Babies & Other Miscarried Hopes

 Wysokie Obcasy, Oct 2006  Image:  © Magda Wolna

Wysokie Obcasy, Oct 2006
Image: © Magda Wolna

This week it has been 8 years since my first miscarriage. I found this out because of the strange relationship I have with my Facebook “on this day” feature - on any given day it will remind me of every sort of beautiful, boring or tragic events in my life’s public history and dictate them to me in a jarring contrast that makes me feel much older than my 36 years. It’s like having the world’s most insensitive and unaware friend who knows you much too well and just won’t stop talking. Apparently, this week in years past, I became FB friends with people I still don’t really know, went to an opera with Jordan, got a haircut, took a video of Oz getting stuck on a chair and had my first miscarriage.

I don’t feel like I’m the best person to talk about miscarriage, mainly because I’m still not completely sure how I feel about my own and often forget about them. There are other women I know and admire who are able to speak beautifully, precisely, and tragically about motherhood and their bodies and have courageously brought to light this very common and historically silent pain. And in my uncertainty, I will probably treat this topic less gently than it deserves. When I remember that I’ve had three miscarriages, there’s a certain feeling of dumbfoundedness and blank confusion - not that I haven’t grieved the loss of knowing those children or that they weren’t real - but that in each experience, the weightiest losses have seemed to be the intangible ones.

Eight years ago, Blinn was an incredibly excited 4 year-old, dreaming about her future role as sister/mamabear/teacher/boss to this new family member. She was ready, willing, and overqualified. Greg was excited like a kid anticipating Christmas, while I was just starting to come to terms with the fact that parenthood was a thing we were actually now REALLY doing. (Blinn was an unfairly easy first child and we were able to just kind of fake it for a few years.) And then we miscarried very early on in the pregnancy. Soon after though, we became pregnant with Oz. We welcomed him, happy and healthy, just 11 months after this initial loss, so it just felt like some sort of strange blip on our timeline. But it was the first time I think I had ever had to reckon with my body failing me. I come from a long line of hearty Scandinavian stock with bones that are seemingly unbreakable and relatives commonly living into their 90s. At 27 and full of hope and youthful naivety about the future, I don’t think I had ever considered a pregnancy not coming to term a possibility. With this loss came a pause. An uncertainty about the fullness of life here. A brush with this veiled and quiet, shadow-form of death.

Four years later and one month before we found out that Greg had stage 3 melanoma, we miscarried again. This pregnancy was further along and the experience was just awful and traumatic and very real. We had wanted a third for some time and were excited and ready. (Blinn had now completed her on-the-job training with Oz and had also agreed to take on another subject...) This miscarriage was invasive, disruptive and shocking. I am grateful for friends who stepped in to, very literally, help walk us through that night. Physically, I think it may be the most vulnerable moment I’ve ever experienced. Emotionally and spiritually, it felt like the loss of a child, but it also felt like it marked the start of oncoming fight against death - a sudden and ruthless struggle to push back an enemy who had come out of the shadows and now met us nose-to-nose, face-to-face. An unfair and fixed fight with death… but it’s only human to try, right? All we wanted was to push death back far enough to realize the future we had been able to picture so clearly - one more bouncing baby, a little more chaos, a little more laughter in the city we loved, among a young church family we loved. A few months later after 2 surgeries and receiving (fleeting) news that all of Greg’s scans were clean, we decided to try again for baby #3. Why waste time when you had just cheated death? It really did look like we had actually done it - pushed back death just enough - but life is a vapor. Ultimately, grieving that miscarriage and planning for the future was quickly overshadowed by the loss of someone already here on earth, someone we could know and see and touch. And in time, this miscarriage would become additionally confusing because there was relief tied to it. Had it been viable, I would have attended my husband’s funeral with not only two small children, but a newborn. What was lost was not only two lives - one realized and one hoped for - but any lingering notion than death was a far-off and distant threat and that if it came to visit, there was anything we could do about it.

And then a little over a year ago, after that funeral, after just surviving, after single-parenting, after falling in love again, after an unexpected heart surgery and a remarriage and a newly blending family, after just a lot of weighty living…  there was the third miscarriage. This child had represented in so many different literal and representative ways - new life. Or, more accurately, a new season of the same messy life, and with it, all the anticipated joy and good-tired a most likely chubby-blond-10lb-Viking-baby could bring.

In many ways, I feel most at home in the Lenten season. Consider mortality? Piece of cake. Long for the light on the other side? Constantly. Remember that we are but dust? Tell me something I don’t know. On the meta, “giving up” is my jam. Let me throw my hands up in the air, laugh at what small shreds of control exist in this life, and just relax in the fact that for 40 days out of the liturgical year I can just hang out and feel at home. Feel understood. But before you think that this is where the story ends or that this is a singular reality or a recommended posture - or if it feels like it’s all just a little too Painted-Door-esque for you - let me invite you to consider again, hope.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For WE KNOW that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.
— Romans 8:18-23

If you haven’t already, you will at some point in your life come to know these groans and pains... this very real waiting for the brokenness of our bodies and our world to be made whole in a way that makes Scripture like Romans 8, personal, and just living this life we know now, not enough. BUT, when these beautiful but mortal hopes are miscarried and fail to attain their expected or intended outcomes - whether it is a baby, a family, a future, a lighthearted perspective on life, ambition or simple dreams - when these beautiful mortal hopes go awry or become distorted, when they backfire or turn cold and grey and lifeless, that is precisely when a child of God might find themselves, against all odds and efforts, hopeful.

- Sam

 

* If you have experienced something similar in loss and life, and would like to talk with someone, my door's always open

 

Lay down your weary tune, lay down
Lay down the song you strum
And rest yourself 'neath the strength of strings
No voice can hope to hum

Struck by the sounds before the sun
I knew the night had gone
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drum of dawn

Lay down your weary tune, lay down
Lay down the song you strum
And rest yourself 'neath the strength of strings
No voice can hope to hum

The ocean wild like an organ played
The seaweed wove its strands
The crashing waves like cymbals clashed
Against the rocks and the sand

Lay down your weary tune, lay down
Lay down the song you strum
And rest yourself 'neath the strength of strings
No voice can hope to hum

I stood unwound beneath the skies
And clouds unbound by laws
The crying rain like a trumpet sang
And asked for no applause

Lay down your weary tune, lay down
Lay down the song you strum
And rest yourself 'neath the strength of strings
No voice can hope to hum

The last of leaves fell from the trees
And clung to a new love's breast
The branches bare like a banjo moan
To the winds that listen the best

I gazed down in the river's mirror
And watched its winding strum
The water smooth ran like a hymn
And like a harp did hum

Lay down your weary tune, lay down
Lay down the song you strum
And rest yourself 'neath the strength of strings
No voice can hope to hum