***Disclaimer: This is an account of a miscarriage we had back in April 2014. Thankfully, our Rebekah is growing, kicking, and developing just as she should at 8 months in the womb.
Dedication: I would like to dedicate this post to Cadence, the child we lost early April 2014. Daddy will always love you, even though I never had the chance to meet you. I can’t wait to see you face to face in Heaven…
My wife (who most of you know quite well by now) wrote an amazing post called “Breaking the Silence: Miscarriage Support”. This post takes you through the journey that we faced together, but particularly from her point of view. I’ve wanted to share my perspective for awhile now, but I haven’t had the words or courage. But as we move ever closer to bringing our Lil’ Pumpkin Rebekah into the world, I can’t help think back to our first taste of pregnancy. It’s my turn to break the silence:
In January we had decided to start trying to have a family. This was huge for us, but particularly hard for me. I just knew that my genes weren’t worth passing on. But God starting working oil into my hardened heart, and at the National Conference on Youth Ministry in 2014, I deeply heard the voice of God in my soul. He broke down my walls and allowed me to feel His love in ways that I had never truly embraced before. It was through this spiritual breakthrough that we decided to follow God’s love wherever it led us. And that meant trusting Him with the future of our family.
Fast-forward another month, there was something strange happening in the Clay house. I typically pride myself on the ability to read my wife’s emotions. I’ve gotten pretty good over the past seven years at telling when she is going through something. So in the middle of February 2014, when she started to act like she was hiding a birthday present from me (even though it’s in September), I knew something was going on. Finally, through a good amount of badgering, she finally told me that she thought that she might be pregnant.
I immediately jumped onto the internet to see what we needed as far as a test was concerned. All I knew was that she had to pee on a stick. So, of course, I wanted to find the best pee-stick that money could buy! When I found something that we felt confident with, I got in the car, drove a couple blocks to the local Fry’s Grocery, and bought the test. I felt the perfect mix of awkward and pride walking through the aisle with the 3 pack of high-tech pee-sticks in hand.
I was going to be a dad.
I had no doubt in my mind. And when Nathana woke up at 4 AM the next morning and took the test (without letting me know, mind you), my inner certainty was validated. She was pregnant. But, I had read online that once you have taken the test, it was good to go to a clinic and double check with a physician. So we did. This was a mistake as the test at the walk-in clinic told us the same thing and cost us about $200. This is what Dave Ramsey would call stupid tax.
Still, I was overjoyed. And terrified, but mostly just plain happy. Nathana started looking for OBGYNs to go to. I started doing research into making baby food at home. Life was good. We felt so ecstatic. Every new day we woke up with extra spring in our step. God had been good to us, and given us a living child inside of my beautiful wife. Everything was just right. Until the bottom fell out of our world…
I came home for lunch Friday afternoon, and there was a darkness in the house. I don’t know how to explain it. I walked in the door, and I just knew that something was wrong. I found Nathana sitting in her easy chair, wringing the blanket she sat under. She wouldn’t look me in the eyes. She was pale, distant, and obviously very distraught.
“Babe? Are you ok?”
Silence fell into the room. No response from my loving wife was offered.
“What’s wrong hun? Is something going on?”
Our dog Hazel sat next to the chair, softly whining. She was the only one that would offer me eye contact. I remember thinking, something is not right here. And then she softly spoke,
“Mitch, I’m bleeding.”
My heart hits the floor as my mind runs in fifty different directions: Bleeding? Did she cut herself? Do we need to go the ER? I didn’t see any blood. There’s no food out. Did she cut herself preparing lunch but put everything away? WHAT IS GOING ON!?
The only thing I remember saying out loud was, “What do you mean?” Honestly, after this, my mind is a blur. I’m sure we talked about her bleeding from her vagina, wondering if it was from the womb, talked about how pregnant women sometimes bleed, and if she needed to go to the hospital. But the only thing I remember thinking was, “This can’t really be happening”.
We decided to press on with our day-to-day and continue to monitor the situation. But our day-to-day was awful. We were crazy busy. We had an important day at church, along with being in Children’s Bible Hour that day. I frankly got caught up in everything that needed done. But Nathana was so caught up in what was happening to her body. I couldn’t blame her. But I also remember not quite understanding. I had faith that God had everything under control. He had given us this child, hadn’t He? Why should we assume that anything was out of the norm?
After bleeding for three days, it was obvious that something was not right. Nathana had been trying to get in touch with an OBGYN but it honestly felt like we were being stonewalled by them. No one was willing to listen to her concerns. So, being the “fixer” that I am, I started to brainstorm alternatives. We had watched a great documentary called The Business of Being Born a couple of weeks earlier, and we were very impressed with the idea of midwifery. So I offered her the idea of finding some midwifes and doulas online to at least ask if what was happening was normal or not. I think she was so fed up with the system that she would have called anyone at that point. So she made quick work, and called Alicia Witt, who actually picked up her phone and had a decent conversation! Two hours later, we were sitting in her strange, yet comforting office in a home, nestled in the middle of a sub-division up the street from a library.
Alicia listened to our concerns as we sat on a couch in front of a physician’s table. I remember looking at her art on the walls, and focusing in on a piece that was dedicated to the midwives of Exodus chapter 1. I remember thinking, how cool is that? When we talked, she made gentle eye contact. When we expressed fear and pain, she mirrored our emotions and was empathetic to our feelings. She offered to pray with us through our situation. I’m still not exactly sure if she’s human or angel. All I know is that she showed us God-like, selfless love. And for this, I will never truly be able to thank her properly.
Alicia started trying to hear the baby’s heartbeat with (what I believe is called) a doppler monitor. She was having a hard time finding it, but our baby was only 8 weeks old. Very young and small to try and find a heartbeat at all. She brought in a co-worker, in fact, the midwife that she trained under. Together they continued to search for the heartbeat. One was never found, but they were very optimistic as they heard sounds that were like swooshing, which meant baby movement. So, she signed a script for us to go for an ultrasound. And we went for the ultrasound right after lunch.
Sitting next to Nathana, during the ultrasound, was nothing like I had dreamed it would be. I wanted to be excited and prepared to see baby hands and feet. Instead, we sat there fearing the worst. Of course, the technician couldn’t tell us about anything she was seeing. But I had a sinking feeling. I wasn’t seeing anything that looked remotely human. (But, to be fair, I rarely look at ultrasound pictures and think it looks like anything at all anyway…) The technician kept making small sighs, and talking about a miscarriage that she went through early in life. The odds were not in our favor. I honestly tried to stay hopeful. No one would tell us anything. I still had faith that The Lord would let us keep this child. But, with each passing minute, my hope became less and less genuine.
Alicia called a couple hours later. She had our results, so we sat at our beautiful, circular table in our dinning room as she told us the doctor reviewed it as “inconclusive”. She told us some technical terms, but what it all came down to was that we either miscarried weeks ago and re-conceived, or Nathana was already absorbing what remained from a blighted ovum. I really didn’t know what any of that meant, other than the life that we so fully felt had been wiped out. Alicia let us know we could do a follow-up ultrasound in a few days. Nathana’s eyes filled with streaming tears. I felt empty in the core of me, but I held it together for a while longer. I told Alicia how thankful we were that she was on our side, and quietly ended the call.
I remember that I couldn’t cry. I wanted to so badly, but I didn’t have the capacity. Nathana was a wreck. I felt like I should have been. But what I felt wasn’t so much loss as much as it was nothingness. I carried the weight of my wife’s grief on my back. It’s all I could do.That is, until we called our parents. Once I heard the all familiar sound of my parents’ voices, I completely lost it. It’s like I was a child all over again. I sobbed deeply and desperate. My child was gone.
We went to Dairy Queen for dinner because we had lost a child. What’s a budget and a diet when you’ve lost your hopes, your dreams, your future? We both had deep fried chicken strips and way too large blizzards. We put in Monty Python and The Quest for the Holy Grail (an old time favorite) to try and console our hurting hearts. But nothing really fills the cracks of the heart. Not British accents nor ice cream will do. I just wanted my baby to be ok. I wanted my wife to smile. I wanted what we had just a few days ago. But it was gone…
The next morning Alicia invited us back to her office to talk through the test results. She told us that Nathana had what is called a blighted ovum, which means that we conceived a child, but something happened genetically to stop the cells from growing into a fetus. The rest of the pregnancy structures were built, and gave Nathana the typical signs of pregnancy. But there was no true life there. This is mortifying and comforting all at the same time. Did we lose a child, or was Nathana’s body just confused? (Honestly, I don’t know the answer to this, even still. I’m also not sure if it matters. We felt and feel still feel like what we went through was real and true. That’s good enough for me…)
The next couple of days were a roller coaster of emotion. Some days I felt like we were going to be fine. Others I felt utter devastation. I know Nathana had it on her mind at all times. I, being male, had highs and lows. I distinctly remember walking into our laundry and seeing a stroller that a friend had given to us. I walked up to it, grabbed the handles, and completely wailed from the bottom of my soul.
We did our best to move back to a place of normalcy. This proved very difficult at times, but we couldn’t sit in our pain forever. I feared that this would turn our world sour. We had to put one foot in front of the other, no matter how slowly. We had to keep moving. We decided to go to a youth conference that our teens had been working toward for months, but a few hours before we were going to leave, our world was flipped on its head. Nathana woke up in the early morning with amazing pain. She would move from bathroom to bed, from bathroom to couch, from bathroom to chair. She was in incredible pain, and there was nothing I could do about it. She would moan and shake in pain, and all I could to was help her breathe through it. What we realized later was that this was Nathana’s body going into labor. She was processing what was left of the miscarriage. This, I’m sure, will only be a fraction of what Nathana’s true labor with Rebekah will be like…
She was amazing. Such a fighter. I remember thinking that she was being so brave and courageous through it all. I know that she didn’t feel the same way, but it doesn’t make it not true. She was amazing. I was so impressed with my wife in these moments. It also helped that we had a couple of families bring us food, flowers, and most of all, love. I will never forget the love that was poured into us in this moment of chaos. That afternoon, Nathana’s pain started to subside somewhat. She slept hard and deep (probably for the first time in weeks).
Slowly, we put our lives back together. Nathana started to learn more and more about her own body. I did my best to lead us forward. After Nathana had a true menstrual cycle, we started to have the desire to try again. It wasn’t easy, but we believed that this miscarriage wouldn’t define us, nor our family. A few months later, we had a second miscarriage on our way up to a Bible camp to visit some teenagers. Nathana was distraught the whole day. I, on the other hand, was a little less affected. It was probably pretty early. I had to deal with what was in front of me before I could allow myself to feel the weight. But eventually we came together and prayed it through. The constant pain continued to fuel our desire for a family. It never really hindered us from trying. And eventually The Lord blessed us (kind of out of the blue) with another pregnancy, with Rebekah.
Living through this pregnancy has been difficult and beautiful. In the first trimester, we were scared every day for the life of this child. It weighed very heavy on our hearts. But as Nathana and Rebekah moved through the second trimester, it really felt like this was going to happen! Nathana started to allow herself to dream and fall in love with our child.
Speaking vulnerably, I have had a hard time connecting. Fear of losing Rebekah has kept me from bonding with her. But it’s also difficult. Rebekah is growing inside of her mama, leaving daddy to wonder and wait. But I have come to the conclusion that God blesses us with time, no matter how short. This makes every day with Rebekah, Nathana, and our dog Hazel a day worth living; a day worth loving.
If you are a woman going through a miscarriage, first let me say that I am terribly sorry for your loss. Nothing feels like it. You can’t grieve for your time you had as much as you grieve for your time that you never had. Miscarriage can feel like a robber, stealing your hopes, dreams, and family. Also, please don’t hold it against your husband if he doesn’t exactly mirror your emotions. I know that it was very hard at times for Nathana when I wasn’t crying with her. But men can process things differently. Do your best to give him grace and time. He is hurting. You are hurting. Allow yourselves to hurt together, but also, there may be moments where you need to grieve alone. Embrace those moments for what they are. Allow them to strengthen you instead of break you down.
Remember, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8.
If you are a male going through a miscarriage, this may affect you in ways that you have never been through before. Expect that you are going to hurt in a deeper way than ever before. Know that it’s ok to open up to your spouse. She needs you to. Women can’t always see whats happening on the inside of our chests. Allow yourself to feel your feelings deeply. Be vulnerable with your spouse and children. But also find ways to pick up their weight where you can. They will be leaning on you for a lot right now. Forgive your wife for being ever focused on this event. Give her grace and love in this desperate time of tenderness. This event will leave an emotional scar on her, probably forever. It’s not her fault. It’s not your fault. It just happened. Allow it to happen…
My final piece of advice is to give your baby a name. Give it an identity. Allow it to be a life, and not just a death. You can celebrate life. It had to give death a specific identity. We named our miscarried child Cadence, as it was a name that I’ve always loved, and Nathana had been on board with from even before we were married. Naming Cadence gave us something that we could hold on to. It made our grief tangible.
May The Lord bless you and keep you. May He make His face shine upon you. And, may He grant you peace.
If you are miscarrying or have recently, we would love to surround you in prayer. Please feel free to comment below, or email Nathana at email@example.com, or myself at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have miscarried in the past, please share a verse of comfort, or something you learned in the comments below. If you are still bitter and angry, that’s ok. You can share that too. We are an online community, and even if we cannot physically hug each other, we would love to offer any miscarriage support we can through prayer.
If you know someone who is miscarrying or grieving, read “Surrounding the Wounded” for some guidance on how to support someone through grief.
I would also love to share with you a blog post by one of our friends Natasha. In it, she shares about the hospital birth of her son, the miscarriage that followed, and the home birth of their daughter. It is raw and poignant. I also appreciate the her varied perspectives: hospital birth, miscarriage, and home birth.
Mitch Clay works as a Youth and Family Minister in Glendale, Arizona. He is passionate about building faith within the home. In his free time he enjoys playing and writing music on his guitar, writing, and cooking. He also is a wonderful support to his wife Nathana, helping her run The Engaged Home blog. Mitch and Nathana are parents to one fur-baby, Hazel, and are expecting their first child, a girl, in early April. 🙂