“I’m losing time with both of you. I’m watching your lives happen, but I’m not part of them.”
I said this to Daniel when I was on bedrest during my second pregnancy. Of course I knew I was doing what was best for the baby, but that still didn’t make it easy. Weeks went by and I felt my family needed me less every day. I felt I was simply a fixture in the corner of the room- a spectator who had once been an integral part of life. It’s depressing to see that people really can get on without you if they need to.
I’m sure that is not how Daniel felt. He wanted our baby to be okay just as much as I did, so he helped me follow our doctor’s advice.
Eva wasn’t exactly sure how to be around me. Because of the indefinite bedrest and frequent doctor’s visits, we chose to tell her about the baby earlier than we would have. She was instantly thrilled about becoming a big sister, but understood I had to rest to help the baby stay healthy. She was worried about the baby and me. Such big emotions to sort out for anyone, but especially for a preschool age girl. Eva sat with me to play games, read books, and watch movies, but Daniel and I noticed she was growing emotionally distant from me. Probably because of fear.
After the miscarriage there was anger in addition to Eva’s fear, combined with not being able to completely understand what happened. She had been dealing with uncertainty about the baby for weeks, but still hoped for a sibling. She wasn’t sure what to do with her grief and sadness at such a young age. Because I had carried the baby, I was something visible connected to the cause of her sadness. I think maybe she was also wondering if somehow the miscarriage was my fault. So I became the target for everything she was feeling. She either completely ignored me or became angry with me easily.
During the bedrest, her father cared for her in ways I normally would have. She grew very attached to him. When I started feeling better after the miscarriage and was able to do more around the house, Eva would usually say, “No! I want Daddy!” even for small things, such as who gave her breakfast. These “small” routines feel very important to children, and my role in Eva’s daily routines had changed drastically over the weeks.
It was painful to always hear “No!” from her, to constantly be the recipient of her frustration. It would have been too much for me to explain how I was feeling, to put those heavy emotions on her little shoulders. So I didn’t. I waited. It gradually got better, but not without some private tears on my part.
Eva had questions for months afterward. About my health. About why she had to stay with our friends when I went to the hospital. About what happened to the baby. About where the baby had gone after he wasn’t with us anymore. Sometimes she cried and told us how much she wanted a brother or sister. She had so much to say, but it didn’t happen fast. The questions and expressions of anger, confusion, and sadness came out over several months as she processed what happened. Sometimes she talked with us. Sometimes we overheard her telling friends about the baby as they played. Eva’s preschool teacher (my dear friend) always informed me of anything Eva said about the baby during class prayer time or to others at school.
There were also many days when Eva behaved as normal—active and happy. When she had questions or some feelings she needed to express, she found ways to let us or others know. What a blessing that she felt safe coming to us and our friends to talk!
I remember how graceful our friends were when Eva suddenly said things such as, “Did you know our baby went to God?”
They usually responded with something like, “I know. I’m so sorry Eva. How can I help you and pray for you?” And then they just listened to her. If miscarriage had happened in their family as well, they told her about it in ways appropriate for her age. We shared life with such an amazing community.
In ballet carpool, not long after the miscarriage, Eva said, “Sometimes my Mom cries.”
“That’s okay. Sometimes we all cry, right?” my friend thoughtfully replied.
Her little girls sweetly added “me too” and “I cry when I’m sad,” helping Eva not to feel alone.
It’s been a few years since the first miscarriage, and we’ve all learned to live well again, but we’re different because of what happened. Grief always lingers to some degree, but we’re also kinder, stronger, and hopefully more sensitive to others’ grief.
Eva is okay, experiencing all the normal joys and frustrations of childhood. But she is still aware that somehow there were supposed to be more children in our family. She sometimes asks if we will ever get a sister (She’s still not open to the idea of a brother 🙂 ).
We’re not always sure what to tell her because we don’t know the answer, so we’re honest with her— as much as we can be with an eight year old. We are learning to trust her future to God’s sovereignty, whether or not there will be siblings in her life. We want her to have family, friends, and close relationships after we’re gone.
In my next post I’ll be more specific about how our daughter felt and expressed herself during my bedrest and after the miscarriage. I want to share some things Daniel and I did with her, as well as some things our friends did, that helped Eva along. I might also share some things others wanted to say or do that we protected Eva from.
My prayer for the Miscarriage Category continues to be that it will create understanding— especially for those who have never experienced a crisis pregnancy or pregnancy loss. Maybe it will help you know how to be there for those who have.
I pray this will be an encouragement to families who have miscarried as you walk through grief and healing with your children and spouse.
©2017 Chrissy Winslow – All Rights Reserved
For more of my stories on Motherhood, Miscarriage, and Changing Expectations, read my book, Flying in Labor. Available in Kindle or Paperback