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 Brittni Faircloth Guest Writer
I was an only child growing up. I never babysat or had any real experience with babies. That is not ideal when wanting to start your own family! I always told myself growing up that I would never have kids. I never saw myself as being the motherly type.
I met my husband in 2011 and we got married in 2016. In August 2019, we decided to start trying to have a baby. I see all over social media the seemingly high rates of infertility, so when I found I was pregnant just a few months later, I was shocked!
I found a doctor, and she was highly recommended from what I saw online. We were so excited about our little baby that we told all of our close friends and family almost immediately. I called the doctor to set up my first appointment, but they didn’t want me to come in until I was 8 weeks along. This way, they could see the baby better on the ultrasound. I didn’t think twice about this, but I wish I would’ve. We anxiously waited for Nov. 6, 2019, to come so that we could see our little jelly bean for the first time! We had the whole day planned. We both took the day off from work, our appointment was around 11 a.m., and we planned a photoshoot around 3 p.m. After our photoshoot, we were going to announce it to the rest of our family, friends, and the whole world if we could.
Nov. 6 came, and it will be a day I will never forget. We did the whole routine checkup, answering tons of questions, etc. It was finally time to do the ultrasound. I laid on the table with my husband sitting in a chair by my side. The nurse inserted the ultrasound wand, and there it was! Our little jelly bean. My husband grabbed my arm and shook it excitedly. As soon as I saw the screen I immediately knew something wasn’t right. I couldn’t even form words before the nurse numbly said, “The baby is measuring small, and there isn’t a heartbeat. I will go get the doctor so she can talk to you about your options.” She pulled the ultrasound wand out and walked out.
Just like that. Like it was no big deal. I just laid on the table unable to do anything or say anything. My husband put his head in his hands sitting in the chair next to me and it was just silence for what felt like hours. We finally got it together and I got up and got dressed. The doctor came in and said that she was sorry and discussed our options. First, we could wait for the baby to naturally come out. Second, they could give me medication to force the baby out. Third, I could have a D&C procedure to surgically remove the baby. She said for us to think it over and to let them know what we wanted to do. Then they sent us on our way.
My head was spinning. I couldn’t even process what she was saying to us or what I was feeling or thinking. I was shocked at how nonchalant they acted. It felt like we were just another number to them. This tragedy might be something they see multiple times a day, but we were completely blindsided. I had no complications, no pains, and no warning signs that this would be the outcome for us. Maybe I was too naïve about it. Miscarriages happen but I never once even thought that it could happen to us. No one in my direct family has had this happen, so miscarriage wasn’t something we even talked about.
One of the worst things we had to do was call everyone that knew and tell them the bad news. It was awful. We repeatedly had to say over and over again that we lost the baby. My mom came over that afternoon to be there for us. She talked to us about getting a second opinion. I didn’t even think about this at the time because my head was flooded with emotions and questions that I couldn’t even comprehend. Maybe we got the dates wrong. Maybe the baby was only X amount of weeks instead of X like we thought. We didn’t want to decide to have surgery or force the baby about via medication if there was still the slightest chance of a positive outcome. I didn’t get my hopes up, but we decided to give it a try.
We called the doctor that a previous OBGYN I had used suggested. Looking back at it, I wish we would’ve gone to them first. They were able to see us the very next day. Going to their office was a complete 180 from going to the first office. They were so compassionate and sympathetic and made us feel comfortable even though we were going through something traumatic. They did the ultrasound and confirmed what the first doctor told us. The baby had stopped progressing, and there wasn’t a chance of a miracle. They even gave us ultrasound pictures; something the first doctor neglected to do.
We asked my mom to go with us to this appointment because she is a question asker, and I felt like I needed her there in case our heads were too in the clouds to comprehend anything.
This doctor strongly recommended having the surgery. He said he encourages patients who have miscarriages around the 9 week mark to have the surgery, due to how dangerous a natural passing can be for the mother -- mainly because of excessive bleeding, cramping, and the possibility of hemorrhaging. The first doctor never told us this! I was terrified to do the surgery. Once I noticed my husband asking more and more questions about the surgery, I knew he would rather me to do it since it was the safer option.
My surgery was scheduled the very next day. My husband, mom, stepdad, and grandparents were there. The nurses did my work up, and everyone gave me a kiss and left the room. I had a few moments by myself, and I remember putting my hand on my belly and telling the baby that I was so sorry that this was happening. Before I knew it, I was being wheeled back to the operating room. Honestly, the work up and waking up from anesthesia took longer than the actual surgery did. My nurses were so awesome and kind. They helped me from check in to helping me get in the car to go home. I was told to be prepared for a lengthy time of heavy bleeding and cramping and was prescribed a few medications for pain. Luckily, the side effects weren’t too terrible for me.
Three days. That was the time span from being super excited for our first appointment, finding out we lost the baby, getting a second opinion, and having surgery. It all happened so fast. We got so many texts and calls from family and friends checking on us. People even sent us food. I think I was on an adrenaline rush from everything because I was actually OK for the first little bit. Yes, I cried a bunch, but I was OK. I think my survival mode kicked in because I didn’t really have any other choice but to be OK. I felt like I just survived something extremely tragic and if I could handle that, I could take on anything the world threw at me.
The sadness really didn’t start to set in until a few weeks later. I found myself getting very emotional; I would cry all the time. I was feeling extremely anxious, and I would get overwhelmed very easily. Women get post-partum depression after giving birth but what about women that experience a miscarriage? I am not sure if there is any depression named after experiencing a miscarriage. If there isn’t, there should be, because it is just as serious and I definitely had it. I had so many emotions at one time that it was frightening. Going from extremely sad to even embarrassed when people talked about my miscarriage. Why embarrassment? I have no idea, but I felt it. I felt like I failed and that I was already a bad mother because I couldn’t protect my baby.
The only person that I could really talk to about it was my husband. He was the only one that really knew what I was feeling. I couldn’t talk to any women in my direct family because no one had experienced this and they couldn’t really relate to what I was feeling. Even my husband told me that he couldn’t really understand what I was going through because it was different for me. He lost a baby too, but I was dealing with it emotionally and physically while he was just dealing with it emotionally. He was right: it hit me a lot harder than it hit him. The emotions had a longer impact on me than it did him.
Everyone says to not blame yourself, but how can you not? How can you not blame yourself when you were the one carrying the baby? One of the hardest things for me is the “not knowing" aspect of it. We will never know what really happened and why we lost the baby. We will never know if it was a boy or a girl. We will never know what his or her personality would’ve been like.
One thing that haunts me is how silent everyone is about miscarriages. It is like no one wants to talk about it or bring it up. Through this experience I have learned that many of my friends have had this happen to them, but they never said anything. It’s like there’s a stigma around it. I felt like everyone was walking on eggshells around me. This needs to end!
Women everywhere shouldn’t feel isolated or alone through this difficult time. It just makes it worse. We need more support groups and more people that will openly share their stories to help others. We need more awareness so women aren’t blindsided like I was.
After my surgery, my period cycles were not regular, so it was hard to tell ovulation dates, fertile windows, etc. It was so frustrating when I would get my period. I was so frustrated that we were having to start the process all over. I spent two months feeling sick and dealing with pregnancy symptoms and had to start all over.
It took a little bit of time, but I am now four months pregnant with my rainbow baby! So far everything is perfectly fine, and the baby is healthy.
As soon as I found out I was pregnant I called my doctor. I am sticking with my “second opinion” doctor’s office, the one that performed my surgery, because we love them so much. They had me come in the very next day to confirm the pregnancy and do blood work. If the first doctor would’ve done this during my first pregnancy, it possibly could’ve prevented my miscarriage because we discovered that my progesterone level was too low. They prescribed me medication, and I started taking it immediately.
After further research I found out that low progesterone levels cancan lead to miscarriage. This could’ve been the reason for my miscarriage last year. Unfortunately, by the time the first doctor decided to see me, it was too late. Obviously, we will never know for sure if this is the reason for the miscarriage, but it makes sense in my head.
In February 2020, I decided to start seeing a therapist to help me cope with all of these emotions. She has helped me get through it step by step, and I am in a lot better place mentally and emotionally. I will say that I have learned so much from this experience. I had no idea how common miscarriages are. According to my doctor, every 1 in 4 women will experience this. It is also common to experience a miscarriage on your first pregnancy and then have a completely healthy pregnancy after a miscarriage. If you are currently experiencing this now, just know it will get better. Only time and support can heal a pain like this. Keep your chin up, momma!
By Stephanie Gordon EPLA Editor
When I went through my miscarriage, I didn’t share the news with the world until years later. I felt like talking about miscarriage was still a silent topic – even in 2012. When I shared the news with my 86-year-old grandma, Rosemary, she told me she, too, had lost a baby four months into a pregnancy. Her loss was something we never talked about until recently.
In 1962, she became pregnant with her third child. Four months later, she lost her baby. At the time of her miscarriage, she had two healthy girls.
“I didn’t talk to anyone about it,” Rosemary said. “Back then, miscarriage was kept a secret and wasn’t talked about. It wasn’t a good experience.”
My grandma worked in a local school system at the time of her miscarriage. She made an appointment with her doctor before going to work one morning. She was experiencing blood loss, and wanted to determine if she was losing her child.
“My doctor confirmed that I was losing the baby,” she said. “Back then, there weren’t options like there are today. The laws were different. I felt so helpless.”
If you have experienced miscarriage, you know that there are options for mothers experiencing loss. A few options would be to pass the baby naturally, a D&C (dilation and curettage), or a pill, usually misoprostol, to help complete the miscarriage. My grandma’s only option was to wait to pass the baby naturally. To this day, she believes her doctor wished he could have helped more.
She continued to work even though she was losing her child. She remembered crying to her doctor as she waited for her baby to pass. He again told her that he could do nothing to help her.
A few days after bleeding began, my grandma passed her baby during the night at home. My grandpa stayed by her side as she delivered the baby. Apparently in the ’60s, it was common practice to be admitted to a hospital after miscarriage for close monitoring.
“I stayed in the hospital for a day-and-a-half,” Rosemary said. “I felt so relieved that it was all over. I went home and it was fine.”
My grandma went on to tell me that back then, women didn’t talk to their doctor, family, or friends about the things they do now. This was interesting to me. Was this a generation that just dealt with the situations they were put in with little support? Were they forced to bottle up their emotions and act like nothing happened? Sort of like an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality? It felt as though it was.
After my grandma’s miscarriage, her doctor said that she wouldn’t be able to have more healthy children. I’m not sure what made him think that – maybe because she had experienced miscarriage. But, two years later, she became pregnant with my mother. She birthed one last healthy child, and I am so incredibly happy she’s here.
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: Sonja Bindus
I was pregnant with my first child and was very excited for her arrival. I was a teacher at that time, working with toddler/preschool-aged children. There was much relief when I had passed through the first trimester with no complications or issues.
It was the end of my second trimester when I became very ill with pneumonia. My cough was so severe that my doctor considered hospitalizing me because he was concerned my oxygen levels were low. However, I seemed to progress in my recovery with antibiotics, so my doctor was no longer worried about my health or my baby. My husband and I drew a breath of relief and continued on with anticipation of the arrival of our baby.
A few weeks passed and a friend of ours, who was an ultrasound tech, offered to do an ultrasound so we could have a peek at our baby. Of course we jumped at the chance. At that appointment we would hear some devastating news. As soon as my friend started the ultrasound, I noticed her face and knew immediately something was terribly wrong. I asked her if my baby had died, and she sadly confirmed.
Because I was 20 weeks along, the process of delivering my baby was by far the most difficult thing I had ever faced. Fortunately, I had a wonderfully supportive doctor and nursing staff who tended to me through 12 hours of induced labor. After a few minutes of holding my baby, I had to say goodbye to the most beautiful child I had carried and loved. The loss left a hole in my soul that I will never be able to fully replace.
As a part of my aftercare, my doctor ordered a series of bloodwork. The bloodwork revealed I had CMV, or Cytomegalovirus. CMV is a virus that is prevalent with children under the age of five. Because I had daily exposure to children of that age, I knew I had contracted it from one of my students. This stirred up a new set of emotions within me.
My first instinct was to get pregnant again as soon as possible. However, I learned that until my body started producing antibodies against CMV, it was not safe for me to become pregnant. That took about six months.After my body began producing antibodies, my focus became self-care, health, and conceiving. God definitely knew my soul needed healing and blessed us with a healthy pregnancy and delivery the following year.
The loss of my child changed me dramatically. The sanctity of life became much clearer after loss, and I treasured it even more than before. For a while I became obsessed with germs and keeping my hands clean, especially at work. While I’m still mindful of clean hands, I now focus more on general wellness strategies for the school I am now the director of. It is my goal to educate parents on how they can best care for their sick child and also on the reasons sick children should not attend school. There are many people who have compromised immune systems, and they are at greater risk for developing severe symptoms of viral and bacterial infections.
My advice to parents who have lost a child would be to find a way to grieve together and with others closest to you. The tragedy of loss can only be understood by those who have experienced great loss of their own. Also, faith was a big component in my healing, and it carried me through my darkest days.
I did not share my story with many people, but most people knew my story because I was halfway through my pregnancy when it happened. Not many approached me or talked with me about it, other than saying, “I’m so sorry.” I did reach out to people who had miscarried and mentioned to them I had experienced loss like theirs. Sharing the whole story was very painful and mostly made me uncomfortable. I thought at one time that I should seek out a support group, but there wasn’t anything close to our hometown at that time - 23 years ago.
I proceeded to have three children and kept my focus on their lives and to be present with them each day. My children know about their sister that died, and from time to time her name, Emaline, comes up. She is never forgotten and I think of her often and look forward to reuniting with her one day in heaven.
Sonja Bindus resides in Hillsdale, MI, and is a wife and mother to three children. Sonja, a Hillsdale College alumna, is the head of Early Childhood Education and the director of the Mary Randall Preschool at Hillsdale College.
By: Clara Meli
I took a deep breath and began to rethink what I was about to do. If I asked this, would I be an insensitive daughter? But, if I didn’t ask, would I be an uncaring sister? Some questions are better left unanswered, but I wanted to know. I swallowed hard. I whispered, “Did they have names?”
As a child, I asked a lot of questions. Information delighted me, and if something confused me, I would always strive to understand it. One day, I heard my brother mutter about another brother he would have had if… If what? I failed to grasp the rest of his speech. Something happened, and everyone seemed to know but me. If I had another brother, where was he? Did he leave us? How could he? How did I not know about him? Why did we never speak of him?
After this, I came to my mom seeking answers. In a way I can’t remember, it was conveyed to me that I had two siblings who were lost in an event titled “miscarriage.” I was young, and I was unable to fully comprehend the extent of what this meant right away. My brain needed time to process this information, and slowly it began to make sense to me. I finally connected the dots when I was playing with my friends. I stopped playing abruptly, and my face displayed concern and anguish. My companions pleaded with me to tell them what was wrong, but I couldn’t articulate the words. Two of my siblings were dead. They were gone, and they were not coming back.
When I realized this, I fell into fear. I assumed talking about this would upset people. Surely, Mom did not wish to discuss what happened, so I would do everything possible to avoid alluding to what I knew. This would be a traumatic memory that we all would need to repress. I didn’t wish to cause more pain, so instead of addressing the pain, I decided to ignore it. To prevent future grief, the elephant in the room had to be ignored and forgotten.
Grief is an unusual concept. From my experience, grief feels as if my internal organs have been carved out of my body. It makes me feel empty. When I connect this to miscarriage, my heart aches, and I can’t imagine how a mother feels after this happens. The physicality of the emptiness is much more real, and the grief is personal. How could I let the control of my curiosity manipulate me to rub salt into such a deep wound?
While these were my initial thoughts, I didn’t want to forget about my siblings. On the contrary, I desired to know everything about them. When were their birthdays? Were they girls or boys? Did they have names?
There was no way I could walk away from this, but I resolved to approach the matter gently. I waited for a peaceful moment before I brought my questions to her. She looked directly into my eyes. Her voice broke a little. “One of them was too young to tell the gender,” she slowed her speech as she continued, “but the other was a boy, and I always like to think of him as Timothy.”
His name was Timothy. I did have another brother, and his name was Timothy. I wondered if we would have called him “Timmy.” Would he have been my close friend? Would my brother and he have been best friends? What would Timothy like to do? What about my other sibling? Would he or she have been my friend? What would he or she like to do?
I found myself missing people I had never met. Their lives began and ended before I was even a thought in my parents’ minds, yet I feel the pain of their loss. A multitude of questions continue to attack my brain. I don’t have all the answers, but that is okay. I know that my siblings were created in the image of God and their lives had a purpose. Though I miss them and wonder about what might have been, my disconnected sorrow allows me to look forward to the day when I will meet them.
Clara Meli is a Professional Writing major at Cedarville University.
By: Chelsea Luedecking
For the last 31 years, October 15th has been an ordinary day. The older I get, the more I appreciate these ordinary days - but not this year. October 15 represents pregnancy and infant loss day. This year marks the first year I knew this day even existed because it’s the first year since we lost you and became members of the club no one wants to be a part of.
We should be putting the finishing touches on our baby’s nursery and preparing our sons for their new sibling - instead the only thing I have left of you is a small diamond I wear on my neck next to two others that symbolize your brothers. As simple as it is, it brings me overwhelming comfort. You are with me wherever I go, and today is the day I finally have the courage to share you with the world.
Our society has no clue how to deal with miscarriage. It makes people uncomfortable and one way to avoid this is to just not talk about it. By ignoring it, it’s almost as if I’m pretending you never existed - but my sweet love, you were loved from the very moment you were created. I’m sorry I can’t find the strength to share more about you - to wonder who you would have been, if you’d share the same bright blue eyes as your brothers; your dads loving demeanor or my empathetic heart. You deserved more than I was able to give you - but you will always be a part of our story.
For me, losing you has caused so much guilt and shame. Everything runs through my head. My baths were too hot. I drank too much kombucha. I was too stressed. I worked too hard and slept too little. I should have known. How did I not know what was happening to my body? I’m so sorry, my love. We all know none of it would have made a difference, but then the doubt sets in. Maybe. Maybe not - but maybe. The guilt for my boys. I’m sorry I’ve been detached as your mama lately. I’m hurting so much for reasons you’re too young to understand. I’m trying my best but I know it’s not good enough. I’m sorry for the sibling you’ll never know, but I can promise you, you’ll meet one day.
Our society has no clue how to deal with miscarriage. It makes people uncomfortable and one way to avoid this is to just not talk about it. By ignoring it, it’s almost as if I’m pretending you never existed - but my sweet love, you were loved from the very moment you were created.
The guilt for my husband. I’m sorry for falling apart. For the nights I need to cry and be alone. I know you’re experiencing this loss with me, but it feels more raw for me. I’m sorry I can’t be there for you how I need you there for me, it’s not fair. None of this is fair, but it’s our new reality.
I believe with my WHOLE heart that God makes no mistakes. Your life had a purpose and happened for a reason. Although I don’t know that reason yet, I pray every.single.day that God exposes his truth for your life to me so I can start to understand why. Your life has completely changed my perspective. I find joy in small moments, I love your brothers harder, I cherish each day, I worry less, I admire your dad more, I care less about what others think of me, and I trust God on a deeper level. Your precious, short life has forever changed me.
I hope your story brings comfort to others. That suffering mamas read about you and feel emboldened to grieve aloud if they need to. Through these reflections, maybe they will see how much I love and value them and their miscarried children. Regardless, Little One, of how your story affects others, I hold on to one thing above all else: you will always be my baby, and I will always be your mama.
Chelsea Luedecking is a Hillsdale native and Hillsdale College graduate. She is currently on a stay at home mom sabbatical from her work as a school counselor.
Chelsea and her husband, Michael, and live in Jackson, MI. They have two beautiful boys, Maxwell (6) and Hendrix (3) with their expected rainbow due this Christmas!
By Rachelle Williams
We were ecstatic. We had been trying and scheduling and planning. Baby number three, our final baby and the missing piece in our family. We were screaming with excitement when the Dollar Store pregnancy test was positive, though I knew I was pregnant before I saw the lines.
Our love for this baby was huge and overwhelming. She was immediately included in conversations about the family and had a solid place in all of our lives, even though she was a tiny peanut growing in my womb. She was so very wanted and already a sister, granddaughter, and niece. I, being ridiculously Type A, was already thinking logistics, how to fit three car seats in the van, and when to find a midwife for my first visit. We were so happy.
I was super sick as usual, as I had been with both of my other pregnancies, and knew that everything was normal. I felt exactly the same. When I finally came out of the fog and started keeping down food around 11 weeks, I was so relieved. At 12 weeks, I had a dot of spotting and thought nothing of it, but as the day progressed it continued. I nervously cried to my husband, “I think I’m having a miscarriage. This is impossible.”
But then it started, the cramping, the contractions, the bleeding, and there was no denying it. It was So. Hard. It was labor, and hard, and messy. I was moaning through each contraction just like birth. It was a birth. Except I knew my baby was dead. I hovered over the toilet sobbing and moaning with my husband. My sister came. It was all fog. My body pushed. I panicked and flushed the toilet. I flushed my baby down the toilet. I was crying and the contractions kept coming and I pushed out a few more pieces of tissue before it finally ended.
I am a birth doula, and have helped many women through pregnancy and childbirth, but nothing prepared me for this. I sent a message to the only midwife in the area that I knew (we were new to the area and didn’t yet have a regular care provider) and realized I needed a rhogam shot because I’m RH negative. My husband has a positive blood type, while I’m negative. There was a chance that my body would see a positive blood typed fetus as a foreign body, and make antibodies against the baby. The rhogam shot would protect future pregnancies from harmful antibodies. She connected me with a midwife with hospital privileges in Jackson who could help.
My mom came. I was a mess. She was only 12 weeks old but she was ours, we were ready, she was our third.
I think I bled for around three or four weeks, and, to be honest, I didn’t want to stop bleeding because that meant she was really gone. We tried our best to explain it all to our other two children, but we were at a loss. After some time, we named her, and that helped, but like any death, grieving is messy and long and confusing.
I still cry sometimes, four years later, and it always catches me off guard with the intensity of my feelings. The older kids still talk about her by name every now and again, about the baby who died in mommy’s tummy. They still ask questions. We have since had two more children, twins, perfectly born just shy of a year after our loss. Our family is full, complete, and so crazy loud! I wear a slim band of rose gold on my right pinky with her name and birthdate engraved inside, and I know in some way she will always be remembered and loved.
July 4, 2015
Rachelle has four kids and is raising them along with milk cows, goats, and a barnyard full of mismatched chickens on a dirt road in Hillsdale County. Her passion is childbirth, and is a Doulas of North America birth doula, though she’s taken a break to stay at home with her children and support her husband, who is currently active duty Michigan Army National Guard.
By: Rachel Bulgrien
Only a few days ago I heard the words. Pointing at the screen, she said, “Here’s your baby, but I’m so sorry, there is no heartbeat.” In my gut I had already known. This was my third time after all; I knew the signs. It was eerily similar to the first but with one BIG difference.
The most common emotion we associate with miscarriage is grief - the horrible, heavy feeling that something precious and irreplaceable has been stolen from us. A piece of ourselves is suddenly missing. Our empty arms ache along with our cramping belly. We weep and we bleed. Our body feels broken right along with our heart.
After my first miscarriage in 2008, despite many reassurances and the doctor’s confident words to the contrary, I convinced myself that my unhealthy body betrayed my child, that his death was somehow my fault. After all, I had three living sons. The only thing different this time was my extra weight and the fact that I was still nursing our third child (only 8 months old). In my state of grief, it seemed clear that my body could not support feeding two babies. Why didn’t I wean the baby right away? So guilt heaped on top of the grief.
The next year we had another child, our first girl. Due to early onset preeclampsia, she was born at just 26 weeks gestation, weighing only 1 lb, 5 oz. The first three weeks we didn’t know if she would live. This only served to reinforce the notion that my ill health contributed to or even caused the harm to both children.
Though our daughter lived, a second miscarriage in 2011 sent me even deeper into guilt. Why could I conceive but not carry to term? Were we acting recklessly by risking another pregnancy that would only end in the death of yet another child? Fear and shame added to grief and guilt. But these thoughts were not ones I could speak out loud. I carried my shame in isolation.
It took much research, spiritual counseling, and time (so much time) to work through this false belief that, had I been healthier, those children may have lived, and our daughter would not have suffered such terrifying complications early in life. Though the guilt, shame, and fear are gone 10 years later and have been replaced by forgiveness, healing, and trust, the grief still lingers. Every time a friend, family member, or acquaintance shares her miscarriage story, whenever we take family pictures, the time my husband bought a lovely mother’s necklace for me, there was the old ache, the sadness, the longing. It’s still there.
But God always works things out to our good! We welcomed another daughter in 2013 and twin girls in 2014. Seven beautiful, living children and two in the arms of Jesus. We love having a big family! We celebrate every child knowing what a precious gift each one is. But there is more sadness in our story and more guilt and shame because it happened again.
This year (2019) my husband and I both turned 40. Our twins are almost five. We have moved out of the baby, toddler, potty training, up-in-the-middle-of-the-night years into teens, tweens, and school-age children. A new and exciting season of life for all of us, living out the life we’d dreamed of as newlyweds. My husband landed his dream job two years ago. In February, we moved into our dream home on our dream property. God provided beyond our wildest imagination! Though still homeschooling the four girls, I decided to go back to school and pursue the Master’s degree I’d been considering for several years. Everything was falling into place.
Then it happened, so unexpectedly. Just six weeks after my birthday - a positive pregnancy test - utter shock and the seeming death (or at least delay) of our future plans, especially mine. Truthfully, we didn’t want any more children. We didn’t want to go back to the baby days. We thought we were much closer to being grandparents than parents of a newborn.
Shame returned. We were guilty of not wanting this precious life. We know, truly know, the gift that each life is, but in our selfishness we didn’t want to be responsible for this one. Shock, disappointment, anger at ourselves that we weren’t more careful, frustrated by this change in plans, fearful of what others will think or say behind our backs and even to our faces.
“They’re 40. What are they thinking!”
“They already have seven. How many more do they want?”
“I thought you had that taken care of.”
“You ought to know how that happens by now.”
But we love children. We’re already raising seven. What’s one more? Forty isn’t so old. We’re financially stable and in better health now. God’s timing is not our timing. His ways are not our ways. We must continue to trust. He will provide again. All the layers of emotion were suddenly present - love, fear, doubt, excitement, pride, anger, uncertainty, confidence - so many opposites. How can one person feel such polar opposites at the same time?
As the weeks went by, the pleasant emotions grew and the unpleasant ones began to fade, but they still lingered quietly in the background. At 11 weeks, 5 days, I was hit with a terrible migraine, the head splitting, light sensitivity, nauseating kind. The same kind I get with big hormonal shifts.
The kind I had just a few months ago that was the first indication of pregnancy. The next day brought light spotting, but I still had hope. I rationalized. Spotting isn’t that uncommon in early pregnancy. I’ve had it before, and things were OK. But the next day, 12 weeks exactly, came with more blood, more than just spotting. A trip to the ER and the dreaded words.
“Here’s your baby, but I’m so sorry, there is no heartbeat.”
Tears and GRIEF, that tightness in my chest, holding my breath to keep back the sobs, not wanting to embarrass the poor ultrasound tech. After all, I had known before she said it. Then SHAME. I hadn’t wanted this child. I didn’t receive the news of his existence with joy or love him right away.
As I arrived home to share the news with the other children, there was also a great sense of RELIEF. We could go back to plan A; the next four years just became far less complicated. I can enjoy a glass of wine with my girlfriends as we celebrate turning 40 together this fall. JUDGMENT.
What kind of mother feels relief when her child dies and then thinks, well at least I can do the things *I* want. GUILT, again. This time it’s different. The grief is tempered by relief. I don’t know HOW to feel about that.
That afternoon passed quietly. Still in shock, we shared the news with family and close friends one by one. In the evening, when the quiet house felt so oppressive, I went out to the lakeshore to pray, to cry, to ask forgiveness, to feel all the things again, to question God. Why? Why does He give what we don’t think we want, then take it away when we realize He’s right and we do want it? What was the point of this three-month rollercoaster?
Questions unanswered, emotions raw, I tried to sleep. The contractions began at 3:30 a.m. They brought vomiting, diarrhea, blood, indistinguishable masses of tissue, clots, tears, groans. I spent all day in labor moving between recliner and toilet. I shared a small part of my experience on Facebook, grieving my child and grieving for all the other mothers who suffer this same loss, this same pain. The messages poured in - prayers, offers of help, sharing our grief, thank you messages for our courage and openness, other women sharing their story - human connection.
And that’s the gift - Human Connection. When we share our stories and our true emotions, we find out we’re not alone. Human beings are created to live in relationship. If we hide our unpleasant emotions from one another, we hide a piece of ourselves, we cannot be truly known by others, and we keep ourselves from the human connections that help us heal. We all have ugly parts that we think cannot be loved. Nothing is further from the truth.
In recent years I’ve learned the importance of sharing unpleasant emotions. When we say them out loud to another human being, telling it like it is, that's when healing begins to happen. We learn to navigate the unpleasant together. We move THROUGH the pain, shame, guilt, judgement, and grief instead of avoiding, covering up, pushing down, hiding, and isolating ourselves. Our suffering becomes a gift to others, an invitation for them to share their hurts, or to simply stand with us in the brokenness of our shared humanity.
This child, our tenth, the third that we will not meet until heaven, the one we didn’t want at first, this child has touched so many lives. His existence forced us to examine those old, unpleasant feelings, forced us to relive them at a time that would bring healing to our family and comfort to so many others. God brought him at just the right moment and numbered his days perfectly. We are so grateful for that gift.
Rachel is a wife, mother, and women’s transformational mentor working on a master’s degree in deaconess studies. She’s passionate about helping women uncover their unique identity in Christ while confronting their shame and self-judgement in exchange for human connection and genuine relationship. Rachel loves Jesus, her huge family, coffee, dark chocolate, CliftonStrengths, essential oils, and barefoot walks.
By: Emma Moseley
Recently, I had my second miscarriage in five months. Numb is the only word that comes to mind when I read that sentence. My first miscarriage was on March 16 of this year. We had conceived our little angel during our honeymoon. We decided to tell my son, who is 9, that he was going to be a big brother. Our journey to becoming a happy family of three, soon to be four, was going just as planned.
When I had my oldest son I was young, confused, and got into an unhealthy marriage because I thought it was the right thing to do. Now I was married for love, older and completely head over heels at the thought of becoming a mother of two and seeing my new husband become a father. I told myself things would be different.
I questioned that pregnancy so many times. I wasn’t sick, wasn’t tired. It just did not feel like my first pregnancy. When I saw the blood, my heart sunk because I knew. What I didn’t know was that the process to figure out if our baby would survive would take more than a week and a half. It seemed like an eternity. I’ve never known a greater sadness or fear until that time. The night before our ultrasound I didn’t sleep the entire night. We didn’t say anything to each other on the ride to the hospital. When we looked up at the ultrasound screen and saw an empty womb, the silence was stifling.
The next couple weeks were a blur. I spent my days at home with my husband and son, went back to work, and took care of my company, but I was just going through the motions. Life was moving on, but my body felt empty, my heart was sick, and I felt like I had never left the ultrasound room. I missed my baby.
It’s interesting how different people in your life act after they find out about a miscarriage. I was brutally honest about what had happened to anyone and everyone. The thought of keeping our child a secret made me sick to my stomach. So many people would say, “ you can always try again,” “you are so young,” “everything happens as it should.” The thought of trying again for another baby had not even occurred to me. How could I love another baby while I was grieving the one I just lost?
I’m pretty sure I read everything available on Google about miscarriage: how to cope, what caused it, the chances of having another miscarriage. It wasn’t until I stopped driving myself crazy and gave into my grief that I felt like I was beginning to heal. That’s when we ended up pregnant again.
I was shocked, I had just dealt with the death of two family members the week prior to the positive pregnancy test, so the last thing on my mind was another pregnancy. The day I saw the two lines, my husband asked if I was OK probably 100 times. That night we cried together and gave into the excitement of having a sweet baby on the way.
A week and a half, again. That’s what it took to lose our second baby. A week and a half of dreaming of new memories, planning on nursery decorations, thinking of baby names. It was taken away so quickly and hurt just as bad as the first. I am the 1-2 percent of women with recurrent miscarriages. I’m not sure if it will ever get easier, but I do know how grateful I am to already have had the chance to become a mother of a beautiful boy and now to two sweet angels. I know someday it will get easier, but today is not that day.
My name is Emma Moseley, I am a singer-songwriter and business owner. Also a mother to a beautiful 9 year old and wife to an amazing man.
Emma Moseley is a singer-songwriter and business owner. She is also a mother to a beautiful 9 year old and wife to an amazing man.
By: Rebekah Slonim
“I don’t believe that grief passes away. It has its time and place forever. More time is added to it; it becomes a story within a story. But grief and griever alike endure.” —Wendell Berry
I think about my two pregnancy losses every single day—the miscarriage three days after Christmas in my first year of marriage, the ectopic pregnancy on a beautiful fall day in my second year of marriage. Time, many supportive conversations with friends and family members, and a living baby have eased the pain and ache. The miscarriages no longer actively hurt me.
But the grief remains. After my first miscarriage, I struggled mightily with the idea of “moving on.” The perception I found lurking in my own mind and in some comments that people made to me was that, in order to grieve in a healthy manner, I had to “move on.” “Moving on” seemed to suggest “moving away”—to bury and ignore my horrible sense of emptiness, both physical and emotional.
Eventually I opted for the phrase “moving forward.” I came across the above Wendell Berry quotation and began to envision my grief as a chapter in the book of my life. I would not always be in the chapter of crying in the shower, sleeping in late to avoid the yearning, cringing at every pregnant woman in the grocery store, trying to change the topic if anyone was talking about baby-rearing.
Still, that chapter would always be part of the book. It was essential to the story. It would never be removed.
Grief shapes my life.
As a teenager, I remember rebelling against the idea in L. M. Montgomery’s “Rilla of Ingleside” that there would be “a little patient ache . . . in [Rilla’s] heart until she died” after her brother Walter was killed in battle in World War I. Yet now I live with a similar patient ache, most of the time submerged and not really a part of all the thoughts flitting through my mind about sleep training and dishes and my work as a copyeditor.
Still, that grief shapes my life. It’s always in the background, and it comes to the surface every now and then. A sense of loss attends me when I mark down my son’s family tree in his baby book, feeling like he is not really the first or only child, but knowing that in practice he is. The patient ache returns when I remember, acutely, how painful it is to see a dark expanse on a ultrasound screen rather than a tiny body with a tinier, pulsating heart. And every single time someone asks me how many children I have, or if I have children, I wince just a little. Barbara Crooker writes, “How many children do you have? / Two, we answer, thinking three, / Or three, we answer, thinking four; / They are always with us.” And so I answer one, thinking three.
Grief reflects a true sense of the way the world is.
To live with a sense of loss is not improper. We shouldn’t try to scrub it away. We live in a world full of loss. To have a particular loss imprinted upon us enables us to understand ourselves, other people, and the world around us better.
While in my grief I initially closed in upon myself, I also found that—gradually—the world began to open up to me in a new way. Before my miscarriages, I had never had a great loss—the kind of loss that turns your life upside-down, makes you confront your dreams and expectations, and makes you wonder what happiness and contentment will look like. But great losses are a near-universal human experience. Now when a friend or acquaintance talks about any type of loss, I lean in and listen carefully.
My pregnancy losses have opened a door into a different kind of experience. I live life differently because of them. And I am grateful to have been molded and transformed by two tiny unborn babies with brief but meaningful lives.
Grief gives me gratitude and perspective.
As Michelle DuBarry explains, “Grief is exactly as painful as you think it will be, but with time you will learn to love your sadness because of the tiny shoots of joy and gratitude that sprout around it, like new growth on scorched earth.” I do love my sadness. I love how it gently instructs me. It causes me to notice when another woman seems uncomfortable with talking about babies. It helps me to delight more in everyday pleasures. And it is the necessary backdrop to what my son’s life and birth mean to me.
The cliché that grief is the price of love is true. I hold onto my grief as a reminder—a sign and symbol of my love. It’s the only way I can love the babies that I lost.
My grief is of course not the whole story of my life. It cannot be—that would be wrong and misguided. There are other chapters in my life, other stories being told and yet to be told. Yet I do not wait or wish for it to go away. It has its time and place. I remember it and return to it and learn from it and hold it close.
Rebekah Slonim, a 2016 graduate of Hillsdale College, is a freelance copyeditor, proofreader, and indexer. She lives in West Lafayette, Indiana, with her husband and son.
 Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow (Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint, 2000), 148.
 L. M. Montgomery, Rilla of Ingleside (New York: Bantam Books, 1992), 189.
 Barbara Crooker, “The Lost Children,” Verse-Virtual.com, 2016, https://www.verse-virtual.com/barbara-crooker-2016-march.html.
 Michelle DuBarry, “When Sturdy Love Is What You Need,” The New York Times, October 19, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/19/style/modern-love-when-sturdy-love-is-what-you-need.html.