Infertility and Loss

It was during a road trip, late one evening. I was headed home from an out-of-town visit with my sister. Like every normal person, we detoured at an open gas station, fully intending to buy $50 worth of junk food that we’d never normally eat, because ROAD TRIP, right?

I’d been uncomfortable all day, so I needed a bathroom. Even though a public roadside restroom is high on my list of places to avoid, I’d been cramping and bleeding off and on all day. Nothing new for a woman, and even though it was weird timing, unexplained cramping and bleeding are especially common for PCOS sufferers. I’ve been living this life my entire adulthood – this wasn’t my first rodeo.

This time didn’t feel any different. Pain tolerance is a highly individualized characteristic, and I don’t register pain the same way that others do. I feel it, yes, but I tend to just carry on with it.

But it was. It was so different this time. When I excused myself to the ladies’ room, I miscarried a baby I hadn’t known I was expecting. There in that dusty, filthy roadside stop, I experienced the shock and devastation of finding out that my husband and I had created a child who hadn’t survived. Only partially formed and barely recognizable. I carefully wrapped the little deformed clump of tissue and blood for disposal.

Probably a million self-recriminatory thoughts have flooded my head and heart since that day. A life is a life, however short, and maybe I should have taken him or her home and gone through the rituals of burial for the little jumble I held in my hands. But I didn’t.

The heartache kicked in later. I was ashamed of being on autopilot in that moment.  I was angry because I never even had the chance to know I was carrying a child. I was deeply, infinitely wounded because motherhood has always been a calling that I felt to my core. I was guilty and angry because my body failed us. I was frustrated because pregnancy is supposed to be a joyous time of expectation and promise, and I missed all of that. I was bitter because I’d been told that conceiving a child would be a challenge for me and that fertility treatments would likely be my only option. I was worried about the emotional toll on my husband, who also desperately hoped for a child. I was fearful because I knew this would change us.

All of those emotions pointed to one problem. Me. I was the root of all of those problems. Me and my failure of a body. I couldn’t reconcile my self-loathing, so I suffered in silence.

And then my sweet sister found out that she was pregnant. And then three sweet nephews came to live here. And my world was filled with children, but none of them were my own. Determined to pour love into those babies, I took hold of mothering everybody. Lullabies and runny noses and potty training and ABCs. Sweet goodnight snuggles with tears prickling the backs of my eyelids because I love these boys with all of my being, but my arms ached for my own baby, too.

But it was my fault. And I suffered in silence.

And then my husband sank into addiction. The miscarriage wasn’t the only reason he chose to self-medicate; he had many, many personal battles to fight, but his story is his own to tell. However, the pain of a loss before the whisper of promise was ever heard, topped by stress and heartache from subsequent failed attempts to conceive, undeniably impacted his course. It was too much for him to handle on his own.

We’re not meant to carry all that, you know? But we’re human and we can be too stubborn for our own good.

I wish I could tell you that’s where the pendulum took a swing in the other direction and healing and hope kicked in and all of the pain and heartache flowing through the chasm between us dissolved under the power of positivity, but that wouldn’t be true.

My husband and I separated. We remained separated for two years as he spiraled further into addiction before our divorce. He has so much healing he needs, and I pray that he finds peace in Jesus. But that’s where his part in my story ends.

I continued to suffer in silence. Instead of laying down the hurt and anger, I tucked it away. The pain started seeping through the cracks in my armor, but I still shared my loss furtively, secretively, as if it were a mark of shame. Because for me, it was. It was my fault.

My emotional load turned into a mountain when I fell pregnant in 2017. Unmarried and only casually dating my daughter’s father, the news brought on its own set of negative emotions. This shouldn’t have happened. Not now. Now this way. And why now? Why couldn’t my other baby live? Why am I now responsible for figuring out how to share a life with someone I barely know? It was a fateful incident involving too many adult beverages and liberties taken. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. My hope in the promise that I’d be a mother someday wasn’t meant to be fulfilled outside of wedlock, without the rosy-tinted celebration of an ordered and highly favored life plan.

Coming to terms with my pregnancy forced me to evaluate the emotions I’d been carrying around for years. I’d prayed and cried for years, wrestling with my burden of guilt and anger and pain, and now everything just happens… In all the wrong ways?

My amazing family and support system showered me with love and grace. Maybe this didn’t follow the traditional plan. But they loved me and poured that same love on my unborn baby. They had faith that the timing was for a reason bigger than any of us understood – which turned out to be truer than we could have ever known. But all of those emotions, the pain, anger, and guilt I felt – I still carried them.

It took the absolute lows of dealing with postpartum depression and anxiety, grief over the tragic loss of my dad just 2 weeks before my daughter was born, and essentially slamming into emotional rock bottom for me to begin to work through the layers of emotions that I’d allowed to coat my inner dialogue for YEARS.

Friends, it shouldn’t have been that way. I was never meant to take on responsibility and guilt for a tragedy that I couldn’t prevent. It wasn’t my burden to bear. That’s the heart of this post and the reason I believe that sharing this story is so important.

My path to healing was long and arduous and painful, as many are; I spent years allowing that pain to shape every emotional response I had. Someone announced a marriage or pregnancy? I’d be thrilled for them, but the emotional kickback was a beast. Failure on the job or project? Inner meltdown of self-recrimination.

I’m never going to be happy about losing a child. It was unexplainable. A tragedy. Definitely not fair. But it happened to me and it happens to millions of other women. There is no ‘at least [……]’ that justifies loss like this. It’s not okay to think that, and it’s not okay to project that onto hurting women. Sometimes you just have to accept that completely unexplainable, unjustifiable things happen. That’s a big step for those special humans who MUST HAVE THE ANSWERS.

Not that I know anything about that affliction personally, you understand.

If you’re suffering from an unbearable load of emotions over your own tragedy, please know that your pain is heard, and felt, by the Savior. He didn’t orchestrate your tragedy. But He wants to help you heal from it. You aren’t meant to take on the responsibility for somehow causing – or deserving – the pain. Tragedy is unavoidable, and the pain and devastation they inflict are inevitable. But none of those things are insurmountable. None of them come with a mandatory life sentence of misery and anger.

That life sentence part is up to you, sweet friend.

When loss and pain slam you into your own rock bottom and you’re struggling to climb outside the abyss of negativity and self-doubt, YOU have the power to choose. You can keep struggling to put one foot in front of the other and suffer in silence. You can pretend that you’re ignoring it and that the hopeless tangle of emotions will untwist itself over time.

Or you can face that pain. Let yourself grieve over the violation of your happiness. Acknowledge the root cause. Process it. Forgive yourself. Forgive other parties involved. Accept that bad things happen to good people.  

Most importantly, accept that Jesus is waiting to surround you in love and peace. If you’re tired of carrying out a life sentence, now is the time to lay it down and let Him take it on for you.

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