I have lost 5 babies to miscarriage. As anyone who has experienced the lost of a pre-born baby can attest, there are a range of emotions and thoughts to go along with this loss. Unfortunately, one of the real struggles is knowing how to honor that life and finding closure. For me, 4 out of the 5 miscarriages occurred extremely early on. I would realize my period was running late, so I would take a pregnancy test. In these cases, even though I was late enough for a test to clearly show positive, the line would appear to be very faint. After experiencing a couple of these, I came to understand that by the time I realized I was pregnant, I was already in the process of losing the baby. How do I respond to this has been the largest battle.
I have felt every emotion and processed every thought concerning these early miscarriages. I’ve been told by well meaning people that it’s okay. “God knew you didn’t need another baby right now.” So I would respond with, “So... God killed my baby because he figured it was best?” Of course that’s not true. Life and death happen naturally in this journey on earth. God allows events to enter our sphere of existence but He does not kill people, especially to “help” someone out.
There have been occasions that I have felt great relief. After carrying and giving birth to 9 children, I can honestly say that I have experienced fear and frustration at the prospect of having to do it all over again. Some may think I am cold hearted, but I am just being real. Not every pregnancy is always welcomed with celebration. Every child I carried to term IS always welcomed with celebration because I have been given 9 months to prepare for their arrival and to bond with the life growing inside of me. But when that life is taken away almost at the same time as it is given, that mental adjustment and emotional bonding is not given proper time. So relief is felt before grief.
Usually, that relief is followed by guilt. “Why aren’t I more sad?” “If I had taken better care of myself, I wouldn’t have lost this baby.” “Linda, you are so selfish. Why are you relieved?” In general, I am not a very emotional person, but this personality trait causes me great guilt during these times. I felt like there was an expectation of how I should react, especially since I am a pro-life, God loving mother. However, the head, the heart and the spirit don’t always line up.
It is due to this mix-match, inconsistency in thoughts and emotions that make miscarriages so difficult to process for most women.
For me, the guilt I felt as a result of the initial relief was eventually followed by grief. I’m a slow processor. I don’t even build a chicken coop without thinking and thinking and thinking about it for a long time. So when it comes to the loss of a precious life, it takes an exceptionally long time for my mind and heart to understand all that has happened. The grief I feel usually comes to the surface at the most unexpected times. My greatest moment of healing took place while getting tattooed. (You can check out that story here.) Visiting the grave site of our first lost baby, Felicity, also stirs up great emotion and grief for me, not just for the one baby we were actually able to bury, but for all of our lost babies that were probably washed down the Porcelain Grave. But I have learned to just allow myself to process in my own way, at my own pace. I know myself well enough to realize that I love all the lives I have been blessed to conceive. I know that if I had been given enough time on this earth to bond with these 5 lost babies, I would have welcomed them into my arms with great celebration and joy. I know that I am not cold-hearted or selfish for uncontrollably reacting with relief at the prospect of not having to walk through another difficult, long nine months. I am human. I am a woman. I was created to experience a life colored with a huge range of emotions. Though many of these emotions are irrational, they are ALL real, thus creditable.
Now, I am writing this piece today because I have recently given myself another way to more completely grieve the loss of my miscarried babies. As I said, we have only been able to bury the remains of 1 of these children. Felicity’s miscarriage was at 11 weeks, the furthest along of any of them. The other 4 were way too early. I suspect that some may have already been lost before I took my first test. Through the years, I have felt a lack of finality with the honoring of these 4 babies. I wished I had a way to physically “put them to rest” in the same way we did with Felicity. Sure, I love the way my tattoo honors them and keeps them close to me, but I longed for a grave-like finality. Since their loss was without real remains, all I had that physically showed their momentary existence in this life were the pregnancy tests. I have never been able to throw them away. They sat in my cabinet as a declaration of real lives that have been lost to me. For years, I have wanted to bury these items as a representation of a real burial, but I didn’t feel that I had the right place. Once we knew we were moving from Ohio to New York, I knew that I would finally be able to place these saved, precious items in the ground on our new property.
During this first year of living here, I have many times considered pulling out these representatives and burying them. However, I didn’t want to just randomly stick them in the ground. I wanted the place to matter to me. I wanted it to be a location that could be remembered and honored. So, my slowly processing heart and mind waited until the moment was right. And that moment came recently.
One Saturday, while garage sale hunting, I came across a plant sale. I had been wanting to place a few Forsythia bushes on my property because they are the first plant to bloom in the spring. I wanted that bright yellow proclamation of spring placed so I could see it from my kitchen window and rejoice at the end of a long winter. I grabbed the Forsythia they were selling and started trying to figure out where to put it. The pot sat in the yard for several days before the idea came to me... and I KNEW my long processing was over. I had found the place where I was going to burying the only items from those pregnancies.
So, the other day, I asked my husband to dig me a nice big hole right behind our statue of the Blessed Mother.
Very simply and privately, we place these few precious items in the ground where they will remain. I had finally been able to put an end to that unsettled, unfinished feeling. Closure was brought to my heart.
After placing the Forsythia over the items and closing the hole, I sat peacefully grieving those lost lives. Even though these were not their physical bodies, these items were all I had that tied me to their lives. I felt, for the first time, a new sense of relief. I was relieved that I was able to honor them in the best way I could, the way I had wanted to for several years.
I know, it may sound odd that I have chosen such a random plant to mark the “grave” of my 4 lost babies. But for me, it makes sense. See, in all my processing over this act of burial, I never thought of using a Forsythia plant. Yet, when I bought it, I just knew that was it. Forsythias are not the prettiest bush out there. They don’t smell like roses. They don’t produce beautiful flowers like a hydrangea. They are just scraggly, green bushes, that for a few short days shout loud and clear that winter is over. Their bare sticks of branches bloom with small yellow flowers before any other flower blooms. In a world of gray and brown, this yellow can be seen way off. THAT is why I love forsythias. They make me happy. They make me rejoice, for winter is over and spring has come. All of these feelings I have for this silly bush ring true in my mother’s heart for my lost babies. Their bloom was very short lived, yet it still proclaimed the beauty of life, new life. Their bloom is lost to me now, but I will see it again. Like the forsythia, these lives possess a hidden beauty and strength. Nothing flashy, just present, and very real to me.
Life and death are all around us. Nature was given to us to proclaim the greatness of it’s creator. Very often, God uses nature in my life to draw me to Him and to teach me of his steadfastness and love. Once again, He has chosen a piece of his creation to bring healing and peace to my heart. Despite the craziness of emotions and the long time it took me process the loss of these lives, I finally feel that a punctuation has been placed. Their story has an ending. Now, I can’t wait for next spring. I can’t wait till I look out my kitchen window, on a cold, dreary day, as I routinely wash my dishes, and see that first proclamation of spring. Yet, this time, those yellow blossoms will not only be welcoming a new season, they will be reminding me of the gift of my children and the beauty of their lives.
July 15, 2016