When My Baby Died (Inside of Me)

The first time I witnessed a mother mourn her dead child was at my uncle’s funeral.

As a child then, the most profound thing I remembered was my grandmother’s weeping. After the service ended and all the guests filed out of the church sanctuary, Nai Nai bent over the open casket of her second-born child and bellowed from the depths of her being for several heartbreaking minutes. I can still hear it in my head, how her wailing had split the air as my cousins and I played in the church courtyard.

When her earth-shattering cries reached our ears, we hurried to the side door of the sanctuary and silently watched as Nai Nai held on to my uncle’s body while repeatedly screaming his name. She wouldn’t let go until my dad tore her away, tears streaming down both their faces. That moment taught me that it was unnatural for children to die before parents.

Since then, I had not heard anyone mourn like that, until 20 years later—when the same howls emerged from my mouth.

A Joyful Surprise

One September morning, my husband Aaron and I stared at a pregnancy test strip that showed one faint pink line and one red control line. We weren’t sure how to read it, so I took a photo and sent it to my sister, who is a mom and a midwife.

Thirty minutes later, my sister called back, exclaiming,

“YOU’RE TOTALLY PREGNANT!”

I laughed, hardly able to believe this unexpected yet joyful miracle. Aaron and I hadn’t been trying to conceive yet, though we were planning to start in a few months. It seemed like God wanted to speed up our timeline!

The next four weeks were filled with conversations about the near future and our new family. I borrowed pregnancy books from the library and started taking prenatal vitamins and eating healthy foods. We talked about who the baby would look like, where we would live, and what kind of activities we would do together as a family.

Meeting Our Baby for the First Time

As our baby’s heartbeat flickered on the ultrasound screen, Aaron and I ooh-ed and ahh-ed, thrilled to see our baby for the first time.

But our excitement was tempered right after the scan, when our obstetrician Dr. Z explained that our 8-week-old fetus had a heartbeat of 80 bpm (beats per minute) when it should be well over 100 bpm at that stage. There was nothing we could do but wait and see, so she asked us to return in one week.

As we walked out of her office, a wave of worry and fear washed over me, and questions began to flood my mind—”Am I doomed to miscarry?”; “Is there hope for the baby to survive?”

When we got home, I decided not to research the statistics of low heartbeat in the first trimester. I resolved to pray instead. We enlisted a few family members and friends as prayer warriors, to help us petition for this little life.

The week went by rather quickly as I prayed, journaled, and spent quality time with God. I asked Him to heal my baby’s heart and prayed over every developing part of his body. Even though it was too early to find out the gender, I intuitively knew my baby was a boy.

A Shattered Dream

The following week, I walked into Dr. Z’s office, confident and hopeful to see and hear a healthy heartbeat on the machine. But instead, there was silence, followed by the most dreadful words:

As I sat there in shock, Dr. Z began to explain what had happened. I was having a missed miscarriage, which meant that the baby had stopped growing and died inside of me, but my body had missed it and continued being pregnant. The most probable cause was a chromosomal error, and had nothing to do with what I did during the past nine weeks.

We were given three options:

Wait naturally for the miscarriage to pass

Medicine

…or Surgery

We were given three options:

Wait naturally for the miscarriage to pass

Medicine

…or Surgery

That was when the floodgates opened and the tears began to fall. Having just received the devastating news, we were in no condition to choose how to eject our dead child out of my body. Dr. Z said we could take some time to decide and gave me a comforting hug.

Aaron and I went home and held each other as we cried over the loss of our first child. There were no words, just the sounds of wails and gasps of air in between.

The future that we had dreamed up with this child was shattered.

Of course, we could try again and have more children,

but we wanted this child.

After a few hours of weeping and sitting in silence, we began to sing hymns that came to mind. It was the song “Jesus Paid it All” that struck a chord within me:

I hear the Savior say

Thy strength indeed is small

Child of weakness, watch and pray

Find in me thine all in all

Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe

Sin had left a crimson stain

He washed it white as snow

As we sang, I began to feel a measure of peace; in that moment, I felt so small and powerless, but I found safety in the Father’s arms, and I felt grateful for His sacrifice.

Grieving Our Loss

Still, for the next three weeks, I was an unrelenting storm of tears.

I felt angry, numb, and sorrowful that my baby had died.

A part of me had believed that this pregnancy was God’s reward to me for serving Him on the mission field for the past 10 years. I felt like I deserved this child, even though I knew better than to blame God for the miscarriage. I understood that bad things happen in this broken world because of sin, though that did not make the pain any less.

In November, Aaron and I decided to go with medical management, which entailed taking pills and having the miscarriage at home. For three days I laid on the living room couch and bled, my heart and body quivering in agony as I echoed the gut-wrenching howls of my grandmother from before. I felt empty, wrung out, as the blood flowed and the tears fell.

At the end of the third day, the pregnancy sac passed, and I caught it in my hands.

As the truth of my miscarriage stared at me in the face, my tears finally dried. Seeing it in my hands then, it wasn’t scary and mysterious anymore; on the contrary, it was beautiful to behold, to see what Aaron and I had created, what was once inside of me.

We held a small funeral ceremony at home for our precious angel. We placed him in a decorative box, along with a handwritten letter and our tear-stained tissues. We prayed and sang, then said our “I love you”s and “goodbye”s.

How God Met Me in My Grief

God has been with me through it all. He meets me where I am and journeys with me through the deep valley of grief. Where the words from friends and family failed to comfort, He gave me His words to lean on.

When they said: “At least you know you can get pregnant.

God said: “I know this pregnancy was important to you.

When they said: “You’re still young. You can try again.

God said: “It’s okay to feel sad and grieve in the present moment for this baby.

When they said: “You should have waited until three months to tell me.

God said: “You can tell me anything anytime.

When they said: “It just wasn’t meant to be.

God said: “I am the creator of life and I have the perfectly-timed plan for your family.

Friends for the Journey

Along my grief journey, God also provided me comfort through two people: King David and a new friend named Lee.

The Psalms helped me cling onto a steady faith in God when my emotions ran wild. When I read Psalm 13, I could relate to David’s experiences of anguish and pain.

“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts

and day after day have sorrow in my heart?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.

Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,

But I trust in your unfailing love;

my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing the Lord’s praise,

for he has been good to me.”

From David’s example, I learned that it is possible to both acknowledge my pain by expressing my feelings, and worship God by believing and trusting in His love and goodness. The more I opened up to God about my miscarriage, the closer we became and the more comfort I received from Him.

Yes, I’m heartbroken that my baby died, and I’ll never be the same because of it.

***

A month after my miscarriage, I met Lee and her husband at a mutual friend’s birthday party. Shortly after we met, Lee revealed that she had suffered a miscarriage earlier that year. I was amazed that God gave me someone who is navigating the same valley as I am and knows what I’m going through. We have the same worries and struggles, but we also have the same miracle-working God.

Lee and I talk regularly to remind each other to keep our marriages centred on God and trust Him to orchestrate the future of our families. We meet to grieve and pray together, and to encourage each other.

Although relating to Lee about the miscarriage was easy and natural, between Aaron and me, our grieving processes have been very different.

My grief came in two parts: I was sad when we lost our baby, and then I was sad because Emily was sad.

My initial reaction to the loss of our young life was calm and subtle. I made peace and accepted the loss right away because I didn’t have an opportunity to bond with the baby and the pregnancy wasn’t a physical experience for me. Intellectually and emotionally, I was still getting ready to be a dad.

After the first doctor’s appointment, I knew we needed a miracle for the low heartbeat situation. In a way, God had prepared me and cushioned the blow so I could be stronger for what was to come.

The day of the miscarriage was the saddest for me. It was the first physical reality of the pregnancy that I could sense and see: Emily’s crying and the embryo. We needed God in that moment, and He inspired us to have a ceremony, a send-off.

The second part of my grief was journeying with Emily through her grief and coming to terms with how the miscarriage has impacted us.

I also felt like no one could understand how I was doing, with my wife in deep mourning, and me giving all my time and energy to try and take care of her.

A few weeks passed before I became ready to share how I felt and ask for help. Through the grieving process, I saw how God provided for our needs. I met up with a pastor friend who had recently journeyed through a miscarriage with his wife. Being able to share with him was a step towards personal growth and healing. I’m grateful for this brother who could relate to the challenges of staying healthy in order to take care of my wife and not become lost in her grief.

I eventually learned how to support Emily by communicating better with her. It took time to learn how to share all the different layers of feelings we were experiencing. The challenge was reconciling the idea of what healing should look like versus how Emily was doing. After many difficult conversations, I learned how to be wise in my words while not diminishing my own thoughts and visions for healing and post-trauma in marriage.

Learning to work through our grief together was challenging, but it made us stronger as a couple, and we love each other even more because we had struggled and fought through the grief battle together.

4 Tips to Carry You Through the Healing Process

4 Tips to Carry You Through the Healing Process

Have you recently suffered from a miscarriage or know someone who needs support in their grief?
Read on for some helpful tips.

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1 reply
  1. HidaTjen
    HidaTjen says:

    I’m glad to read your post, this will remind me that I’m not alone. Still hurt inside when remembering that day….
    God has a perfect plan for us that we don’t really understand it. And I’m really thankful that He gave me two more daughters that I have now.
    It’s hurt sometimes,
    It’s a great joy sometimes,
    All we have to do is trust in him, lead on him.
    God Bless Us.

    Reply

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