sharing your stories and remembering your children
Fifteen years ago, I woke up bleeding. I had only had a positive pregnancy test a few days before, and we had only been married a few months and weren't trying to get pregnant. We were still very much wrapping our heads around the idea of a baby, but it had never crossed our innocent minds that we might not even end up with a baby in our arms in nine months. Suddenly, that morning, my heart was racing and we were driving to the ER, where they would confirm a "spontaneous abortion." I hated seeing that word "abortion" on my paperwork and wondered later if my bloodwork showed that I had really even been pregnant.
We hadn't yet had our first OB appt. (It was scheduled for a few days later, and of course the doctor’s office called to remind me of it the next week, even though the pregnancy was over). We hadn't seen a heartbeat. I only had one positive pregnancy test and a few other symptoms.
I've always wondered, because of this, if there really was a baby or for some reason my body just thought I was pregnant. It is surely hard to see the heartbeat and then have a loss, but it's also hard not to have ever seen that heartbeat - at least for me.
Clearly, we had thought we were going to have a baby, though, and we mourned that loss. The baby we weren't sure we wanted we suddenly wanted more than anything. We hadn't yet said anything to our parents, and when we called them that evening to tell them of the early morning visit to the ER, they were full of unhelpful comments like, "Well, it's probably for the best since you just got married," "You're young and have plenty of time to have children," and even, "Well, I'm not ready to be a grandpa yet anyway." What?!
Physically, I was fine pretty quickly, but emotionally, I didn't know what to make of my great desire to get pregnant again as soon as I could. Now aware that every pregnancy didn't end in a baby, I couldn't stop worrying that we were going to face this cross again and again. All of my thoughts about the future and prudential "family planning" were out the window. I just wanted a healthy baby, or babies, as quickly as possible.
We didn't really talk a lot about our changed perspective (that I can remember), but we made no effort to avoid pregnancy from that point forward and I happily, and frighteningly, got pregnant on my next (delayed) cycle. The early days were met with much trepidation and I said a prayer every time I pulled my pants down to use the bathroom. I did have some spotting (of course while we were out of town and I couldn't easily get to the doctor), but it resolved without any issues.
Nine months later, we welcomed our first child (do we call her that? I never know...) with no major complications, thanks be to God. We've gone on to have six more children since then and no more losses. But that first pregnancy ending how it did changed everything for us. We didn't really plan to have a large family. I didn't really think of children as a gift from God, but really more of a semi-controlled natural consequence of marriage. I quickly learned that we're not in control, and even without further losses, have only become more and more aware of that as I've watched dear friends struggle with infertility, miscarriages, and stillbirth.
Other friends struggle with more frequent, unexpected pregnancies than they feel they can handle. Or spouses who aren't open to more children that a mother desperately wants. Or health issues that make it extremely imprudent to seek out another pregnancy even when more children are desperately wanted by both parents. Crosses and suffering abound when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth, but so does joy. Some people just get different proportions of both, for reasons only God can know. Even well removed from my loss, I have never really been able to enjoy pregnancy, and I wonder how much of that is just because of that first stressful experience of it.
You never forget the children you lost even when you have a houseful of others. Every other pregnancy and child born is "impacted" by that loss--you never stop thinking about how if that child had survived, you likely wouldn't have had "x" or "y" child--or maybe all of them if that loss hadn't come first. I don't know exactly why God "put us through" that first loss, but today I can primarily look back with a feeling of gratitude, as without that experience, I expect I would be leading a completely different life. I would be a very different person. I never would have accepted children so willingly, joyfully, and thankfully from the Lord. I would not have such firsthand experience and awareness about how much in our lives we cannot control. I would not be surrounded by all of this love without that spell of sorrow 15 years ago. Not that I am really glad we went through it, but the final fruits feel beautiful this morning, even amid the sadness that always comes with this day,
Written anonymously by a loving mother and friend of the EPLA on the 15th anniversary of her loss.
By: Stephanie Gordon EPLA Editor
During the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, I am often longing for a moment of silence, especially during these moments leading up to Christmas day. Silence is a hard thing to come by with three children. But with the chaos that comes with Eloise, Flora, and Jack, I am quickly reminded of my first Christmas after experiencing miscarriage. It was a heart wrenching Christmas. I imagined what it would be like if my baby were there. I dreamed of their first Christmas ornament and their first Christmas gift. I thought of how happy my husband and I would’ve been that first Christmas morning if our baby was there. It was a hard Christmas.
The following Christmas, after lots of tears and therapy, I was in a better place. I still longed for our baby, but I had time to grieve and process. My husband and I bought an angel wing ornament to hang on our tree to honor and remember our baby.
I think for most, Christmas trees are sentimental and filled with ornaments that highlight moments and memories throughout the years. If you have lost a baby and feel ready, honoring your baby with an ornament might be therapeutic for you this holiday season. After loss, it doesn’t feel fair to move on with life and forget about what happened. Honoring my baby year after year at Christmastime has become a tradition. I have many friends who hang their “angel baby” ornaments on their trees. They are all so beautiful.
Each Christmas, my husband and I and our three children, remember the baby we lost by hanging the ornament together. Though the ornament used to bring me tears, I am comforted in knowing that we will be reunited with our baby one day. Our girls, who are six and five, know that the ornament is to honor their brother or sister in heaven. The angel wings have become a token of love for our family.
I pray that you have hope if you are experiencing loss this Christmas. It is not fair, and it’s ok to be heart broken. I was once where you are, and know exactly how you feel. I hope you can rest in the promises of Christmas. There is hope, love, joy, and peace in your days ahead.
Stephanie Gordon is a paleo food enthusiast, wife, full-time SAHM of two girls with one on the way, marketing professional, and blogger. You can follow her on Instagram at @stephgordonblog.
By: Emily Carrington EPLA President and Founder
Women and families often describe miscarriage as an isolating experience. Unfortunately, that isolation has only been exacerbated this year by COVID precautions and restrictions. Now, people find themselves grieving alone without even the company of their normal routines and social circles. As we enter the holiday season, it is more important than ever to care for our grieving friends. Here are some ideas how:.
Emily Carrington is a freelance writer, wife, mother, and founder of the EPLA.
By: Maria Servold EPLA Editor
On Nov. 25, Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, announced in a New York Times opinion piece that she suffered a miscarriage in July. The duchess follows in the footsteps of other brave women who have spoken publicly about their miscarriages, encouraging conversation and healing about the once-taboo subject.
Including heartbreaking and all-too-familiar details about the sudden onset of cramping one morning, Markle reflected on the loss, its impact on her and her family, and the isolation the pandemic compounded on the miscarriage.
One of the most important points Markle makes in her piece is that it is dangerous to live too alone, particularly in times of suffering. She writes:
This, I realize, is the danger of siloed living — where moments sad, scary or sacrosanct are all lived out alone. There is no one stopping to ask, “Are you OK?”
Throughout 2020, we have all felt “siloed,” due to sickness or stay-at-home orders or fear. But this is not how we are meant to live, especially when we are suffering. During a miscarriage, a mother and her family are in special need of support. During a pandemic, it is necessarily harder to spend time with loved ones, but that does not mean that sufferings like miscarriages will be put on hold.
In times like this, it is especially important that mothers suffering loss reach out to those around them (in person or virtually) to find support. If you know someone who has suffered a miscarriage, ask how you can help them. Maybe it’s just a phone call or meal delivery, but it will make a difference if you ask, “Are you OK?,” as Markle said.
This year, the Early Pregnancy Loss Association has worked hard to continue supporting women and families suffering early pregnancy loss, despite the pandemic. A new partnership with Metro Detroit Share in Michigan allowed us to distribute 500 small Miscarriage Care Kits to women around the state - our largest partnership and care kit distribution to date.
We will continue to support women and families, no matter the difficulties, and we thank Duchess Meghan for her brave words and encouragement of other mothers.
Maria Servold is an Editor at the EPLA, Assistant Director of the Herbert H. Dow II Program in American Journalism, and Lecturer in Journalism at Hillsdale College.