It seems like a lot of our readers are grappling with the ‘when is the best time to have children’ question, especially since this season of life seems to be the perfect time to start a family. But – what if life doesn’t work out that way?
Over the next couple of months, we’ll follow 4 different graduate wives through their journeys of infertility, miscarriage, and adoption. If you are facing any of the above, or know a graduate wife who is, we hope you will find their stories encouraging and supportive. ~Mandy and MC
Grief is the price we pay for love. –Queen Elizabeth II
I opened the front door of our flat, stepping into a sunlit breezeway. Rays of sunshine danced across my face as I turned to lock the door. From the stairs below, the laughter of my son and husband floated through the air like snowflakes on cold winter’s day.
It was the start of a perfect day, my 35th birthday. The outside air was crisp, so I tightened the scarf around my neck. I climbed onto my bike, knowing I would spend the next 15 minutes happily peddling, attempting to keep up with my two favorite men. “Mummy!” chided my 2 year-old son, “Keep up with us!”
I was 10 weeks pregnant with our second child. It was something I had waited for and dreamed of for a long time. My heart brimmed with joy at the thought of a new little life in our house. For me, it was another dream on my graduate wife ‘pause’ shelf that was finally being fulfilled.
When we arrived at our destination, I excused myself to the bathroom. There was blood. I felt my stomach lurch.
I knew this day was going to end a lot differently than it had started.
I’ve thought a lot about that day over the past few months. I remember the glorious morning joy. I remember the deep evening sadness. I remember relishing the warmth of the sun on my face, a rarity in February. I remember my husband and I eating in complete silence while celebrating my birthday dinner at my favorite restaurant. I remember walking home, our fingers intertwined, both of us hollowed eyed and emotionless. I remember feeling alive with life. I remember feeling the sting of death. I remember feeling everything. I remember feeling nothing.
I don’t want to remember anything about that day. Yet, I find myself wanting to remember everything about that day.
I’ve mentioned in the past that one of my biggest sacrifices on this graduate wife journey has been motherhood. My husband and I were a bit older when we started school, and made the decision together to postpone having children until we were further along in his program. I knew it then and now that it was the right decision for us. However, it did not diminish the desire I had to have a family. It just meant I had to become really great at waiting.
When we finally decided it was the right time for us, it happened quickly. It seemed like a blink of an eye before our little Jack-Jack made his entrance into this world on his own terms, 15 days past his due date. I figured when we were ready to try for a second child, it would be as simple.
Instead, my carefully laid plans were thwarted at every turn by life circumstances. One month of waiting turned into three months; then three months of waiting turned into six months. Finally, my husband and I decided we needed to take a break. Another pause. Another dream shattered.
Many months later, you can imagine our elation when we found out we were expecting our second child. You can also imagine our devastation when we found out that child was no longer alive. It was a heartbreaking moment.
As I walked through this, all around me dear friends of mine were announcing pregnancies, glowing with the anticipation of their new arrivals. I found it difficult to watch these dear friends of mine living my unattainable dream. I found it even more difficult sharing in their excitement. It was an incredibly dark and lonely time.
Being the type of person who always takes time to reflect back on difficult seasons of life, selfishly to glean any type of wisdom for future seasons, I have spent hours wondering what pearls of wisdom I am supposed to learn from all of this, especially in relation to the graduate wife life. To be honest, I don’t have much of a clear answer to share with you, and I probably never will. I do know from others and my own experience that miscarriage is a very private, personal thing, and every woman deals with it differently. However, I do want to share a few things that have helped me process my grief, and maybe they’ll help you also, whether you are the one going through the miscarriage, or mourning with a dear friend who is.
Cherish your friends. Going through something this traumatic away from family was hard. Really hard. Our friends, who are our family in our graduate life, loved on us in ways I never expected. Each one of them used their creativity, tears, laughter, love, and good food to nourish our family’s physical and emotional needs. They genuinely mourned with us. I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about the importance of community, and especially now, I have a deeper understanding of why it’s so important to have that in place where you live. And, you can be sure when they go through a difficult time, I’ll be there to reciprocate.
Find a miscarriage buddy. It sounds hokey, but it’s helped me immensely. My buddy is a dear friend in California who has had two miscarriages. Even with the eight-hour time difference, we find time to speak to each other regularly. She’s been my go-to person when I’ve found out another friend is pregnant, when I’ve fallen a-part on the inside after having to hold a friend’s newborn, when I express anger that life hasn’t turned out the way I thought I deserved, or when I fear trying to have another baby because I’m afraid I’ll miscarry again. She has provided for me a safe place of love and protection to process my grief, and she has also given me reason to hope. I am supremely thankful for her.
Explore your faith. My faith has definitely played a huge part of my healing process. Don’t get me wrong, there were and still are days where I hate God for allowing this to happen to my husband and me. And for once, I’m not ashamed to admit that. As I’ve worked through my seething anger, disappointment, and loss, I’ve found it’s strengthened my faith and resolve, and through it all, I know and feel God still loves me and wants the best for me. During my absolute worst moments, I have an image stamped on my heart of our child sitting in God’s lap, in perfect peace. Somehow, that brings me enormous comfort. I realize not everyone shares the same religious beliefs I do, so if you have a different faith, I implore you to find a way for your faith to comfort you during this difficult season.
Seek a counselor. I know I am a very strong person. I also know I am an internal processor. That can be a dangerous combination, especially when it comes to dealing with traumatic life events. I tend to think I am fine for months, then something (often small) will trigger a massive outburst of anger or I’ll handle a situation in an unfavourable way. It usually takes that to happen for me to realize I’m not doing as well as I think I am. With my miscarriage, it was unfortunately an angry outburst directed at someone who didn’t deserve it. I was frightened by my reaction, because I felt like I had been doing a fair bit of processing with friends. So I decided to see a counselor. She objectively helped me articulate a lot of ideas and thoughts running through my heart and head. It reduced my anxiety, cleared my head, and helped me feel a bit more grounded. So, take time to see a professional who can help you process your own grief and loss. Friends can often do this, but I think having an objective opinion from an outsider can sometimes make all the difference in the world.
Love your family. Every minute of every day. My husband and I have been together nearly ten years. I can honestly say I have never loved him more than I did the week of our miscarriage. He didn’t leave my side. It has also made me appreciate the gift of love in our son. His crazy boy antics and boundless toddler energy have been a huge source of delight for me. He has, on more than one occasion, turned our sorrow into joy. If it turns out that he is to be our only child, then I know we have been blessed beyond measure, and I am at peace with that.
The giant, gaping hole that February left in our lives has slowly started to heal. I still have hard days on occasion, but I am finding that there is more time between floods of tears, true happiness and joy for friends with new babies, and contentment for where life has currently placed us. I feel like I’ve been given a choice: I can let a difficult season of life, like miscarriage, define me, or I can let it be a defining moment in my life. I would much rather the loss of our child be part of who I am, instead of who I am, especially if it allows me to emphatically love and empathize with another person on this bittersweet journey of life.
If you or someone you love has experienced a miscarriage, what will or are you currently doing to see them through this time?