It was Saturday, around 4 in the morning. It started as most days do — my son, stirring and waking me up, getting him back to sleep, me — contemplating whether or not I really needed to use the bathroom and after a debate with myself, deciding to get out of bed. Something didn’t feel quite right. I was bleeding.
I was seven weeks and six days pregnant.
At 8 a.m., I told my husband Roy about the bleeding. He wanted me to call someone immediately, but I thought it was too early and went to make breakfast first: pancakes with leftover batter, some fried eggs, a cup of coffee.
I wasn’t as surprised or upset about the bleeding as I thought I would be. This second pregnancy had been quite different from my pregnancy with my son, Bear. I expected the usual nausea to hit around five weeks, as well as the aversions to certain smells. They never came. I was initially happy to not have any sickness or aversions, especially to coffee.
But then at about six weeks, I started to be a little concerned. I shared my concerns with the midwife when we interviewed her, and because of several factors (one big one being a huge change in my dietary habits between pregnancies), she was not overly alarmed. I also heard from several other moms that they had completely different pregnancies, and that was normal for them.
I tried to keep a positive attitude and had even recently begun to tell people about the pregnancy.
We didn’t have a care provider picked out yet, as we had been interviewing midwives, but after breakfast, around 9 a.m., I called the midwife I was most comfortable with. She assured me that bleeding could be normal in early pregnancy.
But I felt something wasn’t right. The bleeding continued and increased throughout the day. At 2:55 in the afternoon, I was holding my son Bear when I felt something happen inside me. I slid down the wall I was leaning on and sat on the floor. When the cramps stopped, I made my way to the bathroom to see what had happened.
What I found was my baby. He was as tiny as a pebble, still inside an intact sac of waters. It was really happening: I had lost my child.
In the days that followed, I went through a myriad of emotions. Part of me was accepting what happened. Part of me was grieving it deeply. And part of me was in denial.
Part of me recognized I was likely to have a miscarriage at some point, given my family history. My mother had a miscarriage and an ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy that grows in the fallopian tube). My grandmother had several miscarriages. When moms on my on-line mom’s board whom I barely knew would speak of their lost babies, I would sit at my computer and weep. Somewhere in my heart, I knew it would happen to me.
But knowing it was likely and having it actually happen are two different things.
Part of me wanted to hold tightly to my stomach and pray for a miracle. Part of me just wanted life to go back to normal.
Normal? Is there really such a thing after experiencing a loss this deep?
I had experienced loss before. My grandmother died just months after Bear was born, one year to the day before my miscarriage. My son never got to meet his Great Grammy. I had grieved the loss of other friends and family over the years.
I had even experienced the tragic loss of my high school voice teacher. She walked me through my parents’ separation and divorce. She acted as a mother figure when my mom subsequently moved to another state, bringing food to my voice lessons when I was wrestling with an eating disorder. She encouraged me to apply to college, getting several applications for me. And when I received a talent-based full tuition scholarship to one of those colleges, she celebrated with me.
A few months before the end of my first year at that college, she had numerous health issues that spiraled her into severe depression. Based on my recollection, when her insurance ran out, the psychiatric hospital deemed her cured and released her. She committed suicide that weekend.
Grieving her death taught me a lot about tragedy, pain, suffering and loss. It wasn’t the same kind of grief that I experienced with others I’ve seen pass away. Most of them lived long, full lives. I missed them and felt the holes left in my life by their absence, while recognizing that they lived their lives to the full. With my voice teacher, I grieved the life she may have lived had she received the treatment she needed. I grieved the sheer senselessness of her death.
I think that’s similar to what grieving a miscarriage is like, although I don’t quite see it as senseless. Most early miscarriages happen because of genetic defects or fetal abnormalities. I see that as God’s providence and provision. Early on in the pregnancy, He allows the baby to die, sparing the parents a long pregnancy that would most likely result in a baby who could not survive outside the womb.
That doesn’t lessen the pain, but rather helps me to understand.
Some would ask, “Why didn’t God just not allow the pregnancy in the first place?” I personally never asked that question — not once. After the shock of the news of pregnancy wore off, we got to share the news with family and a few close friends. We got to share the loss, too. Out of the few people whom we had told, many had experienced similar losses.
A close relative even came over for a few days after the miscarriage to help take care of our son and help around the house, while I was still dealing with the physical after-effects. And I know from many of the other trials and losses that I’ve experienced, God has used them so that I can now say to someone else in their loss, “I know exactly what that feels like.”
Generally, when a trial comes, my reaction is not peaceful and definitely not helpful or edifying to me. I’m always asking God, “Why?” That in and of itself is not a problem; for me, it’s what accompanies the question that becomes an issue. I tend to become overly critical of myself, looking at my own life to see if there is some hidden or cherished sin. I get depressed easily, and my thoughts quickly stray to questioning whether God is really good or whether He really cares for me if He allowed this trial to happen.
Throughout the weeks following the miscarriage, though, I never found myself asking “Why?” Instead, I experienced an unusual peace, something completely uncharacteristic of me. I didn’t wonder if I had done something wrong, if God was somehow punishing me or if the miscarriage was some sort of “sign.” I just had peace that God had me, and my baby especially, in the palm of His hand.
The words of Job had never rung more true to me:
Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.
He allowed my husband and me to find out we were expecting on our sixth wedding anniversary. He continued to nurture that child, whom we called Bunny Boo, in my womb for four weeks after that unexpected surprise, and then He gave me the gift of seeing my pebble baby pass on.
Still, in some ways, the grief is similar to what I experienced with my voice teacher’s death. I’m still left with unanswered questions. Would he like to be rocked and sung to sleep, like my first-born? Would he get along with our dog? Would he look more like me or my husband? Would he have light or dark hair? Would he have been a snuggler, like Bear is? Would he like to sleep on my lap?
My biggest question was what happens to the unborn when they die. If heaven and hell are the only two options, where is my child? Do fetuses even have souls? If God knew us before He even began to form us in the womb, if He then continues to be involved in the process by knitting us together, creating our inmost being, I have to believe that He doesn’t just forget about a fetus when he or she dies too soon. I hold on to the hope that my child, whom I never got to hold in my arms, is now resting in the arms of Jesus, that his name is written on the palm of God’s hand.
I find comfort in the fact that God Himself knows what it’s like to lose a child. Maybe one day, the tears will stop. I think, though, it’s more likely that they’ll just slow down.
I’m still grieving, and that’s OK. Sometimes, it reveals itself in boredom, in frustration, in impatience. If I sit with those feelings for a moment (after all, how can I be bored with a 18-month-old running around?), I realize what I’m really experiencing. I’m simply missing my pebble baby, my Bunny Boo.
Copyright 2009 Brenna Kate Simonds. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.