As I start to write this post, it’s pretty much exactly a week since I was admitted to hospital due to very heavy bleeding following a miscarriage at 10 weeks into the pregnancy – a scan the previous day had shown that the baby stopped growing at around 8 weeks. In some ways, it’s been quite a “normal” week for the school holidays, as life has had to go on in my role of looking after two children. In other ways, it’s been far from normal, as I’ve wanted to carve out time for rest and a lot of contemplation when they’ve been in bed or safely occupied with an activity. Thankfully, the timing has been good in terms of work, as I had already planned to take a fair amount of time off from custom work in the holidays, and Tom has helped with some posting of stock items.
Over the weekend, we spent some time as a family to go and buy and then plant a shrub in a large pot (so we can take it with us if we move house in future), in memory of the baby that we didn’t get to meet. I was keen to have a living thing as a reminder of the tiny person, whom we buried with the plant, and now this pot stands on our patio where we can see it when we are in the garden. The boys helped in the process, by placing stones and compost in the pot, and they have been keen to water the plant since. We explained why we were doing this, and they seemed to understand to some extent – Andrew very kindly gave me a big hug when I cried as we were planting, and both of them said “bye bye” to the baby with us. It was a special moment, I’m thankful that we were able to do this, and it gave me a certain sense of “closure”, in a similar way to a funeral.
My head has been full of all sorts of different thoughts and emotions this week. I imagine I’ll be writing more as I wrestle with them over time. I’ve been reading an excellent book that a friend who also experienced a missed miscarriage sent me – the autobiography of Joni Eareckson Tada, who broke her neck and became a quadriplegic through a diving accident at the age of 17. Although her suffering is very different in nature to our current suffering, the story of how her faith in God became much more real as a result of her suffering makes a lot of sense to me at the moment. It’s easy when everything is going well to rest on my laurels spiritually, but this miscarriage has already made my desire to spend time seeking God through prayer, music and reading the Bible sky rocket. That’s not to say that I feel I have answers to all my questions (yet), but I certainly feel surrounded by friends who are praying for us on our journey to recovery, and I am confident that God himself is holding us tight.
Another book that I plan to read next week once I’ve finished Joni’s story is “Empty Arms” by Pam Vredevelt – a Christian perspective on recovering from a miscarriage or stillbirth. I hope that this will guide my thoughts on the specific questions surrounding the pain of losing a child like this, as well as the more general questions of suffering that I’ve already started reading about.
One of the thoughts I keep coming back to this week is how I believe all children are a gift from God. Right from the start of our married life (and even a bit before as we discussed this in marriage preparation), Tom and I have not taken it for granted that we would be able to have children. Although I was very much aware from quite a young age that I would love to have a family one day, I knew there was no guarantee that it would happen. When we got married, I was one year into my PhD research, and we agreed that we would not actively prevent a pregnancy once my thesis was handed in, which happened about a year and a half later. After that, I honestly did not think that I would be pregnant within a week and/or that that pregnancy would be successful. I knew that the roads to conception and full-term pregnancy were potentially fraught with difficulty. If it had have been my plan, there’s no way I would have actively arranged to be suffering horrendous pregnancy sickness in the lead up to and during my viva voce exam 11 weeks later. Of course we were incredibly excited to be expectant parents, but also quite shocked at this blessing so soon.
It was a similar story the second time around – would we have deliberately planned a 21 month age gap? There are pros and cons to any age gap, so I’m not saying it was all bad, in fact we’ve recently been thinking how great it is the boys are so close in age. But again, I honestly did not think that I would get pregnant again so soon, and that that pregnancy would also stick, particularly whilst still solidly breastfeeding Andrew. There was even more potential for difficulty than the first time around. So we were of course very thankful once again for the blessing of a second child. It was as if God was saying “Look, see what great things I can do despite your doubts – keep trusting in me.”
It was with this same attitude that we went into our third pregnancy – trusting that God had a plan, and that it would work out better than anything we could plan or arrange ourselves. After all, he’d done it before, twice, and looking back we realise just how happy we’ve been since having the boys in our lives at exactly the times when they arrived – not necessarily our timing, but great timing nonetheless. This time, it took a few months longer than before, and I did feel slightly disappointed each month when it didn’t happen, but still I knew that it wasn’t my plan. When I finally felt the sickness dominate my daily routine back in early June, albeit not as horrendously as with my previous two pregnancies, I was thankful that this was a strong sign of new life growing inside me, despite feeling awful. And the timing seemed to be good – the volume of my work during those weeks seemed to fit pretty well around the times I felt most able to work, and as a family we seemed to cope with my lack of energy better than we thought we might.
Since we first set out on our child-raising journey, although I’ve been aware of the potential for a pregnancy to end in miscarriage, there’s nothing that I could have read that would have totally prepared me for the shock of it actually happening to me. My birthday seemed surreal, and I had all the thoughts of “Why me?”, “Is this really happening?” and “Will I wake up from the nightmare soon?” Over this past week, I have come to accept that it has indeed happened and I can’t change that fact.
Yet I still believe that all children are a gift from God. I don’t yet know, and maybe I’ll never know, why this third child was given to us and then taken away from us so soon. However, I do believe that he/she is being cared for in heaven and that I will one day get to meet him/her myself. Although I’m so sad that our meeting won’t be in February on the day the birth would have been, and I grieve for all the future with us that this baby will never get, I’m finding it helpful to think of time from an eternal perspective. Jesus promised that whoever believes in him will have everlasting life, that goes beyond life here in our earthly bodies. Some bodies last for many years, like my Grandad who recently died after 90 years in his, and some bodies only last for a short while, like this baby who lived for about 6 weeks (8-2) in utero, whose body may well have not been able to survive due to a genetic anomaly. But in the time span of eternity, 6 weeks is actually indistinguishable from 90 years. Although an unborn baby never gets to make the decision to follow Jesus for themselves, I believe that Jesus’ attitude towards children when he was here on Earth gives us a great indication of how much God loves them and includes them in his heavenly family:“Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” (Luke, 18:16-17, New Living translation)
At this point in time, I’m not sure what the future holds for us as a family, I don’t know whether we will be blessed with a fourth child or not, only God knows that. I’m not sure how I would handle being pregnant again, but I do know that whatever happens, we won’t be given more suffering than we can handle, and that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love him. Even though right now it’s hard to see that.
Follow me on social media