Miscarrying at the Foot of the Cross: God’s Sovereignty in the Midst of Sadness
My story is not unlike the story of many women. The pain of losing a baby is not unique to me. I am not the first woman to miscarry and I won’t be the last.
But just because it’s common, doesn’t mean it’s easy. And just because I share this story, doesn’t mean it isn’t painful to recount. I would guess there are many women who still mourn the lives that never were, and that’s probably not something that ever really goes away. Not if you believe, as I do, that human life is a miracle every single time it happens – regardless of size or age.
Psalm 139: 13-16 provides a beautiful explanation of why miscarriage is such a sorrowful event:
13 For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.
When we lose a child to miscarriage, we are losing a whole person. A whole, eternal soul whose earthly days, although few, have been numbered from the beginning of time.
So even though miscarriage occurs quite often (in 10% of all known miscarriages for women under 40 and up to 33% of all known pregnancy in women over 40, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists), it is a loss that is just as real as the loss of any other loved life.
So if you’ve lost a child to miscarriage and thought – even for a second – that your sadness is illegitimate, just know that it’s not. If Scripture is True (and it always is) the gift of life is a divine miracle that is preciously near to the heart of Almighty God. In Jeremiah 1:5 He states, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” God’s eternal plan – which was written in eternity past and unfolds before us according to the perfection of His timing – always included the life of your precious baby, even if that child never grew larger than a lima bean.
That was the case with our most recent pregnancy. We were so excited to welcome our fourth child into the world and were eagerly anticipating the blessings and challenges that newborn lives represent. As far as pregnancy detection goes, I usually know VERY early on that I am expecting because I am extremely regular. In addition to a consist monthly cycle, I had been taking pregnancy tests for a couple months because I knew that we were unofficially trying. As with all my pregnancies, I found out that I was expecting VERY early – around week four, just as I was anticipating the start of my next period. When it didn’t come, I knew I was pregnant. I bought a shirt that said, “THIS IS MY LAST ONE, SERIOUSLY,” and I was elated to be able to “gift” the news to my husband on his birthday. He took the news…um, well, the way any hard-working-man-who’se-hardly-ever-home-and-already-has-three-children-under-five would. A little shocked, a little worried, and a lot happy.
Like clockwork, I began to “feel” pregnant two weeks later. Nausea, raw meat aversions, increased appetite, exhaustion and fatigue, the works. As far as I could tell, this pregnancy was progressing exactly as it was supposed to. I’d had my pregnancy confirmed by my doctor and was excitedly awaiting my first official prenatal appointment and ultrasound which were scheduled to occur at around 10 weeks gestation.
But a few days before that appointment I turned to my husband and said, “I think something’s wrong.” As I thought about it, I realized I had stopped feeling pregnant. My nausea had disappeared and I hadn’t been feeling nearly as tired as I usually did at this point in my previous pregnancies. But Andrew, ever the rationalist, said, “Don’t worry. We won’t know what’s going on until we see the doctor.”
And that’s how we found out we’d lost our baby. Since it was our first prenatal appointment for this pregnancy, when we saw the doctor, he asked us the normal battery of questions – When was the start of your last period? How many pregnancies have you had? Any complications with your previous pregnancies or deliveries? And so on. After he’d finished asking all of his questions, he finished with, “anything you’d like to add?” And so I told him that I was concerned because I had been spotting the entire pregnancy – which was very abnormal for me; I’d never spotted with any of my other pregnancies – and that I thought something might be wrong.
My first clue should have been that he ordered an immediate ultrasound. Usually I have to wait two-three weeks before an opening, but 20 minutes after we saw the doctor, were in the ultrasound room. I’ll never forget how beautiful I thought that little alien was. All head and torso, with the smallest, sweetest little arm and leg buds. Just a perfect, precious person that was mine. My heart was so full of joy and o, how much I loved that child already. Andrew was sitting with our other three at the foot of the bed, and the only thing written in his features was pride. A life had been granted by God and we were ecstatic.
But our joy didn’t last long. I waited for the tech to let us hear the baby’s heart beat, but instead, she asked, “And you started your last period August 6th?” I thought it was an odd question because tech’s usually receive that information from the doctor, but I said, “Yes, the 6th.”
Her response should have been my second clue. “Hmmm,” she said. “The baby is measuring a little small for 10 weeks. More like eight weeks. I’m going to get these images upstairs and see what the doctor wants you to do.”
That should have been my third clue. Seeing doctors quickly is not our provider’s strong suit, and we’ve never seen the same doctor twice in one day within an hour’s time. But that day we did. The tech told us that the doctor wanted to see us immediately, so we headed back upstairs.
When he came in, the first thing he said was, “I have bad news about the baby. It’s small. It measures at eight weeks, but it should be measuring at 10.” Looking back, I feel like such a dunst. When he said that, I immediately thought he was going to tell me that there was something wrong with the way the baby was growing. I somehow thought he was going to tell us that they were able to see developmental abnormalities or physical handicaps or something like that. Not once, not even for a second, did I think he was telling me that my baby was dead. But he was.
“The tech wasn’t able to detect a heartbeat, and because of the size, we can tell the baby stopped growing two weeks ago.”
He kept talking, but I couldn’t figure out what he was telling me. “What?” I thought. “What is he saying? I…I don’t understand what he means.”
And then the hammer dropped. Suddenly I put two and two together and realized that someone whose heart wasn’t beating couldn’t be alive. This baby that we’d prayed for, that we loved so much already, that was so very wanted and precious and joyfully expected, just wasn’t going to come.
My heart was broken.
The doctor kept talking about what had to happen next. Natural passing. Medicated passing. Surgery.
I wasn’t listening. I was crying.
I think he realized we couldn’t process what he was saying, so he said he’d give us a minute to think and talk and then come back.
When he left Andrew and I sat in silence and cried.
We named our baby, Shiloh Lael, meaning, “Gift of God, Belonging to God.” That little life had been gifted to us, but the Lord chose to grant that eternal soul admittance into Glory before ever having spent one moment outside my womb.
We were devastated, but we were grateful. It was a stark reminder that none of our children belong to us. They all belong to God every moment of their lives, both their earthly and their eternal ones.
It doesn’t mean we don’t or wouldn’t deeply mourn the loss of them. Rather, it means we rest in the knowledge that every moment of their waking lives is intimately known by the great I AM, and we can trust that His will is best for them, whether or not it causes us pain along the way.
And, in this case, our pain was complete.
The days following the death of our baby were filled with fervent prayer. I had decided against a D&C because something about it rubbed my conscience the wrong way. Even though Shiloh was dead, the procedure seemed too much like an abortion for me to feel comfortable undergoing it.
And so I “hit the books.” I researched every alternative method to a D&C available to me, and settled on natural labor inducers, such as vitamin C, cinnamon, and intense physical activity.
I’ll never forget how much like real labor my miscarriage was.
I was standing in the kitchen making dinner for my three other children when my water broke.
Liquid rushed down my leg and pooled around my feet. And, because I was miscarrying, blood began to pool on the floor as well.
Not knowing what to do, I made my way upstairs and ran a bath. I called my husband and he made arrangements to come home. Since it was going to be a little while before he arrived, he called our good friend Julia and she rushed over to help with the kids while we waited for Andrew.
Within minutes the contractions started.
Now, I’ve had three babies, so I know what real labor pain feels like. It’s the most hideous thing on the planet. This was not like that. This was real, but it was significantly less intense than the kinds of labor you go into when you are birthing a 7 pound baby. On a scale from one to 10, if live births are an 11, this pain was closer to a 4. It was painful, but it was manageable.
Over the next 5 hours I contracted and bled and collected every single piece of tissue I could. I wanted to see, to really see, my baby. I wanted to hold Shiloh in my hand and know that I had done everything in my power to keep my baby whole. More than anything, I wanted closure.
It never came.
Although I did collect a great deal of tissue, nothing I collected looked like a baby.
When we took the tissue to the doctor the next day, he assured us that the white, brain-matter-looking tissue was our baby.
He explained that since it had been three weeks (by this point) since the baby had died, Shiloh’s body had begun to break down already and wouldn’t have been recognizable as a baby this late in the miscarriage process.
We had no other choice. We had to trust him.
What happened next is the reason I am writing this post.
After showing us exactly which tissues would have been Shiloh, our doctor turned toward the trashcan, opened it, and, as if our baby was nothing more than a soiled exam glove, moved to throw Shiloh away.
I immediately stood up and yelled, “wait!”
I explained we wanted to keep the baby and was surprised when he asked me why.
Did I really have to explain why burying our baby was a significant part of this process?
Shiloh was a real person. Someone who was once alive and now was dead. We were going to honor Shiloh’s death just as we did the passing of any other loved one. Shiloh wasn’t trash. Shiloh was a human being, our fourth child, an eternal being whom God knew before the very foundations of the earth were laid.
That’s what our sorrow was all about. When a child is conceived, a whole person comes into existence, regardless of how many earthly days that life has been granted.
We were grieving the days we didn’t have with this precious little life. We would never be able to kiss our baby’s forehead or count 10 perfect fingers and 10 perfect toes. We would never hear our baby laugh or watch our baby take a wobbly first step. We would never dry our baby’s tears or encourage the dreaming of dreams. Our baby wasn’t called to spend time on this earth and we were grieving all the moments that were never meant to be.
That kind of grief doesn’t just go away. It never just disappears.
Sometimes, when I’ve had a chance to just be still, my mind turns toward Heaven and I think of Shiloh…of how much I love my precious baby and how much I am looking forward to seeing him or her when God calls me Home to Glory.
I am convinced I will know my Shiloh when we meet in Heaven and that the part of me that is Shiloh’s mom will finally be made whole.
But even if that isn’t true. Even if Heaven isn’t about wholeness, that doesn’t change the fact that God is good all the time and His will is perfect in all things.
Miscarrying Shiloh was one of the hardest trails God has ever asked Andrew and me to face. It brought a sadness to our hearts that will likely resurface many times throughout our lives.
But even in our sadness, we see God’s goodness. We don’t know why Shiloh was called home so soon and we don’t know how we will survive another devastation like this, should we be called to it.
But we do know one thing: God’s grace is sufficient.
Because of our loss, our understanding of God’s character has been deepened. We have found an endless vault of peace from which to draw, and our dependence on the Lord has increased in ways we never could have imagined.
Our love for and understanding of one another has matured and our hearts have experienced unity in a way that is altogether new.
Miscarrying Shiloh has brought us to the foot of the cross, and in that we are able to take joy.
We serve a loving Master. One Whose grace is immeasurable and in Whose perfect will we take refuge.
We can’t think of anyone more perfect to care for our precious Shiloh than the One who loved our baby first and wholly.
He who cares for Shiloh cares for us, and by that Truth, our hearts are mended.
Until Next Time My Friends,
The Taylor of All Trades