What to Expect When You’re No Longer Expecting

A few months back, I wrote a piece on here announcing our joyful expectation of our eighth child, entitled “What to Expect…When You’re Expecting for the Eighth Time.”  It was fun, a little silly, and a touch snarky.  We were thrilled, and could not wait to share our joy with, well, everyone.  What can I say?  Happiness is something that wants to be shared.

Since that time, I’ve been pretty much off the grid.  All of my loyal readers (all 1 of you — Hi Tim!) will have noticed that I hadn’t posted on here (or anywhere else) since some time in December.  There are several reasons for my absence. For one, my computer died.  Seriously.  It was here one day and gone the next.  For another, I’ve been busily homeschooling my little brood.  It takes a lot of focus on four different grades and six different subjects.  Oh, and then there’s the snow.  There’s something about a snowpocalypse that just makes one want to give up on things like a blog.  Plus, Downtown came back, so…

While these small things add up to a lot on an already full plate, they’re not the real reason I took a break (or not the main reason at least, because it is pretty hard to write a blog post without a computer).  What happened to keep me from writing, here and elsewhere, is something that is almost impossible to write about, even now (nine weeks later).  You see, in December, our baby who I had so happily typed away about only a few weeks earlier, passed away.

I’ll leave that there for a moment.

Yes, our baby, a boy, passed away.  Here are some things I’ve learned about what to expect when you’re no longer expecting:

1) Losing a child is terrible.  It doesn’t matter if the child was born or in utero.  Facing the fact that your child is gone is like staring into a void and knowing you must fill it somehow but feeling as well that nothing can fill it.  In short, it sucks.

2) You are still a parent.  Even though that child is gone home to God, you are still his or her mother or father.

3) The baby hasn’t ceased to exist; he has in fact reached the highest level of existence any human can reach.

4) Speaking of which, you are now the parent of a saint (little “s”), so go you!

5) Not everyone will understand this, and no, you cannot punch those people who don’t.  Trust me.  Unless you experience the loss, you can’t understand it, and anyone who has lost a child, through miscarriage, illness, accident, or any of the other horrific ways there are to lose a child, knows this.  Instead of letting yourself get angry at other people’s ignorance, be thankful that not everyone has to go through this.

6) You have a right to bury your pre-born child.  You have a right to not bury your pre-born child.  It all depends on how old said child was.  You have many rights as a parent, and it is up to you to express your concern over the treatment of your child, because, as I said in number five, not everyone will understand that he is in fact still a child.

7) Burying your child does not make you a better Catholic than people who choose not to, and vice versa.

8) Just because your child died before he was born does not mean that you have no right to grieve.  You have the same right to your grief as any other parent who has lost a child.

9) Just because your child died before she was born does not mean that you cannot laugh or enjoy life again, even the same day.  Trust me, I speak from experience.  Our God is a God who, as the  Baltimore Catechism teaches us, created us specifically, “To be happy with Him in Heaven.”  If He wants us to be happy then, I don’t see why He wouldn’t want us to be happy here.  The beauty of life is that it is rarely wholly one thing at a time.  To be clearer, even in the middle of terrible tragedy, when your heart is breaking, there is almost always still something to be happy about.  We were sad to be losing our son, but joyful that we would see him again in heaven, and happy to know that our other children were being well cared for by our loving family.

10) You will get through this, with faith, prayer, and God’s grace.  In fact, that is the only way to truly get through something like this.  When it comes down to it, God gave you the child and God has taken the child away.  It only makes sense that you must turn to Him to accept the entire situation.

Bonus:

11) You may feel terribly, terribly alone, even when you are surrounded by friends and family and even knowing that God is with you.  Don’t give in to the loneliness.  That is the surest way to not heal.

It’s hard to write about losing a baby.  It’s hard to talk about it.  But, the way I see it is this: If my writing about it here can help someone else who has suffered through the same situation in silence, then it becomes a little bit easier.  In sharing my sufferings, I feel as if I’m sharing in Christ’s sufferings, and isn’t that what we’re supposed to be doing, as Christians?  Sharing each other’s sufferings and helping each other along the way of holiness?

23 Comments

  1. My wife and I recently lost a little one, and my heart caught in my throat reading this. I had never before meditated so deeply on what ‘Emmanuel’ really means, and when the ‘talitha cumi’ reading came up earlier this year it spoke to me in ways that I didn’t expect. Our prayers are with you!

    • Our prayers are with you and yours as well, CJ! Since we lost little Tolkien in December (and Gianna two years earlier) there have been several readings that have really struck home in an even deeper way than before, and they have been both strengthening and comforting.

  2. My wife and I discovered in September that miscarriage has all the STEPS of pregnancy and labor with NONE of the joy. Yet, there were consolations. We now share with people the scripture reading that got us through the day– Isaiah 55:10-11

    • Our other consolation was coming home from the hospital to our two living children. We had SO much support from friends and family and our obstetrician. My wife says it will make us better marriage prep and NFP teachers to be able to relate to this very indescribable loss.

    • Seth, I’m so sorry for your loss and I know what you mean about the labor without the reward. It has happened to us twice now, both at 15-19 weeks. And yes, knowing that our other children (all 6 of them) were waiting for us at home was perhaps the greatest consolation next to God’s grace. It was also a reason to keep going, every day.

  3. Hi Bridget! I know for fact that I am not your only reader, but thanks for the mention! Great article, by the way.

  4. Natalie /

    Thank you for posting this. My child has died and I’ve just now had to schedule a D&C to “remove the dead tissue” according to the doctor. It’s heartbreaking and I hope that my body can move on before the surgery but if not, I have to avoid an infection. I still can’t comprehend what’s happening or what is going to happen but I’m thankful that I found what you wrote tonight. It has helped me feel not quite so alone right now. My heart is with you and your family, as well as me and mine. Take care.

    • Natalie, we were told a D&C was our only option as well, but it wasn’t. Prayers for you to discern what path is best to take for your family and your child.

    • If any doctor spoke about my baby that way, I’d dump him fast.

  5. Thank you for sharing. I am so sorry for your loss. I lost my daughter almost three weeks ago. I went in for my 23 week appointment and she was just gone. Sometimes I still wonder when I will wake up from this nightmare. Losing Jenni has been the most horrible event of my life but has also brought me some if the most beautiful moments as well.

    http://www.modernhomemaking.org/10/post/2014/02/what-i-want-abortion-supporters-to-know-about-my-daughter.html

    • Sarah, I know how you feel about the dichotomy of loss. For a Catholic, there is a joy that comes from knowing your child is in heaven, wrapped in Mary’s mantle; but just as strong there is a sorrow that he or she is not here, on your chest, wrapped in a blanket and warming your heart. But, I assure you, the joy will win out in the end if you let it. Peace and prayers to you.

  6. Ryan Beggy /

    After our first loss a good friend said to me “Welcome to the worst club on earth.”… As horrible as it was to experience we were very blessed by those around us. Your article was very much appreciated….

    Now to business. You need to write a book on this and I’m not just saying that. While I may not have read as much as Tim, I have enjoyed what I have read from you. Also, as a fellow home schooling family I must ask you what else you have on your plate that would detract from writing a book (or two)? (I jest of course). Seriously, this information is not out there. When this type of tragedy hits the world becomes cold and lonely, as I am sure you well know. Then slowly but surely the network starts to find you. Honestly it make take a year before someone would even be ready to read a full length book on the topic but I really think it needs to be done. So, yes the finger waver has shown up and is unwilling to take on the challenge himself; I admit. You have a gift and I am glad you are sharing that with the world… Consider this a friendly request to share these wounds with more. If it’s any help, it looks like you have the title for at least the first two “What to Expect” Catholic volumes.

    Pax et Bonum,
    Ryan Beggy

    PS. Fort Lee ;)

    • Ryan, thanks for the encouragement. I really wish my response could be “Challenge Accepted!” but at the moment there’s just a touch too much going on. Keep reading and keep bugging me about it though, because it’s something I’d love to do, maybe over the summer. I’m flattered that anyone actually thinks me capable of this. You clearly don’t know me well. ;)
      “The worst club on earth”…very fitting. But, as I said, it’s also one of the best clubs on earth: the Parents of Little Saints club. We ask for the intercession of both of ours every single day.

  7. Mrs. B. /

    Thanks for publishing this. The silence around grief is the hardest part. As though suffering were contagious, as though it shouldn’t even be a part of a good Christian life. Never mind the cross! About a year and a half ago, we lost a baby shortly after birth, without warning and without explanation. And we also experienced the love of Christ in a way we’d never experienced it before. Emmanuel: God with us.

    • Both times, it’s happened to us have been near Christmas, and Emmanuel became a prayer that I repeated in my head often. Part of life is loss, and it must be a part of the life of a Christian if we are to be united with Christ on the cross. Prayers for your comfort after your loss.

  8. God bless you for sharing this, even though I know you & your family are still grieving. Your article is moving and helpful to those of us who are in the midst of similar grief of a baby ourselves…..Thank you! My prayers are with you & your family!

    • I’m glad sharing my grief is helping anyone. I’m praying for all of you as well that you feel the presence of Christ in your grief.

  9. Stress and Miscarriage

    I think that many people don’t talk about the miscarriage difficulties they are having, so I thought I’d mention our experience.

    More than 15 years ago, over the course of a few years, we lost three children in a series of miscarriages. Eventually, my wife happened to meet a gentleman whose wife had had a similar problem. They had solved their problem by removing stress from his wife’s life. Removing a particular type of stress from my wife’s life had immediate, positive results. Her bleeding stopped, and about six months later our youngest child was born.

    Doctors may point to research that appears to draw the conclusion that stress doesn’t cause miscarriage. We were able to find research which concluded that some types of stress can cause miscarriage.

    Since that time, we have met two other moms that were able to avoid miscarriage by eliminating stress.

  10. I am very sorry for your lost. There is this sweet and sour taste to losing a child, sweetness is that we have a saint who sees and feels more beauty right now than I will ever see on earth until I hope to God will see one day and sour not able to hold that child and feel God’s miracles in my arms. After my fourth lost, I founded this Miscarriage ministry where I give away a free book that has help me. Please check it out and let me send you the book if you would like. It’s called, After the Miscarriage: a catholic women’s companion to healing and hope. Here is the website: http://magnoliasweethealing.wordpress.com/

    I was told by my doctor that one has 3 choice to handle this Miscarriage , naturally ( Only was able to have one naturally for I was too far along for two of them) , d and c ( I had one emergency d&c) and the last option was to go into labor which I did for the last two so that I could have a body to bury. Everyone one should know what are their options and be able to do what is best for them! Praying for all of these moms!

    Keeping you and your family in our prayers.

  11. Hi Bridget,
    My husband and I had a miscarriage a year ago, and it was our first pregnancy. I found your article to be one of the first I have read that was terribly honest and I loved that.

    I’d only add one thing. I am amazed how little support there is for couples miscarry with their first pregnancy. Although many people open up about their own experiences once they have heard about mine, in almost every single story, the person I am speaking to has already had a child before their first miscarriage. They have a comfort the rest of us do not have. They can look at their child when they get home from the hospital. It is very painful to know that I may not have the ability to bring a child to term and even more painful for people to say, “It will happen when you are ready for a family.” It implies that my child was lost because of my lack of preparation in God’s eyes. Do people say those things to couples who already have children? For example, they might say something like, “Maybe God thought it wasn’t the best time to grow your family?”

    You’ve been in my prayers for a while–as I work with your number one reader.:)

    • Julia,
      First, I am so sorry for your loss, and you’ve been in my prayers as well. Your faith in this difficult situation does you great credit, and I pray God’s grace is a comfort to you.
      What you’re saying is so true. I didn’t want to address something I hadn’t experienced at the risk of sounding condescending. I really don’t know what that is like, and I won’t deny that I’m so thankful to God that He blessed me with five children before taking any home to Him. I’m sure, because of my faith, that we would have gotten through it, but I’m also sure that it would have been doubly hard. I can’t imagine what couples in your situation go through. Having a child at home serves a dual purpose in healing. First, a child always makes things better. Always. Second, as a mother, having a child who needs me forces me to get out of bed, to be present in my family, to not allow the loneliness and the darkness to take over because if I did I would be failing my children. So you are right when you say that having a child at home makes recovery easier, at least in my mind.
      As for misguided people saying stupid things, yes, sadly, they do say them to people in my situation as well. Honestly, I’ve been told that since my husband was out of work the first time it happened, it was God’s way of not burdening us with a child when we couldn’t handle. People have said to me that perhaps God didn’t think it best to grow my family right now, but that is just as preposterous and shows the same lack of knowledge and understanding, as God has grown my family. I personally think the whole attitude comes from an NFP mentality I am in control of growing my family. I won’t speak for anyone else, but for my husband and I, it is a long gone choice, one that we made before our marriage to be fully open to life and to not attempt to schedule our children. As a result of this attitude, I know that God did want to “grow my family” because He sent us a child. Whether we were able to keep the child or not makes no difference. Tolkein has become for us another source of grace and an intercessor. We didn’t choose to have him, or to lose him; God made the choice for us, and so we know it was the right choice and that is another source of comfort.
      As for more support for couples who have miscarried their first child, I believe you are absolutely right. There is a huge need for it. I pray someone who knows this grief *hint hint* may start even an online support community for others such as you and your husband.

  12. Barbara /

    Sorry to hear about your losses. My husband and I are catholic and have 14 children together, 8 of our children went to Heaven. People do not understand the emotions that one goes through in such a situation. Our children in Heaven were carried for one term each, and were named.

    Eventhough, our saints are not here with us they are very much a part of our lives to this day. Our children here talk about them all the time and know that we will be together again in Heaven. What a reunion that will be!!!!

    My advice to you is to never give up on hope, trust in the Lord……… Our family, my husband and I and 5 children participated in the 40 Days For Life Campaign, going with the children everyday for the 40 Days. At the end we found that we were pregnant and delivered a beautiful, healthy baby boy on July 16, 2013 (Our Lady of Mt. Carmel) He is now 7 1/2 months old and I am 45 years old. We are open to life and pray that God will bless us with more children.

    We also homeschool all our children and find that it is most rewarding. We didn’t have children to send them off to school. They are all gifts from God!

    Trust in the Lord. God Bless you all!

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