Actually I want to talk about babies, because that’s what they were. Miscarriage is a word that describes losing a baby in the first 23 weeks of pregnancy. The first 23 weeks! Miscarriage is not a good enough word to describe losing a child, at any stage, because that’s what it is, however tiny, a child. To me they are not just a group of cells, these are the tiniest of people, the potential of greatness, the longed for and the hope of a legacy that is worth so much more than we could ever build with our hands.
There is a lot of room in the heart of a mother. That room often grows with a positive pregnancy test. When you have a child you feel like you couldn’t love anything more and the prospect of loving anyone or anything as much as that baby seems hard to comprehend; but you do. You love another baby with the same love, in a different way: but just the same. When you lose a baby it leaves a hole in your heart.
I have two beautiful girls that are here, with us, and three babies in heaven. When I talk of losing a baby I don’t think that baby is lost, I know exactly where it is, born into heaven. I did not understand how big this loss was until I experienced it, and if I’m honest it has taken three babies for the weight to really take hold of my heart. I was surprised by the pain I felt when I didn’t know these babies for very long, but that’s what they were, my babies and I love them like my girls, the same love; but different and that is why it is so heavy.
I want to talk about miscarriage because not many people do. I want to talk as someone who as been on the receiving end of the people who didn’t know how to talk about miscarriage. I believe our God wastes nothing and for all our babies I want to talk; to help people to talk and to help more people know what to do.
They say that 1 in 5 pregnancies end in miscarriage. It is a fairly common occurrence but for the one who loses, there is nothing common about it. It is not an average day when your baby dies. We will all know someone who has lost a baby. You might not know who they are, and they might not know how to tell you that they had a baby and it died but you will know someone, it might even be you. If it’s you, I want to honour your baby and raise a glass to the little life that didn’t make it, and say to you, “Your baby is recognised and you are not alone”, because it can feel like that… very lonely. If you know someone who has lost their baby or babies and you don’t know what to say or do here’s some thoughts that I hope will help.
1. If you don’t know what to do, please don’t do nothing! Bring shopping without asking. Everyone will need milk and bread at some point, or little treats, or cook tea just so that the person doesn’t have to think about it. It means doing the washing up when you pop in for coffee or cleaning the bathroom without asking. It means sitting and listening, sharing tears and hugs and silence. It means bringing hope but not underestimating the pain. Try not to say ‘Let me know if you need anything’. It shows you care but can bring pressure to someone who just. Needs. Something. Use your initiative, it’s up to you to help.
2. If you don’t know what to say it is totally ok to say, “I just don’t know what to say but I’m here.” And then actually be there. Being there means not trying to say ‘helpful’ things, or fix a broken heart that is not easily fixed. And when you say ‘I’m here’, you need to be there for the long haul. Everyone is different and some people take a very long time to recover from losing a baby and it should be ok. The other thing is not to assume that if someone wants to talk they will let you know, sometimes a grieving mother just wants to be asked; it’s not hard to say ‘How are you doing?’ and then give time to listen to the answer.
3. Don’t expect someone to go back to ‘normal’ after losing a baby. We don’t get over these things, we are shaped by them. I feel like I have been battered in to a completely different shape, but I also felt a pressure at times to just go back to ‘normal’. After losing three babies, I couldn’t even remember what normal was. Be someone who reminds the grieving mother who they were, who they are now and who they can be.
4. Please don’t judge. Everyone is different. We all react differently and we all need different things. I confess after losing my first baby, I picked myself up quite quickly and when it happened a second time I thought it would never happen again, but it did and it might again, and for me the pain was almost unbearable. For anyone who suffers tragic loss the shock that sets in can overtake your life and send you into panic. No-one knows how they will react to a tragedy until they are in it and reason and controlled responses can be out of reach. Please be someone who doesn’t judge. Who says ‘you do what you need to do and I’m here’. Jealousy, anger, sorrow, sadness, wanting to be left alone, wanting distraction, wanting to keep going, wanting to not be on your own, are all normal responses. Be someone who can see if things are out of control and step in, and be someone who listens and understands that each day is different to the last, just because someone is in desperate pain doesn’t mean they can’t laugh or have fun.
5. Don’t be afraid to talk about the baby. Even if the mother cries. It’s comforting to know that your baby is remembered. If someone dies, they have a name to say and tell stories of. If a baby dies in the womb often it doesn’t have name to remember, the only stories come from the mother who felt them growing and the Father who shared it all. To acknowledge that they existed means everything.
6. Try to remember a due date if you can. Any mother who has lost a baby will remember when her baby should have been born and if you can ask and make a note it means a lot to send a text on the day or around the time saying ‘Today I am remembering your baby. Wish they were here.’ When a child has a birthday everyone celebrates. A due date is a potential birthday but it can pass silently with a deep pain that no one really sees. It matters to send a card on that day.
When people ask me how many children we have my heart breaks a little bit. I want to say five, but I say two and smile. When those close to me acknowledge that there were three others it helps to make those questions lighter. It matters what we do for others. A good friend said to me once, ‘the way that people are really determines how much you can bear’. And it’s true. Isolation hurts but an invasion of love matters. ‘The Lord is close to the broken hearted’ so let’s try to be Jesus to those with broken hearts. Miscarriage is so often hidden and the pain underestimated. It is not something everyone wants to talk about, but for those that do it must be ok. The grief is hidden too and it’s heavy.
If you are pregnant and you know someone close to you who has lost their baby near to your pregnancy don’t assume they don’t want to share your joy. It’s hard to, but sensitively make it the choice of the one in sorrow. You can simply send a text or ask them how they would like to you to be. Do they want distance or do they want to be involved? Keep checking in on their pain and be sensitive in how much you share. Read how the person reacts and let them share your joy in a manageable way for them. No-one wants to undervalue your joy, but for a broken heart, that joy can be hard to enter into truthfully. Again, everyone is different, take the time to find out what your friend needs from you and remember that if you feel awkward the one who has lost their baby feels worse. It’s hard to be brave when you hurt, so if you have your joy, be the brave one and take the first steps, it will protect your relationship.
If you have children please don’t say ‘I can’t imagine how you feel. The truth is you can. Imagine a due date arriving and passing and no baby to hold. It hurts. Let yourself go there and compassion will stir you in to action. Remember the Dads who carry the weight too.
I hope this helps you to help anyone who is suffering, and if it’s you I hope you read this and it makes the weight a little lighter. There is so much more to say and if you want to support someone, need support or just to know you are not alone this organisation wants to help http://www.sayinggoodbye.org/. You can follow them on twitter @sayinggoodbye and they are brilliant!
I want to finish by sharing a prayer by the wonderful @AnnVoscamp. It is a Prayer for the broken hearted. We can cling to the hope that with pain can come wisdom if we look for it, and with suffering can come compassion if we let it and when we change shape we are carved out into people who can change this world, one person at a time, with the little things that are big for some and matter more than we will ever know. Our God wastes nothing unless we let it be wasted. If it’s you ‘the secret way to heal a broken heart is to 'let love leak out like an ocean through all the cracks.’
Be loved. Be strong. Be weak. Be comforted.
Father of the broken-hearted daughter…
oh, hear our prayer….
Give Your daughter the wisdom to know it:
Hiding when you’re hurting won’t heal you and growing isolated can just let infection grow.
Give Your daughter the love to live it:
The secret way to heal a broken heart is to let love leak out like an ocean through all the cracks.
Give Your daughter grace to do the crazy impossible:
It’s the hurting and wounded who are always the ones called to be medics — to administer lavish grace, to cast the messy in the best, merciful light.
The best way to tend to your open wounds is to open your arms. Out-loving is the only ointment that healed anything.
Let the broken choose it: When you’re most wounded by words, run to the only Word that always brings healing.
Let the broken say it: When you’re bruised by lies, believe truth and whisper it louder: I am my Beloved’s.
When Love’s got hold of you, there isn’t a lie in the universe that can pull you apart.
Let the broken trust it: Giving the benefit of the doubt — is what benefits the people of the Faith.
Doesn’t love always believe the best, not the worst?
And may that wind the brokenhearted daughter faces, may it fly her hair like a glory flag,
And may the hills that rise before her be but an exhilaration,
And may all her trials be but a trail,
all the stones on the way be but grace stairs to God.
In the name of Jesus who broke His heart to heal ours…
For our babies - we miss you xxx