It's Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. Along with so many others, today I remember and grieve the loss of two children through miscarriage.
There are so many well-meaning people with good intentions that attempt to exhibit love and compassion in the wake of a loss of a little one. There are a ton of messages, sermons, and writings pointing to Christ-centered gospel-focused responses to suffering that attempt to bring comfort in the pain. In the midst of your pain and grief, sometimes there just aren’t words that can bring comfort.
It wasn't until I began to talk to a lot of different people that shared their own experience that I began to understand that we were normal in feeling some of the things that we were feeling. It gave me a sense of permission to engage the conversation with a new perspective. It allowed me the permission to feel my feelings.
Before our experience with loss, I had never really heard a whole lot about miscarriage and most of what I'd heard was connected to a hopeful attitude toward what was to come afterward. Or, I’d listen to stories of victory after trying for a long time to get pregnant. No one shared very much about the pain, hurt and reality of losing a child.
One of the first times I recognized this new pain in my heart was during the May after our son was born. Everyone was wishing my wife a happy first Mother’s Day. The reality was, because of our conception and loss, my wife had already had a Mother's Day before the one that we celebrated with Noah in our lives. It's hard because most people don't think of it in that way. We shouldn’t expect people to. Many people would never even know. I know it’s not fair to put unrealistic expectations on other people. But, it still hurt to hear.
Even when people did know about our loss, I felt that there was a sense mystery in how to handle it with us. Sometimes, it was met with silence. I understand that people don't want to offend or drum up old hurtful emotions for us so they'd instead not address it. But it still hurts. Many times the subject was even treated with a "spiritual dismissiveness" that is hard to bear. They’d say things like "Don't worry about it, your child is with Jesus.” Or, “the baby is better off with Him.” Though these statements are true, it still hurt to hear them. A lot. I don't think people realize that the flippant and short-sighted statements that they make in the attempt to be spiritual may have lasting and harmful implications in the long run.
There were the other times when there was not-so-spiritual dismissiveness. People would say things like “oh, at least you weren't that far along.” Or, something like "It happens to people all the time." I understand and have grown in my awareness that, yes, miscarriage occurs a lot. This doesn't change the fact that when it has happened to us, it rocked us as a family. No comparison to other people’s situation can take that away. It always causes me to wonder how many others don't allow themselves permission to feel the pain connected to this type of loss, only because of the people downplaying it around them.
I cringe when I hear people ask questions of couples like, "when are you going to hurry up and have kids?” or “what are you waiting for?" having no idea if they are struggling with infertility, physical limitations or have just not been able to carry a child to full term. It’s tough to hear something like this when there’s nothing you’d like more than to have a child of your own.
I understand that there are some that would perceive a writing like this to be connected to a negative thought or shows a lack of faith in the hope of the gospel. Or, maybe because I wasn't quickly able to get over the pain of loss shows an immaturity as a believer in Jesus. While all of this very well may be true, it is only in this place of vulnerability and weakness that I was able to begin to allow The Lord to minister to the hurt and pain in the broken areas of my heart. I believe that many others need to feel the permission to be vulnerable, as well.
I failed when I was merely trying to will my way through the pain. Over-spiritualizing every aspect of the journey. Never allowing myself to connect to the real present emotions. This was the only way I knew to respond, and in retrospect, I hate that I did. The words that I was saying in connection to the hope that we can find in Jesus were true. The desires I had for others to be encouraged by our pain and story were true. The problem is that those didn't mean anything in real life for me yet. I needed to be aware of the fact that it was okay not to be okay, feel the pain and pray for restoration and healing on God’s terms.
Miscarriage, I've learned, happens to a community. No one has a choice to be a part of it or not. Once it happens, if you are in a relationship with the couple, you are experiencing the pain of loss as well. This truth only enhances the scripture that speaks about mourning with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice. We had a ton of people that were broken and hurt and praying on our behalf. We didn't even know how to process what we were feeling and certainly didn't know how to respond to the compassion and empathy of others when it was provided.
We’ve since experienced the immense joy of having our son and are currently expecting another little boy. I am fully aware that this is not the story of every individual. Experiencing infant loss is messy and nuanced and hard and complicated. You are not alone.
It’s okay not to be okay. And whether you believe it or not right now, there is a Living Hope in Jesus.