Let me tell you about Mini

I think it’s time to tell you a story. The story about Mini. It is not an easy story to tell, but it gets easier with each telling.

I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited to pee as I was on that cold, December morning. We had started ‘trying’ just two months before, and I was a day ‘late’. We bought a pregnancy test and waited until the next day, having heard that first-thing-in-the-morning was the best time to test. I woke up before 5am, and bolted for the bathroom. The test said to wait three minutes for the result, but 45 seconds later I could already see a faint, second line developing on the stick – and with tears and squealing and oh-so-much-joy ran into the still-dark room to tell my husband the happy news that our two was now three. We named our expected one Mini. We called our parents and siblings, we went out to dinner, we dreamed of the future: the future of us-with-Mini.

Two weeks later we were at a conference in Missouri and I came down with a cold, and we delightedly fretted about whether taking airborne and extra vitamin C would be safe for our new baby. The kind medic at the Urbana missions conference assured us that taking vitamins was totally safe, and we walked out holding hands, smiling our secret to ourselves as we huddled with throngs of students.

Two weeks after that, the bleeding began. At first just a spot, then a little more. We called the doctor, who said something about ‘implantation bleeding’, and advised us to rest, wait and see. I rested. I waited. I bled. I prayed.

The bleeding continued and so we did what young, anxious parents of our generation do: we searched the internet, trawling for numbers to give us hope. As if the statistics and probabilities of others would reveal the future of our own. One in four pregnancies end in miscarriage, I read. Which means three in four don’t, I reasoned. But which also means one in four do.

Two days later, still bleeding, we called the doctor. She agreed to see us and scheduled an ultrasound. With a compassionate but matter-of-fact face, she took a look at the blobs on the screen and interpreted them for us: “this is not what we should be seeing with a healthy 8 week old foetus,” she said, “I’m sorry.” We went home silent, stony and crushed.

The worst part was not the waiting-to-see-if-something-was-wrong, nor the hearing-that-something-was. The worst part was coming home, knowing that our baby was lost, and yet still having to endure a few more days of losing Mini. I sat at home: weeping and bleeding and waiting for it all to pass. My best friend, four months pregnant and grieving for me even as she carried joy of her own, brought me tea and books and let me cry.

Returning to work was hard. Cheerful students and co-workers who didn’t know brought welcome distraction but also somehow intensified the ache. We hadn’t asked them to celebrate Mini’s life when we first found out, and so it seemed unfair and unnatural to ask them to grieve our baby’s death. We were lonely. We felt very grown up.

I remember taking a counseling class where the teacher posed the question: “what is the worst type of grief?” I remember scouring my mind, weighing up the imagined relative trauma of losing a spouse, of suffering great violence, of burying a parent. The lecturer’s words cut into my thoughts: “Your own,” he said. “The worst grief is your own.” His words came flooding back in the wake of losing Mini: maybe it was worse to lose a child already born, or a still-born child, or one later in the pregnancy… but those great griefs were not our own. We had lost Mini early on, but that grief was our own, and it was the worst.

A few moments stand out from that first month after our loss. The moment when a co-worker asked about my absence from the staff party: “Are you pregnant?” they asked. Stunned, I blurted out “I was”, and left them floundering in the parking lot as I ran into the building. The wedding we attended a week later, where more-than-a-few people asked us if we were planning to have kids any time soon. I don’t know how we made it through that night. In the photos from that day, my mouth is smiling and my eyes are glassy. Then, on retreat with our young adults group a few weeks later, a come-to-Jesus moment when I sat all alone in a snow-silent world, and cried all the tears I had stuffed in silence in the weeks before.

And I recall how, one by one, I slowly started to hear others say that the same thing had happened to them. “That happened to me too,” said the smiling Mom-of-five after church one Sunday. “We lost three,” said another. “I’m so sorry,” whispered yet another, “I remember how that felt.” And all of a sudden that one-in-four statistic wasn’t just about our odds for our baby, it was the story of at least one-in-four women that I knew and loved and saw often… but we had just never shared that part of the story before.

More than anything, it was comforting to know I was not alone.

I think perhaps we make a mistake when we keep pregnancies a secret until we’ve had an ultrasound to say that “everything’s okay”. A baby is a baby and a life to be celebrated long before an ultrasound says it is so. A life is a life before anyone has measured its spine or assessed its chances. Mini was a baby, and it was right to celebrate. And then we lost our little one, and it was right to mourn.

We found out we were expecting again a few weeks later, and our mourning for Mini became less intense, and less frequent. From time to time I would feel the loss acutely: standing in the snow, or hearing another’s story, or reading “Heaven is for real” all brought fresh tears for old sadness. But the tears were less, and the sadness more distant – especially as I heard the stories of more and more friends experiencing similar loss and became one of those offering a hug and whispering “that happened to me too.”

A few weeks ago, I told our eldest that there had been another baby before her. I told her there was a little one who had first made us a Mommy and Daddy, but we hadn’t had a chance to meet yet. I told her we didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl, but that we would meet them one day and know for sure then. My daughter assured me it was a girl: the sister she had been longing for, but would one day meet. The next day she told a stranger at the park that she had an older sister in heaven. This is going to be awkward, I thought. But it wasn’t, and she didn’t mention it again.

Until this week. I was cleaning up after breakfast and came upon my daughter playing with her brothers in the living room. She was holding an arm full of stuffed animals, and introducing them to her admiring audience: “this is me, and you, and you”, she said as she gestured to three bears and to the three of them on the sofa. And then, holding up a tiny, fourth bear, she told her brothers “and this is Mini. She is our sister too, but she’s in heaven.”

tegandbears

There they are: my four children. Three in my arms, and one in Jesus’. Telling the story has made it easier. And now, hearing the story from the mouth-of-babes has brought a fresh wave of hope and joyful anticipation.

And so I’m telling you. Because maybe it’s a story you need to hear today. One-in-four, and all that, but for the one – it’s the worst grief of all.

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47 thoughts on “Let me tell you about Mini

  1. Me too. Twice, but one was at 5 weeks and I only knew for a few days so that wasn’t so hard. The first was at 10 weeks. That was hard but I just reminded myself that it was probably for the best. What I learned from the whole experience was that not telling people is LAME because I had little to no support. With Ava I texted everyone the minute we found out. And I have not kept it a secret that we are trying again. We need support during miscarriages. We also need support if things don’t work out and we can’t get pregnant. Where the secrecy all started I don’t know, but it stops with me. :) thanks for this article. It will be comforting to so many.

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    • Yes, we need support, and I totally agree that it is lame. We thought ourselves so wise at the time, but with every pregnancy we told people early. I’m so sorry for your losses, Paula. Praying for you guys as you try again.

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      • That is so brave of you to be open, Paula! I have only met one other couple that was willing to let everyone know the minute they knew anything. I think it’s beautiful. And I think you are right. I don’t know if, when the time comes and we start ‘trying’, I will be brave enough to tell my little world of friends and open myself up to them–to share either the joy or loss that comes. But I hope so.

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  2. Thanks for sharing this. From a father’s perspective, I remember a sense of helplessness, trying to find something, anything I could do to help my wife.

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    • Thanks so much for commenting, Ben. I think the sadness and helplessness of dads is something I have heard so few people discuss. But for every woman who miscarries, there is a man who suffered loss too. Thanks for saying so.

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  3. Us too… between the boys and the girls…with a year of painfully trying to conceive again afterwards… it is heartbreaking. Thanks for this beautiful post. Thanks for celebrating our wedding while glassy eyed… it is hard to share others’ joy in the midst of your own grief.

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  4. Thanks for sharing, Bronwyn. Love your daughter’s response! I tell all my patients: if you want support if something happens, tell everyone soon, and if you want to go-it alone, stay quiet. I can’t imagine going through it alone! I’m glad you ultimately found support from others and are sharing to provide support to more.

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    • Thanks, Leona. Your patients were blessed to hear your advice. We heard so many people repeat the common “wisdom” to wait until the end of the first trimester, but with every pregnancy we found ourselves telling the news sooner. It just made sense to share it all: the joy as well as the hard stuff.

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  5. I think this is a silent burden and grief that too many of us carry in our hearts. One in four sounds just like a statistic, but when the stories start pouring out, its amazing how many people walk around with this grief, hidden in their hearts. We lost a baby between Mikayla and David. We had shared the news of the pregnancy early on, so had the support of family, and close friends, but were silent about it, further than that. I was amazed how many of the ladies around me had been through this. We never found out her gender but my husband believes it would have been a girl and we remember her at valentines day as she would have been born around then. We named her Cara. I remember how my next pregnancy just flew past, and it was because I almost refused to believe I was pregnant until that magic 3 months passed and we could open up our hearts fully again. Thank you for opening this up topic so that people can talk, share and know they are not alone in their grief. And that they don’t have to be alone.

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    • I’m so sorry to hear about Cara, Lianne. I look forward to meeting her one day. Thanks for sharing your story here too (and for sharing mine on FB)… I really do believe telling our stories helps those who are struggling in silence.

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  6. Me too Bron. Two months before I fell pregnant with Emma. A friend said to me at the time something so obvious that rings so true now – she said eventually I would have a healthy baby and I would realise that if I hadn’t lost the first, that healthy second baby simply wouldn’t exist. So now I am sitting here playing with my 4 month old baby Emma and her crooked little smile lights up my life and I know for sure that she would not exist without that first miscarriage and I know that everything happens exactly the way it is supposed to.

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    • It’s so hard to process both the pain of the loss and yet still acknowledge that if the first little one hadn’t died, the precious one we have now wouldn’t be here. I’m sorry for your loss, Sam, and like you I hug my sweet girl who lived all the closer for it.

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  7. Us too Bronwyn, last year in fact. I was so grateful that we’d shared the news of our pregnancy with our family and friends, but it was heartbreaking telling Nicholas and Sarah that our little baby wasn’t growing like it should be. Sarah sobbed. Nicholas asked questions, lots of them.They still talk about “our baby”. May 22 this year will be a day of pondering what would have been. However, I am SO thankful for the two beautiful, healthy children I already have, and I ACHE for the couples out there who won’t ever be parents, for whatever reason. Thank you for sharing your story and praise God for Teg, Callum and Dec!

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    • Thanks for sharing, Leza. I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine processing the grief with ones children in real time… How very, very hard. My heart aches for so many parents who have suffered silent loss. I hope our stories here are a comfort to those who read here.

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  8. Wow..thanks for being so transparent. Our grief wasn’t due to miscarriage but premature birth. Laura was born at 29 weeks. She lived 3 days. She would have been 17 this April. Though the stories are slightly different the grief is the same. It’s almost as if you interviewed others to write this. Mini is a very fortunate child.

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  9. Thanks for this Bronwyn. Us too, in between our 2nd and 3rd. Only 5 weeks. I still have the pee stick because that’s the only evidence that there was ever a pregnancy. I grieved but at the same time wondered if there ever was an embryo there at all, so wondered if I was grieving for nothing … weird thoughts. And then I read “Heaven is for Real” and figured I’d find out someday :)

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  10. Us too ~ at about 7 weeks. I went through the same feelings as ^Kate le Roux…still have the positive pregnancy test…I feel like keeping that stick kept me from going fully crazy in that it gave me permission to grieve. Still have it, actually. We told our family and close friends within hours of finding out we were pregnant with Caleb. Even at 3 weeks preggo, his life was worth celebrating…and we knew how desperately we would need the support if his life was lost. Thanks for posting, Bronwyn.

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  12. “I think perhaps we make a mistake when we keep pregnancies a secret until we’ve had an ultrasound to say that “everything’s okay”. A baby is a baby and a life to be celebrated long before an ultrasound says it is so. A life is a life before anyone has measured its spine or assessed its chances. Mini was a baby, and it was right to celebrate. And then we lost our little one, and it was right to mourn.”

    Thank you. I entirely agree. I’ve actually been thinking about this a lot lately, since we’re trying to conceive again and I’ve lost a child before. I was conflicted over whether to keep it secret for longer this next time ‘just in case’, but what you said makes so much sense.

    If you’re interested, here’s the post I wrote about my miscarriage. It really helped me put my thoughts together and celebrate the child I have yet to meet. http://www.organizinglifewithlittles.com/2013/10/29/a-mothers-greatest-fear/

    Thanks, Bronwyn!

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    • Thanks for sharing, Kelsey! It takes courage to write your story down, and I have no doubt it was helpful to more people than you know to read that they were not alone. I wish you every blessing as you prepare to make space for another little one :-) thanks again for your excellent screwtape encouragement this week!

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  13. We have a child we’ve never been able to meet , hold and love and also two grandchildren. I know I didn’t feel their loss like my wife and daughter-in-law do, but there’s still something missing. At the same time, I believe and know that they are in the presence of that One Who loves them better than we ever could. We had a name – Stephen Matthew – that we never used and I tried to get one of our kids to use it with their kids. They never did. Not too long ago, it occurred to me that that may be because it had already been used. I’m firmly convinced there is a Stephen Matthew in heaven – or a Stephanie. Mom and I could live with that. God gave us four other wonderful children and 7 other grandchildren, with one of them being on the way.

    Thank you for this post.

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    • My heart goes out to you and your family, Clarence. I also take great comfort in knowing they are in the arms of the one who loves them most of all, and look forward to meeting our mini, and your Stephen!

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  14. Bronwyn, Thank you for this. We have 4 children in our arms, and 5 in heaven. I really appreciated your words. I’m so thankful for all of my children, even though it is hard to not have them all here with me.

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  15. Bronwyn, this is a wonderful post. My aunt lost 13, including a set of twins at six months, before succeeding to bear a living, thriving daughter. Although I have never miscarried, I have walked with those who have, and have come much too close to the deaths of my born children, standing by two on ventilators, including a “CODE BLUE; 3RD FLOOR!” as I stood helplessly pressed close to the wall, big eyed. I have long tried to gently encourage those who were “not telling” until it was “safe” how terribly they would want support should something happen. But since I haven’t walked in their shoes, I had little credibility. You do! I hope people listen. As you so wisely say, “A baby’s a baby” and “a life is a life” and if we believe that we need to celebrate, and covet prayers, and be free to grieve openly, and get comfort if needed. Thank you!
    As to today’s blog I say, “Wisdom spoken here.”

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    • Thank you, Kim. I would never have imagined that writing this would be one of the ways in which God has redeemed that suffering, but it has been amazing to see how the God of all comfort has used the comfort he gave me then to offer some comfort now. Your stories of refining are different and yet similar: and have offered me comfort and instruction on many, many occasions: thank you!

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  16. We found ourselves pregnant with our 2nd when our first was 6 months. A suprise for sure, but welcome one. We told our immediate family right away. I got to hear the baby’s heartbeat at 8 weeks. I had a huge retreat at work and didn’t want that a distraction for the students leading it (who I worked with) so we waited to tell them until the week after. That Monday we told our students (both my husband and I taught at the same high school) and the faculty. That afternoon we went to our 12 week check-up. The baby had stopped growing at 11 weeks, as verified by no heartbeat in the ultrasound. Our doctor recommended surgery as my body hadn’t begun the process yet. Calling our family and having to tell our students the next day was the worst. But having people to grieve with us – people who believe, like us, that our baby was a person from the moment of conception on, and we will meet them in heaven – was such a comfort. We don’t the gender, so we’ve decided to call them Gabriel(le). We conceived our 3rd on what was Gabriel’s due date. I really wanted a way to honor all our children. Last year on Mother’s Day, right before our 3rd turned 1, my husband presented me with 3 simple bands that match my wedding ring. They are engraved with our children’s names – Daniel, Gabriel, Michael. I wear them every day.

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