Losing a baby, finding hope

Trigger warning: This article relates to infant loss.

I was in the shower when it happened. I looked down and saw red. I had been told that I might have spotting during my pregnancy, so I tried not to panic. But the blood kept flowing down my legs and I went from telling myself to calm down to fearing the worst in seconds.

Was I losing my baby?

The next few hours were an emotional roller coaster. We waited, prayed, feared and hoped.

I was only a couple of months pregnant, so the baby was still an embryo. I stared at the blood and clots mixed with water, shampoo and tears running down the drain to see if maybe my baby was there.

My heart raced as I got out of the shower, called my husband, Brian, and we made our way to the hospital.

The next few hours were an emotional roller coaster. We waited, prayed, feared and hoped.

Brian had to wait outside the hospital while I was admitted because of COVID-19 restrictions. Alone, I sat in the Emergency Department trying to think about anything else. I watched others in the triage waiting room and wondered if tonight was also their worst night. I offered words of comfort to someone in agony. I observed the hospital staff, efficiently doing their job while bantering with one another – it was just another work night for them.

Eventually, I was examined. I learnt that my baby was fine, that I was fine; it turned out that I had a large cervical polyp, a cyst, which was bleeding. We both cried tears of relief this time.

It was a big night. An emotionally and physically draining night. I thank God that my baby was fine. Because this isn’t the case for many people.

I had a glimpse of what it might be like to have a miscarriage.

  • But one in five pregnancies actually end in miscarriage.
  • One in every 135 pregnancies that reach 20 weeks end with a stillbirth.
  • One in every 434 live births end in neonatal deaths.

I know family and friends who have experienced this tragedy. Given the statistics, it’s likely you do too. The pain is visceral. Deep. Lasting. And often borne silently.

There are few things sadder than:

  • Dismantling a cot, knowing it will never be used.
  • Bearing a grief that others can’t see because you weren’t showing yet.
  • Coming home from hospital with empty arms and an emptier heart.
  • Feeling depression or rage whenever you see a child or yet another pregnancy announcement.
  • Explaining to your children why they won’t have a sister or brother after all.
  • Crying in foetal position, reminding you of the foetus you lost.
  • Dealing with lactation with no baby to feed.
  • Wondering what your child would be like if they were still alive.
  • Figuring out how to answer the common questions of “Do you want/have children?”, “How many children do you want/have?” and “When will you try for your next?”.
  • Feeling pain around Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
  • Wanting to move on because the world has but struggling to do so.
  • Not knowing how best to honour your child without a grave or funeral.
  • Having mixed emotions about trying again.
  • Carrying on with normal life as if a part of you didn’t die, as if you are still the same.

The words ‘miscarriage’ and ‘loss’ seem like euphemisms that fail to truly capture the severity of the trauma.

If this is your story, I can’t say why my baby survived when yours didn’t. But I want you to know that you are not alone. And your baby is not forgotten. I want to honour them. And I want to honour you.

Well-meaning brothers and sisters in Christ may point you to verses to give hope, but when you are in the depths of despair and heartbreak, God’s word can feel like a slap in the face.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

How could God’s plans for his people involve such tragedy?

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28

How can this be good? How can this be part of God’s purpose?

Many have waxed theological about the cause, nature and consequences of sin and suffering, but this can be cold comfort amid such trauma. The truth is that only God really knows all the answers. Therefore, we must always turn to him, even with our doubts, fears, and darker emotions of pain, anger and grief.

After all, God knows what it is like for his Son to die. That he did so for our sakes almost goes beyond human comprehension.

So if there is a verse to hold on to, it might be this:

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” – Proverbs 3:5-6

In time, and with much prayer and transformation by the Spirit, that trust can lead to hope. Hope for an eternity with lost loved ones. Hope for a new creation without suffering and death. And hope that God will give you all you need to endure in the meantime.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. No one should bear this loss in silence or alone. Let us all make it safe to talk, share, grieve and pray with one another.

For 24-hour support call 1300 308 307 or rednosegriefandloss.org.au

There are other helpful services available here and here.