this morning after nursing (during which I was not bitten because I carefully avoided eye contact) and told him, not for the first time, how very happy I was to have him around. Anselm’s pregnancy was by far the most difficult of the three, but it was beyond worth it.
He grinned his scrunchy-face grin, waved and said “nye-nye.”
He gets me.
I’m supposed to be taking the Christmas tree down today, but instead I am posting pictures of little Mr. Anselm in front of said tree. I’ll probably tackle that after everyone goes to bed tonight. Or not. I may just sit in bed sipping tea and watching some classic film I’ve already seen 400 times.
Yesterday, the first day of Getting Up Early was a failure. I don’t even remember the alarm going off. I rallied myself, though, and today managed to get up only twenty minutes late, at 5:50. The big boys still slept late, though, but we will tackle that tomorrow. Or the next day.
We went to the zoo, today; I pulled out my camera battery and charged it this morning while the boys were eating their oatmeal. I fully intended to take it along with me, but once I had everyone ready to pack into the car I remembered how cumbersome it can be to try and wrangle three three-and-under and try to take pictures too. So I decided to give myself a break and leave it behind.
I’ll try again next time.
There is a pattern here. Have you seen it?