When God Weeps With You – Losing a Child Through Miscarriage
Julie and I collaborated to bring you this blog. Julie’s comments can be found in purple. This was a tough post for us to write. For those of you who are sensitive to topics of an emotional nature, please be warned that this blog is honest and real. This blog is for those who have had or may have a miscarriage. Reader discretion is advised.
This past week has been the craziest week of our (Julie and Chris’) lives. On Friday April 27th, 2012, Julie and I found out that she was pregnant. Julie called me into the bathroom as she had just done the pregnancy test, but had left the test on the counter, underneath a tissue. She wanted me to be the first to see whether it was positive or not. My heart pounded in my chest. We prayed a Hail Mary, and then I lifted the tissue to see.
“What do two lines mean?” I asked
Julie smiled really big and said,
“That means I’m pregnant!”
The emotion that followed for me can only be described as Joyful Terror. My life suddenly changed. I’m a father.
“WE’RE HAVING A BABY! YOU’RE GONNA HAVE A BABY!” I said. We embraced. I just kept saying those words over and over. I was ecstatic.
I knelt down on the floor and spoke to the baby in Julie’s womb and told the baby how excited I was to meet them and to hang out with them, and be their dad. I was so excited to be a father.
I was also beyond excited to be a mother. I had for so long looked forward to the moment where God would surprise us with His gracious gift of a child.
We went immediately to my mom’s house and told her and my grandparents. Julie’s parents are not present in her life, so this was our “telling the family”. My mom was so excited that she couldn’t sleep that night. We called our closest friends and shared the news. Everyone was so excited to meet the newest member of the new Pinnegar family. The donations from family and friends started flying in – high chairs, maternity books, cradles. The generosity of people was so amazing. I told everyone I could think of. I was just so excited to have a baby.
I began to make appointments, find out the anticipated due date of our little one, and I looked deeper into how our baby would grow week by week, including their current stage of growth. I knew how babies grew in the womb, but now that having a child became our reality, I was more deeply in awe of the amazing work that God was doing within me. I knew that this baby was within my womb, still so tiny, and although our child was within me, they were not me. I was just the vessel that God was using to form this child. This was an incredible gift to ponder. God willed this beautiful little child into existence out of His great love, and I prayed for them and thanked God everyday for them.
On May 2nd, Julie and I went to the Central Library in London, Ontario. As we were leaving, after I had dropped off my books, Julie reached out her hand and I said “I’m bleeding”. We were already in a sort of small, petty argument, as her and I find ourselves always getting into, so I was only partly paying attention to her. “I’m bleeding”, she said again. I thought she cut herself so I just said, “Weird, better go clean that up”. After 5 minutes of waiting, I began to worry. Suddenly it hit me. That was not a cut. Almost ten minutes passed when she came out of the bathroom and told me that she had suddenly begun to bleed. She had spotted a very small amount the night before which is supposedly normal, but this was not normal. We jumped into the car and drove to University Hospital.
We got to the hospital and the bleeding continued and got slightly worse. The nurses at the hospital nonchalantly told us that we were most likely miscarrying. We waited a few hours, they took a blood test, and found that the Beta HCG Hormone levels in Julie’s blood (the hormone that indicates if you are pregnant) were significantly lower than they should be for pregnant women. The doctor advised us in as easy way as possible for him (which meant I had to get him to say it) that our baby was gone.
For a week I thought I was going to be a dad. It was the happiest week of my life. It was the three of us versus the world. Suddenly, almost as fast as the baby came into our life, was that little baby taken away. Julie and I were, and still are devastated. We have been an emotional wreck for the last week. We were so excited to be this little one’s mom and dad. But God has a different plan for that baby.
Am I mad at God? No. God did not cause this. He does not delight in death, as the Psalmist says. Will God use this to bring about much good for the salvation of souls and the Church? We hope so.
There could be many varying reasons why God has allowed this to happen. We can only speculate, but short of a personal locution or vision, or Heaven itself, we won’t ever know. Though some may balk at that, it is okay, because we trust that God knows what He is doing. Is it hard to trust Him? Yes. Verily yes. But, if you know God personally, you know that when this occurs, He is not standing by watching like an idle spectator. He is the truly good and faithful Father.
Psalm 139 has always been one of my favourites. This is not only because it speaks to me about God’s care for me personally, forming me as His child in my own mother’s womb, but it also speaks to me about His love for our child as He formed them in my own womb. Though our baby was conceived out of love between Christopher and I, it was not by our hand that our baby grew and lived. It was God who willed our baby into existence and breathed life into our child, guiding their growth:
For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
(Psalm 139: 13-16)
God the Father knows what it is to lose His son – to see Him die. He not only feels sorrow, but God feels sorrow acutely, because He is perfect. When we found out we miscarried, I truly felt the embrace of God the Father wrap around us as we sat and wept on that hospital bed after we received the news. It is still very hard, and we are still grieving over the death of our first child, but we have hope for us and for our baby. We know explicitly that our child is with the Lord in Heaven as they received the Baptism of Desire. Team Orthodoxy has their first little Saint. Our child is at rest in the Communion of Saints, never to deal with the horror of venial or mortal sin. God prepared a place for that child, a home, that Julie and I could never even attempt to match. This child will live in a state of surprise and awe as God continues to love them in eternity. Though God weeps with us, He is also joyful, as this child of his has come home, whom He has desired to love as their true Father. The Pinnegar’s have their own little Saint in Heaven. Blessed be God forever!
Although it is very bittersweet, Christopher and I will get to celebrate our first Mother’s day and Father’s day as the parents of a little Saint. For that, I am incredibly grateful to God. He is merciful and loves so deeply. Our child sees God face to face, and can intercede directly for us. May God be praised!
But with all of this, how do we adequately cope with the loss of our child. Though we understand these theologically sound things, how do we practically deal with the death of our first child?
Firstly, prayer. Union with God in prayer gives us the strength to carry on. I cannot imagine people who go through this without prayer and knowing God’s love. It would feel like Hell. Prayer is key for those struggling with a miscarriage. Remember that God did not do this. He is with you, weeping and mourning.
Second, family. Do not just internalize how you are feeling. Turn to the members of your family that you trust the most and lay out your heart to them. They will listen and be there to give you support.
Thirdly, do not lose hope. This event does not mean Game Over. As a friend of mine said to me about it last Thursday night, “This is just a sign that you must keep trying”. Once you have adequately dealt, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically with your miscarriage, start trying again for another baby. Do not be deterred by the idea of the pain that may ensue from another miscarriage. It is so easy to just throw up your hands and say “I give up”. The Bible is filled with stories of people who could not bear children and suddenly God blessed them with a child. Even Mary, who had decided to be celibate for God, was blessed with the desire of her heart, which was God in the flesh. Do not give up.
Fourthly, love your spouse. It is so important in this time of grief to love your spouse. The both of you are in this together. Do not lose sight of each other while the torrents of sorrow are raging against you. Spend time together. Find ways to talk about how you are feeling. Find reasons to laugh. Enjoy each other.
Fifthly, mourn. Take the time you need to adequately grieve. This is not a case for going about life like it is business as usual. A brief story. Julie was very wise. On Sunday, I was absolutely tied up in knots. I was angry, short-tempered and really breaking apart on the inside. So, Julie, in her wisdom, as we were driving to Toronto (we had a night away to just be “away”), played our wedding song. Obviously this broke me, and we pulled over to the side of the road and had a good cry. Let yourself break. Do not be afraid to fall apart. God is present there in your mourning.
No matter when the loss of your child happens, no matter how small they are, it hurts because they are people, formed and loved into existence by God. Whether they are three weeks or three months old in utero, the loss of a child is still the loss of a child. Mourn with the Lord. Let the wounds of Our Lord press against yours and His Precious Blood flow into them to bring healing. He knows your pain. Mourn also with His Mother. She mourned the loss of her Son. The Blessed Mother too knows your pain. Unite your suffering with hers.
Finally, incorporate this unborn child into the life of your family. Incorporate and ask for their intercession when you pray, especially as a family. Though the event has brought with it much sorrow, we know the end of the story. Just as we as Catholics venerate the crucifix, the symbol of our redemption, which shows our Blessed Lord crucified upon the cross, we know that in the same way, that death is not the end. Even though this child is no longer here, they are alive in Paradise and will rise again at the Resurrection of the Dead. We also know that if we are able to live lives of heroic virtue and love for God, responding to the call of our Baptism, that Heaven is attainable, and reunion with our child is assured. The Resurrection of the Dead gives great hope. Do not be afraid to look at this sad event since you know the reality that this child is alive and well in the communion of Saints, even though the miscarriage has been almost unbearable.
Chris and I have decided, in honor of our child, to start a scrapbook for them and for any future children that God may graciously bless us with. We will include letters to them, copies of blogs in their honor, hospital bracelets, Mass card for Masses we have had said for them, any ultrasound pictures that we may have the privilege to have, etc. Should we be blessed with more children, as a family we will pray daily for the intercession of our little Saint. We will ensure that our other children know that they have an older sibling who is alive in the Heavenly Kingdom. It would be a great dishonor to our first child not to talk about them with any other children we have, or other people, as though our first child’s existence never counted because they were very little and were not born into this world. Our child matters. They lived. They were and are loved by us, and they have gone home to their Heavenly Father. We will not hesitate to promote the culture of life within our family and with others.
Alex, which is the name we have given our little one, is praying for us, for our future family (God-Willing) and for those who will encounter us in our ministry. Please also pray for Alex’s intercession. This little one sees God “in the face”, and so we can rest assured that their prayers will be heard by the Majesty. Though we must still mourn and grieve, we can rejoice in the love of Jesus, who made the way by his Passion, Death, and Resurrection for this child to be with Him forever. This is what Divine Mercy is all about. Our God is a faithful and good daddy. He is true to His promises. He is with us always to the end. It is well with my soul.