The light was barely creeping over the horizon as we stumbled through the dark bedroom to find our clothes and make our way to our tiny bathroom to brush our teeth. It was Valentines Day, 2018, the first time it and Ash Wednesday have collided on the same day since 1945.
Hearts and Ashes. Life and Death. I didn’t think much about the symbolism or the implications of this combo as we poured our coffee, grabbed our phones and climbed into the truck to drive to our OB appointment to check on baby B again. I was so excited, I was feeling better than I had in the past week and the bleeding we had all been so concerned with a week ago in the doctor’s office had ceased 36 hours prior. Our baby was going to be okay. I was a chatty Cathy on the drive over, my sweet husband who was still waking up didn’t understand or respond, but I just kept talking about every random thing that popped into my head.
The ultrasound tech called us back and as I lay there on the table with my husband next to me, the screen lit up with my womb and our sweet baby. I was relieved, he/she was still there and the tech said it was growing on target based on my measurements from last week.
The lights were already turned off, but then the room went dark as she said, “I can’t find a heartbeat, let me call in another tech.” Maybe she’s new. Maybe I’m laying weird. Maybe I should hold my breath. What if I shift my weight? Could she be seeing it wrong? Wait what was that–oh it was just my pulse, but where was baby’s?
I thought I had eaten my heart because of how deeply it fell into my gut.
The moments that followed were achingly long and harsh. Hearts and Ashes. Life and Death. Everything that can race through your mind was running 1,000 miles an hour through mine as we sat in our OB’s office waiting for details. Did I eat or drink something I shouldn’t have? Is my body, my womb, not a suitable host? Will I lose this baby? Will I lose any future pregnancies? Was it because I did a HIIT workout that one day a week ago?
Since the start of this pregnancy, I was worried and stressed. Can we afford a baby along with all of our student loans? Should we buy a house that is bigger? Can we even afford that? Will we make good parents? I need a new/better car — why is everything so expensive?! And so I started praying even more earnestly that I would trust Him. I prayed that I would trust Him with our finances, our hopes, our worries, our baby — everything. Because I naturally want to control everything and yet I know that I have control over nothing.
Two agonizing days later we drove back for more blood work with hope in our hearts and fear in our bellies to confirm if this pregnancy would last or not. Hearts to Ashes. Life to Death. We learned that we would never meet our October baby.
What makes this season of ache and loss even harder is the reality that very few people talk about it, even though according to my OB it happens to nearly 50% of women. I often wonder now how many women I’ve sat in the same room with or passed in the grocery store aisle who were carrying the same sorrow and fear I carry now. How often did I say something flippant and it unintentionally hurt someone who was already hurting? Nothing is more awkward or painful to bring up casually in conversation than your most recent miscarriage. Nothing. The aching desire for your friends to know that you’re hurting and sit with you in it vs. not wanting them to know anything at all so you can find traces of normal is such a weird and sorrowful place to be. I keep going back and forth in my head, thinking how this topic is poorly discussed and how no one seems to talk about it and then remembering why it’s a topic that no one brings up because even I can’t bring it up with my own friends. If someone comes up with a viable solution for bringing up miscarriages in conversations, please let me and the rest of the world know, because we’re all at a loss. Because, as Angela Garbes said in a recent article I read, “when it comes to pregnancy loss, there is no script to follow. To help a woman navigate it, you don’t need to offer advice or perspective. It is enough to show up, however awkwardly, and be there. To listen.” This is so true and so hard. Sometimes you don’t realize what people need until you walk through it yourself, which I hate because in hindsight I see all the ways that I should have been there for my own friends in their grief.
Not only did I not have but a very tiny handful of people to talk to about it, but, to make matters worse, I also beat myself up the first few weeks after we got the news. I was sure that it was my fault, I was the host and therefore the cause. Everything I did, ate, drank, touched, or breathed in had an effect on the baby, so who else is to blame but me? There is no length the enemy will not go to, trying to convince you of lies and promote self-hate. I read an article (which I highly recommend you read) by Angela Garbes a few days after the bad news was delivered. The author had many of the same issues and struggles that I had, as I’m sure every woman who’s gone through this or something similar has had. She said, “let’s talk for a moment about the term “miscarriage.” It’s objectively terrible. Think of the words that begin with the same prefix: mistake, misstep, misplaced, misspelled. “Mis” seems to imply not only that something is wrong, but that you have an active role in making it so. Forty percent of the women surveyed who have experienced a miscarriage said they felt they had done something wrong to cause their miscarriage, and 47 percent expressed feeling guilty.” The feeling of being guilty over the loss of your own baby is overwhelming. As my OB talked with us that day in the clinic about our options and what to expect in the coming days and weeks, she stopped, looked me dead in the eye and said “Nothing you did or didn’t do caused this to happen. Do you understand? Nothing.” Every time I come back to believing that I was the cause of my miscarriage, I come back to her words. I believe Jesus used her to speak truth over me and my husband because He knew the valley we were heading toward. There is nothing like the kindness of God in the midst of the chaos of emotions and heartache.
Hearts to Ashes. Life to Death. In the article by Garbes, she interviewed a woman who had a profound thought, she said, “what does it take to lean into it, to allow your body to go through the emotions that come from doing what we’re hardwired to do? . . . Women were made for birth and life and death . . . in the moment of miscarriage, birth and life and death come through us.” Ash to Ash. Dust to Dust. We weren’t promised easy pregnancies, healthy babies, or no chance of death, but we have been promised hope. Hope doesn’t disappoint us, even when ultrasounds and no sound from the fetal doppler do. We carry life, we carry hope, we carry a promise of tomorrow and of life — everywhere we look if we choose it. It’s a daily struggle, as I process what I’m learning about myself, our faithful God and why this happened. Most days I wake up and look in the bathroom mirror, wondering what my belly might look like today had I not lost the baby. Other days I see life emerging from every nook and cranny and am forever grateful for tomorrows and for grey skies that teach us to be content in the dark and hope for the rays of sunshine.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me, and the light around me will be night” — even the darkness is not dark to you. The night shines like the day; darkness and light are alike to you. Psalms 139:11-12
Ashes to Ashes. Loss and questions upon questions. But I still know this to be true even in the darkness; He is good, worthy of praise and deserving of thanks. Storms are harsh but I’m looking forward to the skies parting and the sun peeking through the grey clouds. Hope is found in Him and Him alone. Seasons come and go for a reason, sometimes there’s life, sometimes death, joy intermixed with sorrow, but always hope for what tomorrow might bring.
This Easter, I am thankful for life and death, for resurrection and hope for tomorrow. I am thankful for a Savior who didn’t stay in the grave and that one day we will see our sweet baby who’s in the arms of the best Father right now.
“The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up.”
1 Samuel 2:6
©2018 by Josie Blakeney