I rolled away from him on the narrow examination table and curled toward the wall. The stark white sanitary paper crinkled and crunched beneath me as I pulled my knees up to my chest and allowed hot, heavy tears to flow down my cheeks. My defiant recoil coupled with that hard, dry lump in my throat halted the conversation. I pulled my legs tighter to my chest and formed a protective cocoon in a feeble effort to find some semblance of solace, some comfort from within. There was but a brief pause in conversation to acknowledge grief’s looming presence before my doctor resumed our discourse, this time a little slower, a little lower, and much more emphatically.
“Christina, you don’t want this baby. Trust me. There’s something wrong with it. It’s human tendency to… to nurture life, but sometimes our bodies take control and tell us to let go through… natural selection. Again, I’m sorry.”
I clasped my husband’s hand tighter to brace myself against the anguish of finality. How wrong that doctor was; I would have given anything to hold my baby– then and now.
For four years we worked with a team of doctors and medical professionals to conceive. Through tests, surgeries, medicines, invasive procedures, financial sacrifices, tears, and prayers, we hoped against hope with each new step, and each new day. And then to finally conceive a little one, whose heart stopped beating just as mine was beginning to beat again, was nothing short of devastating. It simply didn’t make sense or seem plausible. Yet, here we were. Crestfallen. Broken. Devastated.
The months following my miscarriage were laden with grief. Everything in me wanted to retreat from the world. I wanted to shrug off all responsibility, hide under the covers, and emerge when all physical and emotional paid had subsided. But of course, I could not. Those years of infertility and my miscarriage taught me three valuable lessons about living through pain by leaning into my marriage, my friendships, and my faith.
1. Our pain can strengthen our marriage.
There was something distinctly different about the pain associated with the loss of a baby than any other loss I had ever experienced. In this particular trial, there was no one at whom I could point my finger as the cause of my pain. The loss wasn’t my doctor’s fault, or my husband’s, or even mine. I was upset, but couldn’t understand with whom, exactly.
And so, I chose to lean into my husband and the Lord, the only two relationships I knew would bring solace within the cloud of unknowing. In those four years, my husband and I sought counseling from mentors. We frequently went on weekend getaways. We prayed more, played more, and tried to laugh more. We were intentional about pouring into our marriage. We believed doing so would bear fruit on the other side of hurt. Looking back, I learned trials can be excruciating, but they are also an opportunity for deeper intimacy with our spouse.
2. Our grief can deepen our friendships.
After our miscarriage, there was an outpour of love from friends and family. They brought cards, flowers, meals, scripture, and one dear friend even wrote and recorded a song out of shared anguish. Community picked up the broken pieces of our hearts that were scattered and sharp all around us. They helped carried us over the finish line when we wanted to call the marathon quits somewhere around mile 20.
Most importantly, they reminded us we were not alone in this grief. Their stories, some victorious and some still in process, forged new hope. I read a lot of C.S. Lewis in that season, and one of his quotes from The Four Loves was especially refreshing to my soul: “Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .” There is something quite powerful about finding solidarity within friendships. Friendship is an opportunity to overcome isolation, to celebrate life’s highs, and to lament life’s lows together, as comrades, as sisters.
3.Our trial can heighten our faith.
I nearly titled this section something along the lines of victory, but then I realized how misleading that could be. My faith went through the ringer, but it also grew tremendously. It didn’t grow because of the victory; it grew because I pressed into something bigger, more powerful, and more meaningful than myself. On the passing of Reverend Billy Graham, I read a quote by him regarding the importance of faith and family. It stated, “The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.”I like to think these were the years when I began to sow the seeds of faith and character into my family.
Several months after grieving our miscarriage, we felt ready to try IVF again. Ten months after that, we welcomed our son, Christopher, into our family. Doctors could not find anything medically wrong with me or my spouse, but they told us we had less than a 1% chance of conceiving on our own based upon the statistics of how many years we’d been trying. So, you can imagine our surprise and joy when, on Christopher’s first birthday, what I thought was a case of flu was actually the first weeks of pregnancy with my second son, Corban!
It’s humbling to be on the other side of that miscarriage and infertility trial where I am now beautifully engulfed in the fruit of all my physical and spiritual labors. It’s also inspiring to think of the number of times I’ve had the honoring of sharing our trial with others in order to impart some semblance of hope. My season of infertility wasn’t walked perfectly, and that’s okay. I am thankful the road led me to a stronger marriage, deeper friendships, and a greater appreciation for faith, all of which carried me through the trial.