Mourning Sickness

Unexpected. Unforeseen. And definitely unwelcome at a time when celebration seemed more fitting. Yet there I sat numbly in the doctor’s office, listening to his words.

For years I had dreamed of cuddling with our newborn child, of the times when my husband and I would wake up in the middle of the night and spend precious moments comforting our baby and attending to his or her needs. I had been so excited to hold a positive home pregnancy test in my hands, and then to share the news with close family members that we were expecting our first child after several years of marriage.

Once we found out, we set up an appointment with an OB/GYN office in town. As we waited for the appointment day, my heart exploded with thankfulness for this wonderful gift of life. I imagined what it would be like to celebrate my child’s first birthday, or to gently wipe away tears over a scraped knee. I wondered if I'd be a wise mother, what interests this child might have, and what life might hold as he or she reached maturity.

Appointment day came, and we answered questions about our birth plan. Then we were ushered into a small room where an ultrasound tech waited. I hoped to have my first glimpse of the baby I carried, but the tech skipped the small talk as she watched the screen. She was quiet — or was it just her personality? She had seemed talkative just moments before. The next few minutes were a blur as we were told, “There may be a miscalculation or there may be a problem. We should see the heart beating by now, but maybe you’re not as far along as we thought. Let’s do a repeat ultrasound at your next appointment.”

So, we waited. During the intervening days, we celebrated Thanksgiving, our hearts grateful for new life. Yet, our gratitude was tempered by so many unknowns.

As the morning sickness continued, we dared hope and plan for the future. My parents drove hours for a visit. Mom was excited, and wanted to go shopping for her new grandchild. Although she knew about the uncertainties, she hoped it was simply the timing of the ultrasound. As they said goodbye, we dreamed of what the next few months would hold.

At the next appointment, the doctor quietly confirmed what we dreaded the most: “Your baby has not developed further.” This can’t be. It must be a mix-up. He could see the question on my face, and gently but plainly stated, “Your baby is dead.” When would I wake up from this nightmare? Why would God give life only to take it away?

Although I had faced the possibility I might never have children, I never even considered miscarriage. It wasn’t on my radar. The news hit me hard.

“Your baby has not developed further.” This can’t be. It must be a mix-up. He could see the question on my face, and gently but plainly stated, “Your baby is dead.”

We left the office in a fog. Only a handful of close friends even knew I was expecting, so when I shared with them what had happened, those close friends offered words of comfort and encouragement from time to time. One friend dropped over that first night with hugs and a big pot of goulash, saying, “I know you won’t feel like cooking. You might not know, but we faced the same thing. I’m so sorry.”

In the weeks that followed I became acquainted with grief. It was right in my path, and there was no way around it. I’d think back to the days of excitement and joy, and it seemed I would never be the same.

About a year later, another friend and I were rooming together at a weekend retreat. Late one night we started talking about the miscarriage. She began asking questions, gently leading me to talk about the loss and my pain. We talked into the wee hours of the morning. I received the incredible gift of a friend who was willing to simply be there, to listen, and to share the pain. I was not alone, and in time I began to glimpse hope of a new normal for me.

It can really help to talk with someone about what you’re going through. It did for me. Losing your little one is a hurt no one should have to experience, but too many of us do. You’re not alone. Just leave your contact information below and someone will be in touch soon.

Photo Credit George Ruiz

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