Painful memories can – and do – just hit you out of nowhere. Recently, on one of those rare days that we had sunshine, I was in the garden with my little ones. My three-year-old son was having a wonderful time watering plants while I helped his one-year-old sister to toddle after him. My son refilled the watering can, and happened to give special attention to a single white rose budding in the corner.
You might not think that the scene of my son bestowing such care on a single plant could move me to tears, but it did. The white rose had been a gift to us from dear friends, in memory of a baby that we lost two years ago.
Even though it’s very common, miscarriage isn’t something that it’s easy to talk about. As a Christian, it was an experience that I found incredibly difficult – and often still do. So I hope you will forgive me if this post seems less polished than it could be.
I had never felt easy about that pregnancy. Apart from all the emotions of joy and anxiety that we all feel when we discover that we are becoming parents, my husband and I were worried that the timing of this baby; the pregnancy was unexpected, and our son wasn’t sleeping through the night. We chose to leave the situation in the Lord’s hands, praising Him for His gift of new life and trusting that He would supply everything that we would need to be able to love and provide for our growing family.
Ten weeks into the pregnancy, I began bleeding. My husband and I both knew that this could be entirely normal, but arranged a scan just to be on the safe side.
As soon as I saw the ultrasound images, I knew that something was wrong. The sonographer delivered the news: the foetus was weeks too small for its date, and had no heartbeat. The baby inside me was dead.
Perhaps you can imagine how we felt. Grief; rage; loss that words just could not contain. Gearing up to welcome a new member to our family, we had lost a child that we had never had the chance to hold – or even name.
The grief at a miscarriage or stillbirth is not just at the loss of a loved one, but at the loss of a hoped for future that will never be shared.
In my grief, I wrestled – with God, and with myself. Had I somehow been to blame for the baby’s death? Why had the Lord allowed me to endure such crippling morning sickness for so many weeks when the baby was lost? Why couldn’t He – the giver of life and creator of all things – preserve this one, tiny life?
All my husband and I could do was turn to the Lord. We tried to thank Him for the life we had been given, even though we didn’t know why it had been taken away. We declared His power over our lives and the life of our lost little one, blessing Him for that gift, and the gift of our young son. We prayed for His mercy and that, one day we would have the wondrous joy of meeting our lost child in heaven. It didn’t ease the pain – but it helped us to know that God, too, knew what grief it is to lose a child.
For years, I had lived in horror of the idea of carrying a dead child, of my womb becoming a tomb. So deciding to wait for my body to miscarry fully on its own was something I was initially frightened of, even though it seemed right. And I found that it was not a horror. In those three weeks of waiting, I felt that I cradled my child for a while longer. It was not the lifetime of hugs that I had dreamed of, but it was something. It was time to say that we loved her, and time to say goodbye.
When the miscarriage finally came – late at night, when my son was sleeping – my husband and I both felt the Lord’s hand powerfully over that timing. Even when I had to be taken to hospital and the bleeding was so much that we had to opt for a surgical procedure, I knew that God was with me – in this case, in the talented, loving hands of the doctors, nurses and midwives who had – just as at the birth of my son – intervened and saved my life.
Just a few months after our miscarriage, a family member – who had also had a miscarriage, then gone on to have another child – told me: “Yes, it was awful. But we wouldn’t have our daughter if it hadn’t happened.”
At the time, those words had seemed callous, cruel. Unfeeling. But I think I now understand them: the daughter I now have – whose name means ‘my God has answered’ – would never have come to be if were it not for that awful time. It was a time when I learnt something about turning to the Lord in the valleys. Being alone without me while I was in hospital brought my son and husband closer together, and forced me to realise that they could cope without me – a tough, but vital, lesson for a young mother. And the child that we lost has made both of our children so much more precious to us.
It’s now two years since our miscarriage. Time is a healer, yes, and the grief is not as it was then. But, even if it is easier to think about, and talk about, the loss remains.
So when my son and daughter both cooed over the white rose in the garden it seemed to me – as they stroked the petals and tended the earth – that they were caring for the sister that they had never known. And it seemed to me also, for the tenderest of moments, that she was with us still.