By Brandon and Keri Early
We were expecting baby #2, and waiting for the doctor to come in for our 13-week check-up. We giggled about something the nurse had said, and chatted about our plans for the day. We’d heard our baby’s heartbeat at nine weeks, and were anticipating hearing it again.
We had no idea our world was about to come crashing down around us.
Our baby’s heart had stopped beating. Our hopes and dreams for this child were shattered. We would never hold this baby in our arms. We were heartbroken. In the midst of our pain and sorrow, I was overwhelmed with questions.
I was shocked when the doctor told us that as many as 25 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. Why do we rarely hear about miscarriage? Who are these women experiencing this silent grief? How could this happen to us?
Over the course of three heartbreaking miscarriages, we’ve learned much, grieved much, and been comforted much. Our hope is that by sharing our story, those who experience miscarriage will be encouraged—and that others will know better how to love and care for families experiencing this often-silent grief.
The most intimate and immediate relationship affected was our own marriage. It’s no secret that men and women usually approach life differently. For us, going through a miscarriage highlighted some of those differences. Pregnancy affects a woman’s entire being—her body is changing, her emotions are all over the place, and her mind is often consumed with all the details of preparing for an addition to the family. At the beginning of pregnancy, men have a much different experience: Life often goes on as normal, with the exception of learning to deal with the new version of their wives! So when it comes to dealing with the ups and downs of miscarriage, it’s important to allow each other time, space, and the ability to grieve differently.
Men, express your grief to your wife, even if it’s only saying out loud that you’re sad. Women, be gracious to your husband. Allow him to care and support you during this difficult time. He might not cry or show emotion—and that’s okay!
On the other hand, miscarriage is also a time for you and your spouse to use your unique gifting to encourage one another. I was so thankful for Brandon’s gift of humor during those dark times. I often wondered if the doctors or nurses ever heard us giggling behind closed doors. Only he could find a way to make me laugh in the midst of our grief.
It wasn’t until our third miscarriage that we were faced with the issue of breaking the news to our older children. First, remember that kids have the capacity to understand a lot more than we often give them credit for. Instead of trying to hide your grief, allow your children to see you cry. Also, let them see you comfort each other, or be comforted by friends and family. Allow your children to comfort you. Our children loved helping mommy by grabbing the box of tissues when the waves of grief would roll in.
Our children were five and three when we miscarried at 20 weeks. Because of their journey through miscarriage, heaven has become a real place. We’ve also been able to have discussions about why God allows sad things to happen, and what faith is. Don’t be surprised if your child brings up the topic of death or loss weeks, months, or even years later. Be prepared—to the best of your ability—for those conversations. Realize that there’s no one-size-fits-all process for helping a child deal with miscarriage. You know your child best, so deal with them accordingly. Also, be prepared to be blessed by the insights your child may have.
For instance, back in February Owen secretly set out to brighten my day by dragging out his Crayola floor pad and some markers and making a special picture just for me. I don’t think I’ll ever forget what he said when he gave it to me: “Mama, this is for you to remind you spring is coming.”
My eyes filled with tears as I wrapped him up in a mom-sized hug. What a blessing that the Lord had used my sweet 6-year-old to encourage me in such a deep and meaningful way.
When Owen gave that picture to me in February, the ice was already beginning to melt away. God has been so faithful to give me continual signs of spring—not only as I look forward to eternity, but also as I see new life springing forth here on earth in so many ways.
When dealing with your extended family and friends, the key is grace. Remember, whatever people say or do in response to your miscarriage comes from a heart of care and concern for you. Sometimes friends are a great support and source of encouragement—other times not so much.
Here are some things my friends and family did that I found helpful:
Preparing meals for our family
Sending cards letting me know they were praying for our family
Offers to take our children for a few hours
Listening when I was ready to talk
Planning a girls’ outing (pedicure, movie, dinner)
Checking in weeks and even months later
Remembering important dates
Specific offers for help (I would like to vacuum tomorrow. When can I come and do some weeding?)
Spreading the word (I appreciated my friends making phone calls or talking with others in our church so I didn’t have to recount the miscarriage over and over again)
Here are a few things that were not as helpful:
Bible verses (I know God gives and takes away, but that doesn’t make this any easier!)
“At least…” statements
“You can have another baby…”
Avoiding or not acknowledging the loss
A miscarriage can leave you feeling alone and isolated. The important thing is that you allow friends to serve you and care for you during this time.
Someone once told me that God will often turn our misery into our ministry. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t want to minister to those going through miscarriage. I worked with junior high and high school students. How would this all relate to them? As I continued to serve, God showed me. Although teenagers might not be able to relate to the topic of miscarriage, they can certainly understand disappointment. The lessons we’ve learned through the trials of miscarriage have translated into increased wisdom for counseling teenagers who are hurting.
Several weeks after my third miscarriage, I went on a missions trip with our junior high students. Although I was still grieving and feeling like I didn’t have much to offer, God allowed me to minister to one of our students going through a difficult time—as well as a student we met on our trip who was living in an abusive home. Because I was broken, I could enter into their brokenness. Because I had experienced hope through Jesus Christ, I could offer that same hope to those who were hurting. As I comforted others, I was comforted. God is so good!
I’ll leave you with a verse that has gotten me through many dark days…
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Brandon is a longtime youth pastor now living in Iowa, a columnist in GROUP Magazine, and trainer at our Simply Youth Ministry Conference (youthministry.com/symc). Kerikeeps the Early household humming along; she’s the lone woman in a house full of men. Pray for her…