It wasn’t my intention to share this story with the world wide web; to be honest, I’ve deleted this post and chickened out several times. I wrote this letter to share our pain with close friends and family, and no one else. But I keep circling back to “nothing is wasted,” a phrase that an old friend began using after he lost his wife and unborn child in an armed home invasion. Davey writes, “If our story can be used as an instrument to serve and help you in yours then truly, Nothing is Wasted.”
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March 30, 2017
It became official on Monday, but I knew by 7am Sunday morning. I didn’t feel them anymore, which might not be saying much because at that time our baby was approximately 7 weeks old and smaller than a blueberry.
I noticed a small amount of blood on Friday. A quick google search reassured me that there was nothing abnormal about my symptoms. After all, some people bleed throughout their entire pregnancies. My body did feel ‘off’ on Saturday but I just figured I was tired from my long morning run. I didn’t want to yield to the voices of doubt and fear. I wanted to be hopeful. So I went on with my weekend. And even though I was well aware that the bleeding was starting to progress, I convinced myself to stay positive.
I woke up on Sunday hoping things might have improved overnight, but they had only gotten worse. My fears were confirmed by the drastic drop in my waking temperature. (I’ll spare you the science behind basal body temperatures, but a significant drop is not a good sign during a pregnancy.) There was no room for denial; all signs pointed to miscarriage. As my hopefulness was wrecked by the abrupt reality of it all, I came undone. My first thought was to throw things at the wall like an angry teenager but instead I just cried a lot and wrote this prayer:
“You are the God that gives and takes away. I’ve been praying that those words would be my wisdom throughout this pregnancy, but God I thought You knew I was mostly praying for my far off future self! The one that, if she lost her kids, would need to remember that they weren’t really hers in the first place. As recognition that I know they are Yours and only Yours, to give…and to take away. But I never thought those prayers would be put to the test this soon.
I don’t know why You think I can handle this. I should not be jumping off the deep end into spiritual waters that rise way above my head. Shouldn’t I be in the shallow end? Sometimes I wish I were. I’m not praying that as a prayer request, but to stay honest with You. It seems easier. Or maybe I just like the sinful comfort of sitting in despair feeling sorry for myself. Because feeling sorry for myself, especially in this situation, feels like a rite of passage that I’m missing out on. While I’m definitely still in shock, I was surprised by how quickly my mind landed on certain wisdoms, like, “I trust You, You’re a good father, this isn’t the end of my story.
Another part of me is being pulled to “I failed as a mother, already. …Is this a punishment for something I said or did?” But then you quickly pull me back. Back into the deep end where mystery, reverence, and faith lives. And where shallow, unloving thoughts about failing and punishment, do not. Thank you for loving me well. I know this isn’t the end of my story. I -will- praise you today. Help me when it gets hard. I know that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I’m starting to truly understand what that verse means. I pray that Clay gets it too. Amen.”
I didn’t want to make the whole day about me and my pain. Somehow we made it to the 9:15 Church service. I tried to focus, but I couldn’t. Tears just poured out of me. At one point I wanted to get up and leave, but I didn’t have the strength to move.
I had my blood drawn on Monday; mostly as a courtesy to our doctor and to Clay. The lab results revealed what I already knew. Still, hearing the nurse gently say the M word over the phone sent me over the edge. I snapped at Clay when he asked what they said, and shut myself in the bathroom and cried alone for what felt like hours.
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Clay was distracting himself with his planner and getting hung up on all of the to-do list items that were left unresolved in the past year. He said, “I finally let myself think about it all, and I realized…’of course I’m not going to be productive. How could I? We’ve been fighting through a constant state of grief for years now.’” This hit me hard as I realized how true it was. We are still grieving grandparents, relatives and a close friend. The truth is that grief lingers well after the initial loss, but we can never seem to get back on our feet before another wave of loss brings us back to despair. We’ve reluctantly begun calling ourselves ‘grief experts’ because we know the in’s and out’s of mourning all too well. We are just so tired. The kind of tired that doesn’t just go away with a good night of rest.
We may have different political views about this, but know that for us…a life was lost. I do not think our loss is the same as losing a 5 year old, but I read somewhere that “the amount of time spent together does not equal the depth of emotion we feel when it comes to loss.” So regardless of varying opinions, we hope you can respect ours as we grieve the loss of our sweet, precious baby. We are devastated, and hurting, and heartbroken, and even angry at times. But please believe us when we say that what we are -not- is jealous, or bitter, or spiteful.
Hours before I started writing this I held my cousin’s adorable 14 day old baby boy. On the day I suspected the miscarriage I met my newborn niece Marlowe. Before I was even pregnant our best friends told us they were expecting and I cried genuine tears of joy and elation in the middle of the restaurant, with food still in my mouth. My biggest prayer, and relief, has been that my journey has not hindered me from fully celebrating these joys. In other words, I haven’t had to ‘fake it’ when someone else gets good news. I refuse to let our circumstances keep me self-absorbed and feeling sorry for myself while good things are happening all around. Because our lives are definitely not void of blessings; even if they aren’t the ones I want so desperately.
I’m not saying that the next newborn baby I see won’t make me cry. But I am so grateful for all the new life that did make it through the full journey. I am so grateful for all our friends and family with healthy pregnancies. That’s the difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is fleeting and unreliable but joy is the thing that can survive even when the circumstances get dark and messy. Joy is deep in the marrow of our bones, even when they feel dry and brittle.
Clay described our sorrow earlier as “the most private pain he’s ever felt” and he’s right. We’ve both been silently hurting and we can’t find the words to describe what we are feeling even to each other. I became a mother the moment I saw the plus sign on the first pregnancy test. I was mindful of our baby with every bite of food, and every chain-smoker I’d avoid on the sidewalks. (People even commented to me that I was ‘glowing’ and ‘glowy’. I thought that was hilarious. They had no idea I was pregnant and I didn’t think the whole pregnancy glow was literal!) Our baby was with me physically, but not with Clay. It has taken him longer to grasp the loss as it was more abstract for him. But as my body continues to reject the pregnancy I have a real and physical reminder of our loss every second. Clay does not, but he still cares. He cares enough that to reinforce our team mentality he offered to stop wearing his watch symbolically. So whenever he checked the time and remembered his watch wasn’t there, it acted as his own physical illustration of what I was going through and what we’ve lost. It’s been so encouraging to know that I don’t have to come up with all of the strength on my own.
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I have to pause in the middle of this heartbreak to gratify my own happy flashback. I still smile just remembering my initial glee and giddiness. As many of you know, we’d been desperately trying for exactly a year, since last March in 2016. It was a long journey (another story for another day). So to find out we were pregnant exactly a year later, was perfect in every way.
Man! I was so excited to tell you all as I stared and stared at the first pregnancy test. I absolutely could not wait to see the looks on your faces when we told you that Baby Brinks was on the way! It was always on the tip of my tongue but I also kind of loved that it was a secret I could protect for a little bit longer. I loved the idea of being pregnant for my 30th Birthday. I was excited to share the news with our parents on Mother’s Day. And I couldn’t help but plot all the playdates that would ensure our baby would be best friends with our new niece Marlowe, and our friend’s babies. I especially fell in love with our due date…Thanksgiving.
Our baby was only the size of a sesame seed when we found out we were pregnant but the instant love I felt was more than I will ever be able to express. I couldn’t wait to kiss their little head and stare into their sweet face. My heart was bursting with so much joy and possibility. We had waited so long for this.
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I read another woman’s miscarriage story where she described how she was pleading with God to lift her out of the “pit.” She then went on to recount God’s gentle response. “My Child, You keep thinking about this as if I am reaching down from the top of the pit, desperate to help you get out and move on. I am not there. I am in the pit with you, holding you and weeping with you.”
Reading this actually made me angry with God. “How dare You claim to be in the pit with me when You are the one who put me here?” …I know I’m writing to a diverse group. I have no idea what your relationship with God is like, or if you even believe in a God at all. I apologize if some of these thoughts are hard to follow, but know that my interactions with God aren’t much different than a face to face relationship. I’ll try to make it more accessible from here on out. Imagine being in an explosive argument with a close friend and you’re in the middle of defending yourself when they lean in and just try to hug it out. You think, “No way! I’m still angry with you. I’m trying to make an honest attempt at our unresolved conflict. Your hug just feels patronizing and unsympathetic.”
I realized I needed to invite God into the pit with me. Even if it was just so I could wrestle with Him to my own exhaustion before I could begin to let Him truly comfort me. It makes the scene after the shouting match that much more rich and meaningful. The big happy embrace when everyone cries through sloppy tears and says “I’m sorry for everything. I need you. I love you.”
My point is that it’s possible that you may feel worse for us than we do for ourselves. By the time you’re reading this, we have already begun to work through the heaviest and darkest parts of our pain. We’re past the bulk of our shock, anger, and depression. God held us, and wept with us and now we’re moving into love, trust, and peace that passes understanding. Easter is upon us, and I love how this is preparing our hearts for Christ’s own suffering and triumph. In more approachable words, it’s similar to the feeling I get when I leave the theater after an intense, emotional movie with a ‘happy’ ending. “Everything is going to be okay.”
We don’t expect you to have the perfect words; especially because we are still finding ours. This is not a fun topic, I know that. But I wrote this with my heart and soul and tears on my sleeve. I wanted to be intentionally vulnerable with hopes that it would help you feel comfortable enough to talk to us. We want to let you in. We hope you don’t avoid the subject, because you don’t want to upset us or bring it up. The truth is we will grieve this loss until the day we die. But I am so grateful for the time I was given to care for our baby and would never trade in those few weeks I spent as a first time mom. I will always think about who they would have been. But in those inescapable moments of heartbreak I cling to Clay’s encouragement when he leaned in and whispered, “We will make it through this.”
“The paradox of [grief and suffering] is that lots of people have suffered in this exact way, and yet no one has suffered in this exact way. There is no pain like this pain, and yet millions of people have had this exact pain.” (Robcast, Episode 95)
I am not the only one who has suffered this type of loss, and yet my story and my heartache -are- unique. Others have shared their pain before mine even existed, so I’m posting my deepest and darkest for the world to read because others have too. And reading their stories has helped me process my own devastation. So even if I can comfort just one person by candidly oversharing then it will be worth the awkward vulnerability, and Nothing is Wasted.
(Update: we are s-l-ow-l-y revamping this website and choosing progress over perfection here. Meaning, most of these essays are old old old and hard for me to read because I’m just not the same person who wrote them. This is especially true with this post.
Usually by the end of it I can’t help but rudely snort at my own ignorance. Only because the neat and tidy bow I tied it up into unraveled shortly after I wrote this. Things were not fine. Life got dark and messy and it stayed that way for months. We took a month long sabbatical because of it. I say all this just to say that so much has happened and changed and the majority of these essays don’t reflect the full journey.
We’ll get this site up and running at full speed eventually, but until then, know that there’s always more to the story….)