“All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of holding on and letting go.” ― Havelock Ellis
There’s a sweet naivete that most girls have about pregnancy. Depending on the tint of the glasses of their world view, the thought tends to centre around how doing the do will automatically lead to a baby. You know, like how a tea bag and hot water always leads to a hot brew. How could it not? It was the only way the river and the bend that is sex and having a child could both inspire and make us shudder with fear.
Now, without realizing it, I packaged this same thought and wrapped it around being a firebrand Christian a la daughter of Sinach (🎶I’m walking in power🎶). And it proved right. First time round, we got pregnant immediately. So the blow of a miscarriage a few weeks after just about knocked me off my feet. How? Why? Like, why? Where is God in this? Is He still good to me? What now?
Pregnancy loss is its own wasteland. There’s a vast nothingness it carries full of memories that will never be and all that could have been. The tension of the unknown, the tension of the almost there that slipped right through your fingers, is a weight I pray you never get to carry.
It’s like receiving a gift and then watching it get crushed right in front of your face before you ever get to open it. How does your heart beat right after that?
I didn’t know what to make of the whole experience and I became real salty (belated apologies to all my friends). What started out as our delicious secret (that we were expecting our first child) became a scar – one that I wore on my forehead. I was hard to be around; harder if you were expectant.
I felt like people were sorry for me, and I know they were, but I didn’t feel like my story fit into their world untainted with pregnancy loss. I remember a particular time when some of us gathered and the subject of miscarriage was a prayer point. I was so mad that day actually and I told God I wouldn’t pray because it felt like people were praying to avoid what I had gone through (as they should). But my bleeding heart was going through it at that time so where did that leave me when everyone else was praying preventative prayers for, “Lord, may none of us go through that. Amen.” ? Unseen. That’s what I felt. I felt unseen. Like a warning statistic. So I pushed people further away.
Pregnancy loss or pregnancy delay is an orientation on why they call it trying for a baby. Ooh child! Did I not know! And to pick yourself up and try again for a child in your brokenness needs a rare courage. It needs you to have the courage to believe in a different story even when your own went off the rails. It needs you to push past the tears every month when you see one line on the pregnancy test. It needs you to be brave to want to try again when you’ve had your period again. And again. And again. It stings and shatters like a bullet to the heart.
So the months roll on, punch after punch, and you tell yourself, “Let’s ditch the birth control coz clearly, it’s not like we’re getting pregnant.”
But we did. You see, we got pregnant again, only we didn’t even know it yet. It was during a season where God told me to open myself up to people again. I didn’t want to, but I wanted to see why He was so keen on it. So in a moment of wild courage, I invited 20+ people over (some strangers) to our house for a New Year’s celebration on the 1st of January 2019. We laughed, we ate, we swam and played games. It was amazing! At the end of the festivities when we were introducing ourselves to each other, for the first time, I told a group of people that we miscarried. Cue the fountain of weeping. In part, I did it so I could get used to it once I started doing book interviews. It was scary at first, but that day was so much healing.
We found out a few days after that we were expecting. Whereas the previous time there was jumping around and joy, this time there was silence – an eerie space between the finding out and not knowing how it will end. Of course, you know what you expect – a tender wee one in your hands at the end of it – but what you knew, what you know, is struggling for survival under what you went through. Still you hope. Still you trust. Still you pray.
We lost that pregnancy right after the happy new year posts had started dying down on social media and my husband was in a near-death accident a day after. I didn’t know what to make of my prayers. Were they hot air? Was I not being heard? It was so hard on my heart but I decided not to go through it like I did the first time because worry is the worst kind of preparation.
A few months after the book was launched and I was going for interview after interview, we found out that we were pregnant again. Like the last time, there was no joy. Only quiet fear mingled with tiny rays of hope.
I was doing one of my longest book interviews and the shooting schedule was pretty much the whole day. After we did the first interview and I changed into the next outfit for the next interview, I saw a stain as I wiped myself in the bathroom. “It’s implantation bleeding. It has to be,” I told myself. But deep down, I was afraid I knew it wasn’t. We left the interview and I went to lead prayers for our ladies fellowship. How I did it, I haven’t the slightest. But once we got home, I ran to the loo, saw more blood, and I cried angry tears. Why was this happening again? Was I not praying hard enough? What did I need to do because I had done it all!
Now, to try again after all that would be madness. I didn’t want to. I convinced myself that I was okay with just the 2 of us and I was. But if we never tried, we’d never know, now would we? In the most non-commital super chill we’re okay if it takes or doesn’t way, we moved on with our lives – me talking about my book and getting it into your hands and the hubby doing voiceover work.
After a particular interview, a couple of friends and I got to hang out over lunch. While eating, a friend casually said to me and another friend, “For all we know, you could be pregnant right now.” Oh, I was sure she was getting that vibe from my friend so the giddy winks I made were in her direction.
But a month and a few weeks later, I found out that I was it. I was pregnant again. Now, at this point, we know the whole drill. Without even realizing it, we had skipped through the early scary parts of panicking on discovering we were pregnant because we were clueless but also unattached to the outcome. A visit to the obstetrician for a routine scan (which we were sure would date 6 weeks) proved we were 10 weeks pregnant. We didn’t know! Oh, that heartbeat was the sweetest. And it made it so real.
But the fears were just as real this time. Would we cave into our fears or foolishly hope? We chose the latter.
I had nightmare after nightmare almost every day about the baby dying, me miscarrying again and just all the worst kinds of dreams. And I kept cancelling them and praying harder than before. I’d always tell our growing fetus that I was going to fight for her, and I did every step of the way.
Why share my story? Well, for context. I laboured to show you our losses so you can understand the depth of fear that comes with pregnancy after loss. So that you have someplace to start when you find out one of your friends is going through this.
Pregnancy after loss is its own battlefield. I struggled so much to be happy in the early months because I was still grieving even if I was pregnant again. Was this our 4th child? Was this our firstborn or she would be first born alive? How do I honour the lives we lost? How do I make room for them even as we celebrate this life growing in me? Those were the questions I battled with.
I remember stumbling onto pregnancy announcement videos on YouTube and watching so many of them and weeping through them for weeks as couples told friends they were expecting after only 2 days of taking a pregnancy test or 2 weeks of finding out. I wept at never getting to do that and only sharing our losses.
We kept this pregnancy a secret much like all the others. In fact, if I had my way, I’d have let my growing belly make the announcement for me. But we started with a really small pool of friends and told them we were expecting when I was 3 and a half months pregnant. I wasn’t happy to do so. I wanted to sit on it and sort out my emotions before people asked, “How are you feeling? You must be so happy,” unaware that I was still grieving and that question would open the floodgates of tears within me.
It also took me so many months to buy baby clothes. The last time I did was with our first baby and miscarriage. I still had the clothes and books we’d bought so I wasn’t in a baby shopping frenzy. But I eventually dipped my toes into it. I bought a jacket and a cute sailor outfit and that’s all it took for me to go bonkers. Next thing I did was place an order of baby clothes online – 21 pieces of long-sleeved onesies in different sizes and 4 blankets.
And that’s when the joy set in. I remember being told to be careful of my emotions because they can influence the baby but I told God a free pass would be good for me. I was still grieving and healing because I wanted to be whole and better for my baby. And I’d pray that my baby would be the happiest baby because c’mon! We’ve been through it. If anyone deserved it, it was her.
And by God’s grace, in spite of all the emotional and spiritual difficulties, we got to the other side. Finally.
So if a couple keeps information about their pregnancy a secret, please try and understand. They have their own reasons why and things they’re going through. Let them. If they’ve had a loss especially, they’re taking that time to process their tangled emotions on death, loss and life.
But pregnancy after loss is also a beautiful, hopeful time even if not always immediately.
If you’re expectant after losing your baby whether it was weeks, months, during labour or sometime after birth, hang in there warrior. It may be hard, but foolishly hope and expect the best outcome. It’ll go against everything you’ve come to believe. It’ll take all of you. But you’ll be so much better for it.
It’s true what they say. The most beautiful waterfalls always happen in the steepest places of our lives. And I can’t wait for your redemptive story to take my breath away.