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Nov 20, 2017 1028 Miriam O'Neil,
Encounter

Miscarriage and New Life

Miscarriage. Pregnancy loss. Enduring pain. Endless sleepless nights filled with longing and regrets. Whether the pregnancy was planned or unexpected, miscarriage brings about a myriad of emotions that take months and years to resolve and heal, and many, especially mothers, never forget. Whether or not the unborn child was eagerly planned and waited for, or an unexpected surprise, the pain of losing a child to miscarriage can be extremely intense and all too often minimized or overlooked by those close to them who do not understand the pain they are going through.

I experienced my first miscarriage a year after my second youngest child was born. This pregnancy was unexpected and definitely not planned. To further complicate matters, I had been medically advised to wait eighteen months after my previous birth before trying to conceive again due to serious complications that had occurred during delivery. I was not happy when I found out that I was pregnant and in my ignorance told a friend that ‘if God planned on sending me anymore children after this one, I was going to change my address and not give Him the forwarding information!’ A few days later, I would end up deeply regretting and repenting of these words I had said.

As I was terrified of both mine and my unborn child’s safety, I immediately called my doctor’s office and was given verbal reassurance over the phone. A few days later, my husband and I met with the doctor who assured us that with careful monitoring, he was very optimistic of a positive outcome for both the child and myself. Relieved, we went for blood tests to check my hormonal levels and became excited about the pregnancy. That night, I started bleeding, and the next morning we learned my hormonal levels were incompatible with a viable pregnancy. As we had just found out that I was pregnant, we were both surprised at the amount of emotional pain we felt. I went to the store, trying to pretend that everything was normal and that this would pass over, but instead ended up breaking down into tears in front of a sales associate. Thankfully, she was sympathetic and supportive, but the next several weeks went by in a painful blur. Every time I saw a pregnant woman or newborn, I was reminded of my own loss and was filled with grief. We named our child after her grandparents as we felt in our hearts that she had been a girl. I went to confession about what I had said earlier, and the priest reassured me that the miscarriage was not my fault, my child did have a soul, and that she was in heaven with God. Deep within my heart, I feel her purpose was to open both mine and my husband’s heart to remaining open to life rather than being afraid of it, and when that was accomplished, God called her home to Him.

A few months later, we lost another child to early miscarriage. As we had been given medical permission to begin trying again, this pregnancy was planned and very much wanted. There were complications right from the start, so we were not as surprised by this miscarriage as we were with the first one. This did not ease the pain that we felt however, and as we buried him next to his sister at a family’s grave site, my body contracted in longing for him and we both wept in sorrow.

The months went by, and it was only the responsibilities I had in caring for my older children that made the days more bearable and easier to handle. As we watched our children play, we both felt a deep sense of loss, that there was an emptiness that would not go away. We were both grieving, in different ways, and as the months went by without conceiving again, the grief seemed to intensify rather than lessen. We were older, and started wondering whether or not we would be able to have another child again. I prayed that the desire to have another child would be lessened, but instead it increased.

Several months after we lost our second child to miscarriage, I found out I was pregnant again. This time the pregnancy test came out with a strong, solid line, compared to the weak, faint lines of the previous pregnancy tests. We were cautiously excited, especially after we made it past the time where we had lost the previous two babies. An ultrasound was scheduled, and we eagerly looked forward to seeing the first glimpse of our unborn child. It was not to be at this visit. While a gestational sac was seen, no fetal pole or heartbeat could be detected and we were devastated. More blood tests were ordered and it was discovered that while I had low progesterone, the HcG levels were high and rising, although not in the typical pattern expected. I was placed on progesterone supplements and we spent an agonizing week waiting for the next ultrasound. This time a moving fetal pole was detected along with a heartbeat, although it was considerably low for gestational age. We cried tears of joy at seeing our child, and began to hope that the outcome would be different this time.

Two weeks later, I started spotting and in a panic, called my doctor’s office. She reassured me over the phone, stating that this could be normal, especially as I had a history of spotting in other pregnancies. To help put our minds to ease, she scheduled an ultrasound for later in the day. My husband met me at the doctor’s office and as the results were inconclusive, we were sent to the hospital where the imaging machines are more advanced. It was there that we saw the still form of our unborn child, no longer moving, without a heartbeat, and I cried out in anguish. We went home and spent the evening consoling each other. Two days later, the cramps began and the pain was so intense it felt like going through labor. My husband took a few days off so he could care for me and our other children. A week later, the bleeding had not subsided, and it was discovered that I had retained part of the placenta. I was scheduled for a D&C the next day, and I fought my husband on going. He firmly told me that unless I went through with the procedure, there was no way that I would be able to become pregnant again. That was about the only thing he could have said that would have motivated me to go. The hospital staff was warm and caring, but when I woke from the surgery, I wondered if I would ever feel normal again.

The weeks passed by and while we did seek medical consultation about the repeated miscarriages, we decided not to pursue any further fertility or hormonal treatment due to our ages. After three miscarriages in less than a year and a half, we seriously doubted whether or not I was able to carry another child to term. We prayed about it and made the decision to remain open to life, but were not really expecting anything to happen.

A few months later, I was in church praying and I told God I thought I was ready to become pregnant again if it was within His will. In retrospect, I am certain God was laughing, as unknown to us, I was indeed a few days pregnant at the time! I repeated this to my husband later that day, and he grasped my hand and we prayed for acceptance of whatever God’s will was for us. Two weeks later, I was in tears and crying out for our Blessed Mother’s intercession when I realized I probably was pregnant again. Although I very much wanted to be pregnant, I was terrifed about the possibility of going through yet another miscarriage. This time we did not take any pregnancy tests as we were very well aware of what the symptoms were, but a week later, I started slightly spotting. Blood tests were ordered and again my progesterone levels were low. This time, however, the HcG levels looked a lot different, and I was feeling like I had when I was pregnant with my children I had carried to full term. We refused the progesterone supplements as we were concerned they caused complications with the previous miscarriage. More blood tests were ordered and none of the doctors liked the HcG rise. I was told everything from ‘there is no way you are still pregnant,’ to ‘there is a strong possibility of this being a molar pregnancy, due to the HcG rise. I went in for an ultrasound at six weeks, bracing myself for the worst. The ultrasound was done in the same room that I had found out I lost Elizabeth a few months earlier, but this time the results were different. A healthy baby with a strong heartbeat was detected and for the first time, we began to feel hope the outcome would be different. Four weeks later, I was hospitalized with severe morning sickness, and another ultrasound was done in the hospital. I was amazed at how much our baby had grown, and my doctor reassured me everything was looking well, and that the likelihood of miscarriage at this point was very small. There are no words to describe the relief we felt! I was so happy about being pregnant that it was difficult to complain about the severe morning sickness and other discomforts of pregnancy.

The weeks and months went by and we remained hopeful, but knew that because of previous complications with my last delivery, the upcoming birth was high risk. My doctors remained optimistic that with careful monitoring, everything would turn out well. We both rejoiced in the new life I was carrying and appreciated the beauty of it in ways that we had not done before. The older children were becoming very excited and enjoyed feeling the baby kick inside of me, who in turn responded to them! I knew that due to my age and history of miscarriage, this would likely be my last pregnancy, so I tried to hold onto every moment of it. I eagerly looked forward to seeing our new baby, but yet, it was difficult to give up being pregnant as I enjoyed the unique feeling of having new life growing within.

Our son’s birth was a planned c-section to help avoid complications that might otherwise occur. I was both scared and excited as I entered the delivery room, and a few minutes later was able to watch most of his birth. He was placed directly on me for several minutes under heated blankets in the delivery room, and we both cried tears of joy and gave thanks to God for his safe arrival. I was still grieving the loss of our other children, especially Elizabeth who I had lost less than a year before, but the sense of emptiness, the deep longing for new life had been filled. Our son did not replace the other children we had lost, but it did help both of us to let go and move on.

Miscarriage is something that happens to so many families, but yet is so little talked about in society. Well meaning individuals do not know what to say, and so often as the pregnancy has not yet been announced or showing, very few people know what the parents are experiencing. For those who have experienced miscarriage, the pain is very real and every years later, the parents, especially mothers as they are the ones who carried the child, have not forgotten. Frequently, guilt does set in for the mothers, as they wonder if they did something, exposed themselves to harmful foods, did heavy lifting, etc that contributed to the loss. The feelings of ‘what could I have done differently to prevent this from happening? ‘are extremely prevalent and can last for a long time. The majority of the time, there is very little that the mother could have done to prevent the miscarriage, but it takes time and the patient, caring support of others, to come to peace about it. The three precious little ones we lost will always be etched upon our hearts and I look forward to the day when I will finally be able to hold them in my arms in heaven and tell them how much I love them. As hard as it was with losing them, we will always rejoice in the fact they came into existence and were with us, even though it was for only a short time. Going through all of this did help us to realize how precious life is, how every day with our children is a gift from God, and ultimately how our children belong to God and not us. Life — A precious gift from God, to be cherished at all stages, no matter how brief or how long it may be.

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Miriam O'Neil

Miriam O'Neil is a writer who shares her thoughts in her blog miriamscorner.org. Being college educated, Miriam has worked as a therapist in long-term care before getting married and becoming a stay-at-home mother of six blessings, along with three special angels in heaven. She prefers a simpler lifestyle with raising chickens, quilting and gardening. When she is not busy taking care of her family, she enjoys writing and working on her blog.

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