October is “National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month”. This conversation is very close to my heart. It needs to be discussed. Too often women feel shame around their miscarriages, too often we feel alone. You are not alone. It happens to every one in four women.
I am the one in four.
I’ve had two miscarriages. Though my body was going through the same process for each of them, my heart was not. They were both so different.
I remember with the first, there were tears and silence. There was mourning. It was just Derek and I, huddled together, in a room. Not many people knew. We didn’t have the strong community of people we have now.
With the second miscarriage, it was harder. I was further along.
Derek knew, and my Mom also knew about the second pregnancy. I had been in Florida, visiting her when I found out. When I returned home Derek and I talked about names and genders. We started to imagine life with a third child. I didn’t feel too different physically. Emotionally my heart was already making room for this little one. It’s amazing how soon that bond begins.
It happened in late July (ironically, around what is now Oliver’s birthday).
A little bright red spot appeared in my underwear. I thought, “…maybe it’s just the egg really implanting… I’ll wait a little before I call the birth center. It will be okay.”
I sent out an immediate prayer request. In the same breath which I told my closest friends I was pregnant with, I asked them to pray. Pray it was not a miscarriage. Pray this was not happening again.
By the end of the night it was clear, my body was rejecting the little baby that I had already started to imagine and love.
We called in the troops, our community. Our friends, Jon and Brooke, picked up dinner for us and brought it over with beautiful flowers. Derek brought them into our room and placed next on the nightstand where I could see them. Our friend Kristin made a special vegetable broth to replenish me. Prayers were being sent up to heal our hearts and for strength to return to my body. Even though I hid in my room when friends came to drop things off, I felt their presence. I felt cared for.
I learned a lot about the strength of my relationship with God that second time around. I remember crying in our bed and praying, “I trust you. I trust you, but it hurts, oh God, my heart hurts.”
That is a very different feeling from the first time.
The first time it happened I didn’t know God. But it was that first tragedy that was used to grow my relationship with Him.
A few weeks after my first miscarriage my office manager gave me a book. She said her brother-in-law had been raving about it, and she didn’t care to read it, did I want to? The book was about a little boy who died, and was brought back to life again. It’s was a memoir, written from his father’s perspective.
I wasn’t a big reader back then, but I said ‘yes’ and borrowed the book.
I remember filling the bath and getting in to read. When I got to a certain part of the book, I dropped it in the water and I sobbed, naked in the tub, I just lost it. My heart broke all over again, and then it started healing.
Here is the excerpt from the book:
I heard Colton’s footsteps padding up the hallway and caught a glimpse of him circling the couch, where he then planted himself in front of Sonja.
“Mommy, I have two sisters,” Colton said.
I put down my pen. Sonja didn’t. She kept on working.
Colton repeated himself. “Mommy, I have two sisters.”
Sonja looked up from her paperwork and shook her head slightly. “No, you have your sister, Cassie, and. . . do you mean your cousin, Traci?”
“No.” Colton clipped off the word adamantly. “I have two sisters. You had a baby die in your tummy, didn’t you?”
At that moment, time stopped in the Burpo household, and Sonja’s eyes grew wide…
“Who told you I had a baby die in my tummy?” Sonja said, her tone serious.
“She did, Mommy. She said she died in your tummy.”
Then Colton turned and started to walk away. He had said what he had to say and was ready to move on. But after the bomb he’d just dropped, Sonja was just getting started. Before our son could get around the couch, Sonja’s voice rang out in an all-hands-on-deck red alert. “Colton Todd Burpo, you get back here right now!”
Colton spun around and caught my eye. His face said, “What did I just do?”
I knew what my wife had to be feeling. . . . We had explained it to Cassie; she was older. But we hadn’t told Colton, judging the topic [of miscarriage] a bit beyond a four-year-olds capacity to understand. . . .
A bit nervously, Colton slunk back around the couch and faced his mom again, this time much more warily. “It’s okay, Mommy,” he said. “She’s okay. God adopted her.”
Sonja slid off the couch and knelt down in front of Colton so that she could look him in the eyes. “Don’t you mean Jesus adopted her?” she said.
“No, Mommy. His Dad did!”
Sonja turned and looked at me. In that moment, she later told me, she was trying to stay calm, but she was overwhelmed. Our baby. . . was—is—a girl, she thought.
Sonja focused on Colton, and I could hear the effort it took to steady her voice. “So what did she look like?”
“She looked a lot like Cassie,” Colton said. “She is just a little bit smaller, and she has dark hair.”
…Now Colton went on without prompting. “In heaven, this little girl ran up to me, and she wouldn’t stop hugging me,” he said in a tone that clearly indicated he didn’t enjoy all this hugging from a girl.
“Maybe she was just happy that someone from her family was there,” Sonja offered. “Girls hug. When we’re happy, we hug.”
Colton didn’t seem convinced.
Sonja’s eyes lit up and asked, “What was her name? What was the little girl’s name?”
Colton seemed to forget about all the yucky girl hugs for a moment. “She doesn’t have a name. You guys didn’t name her.”
How did he know that?
“You’re right, Colton,” Sonja said. “We didn’t even know she was a she.”
Then Colton said something that still rings in my ears: “Yeah, she said she just can’t wait for you and Daddy to get to heaven.”
From the kitchen table, I could see that Sonja was barely holding it together. She gave Colton a kiss and told him he could go play. And when he left the room, tears spilled over her cheeks.
“Our baby is okay,” she whispered. “Our baby is okay.”
The book is called, Heaven is for Real. I now have the book in every format they make: Children’s book, board book, and I even have the movie. To say this book is important to me would be an understatement.
It was the catalyst that started my journey to building a relationship with God.
“Okay, okay, I hear you, God.” In that moment my search for God truly started.
I started seeking Him. I began going to a Bible Study with new friends, and we searched for a new church.
The second time I had a miscarriage I wasn’t alone. It was harder physically, but I was comforted by God’s presence, and hope. It was even more emotionally draining, but I had the community of people God placed in our lives.
As we recognize what this month means to so many women, there is only one thing I want you to take away from this: you are not alone.
You are not alone.
Even if you are by yourself, and no one knows what you are going through, you are not alone.
Even if you have no community or family to support you. You are not alone.
I understand, I have been through it. Other women in your community have been through it. Reach out to them. More importantly, God is there, with you. Reach out to Him.
He is there with your child. He is there with my two children. They are not alone.
And when I see them again, my heart will be made whole. Those little missing pieces, they will be filled, and we will celebrate.
Oh, we will celebrate.