Artwork source: Magda Wolna on Flickr
This is a hard story to write. It is a hard story to live. And it is a recent story. Not one I can look back on and tell with the remembered ache of a healed scar. This wound is still open. I knew even in the midst of it that this was a story that needed to be told. I can’t really explain why. I just want to tell it now, tell it the way it is now, tell all the hurt and the grief and the beauty and the hope that all comes tumbling out together.
Rasmus is happy for me to share our story. He has read every word before it is posted, because this is his story too.
Sweet friend, if you are pregnant now or trying to be, maybe leave this post for another time. I know the way worries can sneak up on you, overwhelm you, when you are growing a little one. The most important thing is to protect your heart. This story can wait.
This pregnancy was a surprise. Not because we weren’t trying. But because two negative pregnancy tests and a period the week before had convinced us we couldn’t be, despite the permanent nausea I was feeling. When the doctor delivered the news then, I was not entirely ready for it. I got on the first bus to Rasmus’ office and cried in the stairway when I saw him. We were so happy.
We told our families and a few close friends. We talked about names, we planned out our coming months with a new scenario in mind, we tried to figure out the Luxembourg health system.
We had no idea how far along I was. We booked an appointment with a gynaecologist near our home for a few weeks later and waited and planned and got excited. I told Rasmus I didn’t know what the protocol here was but I wanted him with me: “If I’m further along than we think I am I want you there when we hear the heartbeat for the first time”…
The appointment arrived and we walked over to the doctor’s office on a beautifully sunny day, full of anticipation. A nurse took blood samples while I looked the other way and then we chatted together in Danish in the waiting room, making jokes to chase away the nerves.
The next few minutes are a blur to me now. I changed and lay down for the scan. Rasmus was standing behind our doctor watching his screen, there was one over my feet for me to watch on. I remember seeing our baby, seeing that blurring but certain shape appear on the screen and my heart beating a hundred times faster as I realised I was seeing our child for the first time. I remember our doctor telling us our baby was at least ten weeks old, much older than we’d thought.
And then I remember the doctor saying gently, “But I’m afraid there is no heartbeat”.
He explained some more, pointed out what he saw, but I couldn’t really focus. My hands clenched hard and I tried to keep my breathing steady but my body was working against me and the tears came easily. Rasmus was at the foot of the bed, his face reflecting the shock mine must have been showing. The doctor left us for a moment and I collapsed into his arms, heavy sobs engulfing me.
The baby we’d been so excited for had died.
The afternoon was drenched in tears. We lay together for hours, with few words to say, just clinging to each other and wishing it was not true. Prayers started turned into more tears. We sat through more appointments where the worst was confirmed and we cried some more.
I was booked in for surgery the next day, on the recommendation of all three doctors we spoke to. That day was so hard. We were surrounded all day by kindness: health staff who spoke their French slowly to us so we could understand, a doctor who shared our sadness and explained everything clearly, nurses who held my hand as I waited outside the operating room, and then wiped away my endless tears and murmured soft words to me when I woke up in the recovery room.
We came home to flowers on the doorstep from the only friend in Luxembourg we’d told and countless messages from our family who surrounded us in love even while they were far away. As we’ve chosen to let people know, we’ve been met with understanding and big hugs and eyes welling with their own tears. People have let us know that they too have known this pain and that shared experience has been a comfort to us. Within all the pain and heartache of these days, we are carried through on a wave of support and love, and we are so grateful for that.
My precious husband has been my rock and my strength. He has cried with me, stayed with me, hugged me, prayed over me, bought me chocolate, cooked me food, made me smile again. He’s reminded me it’s not my fault, reminded me that it feels wrong because death is always wrong, reminded me that we will get through this. He’s told me he loves me over and over.
Life goes on with little regard for the small tragedies that happen every day. It’s something that has been both a help and a struggle for me. We left on holiday five days after my surgery. Five days after that I coordinated a wedding between two friends of ours. Only one couple there had any idea what we were going through. It’s a hard topic of conversation to bring up. But I thought about our lost baby almost constantly.
There were tears too. I cried my way through communion at church. I cried as a sweet friend prayed over me behind the stage after church. I cried on the steps of the Helsinki cathedral in the evening sunshine. I cried in bed after the wedding was over and the last guests were still dancing inside. I cried on the streets of Tallinn’s old town the morning after I dreamt our child had been born well and healthy. I cried coming home when everything felt so near again.
And this is how life goes, the wrong alongside the right, the bad existing together with the good. Very early on I felt God saying to me through my struggle with these conflicting emotions, conflicting moments, to rest, to let go and let it happen as it happens. I can’t control my grief and I am not meant to. It will not look like I expect it to, or how someone else tells me it should. There will be times of happiness and enjoyment as life goes on with all its goodness, and there will times when I am again engulfed in sadness and the tears fall like rain. And it’s ok.
Brave is simply taking the next breath. Brave is facing the next moment, whatever it may bring, and knowing it will be ok. This is not right, but it will all be right one day. This is not good, but one day it will all be made good.
We have a picture of our child. A dark and blurred one, not even as good as the ones I’ve squinted at on facebook of other people’s children. But it’s our one physical reminder and it’s precious to me. He – and somehow I am sure it is a he – will always be our first.
Update: I wrote a little more about our miscarriage experience in August over at She Loves Magazine, “When God sits with you”, about how I found Rest in God in our grief.