Our Story of Hope




“We’re pregnant.”

I was alone the first time those words escaped me. Alone in our bathroom and just finding out that despite some odds, everything had just changed. The world disappeared as I stared, stunned, at that stick on the counter.

“We’re pregnant.”

It was the only thing I could think all day as I quietly stepped away to call the doctor’s office and schedule our first appointment. By the time I got to tell my husband, I was ready to shout it from the rooftops, but instead I could barely whisper the words as I told him the news through joyful tears.

“We’re pregnant.”

I’ve never had to keep such a huge secret but it was amazing to have this bright piece of joy to treasure together. By the time we got to our first ultrasound, I thought I was going to burst with impatience and excitement. Hearing the heartbeat. Seeing our Little Bug. It was all so surreal. We started saying those two little words with a bigger energy - even though we were still a bit in shock.

“We’re pregnant.”

Slowly, we told people as they needed to know and then quietly started spreading the news. Anxiously, we prepared for Father’s Day weekend and how we were going to tell our boys, the rest of our family, and then - finally - the rest of our world.

“We’re pregnant.”

We would smile and whisper that to each other every morning as we woke up and “that day” was no different. We were more excited than usual for my annual neurology appointment that morning because we’d be talking about the plan for managing and tracking my epilepsy and medications while…

“We’re pregnant.”

Only hours later, “it” started. I had been feeling fine but just couldn’t shake the feeling that we needed to know everything was ok before our big announcements. I just needed to know. All too quickly, our two happy words were suddenly, fearfully, replaced by four. I didn’t even realize what I was saying as the calm panic set in.

“We need to go.”

I don’t know that I’ve ever prayed as much, pleaded as much, or bargained as much as I did in that whirlwind of rushing to the hospital. On some level, I knew that “that day” was our last of our first pregnancy, but I wasn’t ready to accept it.

“That day,” 11 weeks into our pregnancy and after 47 days of joy, we lost our child and the life we had imagined for them.

"That day," we lost our child.

Call it a “miscarriage”. Call it a “lost pregnancy” or “spontaneous abortion”. None of those socially-acceptable or medical terms describes the sudden emptiness that took the place of the miracle that I’d carried for 11 weeks. It’s as if until you’re “far enough” along (whenever that is), you’re not supposed to feel some great loss. Yet these three words are the only ones I have:

“Our baby died.”

That sounds intense because, quite simply, it is.

We, as a culture, don’t talk about “it” this way. We don’t talk about the fact that by the time most women know they’re pregnant, their baby has a heartbeat and is developing a spinal cord. We don’t really talk about the fact that by the time a baby is 12 weeks into development, they have eyes, lungs, a spinal cord, a beating heart, and little fingers and toes. We don’t talk about the heartbreak that comes with that first ultrasound after “it” happens, when you realize that the space your body had created for your miracle is now completely, devastatingly, empty. Instead, we use words like “embryo” and “fetus” and “miscarriage”, which, while medically and technically correct, are often used to encourage parents to move on more quickly than they can manage.

My husband and I are lucky in that those closest to us are supportive and immediately offered prayers, condolences, thoughts, hugs, food, and more. Not once have we felt discouraged from feeling the depths of our pain and grief. Instead, we felt empowered by being treated like parents who experienced the death of their child, because, in reality, that’s how we saw ourselves.

Instead, we felt empowered by being treated like parents who experienced the death of their child because, in reality, that's how we saw ourselves

Unfortunately, not everyone is so lucky, and that’s why we knew we had to share our story along with what we’ve learned. So many women and couples are made to feel shame and even guilt while mourning after a miscarriage, which can make it impossible to truly heal. We share this with the hope that those who need it will be able find the strength to truly grieve and recover in the way they need, despite any opinions that might tell them otherwise.

The first thing I had to realize was that everything will change and that’s ok. Emotions will take days and weeks and longer to experience and process - that’s ok too. As a friend of mine has shared with me, “Sometimes you’re not going to be ok, and that’s ok!”. I’ve found that even feeling happy feels different than it did before. You might feel empty, lost, disappointed, or angry. Give yourself permission to feel these without guilt. Recognize that you’ll feel like you’re healing and then a day later, everything seems to be working against you...trying to make you hurt. Like anything else, some of those emotions and their intensity will fade over time, but don’t let anyone tell you that they should disappear entirely or for good.


Just because you never got to hold them, doesn’t make them any less your child.

Even science is on your side.

Published psychological studies show that the loss of an unborn child - no matter the stage of the pregnancy - isn’t any less of an emotional experience. According to one study of perinatal loss: “Although parents have not built up a relationship with their infant, grief after pregnancy loss does not differ significantly in intensity from other loss scenarios”. [1] Up to 20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage before 20 weeks [2] and most are not preventable or predictable. “It” just happens.

As tough as all of this nightmare is to understand or accept, no one has the right to tell you otherwise. No one has the right to make you feel shame when you’ve done all you can to take care of your baby and yet you become one of those 20%. No one has the right to perpetuate this guilt- and shame-laden stigma that has been put on miscarriage. It’s deeply emotional and each couple has to handle it in their own way, but that doesn’t make it something that should come with hurtful labels and connotations.

Just because you never got to hold them doesn't make them any less your child.

Not only will each couple handle it differently, both parts of the couple will deal with it differently. I know my husband was sad and upset, but from the outside it seemed like he was processing it all and handling it more quickly. When I apologized for “holding him back” in his healing, he gently reminded me that I had the constant physical reminders. My body wasn’t the same. I had cramps and tenderness for a long time. My activities were limited for the first two weeks and I had bruises and soreness from our hospital visit. My body had made all of this space for our baby that was suddenly empty, which meant that my small but growing baby belly was suddenly very soft. I was physically feeling our loss in so many ways so I couldn’t yet move on the same way he did. It doesn’t mean that he was handling “it” better than I was, that I was being more dramatic, or that we weren’t both deeply hurt. It was simply that we were experiencing our loss in different ways emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically.

I could wrap it up here (and I seriously considered doing so), but I need to share this with you, too, because it helped me to know what others have done so I could start to sort through my own thoughts - and I think I can say it helped Curt too. I know we’re not “healed” yet and we’ll always feel our loss, but we’ve found one thing in particular that has really helped. I hope you can draw some inspiration from this idea, as it was inspired by an idea shared with me.

From the very beginning, we had envisioned our Little Bug as a girl. We never really used “he” or “him” or even “it”. We used “she” and “her”. Yet even though we’ve had our baby girl name picked out for over a year, we never used it, and in retrospect, that made us realize that while we truly believed Little Bug was a girl, she wasn’t the girl we were meant to have here with us on Earth. Instead, she was meant to give us something that we weren’t sure we had enough of before.

Hope.

We had a 65% chance of getting pregnant. Knowing that we could get pregnant, even if we never did get to hold our first, was a big deal for us. As we continued to talk about her, we knew that there was at least one someone out there, if not more, who needed to hear about our loss and see that they’re not alone. So often, knowing that you’re not alone is the seed of hope that helps us grow stronger.

Suddenly, our baby girl had a name. She’s our Hope, and she always will be.

Making her more real gave us something more tangible to grieve. That may seem like a strange concept, but it really did help us move forward especially at the very beginning. It acknowledged her as a real part of our life instead of leaving her to be just an “idea”. It brought a sense of relief, too, in that we could picture her waiting for us at those pearly gates, safely in the arms of our loved ones who had gone before her. Her name helps us remember her and the joy she brought us (even for her very short amount of time with us), but also helps us see the gift of hope we have going forward.

There is no one right way, and as with any grieving process, it’ll take time, tears, smiles, space, closeness, and more time. I pray that this gives you strength or helps you lend strength to others. I pray that you’ve never had to and never will experience this pain, but should that day come, you’ll know that you’re truly not alone. As my mom pointed out, “Miscarriages are like cancer. No one talks about them, but once one person opens the conversation, everyone will share that either they experienced it themselves or they’re close to someone who has.” In my experience, that’s far more true than I wish it was. I pray that no one will try to diminish your grief, but if they do, you can find comfort in the science and stories all around - this is not a small loss, and no one has the right to tell you otherwise.

Above all else, I pray you will find hope and peace amidst your hurt. Over time, pain can give way to amazing things. You deserve that.

I can’t wait to say those two magical words again,
but until then and forever after, we’ll always have Hope.

I can't wait to say those two magical words again but until then and forever after, we'll always have Hope.


Please, contact your doctor’s office or local hospital for recommendations on support groups and other resources for healing during your time of grief, especially if you’re feeling alone and like you’re not getting the support you deserve.

[1] Kersting, A., MD, & Wagner, B., PhD. (2012, June 14). Complicated grief after perinatal loss. Retrieved June 27, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3384447/

[2] Tulandi, T., MD. (2015, July 16). Patient information: Miscarriage (Beyond the Basics). Retrieved June 27, 2016, from http://www.uptodate.com/contents/miscarriage-beyond-the-basics

For more studies on grief after a perinatal loss see:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1595109/
http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/06/miscarriage.aspx

4 comments:

  1. My heart aches because I know the miracle it is to truly feel those two very special words. I know you will heal and be able to share your heart with that very special little one(s) that God sent to you, to bless your world and hers! Thank you for this story and although I have not experienced this pain, I do feel that I will forever pray for you and every woman and couple that has to find the strength to allow themselves and their hearts to move forward, continue to grow and inspire the world in such ways we all desperately need. Please know that I'm hugging you from miles away. I know life happens and I don't always communicate as well as I'd like, you're always in my heart and prayers! ❤️

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    1. Thank you so much, Danielle! It's been tough but we hope others can see beyond the stigma if we help shine a light on the pain and truth.

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  2. Saying "hugs" and even "prayers" just seems to inadequate. My half sister had to deliver her first (and much much much tried to conceive) child almost 3 months early. We have all been praying hard as Maisy has had the heart of a champion even at 1lb 2 oz. there is always hope. Life is so precious. Life begins at the start. I pray for your grief to help heal and that peace and love will prevail. My heart is with you and Curt and your family. ❤️ Hope.

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    1. Thank you so much, Traci! I'm so sorry your family has had to go through this. Our prayers are with you and your family! <3

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