Nothing Changed But Everything Did- A Miscarriage Story

I didn’t know it would be so hard to get the day out of my head. I can go back and watch my steps again in silent slow motion. I see me walking into the office, breathing slowly in the waiting room chair. I hear the brittle paper on the bed beneath me, the NeedtoBreathe song from the speaker, the static as the doppler searches for any hint of a throbbing little heart.

I see the walk to the ultrasound room, the forced smile I offered the tech, the ceiling tiles I counted while she quietly clicked the computer, never swiveling the screen to show me the outline of a mini baby. I watch myself walk out the doors carrying a “countdown to baby” calendar the nurse had handed me upon initial congratulations. I see the way I avoid eye contact with the pregnant mothers in the waiting room and make my way to the car. See how I look down at the images of women gazing at their babies and feel the first hint of cramps across my abdomen.                                                                                                                            

I hear the noises dim, everything becoming slow. Methodical. Stoic.

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Pregnancy hasn't taken up much space in my thoughts or dreams before this summer. Adoption was our first choice of family making. When we made the leap from 0 to 2 kids, it took us a while to find our footing again and when we did, we discovered our ideas about family size had changed. We weren't against growing, but quite content with just what we had.                                             

I like to think I am prepared. I scroll through all sorts of scenarios, attempting to wrangle the emotions of surprise pregnancy, infertility, disrupted adoption, special needs diagnoses, difficult birth, etc. so as not to be caught off guard by pain. Somehow miscarriage didn't make the list. I've never seen myself as one in the 1 in 4 statistics.

Awareness is good, I’m no advocate of naivety. But it turns out, the preparation I think I have against being blindsided by pain or fear is mostly a mirage. I couldn’t have premeditated the peculiarity of this miscarriage pain if I’d tried.                                                                                           

I ask for a clear-cut description: How long will it last? How bad will it hurt? How sad will I feel? No one can give it to me, the ones who try get it wrong.           

Walking out of the doctor’s office, l feel frozen in place while the rest of the world waltzes on around me. A week becomes endless when every moment, mind and body are in a state of confusion; becoming un-pregnant, un-imagining the future.   

I am afraid. Of my body not doing all it needs to do, of inducing pain, of more bad news and medical procedures, of risking ever having to experience this again.                                             

Two voices clamor within me; one cruel and bitter voice railing at my body for not keeping life alive, for not even being able to miscarry efficiently. (As if these intricate bodies follow text book time tables.) The other is fragile; wounded and undone at the harsh words self-inflicted, knowing my body is only doing the best it can.

I’m surrounded on every side by fervent love and support. Yet, lying on the bathroom floor searching for any position to gain relief, any place my mind can go to find comfort, I’m desperately lonely.

My own sorrow becomes a side note when I see my daughters’. I look into eyes who have known greatest loss and watch their faces fall with another blow and ache from head to toe for any way to spare them from more pain.  

I dread to see the doctor’s rooms again. The swishing of a rapid heartbeat reverberates from a room down the hall the day I return, a sound track to my cynical thoughts as I stare at ceiling tiles once more and wait for confirmation that my uterus is empty.

The relief that my body has finally completed its grim task is shadowed by the next reality: It is done. Now life goes back to normal. I no longer have obvious reason to ask for help, cry at random, skip social outings. My body can resume activities, but my mind is still in the thick of hormone commotion, disoriented thoughts, and often overtaken by sad reminders: the grief of my girls, the absence of Jazzy’s comfort, the haunt of the prenatal vitamins on the counter and a newborn onesie on the dresser. Sometimes sorrow rises like a storm surge. I feel it’s ache pressing my chest, and when it crashes, it knocks the breath out of me. Fatigue is a lead blanket around my shoulders.                                                                                                                                       

I’m disorientated about what I’m grieving. It feels fraudulent. Did I fake this whole thing? To reference a time “when I was pregnant” sounds like a child’s imaginary motherhood. Does it even count if the baby didn’t grow? 

 I didn’t have a connection to a life within me yet. I never saw movement on the black and white screen, never felt it flutter within, never even felt my body expanding with its weight.

I want a system restore back to spring. Why can’t I resume the contentment I had with my life just a few short months ago? I envisioned a future that now I have to un-think, and nothing changed but everything has.

It isn't a tragic loss, I'm keenly aware of so many suffering so much worse. Nevertheless, hope deferred makes the heart sick and sad. Sad for the disappointment, sad for the way death casts a shadow no matter when or how it comes. 

I read and re-read every note, message, and text, amazed at how few words it takes to be lifted by kindness. No need to attempt making sense or better of the situation, the simple acknowledgment of pain and reminders of love carry me many moments and days. I have never savored every check in, every mention of a prayer offered, every hug and handpicked flower and grocery bag delivered so deeply.   

Amidst hopes and fears and thoughts of a possible next time, I look at my daughters lying next to me in bed and tell them with voice choked but adamant, “Having a baby is absolutely not something upon which our happiness hangs. Our family can stand complete and completely delightful to us as it is.” We have been gifted wildly beyond our deserving with two precious loves. To share in the wonder of a new baby together would be a delight, but there is goodness in store for us no matter what shape or size our family takes. We are not waiting on a delivery of joy. We have it already.

Life is brighter now. I’m surprised how hope springs up again from broken ground. How one can start to dream of better days and better news. Hope is often hard won in my heart, but it's shown up persistently of late.

My thoughts are less often “Why?”, and more often, “Why not?”. If suffering is world-wide, this whole universe groaning to be delivered from injustice, disease, and death, why not me? If it’s 1 in 4 women, why not me? If my place somehow leaves less space for my sisters, my friends, my daughters, in the statistic, I’ll take it willingly.   

I don’t know how I’ll feel next week or next month, what disappointments or sorrows may roll over me again. But today, I don’t wish this experience away.

Every woman who called or sat down beside me and quietly spoke her story, or willingly answered my questions and revisited her heartache for my sake left a lasting impression on my heart. Friends who’ve spent hours listening and reliving their own dark days in order bring a glimmer of light to mine have given me a new understanding of whole-hearted friendship.

Sisterhood shines bright if you look around the corners of this isolating loss.                     

Brittany, Becky, Kayla, Sandy, Alice, Megan, Melanie, Janna, Abbey, Amanda, Angie, Tina, Hanna, Kate, Alaina, Cielo, Erika, Allison, Sara, Michelle and others who prayed, thank you for being a light to me. 

If sharing a story can give companionship to another woman wrestling through the confusion of her loss or give insight to the sisters, spouses and friends trying to understand the peculiar grief of their loved one, I offer mine with open hands, cupped ever so carefully around the fragile edges of this sensitive topic.

Grief has many varying degrees. My recovery from deep disappointment is so different from another's recovery from acute grief, and even within the same loss, the process doesn't look the same.  Comparison and expectations of healing upon ourselves or others are unfair. Each storm moves on its own path and time.

For you maybe miscarriage was a blip on the screen, possibly even a relief, and you move right on. Maybe it was an emergency room and surgery and trauma upon trauma. Maybe it was confusion. Maybe it was a prayer answered and then revoked, and sorrow stings bitterly for months and years. There’s an open page for every version here.

Compassionate storytelling brings healing to the listener and teller alike.                                     

If you are living out your own pregnancy loss or any grief story, I hope for you what I’ve hoped for me: that you realize how much God and your people are for you. I hope you make peace with your body and deal tenderly with yourself. Look, see how she’s doing the best she can? I hope you don’t allow shame to taunt the emotions you do or do not have. There is no formula, no feelings rule book. Sit with whatever emotion arises and be honest with yourself and your people. I hope that hope surprises you, rising from your ashes. I hope in time you find it is well with your soul. And when it is not well, I hope you see a Jesus who weeps with you. 

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I hope beauty shows up boldly in the Autumn of your life. And I hope Spring, when it returns (and it will), is glorious.

Love, C. 

The Monday That Changed The World (as we knew it)

It was an ordinary Monday. They make the best memories.

I was wearing a faded Invisible Children shirt, doing paperwork from the couch on my old laptop, listening to Yanni. Sunlight was streaming in through the blinds making patterns on the wood floor from the layers of leaves. The house smelled like air-conditioned summer.

I finished paperwork and called Dave. He was harvesting wheat. “We’re going to run the rest of this field, so I won’t be home for a little while”, he said. In between my questions about his plans, my phone beeped an incoming call. I glanced at the screen to see who it was, and suddenly our entire lives changed.

The strange thing about this day, June 25th, 2012, (yeah I’m a day late, but it’s a Monday memory most of all) that I can go back and entirely relive 5 years later, is that it holds pain and sadness as well as excitement and joy.                                                    

I was aware of the paradox in those first moments. I’ve become far more in tune with it as I try to consider the world from my daughters’ angle, see the anniversaries and memories and holidays through their eyes, framed by their loss.

For a while, I felt the sorrowful side of these anniversaries so heavily I hardly mentioned them, almost ashamed of the joy that was also there.

As I anticipated this date and felt conflicted emotions with its memory, I realized I was doing it again. Trying to fit life into an either/or category, when the human existence is mostly always a both/and.

The story of June 25th is the girls’ birth story into this family, after all, and they should get to hear it.  What child doesn’t love to hear her parents fondly reminisce about the day they found out, the sheer joy of finally seeing the face of their precious child? This one is theirs, and there is no lack of sheer joy.

So this year, I tell them the story with enthusiasm, about the call that changed our whole world. They laugh when I demonstrate how I had to sit on the floor because my knees were shaking so hard. I tell how the dog raced around the house, not knowing why I was crying and gasping and laughing and laying on the floor. How their Daddy had to make Uncle Kendall drive the combine because he was shaking so much from the call. How he cut his harvesting short and I ran barefoot until my feet nearly bled to meet him down the street so we could come home and open the pictures for the first time together. How we stayed up late that night, reading everything we could about their story, practicing saying their names, dreaming of meeting them for the first time.

And they grin but their eyes glisten with emotion when I describe how we sat side-by-side, looking into photos of their tiny faces, and wept. Overcome at the unimaginable fear they’d experienced, at the privilege of becoming their parents, at the loss from which our family was being born.

Then it’s our turn to listen as they ask questions, stare at pictures of their own little faces and giggle at the sight of themselves, and then begin to reminisce. Quickly stories of their homecoming surface. Cy tries to remember the first time she saw a photo of us, but gets sidetracked with details of friends and caretakers. “Not to be disrespectful”, she prefaces, “but the blankets they gave us in Ethiopia were TERRIBLY itchy!”. Not to be left out, S chimes in with her own “memories” of eating applesauce and learning to crawl.

They’re full of animation tonight, and I’m stern with myself about not getting all up in my mommy-stalgic feelings as we look back at photos of this day over the past 5 years. After more reminiscing with Cy, S wants her turn at the mic again. I’ve watched her emotions building just below the chatty surface. She wants to tell something she remembers, but it’s from last night. It starts out as a dream about a monster, but quickly turns into a sincere telling of her awaking last night thinking Mommy and Daddy were lost. She tries to tell it nonchalant, but one big tear escapes on the final word. She climbs into my lap and wraps her body around mine, and I’m in full on comfort mode until she asks to hear “her song”. (Each girl has a special song I sing to them.) Midway through John Denver’s croon of I’ll cling to the warmth of your tiny hand, my emotions stage a revolt.

I manage to regain territory before she sees my tears. She relaxes in my arms, and when the next song is Thank God I’m a Country Boy, we all end up in a kitchen dance-off, seeing who can come up with the weirdest country moves. Laughing and crying, Laughing and crying. We’re learning the both/and dance too.

The human heart is capable of honoring both the joy and the heartache.  

Maybe some years they’ll be desperate to see and hear and revisit every single detail like they were tonight. Maybe some years they won’t want to go there at all, and we’ll let June 25th pass for an ordinary summer Monday.

But I’ll treasure it always in my heart, the day that held the biggest surprise. The highest anticipation. The fiercest love. The gravest responsibility. The scariest lack of qualification. The heaviest sadness. The sharpest juxtaposition.

The best both/and day of my life.  

 

I'll walk in the rain by your side

I'll cling to the warmth of your tiny hand

I'll do anything to help you understand

And I'll love you more than anybody can

~John Denver

 

 

Can I Kiss Your Feet?

The evening after I'd finished writing this story, I sat down on the couch and showed it to Cypress. She's fascinated with this writing hobby of mine, and was thrilled to participate in the process a bit. I read it aloud to her, using every effort not to cry and make her sad, watching out of the corner of my eye as she nodded and grinned.

"I remember that day!" She proclaimed when I finished. "I love this story, Mom!"

"Me too, sweetheart, it's one of my favorites." I said. After we'd discussed a few words she didn't understand, whether she thought any details needed changed, and what editing meant, I asked, "Do you think we should keep this as a special family story, or is it one we should share for other people to read who might be figuring out how to communicate and love each other better like we are?"

"We should share it." She said with confidence.

So, here's a little story, with love, from Carrie and Cypress:

 

I personally have never been one for footsie or foot rubs or really any foot affection. It’s not that I find feet revolting; I’m a barefoot girl with callouses and flip flop tan lines as many months as Ohio will refrain from frostbiting. it’s just that I’ve noticed a tendency for feet to either be damp with sweat or resembling refrigerated meat, and I’m uncomfortable with both. It’s also an area most likely to get skipped in grooming routines, and I’m not eager to come in contact with untamed areas, nor do I wish for others to encounter mine. But for all the dirt-collecting and grime feet may present, my daughters haven’t acquired my aloof feelings. In fact, quite the opposite.

...When Cypress, my eldest, reminisces about her life and family in Ethiopia, she often tells of how she liked to kiss her momma’s feet. It is touching to envision her, tiny child that she was, participating in a cultural tradition and even in her limited comprehension, attaching emotion to it.

One day she and I were having a particularly rough time. We were doing our classic battle. Her: a quiet altercation. Me: a loud correction. Her: stoic and response-less. Me: producing enough emotion to compensate for her lack plus three others. Her: unable, unwilling, or too uncomfortable to respond. Me: unable to comprehend how one can have no responses, and determined to conjure up appropriate emotion in her. This was the vicious un-merry-go-round we rode time after time...

Click HERE to read the rest of the story published by Coffee and Crumbs

 

For The Big Changes and Big Feelings Days

This week ushers in some big changes for us. A new season, if you will, (though I have strong opinions about the literal season still being solidly summer).

My mom used to try to ease our fears of a ruckus, March thunderstorm by saying, “the warm air and cold air are fighting, but don’t worry, Spring always wins!"

In our house, the seasons of toddler and preschooler are at war, and no matter how much I hate to see my baby go, time is winning this one.

Most of the time all the big words and sass keep me grinning behind my hand or all out laughing. But there’s a sharp edge. Her soft, sensitive spirit is sometimes muddled beneath a mountain of attitude. Stomping feet and side-eyes make regular appearances.

The other night she tallied up a decent number of salty comments.

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I kept my interactions cordial, but big emotions were brewing. New realities of two kids in school and complicated schedules and a new job and Dr. appointments loomed. How would it all come together and get done? How is my little birdie face baby saying the alphabet and getting ready to trot into a classroom? Will she wet her pants or get a PreK detention for calling another child chicken doo doo?

The changing weather was ripe for kicking up a storm.

I lugged watering cans around the house, trying to resuscitate plants on the brink of death by desiccation. Her mouth ran non-stop, going from baby-talk to big girl negotiations with her sister about who could ride the scooter. She was incessant about me watching her every trick.

As I labored by with overflowing cans in each hand, she intercepted me and, with her giant-wheeled pink plastic tricycle, nearly cut me off.

I barked instructions. She was moved, but not to repentance. She shoved her trike and flopped to the ground.

After a few moments, I told her I was happy to get her to bed if she was done playing. She lit off the concrete, grabbed a handle bar, and attempted to launch her plastic mobile through the garage door. It bounced right back to her, and she shoved it again, with double the force.

And the thunder rolled.

I tossed the watering cans down. I’ve grown a lot of endurance for dramatic fits the past year, but this time the barometric pressure was grizzly.

After moving her briskly towards bed, we stopped on her white, faux sheep skin rug, and sank into its softness.

Suddenly both of us were still and sad.

I looked at her, shifting and sniffing involuntarily. The clouds that were heavy with anxiety, exhaustion, and sorrow over the season we’re leaving, let loose. I turned my head away, face in hands.

I felt her put her hand on the edge of the bed then back down, and ever-so-softly, it rested on my arm. I pulled her into my lap.

She lifted her head from my chest, her face focused. In a soft, strangely mature voice she said carefully, “I’m sorry I said the dinner you made wasn’t too promising.” The last word choked out of her quavering lips, and a tear spilled down one cheek, but she put her head on my shoulder and didn’t make a sound.

“She’s even crying like a big girl now”, my heart groaned.

“I forgive you, sweetie. I love you so much.” I looked in her eyes. “Reacting in anger is never the right choice”, I said through a tight throat. “It’s not how I want to handle problems, and I’m always sorry, so sorry, when my response is mean.”

Two tears overflowed her eyes, a silent witness to the sensitivity that is ever-present beneath the sass.                                               

Relationships are always moving and changing, dropping the familiar leaves, and then bursting forth in fresh growth again. Beneath the hot upheaval is the cool undercurrent of new life. New development, new schedules, new responsibilities, new fears, new problems, new understanding. From time to time the warm and cold are bound to collide.

I’m learning that like the current, emotions are better felt than fought. Identifying the feelings threatening to pull you under can help you lean into them and stabilize, rather than thrash in panic or anger or isolation that would like to drown you.

For me, each new season churns up the shame that would like to cloud my vision and cover me in muck. I start thinking “how are we here already? What all have I missed? If only I could have savored better, loved better, been better! I wanted to hurry those long days, and now I’ll never have them back!”

Sadness and regret and anxiety over how I’ll mess up the next season clamor for their turn at the mic. Often, I get swept up in the tumult of the current and in the frantic gasps for air, do the very things I desperately DON’T want to do: pull away, react in anger, sink in despair.

If, instead of fighting, I pay attention and lean in, I realize the tide will actually carry me towards connection. It might be messy and teary, but it brings about honesty and we all learn together to talk through our feelings, to listen, to validate, to forgive. The bad news is, it's learned more in the storms and the strong currents, less on the sunny, smooth sailing days.

Mom's words calm me still. I see their truth in the seasons, the tenderness of my daughters, and the Still, Small voice speaking to my tumultuous spirit.

Spring, with its new life, warm days, and fresh air, always wins over March’s rough skies.  

Grace, with its renewed hope, warm compassion, and fresh mercies, always wins over the rough skies of change.

Is it dark and windy in your life? Is the thunder of change or regret or big emotions rattling your windows?

Don’t worry Grace wins.

 

On one of my passes to the bathroom that night to gather more TP for our tears, I flipped on the light and peered at my face in the mirror. Hair succumbed to humidity. Eyes puffy. Cheeks littered with dust and mascara. Dirt still on my fingernails.  

Back at Sami’s side, she looked up and said, “You look so pretty tonight, Mom.”