We’d been married only a year and were ecstatic to find that Missy was pregnant. The realization ushered our marriage to a new level of intimacy and sense of family. We no longer passed by the baby section in Target, but dove in, aisle by aisle, soaking up our new environment with elation. Our evenings were spent on craigslist, comparing prices and finding the best deals in Boston. It was a euphoric time, even amidst the college courses and daily work schedules. We felt beyond blessed.
Months into the pregnancy Missy believed something wasn’t right. Our family practician confirmed the suspicion and sent us to the hospital where we were told a heartbeat could not be found. Our baby had died. Once the doctor had left the room, we felt the full weight of the situation. Our bodies crumpled down together where we promised each other, “We’re still going to love God.” It was all we could say between the sobbing, a type of mantra. I suppose it was to convince ourselves as well as commit ourselves. We both knew well that He “gives and takes away,” but were experiencing the full impact of that truth. And it hurt. The pain of a miscarriage, however, doesn’t end when you leave the hospital.
Waiting at home are the baby clothes you purchased in sheer excitement, the sonogram images hanging on the refrigerator, and the baby magazines stacked in the living room. You don’t know whether to tuck them under the couch, throw them across the room, or just ignore them, hoping it’s all a bad dream. There’s also the process of actually birthing the baby. Together. In your bathroom. I remember walking Missy to bed to rest while I retrieved our child. I sat there on my knees, holding my baby in one hand. A lifeless body. The tiniest features I’d ever seen. I asked God to hold my child for me.
This past summer Missy and I endured two more miscarriages. Although I understand it was out of my control, as protector and provider of our family, I feel like a failure. The pain is once again fresh; the frustrations, the questions, and the anger. We continue to receive hospital bills for the children we’ve never met.
Miscarriage has been the most painful experience of my life. And this is coming from a cancer survivor who grew up in hospitals. No amount of physical pain I’ve endured could touch the emotional pain I’ve been dealt during these times. So what is a young marriage to do under such pressure? Missy and I have some suggestions.
Hug. A lot. A full embrace with the your favorite person in the world can help heal in incredible ways. Don’t avoid intimacy, pursue it. Sit close. Sleep closer. Don’t be away from each other for extended periods of time.
Talk. We talk about our pain, our anger, and our frustrations. We invite our close friends into our conversations and they patiently listen without unloading their suggestions. We also talk about the weather, the Red Sox, and what’s for dinner. Be sure to continue life in increments you can handle.
Cry. Together. Missy has an amazing way of comforting me by crying with me. She’s silent and she’s present. Our moments of weakness are often perfectly matched in strength by the other, enabling us to carry each other through.
Pray. It can be silent. It can be quiet. It can be screamed at the top of your lungs. Talk with the God who understands the loss of a child. Ask that He grant you the peace that surpasses all understanding.
I know it’s impossible for a marriage which has suffered loss to pass through unchanged. And I’ve been told the couple has a choice: they can let the trial of fire either define them or refine them. But there are moments when we truly felt we’ve done both. We’ve let it define who we are and what we value as well as refine our cares and concerns. And we’ve found one of the most beautiful things about marriage is it was designed to endure the very worst that life could offer. The union is structured to withstand the storms, the waves, and the undercurrents. Its foundation is built on vows recognizing the imminence of better and worse, richer and poorer, sickness and health. The joining reflects that of a God who has romanced and ransomed His bride against all odds and has given His life for her.
Missy and I have come to believe the unlikely idea that our marriage was built for this.