He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children. —Psalm 113:9

April 30, 2010

A Silent Love

After my first miscarriage, my sister gave me a copy of A Silent Love: Personal Stories of Coming to Terms With Miscarriage. I found it a helpful, if painful, read, as it showed me that I'm not alone, that the thoughts and feelings I'm dealing with are normal, and that I'm not the only one grieving for these losses. This book helps to drive home that it's not only mothers who suffer loss after a miscarriage, but fathers, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles and everyone else who was emotionally invested in these little lives that never come to fruition.

The other point that this book makes, which served as the main impetus for its being written, is that so many of us are forced to carry our grief in silence and deal with it in isolation by a society that considers the subject taboo. It's uncomfortable to talk about. I know - I've been on the other side where I had no idea what to say to those suffering the loss, where I simply had no comprehension of what they were feeling, and so I thought it best to avoid awkwardness by avoiding the topic altogether. And it's really not something you can fully comprehend without experiencing it first hand.

It's funny - people tend to admire physical scars. They're a badge of toughness, endurance and survival, and people like to hear stories about how we got them. But nobody really wants to hear about our emotional and spiritual scars, and we're expected to keep quiet about them and carry them in silence. Yet those are the wounds that need to be talked about the most.

I'm not writing about this because I want to make people uncomfortable. I'm writing about it because I need to. It's part of the healing process, and I won't deny myself that healing for fear of awkwardness. It's been a month since my second miscarriage, and I still hurt. I still break down and cry every morning during my prayer and devotion time, still wondering why and channeling Job's frustration at not getting a straight answer, still working out my trust issues with God. I'm still struggling not to allow disappointment to fester into bitterness, to stop focusing on what might have been and find direction in the face of what is.

It's difficult for people who haven't faced this to understand how we can carry so much grief for someone we've never actually met. And it's complex, and difficult to understand even for those going through it. For mothers, the bonding starts early as you feel the baby growing inside you and drawing nourishment and strength from you. And then suddenly it's just gone, and literally a part of you has died, and there's really no way to get closure from that. It's just an empty ache that never fully goes away. And that's not even touching on the loss of hopes and dreams, of a life imagined and planned, that is felt by everyone who would make up the baby's family.

One in four pregnancies end in early miscarriage, and that's not even counting all of those that end later on in premature labor or stillbirth. That means that in this nation alone there are millions of women carrying this ache around with them, struggling to get on with life in the face of a deep hurt that never ends, millions of families dealing with grief and loss in secret.

If you know someone who has gone through this, not just mothers, but fathers or grandparents, know that it still hurts for them, too, no matter how long ago it may have happened, no matter whether they've gone on to have other children. A healthy child isn't a replacement for one that's been lost. Let them know that you're thinking about them. You don't have to understand what they're going through, just understand that they're going through something. Offer words of encouragement. If you're not too squeamish and afraid of The Awkward, offer them the chance to talk about it. If it's in your power and budget, treat them to something. A Secret Sister-type gift, a card, a hand-written note just to let them know they're in your thoughts. Take them out for a cup of coffee, or lunch, or treat them to a pedicure or a 10 minute chair massage. These little kindnesses, no matter how small, serve to remind us that there are people in our lives who care, and make it a little easier to get out of bed in the morning and get through each day. And it feels good to know that our babies are not forgotten.

As for me and Matt, we can still use prayer. Just to be lifted up and encouraged each day, and for healing for our broken hearts.

And if you want help understanding, reading this book is a good place to start.


Anonymous said...

Hi Jeannie, this is Kelley, Matt's friend. This is my first chance to visit your blog. I'm so proud of you for having the courage to write about this. You are right when you say that going on to have another healthy child doesn't make up for the loss-that one child can't replace the other. Just after putting Brooklyn in bed last night I was taken by surprise by a sudden wave of grief over the loss of Eva. I was angry and all I could think of was 'i want her back!'. She was stolen from us! The babies we have lost are important and bear the fingerprints of god. Let's not minimize the eternal significance of their lives by ever brushing it away or allowing ourselves to try and forget. Healing doesn't mean forgetting and "moving on.". I appreciate you tackling this subject. There's so much more I'd like to discuss with you on this topic! I have got to get the Internet at home! My mom's here in Arkansas with her I-phone. Your post brought me to tears. I am, of course, still thinking about and praying for you and Matt.

J. M. Bauhaus said...

Thanks for commenting, Kelley, and for stopping by. Matt told me about what happened with Eva, and I'm so sorry for your loss, and I really appreciate the prayer and encouragement you've given us both. I'd love to talk to you any time. Maybe one of these days we can get together for lunch or something. It'd be great to finally meet you after hearing so much about you. Anyway, know that you and your family are on our prayer list as well. *HUGS*

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