Guest Post Written By my Wife, Katie May
Photos By Mozingo Photography
During our family photo session with Meriah, we decided to have a moment to remember our loss and to reflect on the grief of our miscarriage from October 2014. These photos with Afton and the new life Katie is carrying are priceless to us in that they captured the true raw emotion of what it feels like to lose a child before they are born.
As I approach the one-year mark of loss, of my miscarriage, I reflect. I remember the pain, the grief, and the uncertainty. I sit here with a big belly, full of life, and I am thankful, but I also am reminded of the miracle of it all, the sovereignty of God, and that life is a gift. I share this story not to highlight my story, but to shed light on the story of so many women. Miscarriages are common, but we tend to not talk about them and the reality of the scars we are left with. Since my loss, I have spoken with so many women who have been through a miscarriage or multiple miscarriages. It’s a highly emotionally impacting part of who we are. As women, it’s important to be real with each other, to carry each other, to honor each other. Writing is healing for me, but I also hope my story may also help another who may be going through a similar situation. Know you will never get over your loss, but you will learn to live with your loss. It changes you, but it does not define you.
Tuesday, October 7, 2014 was the day we had been long awaiting for weeks. We were excited and a little nervous for our first appointment. Andrew even got to come this time around because of his more flexible schedule. We were all prepped and ready. The doctor did a few seconds of looking around before turning the screen toward us and then it dropped like a huge bomb out of her mouth…”I’m not finding a heartbeat. I see a small something there, but I’m not sure this is a healthy pregnancy. It’s measuring only 6 weeks.” What in my mind had been a baby with many hopes and dreams suddenly became reduced to “it.” I didn’t cry at first, but sat numb and frozen. The doctor continued to talk and I asked a few questions, the tough ones about the high possibility that this pregnancy wouldn’t be viable. That this baby was not living. She then explained the procedure from here and that I would have the option of waiting a week and coming back for another ultrasound just to make sure vs. having my hormone levels drawn over the next 3 days to see how they were trending, which would give us a pretty strong indication if the pregnancy was progressing as it should or not.
That night I cried. I cried so hard I didn’t know if I would ever stop. The grief washing over me and pouring out, washing over and pouring out. I cried with Andrew, I cried alone, I cried with Afton. She was so compassionate for a 2-year-old. She acknowledged my grief and I was immediately thankful for the blessing I did have and for her genuine spirit. I was bewildered, grateful, angry, and overall confused that I would feel such a deep pain in my soul for a being that I had never met, that I had never even really seen, or physically felt, but oh how I had already connected with that little being. I never expected to feel the grief I was feeling. I immediately begin to think about the two patients I had taken care of earlier that day who were told they both had metastatic cancer in their late 50’s with months to live, and my perspective shifted for a moment to say to myself, “this is nothing compared to that, you will survive, move on.” But I couldn’t listen to myself, the pain was too great, and it wasn’t going away anytime soon. I then was reminded by a dear friend and chaplain that we cannot compare our griefs, not with each other, and not even with ourselves from loss to loss. Each grief is unique and sacred. Grief has purpose in all of our lives. It teaches us things we never knew we had…resilience, compassion, and love. The truth is, grief brings us closer to our maker because there is no one’s heart that hurts worse than His when his dear children are suffering.
Thursday, October 9th was my day of much needed rest. My coworkers sent me the most amazing flowers. We spent some time with Afton in the morning and then had an awesome plan to go up to Craggy Gardens for an evening hike, picnic, and tinker bell photo shoot. It had been beautiful all day, but as soon as we started on our adventure it became overcast and began pouring rain all the way up the mountain. We debated about not even going at all, but something inside us kept telling us to keep going, to trust, have faith, plus we decided we didn’t have anything better to do. When we got to the top it had stopped raining, but the fog was “as thick as peanut butter.” We sat in the car for a few minutes, I helped Afton to the bathroom and then on our way back to the car, the sun peeked through the clouds and a tiny sliver of blue sky appeared. Then, all of sudden, the fog started rolling out of the valley like smoke. We could slowly start to see the beauty before us. The fall colors peeking off the mountains, the promise of beauty in the mess. Within 30 minutes everything was completely clear and the sun was shining. We proceeded with our family time on the mountain and witnessed one of the most beautiful mountain sunsets I have ever seen. In the midst of all of this, I felt my heart still and a sense of peace and comfort saying “I have you and I will not let go.”
Friday, October 10th I called the office to follow-up on my lab results. There was a little confusion at first as to my values but then I received the final confirmation that my hormone levels had not increased enough to indicate a healthy pregnancy. My heart sank and I became instantly frantic again. A feeling I don’t think I will ever forget, a feeling that hits me still like a wave. The nurse walked me through the next steps. We would go in again on Tuesday, October 14th for one more ultrasound just to confirm.
I’ll save you my gory details, but the next week was spent confirming a final pregnancy loss by ultrasound and beginning the treatment to have the remains expelled from my body. The physical pain lasted only a short time, but the emotional pain was long lasting. Though the pain is less, I’m not over it today. I am continuing to learn to live in the hope of life; cherishing the joy that is present, but easy to overlook.
At the time, the pain was so real that it greatly affected my friendships with some of my pregnant friends and I had to be very honest with myself and with them about the difficulty in acknowledging my sorrow but sharing in their joy. They were gracious. I prayed for strength, for hope, for forgiveness, and for joy. I learned a great deal about being compassionate in others grief. I have learned some important things to say and do, but more importantly what NOT to say and do and I will share these below.
Ways to help someone through a pregnancy loss:
- Don’t expect everyone to handle this type of loss the same way
- Don’t compare their grief with yours or anyone else’s grief
- Don’t use phrases such as “well you can try again,” “at least you weren’t far along,” “your young and healthy,” or “were you trying to get pregnant?”
- Don’t assume everyone will want to try again right away. Grieving can take time and being ready to try for another baby can be a very emotional decision.
- If you are expecting yourself, be sensitive. Don’t assume your friend/family member is going to react the same as she would prior to this loss regarding your pregnancy. It’s a very exciting time for you, with many hopes and dreams, but a very painful time for your friend/family member with many lost hopes and dreams.
- Do acknowledge their loss and grief. Allow them to share their story and to talk about their grief.
- Do offer support: a meal, to babysit if they have other children, a listening ear, send them flowers or a nice card, a care package
- Do give them permission to grieve and time to heal (this could take days, weeks, months, or even years)
- Do be patient with them as they work through their grief: it has many stages
- Do realize that men and women both grieve the loss very differently
- If you don’t know what to say, it is okay to not say anything. Hugs are good, the world needs more hugs.