Around my thirtieth birthday, my husband and I fell in love with the idea of expanding our family. We thought of names and personalities, imagined quirks and bad habits. We dreamed of sons and daughters.
We tried and tried. We waited. We tried. We tried again.
Each month, hope and disappointment came and went. We charted temperatures and cervical fluids, visited specialists and took test after test.
We found a few small complications, but we kept getting the same answer: “Nothing much to worry about. Just keep trying.” So we did. But along the way, our hearts wore out. We were exhausted and fragile.
And then we found out we were pregnant.
After two long years, we were pregnant. A missed period, sore breasts, nausea, and smelling things from a mile away had gotten our hopes up. Maybe this was it!
Then the cramps and bleeding started. It was the heaviest, most painful cycle I had ever had. After a week, I visited my doctor. The nurse was the first to suggest it. She said that, based on my symptoms, my body was most likely “rejecting a pregnancy.” Then she said what I would hear over and over again from many well-meaning friends: "What good news to get pregnant in the first place!"
But all the air had left the room. My throat closed up. I wanted to cry. I wanted to yell. Shock was the only thing keeping me upright. Sitting alone in the examination room, without tests or proof and still waiting to see the doctor, I knew she was right. Something was broken.
My doctor was kind and reassuring. She told me that an astonishing number of women miscarry without realizing it, and encouraged us to keep trying. Every part of me wanted to skip past this hard part and keep trying; to pretend that, since I didn’t hear a heartbeat or watch arms and legs wiggling, this wasn’t a heartbreak, it wasn’t too large of a loss.
But that’s not how it goes when you’ve tried, waited, prayed, and wept tears of desperation for this. That first week, I slept more than I’ve slept in my entire life. I didn’t work, didn’t talk. Weeping was all I could manage. My husband told our families and later our friends. He made space for his own grief and even for all of mine.
At first, I wanted to erase the past two years of longing, disappointment and loss. In my hurt, I was tempted to close myself off and replace the pain with numbness. But our miscarriage was too much to sidestep; the only way out was through.
Then somehow, slowly, and without my permission, all my giving up and giving in turned into healing. With time, getting up in the morning became easier. Daily routines fell back into place, but there was also something new.
In our brokenness, living became a distinctly spiritual practice for me. My faith breathed life into all the places I was sure would die. I thought my bitter cries and prayers of lament might drive me deeper into my pain. Instead, they buoyed me. I was surprised to find that all the things I believed about God, love and hope could stand up to our suffering.
It sounds like platitude, but bearing that pain woke me up to so much comfort, too. Nothing silenced the ache in my heart, but as I let myself feel the hard edges of this season, beauty snuck in the unlikeliest places: on the coattails of friends coming by with dinners, in between lines of Scriptures, in embraces, prayers and words of encouragement.
Before our infertility struggle and miscarriage, I kept joy at arm's length. I thought, if it doesn't last, why embrace it? Now, joy's fleeting nature became my reason to embrace it. Knowing now that we would only get four weeks with our long-awaited child before I miscarried, I wish I hadn't delayed in taking the pregnancy test. I wish I had seen a plus positive and savored each day until the end. I can't go back. So going forward, I'm determined to scrape joy out of every crack and crevice and store it up for the thin times. I want to keep getting my hopes up.
I want to be alongside every pregnant woman in my life, delighted by each kick she feels and every mother I know weeping with empty arms. Yes, there is so much pain in our story, but there is tenderness, too. In time, our perspective adjusts enough to see both.
If I had known our story before we lived out the heartache and loss, I would have asked to change it. Sometimes, on hard days, I still might. But mostly, I want to be brave enough for suffering, remember what happiness tastes like, and keep the faith that I’ll find it again.
Photo Credit: Horace and Mae