Our Full Joy & Full Grief

It’s difficult to describe the journey to get here. We share the news of our pregnancy with some people now without mentioning our first two pregnancies, but it feels complicated to not mention them. This is not our first pregnancy, not our first expected due date, not the first time we’ve imagined what a child will look like and how they will change our lives. We’ve imagined all of those possibilities and had them taken away as we miscarried.

I think often of the Mona Lisa. Glennon Doyle shared in her book Untamed these words about Mona Lisa:

“Mona Lisa and her husband lost a baby. Sometime later, her husband commissioned this painting from da Vinci to celebrate the birth of another baby. Mona Lisa sat for Leonardo to paint her, but she wouldn’t smile during the sitting. Not all the way. The story goes that da Vinci wanted her to smile wider, but she refused. She did not want the joy she felt for her new baby to erase the pain she felt from losing the first. There in her half smile is her half joy. Or maybe it’s her full joy and her full grief all at the same time. She has the look of a woman who has just realized a dream but still carries the lost dream inside her. She wanted her whole life to be present on her face. She wanted everyone to remember, so she wouldn’t pretend.”

We are unbelievably happy about this pregnancy. And when I say “unbelievably”, I mean it – I really still can’t quite believe that it’s all going to happen. We celebrate each new week we make it to and pray to make it to the next. And I’m still sitting here on the morning of our baby shower and gender reveal crying and feeling the grief of the past year and a half because I wish we could have done all of this for our first two babies also.

Pregnancy after loss is complicated. When I took the pregnancy test for this third pregnancy and saw the faint positive line appear, I went back to bed, said to Joe “I think I’m pregnant again” and went back to sleep. No excitement. No hope. The first few weeks were filled with a lot of tears due to the fear of having to go through it all again. And then when I was 6.5 weeks along I started to have some bleeding. Immediately, I accepted that we were miscarrying again and I called the doctor to get in for an ultrasound. At that ultrasound, we were truly completely surprised to see a little blob in my uterus with a beating heart. And then continued the lesson in hope that this pregnancy has been. We started with no true hope for this to last, and week by week have been learning that it’s never too late to learn to hope.

As I processed through my grief following our two miscarriages, I joined a webinar where I heard some words that really helped me reframe my thinking. When bad things happen to us, we often ask “why me?”. Instead of asking “why me?”, we can ask “why not me?” Difficult things in this life are not targeting us. Life is hard and we constantly are learning how to make our way through. By asking “why not me?”, it helped me to open up more to the reality that 1 in 4 known pregnancies end in miscarriage. There are many normal outcomes to pregnancy, and miscarriage is one of them. This hard thing was not something that God or anyone else was doing to me, it was simply the reality we have met. Why not me? Why would it be anyone else and not me? Why would I be exempt from this statistic?

Through this third pregnancy, I’ve had to learn to reframe those words again. Through the miscarriage groups I’ve joined on Facebook and stories of loss that I’ve heard from friends, I have definitely heard a lot about all that could go wrong. While these groups are so helpful and filled with support, these stories also can get locked in your head. I hear of so many women who have had many more miscarriages than I have now had, stories of stillbirths, stories of late term miscarriages. It was easy to ask “Why not me?” and assume that those stories of ten miscarriages or other such stories would be mine as well. Why would I truly start to believe that I would be one of the ones who “only” had two and then got a baby? That’s where I had to reframe again and learn to ask “Why not me?” with good circumstances instead of bad. I had to start to believe that I could be one to experience two miscarriages and then move forward with a healthy pregnancy.

I share all of this (and could share so much more) because it feels impossible to me to share news of this third pregnancy and the baby we’re expecting without sharing pieces of the journey to get here. I want to share how our first two pregnancies impacted us – how we grew, how they taught us to grieve, how they’ve made us so extremely grateful for this pregnancy progressing.

Navigating pregnancy after loss is different than navigating pregnancy without loss. It’s all hard and I don’t think it’s worth comparing, but I share all of this to provide insight so we can all continue to learn how to support people through loss and pregnancy after loss.

We navigate this pregnancy now with ornaments on the wall in our home honoring our first two pregnancies & their due dates, with a Mona Lisa magnet on the fridge holding up our ultrasound photos and remembering that beautiful way she showed her full joy and full grief, with a poster on the wall that says “We can do hard things” because we learned that through the journey to get here.

I’ve always believed that there is so much purpose in the specific timing of a child. Their age determines who they are going to grow up with and become friends with – who they will impact and who is going to impact them. It determines the friends that we will make as we share life with parents of sports teams, classrooms, etc. This child’s unique timing and place in life is exactly right and is a part of their purpose in our world. While recognizing that the whole journey is happening in the way it has “needed” to, we rest fully in the midst of such deep gratitude and joy and also grief and loss.

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