By Lindsey Avink
Late New Year’s Eve, my husband and I sat on the scratchy loveseat in my parents’ basement and clinked our wine glasses in the blue lights from the Christmas tree.
We named blessings and funny moments – a great meal at Girl and the Goat, potty training our daughter for a ridiculous nine months.
And then, lump in my throat, we toasted to miscarriage.
We lost two babies in 2013: one in June, one in October. Two babies in five months. In some ways, it defined the year.
One miscarriage brought me to my knees. The second one knocked me on my back. I ache for the women who have lost many babies.
By God’s grace, I’m standing. Hopeful, though shaky at times. Our year of miscarriage was a time of deep pain and great growth.
Coping with losing babies
The thing that actually helped me the most through both through both miscarriages was having them at home. The first time, when I first started to bleed at 11 weeks, I knew what was happening. I hadn’t felt sick for a few weeks, and was kind of faking it when I would announce that I was sooo hungry. That Friday night, an ultrasound showed no heartbeat and a baby that didn’t look 11 weeks old. I wanted to jump off the table and run home. My midwife didn’t push a D&C, and promised support at any time if I needed it.
It was tough to wait for the process to happen by itself. I actually saw a chiropractor on Monday to see if a pelvic alignment would help. It did, and the whole thing was over two days later. It was terrible, I won’t lie. But having to fully experience my womb purging itself set my heart in motion to do the same thing.
Purge the expectations and hope, the dreams for our family. My due date was late December. I kept dreaming of a homebirth by the light of the Christmas tree.
When the second miscarriage started, I knew I wanted to stay home again. Lay in my bed and let the new dreams fade away. Cry out to God. Hug my kids and hear their laughs. I was only seven weeks along, so the physical process was easier this time.
Naturally at home was the right for choice for me, but I could imagine many scenarios where I might opt for a D&C. I have a friend who started miscarrying a few days before a vacation to Florida. Who wants to lose their baby and give up the beach?
During both miscarriages and for a while afterward, I let my mind wonder. I imagined each child – how they looked like their older brother or sister or their daddy when he was little. I asked God some really tough questions, and even just the asking has brought me peace. I shared it all with my husband. Through both losses, I leaned hard on him.
I leaned on my friends, too. One day, I was struggling to put one foot in front of the other – getting the kids out of their pjs seemed like too much. I felt listless and lethargic, and I had been that way for days. I texted my best friend and asked her to pray for me. She’s awesome, so she came over with her kids and hung out for the morning. We talked a little about my sadness, but mostly we were just normal together – making grilled cheese and breaking up sibling squabbles. Losing more than one pregnancy has made me feel really un-normal.
Renewed creativity has helped. The month after my first miscarriage I started playing percussion for worship at our church after a long time away from music. Making music is soothing to me, and it’s alive. Since I’m a doula and childbirth educator, it’s also just nice to do something that has nothing to do with pregnancy or birth.
As time went on, I started writing more. Mostly poetry for myself and a few short stories. Around my first due date, I wrote a piece for my husband for Christmas. It was the one sort of commemorative thing I did for that baby, and it helped.
I also coped by watching too much TV (five seasons of anything really is overboard) and eating too much sugar. It felt good at the time, but in the long run was probably not helpful. But it happened.
Growing from loss
While I’m still the same mama, wife and friend, having consecutive miscarriages has changed me. A part of me is sobered, experiencing a corner of suffering while knowing many others suffer much more. I’ve grown in positive ways too.
Most importantly, I’m learning to live in the now. After the second miscarriage, I realized that our house was still full of baby gear – a changing table, a crib. Bibs stashed close at hand, my pump at the front of the closet. I wasn’t storing it away because surely a new baby would need it soon.
I’m not pregnant, and there’s no baby coming soon.
So we packed it all away and turned the baby room into a play space – complete with an indoor swing! We decided to celebrate what’s going on with our living children and what is actually reality for our family. My kids love the swing, and it’s a happy reminder of the joy that lives in our home.
I joined a basketball league at our local gym. (This is laughable.) I’m not pregnant; there’s no reason not to.
I drank cheap wine and good beer over the holidays.
I’m setting real fitness goals that don’t account for fatigue or nausea.
I’ve stopped thinking about the future in nine-month chunks. I’m living in the now as best I can.
And I’m learning to give up control. In my head, I know that this is at the core of childbearing and childrearing. No matter how much coffee I abstain from or hormone-balancing therapy I get, I have no control over what happens next.
I’m simply putting one foot in front of the other, listening to my kids laugh, and trying to play basketball.
Lindsey Avink lives in and loves the west side of Chicago with her husband Mike and her kiddos – Caleb, 4 and Lily, 2. She works part time as a doula and childbirth educator and is fascinated by all things birth. In winter she likes to bake with sourdough, and in summer she likes everything. In all things, she is covered with God’s grace.