Excited cannot begin to express how we felt as we entered the doctor’s office that day. It’s always special for a momma to feel her baby move inside her pregnant belly, but it’s a different kind of special for the expecting couple to see their little growing “peanut” on the sonogram screen.
We followed the nurse into the exam room, traded my street clothes for the disposable paper gown she offered, and waited for my doctor to enter. When he did, he was all smiles as usual. I liked him. His positive attitude always put me at ease, and made it feel less like a doctor’s visit and more like catching up with a friend.
He asked the usual questions about any unusual symptoms, of which I had none. Then he took measurements and seemed pleased. I flinched slightly as he squirted the cold gel on my protruding pregnant abdomen. “Sorry,” he lamented. “It’s always a bit of a shocker.”
He fiddled with dials and rolled the sonogram ball across my stomach. His normally jovial expression grew serious as he stopped all chit-chat. What seemed like an eternity later, he announced, “Hon, I’m afraid it’s not good news. I can’t find a heartbeat. It looks like you might be miscarrying your baby.”
I have no idea what the Ob/Gyn said next, or what my husband said to him. But I clearly remember what I was thinking.
“NO! This cannot be happening. My first pregnancy was fine. There must be some mistake. Look again.” I thought I was screaming aloud but nothing escaped my lips.
The doctor’s touch on my arm brought me back to the nightmarish present. “I’m going to need to set you up for a higher level ultrasound to be sure. You can schedule that at the desk on your way out. Take your time getting dressed. There’s no rush.”
No rush? Of course there was no rush. I was fine. My baby was fine. And besides, I had patients to see. Patients who truly were in a state of emergency: pediatric brain tumors, concussions, meningitis…but I was fine. WE were fine. I’d always gotten through everything before just fine, and this would be no different—it couldn’t be.
After getting dressed, I stood with my husband at the appointment desk, dazed. I called my office at the children’s hospital where I worked, to check my schedule, to arrange the special ultra-sound around my patient load. Looking back on it, I was clearly in denial, not understanding the seriousness of the situation. I couldn’t. I didn’t want to. I didn’t know how to make sense of it all, or what it meant for our future.
Until, I called my mother. Hearing her cry opened the floodgates to my heart. How could this be? Why would God allow this to happen? What now?
Now we scheduled surgery, and the baby I had been carrying, the baby I talked to, sang to, playfully nicknamed, and felt move inside of me would be taken from me as if it had never been.
And afterward, that’s just what it was like. Many people wouldn’t mention it—never brought it up as if I had never been pregnant.
Or perhaps worse yet, some would say things like, “At least you have one child.” Was that supposed to make it better? And what was I supposed to tell “the big brother,” to help him make sense of it all?
Or they would say, “Well, you can always have another one.” Could I? Were there any guarantees? I’d already lost one child, who’s to say I wouldn’t lose another? And besides, when God gave Job double for his loss, did that mean he no longer mourned his children who died? I don’t think so. Having another child wouldn’t erase the loss of this one.
Others would intimate it was somehow my fault: “Had you been taking your vitamins?” “Is there a genetic predisposition toward miscarriage in your family?” “Did you drink or smoke while you were pregnant?” Do people say these things to someone who has had a heart attack or been diagnosed with diabetes or to a grieving widow? Why would they say that to a grieving mother who was pregnant one day and the next day not?
The responses I received from people led me to believe that I wasn’t supposed to discuss it. In many ways it seemed too uncomfortable for them to discuss, so I was supposed to bottle my pain rather than talk about it. Their responses made me feel like a leper, and added to some unmentioned stigma, much like is felt in the mental health community.
Only years later, when I was in private practice as a neuropsychologist, did I encounter more women who felt the same way and needed a safe place to share their pain. Most recounted similar stories of either being dismissed as if it never happened, or hearing such insensitive pain-inducing comments that it led to them withdrawing and hiding their pain.
I recognize everyone processes grief differently, and many factors come into play for some: how long it took to get pregnant, how far along they were in their pregnancy, whether or not they wanted to be pregnant, whether or not there was any warning leading up to the miscarriage, etc.
- I needed the freedom to cry and release the pent up tears from trying to be strong for my husband, for my toddler son, for the grandparents, and for friends who, with me, had looked forward to this baby’s arrival.
- I needed friends who would ask how I was doing and were truly interested in letting me share the grief, the guilt, the hurt, the longing, the disappointment, and even the anger I felt.
- I needed a friend to offer to help me when I was ready to pack up all the baby items until we had a need for them again.
- It would’ve helped to have someone care for my son for a few days since I was unable to lift him, yet he couldn’t understand why.
- I needed someone to just sit with me so I knew I wasn’t alone in my grieving.
- I needed to be prayed with and prayed for, that God would heal my pain, be close to me while I was broken-hearted, and renew my hope that He would, in fact, give me the desire of my heart for another child while not diminishing the fact that one had died.
If you, too, have lost a child, through miscarriage or any other means, may I step in and take the place of the church, and tell you how sorry I am for your loss. May I sit here quietly and recognize the depth of pain and sorrow that one feels when they lose a child. May I cry with you, and tell you that I hurt because you hurt. May I tell you how truly sorry I am that an environment wasn’t created where you could openly share your pain and your loss. If you were made to feel stigmatized, my deepest apologies and sympathy goes out to you. If you were made to feel defective, can I just remind you of God’s truth that you were created in His image and you are His masterpiece. May I tell you that I pray for you that you will feel God’s comfort as He is close to you in your broken-heartedness, and as He catches your every tear. And now, may I offer this prayer on your behalf:
Dear Heavenly Father,
I thank you for the amazing capability you give to us women, to procreate and birth life to future generations. I thank you that you let us play such an integral part in the continuation of life on this planet. But Father, very early on in the process of pregnancy, we become one with the child inside us. We begin to bond, and develop dreams and visions of what life will be like when they are born. Father, one of the most painful experiences we can go through on this earth is for a parent to be preceded in death by our children. Nothing else compares to the pain that we feel when a child dies. It leaves a void that can only be filled by you.
Father, I pray for the one reading this now who has lost a child. I ask that you would enfold them in your loving arms and provide comfort that only you can give. Father, hold them close as they mourn and grieve. I ask that you would dry every tear and give the peace that truly does surpass our human understanding. Thank you Father for grieving when we grieve and caring about the things that concern us most. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)
I feel quite certain God doesn’t want this pain held in. There needs to be a safe place to discuss such pain.
Because of Him, #HopePrevails!
(If you have a question you’d like Dr. B to answer, contact her here now. Your name and identity will be kept confidential.)
A short brief about Hope Prevails.
Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey through Depression
Dr. Michelle Bengtson
Speaking from personal and professional experience, a neuropsychologist unpacks what depression is, shows how it affects us spiritually, and offers hope for living the abundant life.
Neuropsychologist Offers Hope to Those Struggling with Depression
-By 2020, depression will be our greatest epidemic worldwide
- An estimated 350 million people worldwide suffer from some form of depression
- Helpful features include personal stories, biblical truths, prayers, and music recommendations
In Hope Prevails, Dr. Bengtson writes with deep compassion and empathy, blending her extensive training and faith, to offer readers a hope that is grounded in God’s love and grace. She helps readers understand what depression is, how it affects them spiritually, and what, by God’s grace, it cannot do. The result is a treatment plan that addresses the whole person—not just chemical imbalances in the brain.
For those who struggle with depression and those that want to help them, Hope Prevails offers real hope for the future.
Hope Prevails is available now wherever books are sold. To find out more, see: https://drmichellebengtson.com/hope-prevails-book/.