I learned the word “miscarriage” as a child when an acquaintance lost her baby. I remember thinking it was sad, but that no one really knew that person yet anyway. At that time, miscarriage seemed rare, and also very hush-hush.
But when I went through it myself, I learned a new definition for miscarriage. Two months after my own, I wrote: “Miscarriage is a word you hear, but I didn’t know it meant this: the weeping of your body; the shredding of your soul; the wretched fear that someone will call the office in your new house a future nursery; the deep dread and terror it will happen again; the extreme exhaustion and tamped-down emotional life; and the sorrow that covers all this—weaving in and out like so many threads. ‘Miscarriage’ actually means your world was turned upside down, shaken around, and put back together all tottery and squint.”
Miscarriage is far different than I thought. And despite our strong conviction that life begins at conception, very few of us know anything about miscarriage or how to love someone who has been through one. 15-25% of all recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage. For every 3 “Coming soon!” posts on Facebook, there is one woman grieving. Although we may be silent, many of us have walked through it.
So in an effort to pull the mask of mystery away, and help us better care for those who experience miscarriage, here is what I have learned in the wake of losing our first child.
- Miscarriage is not a one-day experience, but often a multi-week process.
My miscarriage took two months, involving medication, weekly blood drawings, and two surgical procedures. For those who wait to miscarry without medical intervention, the process may not even begin for several weeks. As a result, your community may have forgotten you had a miscarriage even while you are still physically experiencing it.
- The grief is yours in a way that is unique.
My husband and I did not experience the loss in the same way. My grief was emotional and physical; his was not. I was the one reminded at each weekly blood-draw that I still had pregnancy hormones in my blood. I was the one who couldn’t even go to the bathroom without evidence of the loss. My body literally carried the grief. This can make miscarriage even lonelier, as the people who know about it are grieving differently than you are.
- Grief-sniping is a real thing.
Even months later, you can be fine when suddenly it’s as though a sniper has shot you through the heart. When a friend handed me her baby about two months after our miscarriage, I nearly dropped her as sorrow suddenly knocked the breath out of me. There were other triggers, too. I couldn’t look a pregnant woman in the eye, much less talk to her, for months afterward. Every announcement of pregnancy hurt. Even when I was pregnant again, it still somehow twinged to hear others announce their pregnancies, and realize that I would never be able to walk through pregnancy with untainted excitement.
- The recovery process is long.
On our actual due date six months later, I was busy teaching on the antichrist in Bible study (because, why not?). But all day long, I knew what day it was and what was “due” to me that day. Several friends marked that day with us, and their gifts, voicemails, and texts showed me what it truly means to mourn with those who mourn. They didn’t expect me to be “over” it already, but honored the day, and remembered with me what should have been.
- Your future pregnancies will be affected by it.
I went in to hear the heartbeat of our second baby almost every week in my first trimester. Although I had a smooth pregnancy, anything could begin the terror of having another miscarriage – why wasn’t I nauseous? Why didn’t he move more? Before we named him I called him our “Double Portion Baby.” If we lost him, he’d get a double portion of grief – grief for him, and grief for our first baby. But if we got to keep him, he would receive a double portion of love. His story began in the loss of our first.
- Another baby doesn’t replace the miscarried one.
My first-born is not my first child. During my second pregnancy, it was hard for me at first to feel attached to our son because I was so very aware that this baby wasn’t her. And even with all our joy at his birth, I still missed the first. She is still a loss in our lives.
“Miscarriage,” I’ve learned, is incredibly hard and painful. And although we often are quiet about it, it is never unseen. In Exodus 23 God tells his people what shalom will look like in the promised land, and he includes that there will be no miscarriage. How tender of our God to specifically promise to do away with this particularly painful part of the Curse! He sees the loss of miscarriage, and it is yet another thing that will one day be put right when he restores all things.
We are forever changed by the loss of our first babe. We know she is not lost forever, but we have and will continue to grieve her deeply. Although everyone’s experience will be unique, my hope is that in sharing what I have learned, we can better mourn with those who mourn on the painful path of miscarriage.
Christy Gambrell (M.A. in Counseling and M.A. in Exegetical Theology, Covenant Theological Seminary) works at Orangewood Church, PCA in Orlando as the Women’s Ministry Director. She’s passionate about applying God’s word to real life, authenticity and emotional health in the church, and women serving and ministering in the body of Christ. She also has an unnatural love of all things related to dinosaurs or British literature. She and her husband Dave have one DIY-projects house, one dog, and one baby son.
 From webmd.com: http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/pregnancy-miscarriage#1
 Ex. 23:26