So this is the story of one of my closest friends – I hope for some reading this it helps you where you are at!
“I was 27 when I got married. Life was great. I was marrying an amazing man, had lots of friends and family around me and God was good. One of our wedding songs was “Blessed be your Name”. Everything was going well for me and I wanted to celebrate but I had a nagging feeling that it wasn’t always going to be so good. I sang those Matt Redman words:
“Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name
Blessed Be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name.”
In my heart I was making a commitment that even if things went wrong I would still trust in God and follow him.
Fastforward a few years it was Christmas 2006 I picked up my phone as we were racing out the door to the station to go and see friends for the new year. There were several messages. ‘Please pray’…. ‘He’s seriously ill….’ I scrolled down the messages in utter disbelief. The last one. ‘He has died’. I raced out the door. There was a train we needed to catch.
I was dreading seeing her. In a way it was like I didn’t want my life to be affected by the tragedy that had hit hers. I had nothing to say. Nothing could make any of this better and it was such an awful place that I really didn’t want to go there or be a part of it. I remember watching others chatting to her – she was still her.
I cried in the shower over and over. How could such a well strong young man be taken so suddenly? I remember one time crying and knowing that at some point the pain I felt for him would stop and I would just be able to move on with my life again. I knew that my pain wouldn’t last long but that her hopes and dreams had been shatterred and would take years to process. I made a decision that from that point on, my definition of family would be different. Things for me and my family were going to be different because of what had happened to him and because of the void that had been left in her life.
We’ve become much closer in the years that have passed. She is like a sister to me and her child is like a niece. They are welcome to be part of my world. Although my ‘bubble‘ of life was good I chose to allow them and the pain that was part of their world to become part of mine.
As 2007 developed this became much easier for me. Life events for me changed and took me to a place of brokeness, anger, loneliness and twistiness. I wonder if I had been on top of the world whether I would have found it so easy to enter those dark places with her, to accept the pain, to walk the walk in that dark place. We both needed to talk, we both needed to cry, to be angry, to grieve and to be accepted in that place of pain. I am forever grateful that she was happy to listen to me. I am so grateful that she never compared my loss to hers and never judged me for my dark sides which were becoming more evident. I like to think that I travelled with her into her pain. I like to think I was accepting and non-judgemental and loved her for who she is. I like to think I walked with her through some of that pain. She certainly did for me – her bubble was burst, as was mine and the vulnerability we shared with each other was key at least in helping me move forward.
Just before the New Year of 2007 I had found out I was pregnant. Pregnant with our second child. However 12 weeks in I started to bleed. The next morning a scan confirmed I had had a miscarriage. I know this sometimes happens – I thought I had managed quite well to move forward after this. I am not even sure that many of my friends even knew.
In May 2007 I went with a small group of teenage mums to Romania. I was fearful of going – out of my comfort zone and worried about leaving my little one for a week. I worried that something terrible would happen. A large part of me wanted to stay safe and at home. At some point in early 2007 I had had a word that I’d be broken and I think this word played into my fears. I remember thinking about him and thinking how quickly he had died doing nothing remotely adventurous. If I was going to die I was going to die so shouldn’t let this fear stop me.
The Romania trip was great. The teenage mums did something amazing – out of their comfort zones, experienced God in ways they hadn’t before and saw life outside of their bubble – a much harder, harsher life.
On coming home from Romania I found out I was pregnant again. However six weeks in I had a very minor bleed. I’m not sure I would have even worried about it had I not had the miscarriage in January but I went to get checked. On the Friday before the bank holiday a doctor from the hospital phoned and asked if I was on my own. I sat down knowing that there was bad news to come. They thought I might have an ectopic pregnancy. But my bleeding had stopped and I was pain free. They wanted to operate straight away. My husband and I chatted and said that even if there was only a tiny chance that our baby would be ok we were going to do everything we could do to protect it. The doctors agreed they would rescan me Monday morning and review the situation. We told our closest friends and asked them to pray. On the Monday I woke with abdominal pain. By the time I reached the hospital I was clinging onto the lamppost to keep myself upright. By the time the consultant came to see me I was in so much pain that they took me straight to the theatre to operate. I only have one fallopian tube. If I did have an ectopic and needed to have my remaining tube removed this would have meant that I would not be able to conceive naturally again. I woke groggy from the operation and was told it was an ectopic. In my post operative state I must have sobbed and sobbed – the theatre staff upped my morphine – believing that I was in physical pain. Whilst I lay out of it in the recovery room, the surgeon went to find my husband. It was an ectopic, but in the remnant of my remaining tube. My fertility had been preserved. Our prayers had been answered.
Six weeks later we were told I’d been pregnant with twins – a rare event where one baby implants in the womb and one in the uterus. I wanted answers. I wanted to talk. I wanted to cry for my three lost babies. I felt guilty that maybe I could have protected the one implanted in my womb and maybe this baby could have lived.
In Summer 2007 we went on a family Christian holiday to Ashburnham. I was struggling. I longed for another baby. Everyone around me seemed to be pregnant. I had stopped helping with the teenage mums – how come they were pregnant and not wanting to be and I wasn’t? It was too hard for me to be in that place. Every time another of my friends was pregnant it was like a stab to my heart. I wanted to be happy for them but I was overwhelmed with my own sadness. I struggled at work. I felt a failure. I felt miserable and my sadness was bringing out a dark side of me that stopped me sharing others’ joy. Miserable and horrible. Not a ‘bubble’ that others would want to come and share. Where was God in this desert place, in this wilderness?
Two women walked alongside me at Ashburnham that week. They listened. They knew pain and grief and deep sadness and allowed me to talk. “Sometimes’ they said, ‘all you can say is that God is Good. You might not know he’s there, you might not be wanting to trust him or be able to pray but you can state that God is Good.” I wasn’t sure I could even do that. We left Ashburnham early to go straight to my sister’s wedding. Late in the evening I started again with abdominal pain and bleeding.
The next morning I found myself in Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit again. A room full of women – some with partners and other kids, all waiting for a scan to see if their pregnancy was viable. I hated this room. I’d been here too many times this year. I’d taken my sister with me – I didn’t want my husband with me – another failed pregnancy. Another baby that wasn’t going to be. The scan confimed a ‘non-viable pregnancy’.
Again I found myself in the queue for the operating theatre. Again I woke, thoroughly miserable. A failure. Not pregnant.
I needed answers. What had happened? Was this a new baby that I had lost or the one in my womb that might have made it? I wanted to name the babies but didn’t know how many there were. I accosted the surgeon on the hospital stairs and grilled him on what had happened. Could things have been different? I needed to know to be able to process the events. When I had had my first miscarriage I knew that this event had changed me and I wasn’t going to be the same. I chose to buy a ring with a diamond in to represent my baby which I had lost. I now needed to take this ring back and add more diamonds and I needed to know how many to add. The surgeons weren’t able to explain or tell me for certain what had happened – it was something I had to come to terms with on my own. A wise woman prayed for me – “three diamonds” she said. “And this can also represent that God in his three identities has always been with you.”
They say that early pregnancy loss is a lonely grief. There was nothing on the outside for anyone to see that anything was wrong. Its also a grief that is misunderstood. People tried to make me feel better…”you’ll get pregnant again”… “at least you have one child.” I wanted to scream ”I’m falling apart. I don’t know how to feel better.” I wanted others to know how much I was hurting –some friends didn’t want to talk about it – they “didn’t want to upset me.” But I was already there, broken, hurting, nasty, unloved and I just wanted people to be there for me – to listen and not to judge. I wanted people to allow themselves to be upset by my story, to meet me where I was hurting. No amount of ignoring or jollying me along was going to help me move forward. There’s a quote that I like “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” I wasn’t doing any dancing but I wanted people with me in this storm – along side me, walking with me through the storm.
At the end of 2007 I found out I was pregnant again. But I was wise to this path. I wasn’t going to allow myself to hope, to dream to plan. My second boy was born in August 2008. He shot out like a superhero. A big healthy gorgeous blue eyed boy. Strapped in stirrups, waiting for the surgeon to come and repair the damage, my husband spoonfed me the nicest steamed syrup sponge and custard I have ever had. A few months later, with my gorgeous baby boy strapped to me I chatted to another mother who had struggled with miscarriages. My baby was my happy ending. How did people manage to move forward who weren’t so lucky, who didn’t have another baby and who had stayed in that place of pain?
A year later his 1st birthday was when we were at Ashburnham. That night – on his 1st birthday, steamed syrup sponge and custard was served. You might think this was coincidence but for me it was a sign that God had been with me throughout all of this struggle.
When I reflect on this time I know that God was with me during 2007. I know my close friends had prayed for us throughout that year. When I didnt have the belief or strength to pray I know others were praying for me. I know that we saw prayers answered. I know that sharing my story with others and knowing that they have prayed and stood by me has helped me process my loss. Allowing others into my bubble and allowing myself into others bubbles has given me real hope and strength. Another friend says “Don’t waste the pain.” An expression that now makes me value the pain that I went through as I’m sure it allows me a greater empathy and vulnerablitiy to get alongside others who are struggling.”