I shared this a while back for a series that Ashley Morgan Jackson does, you can find the original story here. And with today being Bereaved Mother’s Day I felt compelled to share it here to honor those we’ve lost, and know we’re not alone.
You may have read that title and felt the heaviness it brings. Or maybe you thought ‘That won’t happen to me.’ Trust me, I thought that exact thing before my first loss. It’s not the natural order of life. But pregnancy loss affects 1 in 4 pregnancies, so chances are you or someone you know has endured this type of loss.
The morning of my 16-week check-up started like a normal weekday. My Husband left for work and I continued my morning routine. A few minutes before I needed to leave for work I started feeling pressure and shooting pain down through my legs. I called my Husband to tell him to come home so we could go to the hospital. Within 15 minutes of that call our son, Maddox Jacob, was born. At home, too little to survive this side of Heaven.
The next 24 hours will forever be imprinted into my heart. It’s like a film that plays on repeat over and over. Sometimes it takes my breath away – reliving the trauma. And sometimes it overwhelms me with awe as an example of God’s reckless love. Going through pregnancy loss is so surreal. I realized early on that the only way to begin to heal is by facing your pain, head on, regardless of how hard that may be. There’s no masking anything, you must allow yourself to feel all the emotions you are going through. I wish no one had to endure this pain, but I know with certainty that God has me here for a reason. And although I may never know why, I will stand in the truth that God called me to be here, and where He calls you, He always provides.
Grief can suck the life out of you. It can wreck you mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually, and then some. It’s the most unimaginable thing to be pregnant one day and not the next with no living baby to hold. You’re left with trying to comprehend that reality while learning to let go of all those plans, hopes, and dreams you have for that baby and your future. It’s your life stopping while the world continues to go on around you as though nothing happened. Your heart feels battered and hopeless and your pain seems invisible to the outside world. I pray there’s a day when people don’t have to feel this heartbreak. But for those that have and will go through this, I wanted to share some truths that I’ve learned and am still learning along the way.
Grief Isn’t Linear
Grief is hard. Ever changing. It’s not easy, and it’s not fun. But facing those feelings head-on is crucial to making progress in moving forward. Burying and suppressing your feelings damages your ability to cope. Most of us have heard about the ‘Stages of Grief’ and I’ve experienced them all. The biggest misconception of these stages is that they go in order. They don’t. And once you’ve been through one stage it doesn’t mean you can check that stage off and never think of it again. I’ve gone through stages out of order, I’ve re-visited stages that I thought I was done with. I used to get so frustrated with myself thinking something is wrong with me and that I’m not strong enough. The truth is grief is messy. My counselor explained it best when she told me there is no standard behavior with grief. When sudden, traumatic loss occurs ‘normal’ ceases to exist. It reminded me that no grief is the same, and that’s ok. And when grief overcomes me and I’m feeling tired I’m reminded that God sees me. He feels my pain, and my soul takes rest in that.
Come to me, all you who are weary & burdened, and I will give you rest – Matthew 11:28
Let Go of Expectations
This was and is so hard for me but it’s so important to let go of expectations from yourself and from others. Pregnancy loss is something that is impossible to understand unless you’ve gone through it. I remember constantly feeling the need to explain my feelings and why I felt a certain way, only to be let down by people’s reactions. I wanted people to understand, to somehow feel my pain so they can empathize with me, but that only lead to disappointment. I yearned for people to recognize what happened to our son, what happened to me. I craved validation for my feelings. More than anything I wanted others to understand how their actions, or inactions, made me feel. I found myself being held captive to what others expected from me. I’ve been told all my life how strong I am, and I always took pride in that. I would get so frustrated with myself when I felt I wasn’t at a point in my grief journey that I hoped I would be by a certain time, or for not feeling happy every day. At times I would even feel guilty for having good days thinking I would be judged for that, or that people would just forget about what I’ve been through. It’s been a struggle learning how to release these thoughts, but it’s more damaging to hold tight and become a prisoner to them. And in those moments when I get caught up in being held to expectations from myself or from others, I remind myself it’s so important to always keep my mind on Christ.
This is something I’ve just recently begun to get comfortable with. I’m a people-pleaser to the core so I’ve always put others needs before my own. I felt selfish when I would put my needs first. I quickly found myself caring way too much about what people around me were thinking and feeling. I allowed the opinions of others to dictate my actions and thoughts. I was left feeling so misunderstood, and still do at times honestly. I’ve been judged, ostracized. I’ve been told to get over it, and that I need to just move on. I’ve lost relationships and have seen some change. Social anxiety became, and still can be, such a present enemy in my life. I went through a prolonged period where I was so afraid to commit to anything because I never knew how I would feel tomorrow, let alone next week, next month or even a year from now. And as frustrating as it was for people in my life to deal with that it felt more difficult for me to try to help them understand.
People want you to carry on like normal, but it’s ok that you can’t. You must give yourself that freedom, as hard as that is. I’ve learned it’s ok to say no when you would normally say yes, or to cancel plans even after you’ve already committed. It’s ok if you aren’t in the mood to attend that wedding, party, or work function. It’s ok to say no to helping decorate for a baby shower if your heart isn’t ready, even if you think and know people will be upset and not understand. It’s ok if you feel gutted if someone shamelessly announces their pregnancy to you by sending you their ultrasound picture (talk about major trigger). You have to know that people may not understand what you’re going through. That’s ok. Let them, but don’t allow them to make you feel guilty for grieving. That’s where grace comes in. For you and for others. Let it flood your soul. And always remember, to be honest, be real, and be authentic to you.
‘I do not understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are and doesn’t leave us where it found us’ Anne Lamott
I am certainly no expert in pregnancy loss or grief, however, in my experience through 4 miscarriages I know how hard it is to endure. My journey has been difficult, it hasn’t been what I expected. But it has also allowed me to be a witness to the abundance of God’s love, so I wanted to leave you with this example of hope in the midst of unimaginable heartbreak.
The day we lost Maddox God brought everyone together in a way that only He can. He knew my situation was critical so He ensured I was at home so the paramedics could get to me quickly and take me to the hospital. The paramedics that came consoled us, cried with us and took such great care of our baby boy. He allowed the Head Nurse of Labor & Delivery to hear about our arrival so she could come and bring us out of the ER to the maternity ward where we belonged. The doctor on call happened to be the Head of that unit and is very well known and highly respected in the medical community. Our nurse was on her last shift that day, her next shift would be as a doctor. She prayed with us, wept with us, and shared hope through stories of couples she had witnessed delivering their healthy rainbow babies. He made our pastor available to come to pray over us and our son and provide a sense of calmness and peace in the room. A calmness that allowed me to recognize, in that very moment, that we were witnessing God’s angel army at work. For us. In a way that only He can. And that is living proof of His never-ending love.
If you are one of those women who are in the trenches of pregnancy loss my soul weeps with yours. Some days it feels as though you’re waking up to a nightmare, yet it’s your reality. It can feel so lonely and exhausting as you are constantly working on adjusting to your new normal. Please know you can take refuge in this truth. God is with you. He matches you step for step, even if you don’t feel it. And on those days when it’s too heavy, He will carry you. He weeps with you and rejoices when you smile. Draw near to Him. Every day. Stand strong in your faith and the promise that He has already written your redemption story.