My friend asked me to write about my miscarriage for an e-book she’s writing. After a few hours writing/crying/reliving this experience, I thought to myself: Why would anyone want to read this?
This question prevents me from sharing a lot of what I write. However, today I’m deciding to post this in hopes that it will 1) help someone not feel so alone in the wake of their miscarriage 2) encourage someone by telling them how I got through it. If you don’t like miscarriage stories, you probably want to skip this one :).
Well, it wasn’t pretty, that’s for sure.
We were working in Iceland as missionaries at the time, trying to learn the language and the culture.
My husband was flourishing; I was struggling.
We had taken Icelandic classes for months and, despite all my hard work, I didn’t feel like I was learning anything. I could barely tell you where I was from what I was doing in Iceland and even then, my pronunciation was so horrible that Icelanders had to bite their bottom lip to keep from laughing when I spoke to them.
The thought of having a baby to snuggle with during the cold, dark depressing days of Icelandic winter was warm and cozy. My husband and I already had two girls and the joys of parenthood much outweighed the challenges. It didn’t matter to us that we were living in a different country. People had babies in Iceland every day.
So it was decided. We would try for another child.
We conceived in Athens, Greece. This is an inconsequential detail, shared only to impress you with the scope of our travel.
Moving on with the story…
We came home from Greece and Icelandic summer was well under way. That meant I was still wearing my winter coat, but could take it off if I found a spot where the wind was significantly blocked. I found out I was pregnant and couldn’t believe that my heart’s desire was so easily granted. I remember smiling almost every moment of the day.
I wrote a letter to the new child in my womb the first night I took the pregnancy test. I told him (surely it would be a HIM this time) how excited I was to meet him and be his mother. I told him he was a miracle. I glowed as I dreamed about his face and his sweet little body that I would get to hold in a few short months.
My husband, Colby, couldn’t believe that it had happened the first month that we tried. I couldn’t either. It was too good to be true. Life never worked that way…did it?
The previous month we had made plans to go camping in the mountains of northwest Iceland. When Colby asked if I still wanted to go on the trip, I was torn. I wanted to get out of Reykjavik and see the countryside, but would I be okay? I was starting to feel a little nauseous, but we came to the conclusion that it would be good for me to go to the countryside. I could rest in the tent as much as I needed. It would be a relaxing trip, nothing stressful.
The drive up north was amazing and we stopped along the way to take pictures of the landscape with our friends Dagny and Diana.
When we arrived at our destination, I got out of the car and started running through the field with my two daughters. There were snow-capped mountains behind us and a sunset in front of us and the sunshine splashed the whole scene with a soft glow. It was like I was a child again, running and laughing without a care in the world.
Hay bails dotted the field and I ran toward one and jumped on it, showing off for my three year old and four year old. They laughed and continued smiling as I sat on the top and waved my hands up in victory. I can remember thinking, “I don’t even feel pregnant…I don’t feel sick at all…”
Colby was starting to unload the car and Haley told me she had to go potty. We were staying near a Christian conference center, so we went inside to the bathroom.
I saw that I was spotting a little, and my first thought was, “You should have never jumped on that hay bail. Now look what you’ve done…”
My daughter was in the bathroom and sensed something was wrong. She even saw some of the blood and asked me a question about it. I wasn’t sure how to answer her.
I quickly went outside and told Colby who was working on putting up the tent.
“Don’t worry about it…” He dismissed it quickly. “A lot of people spot when they’re pregnant.” He continued pounding in tent stakes and didn’t really look concerned.
“Yeah, but that’s never happened to me before…” I tried to convince him that this was serious.
He got distracted finishing up the tent and moving our stuff into it, and I sat down not feeling so good.
Throughout the night, I prayed and prayed for God to help the baby survive. I knew something wasn’t right and I tossed and turned in my sleeping bag all night long. Hang on, baby boy! Hang on! I tried to talk to him, rub his tiny body, and encourage his little heart to keep beating.
The sky didn’t darken until after 11:00pm, and the dawn broke around 3 am. I threw a blanket over my head so that I could fall back asleep. Around 8:00 a.m. I woke up and sat up in the tent. I was afraid to go to the bathroom. I was afraid to find out if the bleeding had stopped or not.
I walked to the bathroom and locked the door. When I saw how much blood there was, I gasped. I didn’t know what to do, so I exited the bathroom, sat down on the floor and stared at the ceiling.
Someone walked by and asked me if I was okay.
I said no.
My friend Dagny walked by me. I told her what was happening and she went to get Colby. Another person, Lárs, who was a doctor came over and stood by me.
I told him that there was a lot of blood and I asked if he could help.
He was silent for a few seconds.
“I’m sorry, but there’s nothing I can do.” As soon as the words left his mouth, things began to go in slow motion.
The room began to spin and warp as though I was on the worst county fair ride imaginable. I slid down the wall, unable to hold my weight up, giving in to the dizziness that eventually pinned me to the floor.
All I can remember is opening my eyes and seeing Colby, Dagny, and Lárs all standing, towering over my body like frozen statues. My body was writhing like it was in pain–even though it wasn’t–and I felt like a fish floundering out of water.
They just stood staring.
Like fisherman who couldn’t believe what they had just caught.
I don’t know if anyone said anything. Suddenly black spots crept in from the corners and before I knew it everything had gone black.
Panic began to set in as I became completely disoriented. “I can’t see! I can’t see!” I screamed to the fisherman, trying to get their attention. (Later my husband told me that he yelled back, “That’s because your eyes are closed!”).
Next, as if being blind and lame weren’t enough, I began to choke on the air I was breathing. Looking back, this is fascinating to me because there was plenty of air, freshest air in the world in fact. But I was in such a state of panic that I couldn’t breathe.
This was so real to me, in fact, that in an effort to save my own life, I began to army crawl down the hallway to the closest exit. It was as if I was in a burning building full of smoke and I was fighting for my life. Colby tried to pick me up and help me, but I felt like he was preventing me so I kicked him and screamed like an irate toddler, trying to breathe in air, but no air would come in.
I think I threw elbows at anyone who tried to get near me until I found a door and pushed it open. I collapsed onto the green grass and lay prostrate in the morning sunshine and silence. One breath went in. Two. Three.
I was attracting a crowd. No one knew what was happening. I think Colby was talking to me, but I didn’t answer. All I did for a long time was try to breathe and try to survive.
The beauty of the day was deceiving. My baby was dead.
It had all been a trick. God hadn’t answered my prayer with a yes.
I slept the entire day and even the next. I cried and was so physically and emotionally weak that I could barely move. The next day, Colby said it was time to go back to Reykjavik, and I begged him to reconsider. I didn’t want to move. The world had finally stopped spinning and I was petrified that it would start moving again.
Undeterred, Colby packed everything up and came and got me when it was time to go. I will never forget driving away from the campground that evening as the sun began to descend.
Colby talked to our daughters as he drove ever so slowly on the winding road.
I felt my throat tighten and I didn’t try to prevent it. I let it dissolve into tears and felt the deepest sadness that I had ever experienced.
“Girls, mommy had a baby in her tummy that just died.” They were so confused. Mommy had a baby in her tummy? How did THAT happen? The conversation quickly derailed. We tried to put it in the simplest of terms for them, but talking about it in any shape or size still exposed the wound.
It’s hard to explain, and I feel like you, the reader, almost won’t believe me, but the strangest thing happened in this moment.
It was as though my open wound–vulnerable and exposed–was being stabbed with a knife. That is how intense the pain was. But at the same time, a peace descended on the pain that was equally as intense.
The landscape around us was unimaginable. There were two wild lambs just grazing on the side of the soft, mossy mountain as we passed. The evening light was clean and filled the valley below. The colors of the mountain and the flowers and the sky and the light were so vibrant that they almost didn’t feel part of this world.
The sheep reminded me of my shepherd and the words of an old hymn came to mind. “Savior like a shepherd lead us…much we need thy tender care.”
The moment was both so painful and so beautiful, intermingled so tightly that one couldn’t survive without the other. I looked out on the valley below through my tears and knew that it was all for a purpose.
I knew God was still real. He was still good. He was still the author of everything beautiful about our existence. He was still love. He was still peace. He was still joy. He was still life. He was still present, even more so in the pain.
In the weeks following my miscarriage, I struggled with a deep exhaustion unlike anything I’d ever experienced. Small tasks sapped my energy quickly. I took multiple naps a day and couldn’t believe how worn out I was. It didn’t make any physical sense. After a couple of weeks of this, my husband suggested that I go running even though I felt tired. He pitched it to me as an “experiment.”I couldn’t believe it, but it actually worked. Apparently energy DOES breed energy.
The next month, I tried to busy myself as a distracting strategy. It worked. I started teaching an ESL class which forced me out of the house. I began exercising consistently which was also good for my mind and body.
Two months later, however, I experienced another exhaustion that no amount of sleep could remedy. I had no idea what was happening. It was as though I had a virus, but there were no symptoms other than exhaustion. I called some trusted advisors in my life and their advice was fascinating to me.
They advised me to let myself grieve the miscarriage. They encouraged me to name the baby and do something symbolic to let him go. This, they said, would bring some closure.
It was painful, but I went back to the wound and allowed myself to feel the pain. I lifted up my shaking hands to Christ and submitted myself to His will. I read the letter I had penned for my new baby and ripped it up into thousands of pieces. I think I threw it out the window into the Icelandic wind, but I don’t remember exactly. All I know is that I allowed myself to look the pain in the eye and then made a choice to move on from it.
Looking back on the miscarriage, oddly enough I can taste and see the goodness of God. Sometimes He withholds the gifts we so desperately want. No matter how painful this is, He yearns to teach us that the Giver is always more satisfying than His gifts. We forget this so easily, conjure up idols and look to everything but Christ as our hope.
I’m so thankful for His gentle reminders, no matter how painful.