One of my favorite things about the New Year is getting a new planner. The first thing I do after unwrapping it is etch my loved ones’ birthdays and special holidays into its blank pages. I find it beautiful how a date, although random to most, can evoke such excitement and sentimentality to those it impacts.
For the first 23 years of my life, April 18th was just any other day amidst the other 364. But in 2009, I married my best friend on April 18th, and now this date stands out on my calendar by the big love-heart. I anticipate this day weeks, even months, in advance. It is a day of celebration and all that other gushy love stuff.
There are other days in the year that I really look forward to: Christmas, Thanksgiving, my husband’s birthday and, like most teachers, the end of the school year. All of these dates get enthusiastically labeled in my planner along with May 26th, my mom’s birthday.
But this year, May 26th got another meaning in my life.
This was the day we lost our baby at 13 weeks pregnant.
It was one of the most painful, traumatic days I’ve ever endured. A day I celebrated the life of my mother was also the day I grieved the loss of the growing life inside of me.
I read a quote by Shauna Niequist the other day that was so powerful it made me feel like I’d been punched in the gut and hugged by an angel at the same time.
When you haven’t yet had your heart really broken, the gospel isn’t about death and rebirth. It’s about life and more life. It’s about hope and possibility and a brighter future. And it is, certainly, about those things.
But when you’ve faced some kind of death—the loss of someone you loved dearly, the failure of a dream, the fracture of a relationship—that’s when you start understanding that central metaphor. When your life is easy, a lot of the crucial parts of Christian doctrine and life are nice theories, but you don’t really need them. When, however, death of any kind is staring you in the face, all of a sudden rebirth and new life are very, very important to you.
Before my miscarriage, I was all about hope and possibility. I anticipated that bright-future-glittery-goodness. Things were great, and we were making exciting plans for ‘life with baby’ like most expectant couples. Those plans quickly came crashing down in what felt like a nightmare as our hearts broke–really broke for the first time.
I had nightmares for weeks following that telling ultrasound appointment.
Walking into an ultrasound clinic is an experience all its own. Everyone’s there for a common purpose—the creation of life. Women I’d never met or spoken to all of a sudden felt like friends, my tribe. Subtly glancing around the room, we’d make brief eye contact and smile. It’s as if we were silently acknowledging, hey we’re in this together.
I watched as each woman was called back to the examination room and came out with smiles and a strip of black and white images.
After what felt like forever, it was finally my turn. Soon enough, I’d be donning the smile and proudly carrying the classic ‘first baby’ photo. Or so I thought.
I knew something was wrong when the technician left the table and came back into the room with the doctor. Their serious faces and worried eyes gave it away. Our baby wasn’t okay.
Getting off the doctor’s table took the strength of three. I vividly remember cleaning up in tiny bathroom, wiping the slimy jelly off my distended stomach. I stared into the mirror with tears streaming down my face. I took a slow, deep breath and said aloud, Be brave like a lion.
Facing the reality of losing a child is one of the hardest yet bravest things I’ve ever done.
Miscarriage is swift and ruthless.
It stole the innocence of pregnancy and stripped me bare. I’ve never felt so raw, so vulnerable. It left me full of fear, questions, jealousy and shame. Did I do something wrong? Why has this happened to me? Will I ever become pregnant again? Can I ever have a healthy child?
Miscarriage tested the sturdiness of my faith. It shook me wildly and then left me to pick up the pieces.
But I rejoice because I am picking up those pieces. One at a time and with the help of others, I am rebuilding myself.
We named our son Leo Craig Anderson.
He was a brave lil one to come into this world, however short the time might’ve been. He was our little lion cub who brought us so much joy and love during those memorable 13 weeks.
Leo propelled me deeper into my recovery in many ways. He blessed me with the opportunity to become more in tune with my body and its needs. He helped me practice trusting my body. He allowed me to rest and really relish in the exhaustion, knowing that my body was doing something miraculous.
I miss our little Leo every single day.
But, I miss more than just him. I miss what could have been.
//A growing baby belly.
//Decorating his nursery.
//Feeling him kick for the first time.
And I know these senses of loss will continue with each passing milestone.
//His due date.
//Holding him in my arms.
//Celebrating our first Christmas as a family.
But the sadness just signifies to me how much I loved the baby inside of me.
He was and forever will be my first child. Although he isn’t here on earth for me to hold and love in the physical form, he is still very much alive. Alive in my heart and alive next to His Father in Heaven.
The unwavering belief that I will hug and kiss that beautiful baby boy in Heaven one day brings me the most peaceful comfort in the midst of my grief.
During this time of intense sorrow and loss, the promise of new life has never been so important to me. As I wade through the darkest valley, I cling to the hope that spring always follows winter. Beauty for ashes. Joy for mourning.
That story—of death and new life—is the cornerstone of my faith. It’s the premise by which I live, move and breathe. I hold fast to the hope of new life in Heaven, and deep within the core of my being is a spark of hope that one day I will bring new life into this world again.
I love my sweet angel, Leo. He will never be forgotten.
Statistics show that between 10-25% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage, most occurring in the first 13 weeks of gestation. If you or someone you love has experienced miscarriage, my hope is that you find comfort or connection in my words. As women, let’s pull back the curtain on miscarriage and help each other navigate the grief and sadness.