Grieving a Miscarriage: 5 Years Later

Posted by on March 29, 2015 in Articles & Posts, Parenting | 8 comments

Grieving a Miscarriage: 5 Years Later

For the past four years, the last week in March and the first week in April have been the hardest weeks of the year for me. Second to them, is the third week in October.

Why?

Well, for me, they’re more than just calendar dates. They’re painful anniversaries. The transition from March to April marks the news of our preborn baby Noah’s death in 2010, while October is when she would have been born … had she been born this side of heaven.

This year it’s no different. While time has passed, my heart and my arms still ache for the baby I never knew. And, what makes this year perhaps even harder, is that Good Friday and Easter fall almost exactly on the dates that they did that year. The year we first learned what it feels like to grieve the loss of a child.

In remembrance of our fourth baby on this fifth anniversary of her death, I offer you an article I wrote not long after our miscarriage titled, “We Named Her Noah.”

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News of her death came at my 10-week OB appointment. I woke up that fateful Wednesday to the thought, Today your life is going to change. Two hours later, it did. A doppler failed to detect a heartbeat; an ultrasound revealed a body much smaller than my due date required. The doctor estimated she had stopped growing at five weeks gestation.

For five weeks — 35 days — I was unaware that I was a walking tomb. I avoided caffeine, exercised with care, and jotted down lists of potential baby names, not knowing her tiny body had ceased to grow within mine.

A week after my D&C, a friend asked my husband Ted, “How’s Ashleigh doing? Is she getting over it?”

I wasn’t.

Life felt as if it played out in a bad dream; a nightmare from which I longed to wake up. I wept, paced, and had to force myself to climb out of bed and to eat. At times, anger overwhelmed me.

And then I hit resigned.

Resigned was worse than numbness; worse than a pillow wet with tears. It was the acceptance that this was just the way it was and there was nothing I could do to change it. It was realizing that we wouldn’t have a baby on or near Ted’s birthday, and that when Christmas came, there wouldn’t be four smiling kids on our card. It was a place where the comfort of weeping came to me less often.

But in the early weeks, the scariest moments were the ones where I felt better. Because in those moments when the sadness wasn’t so bad, I felt disloyal to Noah.

The Amputee

I’m not alone in struggling with feelings of disloyalty. My friend Amy, who lost a baby several years ago, told me, “I know just what you mean about feeling disloyal. We moved across the country, from Indiana to California, six months after my miscarriage. I felt very disloyal, as though I were leaving my child there. When I became pregnant again after losing the baby, I felt disloyal to be excited.”

And Angie Smith, whose daughter Audrey died two and a half hours after her birth, writes in her book, I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy:

The process of healing has been winding and unpredictable to me. One day I’m starting to feel like myself again, and even that can make me feel guilty sometimes. I don’t feel like I have a right to be normal.

The truth is, there is no such thing as “normal” after the death of a baby. There is, as my friend Jennifer — whose sister and preborn nephew died in a car accident six years ago — points out, a “new normal.” She shared with me:

From my experiences there isn’t really a moving on … but a new “reality,” a new normal…. I think you will gradually “acclimate” to your circumstances but there will be a lingering of what would have been…. You will think of how old Noah would be and what you imagine her to be doing.

In A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis’ journal turned classic work, he captures this new reality Jennifer speaks of well:

To say the patient is getting over it after an operation for appendicitis is one thing; after he’s had his leg cut off it is quite another. After that operation either the wounded stump heals or the man dies. If it heals, the fierce, continuous pain will stop. Presently, he’ll get back his strength and be able to stump about on his wooden leg. He has “got over it.” But he will probably have recurrent pains in the stump all his life, and perhaps pretty bad ones; and he will always be a one-legged man. There will be hardly any moment when he forgets it. Bathing, dressing, sitting down and getting back up again, even lying in bed, will all be different. His whole way of life will be changed…. At present I am learning to get about on crutches. Perhaps I shall presently be given a wooden leg. But I shall never be a biped again.

I’ve come to understand that Noah’s death is not something I’ll “get over.” Her short life and untimely death are ingrained into who I am. It’s something, as Lewis points to, with which I have to learn to live.

But as an amputee, as Lewis now labels me, I have a choice on how I will live with it. What will my “new reality” or “new normal” look like? Will I equate a depressed state with loyalty to Noah and her memory? Will I feel guilty in those moments when the sorrow isn’t as strong? Or will I choose to honor her life with what some have labeled “bright sadness”?

Bright Sadness

Jenny Schroedel, in her article “Rachel’s Tears,” describes this term bright sadness as “a kind of ‘bitter joy’ or ‘joyful mourning.'” To the logical mind, this figure of speech is an oxymoron. Pairing the contradicting emotions of “sorrow” and “joy” together simply doesn’t make sense to the rational. But as I and many others who have walked through grief have learned, these two antonyms can and do co-exist. The joy doesn’t negate the sadness; rather it mingles with it. The two dance, as Angie Smith writes.

A few days after the miscarriage, we released balloons with drawings ad notes attached to them in honor of Noah. We now release balloons at least once a year.

A few days after the miscarriage, we released balloons with drawings ad notes attached to them in honor of Noah. We now release balloons at least once a year, either near the anniversary of her death or the anniversary of what would have been her due date.

For me, bright sadness has come after slowly and painfully wading through the raw emotions of grief. I simply had to walk through this anguish first. And the truth is, when the pinlight of joy began to shine into my sorrow, I didn’t know what to do with it, except accept it as a gift from God.

As I’ve started to make sense of and embrace this “joyful mourning,” I’m seeing that I can honor Noah through it. And it’s this realization that I took with me on my second visit to her grave.

The note Ted and I included with the balloons.

The note Ted and I included with the balloons.



Joyful Mourning

Many babies who die through miscarriage aren’t given a physical resting place on earth. We were fortunate that the hospital I had my D&C at holds firmly to the sanctity of life. As a result, we were given options on what would happen to Noah’s body after the procedure. We chose to have her tiny frame buried in a community memorial alongside other preborn babies who have died. This service was offered to us at no charge; a gift from a local Catholic diocese.

Ted and my first visit to the cemetery was marked by deep sorrow, tears, and the longing to lay my body prostrate on the fresh dirt and weep (which, I held myself back from actually doing). I mourned the physical body I’d never get to nurture.

It was a surreal experience. One that left me reluctant to leave. As a mom I’d been taught to never leave my babies alone. I felt like I was abandoning her, in the ground, unprotected and left to the elements. It went against everything my mother’s heart felt was right. Ted had to remind me, “She’s not really there, Ashleigh. She’s not there. It’s OK to leave.”

My second trip to Noah's grave. The first time Ted and I went alone. The second time we brought our girls.

My second trip to Noah’s grave. The first time Ted and I went alone. The second time we brought our girls.

I determined this second visit would be different. My tears of sorrow would intermingle with exclamations of praise to the One who promises that, though memory of Noah may fade for many, He will never forget.

As the sun emerged and the grayness of the day lifted, we approached the grave marker. There, Ted read Psalm 34. We both cried as he spoke aloud the words in verse 8, “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” Through my tears, I whispered, “Yes, Lord, You are good.”

Sitting near Noah's grave on that second visit.

Sitting near Noah’s grave on that second visit.


There was a peacefulness to the memorial gardens that day. Not only externally in the beauty of the trees and spring beginning to make its appearance, but also internally within my heart.

Yes, I was sad. I mourned the baby I would never hold in my arms. But this bright sadness that accompanied me brought with it a hopeful reminder: Noah is not lost. She isn’t abandoned to the cold ground of a cemetery. Her spirit is alive and well in the presence of a strong, tender, compassionate Savior. While my arms may not hold her, His do.

We named her Noah, our child who ushered me into this season of bright sadness. I will never forget her.

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If you are grieving the loss of a preborn baby, here are a few other articles I’ve written on our experience.

I pray that they will remind you that you aren’t alone in your grief. And, if you wouldn’t mind, I’d love your prayers this Easter season as my grieve feels fresh once more.

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8 Comments

  1. Hi,

    Thanks so much for this article. My husband and I were 7 months married when I fell pregnant with my first child. I had missed my period for 10 days (19 September, 2011) when I realized I was bleeding on the bed. I fought, telling myself I would fight for my baby to live. But I rang my midwife who was supposed to get back to me with the results of my blood test I had taken the Friday before. It wasn’t good. According to her, my baby hadn’t implanted yet most probably (I am since certain the baby did- I wouldn’t have missed my period otherwise). The baby had stopped at about 8 cells. Yes I wasn’t carrying a dead baby in my womb for more than a week, but it was my first, and i had no baby to bury just a painful period. I didn’t know if he was a boy or girl.

    For a time, I varied between being upset and blaming God, the first time I had ever done so and for me marked how depressed I got, because I’m the sorta girl who talks constantly in my thoughts to God and “whispers” to Him. Why would God let my baby die before it had a chance to live? What’s more, I’d been taught that implantation was where a baby’s soul is attached. Was my baby even in Heaven??

    I struggled like this, and a couple months later my husband finally got through my grief well enough to help me get to a place of trusting God again. A wedge was temporarily in place between us though for the first time, because I naturally wanted to try for another and he had woken up to the fact that we couldn’t support ourselves let alone a child. I had to accept this.

    When I did, even though we had been trying not to, God decided to bless us again with a little boy, who is now 2 1/2. Joel has been the healing balm to my miscarriage, he is just the sweetest boy and was (is) such a beautiful baby.

    We also have a little girl now born last year, also in August, also born in spite of our planning (God is over contraception, He makes babies happen if He wants them in spite of it!). The best babies, in my opinion, happen even despite what we think are our wants, my youngest brother is an example too (he is 6 1/2).

    After I fell pregnant with Joel, I felt it in my heart that my baby was in Heaven and needed a name. We prayed, and both felt that Jamie was the right name. So while we don’t know if Jamie is a he or she, I am confident now I will see my angel again. Little Jamie also served to tell my husbands parents that he could have children- after 16 years of trying to have a child, my mother in law fell pregnant with him but was most of her pregnancy in hospital. At 26 weeks (and its Gods testimony and grace that he stayed in that long when her waters broke at 22 w), in 1988, he was born. April 7, not July 10. After a lot of suffering, meningitis, not to mention a premie disease where the colon dies that was miraculously healed, he came home but in the process he had had so much steroids that they were never sure whether he was able to give them grandchildren. Jamie showed them that.

  2. Hey Ashleigh,
    You are in my prayers this season . I have severe endometriosis and was told at age 18 if I wanted A child to do it right away bc it might not happen! I have lost 4 babies it used to consume me ,my every thought . I didn’t have the support of my partner he chose to act like it was nothing . I became so distant from god bc of the losses and my partner but I now have three beautiful babies all under 4 and. One on the way! Sophia is right god is over contraception ! After my last baby I got an iud to be sure I wouldn’t get pregnant bc having 7 pregnancies in 4 short years takes a toll on your body my body rejected the iud it became infected and was being pushed out so I got on pills after taking it out. I am now 12weeks pregnant despite my best efforts at not having another baby! God is good and I believe everything happens for a reason I believe that we choose what we want to learn on earth the experiences we want to have and that those little souls we will never be able to mother chose there life lesson as well . I am rebuilding my relationship with our good lord!! I ask for prayer from anyone willing I have a hemorrhage in my uterus which could cause problems for my baby I’m having heart problems along with other health issues I’m so scared to give birth bc of everything going on health wise and bc my last delivery was very frightening also prayers for my partner and I he’s an army vet and is having problems due to things he had to do and it’s affecting not only him but our family as a whole .
    Thank you for sharing
    Samira

    • Samira, thanks for your prayers and for sharing your story. I’m praying for you this morning.

  3. Thanks for your thoughtful words. Tomorrow is the first anniversary of the due date of our baby that we lost at 13 weeks. We have no grave marker, but we planted a tree in his memory. We did not get to tell many people we were pregnant as we found out at the routine ultrasound that he was gone and we had been planning to “announce the news” with photos right afterwards. Instead, we went home and awaited the miscarriage, all the while begging God to let this not happen and to bring the baby back. I still find myself praying that sometimes, even though I know the baby is safe and happy in heaven and that he is happy and ok…I selfishly want him back. Sadly, we went on to miscarrying two more times and, at my age, it will be a miracle if we ever conceive even again. Time is not on our side. We do have other children who are older but we are longing for one more or at least peace that maybe one more is not in God’s plan. Tomorrow is going to be very difficult. It was good to find someone out there who totally understands this kind of pain (although I would not wish this pain on anyone).

    • Sarah, I’m so sorry for your loss. Anniversaries of loss are so hard. Thinking and praying for you this week.

  4. My dear friend has suffered 10 miscarriages. 10. Does her heart ache for every single one of those children? Do they all have names?

    I don’t think so. She seems to have shrugged her shoulders and moved on, because the grief would have crippled her.

    I’m sorry if this sounds insensitive. It is a sad loss.

    • Kelly, I’m sorry for your friend’s losses. I think we all deal with grief differently. And you know what? I think that’s okay. God didn’t design us all the same.

      My purpose for this post is to remember my child, be vulnerable about my grief, and hope that it encourages other moms to feel that it’s a safe place to share their stories too. Whether a mom has lost one baby or ten, I believe that each of these lives is precious and that we need to encourage each other in the ways we choose to deal with the losses.

      That said, I’m sincerely curious why you chose to share this here if you feel it may be insensitive. What was your intention in leaving it for me and other grieving moms to read?

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