Grief and Miscarriage, Part II: Starting the Conversation and Showing Your Scars

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January 20, 2020

I have written before about my husband and I losing our first baby, Lawrence, to miscarriage at 11 weeks. Since that day, I’ve spent a lot of time processing the loss and coming to terms with the different person I am now. Learning more about miscarriage has comforted me and made me realize how many women walk the earth carrying this wound. Like any other loss, miscarriage isnt an experience you “get over.” Even though wounds heal eventually, you’re left with a scar reminding you of your loss. Suffering changes who you are, mostly because you have had an experience that marked you as wounded. However, we are all wounded in one way or another, and our woundedness binds us, rather than separates us. We resemble our wounded Savior when we suffer and draw closer to him by remembering the redemptive purpose of this suffering.

We resemble our wounded Savior when we suffer and draw closer to him by remembering the redemptive purpose of this suffering.

If someone would have told me that I would have a miscarriage one day, I wouldn’t have believed her. Before I lost my son, I only knew a little bit about miscarriage through scattered stories of friends and family who had experienced it. A close friend lost her second baby to miscarriage around eight weeks; my sister lost her second baby at 14 weeks. I was convinced that miscarriages only happened in successive pregnancies and to older women, but the reality is that one in four women have a miscarriage at some point in their lives. Ten to 25% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. Most miscarriages occur before 12 weeks, but it’s possible to have one later. While the mother’s age does play a role, it isn’t the sole factor. Having one miscarriage doesn’t substantially increase the risk of having a second, and women may be more fertile in the months immediately following a miscarriage.

The most important fact I learned about miscarriage after my own was that most miscarriages aren’t the mother’s fault. While it might seem like an obvious conclusion, taking responsibility for a miscarriage is common. How else do you explain something so cruel? You begin to wonder whether you missed your prenatal vitamin, ate something you weren’t supposed to, or overdid it at the gym. The truth is that most miscarriages occur because of chromosomal or developmental abnormalities in the child, over which the mother has no control. The lack of control is both healing and terrifying, welcome and unwelcome.

Even though it’s beneficial to know the statistics, nothing can prepare you for the aftermath of a miscarriage. No statistics make the nursery any less empty. No amount of knowledge makes it easier to swallow the questions about when you’re going to start a family. Having other children doesn’t bring back the one you lost. It is unspeakably difficult, and the road to healing is long and winding. Perhaps the only blessing along the road is meeting other mothers who have walked the same path. After I lost my son, other women who had lost their children came out of the woodwork. New friends, old friends, and acquaintances who became friends all stepped forward to share their stories of loss with me. Given the stigma surrounding miscarriage and pregnancy, it was almost as if these women felt they had permission to share their grief with me. And it was so welcome. It was heavy at first, hearing about late-term miscarriages and stillbirths, but soon, I felt lifted by the support of so many women around me. Men also stepped forward to share their stories of miscarriage and what it was like to feel so powerless next to their wives’ visceral pain. I recognized the suffering Christ in these men and women and was reassured over and over again that our wounds do not have the last word. Our suffering does indeed have a redemptive purpose, as painful as the path may be.

Our suffering does indeed have a redemptive purpose, as painful as the path may be.

Loss is paradoxically an individual and communal experience. It is individual, because no one person’s experience of loss is the same as someone else’s. It is communal, because similar stories of loss bring strangers together on an unintended path of grief. However, the communal and redemptive nature of suffering and loss doesn’t make the experience any easier. For weeks after I lost Lawrence, I fell silent. Words were insufficient, and I couldn’t wrap my mind around having my child suddenly taken from me. I struggled to find the words in prayer and hoped my tears would be an adequate substitute. Starting a routine of morning prayer brought me immense comfort. Praying through the psalms and praying for Lawrence during the intercessions was a beautiful reminder of his short life and his presence in our family. Above all, it reminded me that God would hold me close throughout the day, whatever sufferings would befall me.

If you’re reading this blog and have suffered a miscarriage, know this: You are no less of a mother. Your baby knows you and loves you and will always be yours. No set of circumstances can change that. Also know that you are not alone. Whether you realize it or not, you are surrounded by kindred souls on this journey. Find them and reach out when you feel ready. You may not have to look very far. I promise that healing will come.

If you have suffered a miscarriage, you are no less of a mother. Your baby knows you and loves you and will always be yours
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Michelle Mowry-Willems

Michelle Mowry-Willems is a lawyer currently working as a law clerk in Reno, Nevada. She and her husband David are newlyweds who met on Catholic Match (yes, it works!), and they are both avid runners who enjoy running together every day. Michelle is passionate about all things related to reading, coffee, and cooking, and is currently obsessed with her new Instant Pot.

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