Guest commentary by Kristin Willett
Two years. It is hard for me to come to terms with it, yet it has been two year this Thanksgiving since I had my first miscarriage. Looking back on it from where I sit today, that two years seems like an eternity ago… and in the very same instant it feels as if it was yesterday. People talk at times about events marking the turning of a new page, or the start of a new chapter in their life’s story. In a lot of ways my first miscarriage marked the beginning of a new volume for me: the way I understood myself, the way I related to others and the way I approached life all took a drastic hit two years ago. The old was finished and a new way forward began. That may seem ridiculous to read, but in many ways my life couldn’t continue as it had been before.
Our fourth pregnancy was unexpected, but as soon as we found out we were going to be welcoming another life into our family a new future started to unfold. We had three beautiful and rambunctious little guys already filling our days with tantrums and giggles, but now there was to be a forth. We planned to tell our families when we visited for Christmas, so until then the news was just ours to dream with. For six weeks my husband and I would look at each other across the dinner table as our three boys were making all kinds of inappropriate noises and we would give the “can you believe we are having another one of these?” looks to each other. After we would get them all down to sleep at night, we would fall on the couch, breath deeply, and say things like “four… FOUR… really, we are going to have four?!” Then we started to wonder about what the new one would be like. We always assumed it was another boy. We just seem to make boys. Our two oldest are only 21 months apart. The third was born almost four years later, and this new one would be two years younger than him — or in my imagination, perfectly ordained to be his best friend. I thought about names, and what color eyes he would have. I prayed for him. I loved him… really loved him with everything that I am, just like I love my three other boys. They are my world.
Those six weeks of expecting him to join our family felt like forever. But then even longer was the three days of limbo, not knowing if the bleeding was “normal” or if we were miscarrying. I maintained hope: If the doctors weren’t certain, then there was a chance this was just a bump in the road, not the end. Miracles happen, this would be one of those. Day four came, and my hope left. We had lost our baby, our dream, our future.
The days that followed were awful and I am grateful at this point that they are more of a blur than anything. I remember crying a lot. I remember concerned questions and looks from our then 6-. 4- and 1-year-olds. Those days revealed all of my brokenness in one fell swoop.
One week earlier I believed that I was strong, that no matter what life threw at me I would be able to endure it with a brave face and a strong spirit. I was wrong. I was broken. I was hurting. I was never going to be whole again.
One week earlier, I believed that I leaned more heavily on reason than on emotions, that understanding could fix any problem. I was wrong. I knew the statistics. I knew the medical justifications. Yet none of that mattered. I didn’t want to move ever again and sobbing seemed like the only thing I could make sense of. Regardless or reason, all I knew was that I lost my baby and that hurt every ounce of who I am.
One week earlier I believed that by surrounding myself with people who loved and supported me, I would never be alone. I was wrong. I was alone. Surrounded by people who cared and tried to be with me in my grief, I was alone. I retreated inside and no one could do or say anything to lure me out. I wanted to know that someone else was hurting too, that this loss was not just my loss, but that the world understood what it had lost. What I felt instead was people hurting for me, and in a weird and twisted way I wanted them to hurt too, I want them to realize that my pain was their pain. They lost him too, he would never be theirs, his mark would never have a chance to be left on this world. Why weren’t their hearts broken? I was alone.
One week earlier I believed that nothing could shake my faith or cause me to question God’s presence in my life. I was wrong. This was not my first struggle. I had endured other losses and I had tackled other challenges never questioning God’s presence in them. But in the days that followed my miscarriage, I found myself throwing my hands up in the air ready to just walk away from the whole thing. This kind of pain just doesn’t make sense. Where is God in this? How is goodness found in this?
I wish I could say that with a little time, the pain goes away. It doesn’t. Two years later, I still find myself sobbing uncontrollably from time to time. The second volume of my life isn’t one defined by heartache, but it has been shaped by it. Losing our baby, and the aftermath of personal discovery, made me realize that I need to “show up” everyday in this life I have been blessed with. It has led me to risk more, to be brave and courageous. It has led me to be more authentic and vulnerable, owning my brokenness for the world to see. It has helped me revel in the small moments, that aren’t small at all: laughing so hard that your belly aches, sharing ice cream with my 3-year-old, waking up at 3 a.m. with my baby girl. It has made me more aware of the heartache that other people live with and how acknowledging that pain, listening to each other’s stories and sitting with grief can in some ways lessen the load we each bear by redistributing the weight a bit. I am more appreciative of how complicated everything is — me, relationships, this world, faith — none if it is easily definable or able to be boxed up; it is all in process and becoming.
Healing has happened, not healing that results in the pain being erased, but rather healing that slowly bandaged the broken pieces together. I shared with our session early on about our heartbreak. They listen, they grieved, and they supported us through our initial steps forward. What was perhaps the most helpful for me were the intimate conversations that took place afterwards: women and men both sharing their own stories of loss, offering a hug and bringing a meal.
The following May, the week before Mother’s Day, we held a service for heartbroken mothers. We shared our stories, cried and remembered the babies and children that we had each lost. As I have shared my story, others have shared theirs. And as we share, pieces have continued get put back together. I am grateful for those who were brave enough to share their heartbreak, and others who were brave enough to be present with me even when it was uncomfortable and they didn’t know what to say or do. There was healing in being together.
So I continue on in volume two, maybe a volume three will follow, but I will settle in here for now. In this volume, the world may not realize what it has missed out on, but the loss of my baby has shaped my life so dramatically that the world can’t help but be touched by it as well.
KRISTIN WILLETT and her husband Brandon are the pastors of a new worshipping community in Anthem, Arizona. Kristin leads a support group called “Empty Arms” for grieving mothers who have experienced miscarriage, still birth and infant loss.
Editor’s note: As we approach Advent, the season of waiting for the Christ child, we lift up parents who bear the grief of infertility, pregnancy loss and infant loss. These topics are traumatic and often not discussed, even in the church – yet many women find their lives marked by similar grief. In sharing these stories of heartache and grief in a series of five blog posts this week, we hope that others also journeying that path will find comfort and that churches will respond to their calling to serve those who are hurting.