1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss, so did mine.

After 3 healthy pregnancies, births, and babies, we experienced our first miscarriage this summer. Our fourth pregnancy, our first loss. I was “5 weeks” along, having a positive pregnancy test a week previous. Most women don’t even know they are pregnant at this point, but with my experience with the Fertility Awareness Method (tracking/charting fertility with multiple signs and changes throughout your cycle), I always know ovulation and conception dates. My husband and I had been expecting to conceive for a few months already, confused as to why our pattern of fertility and babies hadn’t continued (my 3 little ones are born within 3 weeks of each other!). So the confirmed pregnancy was an emotional breath of fresh air. For a week anyway.

What a strange experience it was to start bleeding.

For me, it was like my normal menstruation, except that the smell was that of postpartum lochia. The sense of smell is so powerful and brought a lot of emotions with it. Usually, postpartum bleeding is an inconvenient process in a wonderful time of newborn snuggles and all night feedings. But this time it was marked with loss. And unfortunately, the whole month around my miscarriage was marked with loss. More on that here, and the changes these things created. The physical miscarriage was rather mild for me, no pain or heavy bleeding, but an odd combination of menstruation and miscarriage sensations, confusion and sadness. Longing for a new child who we would not get to hold.

How to help a miscarrying/grieving mother:

I’ve studied how to support a woman experiencing a pregnancy loss. I’ve talked with many women who have previously or are currently miscarrying. And I’ve found that most need a listening ear to let them talk and grieve and feel all the feelings they have that may be all over the map all at once. But also bring her food and do her dishes and help her with her older children if she has them. Even if she says she is “fine”, offer specific ways you want to help her. “I’m here if you need anything” is a beautiful sentiment, but rarely does a grieving family reach out to respond. Instead, drop off a grocery store or restaurant gift card so they can get grocery or dinner deliveries. And offer to sit and visit or coming in in clean, or leave quickly and quietly. If the situation requires a hands-off approach, leave a handwritten note offering your time/energy with the gift card at the door. Or you can call up and say “I’m taking my kids to the play place at 10 a.m., can I bring Johnny and Jill with me for 2 hours, I’ll feed them lunch too.” Chances are she will say yes and be so grateful for the hours to shower, nap, and cry freely. For more support, education, or in-person (free) bereavement doula services, go to StillBirthday.com

My grieving, comforting husband

I’m thankful to have my husband at home 4 days a week working on the farm. I was able to just rest and bathe and nap and eat during my miscarriage. He helped feed the family. And he listened endlessly, which definitely was a sacrifice for him. He really doesn’t like hearing things more than once, but I needed to repeat myself a bunch. He cried with me too as it was as much of a loss for him as it was for me. I’m thankful that I have a much slower, less time demanding life. I had nowhere to go or be except at home with my family. In my previous lifestyle, it would have been much harder to find the rest and time I needed. I probably would have put on a brave face and gone about my usual activities, no doubt encountering a dear friend who could tell something was up and I’d be crying at the registration table of my women’s group while trying to figure out my mix of emotions and tears! Which isn’t a terrible thing, but I find emotions are more deeply and fully processed in a safer, quieter space.

Was it really a miscarriage?

Life starts at conception! And with knowing my ovulation/conception dates, I have always know when a new life was created within my womb. Or at least suspected, and then tested with an early pregnancy test strip…I buy them in bulk! No matter how small, I recognize the depth of life being knit together and miraculously formed. Easily this little baby’s life could have gone unnoticed. Called a late/heavy period. I count myself blessed to have known of him or her for 8 days and loved them and planned a life for them. I had never had an April baby before and the thought was truly joyous. Part of me did want to say “it was just a late period”, explain it away as a non-issue. But my momma heart grieved. And it was a loss. I do recognize, and am thankful for, the gentleness of our loss. I recognize that a later loss, with physical pain in the miscarrying process, and longer/deeper connections with a little one, is a harder road to walk. And I may walk that road one day as we continue to grow our family. But I won’t take on the lie that my tiny babe was only a “clump of cells” or anything less than a full human being. I am a Bible Believer and the Word of God tells us that the Lord knows every day of our lives even before we are formed. Psalm 139 is what I read and prayed through the morning my pregnancy was confirmed. Those words have always brought comfort to me and will continue to as I remember our little one we will not get to meet this side of Heaven. And if you aren’t a person of faith, scientific studies reveal that life is created at conception as well. It’s a truly amazing process! It is only certain groups/organizations that try to hide that truth to mislead and hurt women and families.

For the mama with a baby in Heaven:

Your grief is real. Your pregnancy counted. All your emotions are valid. Feel them deeply, let them flow. Life will keep going, but take your time to rest and heal. Yell, cry, pray, sing… your tears will turn to laughter once again in time. But you will be forever changed. Grief brings forth a new you, in every circumstance. Pain and loss change us and that is okay. It’s okay to be in darkness for a time, but there is also light. When you start to see it again, walk towards it and embrace the joy again.

Thank you

Thank you to every woman who has shared her story of loss with me, I am grateful and honored to have been trusted with your story. And thank you to those with recurring losses and infertility who have let me walk alongside them, pray for them, cry with them, and rejoice with them. Your impact on my life is immense. We are shaped by the things that happen around us and what is shared with us. I pray what I have shared today can be a comfort and encouragement to you. I hope that some of these words can help you support a sister, daughter, or friend while they walk the tumultuous road of loss and grief. Feel free to share your story of pregnancy or infant loss here. Sharing your story, whether publicly or privately, is a good step towards healing.