For sale: Baby shoes; never worn.
Many times when I watch my son and daughter run and play, I see my third, a boy running along with them. I hear him laugh. I imagine him also hugging me when the two who live here on earth have their chubby arms round my neck. When I see families with three kids, there is an ache in my chest because I do have three children of my own; but one of them doesn't live with us. He lives with God.
In the April of 2015, I lost my second child through a miscarriage. I miss him inexplicably.
If you haven't already, you can read about my story with him here: the-second-wave.html
In the last two months, several of my dear friends have lost children. I have mourned six miscarriages in these past eight weeks.
It has caused me to grieve afresh for my own loss. I have found myself giving the same comfort and advice over and over, until I thought it was time to address this here at The Orchid Blooms. What do you do when your unborn baby dies? What are you supposed to think? How do you survive?
I'm going to push the envelope here and include mothers who have had abortions. You know me to be brutally honest, and so I will remain consistent. After my miscarriage I was filled with a rage indescribable every time I read or watched anything to do with what has been termed 'a woman's right to her body'. It remains an oxymoron to me how we can at once defend and in fact fight for a woman to be allowed to remove a baby from her body if her current life cannot accommodate for a child. I'm not referring so much to the impossible situations of those who are suffering deeply; one who has been raped, a molested girl who is now pregnant, a teenager fearing for her life if a pregnancy is discovered, a woman living in abject poverty...no. I'm referring to the vast majority who have abortions: regular working women earning above minimum wage who see the positive pregnancy test and think, 'I can't deal with this right now.'
I don't know how we can so indignantly fight for her right to decide when she wants her baby, then be so silent when the baby she does plan for, doesn't make it into her arms. Isn't it ridiculous? Shouldn't the million woman marches be more about acknowledging, legislating for and recognizing the woman who has had one or several miscarriages? Why do we send a short text message telling her, "I'm so sorry you lost your baby", and after that sort of avoid her because of the awkwardness, but we're willing to be tear-gassed during a protest fighting for the legalizing of abortion? Did you know that most miscarriages happen during the same window of gestation in which abortion is allowed? So we call the baby an actual baby if she miscarried, but wouldn't dare say it if it's an abortion. Sigh...it's depressing to think about. Anyway, this is not a treatise pitting pro-life against pro-choice. And the internet is rife with women who have defended their pro-choice stance even after miscarrying themselves. We make our own choices in this life. Today I'm worked up about the the loud ringing silence that blankets miscarriage. Why don't we care?
I want to include the women who have willingly had abortions and then been consumed by a grief and guilt that eat them alive. You think of your baby/babies almost every day. You miss them, you long and ache for them. You wish you could turn back time. And you grieve alone, because no-one sees this as a tragedy; you're alone in this. That's exactly how miscarriage moms feel. Alone. Invisible. Nobody dries their tears. It is a solitary path.
So what advice have I passed on to my friends?
1. It was a baby.
A couple must recognize that this was a baby. A real, living human being. You must acknowledge that; the same way we do when a person who lived here on earth passes away. This wasn't a mass of cells. It wasn't 'an incident'. It wasn't bad luck. It was death. And death is heartbreaking; it cracks your heart open. You weep, you wail, you lie down and never want to get up again. It was a baby.
2. Name them.
No-one is nameless. No-one. The child who didn't get here should be named too; because they were real, not figments of your imagination. So name them, and always think of them like that. If you have children afterwards, the ones who died will be part of your family. Give them a position in the family i.e. first, second, third born. I have always considered my daughter to be my third born, because my child who passed away is my second. And we gave him a name; it stays between my husband and I because it's how we wanted it. But feel free to share the name(s) with those closest to you.
3. Have a physical object to remind you of them.
I bought a large scented candle shortly after my miscarriage. I would light it every night after my son had slept, turn out the lights and just breathe. I would think about our baby. Some nights I would pray. Other nights I would cry. It was my small safe space away from the world, engulfed in total silence, allowing myself to go through the very necessary process that is grief. If you own land, a beautiful idea is to plant a tree. Go sit by it often; it's a grave of sorts. Also it will be so helpful when you one day explain to your other kids if you have them, that they have a sibling they haven't met yet. The tree will be part of your family all of your lives. It's a beautiful thing.
4. Mark two dates.
The date of the miscarriage, and the date the baby would have been born. This is a really important practice. If you don't, you risk being completely overwhelmed by grief on these days. You absolutely have to prepare for them. Your calendar will remind you that the days are on the way. Start to pray. Begin to think about your child frequently. Apply for leave on those two dates. And during each day, rest. Mourn afresh if need be. Go visit your tree. Light your candle if you still have it. Whatever you do, do not try go through the day acting as though nothing happened. It will hurt you in the long run.
5. Involve your spouse.
Please. Do not be two islands separated by grief. Accept from the get go that you will handle this loss in very different ways. Wives, please be prepared for the waves of anger when it looks like he's doing fine, when he seems eager to try again, when he doesn't really say much to you about anything. Is he hurting? Without a doubt. There's a helplessness that consumes him seeing you so broken, and not being able to take your pain away. His first job is to take care of you, and he feels like his hands are tied, that he's failing you somehow. He's also trying to wrap his head around his baby having died, inside his wife's body. It's trauma that is unparalleled. It makes him unable to speak. He wants to say something...but what?
Husbands. Love her how you have known she feels loved. Hold her on the couch, in bed...hold her. Wipe her tears away. Arrange for chores and tasks she would otherwise do, to be taken care of by someone else. Ask friends to bring over cooked meals for a couple of weeks. Make the phone calls to parents, and close friends, because shes's too spent to keep rehashing what happened. Protect her from ignorant and hurtful people with insensitive comments. Do not let anyone visit if you haven't asked her how she feels about it. Do not let anyone stay over longer than half an hour. It is so incredibly tiring staying engaged in conversation when you're grieving. Try your hardest to rush home after work, earlier than usual. If you've got leave days, apply for them. You need to heal as a unit. This loss was as much the husband's as it was the wife's.
6. Do not ignore God.
Look, nothing good ever comes from abandoning your faith. On the other extreme, it is dangerous to pretend you're not in severe emotional turbulence, and say things like, "God is good. Praise the Lord. Let us rejoice" etc, when your heart has turned to stone. Friend, He is your Father. Speak with Him with that at the fore of your mind. For a long time, I actually couldn't talk; I had no words. So all I did was weep. Some days all I managed was, "Jesus. Help." I was honest.
"I am bitter."
"You have broken me."
"I am so angry. Angry with you."
"I can't stop crying."
Continue to talk and talk to Him. In His inexplicable miraculous ways, He will begin to comfort you powerfully. No, the pain does not go away...I don't think it will, not here on earth. But you change. You begin to understand in a way you never have, that God sustains us minute by minute. If you were not in suffering, you would never need to meditate all that much on His carrying you in the shadow of His wings. If life was bliss 24/7, then how would you be able to cry out like David, "My soul thirsts for you."
God truly does turn all things for the good of those who love Him. He will turn your mourning into dancing. He shall give you beauty for ashes and strength for fear....peace for despair. He will. It might seem to take an entire lifetime, but He is faithful. So don't walk away. You will not know why He allowed it; and He owes us no explanations. He is God, and we are man. But away from Him, the grief will kill us.
7. Find a sisterhood.
You wouldn't believe how many of us there are. It is so important to speak with women who have endured this pain; because we understand one another exclusively. It helps remarkably to have another woman who has gone before you give you a hug, and cry with you. Few words are needed.
I'm available; you can e-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org
On Facebook, you can DM me on my page: www.facebook.com/theorchidblooms/
I can do coffee; I can come speak with a group of you. Just contact me and we can talk.
Also,please visit www.stillamum.com/
This is their mission statement:
Still A Mum is a charity that supports women and families dealing with miscarriages, stillbirth and infant loss. We operate in Africa, with our headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. We work to improve the care bereaved parents receive as well as create public awareness on child loss and how we should respond as a society.
Go to their blog to read stories of real women in Nairobi who have had miscarriages. It was a real comfort to me.
Then, please search for this book. I got mine on Kindle, but you can order a paperback off Amazon (which can deliver straight to your office by the way).
The author Becky Avella, is a miscarriage survivor and her story will sound just like your own. She's a Christian woman and her teaching of processing the loss biblically was exactly what I needed at the time when I was about to be shipwrecked.
Finally, this song has been my anthem since my first encounter with postpartum depression. The last four years have brought us grief we didn't think we would see in our entire life together. This song has grounded me countless times. You're going to need earphones, and in all likelihood, a box of tissue :).
All my love sisters. May Christ be your Rock in these dark times.
Christian, wife, mom, doctor, and an alien on earth, on my way to the city of God.