Time to Remember

So, October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.  

I was reading on Facebook the experiences of other moms who had suffered a miscarriage and suddenly I felt this burning need to write about MY experience.  October 19th marks exactly 4 years since we lost a tiny baby that we had very much wanted.

I had a few people around me allow me to talk about it with out judgement or embarrassment, but most people either didn't want to talk about it, or didn't know how to. 
 So many things stayed in my heart, burning and hurting and waiting to come out.

So I decided to let some of them out here.
We found out we were pregnant while visiting back in Oregon. It was not totally expected, but not totally unexpected either.  Carolyn was 2 1/2, Abigail was 4 1/2. It seemed like perfect timing, the girls would have their next birthday before our baby was born.

I wasn't nearly as sick with this pregnancy as I was with the others.  But I still didn't feel great, and I had no energy.  Although this pregnancy wouldn't last, my body didn't know that yet and put a lot of energy into it.

I was excited to be back in Oregon during this time, and had already started to buy baby clothes, plus we found a cute baby swing at a garage sale. I remember walking away from the garage sale, imagining our baby swinging happily away as the older girls played.
We excitedly shared our news on Facebook and with friends in person.

Then one day, everything changed.  I started bleeding and I knew things were not right. I waited two days before going to the doctor. I didn't have insurance, and didn't know where to go, but thankfully my mom helped me figure it out.  They wouldn't see me that day, but made me an appointment for the next day.

I woke up that morning with a sinking feeling in my stomach.  My morning devotional had the verse:
"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."
I read the verse somewhere else that same morning.  I prayed as I showered that morning.  I imagined God holding my baby in his hands. I didn't know whether that meant that everything would be fine, or that he would carry my baby to heaven.

When we arrived I was so comforted that my mom was there with me.  We went in for an ultrasound and I knew right away something was wrong.  We should have heard that little, rapid heartbeat, instead there was just silence.  The nurse didn't say anything, but told us that the doctor would talk to us.

The doctor was brief. The baby had stopped growing.  There was no heartbeat.  I would have to wait for my body to realize what had happened.
I drove home numb, trying to think about anything else, and not to cry.  I don't know why, I just couldn't let the tears out.

When I got home, I went right away to tell the girls (I had already talked to Alex on the phone, I think).  That was the worst moment. I had heard somewhere that kids could be confused by vague statements like, "we lost the baby" and that it was best to be direct.
"The baby died, and is in heaven now."  I didn't know what else to say. I answered Abigail's questions as best I could.  

The very same day I went on Facebook and shared our news.  I felt like I had to do it right away, because I wanted to be done thinking about it.

The next day, my body realized what had happened, and just like that, I wasn't pregnant anymore.  The next days passed in a blur.  We had to return to Panama in 10 days.  There wasn't time to think.  Looking back, I wish we would have been able to stay longer, have time to grieve, have time to think.

Two days before we traveled, I went back to the doctor.  They had me talk to a midwife.  She was exactly who I needed to see and told me the two things I needed to hear: it wasn't my fault, and I was going to be okay.

The night we were packing to go back to Panama, I fell apart when it came time to decide what to do with the baby swing.  We were going to bring it back to Panama for our baby to use. Now our baby was gone, but I couldn't leave the swing.  Alex somehow knew, and he spent over an hour taking it apart and figuring out how to get it in a suitcase. I will be forever grateful to him for doing that.  Without saying a word, he showed me that he knew that I was grieving.

When we returned, I continued to grieve.  No one back in Panama knew what had happened. I told a few people.  Many people said helpful things; "I know what you are going through", "I've been through that too", "I'm sorry".

Others said, "You will be able to get pregnant again soon."  It was comforting, but didn't turn out to be true.  The months went by, and I felt desperate to get pregnant again, as if that could erase the sorrow, go back in time and make it disappear.

I didn't know how to grieve something that no one knew I was grieving.  The baby had never existed to others, it was invisible. 

People would ask me, "When are you going to have another baby?"  They meant it nicely, but I wanted to scream at them, "I've been trying all these months!"  Months turned to years.  I started to lose hope that we would ever have another baby, and yet our family didn't feel complete.

Some people would make unhelpful comments.  "It must have been God's will."  How can someone else presume to know what God's will is for my family?  And how can God want a baby to die, for me to go through this sadness?  The words hurt too much, so I stopped talking to people about it.

The grief still clung on.  Abigail and Carolyn started asking when they were going to have a baby brother or sister.  I didn't want to talk about it, so I just told them to pray and ask God. I told them he was in charge of that.

I didn't know how to deal with the grief, where to put it, how to process it. So mostly I just ignored it, and there it sat on me, like a heavy blanket.

Abigail remembered that "we" had a baby in heaven. She would think about the baby and ask me questions.
"When we get to heaven, how will we know which baby is OUR baby?" 
"We can just ask Jesus." I told her. "He knows which one it is."

At first her questions bothered me.  Why couldn't she just forget about it? I wanted to tell her to stop asking me about our baby who died in my tummy, that it made me too sad.  But something kept me from telling her that.  And one day I realized, maybe I wasn't the only one who grieved our baby.  It was HER sibling after all. She had the right to process the loss as well, however sad it made me.

It took me years, but eventually I came to except Abigail's insistence on talking about our lost baby.  She would tell people, "I have two sisters, and one brother or sister in heaven.  My mom had a baby who died in her tummy."  Again I wanted to tell her not to.  I thought of telling her, "People don't talk about babies who have died, it makes people sad." But I realized maybe I was the one who needed to change my thinking, not her.

The baby was real to Abigail, and really alive in heaven.  And one day I had the startling thought, "What would my baby think about this?  Would he or she be happy to be remembered, to be talked about, to be considered part of our family?"  In my grief, what if I had blocked out what was really happening?  Did I really believe in heaven?  Or was it just a nice thought that brought me some level of comfort.

I came full circle on this thinking just last week. Abigail and Carolyn told me that they wanted to buy a Christmas present for our lost baby.  A gift that they would have enjoyed if they were here with us. And they wanted to give it to a needy child.  I don't know how they came up with the idea, but suddenly it felt right.  Why did I have to keep pretending that this child never existed?  To keep others from feeling sad, feeling awkward?  

So we bought a toy.  The girls chose a set of 3 trucks that make sounds and light up. And for the first time, thinking about our lost baby made me happy.  We would remember him or her.  We would give a gift to honor his or her short life here with us, so short that we never got to hold him, never got to name her.  But we did love that baby in the short weeks that he was alive.  We bought her clothes, we kept her swing because we couldn't bear to give it away.

Now, when I look at those toy trucks, waiting to be packed into a suitcase and taken back to Panama with us, I smile. I think of our baby in heaven, happy and well looked after. I imagine a little girl, though it may have been a boy. I imagine that child smiling when we give the gift to someone, sharing in their joy.

And we did finally have another baby. When we least expected it, little Lucy came along.  I had finally given away the baby swing to a friend. I was ready, and I wanted it to bless some friends who needed it.  The next month we found out that we were having another baby.
I won't go into the fears that I experienced during the pregnancy, or how every doctor's visit was torture.  I was terrified each time, until I heard the heartbeat on the ultrasound.  The pregnancy was not easy, and I wonder if the remaining grief and fear contributed somewhat to the terrible postpartum anxiety that came to rest after Lucy was born. (and perhaps telling this story will be another step in breaking that anxiety off?)

It's interesting that having another baby didn't erase the grief.  And I am glad it didn't.  That baby was real, was ours, and deserved to be grieved.  Lucy didn't replace that baby. She is her own person.

And it may be silly, but I imagine that baby in heaven now, praying for Lucy.  Some say that babies and small children can see into heaven when we adults can't, so sometimes I imagine that our baby can come and visit Lucy, and the thought makes me happy.

This is my story.  Many women have similar stories.  And they are worth telling.  If you are one who has gone through a miscarriage, I pray you would find healing.  


And if you haven't, read me story and reach out to someone with love and compassion.  If you don't know what to say, just "I'm so sorry" will do.

Comentarios

Anónimo ha dicho que…
Thanks Jennifer for sharing your story. I am one of the moms that have a miscarriage and do not want to talk about. I got my second baby after that miscarriage "Julianna" . However, It is impossible to forget that baby I have in my tummy. When I still remember my story my tears come out.
Betsy ha dicho que…
So beautifully written!

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