By Christina Hamilton
Miscarriage is such an awkward and horrific thing. Horrific for the woman who loses her baby and awkward for those who love her. No one knows what to say or do. It happened to me.
Just a few weeks before my twenty-fourth birthday, I was surprised to discover I was pregnant with my second child. I was late, of course but that is not always the reason. However, I knew for sure that I could be pregnant when my telltale sciatic nerve began acting up while I was giving my two-year-old son his bath. A quick test the next day and a trip to the OB-GYN confirmed it.
Although it was unexpected, I welcomed the thought of this new little person with open arms. I began daydreaming of nursing a newborn again, blissfully cuddling a tiny sweet-smelling bundle of sleeping softness and not even dreading the idea of double-diaper duty, as my son was not yet out of them himself. My now ex-husband and I called our family and friends to tell them the news. To my great joy, my best friend had also just found out she was pregnant.
I’m sure you can just imagine the squeals and shrieks that ensued from the two of us. She and I began planning and getting excited about being pregnant together. Our sons were only a year apart and now we’d have babies the exact same age. The play dates were already in the works and everything seemed to perfect, well almost.
Five and a half weeks into my pregnancy, I noticed that my pants were getting too tight. I was already beginning to show a little bit. Of course, I thought this was odd but I was so happy and confident in my health that I didn’t worry about it. I just put it out of my mind and decided to go get some maternity clothes.
While I was shopping, I felt my underwear suddenly become wet. Yes, I understand that isn’t a pleasant detail but bear with me. Nothing about a miscarriage is pleasant. I went to the ladies’ room to try and figure out what had just happened. I knew I had not urinated so what could it have been? There was no blood but I was nervous none the less. My secret fear was that my water had just broken.
I went home quickly and called my OB. He told me that it was probably nothing and to just lay down. He advised me that if anything else should happen to go to the emergency room. It was an hour or so after I hung up with him that I started bleeding. It wasn’t a lot but I was scared. My heart began pounding and my mind screamed, “Oh, Lord, No! My baby!”
I called my parents, asked them to meet me at the hospital and after strapping my son in his car seat, I proceeded to drive myself to the emergency room. I remember praying with every fiber of my being, “Please Lord, don’t take my baby! Please don’t let this happen. Please, please, God help me!” This couldn’t be happening, I told myself, terrified that I was losing my baby.
In the ER, the doctor examined me, did a urine test and blood test. He said I was still pregnant but that I should go home and stay in bed. I said I would, trying to be positive but somewhere in the very back of my mind, I knew what was going to happen. My parents followed me home to make sure I got there safely.
I spent the next day in bed, as the doctor ordered. I got up only to use the restroom. The bleeding wouldn’t stop and slowly kept increasing. I talked to my mom, cried that I was going to lose my baby. She told me that I didn’t know that for sure and I should try to calm down. I did try to do that until around 5pm that evening when I went to the bathroom again. I screamed at what I saw and called my OB again. He told me to go to the ER immediately.
At the ER, the doctor took more blood and examined me again. It hurt so terribly that I cried out in pain. He took something out of me, put it in a pan and told the nurse to take it to the lab. When he was done, I looked at him and said, “You’re going to have them look for the baby, aren’t you?” He nodded without looking at me and the tears began streaming down my face. I sobbed into my pillow, begging God that I would wake up from this bad dream.
The doctor also ordered an ultrasound for me. They wheeled me in and I got on the exam table. The tech began scanning my abdomen and my eyes fixed on the screen. All I saw was an empty black space, as hollow and empty as I felt. It taunted and tormented me. I looked at the tech and said, “My baby’s gone, isn’t it?” She looked at me with such sadness and sympathy that I knew my nightmare had become reality. She said she wasn’t really allowed to tell me anything. When I said I had had ultrasounds before with my son and I knew what to look for, she said yes, it did appear to have been a complete miscarriage. I began to sob again, the finality of it hitting me.
My sorrow and grief consumed me. The doctor said, on the bright side, it had been complete and I wouldn’t need a D&C procedure. Yippee. He also said that most women suffer with pain when they miscarry and I had had none. Did the pain in my heart and soul not count? If only I could’ve had the physical pain to go with my emotional agony.
Why had this happened? What could I have done to deserve this or what could I have done to have stopped it? The ER doctor told me, as gently as he could that once a miscarriage starts, there is not really anything that can be done to stop it. He said that in my case, it was probably caused by a hormonal imbalance and because the baby wasn’t developing properly, my body ended the pregnancy. Not even the cold hard facts made me feel better.
I cried almost nonstop for the next week. I still managed to take care of my son and hide my tears from him but even he knew that Mama was very sad. Everything hurt me. All I could think about was I should be pregnant and I’m not. It was a physical ache as well as emotional. My body longed for that baby, every cell knew I had been pregnant and now I was not. I couldn’t see a pregnant woman on the street or at the mall without tears. I could barely bring myself to talk to my best friend. She was still pregnant with her baby.
So many people hurt me unintentionally by saying things they thought would comfort me. “I’m so sorry,” they’d say, which by itself was fine. They should’ve just stopped there but it was always followed by something else that caused pain.
“It’s for the best.” Best for whom? Certainly not best for me! I know what is best for me and I was not consulted. What’s best for me is to have my baby. I needed my baby.
“You were spared the burden of a disabled child.” Burden, what burden? Every child is a burden but it’s a wonderful burden! I would’ve loved her no matter what handicap she might’ve had, would’ve adored and cherished her every day of my life.
“It’s God’s will.” Why? Why would my loving and merciful God take my very wanted and much loved baby away? Why would He knowingly cause me such heart-wrenching despair and pain? It would’ve been so easy to blame God, to say that He took my child from me but I would’ve been wrong, very wrong. It was not God’s will that I suffer this loss. He did not kill my unborn baby. Sin killed her.
“You can always have another baby.” I didn’t want another baby. I wanted the baby I lost. You cannot replace one child with another. Every child is unique, special and loved for who they are. None are interchangeable nor is one more precious to me than another.
“It will be alright.” How? How will it be alright? I didn’t see how it could possible ever be alright again. My baby was gone and my womb, empty. There was nothing alright about that. A part of me died along with the baby.
“You’ll heal with time.” No, I wouldn’t. My child was dead. A permanent hole formed in my heart and is still there to this day. I knew no matter how many children I had or would have, there would always be one less than there should be.
“You still have Luke. He needs you.” Yes, I knew that and I was grateful to have my sweet little boy to care for, but as I said before, children are not interchangeable. He could not take the place of the lost child anymore than a new baby could take his place. Each child I conceive has a part of my heart that is theirs alone. The child I lost, whom I named Gabrielle took hers with her when she died.
“God doesn’t give us more than we care bear.” At that moment, I did not believe that statement. It seemed to me that losing my baby was more than I could bear. I didn’t want to be strong nor do I think I could’ve been at that time. All my hopes were stolen from me and I felt raw with pain.
So what could’ve been said or done to help me or any other woman who has suffered a miscarriage? First and foremost, you must understand that this is a deep sorrow, one that unless you too have lost a child, you cannot fathom. It echoes in and throughout the mind and body. Every cell and pore in the would-be mother’s body remembers being pregnant and mourns, longing for the lost child.
At first, no one needed to say much of anything at all. Actions are more comforting than words. Words hurt. Simply someone binge there when I needed them would have sufficed, an offered shoulder, an ear and a hug. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says that we are to “comfort and edify one another.” Galatians 6:2 tells us to “bear one another’s burdens.” While no one could have truly borne this burden for me, the gesture would have been appreciated.
I had to be allowed to grieve for as long as I needs to if I was to heal. My child had died. I was entitled to feel all the hurt and sadness without judgment. There is no set a time table because everyone grieves differently and for different lengths of time. Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 says that there is a time for everything under heaven, even a time for mourning. This was my time to mourn but it did not last forever. Jesus says in Matthew 5:4 that those who mourn are blessed for they will be comforted.
A mother needs to know that her baby had worth and value. It was appreciated whenever someone would ask my baby’s name. I read years later about planting a tree or flower in honor of the child and wish I had done it. A miscarried child does not always have a grave for the mother to visit. Mine did not so a tree or plant would have be nice
Prayer was so important during the healing process as we all know. 1Thessalonians 5:17 says to “pray without ceasing” and in verse 25, St Paul begs, “Brethren, pray for us.” There are some excellent prayers written in a book I found called When Your Baby Dies Through Miscarriage or Stillbirth by Louis A. Gamino and Ann Taylor Cooney. This book has great insights from many points of view on the subject.
One of the verses that I personally have found comforting to read were Psalm 139:13-14 in which David writes, “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.” David gives no room for doubt here. God knows everything about us from the moment we are conceived and our souls know Him. He knew my child before I did and she knew Him. He loved her before I did. He wanted her before I did. She was fearfully and wonderfully made by Him just as I was. What an amazing thing to know!
The Scripture that I love most, regarding my loss is Jeremiah 1:5. In this verse, God says,
“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you.” As Lutherans, we know each and every human is conceived in sin and is stained with it. In Psalm 51:5, David writes, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.”
Our sinful condition is a fact and passed down to our children the moment they are conceived. Therefore, we Lutherans baptize our babies. My lost child was not baptized, but because of the verse from Jeremiah, I live with the hope that my loving and merciful God knew my Gabrielle and through the sacrifice of His own Precious Son, sanctified my baby with the Holy Spirit before she died.
God wishes for none to be lost. For that reason, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ to die for the sins of the world. I, as a parent would never consider sacrificing a child of mine for anyone. Praise God that He did because now all sins are forgiven. We are saved by God’s grace, through faith in Christ. That faith comes only through the Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit who descends upon our infants at their baptism.
Children are precious to our Lord. Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 5:4 to let the little children come to him for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. Heaven belongs to children and those who have faith like a child. What joy these words can bring to a heart bleeding in despair over a lost little one.
It has been 16 years since my miscarriage. I have since been blessed with three other daughters whom I love with all my heart as well as my son. However, I still and always will ache for my Gabrielle because I am her mother too but I know I will see her one day. I can’t wait to meet her.