Saturday, April 06, 2013

Family Tapestry

Yesterday my daughter wrote an honest, raw and painful post about the grief of miscarriage. It has taken her some time to be able to talk about this. It is just so hard. In her post, she said she hoped her readers would be able to talk about it also. So, I am going to try to follow her lead on this one. I hope you will first click here to read what she has been through.

My first experience with miscarriage began when I was quite young. My Mom lost one baby before me and another when I was 4 or 5 years old. The first, Brian Keith was born too early to survive, at least in those days. I was conceived before his original due date so I guess if he had survived I would not be here. That is not something I can really work into any neat little package in my brain so I don't really try. I just know there will be another brother to meet in heaven.

Mom's last baby was also born too early. I was old enough to know we were expecting another baby in our family and I was old enough to feel the loss when she died. Little kids handle such things in really weird ways. Me? I named all my dolls after her, Sally May. I hope that didn't cause my Mom even more pain. She'd already endured so much. Sally lived for several hours but things were managed differently in those days. She was not allowed to see or hold her baby. Sally died without the comfort of our mother's arms. That still makes me so sad.

When I was expecting our second baby my doctor became suspicious I was carrying twins. I was not at all surprised. We had twins the prior two generations and I had always kind of thought I'd be the one in this generation to have twins. An ultrasound was scheduled and I was really excited. My friends at work knew why I was having the ultrasound and asked me to call afterword to tell them the results.  I'm so grateful Mike was with me for that ultrasound. The x-ray tech showed us the heartbeat of one baby and then casually said something about the twin that had died. I had not prepared myself one bit for such news! What a mess of emotions! That was the first time I'd ever had an ultrasound and seeing that heartbeat is quite wonderful, but learning that one was dead was awful.  I wasn't prepared.  Later, when I called my friends at work, the response I got was unintentionally really hurtful. One friend said, "Aren't you glad? You wouldn't want twins!"  ...But I did, I really did. I named him Andrew Michael. No, I'm not even sure it was a boy but that's what I decided. If I am wrong, we will call her Andrea or something. I don't know how things like that are worked out in heaven but I'm sure he or she will forgive me if I am wrong with my gender guess.

When we lost the second baby, Mike and I had not even told anyone that we were expecting. It was still a delightful secret. That pregnancy was the first one I'd experienced without vomiting all the time. I felt great! We'd spent the day with our two older kids, Maria and Ben, in Lewistown, MT. The baby was on my mind all day. I was excited for the day we would announce it. Just before we left Lewistown, though, I discovered that I was bleeding. It wasn't much. Sometimes those things happen, right?

We went the 60 miles home and I think I was pretty quiet. When we got home Mike took care of the kids while I went upstairs and called the doctor. Like Maria, I was told there wasn't anything they could do. I remember sitting on the floor of our bedroom weeping. By the time the pain started, I knew I was losing the baby. I called my Mom. I'm sure it was strange for her because she hadn't known we were expecting anyway. Still, she knew the heartbreak. It was a comfort to me to speak with her.  Like Maria, this miscarriage took a lot of time, a couple of very painful days.

One of the things I felt during that miscarriage was an incredible desire to protect that baby. I had a tremendous need to keep it inside of me. I knew it was too late, but it still just seemed that if I could postpone the inevitable, maybe there was still a chance.  Of course, I knew the baby had likely died before the first sign of miscarriage. Nevertheless, that bit of hope was hard to relinquish.

Of course I don't know if that baby was a girl, but I named her Carolyn Grace anyway. Mike's Mom is Carol and mine is Grace. Isn't that a pretty way to combine the names? I think naming these babies was for my own comfort more than anything. I don't have a back-up name for that baby but again, all this will work out fine later and I will be forgiven if I guessed wrong. My motherly intuition regarding gender was wrong for Maria, Ben AND Sam so I won't be too surprised to learn I missed the mark.

I think one of the first things I ever did when I learned I was pregnant with any of our babies was to protectively put my hands over my own abdomen, as though I was guarding that little life, that little person who was a combination of Mike and I and all our ancestors before us. That has got to be some deep instinct, that need to protect one's young. I think that is part of what is so hard about losing a baby.

People don't always know what to say to someone who has suffered a miscarriage. Well, I will tell you this, it may be best to just say you are sorry for their loss and then let them know you are there to listen more than talk. One of my friends told me it brought her comfort, after a miscarriage, when someone explained to her that her baby was likely deformed or less than perfect in some way. She took comfort from that and from thinking it was all for the best. When someone said that to me I was horrified! I know there may be truth in that but thinking of my baby as being deformed brought me no comfort at all.

We don't all find peace in the same way. I think that is why it is best to take more of a listening role when trying to comfort anyone from any loss. Beyond that, I don't have real advice for you. I will tell you that one of my dearest friends, learning of my miscarriage, sent me a handmade card. On it was a drawing involving tears and a Biblical reference to Romans 12:15... weep with those who weep. That touched my heart deeply.

Grandparents and husbands suffer when a miscarriage occurs as well. I've never been a husband so I can't tell you first hand how it is. I'd think they must feel so helpless when it is happening. I know they'd like to fix it. It is just so hard. A lot of men keep it to themselves, trying to be strong for their wives. What comfort do they need?  And grandparents? What could be worse than seeing your child with a broken heart?

I don't feel sorry for myself over my miscarriages. How can I? I am so grateful for the three children we were able to raise. My life is full of love and family. I do not take it lightly that my dream of motherhood came true. However, I do still feel sad about those little ones we didn't get to raise. I look at Ben and wonder if his twin was identical. What would it be like to see two of them side by side?! Would Carolyn Grace have looked like Maria? Would she have had red hair like Sam? Would they now be parents themselves?  And the grandchildren? What would they have been like?

I really don't dwell on thoughts like these much but sometimes they do come to my mind. Those babies are not really lost and they most certainly are not forgotten.  I may not exactly know them, but God does. I don't worry about where they are. I expect they already understand things better than do I... and I believe we will be reunited. They are part of the tapestry of this family.