October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Did you know that? Did you know that one in four pregnancies ends in a miscarriage or pregnancy loss? Several years ago, I didn’t know it either. It seems to be one of those things you don’t notice until you lose a baby.
I lost a baby. I lost four babies. And the losses changed me. After the excitement of deciding that we were ready to have a baby, my husband and I were shocked when we sat in the doctor’s office and learned that I had an ectopic pregnancy. I didn’t even know what an ectopic pregnancy was. I had never heard that term before. The education was swift and painful. The baby had never made it to my uterus. It was growing in my fallopian tube and there was nothing anyone could do to save it. I said goodbye to my baby on the same day that I learned he existed.
Some healing came when I gave birth to a healthy baby girl the next year. Penelope. She is a treasure to me! We couldn’t wait to give her a sibling. But the waiting grew long. I was finally diagnosed with secondary infertility and started fertility drugs after months and months of trying. The fertility drugs worked! I found out I was expecting! But I had a gnawing feeling something was wrong and a few weeks later my fears were confirmed. I had a second ectopic pregnancy and said goodbye again.
That pregnancy was followed by two first trimester miscarriages. My heart grew weary and I wondered how much more I could take. I missed my babies terribly and had nothing to remember any of them by. Not a single sonogram photo. Nothing.
As I struggled through each loss, I realized more and more how silent most women are about pregnancy loss. We treat it like it’s something shameful. We treat it like it’s no big deal. We go on and on about how abortion is murder, and it IS, but if that’s the case, then why can’t we see that pregnancy loss is losing an actual child? So many people try to explain it away.
“It wasn’t meant to be.”
“There was something wrong with the baby.”
“You can try again.”
“You shouldn’t have announced your pregnancy so early.”
Why do we do this to each other? After my first loss, I told only a few people but kept very quiet about it. I didn’t want anyone to treat me differently. But the more I experienced this awful pain, the more I realized that what I needed what love and support. It’s what any mother needs when she has lost a child, no matter the child’s age. And so I spoke out. I told my story. I urged other mothers to share their own stories. I was amazed at how many other women had been through this terrible pain without telling anyone. One of my friends told me she had miscarried twice and had never even told her husband. Mothers, we need each other! I need to know that you understand. And you need to know that I do too. Together we can bear this burden and lift each other up in prayer and support!
When I think about pregnancy loss, the age old question comes to mind. Why do bad things happen to good people? Sometimes we can trace it back to a bad choice or a string of bad decisions. But I believe that very often, bad things happen for no reason at all. They just happen. Our world is not perfect. Our bodies often fail us. So then we look to God and ask Him “Why? Why didn’t you save me from this?” But if God saved us from every bad thing that might have happened, would we have any character at all? Would we have strength to do right in the face of the world and it’s ungodliness? Would we have commitment, faith, or hope? We would be like spoiled little children who do nothing but fuss and complain and act as though they are entitled to have everything they want. How could we ever truly love and serve the Lord if we didn’t have trials and difficulties in our lives?
People like to say that “everything happens for a reason.” I don’t believe that either. But that doesn’t mean that the ugly parts of our lives can’t be useful. I have said so many times, when something goes wrong, we ought to use it to become better, to become a better blessing. And now that I am on the other side of my grief, now that my pain has turned mostly to memory, I should be looking for others who are still in the middle of it that need my encouragement and prayers.
If you are one of those women, I hope you are not alone. If you feel alone, I hope you reach out and find someone who has been there before you, who can hold your hand as you walk through this dark time. If you don’t know where to start, here are a few things I did that greatly contributed to my own personal and emotional healing.
- Find a support group. I went to M.E.N.D. meetings for many months and cannot imagine having navigated those dark waters without this group. (mend.org) There are other groups as well. Find one that meets in your area and go whenever you are able. You can read about my experiences with M.E.N.D. here.
- Read books about pregnancy loss. You can read my list of suggestions here.
- If you want to, consider naming your baby. I didn’t know the genders of my babies, but chose names anyway. I love being able to talk about them each by name. I love writing their names on my calendar each year on their birthday (which many would call their “angel-versary”). I love hanging Christmas ornaments with each initial on my tree every year. You can read about my babies’ names here and here.
- Find a supportive friend - someone you can call or text when you need some extra encouragement. It doesn’t have to be someone who has lost a child. It just needs to be someone who can be there for you when you need to talk.
- Write down your thoughts and feelings in a journal. Write prophetically. Talk about your faith in God, your hope, and your healing. As you write it, it will become more and more true.
- Find a keepsake that you can wear or keep with you. I have a few different pieces of jewelry that I wear to represent my children. A sweet friend of mine recently gave me a necklace that incorporates all six of my children - two living and four in heaven. It is a precious treasure that I wear almost every day.
- More importantly than every other thing on this list, PRAY. The Bible tells us to cast all of our anxieties on Him because He cares for us. The best way to stop feeling anxious about something is to talk to God about it. He will hear you and He will comfort you. If you don’t lean on Him now, when will you?
If you want to know the “end” to my story, God did answer my prayers and gave me a second healthy child. Her name is Ariani and she is my beautiful rainbow, a fulfilled promise from the Lord. I am so grateful that I never took my eyes off of my Lord during the time that I waited, during the time that I experienced loss. If you are still waiting for your rainbow, I pray that God will fulfill the desires of your heart very soon.
I am one in four. One woman in four has experienced pregnancy or infant loss. If you are not one of them, many of the women you know are. Let’s work together to break the silence, to be a part of the healing, to love and support one another.