The Heartache (and Hope) of a Miscarriage

When I woke up that Monday morning, I had no idea what events were going to transpire over the next few days.  It seemed like a normal start to the week.  Kevin and I woke up together, spent about fifteen minutes in bed talking about our day, and I kissed him goodbye. “See you tonight. Love you”, I said.

I went downstairs to get the kids breakfast, and as I was standing in my kitchen, I knew I was starting to bleed.  The feeling is unmistakable. I rushed to the bathroom, and as I sat down on the toilette, I collided with the worst possible scenario as a pregnant woman.  This was more than spotting.  Much more. I immediately texted my best friend in Tennessee who miscarried herself a few years ago.  “I’m bleeding”, was all I texted.  I was shaking, in shock, and had no idea what to do.  I called Kevin and told him.  He remained calm, and told me he wasn’t alarmed, and if I needed him, he’d come home.  He then prayed for me and the baby over the phone.  As soon as I hung up, my best friend called me.  I was sobbing at this point. She cried with me, and put her husband on speaker phone because he was much more calm than we were at that moment.  “Jennie, it’s me, Ben, I’m going to pray for you right now”, and he went on to pray against all fear and anxiety, and invited God’s peace to come into the situation.

After we decided that I’d call them back in a little bit, I called out to my five children in the kitchen to pray because “Mommy is bleeding”, I said.  They knew I was pregnant.  We prayed for the baby everyday.  We talked about this child as if he or she was already their brother or sister.  “I’m so excited for this baby!”, my three year old would emphatically say daily.  I heard my oldest who is thirteen solemnly tell the others that what it means is that I could be losing the baby. Just overhearing that made my heart sink.  He was right…I knew he was right, but I couldn’t even process what was going on.

I sat there for a half hour, and began texting family and close friends to pray.  That Monday morning was the start of a very difficult week that would take up residence in my heart forever.  I had never miscarried before, and had had five healthy pregnancies, so it truly caught me off guard and I just sat there in shock.

When I finally pulled myself together and stopped crying, I came out of the bathroom and said to my kids, “guys, I need you to lay your hands on my tummy and pray for this baby.” My kids are amazing prayer warriors.  They laid their hands on me, and went to town. They stormed Heavens gates with prayers for protection for the baby, and health and safety for me.  But what touched me the most was they prayed that no matter what happened, I would have peace and my emotions and heart would be okay.

We pray with our kids every single day.  Not just before we eat a meal, but for anything.  They’ve learned to drop whatever they are doing to pray.  It was in that moment that I so appreciated that they were capable of lifting me up into God’s hands when I couldn’t do it myself. “Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength…that You may silence the avenger”, Psalm 2:8. Your children’s prayers are powerful!

Kevin and I decided that he should come home as I didn’t feel like I should be alone.  So he cut his day in half, and came home at lunch time. The rest of the day, I just laid down and rested.  It felt to me like I was thrown into a situation that I had no time to prepare or process for, and so I was in this daze of confusion and fear.  But…I knew God was with me, and I knew He was in control.  At that point I had texted about twelve people who I knew would pray, so I knew I was being lifted up, which was good because I felt like I couldn’t really even pray myself.  “God….” was about all I could get out before my chest would heave with heartache and the tears would spill out again.

That night after dinner, we gathered the kids around to pray for me and the baby again.  This time, there was a desperation in all of our voices since I had been bleeding all day.  Kevin kneeled on the floor in front of me, placed his hands on me and cried out to God for the life of his child while I buried my hands in my face and sobbed.  When we finished praying, Kevin said to the children and I, “I would give every last dollar we have to our name to save the life of this child.”

What we wouldn’t give for our children.

The next few days turned into a journey I hadn’t packed my bags for.  No one really talks much about miscarriage.  I have seen two of my closest friends miscarry and I cried and prayed with them through some of it, so I knew a small taste of the bitterness of miscarriage, but to go through it myself was an entirely different wrenching of my heart.

Kevin ended up taking me to the ER the next day because I was having pain that could mean a tubal pregnancy, and my midwife told me I should get checked out right away.  An ultrasound confirmed that it was not a tubal, but also that there was no heartbeat.  The next day I spent twelve hours having contractions passing everything.  It felt so similar to labor.  I knew these pains, but normally these pains meant I was laboring to bring forth life.  This was an altogether different experience full of emotions I’m not entirely sure I had felt before.

All the while Psalm 23 kept playing in my head…”though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me”.  

That Psalm was a banner over me the entire week, as I played it over and over in my mind through the shock, the tears, and the heartache.  If I didn’t have that to cling to, I know I would have had panic attacks.  I was so close so many times, but God’s Word rang in my mind and would remind me that He was near and I needn’t be afraid.

All the while, we kept a close eye on my bleeding.  Kevin would follow me to the bathroom to make sure I was okay, as he wanted to see how much blood I was passing.  My midwife and I were in communication, and she had given us guidelines that would merit us returning to the hospital. At 11PM, Kevin told me I should go to sleep.  He would stay up and watch a movie, and would set an alarm for every hour to wake me up and check on my bleeding. I tried to sleep, but the contractions were too strong, and they were every minute or two.  He came in at 12:00, and 1:00, and again at 2:00.  We decided that my bleeding was slowing down a bit and that we should just get some shut-eye.  My contractions tapered off at about 2:30 AM, but I laid there for a while in the dark room, with my eyes wide open like a deer in headlights trying to process what had just happened.

The next day I rested again as my body was continuing to cramp.  I was so uncomfortable all day it was hard to sit up or do anything.  Finally, that evening, I passed the placenta.  As soon as it came out, all the cramping stopped, so I knew it was over.  I knew then that I had passed the baby in one of the many clots I passed while I was laboring the day before. It was a bittersweet feeling.  One of complete loss that I had now lost all physical connection to my baby, but a sense of relief that the pain and fear was over.  We told the kids what had happened, and that we now knew for sure that their little brother or sister was in Heaven.

The entire week Kevin stayed level and calm, until the next day.  Our pastor, who is also Kevin’s friend, called Kevin because he had heard about the miscarriage.  Kevin answered, and I heard our Pastor say, “Hey buddy, I just heard about what you guys have been going through this week…I didn’t know…I am so, so sorry.”  He paused, and solemnly said it again, “I am so, so sorry”.  There was something in those words to Kevin that broke whatever was holding his emotions back.  He thanked him for calling, hung up the phone, and turned to me and started crying.

I think when someone suffers a loss, when we step into their pain for a few moments and tell them we are so sorry for what happened, there is a pin prick that happens on our heart.  Emotion can come out that really should come out.  Like someone give us the nod that we can let go of what we’ve been holding onto. We sat and cried together for a while, and then we had to head out to get an ultrasound to make sure I had passed everything.  After we left, we realized we had some extra time, so we stopped for a coffee.  We sat down in the corner of Starbucks with me as numb as I can remember ever feeling, and Kevin just started to cry again.  Now it was his turn to mourn the loss of our sixth child.  We ran into a friend there, and we told him what happened, and as he turned to me and said, “oh man, I’m so sorry”, I began to cry again too.

“Yes…it’s been a very difficult week”, was all I could get out.

The ultrasound confirmed that everything had passed.  To see my womb empty this time, where just a couple of days ago I saw a baby was surreal.  I wish no one had to go through the loss and suffering of a miscarriage.  That entire week I was very introspective, which is how I get when I’m in labor.  But instead of having my mind in tune with the goal of being able to hold my sweet baby at the end, it was just for an emptiness.  Nothingness.  Loss.  I was severely in tune with the fact that we are living in our broken, and fallen state.

The heartache we live with in this life is nowhere near what God had planned when He made mankind.

But my mind was also in tune with two types of women all week.  I couldn’t get them out of my heart and mind.  The first was women all throughout history and all throughout the world that have miscarried.  Or even birthed a child for that matter.  What females go through to bring life into this world is absolutely astonishing.  I kept picturing women hundreds and thousands of years ago going through what I was going through.  The pain, the heartache, the sorrow of their loss. And also women around the world who were going through a miscarriage at the exact same time…sitting in their bathroom crying just as I was.

Females are amazing, and I gained a whole new respect for each and every one of you who have labored to bring life…or death.  Like my heart had new heart-strings to millions of women that I’ve never met. 

The second group of women I had on my mind all week were women who were walking into abortion clinics, handing over money to have their pregnancy terminated.  The life they were growing inside of them ripped from them in a matter of minutes.  The tiny heart that was working around the clock to fight for their own little lives violently stopped.  “No!”, I wanted to shout to all of them, “Yours is still alive! Please, please don’t do this!”  I wanted to grab their sweet and confused faces in my hands, and show them my tears, and tell them how heartbreaking it is to have your child go from life to death and be abruptly taken from your womb. It just felt so overwhelmingly heartbreaking to think of a woman paying money, and voluntarily asking for their child’s life to end, when I was grieving so deeply for the involuntary loss of my own. The numbers continue to climb every second of the day and night…another life gone…another life gone…another life gone. Or should I say another generation gone, for you are taking away more than just one person when you abort a baby.  For example, if my parents would have aborted me, they would have been erasing from the planet me, my six children, and all the grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc which will come from me. It’s generations being erased. So has the world really lost 1,522,371,300 lives worldwide to abortion since 1980? No! So many more! (at the writing of this, numberofabortions.com clock has this number, but it clicks away at another number higher every second).

I don’t judge these women.  I feel a deep and painful sadness for them…and their baby.  

In fact, I have sat rocking and nursing my own babies on several different occasions, crying out to God to save any babies that are about to be aborted with warm tears streaming down my face. If you have had an abortion, please know that there is healing.  God forgives in radical ways when we ask Him to. “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your sins for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins”, Isaiah 43:25.  If you need to, please get healing. I know most pregnancy care centers offer counseling/healing classes for post abortion trauma, and I have friends who have gone through it and have said that it was incredibly healing for them.

Well, I’m sure you noticed that my title of this blog entry is “The Heartache and Hope of a miscarriage”.  So, you are probably asking, “where is the hope in all of this?”  I’m glad you asked, and I’d love to share…

The day after the miscarriage was over, I had a few quiet moments at the house while my mother-in-law took my kids out to lunch. I sat down and closed my eyes and prayed.  I asked God, “why? Why would you allow me to even get pregnant if you knew all of this was going to happen?  Why didn’t you spare me all this pain?”  I sat quietly before him, waiting, and fully expecting an answer.  I simply needed an answer in that moment…and He knew it.

God is so gracious when we go through deeply difficult times.  I’ve had things God has shown me before.  Some would call them visions.  Well, I believe God showed me a vision in that moment that I desperately needed.  I closed my eyes, and I saw my little boy. In the vision, it was like I was sitting on God the Fathers lap, and then He took his arm and pointed to an adorable little boy.  He was about thirty feet away or so, so not right in front of me. He was standing there in a white robe that was too big for him.  He looked to be about three or four years old, and he looked just like how my youngest boy would look in another year or two.  Blonde hair, blue eyes. He was wearing a gold crown, and as soon as I saw him, he looked at me, lifted his hand, pushed his crown back up over his eyes, and waved at me.  And with the biggest smile, he shouted, “Hi, Mommy!”

I immediately sobbed a deep, grieving, but healing cry for a long time.  I so desperately wanted to hold him.  To kiss and feel his soft, rosy cheeks.  To pull him close and tell him I loved him. My heart swelled with love for him, and in that moment I was silenced by healing tears.  Each tear was sadness wrapped up with gratitude.  Gratitude for his life…gratitude for him being in Heaven safe with Jesus…and gratitude that I got to see a quick picture of my little boy.  Through the sobs, I shared the vision with Kevin, and we cried together.

I think in that moment we grieved the loss of our son together, and that was another level of healing, and another gift God gave us along the way.

The next day I did a painting of him.  I didn’t want to forget it.  I cried most of the way through creating it, but it is lovely to me.  It has his name on it, as well as the meaning of his name.  It will grace a wall in our home until the day we pass on to join him in Heaven.

Speaking of his name, on the evening of the day I saw the vision of my boy, we sat down together as a family. My kids had quietly watched their Mom retreat to her bedroom for the last few days, and their hope and unanswered prayers had been shattered by the loss of their sibling.   I said to the kids, “Guys, God showed Mommy a vision of the baby.  You guys have a little brother in Heaven.”  I went on to tell them what I saw, and they were all so happy to hear about their little brother. They were sad that they wouldn’t get to play with him here, but they were also in awe that they have a brother that is spending his days playing with Jesus.  I said, “I’d like us to give him a name.  And I’d like any suggestions, Dad and I just want it to be meaningful.”  We are big on the meanings of names.  We believe there is a sense of destiny in someone’s name.  We sat in silence for a minute. Then my middle boy said, “what about John?” And with that my oldest said, “oh my gosh-I had just asked God what his name is, and right before Ellis said that, I heard the name John.” We explained to them that that is how God speaks sometimes, through two of us that are praying together and confirming the same word.  So we looked up the meaning, and it means, “My God has been gracious and has shown favor.”  I knew that was it, because that’s exactly how I felt about the whole experience.  Even though the whole week was difficult, sad, and scary, I felt so taken care of by God.  The meals friends were bringing, the constant texts from friends and family checking in and saying they were praying, the fact that I got to see my baby in the ultrasound in the hospital, and the fact that I got to see him in Heaven.  God had been so gracious to me through the darkness.  I was keenly aware of 2 Corinthians 12:9, “and He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness”.  So John, to me, was perfect.

Then we said, “okay, middle name?”  We threw out a few names, but none sounded right.  I said, “we need a name that means royalty or something, since he was wearing a crown.”  So Kevin went to looking on the internet, and said, “Ryan means little king.”

“Oh my gosh, that’s perfect.”  So that night, we as a family together, named our son, and their brother John Ryan. It was perfect, and with that, I had peace.  Peace that he was in the Fathers care.  Peace that we would someday get to spend eternity with him.

I squeezed and kissed all my other five kids so much tighter that week.  As my tear streaked cheek pressed against theirs, I whispered to God dozens of times, “Thank you God for letting this one make it through.  Thank you for keeping them strong, and bringing them into the world for me to hold and touch and raise.”

The battle for life was never more evident to me.

The next few weeks were an emotional rollercoaster to say the least, and I think I walked around with tears sitting on the brim of my eyes continually.  I have cried so many tears throughout this, only God could know the number of them.  Psalm 56:8 says, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected my tears in your bottle.  You have recorded each one in your book.”  I don’t really know why God keeps track of this, but it shows me that He cares deeply for me, and my sorrow in this trial is not overlooked by Him.

So, as I close…if you are a fellow Mama who has miscarried, I wish I could give you a hug, and tell you, “I am so, so sorry”.  We are in a sisterhood now.  A sisterhood that only those who have gone through the pain of miscarriage know.  But you are strong, Mama, and nothing you did caused your baby to not make it.  It wasn’t your fault.  Your child will never know the heartache of this world.  NEVER.  They will never cry, mourn, or feel depressed.  They got the amazing privilege of taking the express train to Heaven where Jesus was waiting for them with open arms.

The Bible tells us about life in the womb. Isaiah 44:24 says, “Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, and the One who formed you from the womb, I, the Lord am the maker of all things…”.

Also, in Psalm 139, it says, “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…my frame was not hidden from you when I was made in secret…Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed, and in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me…”.

We will never know why some of our little ones didn’t make it.  I do believe God was forming and fashioning them in our wombs, and He did have His plans and days written out for each of their lives, but something else got in the way…it’s a word in our society that seems to be outlawed…but it’s called sin.  Not your sin, or their sin…just sin.  It came into the world when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, and it’s still here. He warned them it would happen, but they didn’t listen.  It still haunts us today with each pain, each sickness, and each death.  This is the heartache of a miscarriage. It’s not God’s plan for your little one to have not grown up in your loving arms.  But if there are any arms where your child will be safest and most loved, it’s Jesus’ arms…and this, my sister, is the hope we can have in the midst of the sadness of a miscarriage.

Hugs to you from my heart to yours. XOXO

 

 

 

Why your marriage MUST come first

Today is mine and Kevin’s 14th wedding anniversary.  We would never claim to have a perfect marriage (um, there’s no such thing, so stop daydreaming), but if you asked us if we have a good marriage, we would emphatically say yes.  And then if you proceeded to ask us how we’ve built a good marriage throughout having five children, cross country moves, running a business, different leadership roles at a few different churches, hospital stays and sicknesses, etc etc…we would say it’s because we prioritize our marriage.  When I was just driving on the road today, a mini van passed by me that had rust on it so badly that it actually had eaten through the car and had holes in it!  I said out loud to myself, “wow! I’ve never seen that before”.  But that’s what happens to a car that is driven in the Midwest and isn’t taken care of properly throughout those harsh winter months.  Kevin is constantly taking care of our cars by running them through the car wash in the winter because he says “if you don’t get the salt off, the car will rust”.  Just like that car, if we don’t take care of our marriage, it’s going to begin to show holes.  It is going to begin to slowly dissolve away and not be the beautiful marriage it could be.

The most common time to get divorced is when the couple becomes empty nesters.

They held the marriage together for the sake of the children, and when the children are all out of the house, there is no audience anymore to be “playing house” for, so they raise the white flag of surrender and decide to go their separate ways.  The truth is though, they went their separate ways years before.  Maybe it was a quick shift like a tsunami that swept in and destroyed the trust they had for each other, or maybe it was a slow changing of the tide that over the years exposed just how far their hearts drifted from each other.

Either way, it is a sad thing to see.  No one sits by and smiles as they see their friends go through a divorce, even if the party involved claims it is all “civil”, and will “remain the best of friends”.

We know deep within our souls that what is brought together with sacred vows, and “I will love you forever’s” should never be separated.  Yet, we see it happen everyday.

So, how do we not become a statistic?  How do we keep our marriage together even after there is no more eyes watching us each day?  Even more than that, how do we stay in a place of love, adoration, and affection with one another?

Well, I have other posts brewing on this, but for today I want to give you…

10 reasons WHY  your marriage must absolutely, positively take FIRST place.

Ready?! Here we go…

  1. Your spouse came before the children.  Period.  It started the two of you, and at some point it will go back to the two of you.
  2. Your kids need to see a positive marriage modeled for them.  They are going to copy what they see.  How do you speak to your spouse?  They will speak to theirs in the same way.  How do you prioritize the marriage?  That is how your children will prioritize their marriage.  They are absorbing more than you think, so be a good -no, great role model of what a fun, loving marriage can look like.
  3. Kids get their security from seeing Mom and Dad happy together.  One question we ask our kids regularly is “do you think Mom and Dad love each other”?  They usually giggle and nod.  We ask, “how do you know we do?”, and they say, “because you guys always want to be together”, or “Dad is always grabbing your butt”(hee hee! It’s really true), or “you guys are always kissing each other”.  Don’t shy away from showing each other affection in front of your kids.  Now, don’t go overboard!  But, snuggles, pats, and kisses are totally appropriate and heathy for your kids to see!  It will give them security that they are in a strong family that will not crumble.
  4. You want to be happy, don’t you?!  I mean, c’mon, if you are going to be LIVING with someone, you have to put the effort into them.  And when you put effort into someone, you usually like them more.  Liking the person you live with equals you being a happier person!
  5. Your spouse deserves to be living happily too.  I know there are days when you want to sentence your spouse to a lifelong silent treatment from you, but really, they are a person too (the person you absolutely fell head over heals for at one point).  They deserve to be happy too!  If you aren’t prioritizing this relationship, it’s easy to forget that they are a person with feelings just like you are. Don’t be hard-hearted!  Give them a break and try to make their day a little brighter.
  6. The Bible says you are one flesh together.  Genesis 2:24 says “for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh”.  Matthew 19:5 says, “for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”.  Ephesians 5:31 says, “for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”.  And in Mark 10:8 it says, “and the two will become one flesh.  So they are no longer two, but one flesh”.  Phew!  That’s a lot of redundancy.  But that means it must really mean something to God.  It’s a spiritual law that we don’t see in a physical way, but somehow God sees us as one.  That means if Kevin is bummed about something, I feel bummed.  If he is stressed about something, typically I feel stressed too.  How he feels affects me, and how I feel affects him.  It’s supposed to be that way.  We are intertwined in a deep way that goes beyond our understanding.  So, this tells me that God wants us to be sensitive to each other’s needs because, in a way, we are also tending to our own needs.  What we do to them will eventually effect us if we are still in a place of having a tender heart.  Years of bitterness will harden this, of course, so don’t allow bitterness to come between the two of you.  It’s not worth it, as eventually you will drink the bitter poison of that bitterness yourself.
  7. The world needs more love.  Like the song, “what the world needs now is love, sweet love”, we need to see more loving, committed, thriving marriages! You can do this!!  Put your marriage first so that it can be built to last, and others can be inspired by yours.  The world needs to see love that is real and stands the test of time through sickness, financial struggles, child rearing, job changes, moves, and weight fluctuations.  How endearing it is to onlookers to see an elderly couple walking hand in hand while smiling at each other.  Gosh-it melts my heart every time!
  8. Starting another marriage is a lot of hard work as well.  Don’t be deceived into thinking that all your troubles will go away if your spouse goes away.  Far better to roll up your sleeves and work on the marriage you are in than work on starting a whole new one.
  9. If you don’t put your marriage first, you’ll lose sight of how great you’ve got it.  Being married is fun!  At least it can be if you put effort into it and make it first in your life.  Don’t wait until your spouse puts their best effort into you, you put on your big kid panties and take the first step.  Plan date nights.  Go bowling or golfing together, start taking walks around the block after dinner, pick up a cup of coffee for them and drop it by work unexpectedly, buy them a little gift just because, snuggle up to them while you watch TV in the evening.  Doing these little things will remind you that living with someone and sharing your unique relationship is actually a lot of fun!
  10. And last, put your marriage first because your marriage must stand strong if you are going to get through the child rearing years!  These are tough years!  Raising kids is no joke, and if you are not a team doing it together, those little sweeties will pull you apart under the pressure of all they demand.  Keeping your marriage first will help you tremendously to get through this season without feeling like you are driven over by a truck day after day.  You and your spouse need to be able to connect regularly to communicate about the kids schedules, how to handle the pressures you see your kids going through, and to come up with a game plan when little Johnny wakes up in the night.  Remember, you are a team!  Don’t let the littles pull you apart.  Stay connected so that you can tackle the week ahead of you, instead of feeling like the kids are tackling you.  Kevin and I set aside a couple of hours every Sunday to go through the week ahead, to make sure we are on the same page with our schedule.  We also will send e-mails or make phone calls during this time to schedule things like dentist appointments, signing the kids up for sports camp or swim lessons, and dinners with other families.  That way, we are a team in setting the family schedule and neither of us feel like the other one is running the calendar and all the decisions for the family.  There is also no room for miscommunication.  So, when Thursday evening rolls around and we all need to be somewhere, there is no “who signed us up for this anyway?!” because we did it together, and decided together.

 

Obviously I must state that if one spouse is verbally or physically abusive, you must get help beyond this post.  I am not writing to that.  I simply want to help the marriages that feels as if they have fallen out of “like” with each other because they are barely keeping their heads above the waters of life.  Sometimes, just sometimes, there is a simple solution to the woes of marriage.

Prioritize your marriage.  Make it first.  Wash that salt off with love, tenderness, and fun so you don’t rust out.

You really can do this!  You can take the first step.  Be the spouse that your children need.  And my prayer is that when you do that day after day, you will find yourself not just “in love” again, but “in like” too!