Tears in a Bottle: Moving on from the Mountain of Miscarriage
‘You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.’
Miscarriage was another topic that I was reticent to approach. But perhaps it’s the challenging topics, the topics of a vulnerable, personal or sensitive nature that are the topics that need to be given airspace. And I wanted to write about my experiences in the hope that it may encourage or bring healing to someone else who has suffered a miscarriage. Because many people suffer miscarriage in silence. And it’s not just mothers who are affected, fathers can be affected also.
Psalm 56:8 says that the Lord ‘keeps track of all my sorrows’. ‘Tears in a bottle’ is a beautiful analogy in scripture. That God knows, he sees, every tear, every disappointment. I can envision a whole shelf of bottles in heaven, each with a name on it, filled with tears. It’s been five years since my last miscarriage. And it’s hard to put in to words how I felt during that dark time. Probably because today I’m in a very different place. The mountain of miscarriage has been moved, and I’ve been blessed with two more children, two beautiful girls. But five years ago, almost exactly, I had my second miscarriage in four months. The first occurred in the November. We had a lovely eighteen month old boy and wanted another child. And I must have taken it forgranted in my first pregnancy that there were no complications, as when I became pregnant again, the thought of miscarriage did not even occur to me. I was about six weeks along when miscarriage symptoms started to appear. But still I remained positive. After all, although I knew that one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage, my google search also confirmed that where miscarriage symptoms are present, only 50 percent of those pregnancies are non viable. On the first scan the findings were inconclusive, which served to give me false hope.
There was much waiting. Waiting, hoping and praying. It was not until another scan ten days later, when I was about ten weeks along that confirmed the bleak news. I still remember the sonographer’s words ‘I’m really sorry but this pregnancy is not viable.’ It was just such a shock because I was really expecting the pregnancy to be confirmed. I remember sitting on the couch when home, looking out at all the roses blooming our garden and just sobbing. I had an appointment with an obstetrician the following week, and as the embryo had not passed a decision was made to have a D & C surgery. Hope deferred makes the heart sick.
Then we were fortunate to be expecting again soon after. And this time I must have only known that I was expecting for a week when the miscarriage symptoms began at around seven weeks. And this time it all happened rather quickly. I didn’t need to have an ultrasound, something I was thankful for that as it had been traumatic for me to have a miscarriage diagnosed via an ultrasound. In my subsequent two successful pregnancies I was quite nervous about having a scan, especially early on when it all seems rather tenuous and fragile. Because when you have lost a child in the womb it can make one anxious about whether the next pregnancy is going to succeed. This time a series of blood tests confirmed that the pregnancy had failed. This was a huge blow to me as I had not recovered emotionally from the first miscarriage, only to experience a further accumulation of grief.
It was a long time before I felt ready to try again. I had another possible miscarriage about several months later and although it wasn’t a confirmed pregnancy, I believe I had conceived. A few months after that I had what is called a threatened miscarriage. I still recall the depressing phone call to the midwife where she described what to do if another miscarriage occurred. But this time there was good news. A scan confirmed that the pregnancy did have a heart beat and looked strong and healthy. Phew. She is now a beautiful, healthy three and a half year old girl. A delightful ‘threenager’.
To experience a recurring series of losses was devastating. The social implications of miscarriage was possibly the most difficult aspect of it. I had several friends who were expecting at the time, one who was due the same time as I was, and I had two miscarriages during their pregnancies. Some were sensitive, others were less so. They tried to be, but it was difficult for them also. Furthermore, when you have one child, you are inevitably asked when you are going to have another one. And at that time, I hated that question. I felt that if people were going to ask me something so personal, then I would tell them the truth. And I just used to tell people that we had experienced several miscarriages. It is a question that I now never ask people, because it is potentially quite a painful question.
And when you are going through miscarriage, everyone is pregnant. That is also painful. And I would have liked to have been happy for them. I tried to be. I made them meals when their babies arrived. One friend invited me to the hospital when she had her daughter. I don’t think it occurred to her that this may have been difficult for me. But I went, and her baby was beautiful. But I couldn’t go to pre-school music groups and playgroups. I didn’t go for about a year. There were too many new babies, pregnant mums, and conversations about babies. I am embarrassed to admit that I went to a new playgroup too soon after the consecutive losses, and the inevitable happened. The tears started to flow, and I couldn’t stop the flood. It was all rather embarrassing, and needless to say, I didn’t go back. But my son had stimulation in other ways, a few hours at kindergarten, a playdate here, an outing there.
Sadly miscarriage is often minimized. People can be so insensitive. Mostly well meaning, but insensitive all the same. ‘Oh you were only seven weeks’. ‘Oh you were only ten weeks’. ‘Oh well, you can always try again’. ‘But you’ve already got a child’. The list goes on. But you wouldn’t say that to someone who lost a child at full term, or two years, or ten years of age. I know that the longer you carry a baby for the more difficult the grief is. The literature confirms this. But once you have bonded with your baby from conception, there is a loss. Why can’t miscarriage be commiserated, just like any other death? Just because something is common, doesn’t mean we need to minimize it. Breast cancer and heart disease are common. I hesitate to use a medical analogy, as pregnancy is not an illness. But we don’t minimize breast cancer or heart disease when we hear of someone who has been diagnosed, yet they are conditions that are also associated with significant psychological distress.
I know that my losses seem very minor compared to those of friends who have lost babies at 38 weeks gestation, one week following birth and five years of age. They have gone through the most difficult trauma imaginable. To go through the anguish of birth and then to lose your child is just heart breaking. I have a friend who lost a baby at full term last year. Her precious baby lived for one and a half hours. I had the privilege of visiting my friend in her home and meeting her precious baby who is now with Jesus. I got to hold the baby, which I found really quite distressing. I can’t imagine the dark road of grief my friend is journeying. A lonely journey too.
And with a miscarriage there is no death certificate, no funeral, few flowers or cards. No memory bracelets or foot prints. But there were however, many dear friends who showed me compassion. And that is what I now aim to do for someone who has had a miscarriage – a card, some flowers, perhaps some chocolates. Prayer. An acknowledgment. Patience to allow the mother to grieve for as long as she needs.
It’s a private pain, but there is a shared understanding among women who have lost a child. Some feel that miscarriage is best kept private, because when you do express what you have experienced, it makes others uncomfortable. It’s as if others feel you are making a mountain out of a molehill, and as if you ought to mend from a miscarriage in a matter of days, or weeks. But at the time, for many mothers it is a mountain. The physical mending process make take days or weeks, however it is the emotional affects that may take longer to mend. Isn’t our society impatient with those who grieve? The text books confirm that many women are affected by a miscarriage for up to a year, a similar grief pattern to other losses. And when the losses accumulate the grief can compound. I didn’t heal until I had another healthy child. Not that my next child was a replacement, but it helped me to mend. It turned my mourning into dancing.
And what did I learn through that painful time? I would like to say that I trusted God, in His providence and perfect timing. But actually I was angry. Hurt and angry. But I did grow closer in intimacy with God. Isn’t it interesting that it is during the painful seasons of life, the trials and tribulations, that we grow the most. I discovered that God is a tender father and He is close to the broken hearted. That He knows our heartache, when we have empty arms and an aching heart, he sees this. He has seen our tears when we have cried all alone in the dark. He has recorded each one in His book and has collected our tears in the bottle with our name on it. Our bottle of tears is so precious to God and he treasures each one. He is intimately acquainted with all our ways and when we cry tears that no one sees, God says “I have seen, I know and I cherish each one because I cherish her.” I know that God cares for us intimately and with great passion. I know the comfort of the Holy Spirit and that God holds each of us in the palm of his hand. And that those miscarried babies are in heaven with Jesus. It’s also helped me cherish and treasure the children that I do have, to an even greater degree. They are gifts from God. And with any new child, when you see them for the first time and count their fingers and toes, it is such a miracle. It would have to be one of the most amazing moments in life, one of the highest pinnacles. And I am so thankful for my three miracles.