A year and four days before our first son's birth we lost our first baby to a miscarriage. I blogged about it here, at the encouragement of my counselor.
It's been 18 months and now I hold a sweet baby in my arms everyday and the ache is dulled. At the simple mention of someone else's loss though I remember so acutely. The physical pain and the ache in my chest.
I've spoken to a few people lately who have had their own version of this tragedy and want to speak to some things that have helped me walk through the pain. If you're asking, "I had a miscarriage and I'm hurting, what now?" I hope this helps you the way it helped me.
If you're grieving loss now, I want to tell you your pain is valid. It hurts. Don't listen if people say you should ignore the pain or just look at the bright side. It's ok to hurt. One day it might hurt less, but you don't need to be at "one day" today.
And you're not alone. There are people who will be with you as you grieve. Stick close to them. There are others who have felt the pain and understand you.
The first person I talked to when I knew I'd lost my baby was my mom, I knew she'd been through miscarriage and I wanted to know what to expect next. The first thing she told me was:
It's not your fault
Somehow she knew I had already run the thoughts through my head.
If I hadn't gone on that run.
I should have been on vitamins already.
Maybe that coffee I had before I knew I was pregnant...
I desperately wanted something to blame, and I guess I thought it would be best if it was me. Every. stupid. little. thing. I was sure had caused it.
But it wasn't my fault. She also told me that being pregnant--even though we lost the child--showed that there wasn't anything wrong with my husband or my ability to create a child. This was an immense encouragement as we had been hoping for a child for over two years. I know this isn't everyone's story, but it was an encouragement for us in ours.
J (my husband) and I took the next day off and got out of town. We also didn't tell anyone we didn't have to for a couple days. We just took some time to feel exactly what we felt. Some of the day we had fun. We laughed even. We contemplated beautiful things in art museums. And we cried whenever we felt like it.
A good friend of mine had a miscarriage about 6 months before us. She told me she and her husband named the child and I had told J their baby's name. When we were out of town he knew I was trying to think of a name. One that could be for a girl or a boy since we didn't know what gender it would have been. As we walked along the shore that day, J looked at me and told me the name he liked and amazingly... it was the same one I had going through my head: Charlie. We both knew it was right. So...
We named our baby.
This helped us on a couple levels. First, it made our pain more tangible. This wasn't just a fetus. This was our baby. We had dreamed of it's first steps and it's first words. This was the loss of a friend. Even if we'd only had a few memories with Charlie, this was a human being with which we'd dreamed of relationship. Second, it gave us a way to communicate with others and each other. Instead of having to say, "I'm feeling sad today about the miscarriage." We could say, "I'm really missing Charlie today." As in the case of my first point, it personalized the situation. Instead of saying "that thing over there that happened" it became, "this thing here that is close to my heart."
My number one piece of tangible advice for anyone who has had a miscarriage who wants to move through the pain to come to the other side is to name your baby.
The next night we watched a funny movie together and laughed and laughed. The credits rolled and we looked at each other and just... sobbed. We've never cried together like that before. We let everything out. Every last tear we could cry we cried good and hard. But honestly what I think was so important about that night was that we let ourselves feel it all. The laughable good and the snotty ugly. Just like the movie "Inside Out"--Joy and Sadness came together that night.
We felt all the feels.
Yes, it's true. We were pretty much hot messes.
After we told our friends we'd lost the baby we were showered with love and encouragement. One of my favorite comments was, "If you need to get away from life for a bit, I'd love to take you to the movies. I know sometimes I just need to get away." It was so nice to have someone understand I wasn't up for hanging out and having a good time, but I also wasn't up for being alone. (This is a good start for how to help someone experiencing loss. You don't have to have the right words--in fact you can't. Just be there.)
Another comment we got from a friend was that they knew someone who had purchased a Christmas ornament in honor of their child. I loved this idea, but it wasn't quite Christmas and I wanted something that would stay up year round while still not being emotionally intrusive.
We bought something in the child's honor.
I settled on the ampersand sign (&) because it was no longer just us. It was us & one more. I looked at rings, necklaces, and finally settled on a print of the sign to hang in our home. I love seeing it. It's like a secret between the three of us. When guests come over, it just looks like art and no one asks, "Oh, what is that for?" But I know.
We lost the baby in November and weren't pregnant again until March which meant that when Charlie's due date came I was starting to show. Still, I don't believe this new child was a replacement child for the one we lost any more than I could think our next child would replace the one I hold in my arms today. So...
We celebrated Charlie's due date.
We made cookies and sang happy birthday, watched a movie together and cried one more time.
We know that it probably won't make sense to "celebrate" Charlie's due date in any future years, I can only imagine that being confusing to our kids. But I can say, that I will never forget the due date. And I'm okay with that. (I heard Shauna Niequist speak on her miscarriages once and she gave me the courage to celebrate due dates.)
I can and probably will continue to grieve Charlie.
Yes, all the things people say are true, if I'd had Charlie in this world I never would know my son, Noah. I love having Noah as a part of my life. I don't want life without Noah. But that doesn't mean it's bad or wrong to grieve Charlie. I won't wallow in that grief as I won't in any grief. But I won't stuff it or refuse to feel what I feel.
Today I'm grateful for the joy, the tears, the heartaches and especially for N's butterfly kisses. This is my life. It's my story. It's brutiful. Some days suck. Some are wonderful. That's my life and I love it.
And when you DO find yourself pregnant again...
It was a process for us emotionally to be ready to think of having another. We had to fully grieve and talk through so much. Even still, when the pregnancy test turned up positive, there was a little choke emotionally. There was a little whisper that said: What if it happens again?
J asked me not to share with anyone until we'd seen the doctor. I understood. But since no one knew, I felt it was something to hide and not be happy about. I got really confused. I wanted to be happy, but I was also scared, and still sad about Charlie. One day I asked J if we could at least be excited about it even if it was just us. He choked up a bit.
"I still miss Charlie." He said.
"I do too." I said.
We cried together again.
The next morning J came and kissed my tummy and said good morning to the baby. I was so surprised. He told me he hadn't realized he'd had more grieving to do and felt like it was keeping him from accepting a new child. He said he was ready to separate the two, that he could grieve one and celebrate another and that both could happen at the same time.
You don't have to be over the pain of one to accept the joy of a new.
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