Monday, June 18, 2012

Lessons from daniel

Last Monday marked the two-year anniversary of my second miscarriage. A dear friend, who was right beside me during that dark time, stopped by with flowers. More specifically, she brought me an enormous hanging basket of fuchsias, one of my favorites. I confess, until I opened the front door and saw Erica there, I had forgotten what day it was. While I felt a bit guilty at first, I realized it signified something I am deeply grateful for: I am healing.

I decided to re-pot the fuchsia into a large terracotta planter, so it wouldn't be battered by the wind that blows hard against our north-facing front porch. I was initially heartsick by how roughed-up it got, how many delicate pink-and-purple blossoms and even branches broke off in the transition. I admit I even cried when I gathered them all up. The branches that were left seemed to stick out at odd angles and the plant just didn't look as lush and happy. Erica assured me fuchsias are hardy, that new branches would grow back, and over the next few days as I watered it faithfully, new buds and leaves did indeed appear.

Then, yesterday afternoon, I found out someone very close to me had suffered a miscarriage. My heart aches for her, because I know. I know. I haven't had the chance to talk to her yet, but thinking about what I would say--and more specifically what I would not say--got me thinking about what I have learned from my miscarriages.

If you have experienced miscarriage or stillbirth, or if you know someone who has, I hope these words may be helpful navigating through the grief, or comforting someone who is trying to do so.

1. There is no "good time" to lose a baby. My first miscarriage was at almost eight weeks and my second at nineteen. I grieved for each baby differently, but each was equally precious to me. The first one wasn't "easier" just because I didn't know the gender, or because I hadn't felt it move yet. In some ways, that was almost harder--because I felt like I didn't even know this dear little person who left me far too soon.

2.  People are going to be insensitive. I was surprised that some of the worst offenders were loved ones and people from church--those I expected would be more compassionate and sensitive. People I hardly knew offered to lend me books on grief. Books on weight loss. Folks who had heard I was pregnant, but not that I had lost the baby, congratulated me. Women who had miscarriages of their own took it as an open invitation to regale me with their stories--which I might have been ready for later, but at the time I was lost in my own sad story. I was told all kinds of things, some of them outright lies and others that were painfully true. I must not be a good enough mother to get another baby, God must be trying to teach me something I hadn't learned yet, my tribulation would help me have greater empathy for people I knew who had miscarried. That last one? True, but oh, the timing! No grieving mother needs to hear how her loss will help her to be more understanding to others; that realization comes with time and healing. In spite of having my feelings wounded even more deeply, I found relief in letting go. And I learned to say, "I'm sorry, but that's not helpful to me right now."

3. People are going to be amazingly sensitive, generous, and kind. I was the grateful and humbled recipient of meals, flowers, phone calls, gifts, emails, childcare, and Erica--the one with the fuchsias--came to the hospital with a tiny blanket she had made for me to wrap my baby in. I was surprised that sometimes the ones who had at first been insensitive later did things that touched me deeply. What meant the most were those who came to just sit with me in my grief: right after I got home from the ultrasound, at the doctor appointment the next day, in the hospital while I waited to go into labor, and in the weeks and months after. Sometimes I didn't want to talk, sometimes I did--and I appreciated so much those who were there to bear the burden with me in whatever way I needed at that moment. I learned to accept offers of help, and even to reach out and ask for what I needed.

4. Name the baby. A friend called me after my first miscarriage and gently asked if I would be interested in a book she had heard about, Naming the Child: Hope-filled Reflections on Miscarriage, Stillbirth and Infant Death, by Jenny Schroedel. She sent me a link so I could check out the description, and later gave the book to me. I found that choosing meaningful names for my babies helped me feel more connected to them, which in turn gave me some desperately needed closure about losing them.

5. Women and men grieve differently. My husband was not devastated the way I was at the loss of either baby. Rather than being resentful, I was grateful because he was stronger than me and I could lean on him. I learned to ask specifically for what I needed to work through my own grief, and I did my best to ask Jim about his own feelings and respect his needs. My biggest mistake was holding back my grief instead of sharing it with him as fully as I needed to. Months after my miscarriage, I was worried he wouldn't understand why I was still hurting or would think I just needed to get over it, so for a long time I didn't share my feelings with him--which was unfair to both him and me. Once I opened up, I was able to move forward with healing inside.

6. Healing takes time. Lots and lots of time. With both miscarriages, I reached a certain point where I told myself, "You should be over this by now. Move on." Later,  I came to realize that getting on with the day-to-day business of my life--caring for myself, my family, my home and my other obligations--could happen while I was still grieving. I tried hard to be open with my kids about what I was going through so that they would know it was okay to talk about their own feelings of sadness. I took small steps at re-entering society: shopping at the grocery store, taking my kids to the park, going to the library. Sometimes I found I was doing too much too soon; I wasn't ready to see my pregnant friends and all the babies at church, so I stayed home on Sundays. For weeks. I didn't put a statute of limitations on my sadness, and I found that letting it take as long as it needed to allowed me to grieve more fully and ultimately, to heal more fully.


Becky said...

i found this post so true...even though i have had a miscarriage of my own, i recently found it difficult to talk my sister-in-law through hers - in that i intuitively knew she needed space and not wanting to make a mistake in our relationship during such a delicate time for her. i think i might gently lead her towards this post or at least send her the book you suggested. i might need to read it myself, even years later. sorry for the verbosity - you struck a chord. :)

chicklegirl said...

No, not too verbose. ;) Thanks, Becky--glad to have been helpful.