Not Just a Miscarriage: Facing the Loss of Your Baby
by Katelyn Wagler
The simple act of turning the page of my daily flip calendar to October 1 st was painful. It reminded me that this October, my arms and my womb are empty. The month of golden leaves, rustling cornstalks, and all things pumpkin was supposed to herald the arrival of our firstborn. Instead of packing a hospital bag, decorating the nursery, and washing little outfits in preparation for birth, our lives go about their usual routines. Baby items are stored out of sight in the attic. My belly is not large and swollen with child. The glory of autumn is shadowed by the reminder that this October will not usher in the joyous, life-changing event we once hoped for.
October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. I know I’m not alone in this journey of pregnancy loss. Statistics tell us that 1 in 4 women will experience a miscarriage at some point during their child-bearing years. But when you become one of those statistics, your life is changed all because of another tiny life. No matter how brief a time you knew of its existence, that life is forever imprinted upon your heart.
When the doctor told us that the ultrasound did not show the healthy, developing baby that we thought I had been carrying for the past three months, the news was devastating and difficult to process. I felt betrayed by my own body. Leading up that point, I had had all the signs of pregnancy and no symptoms of miscarriage. The weeks that followed were a numbing blur of disbelief, grief, anger, and emptiness. The emotional pain mingled with the physical discomfort of cramping, bleeding, and exhaustion that my body experienced in miscarriage.
I felt like a failure as a woman, unable to fulfill our dreams of starting a family and incapable of having a healthy pregnancy. Finding out that we had actually lost our little one very early in the pregnancy, before it had even developed a heartbeat, rattled my belief about when life begins. I had always championed the fact that life begins at the moment of conception, and I had never questioned that conviction until now. But these doubts taunted me: “Was it even a baby? What if you don’t have a child waiting for you in Heaven? Maybe it was just a freak of nature and your body played a sick joke on you, fooling you into thinking you were expecting all this time?” I wrestled with God and wept over these fears, taking solace in the words of Psalms 139:13-16, and declared that someday we would meet our little one as a whole and perfect person in Heaven.
It’s been six months since the miscarriage. As my would-be- due date approaches, the loss is still poignant and the longing for my baby ever present. In honor of National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month, I want to share with you some of the things I’ve been learning in this journey. Even if you have never personally experienced a miscarriage or infant loss, it is very likely you know a woman who has, so perhaps this will give you a glimpse into what they are walking through.
Through announcing the news of our pregnancy and then having to inform others of our loss, came to discover that miscarriage was much more common than I had realized. Women whom I have known for years hugged me with tears in their eyes and confided that they too had experienced miscarriages, some of them more than once. I had never known this about them, and I am quite certain they would not have shared this with me if they did not know I had just had a miscarriage myself.
Pregnancy loss is a subject that is not commonly spoken of, so I want to help break the silence. When someone we know miscarries, we as women may find it difficult to know how to approach her in the midst of that loss. On the other hand, when we are the one experiencing that loss, we often find it awkward and uncomfortable to admit that we still mourn someone that the rest of the world forgets about after a few weeks.
To the woman who is not just another “1 in 4” statistic, but who is a mother who has lost a child by miscarriage…
1) Give yourself permission to grieve. I’ve been learning that I don’t have to apologize for crying about and missing a child that I never even met. Why do we feel as though miscarriage loss is something we should “just get over” and guilt ourselves for grieving a tiny life that was our own flesh-and- blood? We were created to nurture life, and when that gift is snatched away, it is a loss of what was and all that could have been. The ache is raw and real. We all grieve differently, and some of us by nature may recover emotionally from the miscarriage sooner than others. Don’t compare your grieving process with other women’s and feel like you should be grieving more or less.
My husband and I named our baby and each wrote a letter to the little one we never met. On the day of her due date, one of my friends who miscarried made a birthday cake for a bittersweet celebration with her husband in honor of their baby in heaven. Your baby was a person, no matter how tiny, so don’t feel weird celebrating the life that was and mourning what might have been.
Since the miscarriage, I have yet to attend any baby showers, and I said no to attending an event for a Crisis Pregnancy Center. I knew emotionally I wasn’t ready. Seeing all the pregnancy announcements, ultrasound pictures, and maternity photo shoots on social media can deepen the ache of your own empty womb. During this time, it may be helpful to take a break from social media and realize it’s okay that those pictures are still painful reminders of the baby you once carried.
Realize that the grief can hit you out of the blue in the weeks and months that follow losing a baby. At my recent dentist appointment, I was asked the routine question “Are you pregnant?” before getting x-rays done. Even unexpected moments like that can trigger the ache again.
2) Open yourself up to God and others. By nature, I am an introvert. Add to that being overwhelmed with the miscarriage of my first pregnancy, and all I wanted to do was withdraw from God and from those around me. My confidence in God’s goodness was challenged and I struggled with anger towards Him for “allowing” my baby to be taken when other friends were breezing through their fourth or fifth pregnancy. Between basic household responsibilities and working a few days a week, I had no extra physical energy or desire to attend social events.
My husband helped me a lot in this area. He kept encouraging me to pray and read my Bible even when I didn’t feel like it, and told me to honestly tell God all I was feeling, including the ugly. Those first several weeks, he said “no” to a lot of social things for my sake so we could be at home as a couple. Yet there were occasions where it was good for me to get out, and my husband encouraged me to do that too. Give yourself time and space to grieve, but also choose to spend time with the Lord and open yourself up to others even if you may not feel like it.
3) Let the loss draw you together as a couple, not push you apart. As the one carrying the baby, I was more emotionally and physically connected to the pregnancy than my husband was. While he was incredibly excited about the pregnancy and subsequently grieved over the loss of our baby, the miscarriage devastated me in an even deeper way. Men and women process these things differently. While he was so supportive, caring and strong through it all, I had to realize that emotionally, he was not in the same place as me. Rather than react to this by drifting apart in the area of grief, we had to talk about our differences and accept where the other one was. PRAY TOGETHER. This helped us draw together spiritually as well as emotionally after experiencing our pregnancy loss.
4) Nurture hope and guard against bitterness. Honestly, this is a sensitive area I am still working through. My heart strays toward resentment that we lost a child when so many other women have multiple healthy pregnancies or even “unplanned” ones. It’s easy for me to be fearful that if I do conceive again, we would lose that baby too. How do I keep my heart tender and hopeful in pain? Many times, I’ve had to confess the bitterness that was creeping into my spirit towards the Lord and other women who are given a healthy baby. I am learning to acknowledge the hard and ugly emotions of jealousy and resentment but realizing I need to move on from there by God’s grace.
Just a few words to those ladies who have never personally experienced a pregnancy loss, but who know friends and family who have…
1) Be sensitive. Please don’t tell us things such as, “Well at least you know you can get pregnant!” “You’re young and I’m sure you’ll have another one.” Words are not as necessary in these times of grief as much as a hug and hearing, “I’m sorry. I’m praying for you.” Acknowledge our loss because that makes us feel comfortable talking about it if we want to. Avoiding the subject is awkward for you and uncomfortable for us.
2) Don’t take personal offense if we decline social invitations. As I alluded to previously, there’s a good chance most of us will not be able to face baby showers, gender reveal parties, or even be able to hold your newborn soon after going through a miscarriage. Please still invite us, but don’t be offended if we say no. It’s not a reflection on you.
3) Be present. When someone has experienced the loss of any loved one, there is always that delicate balance of giving them privacy to grieve, but also letting them know you care. The same goes for women who’ve just experienced a miscarriage. In the days that followed our pregnancy loss, so many ladies sent me a simple text of encouraging verses or just let me know they were thinking of me. Now, six months later, there are still a few ladies who will randomly text me that they still are praying for me. It’s such a comfort to know that you (and your little one) have not been forgotten.
It is my desire that what I’ve shared here could be an encouragement to those who have also walked through the journey of pregnancy loss. You are not alone, and remember that sharing your story can invite other women to do the same. In honor of all our little ones who are waiting for us in Heaven, we can’t wait to meet you someday.
Katelyn Wagler and her teacher husband call the picturesque countryside of Lancaster County their home. A few of her favorite things are extra-hot coffee, one-on-one time with people, lilacs in springtime, and listening to audio book thrillers. She enjoys writing from her own experiences and appreciates good grammar at all times, even in text messages. Her time is split between honing her homemaking skills and working part-time as a nurse at a local family practice office.