Save for a single fluorescent desk lamp, the room is dim. Eerie, dusky, uninviting. The gel feels warm on my lower belly, against the coldness of my frigid hands. It is 3 in the morning, and I’m exhausted from the anxiety of not knowing what the hell is going on. The gel will reveal answers, I tell myself, and so I revel in its presence on my belly, ready to be read in the dark like a bedtime story.
The doppler makes its way around my stomach like a lunar lander exploring the moon’s surface for the first time, unearthing the mystery of life within. Does anything lie beneath its surface? I try to read the ultrasound technician’s eyes, but they never leave the screen beside me even as she controls the doppler’s every movement with utmost dexterity. She has done this many times before.
Her eyes remain peeled to the screen, not once making eye contact with me, her mouth shut the entire time as if not to betray any semblance of emotion. She doesn’t want me to know.
The room is silent, and I’m waiting for the sound of a heartbeat — the sound of the same precious heartbeat I had heard four weeks ago — to puncture it. To breathe life into the sterile room.
The room is silent.
After my uterus is read and re-read, when the mystery of my bleeding and cramping has finally been solved, I’m transported back to the ER room in a stretcher, Drew and I right back in the brightly lit room where we had set up camp for the night. We anxiously await the results of the ultrasound, eager to hear that our baby is fine, that this bleeding and cramping are normal parts of pregnancy, and that I was simply overreacting. I wanted to hear the happy ending so bad.
The doctor finally makes his entrance, and he is wearing the most indelible expression, the kind that screams I’m sorry for your loss. “We couldn't detect a fetal heartbeat during the ultrasound,” he continued, “unfortunately, this is a miscarriage.”
Drew and I drove home in prolonged silence that morning, afraid to crack and break open right then and there, in our suffocating Jeep Renegade. I kept skipping lanes and missing turns, and Drew had to constantly re-adjust my driving. Our child deserved more than this.
Once inside the privacy of our apartment, which had never felt so empty and triggering as it did that day, we wept as fiercely and passionately as weeping can possibly go. It all made sense in that moment— why Jesus wept for Lazarus, a man he had never met. Why the shortest, most poignant verse in this Bible I know to be true is this: “Jesus wept.” Our baby never made it earth-side, but I know Our Father is weeping with us too.
We grieved the lost promise of the future, and all the dreams we had bookmarked for our growing family. We grieved knowing that our baby would never read the books in our library, would never take its first steps in our living room, would never get to go fishing and hunting with Grandpa and Odie, would never get to know the unconditional nature of Mom and Dad’s love in the form of an embrace and forehead kiss. If there was a sound for heartbreak, this was surely it.
So we laid in bed, sobbing into our pillows, hands placed against my belly — my now-vacant belly — that once housed the best surprise that has ever happened to us.
It has been a week since I miscarried. I’ve struggled physically with my body’s natural healing process. Expelling the baseball-sized remains of my baby has been the most excruciating physical pain I’ve ever endured in my life — it is nothing like “having a terrible period,”as the websites like to describe it. My miscarriage was a thousand times worse than that, even if you subtract the emotional turmoil from the physicality of it. The painful “cramps” are actually labor contractions, ones that had me screaming and kicking and hyperventilating in another emergency room visit until the painkillers soaring through my veins calmed me enough to be able to tell the nurses my name.
I was willing — I am still willing — to endure any pain if it means cradling my baby afterwards. But I walked out of the hospital that night, two days after learning of my miscarriage, having essentially experienced the pain of labor without the prize that would’ve made it all worth it. The pain, the poking and prodding, all the blood tests and invasive exams. I had nothing to show for it other than medical bills for a baby I so desperately wanted but couldn’t have.
A week has passed and I’m still not fully healed. The worst is surely over, but I’m still bleeding. I’m still in physical pain, although it is bearable now with a cocktail of painkillers and antibiotics. I wish I could say the same about my sadness; that there is an easy pill to cure it, something to make my heart hurt a little less than it does now. But instead, with the distraction of my physical pain subsiding, I have more headspace to process my emotions, and that has proven to be the most difficult thing of all.
My days have been spent grieving the loss, trying to find hope amid hopelessness, answers amid countless questions, healing amid what feels like unbearable, soul-crushing suffering. My tears swell every time I come across a pregnancy ad on Facebook (which is frequent), and my heart re-breaks with every notification on The Bump letting me know that “your baby is the size of a [blank]” today. My baby is dead, but it’s hard to let go.
Amid cancelling all my prenatal appointments and deleting my baby registry, my faith has been tested like never before, and though I have come to cling onto Christ’s salvific love that redeems all suffering, it is no secret that, in my vulnerable and fallible humanity, in my own brokenness, I have wrestled with Him in an attempt to understand the victorious power of this cross I am bearing.
Lord, please close my heart to doubt and open it up to child-like faith, for I know that in this suffering is the seed of Your Passion, a salvific love that transcends all human understanding. Graze the weeds, Lord, and water me daily.
I understand that this is an extremely personal story to share so publicly, with graphic details included that might be deemed unnecessary or triggering in some form. But I want to proclaim my story to the world, for other women and men suffering and grieving their losses in silence and in isolation. You don’t have to do this alone.
If there is one thing throughout my own healing journey that has been a saving grace, it is the stories of other women who have gone through pregnancy loss as well, and who have shed light on how common yet stigmatized it is (1 out of 5 pregnancies end in a miscarriage), how it is not my fault, how there was nothing I could’ve done to prevent this from happening. These stories, no matter how personal or graphic, have brought color back into my jaded lens, have bent my disillusioned hope back into place. They have allowed me to hope again, to get back up, to truly be able to see how Christ’s death did not end with suffering, but with eternal love and joy. I can taste the redemption now.
I have tightly clutched other women’s stories to my chest for comfort, hope, and meaning, and I now feel called to extend the same gift of compassion — of compassio, or co-suffering. If there is purpose to my suffering, which I faithfully believe there is, I hope it may be that my words carry the comfort of an intimate hug for other women, that it may blanket them in love and let them know that they are heard, it is not their fault, there is not a singular way to grieve, and they are not alone.