“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”
Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul
My life certainly hasn’t gone as I ever intended it, but looking back, I know one thing has always been constant: God’s hand on my shoulder as I walk the long, twisted path that I have taken. Circumstances that could never be called anything but providential moved me from a huge city in cold, snowy NH to a small town in Eastern Ohio. I started college in my mid-20s, after having insisted I would NEVER go to college. It was there that I met my husband, who had huge aspirations to attend Johnson and Wales, but also ended up in Ohio, at the insistence of his family. By the time we were married, we had determined we would have six children, 3 boys, 3 girls. We had even picked out our favorite names.
Our sweet little daughter came along 17 months after we were married. Other than “all-day sickness” for most of my pregnancy and pre-eclampsia at the end, which resulted in a long and difficult labor, my pregnancy was healthy and mostly uneventful. Only 8 months later, we discovered we were expecting our son. I was nervous about the idea of two children so close together, especially since I had been through a bout of severe post-partum depression right after our daughter was born. But God had his plans for us firmly laid out, and we welcomed our son 17 months after the birth of our first. My husband and I decided that for my health, we would wait just a little longer between pregnancies, and so we settled into our new little routine with our two beautiful children, happy and content.
Less than 2 short years later, our world was turned upside down. I surprised my husband on Valentine’s Day with a positive pregnancy test and a card telling him he was to be a dad again. Only three days later, however, that dream was shattered when I began miscarrying our baby. I was hurt and confused, but determined it was simply a thing that just happened sometimes. The very next month, I again had the opportunity to share a joyous positive with my husband, although this time we were cautiously optimistic. Things appeared to be going well, until I was awakened with severe pains on Easter night. We rushed to the hospital, only to find out that I was again miscarrying. This time, I was 5 weeks along. Heartbroken and discouraged, we decided it was time to take a break from pregnancy and focus on our family.
Up until this time, I had never once considered that “I” could ever suffer a miscarriage. I was healthy, I had two children who were conceived quite easily. Surely this could not be happening to me now? What had gone wrong? What had changed in my health and what had I done that would cause these losses? The questions were too numerous, the doubt and fear overwhelming. But this glimmer of hope spoke so clearly to me, showing me over and over the times that God had guided us on a path that we had never intended to take. I saw my unexpected pregnancy with my son and knew that, despite my fears then, God had blessed us with that child when He did for a reason. A purpose. Our daughter was not an only child; despite our losses, I still had two amazingly wonderful, beautiful children that loved me and called me mom. Really, I couldn’t ask for more.
August came along and brought with it new heartbreak with yet another early loss. It was at this point that I finally got some sense in my head and decided that this would stop and I would get help. With the support of a wonderful OB, we had a large number of blood tests run and many follow-ups in the coming weeks to determine a cause and make a game plan. It turned out my issue was fairly simple. I had insulin resistance, which was affecting my cycle and causing the embryo to lack the health it needed to grow and thrive. We started a regimen of metformin and diet changes, planned a new blood draw for 3 months later, and agreed to again take some time off from pregnancy. It was during this time that my husband and I talked and agreed that we would wait to try again until my insulin levels were in the normal range and I had lost at least 38lbs. My goals were achieved just before Christmas, 2013.
My entire outlook on pregnancy and loss had changed at this point. I KNEW my cause of miscarriage, I knew what treatment needed to be done to “fix” it, and I was doing said treatment. I knew this was it for us. God would bless us with another child because we were doing everything right. On January 8th, 2014, we announced to my family that we were again expecting. This time there was confidence, there was joy, there was maternity clothes shopping! Until an ultrasound at 7 weeks and 3 days shattered that joy into a million pieces. My baby was not growing, and there was no heartbeat. An HCG draw confirmed this news and I was sent home to mourn and to wait. The days passed slowly and my heart grew bitter. I was angry. So very angry. How could God allow this to happen to us? We had been so good, so trusting, so faithful. We had never given up our hope, we trusted always in His goodness.
Whether out of a need to get out of the house or just a feeling of obligation to my parents, we accompanied them to a group study at our parish after Church that Sunday. I was quiet, sullen. I didn’t want to talk, didn’t want to open my mouth, for fear the tears would start and the anger would be heard. I didn’t know how I was going to get through this loss. I had SEEN my baby on that ultrasound, I had had the chance to actually feel the early signs of pregnancy. There was simply no moving on from my feelings. So when the group leader called on me to share my thoughts on the previous week’s readings, I didn’t know what to say. Suddenly, though I found my voice. The hurt, the anger, the disappointment, the bitterness all came spilling out. But no one stopped me. No one tried to correct me. There was no gentle rebuke that I was not trusting in God’s plan enough. There was simply a group of listening ears, understanding that I was hurting and in pain. That my heart was still in a million shattered pieces and would take more than just a simple hug or comment to mend it.
And then there was prayer. That prayer was not for me to accept whatever plan God had laid out for us. That prayer was not a plea for God to show me why this had happened. That prayer was for my baby, for that beautiful life I had carried. The love for my baby, from mostly complete strangers, was overwhelming. The acknowledgment that my baby, no matter how short a time she had been here with us, would never be forgotten touched me to my core. That prayer turned into prayer for me, for my healing, both physical and emotional. Again, it was never about accepting the pain and dealing with it, but HEALING from the pain. There was also praise for the blessings God had put in my life, my two living children, my amazing and supportive husband, our jobs that provided for our family, the support of a knowledgeable and kind doctor, my family and friends who were there in our time of need.
The healing started that day. That dark, bitter cloud that was draped over me was slowly being lifted. And it wasn’t because of my efforts. It wasn’t because of my will or desire to move on. It was simply because of the love, prayers and support of such wonderful people. They never questioned my lack of faith; they never demanded that I show more trust in God. They acknowledged that my pain and hurt was real, that it was okay to show my vulnerable side. Why? God doesn’t call us to be strong 24-7. He doesn’t ask us to constantly be happy and joyful, to ignore suffering and pain. He DOES ask us, however, to lift up the broken hearted, to comfort the afflicted, and to pray for both the living and the dead. This is part of our faith and those wonderful people that I was surrounded by at my time of need truly showed what it means to live your faith and administer to those in need.
And so today, I call on others to do the same. Miscarriage is a hard cross to bear. It’s painful, both physically and emotionally. Let us become a light to mothers in their time of need and give them the prayers, love, support and guidance they need to be able to grieve and heal. Let us recognize the lives of those who, while gone so soon from our lives, are never forgotten. Let us not jump to rash judgments about the sufferings of others and instead meet them where they may be and lead them closer to God’s healing love by our example.
I never expected my life to take this difficult and painful journey, through a land of suffering and hardship, but I know that He has led me through, safe and sound. He sent me angels here on earth, to guide my feet along the lonely path. And I know now, this is exactly where I need to be.