on carrying and missing

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

We’d planned it perfectly. A baby in early spring, before work got too busy and the summer too hot. The worst of the morning sickness would be passed in time for the holidays, and I could curl up on the couch for football season in the fall when exhaustion set in. We’d have a few months to get the boys adjusted to our addition before the oldest went off to kindergarten, and then I’d have just two at home again.

Perfect.

Of course, in hindsight I see the hubris of thinking we were in control, of micromanaging the most mysterious realities in our lives. We struck out boldly into the prospect of baby #3, assuming that we’d frontloaded our share of heartache on the infertility side of parenting.

But pain and loss know no quota. There was never any divine promise that suffering could be skipped over. Only that we will be companioned the whole way through.

. . .

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

I was early in the pregnancy, far enough along for us to celebrate the giddy joy of finding out and making plans and scheming how to share the news. But even when the signs started to point south and the tests confirmed our fears, I figured that since I was so early, it wouldn’t be too painful or drawn-out even if it did happen.

Instead I was overwhelmed by pain that felt like the worst wrenching of labor, contractions that came so fast I could barely breathe, shaking and numbness in my limbs that finally made me crawl to the phone and call the nurse who told me to get to the ER as fast as we could. I’d never heard stories of the real, raw truth of what it means to miscarry, so I had no idea what to expect.

But just because a death comes early does not mean it is lighter to bear or let go.

. . .

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Carrying was supposed to be the part I could do. Sure, there would little deaths all along: the wine, the caffeine, the favorite foods, the comfortable sleep. But I knew what it meant to feel sick for six months; I was ready to make the sacrifice again; I needed no convincing that the end product was worth it. Infertility was the struggle we knew, so we figured that once the lines blurred clear on the test stick, we’d be sailing straight ahead till delivery day.

Instead I have to learn what missing means. To white out the appointments already marked on my calendar. To stop mentally scheduling around a due date that is now a ghost. To take the time – the infinite long ache of time – that my body needs to heal. To let a dream die. To mourn a baby that will never be.

. . .

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. In my heart. In our plans. In everyone’s hopes.

But supposed to is a shimmering mirage. One of the few truths I know is that if you’re lucky to do enough living, it will inevitably break your heart. We forget that supposed to means a guess, a wonder, an attempt. We craft an illusion of control believing that supposed to means the right way, the my way, the only way.

Only when life and death crash up against each other in one powerful smack of a wave do we remember that we exist at the mercy of greater forces than our own mind, and that supposed to was never a magic potion to wave away mortality.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. But it is.

I wanted to carry. But now I learn to miss.

. . .

But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels,

that the surpassing power may be of God

and not from us.

We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained;

perplexed, but not driven to despair;

persecuted, but not abandoned;

struck down, but not destroyed;

always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus,

so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.

(2 Corinthians 4:7-10)

63 thoughts on “on carrying and missing

  1. Prayers for you today. I cannot say that I understand. I don’t. But today your words gave me strength as I was called upon to visit another mother in my congregation facing the days after her third. Sadness fills my heart for you and for her. Thank you for sharing…as always words that give hope amid the difficulty

  2. Stunned speechless — yet, praying for you and your family. Bless you for sharing such a deep time in your life.

  3. Laura, leave it you to create such a lovely meditation on such a sad experience. And I understand the strange loss — the loss of something you didn’t quite have. My thoughts go out to you as you move through this.

    1. Thank you, Kris. The loss of something you didn’t quite have – indeed. I learned that in Buddhism, babies lost to miscarriage are known as “water babies” because they slip away without having fully been. So much grief and truth there.

  4. I am so sorry for your loss. I have experienced my own this year, my first after 5 full-term babies. It’s something no one can tell you ahead of time how it will feel. It’s something you realize you don’t truly understand until you experience it yourself. This is a beautiful post and I am so very sorry for your loss. I will pray for you today. God bless you and your family.

    1. My heart goes out to you, Michelle. I agree that it is a loss and grief without understanding if you have not felt how full its ache can feel. I will keep you and your family in my prayers as well.

  5. I am so sorry for your loss. But, I have faith that your baby knew and felt your love during his or her too short life. And, what a lucky baby it was to have you for a mother! Sending prayers to you and your family.

  6. I am so so sorry you’re going through this. And you said it perfectly, just because it’s early doesn’t mean it is any less painful. This baby was still a baby, still a soul. I remember that pain every day like it was yesterday. Please know you and your family are in my prayers. If you ever feel the need to talk, write, or cry about it, please do contact me.

    May Jesus fill your heart today and in the road ahead of you.

  7. In all the days leading up to and even the moments including the funeral of a childhood best friend last week, I remained (and remain) stuck on the question of which is worse: missing the child you knew for thirty three years with hundreds of other people who the memory of her beautiful life in their own lives, or missing forever (and alone) the child you never got a chance to know. People who say the former of those two haven’t looked at the latter from the inside out. I still don’t have an answer, maybe never will, but on some level — though the two are very different — the pain is the same. Thinking a hug in your direction, blessings for your week.

    1. Your question haunts me, Val. There are never any winners in the Pain Olympics, but we cannot overlook how deep a loss can feel that others might want to smooth over or soften by belittling. Pain and grief, they are the same deep ache.

      1. Well the question that haunts me is what to do with my question? It’s too fresh to tactfully write about in my friend’s case, but as I was reflecting to a pastor friend of mine? There is a line between the idea that what best equips me for ministry is that I am a “real” person, but there are also a lot of people who think being a “real” person with “real” problems is a disqualifier for ministry: it’s like walking a tightrope made from fishing line. For so many reasons I can’t just walk up to my friend’s mother and say “I don’t claim to understand, but I understand more than you know.” I can’t say that, but I’m thinking it.

        But on good days my crazy busy seven month old niece beats on me as her personaly jungle gym, trys to eat the rivets out of my jeans and the buttons off my clothes, will attempt to disrobe and strangle me if necessary to get to the particular (sturdy!) cross around my neck, and is generally hilarious and adorable. On bad days I take the stories of Epic Princess Grumpypants Short-Nap second-hand.

        Pain and grief are the same deep ache, or can be, but the grace of providence is the unexpected blessings like so many Flanders Field Poppies in the aftermath of a battle.

        Blessings to you.

  8. Beautiful and painful. You are held in our prayers as we too know the deep pain of missing our baby Sarah that we only knew for a short time.

    1. Thank you so much for your words, Erica. In the midst of the past few weeks we remembered your family’s experience, and I was strengthened to remember how you honored both the life and the loss of your child. Hearing others’ stories brings me hope.

  9. Oh dear heart, we lost our third as well…little Gabriel. Our story is included in a little book with others that, if you have found it already, I think would bring you great comfort. I don’t share to sell a book since I have nothing to gain, only because I wish it had been there for me when I was missing…and you’re right. It’s painful. Very much so. Please let me know if you need an ear. rbsalonen@cableone.net. I remember how much I needed to talk to others who had gone through it…just to know I’d live to the other side. I’d love to share whatever insight might help. Know this. You do live, and the living is all the more precious, and heaven, all the sweeter as you anticipate the reunion. Hugs and love from North Dakota…

    1. Roxane, I meant to drop you a line since I had stumbled across a story you wrote a while back for Catholic Mom (which may be similar to what you share in the book?) and it was incredibly moving for me to read how you had ritualized your grieving with blessing and prayer. I will definitely check out this book – thank you so much for your words, your prayers and your support. They mean so much.

  10. Saying how sorry I am doesn’t seem to be enough. All my love and thoughts to you and your family, Laura. ♥

  11. I am so sorry for your loss, and so sorry you’re now part of “club” of women who have experienced obstetric loss.
    My main advice to you is to put your feet up, be really good to yourself right now, and try not to take personally the dopey things your friends and family might say to you.
    I am praying for you.

    1. Thank you, Mary. I appreciate your words, and have to tell you that your line about the “dopey” things that well-intentioned people might say made me laugh out loud. I am grateful for that! And for your prayers.

  12. Beautifully said, so sad and yet, so full of hope and faith. After overcoming infertility, the heartbreak of miscarriage shouldn’t be. Our thoughts and prayers are with your family. Thank you for writing.

  13. Oh Laura, I am so sorry. I just read this tonight and this overwhelming dread came over me and as I first started reading the post I started thinking “no, not her too…wait, she is talking about someone else…no NOT HER too.” Words are failing me…but I will say, my first 2 early miscarriages were the most horrible and painful moments of my life. I am so sorry you had to experience that as well. Many prayers and virtual hugs for you. Can I bring you a meal? Can I just come and sit with you? Can I do your laundry? I am serious…let me deal with some of the mundane things and you can focus on the healing? I am serious. I will e-mail you. St. Catherine of Siena, pray for us!

    1. Thank you so much, Marie – your reaching out means so much to me since I know that you know this pain all too well. I would love to connect and get together…let’s make it happen.

  14. Laura, I am so sorry. The words are inadequate but I am sad for you and your family, I am sad for your baby for not getting to experience being in your family, and I am sad that the world won’t get to know that little soul. I will pray for you and all of us.

  15. Thank you for your words. You have a true gift with language. I feel as if this spoke straight to my soul, as did The Gossamer Veil. I too struggle with infertility and was thrilled to be pregnant with my third, assuming that my grief cards were already stacked with the infertility at the start (and the inevitable PPD at the end). Last weekend I miscarried and the physical pain SHOCKED me. I can’t believe no one talks about it more. It is LABOR. Now I am rambling, but I just wanted to say thank you for using your phenomenal gift with words to put the emotions of so many would-be mothers onto the page. Your sharing is a gift to those of us who are still feeling fresh pain, and I’m sure to those being haunted with it down the road.

    1. Oh Sarah, I am so sorry to hear of your loss. It is absolutely labor; you are right. I had no idea either, how painful and wrenching it could be. The way I’d heard miscarriage described, it seemed like “a heavy period.” No way. Labor. I am so grateful that you found your way here and that you shared your story with me. It is so similar to my own. Please know that I will keep you in my prayers.

  16. Laura, I know this is an old post, and I have been following your story for some time, but I had to come and read this now as I’ve just experienced a miscarriage. Even though it was early, my grief is so intense and real. I didn’t anticipate the effect changing hormone levels would have — intensifying emotions even more. I’m finding some comfort in reading others’ stories. Thank you for sharing and for your beautiful reflections always.

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