Normally, I am the one saying, “Not yet boys…”, “Not right now…”, “You’re going to have to learn to wait…” or some variation of those phrases. They rarely hear these words without somehow letting me know that they oppose what I am telling them. That it makes them angry, sad, frustrated, etc. I try to work up the patience to explain to them why the answer is some version of “no” or “not now” and although it may be very logical, no matter how little their bodies may be, their feelings are big, and they don’t see the logic at the moment. If I’m lucky, my four year old will eventually come around and let me know he understood my reasoning and then for that moment I am not “the worst mom EVER”. (My heart is lucky enough to not have heard those words yet but I am sure at some point in raising these munchkins I might and I will try to be prepared so I don’t break down hysterically crying.)
Well, what happens when I am the one that is told that I will have to wait. That despite my perfectly planned hopes and dreams, the answer is “not right now Natasha”.
I am well aware that social media is somewhat of a highlight reel and that mainly only snippets of peoples lives are posted, and some of us can fool an entire Facebook world with the illusion that we have it 100% together. I love that there is awareness starting to arise about the reality of what a hot mess express motherhood really is. I don’t share a ton on Facebook, but I like to believe I have shared some of my most meaningful moments on there. And although I am sharing this mainly for my own healing and grieving, I also share for all the moms that need to hear this, the moms that mistakenly think I may have it all together, the moms that don’t know if its okay to talk about the very raw and big feelings that come with this thing called motherhood.
To start from the beginning, I should share with you all that on February 13, 2018, I found out that after 2 months of trying, we were expecting baby Proto number 3. It was the perfect Valentines and birthday gift wrapped into a tiny little sweet pea sized babe. We waited a couple weeks to announce to our family and friends. Eventually we told our oldest and he was over the moon excited to be a big brother again. I have his whole reaction on video and at that moment I was oblivious to how close to my heart I would hold that video. From the beginning, Jonathan and I decided that we wanted to have a home birth this time around. We knew that this was only going to be accomplished and that we wouldn’t back out if we did A LOT of research. So we dove in. We found what we thought at the time would be the perfect birthing center, we would go to bed watching water birthing videos and planning it all out. It took awhile to find a place that would do a home water birth so I ended up not getting my first appointment until I was 7.5 weeks along on March 15th. At this point, we realized we had a cruise planned out for the next week and I was afraid of traveling to the Caribbean with the risk of exposure to the Zika virus. I just wanted to know everything was okay before going on the trip. I was searching for some peace of mind that this was a healthy and strong pregnancy. Looking back now, I realize I was tricking myself into thinking I could control something about this entire process. I took God out of it. I was following my plan, my way, and got so caught up in thinking I could do this on my own that I forgot to pray. Just to be still, and pray. Don’t get me wrong, I still went to church 3 times a week and prayed with my husband and kids before bed, but I was desperately trying to control this whole process, birthing out of all things which by now I should know is the most unpredictable experience. In the midst of this, my youngest needed bilateral tube surgery and got tested for Celiac and tested positive for a Celiac allele. This meant a radical lifestyle change for us in what we ate on a regular basis. My momma heart was really being forced over and over to just trust that God had this in His hands. On Easter, I remember being greatly impacted by our pastor’s quote, “If God never answered another prayer for the rest of your life, you would still have everything He’s done up until this point to be grateful for.” This made so much sense. Even if another prayer was never answered, I had everything up until this point to be eternally thankful for.
On March 16, our midwife reluctantly ordered us an ultrasound and the day before our cruise we got to see our little baby. There is nothing quite as satisfying during the pregnancy process than to either see your baby, or hear your baby’s heartbeat. That day we got to do both. We saw a thriving, healthy baby, measuring 8wks3days, with a heartbeat of 167bpm. The boys got to see their baby brother or sister for the first time and we left thinking “the chances of anything going wrong is 20% but after detecting a heartbeat through ultrasound those odds go down to between 1-5%. Were good. We can go on our cruise. Everything is going to be fine.” On the cruise I did everything I could to repel mosquitos. Once again, confusing my productiveness with a false sense of control. I am not saying that there are not things we can and should control, I’m saying that I recognize that I was completely forgetting to seek out God’s will. I was obsessed with researching and implementing different routines to try and make sure I was doing everything “right”. Even though I had already had 2 healthy pregnancies and deliveries, I was still so worried that THIS one wasn’t going to have the same happy ending. One night on the cruise I remember having a heart to heart with Jonathan and sharing with him that I had cried in the shower because I had a moment of complete self awareness where I realized that I was at a point in my faith, where I felt like I could handle more than I could maybe 6 years ago. I felt like my faith was more unwavering and that years ago I could’ve never gotten through a bump in the road without falling down a deep dark tunnel of depression and anxiety. Keep in mind, at this point I still thought my pregnancy was healthy so this as a completely ‘random’ thought that came during some prayer time.
We came home from our trip, I kept feeling pregnancy symptoms, my belly got a little bump, my breasts were sore. As far as I knew, this little babe was thriving. The research continued, the home birthing studies, the note taking on hypnobirthing, the planning. We built a wall to make a designated space for the nursery, and I printed out some props for a formal pregnancy announcement. Those props sat on my dining room table for weeks. I would tell Jonathan, “Oh! we need to take that picture!” and then we would continue and never take it. I believe now it was God’s way of protecting me and my mind knowing what my body and heart did not want to acknowledge. I also kept listening to the song “Peace Be Still” over and over. I weep almost every time she sings “Peace be still you are here and it is well. Even when my eyes can’t see, I will trust the voice that speaks….Im not going to fear the storm, You are greater than its roar.” The whole song is about being still. About not having fear. Even when you don’t understand, leaning into God’s truth that He’s got this. He understands what we don’t. At church we were going through a series called “What’s the Point?” where we are studying the wisest man, Solomon, and how he pours out the answers to the question, what is the point? Of this life, of the pain, of our work here on Earth.
Eventually our 12 week appointment came up and it was the day we were going to be able to hear baby Proto’s heartbeat! What a milestone! We were all there, the boys, Jonathan and I. She had trouble finding it on the doppler but assured me it was probably just because I had eaten a large lunch beforehand. She wrote me a script for another ultrasound and off we went, with the heaviest feeling on our hearts. Confusion, anxiety, fear. We were full of fear. I left that office at 4:30 and called over 15 ultrasound doctors begging them to get me in before they closed at 5pm. This was April 10. I found a place that was open until 6pm! I made an appointment online for 5:30pm and we rushed there. Only to be confronted with a very matter-of-fact front desk receptionist that let me know that there must have been some mistake but that they could not see me despite my appointment. I explained my situation, with my eyes tearing up and she simply said “We can’t help you.” We called the manager who handled the situation extremely well and squeezed us in first thing in the morning at 7am. This would mean I would wake up at 5am to be there by 7am but this was my only choice and it was already agonizing enough to have to wait the night on pins and needles. The next morning, I drove alone to my ultrasound while Jonathan stayed home with the boys. I was excited to see my baby again. I was shaking in the doctors chair. The ultrasound tech kept trying to make light conversation but she and I both knew, that this appointment had the ability to wreck my world that day. She sent me off with no information. Said I would have to wait for a radiologist. The radiologist sent me home and said my midwife would call me. I sat in my car, cried, called Jonathan, called my mom, and with a pit at the bottom of my stomach told them “I think I lost the baby and nobody wants to tell me.” I sat there for 20 minutes and then finally called my midwife at her personal number. She confirmed. My worst nightmare had come true. Baby Proto measured to be 9wks and I was suppose to be measuring 12wks and there was no cardiac activity. They called it “fetal demise”. I hung up and then called back with 50 questions on what would happen next. She explained that what I had had was a missed miscarriage and that my body had not yet recognized the death of the baby. I felt like my body was failing me. I felt pregnant. I looked pregnant. But for 3 weeks my baby’s heart had stopped beating. She advised me to wait for my body to recognize the miscarriage and let the process occur naturally. I was on board with this for about 2 days. It was agonizing. It was complete torture to stay home, afraid that at any moment, something awful could begin to take place. We had a falling out with my midwife and I sought out the practice that I had used with my pregnancy with Shiloh. I only didn’t choose them this time because we wanted the home water birth, but as soon as I called they assured me that I would always be a patient of them and that they could get me right in the following week on April 16th. That whole weekend, I dreaded the whole process starting. I was in a way soaking up my last moments carrying my baby with me everywhere I went. (This is the first of a long list of thoughts that I had through the whole miscarrying process that I considered “weird”. Not because I thought I was weird, but because it felt weird not knowing if I was doing this right. I was STILL trying to even control this process.)
Finally, I was still long enough to hear what God had been trying to not so subtly drill into my heart. Jonathan had the boys outside, while he ripped up our landscaping. This was his therapy and it was a project we took on together to keep our hands busy and the kids busy while we talked, thought, cried and had this time together. I went inside for a break and I looked outside on the lake. I remember last year when God really spoke a strong message to me and laid a verse on my heart. Then the song “Sparrows” came out. I had studied the book of Matthew and fell in love with Matthew 6:26. Two years ago I saw a piece of art with the paraphrase “Look at the birds” on it because I wanted that reminder. It was hung above our bedroom door because I wanted to remember that if God provides even for the birds, He is more than capable and willing to provide for me. Then that song came out and it was an easy way to be reminded every time it would come on, every time I saw the artwork. I stopped believing in coincidences a long time ago. This was God sending a message. So there I stood, staring at the birds that line our property shoreline by the lake. Reminded once again, that God has been preparing me for this for awhile. He provides for the birds, He will provide for me. I went into my room and just wept. I begged God to protect me. That this wouldn’t affect my faith. I didn’t want to let the voice of the enemy fill my head. I prayed and I asked God to help prepare me for what was to come, for wisdom in telling my oldest son what had happened, for reminders that my husband lost a baby too and he needs me just as much as I need him. I reached out to a doula that pointed me to some resources where I found myself looking for the perfect baby burial box. If there was one thing Jonathan and I knew, was that we were going to do everything possible to try and be able to bury our baby.
I thanked God for the my two boys that were playing outside in the yard and I specifically said “God I have always known that these are your kids. That you knitted them in my womb and entrusted me to take care of them, but I surrendered them to you a long time ago. I prayed that the day would never come that I would have to outlive one of my kids, but that they were ultimately yours, and that you knew how to care for them better than I.” That is a prayer I had prayed many times, but this time, it wasn’t hypothetical. This was where the rubber met the road and I prayed for Him to please provide resources to help prepare me, people to help guide me and peace to help me not lose my way. I remembered that day on the cruise when I said that I felt like I was close enough to God to not spiral downhill if there was a bump in the road. He was reminding me of my strength, how far I had come, and to not let myself go there. (Later on, my friend stopped by with a piece of art that said ‘His grace is sufficient’ and explained to me that that verse held meaning to her when she lost her baby because even though there would be times of sorrow and sadness, there was a deep dark tunnel that she could see but she couldn’t let herself go down. And that was God’s grace.) Even though I felt pressure to not ‘go there’, even if I did, God’s gift of grace would be sufficient to make it ok.
On Monday, April 16, I met with my old OB. He explained to me very scientifically that at this point in my pregnancy, the baby was “merely tissue”. That the only certain choice would be to have a D&C because with the inducing medicine or waiting naturally, there was risk of infection. I felt zero peace about having a D&C. I had already had one after birthing my youngest because I retained placenta, and I knew the risks of having another one in less than 2 years and knowing I wanted future pregnancies. I had read so much that weekend prior about natural miscarriages just in case it happened before my appointment. I knew what to expect. I knew that I couldn’t wait for the natural process because it was the most mentally agonizing process I had ever put myself through to even wait the one week that I had. I knew that there was the option of the inducing medicine, that it would come with pain that could be as potent as labor contractions. I knew it would be graphic. That there was a chance that I would still need a D&C after. But Jonathan and I both just felt a gut feeling that we needed to let this happen at home, and to bury our baby. My OB warned me that a lot of people can’t tell the baby from a clot from a placenta and that I could very well “miss” it. I went home with the prescription and prayed and prayed. This was not the home birth I had prepared for, but I felt prepared. Scared emotionally, but also prepared with all of the facts of what to expect, when to head to a hospital. I took one of the four pills at 6pm, hoping it would all happen during the night so Jonathan and I could have time to ourselves without having to worry about the kids being there. Then, God provided two amazingly brave women that texted me and shared with me encouraging words about their experiences. One of them, had experienced a missed miscarriage and chose the inducing medicine route as well. Y’all this is not someone that HAD to share the details that she did. It was probably painful to relive those details. But she was open vulnerable and wiling. She talked to me throughout the night until about 11pm when I took my second pill. It was moments after that I passed the baby. If I told you that it was anything short of a miracle I would be lying. God showed up so much during the worst moment of my entire life. There was no mistaking the baby from a blood clot. It was not “tissue”. I am not sure if they miscalculated the date that the baby stopped growing, but to me, this was God showing up. Allowing me to meet my baby. Two eyes, two hands, two feet, all ten toes and fingers.
Friends and family, I can not emphasize enough how amazing that moment was. After my initial shock and weeping, I just looked at Jonathan and said, “It is amazing that that little baby turns into a fully functioning newborn that we picture when we think of a full term baby. There is no way that something like this is created without God. Life is fragile. How many people get to see this? I can not believe that doctor said I should expect to only see tissue measuring 2mm. This baby is the length of my pinky. Its a fully developed baby. Its our baby.” We wept. We talked. We followed the instructions on how to preserve and prepare for burial. We said goodbye to our angel baby. It took hours. And then we laid down to try and get some rest. We woke up to the boys normal morning routine, and we were in a haze. It’s like we knew what had happened but it was so raw and emotional that all we could do was just be still. To be proud parents. To know we would meet our baby again in Heaven. I saw a quote that said “how great to know that the first face my baby will see will be the face of Jesus”. I had a hard time letting go. All that talk about surrendering my kids to God, and here I was deep down wishing it was all a terrible dream.
From then on, it was waves of grief. I would hear my 4 year old’s innocence shine through in his nighttime prayers when he would ask me if God was going to heal the baby and put him back in my belly. One time he asked me if he can go to heaven to meet his little brother or sister and I replied and said, yes that he could, but hopefully he gets to stay here with mom and dad a little longer, but if he ever feels sad and wants to talk, he can talk to me about anything. His reply, “or I could just talk right to God and ask him how the baby is doing.” My heart would sink. I felt so many dichotomies during this while process. Fearful but hopeful. In shock and in awe. Worn down and renewed. Hurt and taken care of. I felt pressure from myself “Natasha you said you wouldn’t lose it. You said you wouldn’t go there.” I felt like I needed to prove something to myself. But again, his gift of grace means he loves me anyways. I can very vividly see in my mind about a hundred different ways I could handle this loss, a hundred other ways that I could release my anger and pain. But I just can’t. I can’t let myself sit in the dark spot for too long. Whether it is because the kids need me, or a friend checks in through text, or my husband walks in the door form work early. Anytime I feel like am losing the battle, something happens. God happens.
God placed exactly who needed to be there around us. Jonathan was able to stay home for a week. We finished our landscaping project. I had a follow up ultrasound that confirmed I didn’t need the D&C after all. He was in awe when I told him about the baby’s appearance and he just wanted to here more. God has showed up time and time again. Through my husband. Through friends. Through people who dedicate their lives to helping parents that have lost their babies at any stage. I was warned that some people might make comments that sting, while having only good intentions. But please let me tell you, there is nothing lucky about losing a baby at “only 13 weeks”. I realize different losses come with different types of pain and grief. But for me, acknowledging my baby and our loss, talking about it like it the big deal that it was, has been the only way to move forward. We are parents to 3 kids. 2 here on Earth and 1 in Heaven. I am not sure why God allowed this to happen the way that it did, but I try and remind myself regularly that He knows things I don’t know, things I’ll never know. A friend reminded me that here on Earth ‘is the place where we combat suffering and good times almost like a roller coaster- a constant reminder that where we started is not where we will remain- that our exit is heaven bound.” But what I do know, is that he planted seeds to prepare me. He held me and my husband and kids. He guided me towards the right resources and the right people. Not everyone will understand why we chose to do things the way that we did, or why I felt the way I did. But I’ve learned that we will never know how we handle something unless we experience it for ourselves. W.”e can say “if that ever happened to me……” but we never know. Some days will carry a lot of painful memories now. Mother’s Day being one of them. At least for this year. This year, things did not go as planned. And holidays will not be how I expected them. I may not be all smiles on Mother’s Day, or October 23 when I would’ve held my baby in my arms. You might run into me on a good day or you might run into me on a painful one. Just know, everyone carries something we know nothing about, love them anyways. Just because I chose to share my story, that doesn’t mean everyone will. I have learned miscarriage is a very taboo subject. Some understandably don’t talk about it because of the pain and grief that comes with it. But if you are carrying this alone because you feel people don’t want to hear about it, or that you’re not suppose to bring it up, please know that I’m here. And God provides. I have had more than a handful of women that have shared their “I have felt your pain but never told anyone about it” stories, and although I am sad for what we all share in common, I am thankful that you let me know that I wasn’t alone. That I didn’t do anything wrong. That the darkness does not have to have power over me. That God is good. Even when the answer is “no”, or “not yet”, God is good. He is close to the brokenhearted. And His grace is sufficient.