I Hold Your Grief With You: Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month
Updated: Feb 3, 2021
I have so many feelings about October. It is both an explosively colorful celebration and a grim gateway to winter, my least favorite seven months of the year (I live in Iowa). I love the baked goods, warm drinks, and promise that by the time I have to wear shorts again I might have finally done that exercise plan I printed off after purchasing my swimsuit in May. My least favorite part of October is, surprisingly, not the tacky and gross Halloween decorations that I have to shield my children’s eyes from while we walk to the park. And my husband quotes me as having once said, “If I could eradicate one thing from the earth forever it would be Halloween decorations. Or maybe hunger... or sin… but then definitely Halloween decorations.” Those stupid purple and orange Christmas lights covered with cotton spider webs and bags of leaves decorated as a body are doing NOTHING for your curb appeal, people. I will stand firm on this stance forever and I’m not sorry. Get yourself a pumpkin, a mum, and maybe some gourds if you’re feeling fancy and CALL IT A DANG DAY. Yet this is not the issue I dislike the most in October, nor the one I am most passionate about.
October is infancy and pregnancy loss awareness month.
My husband and I experienced four years of infertility and had two miscarriages in the span of five months. The deep waters we had to walk through changed me forever. We have since been blessed with two healthy, beautiful children. But the part of my heart that was torn, poked, emptied, destroyed, and reformed over and over again will never disappear. Every blood draw, fertility treatment, and negative pregnancy test gnawed away at me. It seemed like God was taking blessings out of my bucket and freely pouring them out for the women around me, and I could hardly muster a thin congratulations. Satan tried to draw my attention from the truth of the gospel until I was like Eve, obsessed with the one thing I didn’t have and unable to see the bounty around me.
My outward, smiling veneer remained the same but underneath I was bitter, resentful, shriveled, crushed, and guarded.
And yet, the more we suffered, the more the Lord provided. The body of Christ came around us and covered us in prayer, standing in the gaps of faith when my own faltered. Women shared their stories with me, letting me see the tapestry of pain and healing God has been weaving in their own lives. Families I have known for years suddenly changed and I saw the silhouettes of children I never knew they had carried and missed, in that order. Wise mentors took my hands, looked me in the eyes, and battled my deepest fears with words of truth. My husband and I grew together, rather than apart, as we faced disappointment after disappointment. We learned how to support each other in the darkest nights, and saw for ourselves that the sun would still rise each morning.
For weeks after we lost our second baby, I would wake up and have to remind myself that the hope of holding our children was gone. The fear that I would never be able to successfully carry a child was a tangible, heavy, bitter weight that demanded my attention nearly all the time. But I knew I needed to get out of bed. So I would turn on a worship song and sing with a sobbing, broken voice and tell myself I needed to move by the time the song was over. “When I don’t understand, I will choose to love you, God.” That song by Bryan and Katie Tourwalt still transports me back to our old apartment bedroom, the curtains drawn and baby clothes hidden from sight in the closet.
Then without any warning, I woke one day and sang myself out of bed, looked down, and realized I was standing on holy ground.
I had reached a place of healing from the losses of the first children I carried in my womb. I was picking up my faith more often than my fear. My thoughts of the future were injected with hope again, and it wasn’t dependent on my ability to bring a living child into this world. I was forgiving my body, forgiving myself. I was trusting God again.
It wasn’t a journey of returning to who I was before infertility and pregnancy loss. Rather, it was about going through the deep waters and arriving on an entirely new shore. The sheer joy I have over my gorgeous, precious, darling, magical children may lead you to believe that I am completely whole and the losses don’t matter to me anymore. The missing pieces in our family could not be replaced by the lives of Vera and Barrett. The two in Heaven were not merely placeholders for their brother and sister.
But my brokenness was covered, mended, and fortified by holy iron.
Now, when I hear of a woman going through infertility, miscarriage, or infant loss, I run. Whether they know me well or not, I show up with loud affirmations that their grief is valid, their baby deserved to be held and raised, others are wrong when they patronize or minimize, their mourning will rightly last, their hearts will never be the same, and that I am right here. I will hold a corner of your grief. I will sit in sadness with you. I will look into the eyes of your suffering. I will ask your baby’s name and say it often. I will add you to my list of women for whom I am begging God to ease the silent suffering.
And the Lord will be faithful to deliver you. One day your grief will be a different shape, a lighter shade, more palatable flavor. Your body will heal. You will smile, have intimacy with your husband, and dream of the future again. But until that morning comes, Jesus will catch every tear that you cry and whisper, “I know. I know it hurts, and I have made it right in Heaven. I will carry you through this. Hold on to me.”
October is both beautiful and so very hard. It is a deep-rooted desire of mine for women to know they are not suffering alone. I hear the conversations that bring awareness happening this month, and it fills my heart with a sweet, sorrowful gratitude. But every single infographic and story shared causes my stomach to twist and my heart to drop. The heaviness is tangible, the tears prickle, and I just want to look away. I don’t want to remember the sharpness of the loss. I try to suppress the images that begin to flash through my mind; being admitted to the ER, the ultrasound tech saying “good luck” with sad eyes, our baby passing while we were waiting to hear the confirmation from the doctor. I don’t want to go back to the bleak mornings in that apartment bedroom today.
But the one in four babies that are lost deserve to have their names spoken out loud. Their parents deserve to know that they did nothing wrong and they don’t need to wade through their grief alone and in silence. We need to stop perpetuating the idea that this struggle is shameful, adding insult to the tragedy.
As a society we need to let this issue step into the light and normalize carrying the grief together. We need to see them, know them, and love them.
Will you join me in entering in and creating space for these conversations? If there was truth in this post that spoke to you, or you know someone who needs to hear these words, would you please share it? And while you're listening to me anyway, could you do me a favor and just NOT make your front yard into a cemetery this year? Many thanks and all my love.