This post contains a few details that are graphic. It was helpful for me to reflect on these things. I got permission from my wife, Alessa, to post this online. Thanks, babe.
In mid-May of this year, we learned that our baby had stopped developing in my wife’s womb at 6 weeks gestation. Alessa had a feeling as we arrived for our first ultrasound that something wasn’t right – mothers’ intuition, no doubt – and her fears were confirmed in the examination room. Our doctor had a concerned look on his face as he maneuvered the ultrasound, scanning my wife’s womb. I knew what to look for, too, because I remembered the thrill of seeing our first child, our daughter April, for the first time, and the relief and joy I felt when I saw that impossibly tiny, beating dot on the screen. The telltale flicker of a heartbeat. Her heartbeat.
There was none of that this time.
The doctor didnt’ make a diagnosis right there and then. He ordered more tests. Due diligence. But we knew. Before I had even come to terms with the reality that we would be having another baby, the conversation with our doctors and nurses shifted toward how we wanted the pregnancy to end. Drugs and surgery could expedite the process, but we didn’t feel right about that. We knew it was over, but we still needed to grieve.
As a dad, the feeling is bizarre. At least, it was for me. When Alessa was pregnant with April, I struggled to feel a connection with my daughter. Pregnancy was something that was happening with and for my wife. She got to have an extraordinary intimacy with our daughter that I will never be able to comprehend. Sure, I could cook dinners that were loaded with folate; I could back-rub and go fetch the nausea medication. But I was on the sidelines as my wife and daughter journeyed together as one for nine months. Truth be told, it never felt real to me until I got to meet April in person.
With our most recent pregnancy, it never got to the point of feeling real at all. I didn’t know how to grieve, and at the same time felt as if I should be grieving harder. It’s an odd mix of emotions, and I found myself especially thankful that Jesus was there the whole time, interceding for me with prayers too deep to put into words (Romans 8:26).
The days following our appointment passed by with not much happening. Call me naïve, but I wasn’t exactly aware of how a miscarriage was supposed to occur. I assumed it would be a rather clean, quiet process. I don’t know why I thought this. Logic would suggest otherwise, but that’s where I was. And I was mistaken.
Losing a pregnancy involves a lot of blood and a lot of pain. My wife and I checked into the emergency room because the pain she was experiencing was so intense. She compared it to labor pains, only this time it wasn’t a happy occasion. Here again, I felt myself on the sidelines, helpless to understand what Alessa was experiencing. It was actually here that I felt grief most acutely. I grieved for the loss of our baby. I grieved for my wife, who was in pain. I felt nauseous throughout the whole ordeal from the anxiety, the bloody bed sheets, the sadness of the circumstances. I grieved especially at the heavy feeling that stayed with me throughout the ordeal and even now: the feeling that the world isn’t supposed to be like this. In Genesis, we read that when God created the world, it was “good.” Death was not a part of creation, and was never intended to be. Miscarriage is a reminder of just how far we’ve fallen.
Medically speaking, miscarriage is cold and detached. The tissue, blood vessels, and gestational sac that the body produces when pregnancy occurs all need to come out when the pregnancy is no longer viable. There are pills or surgery that can speed up the miscarriage, or it can happen naturally. The products of the miscarriage – those precious life-giving tissues – are thrown away on a sanitary pad, placed into a medical waste bin, or flushed down a drain. In a young pregnancy, such as ours, the baby is usually gone by the time the miscarriage occurs. The body breaks them down with the rest of the tissue. That’s not the case for later pregnancies. Doctors were quick to urge us to expedite the process. They had our convenience in mind (“You don’t want it to ‘happen’ while you’re at the grocery store.”) Convenience was the last thing on our minds. Being a parent, no matter the age of the child, isn’t convenient. Our miscarriage occurred while we were having dinner with friends.
I can’t wrap my mind around the idea that I am supposed to just accept that a human life just sometimes ends like that. But it does. For every four pregnancies carried to term, there is one miscarriage. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be. God is a God of life. He commanded humanity to “be fruitful and multiply.” Our sin made that very commandment, the most basic and natural of all human and animal inclinations, to be excruciatingly painful. Come, Jesus, and make all things new again.
I find joy in this experience as well. I am grateful that our baby got to enjoy and experience the comforting safety of Alessa’s womb. His or her existence on earth, however brief, was one of constant nurture and constant security. Our baby never had to experience sin, only love. The way it was supposed to be for everyone in the beginning. I am grateful that my wife and I got to walk through this together. There were plenty of painful moments, but there were also moments of closeness that I will never forget. Starbucks runs after our OB/GYN appointments because we just needed something sugary, the incredible comfort of sharing our grief with family and friends. At one point, we found ourselves in the emergency room cracking up about some joke I made that was wildly inappropriate for the setting. When they wheeled Alessa away for her D&C procedure, it felt like the first time we had to experience this miscarriage apart from one another.
I don’t have a specific direction or main point for this post. It’s for me. I just felt the need to put these things to words. If anything, I hope that other dads who have, or will, experience the loss of a pregnancy will be able to find something of value in all this. It’s okay to feel detached. It’s okay to not know how to feel. To you and to the mothers of your children, I am truly sorry for your loss.
In the end, I am thankful that I worship a God who is even more troubled by the state of the world than I am. Who reminds me that this is not how he created the world to function. He is the same God who makes all things new. He is the Lord of the universe who bends to grieve with his people when they are hurting. He is the same God who created, and now holds, our child. Alessa has the feeling she was a baby girl.