Life outside of the womb is not a given. It is a gift. Did you know that?
Growing up into early adulthood, I didn’t. At least not really. I had the impression that pregnancy nearly always led to families growing by one, two, or maybe, in rare cases, three. So when I had my first miscarriage in March of 2014 my initial reactions were of disappointment and surprise — the grief didn’t settle in for a few minutes or even hours. Up until that point I had believed that miscarriages were perhaps only the most common of many unlikely problems to run into during pregnancy. I had only heard of a handful of miscarriages in my lifetime, and had never honestly considered that it would happen to me.
My naivety was revealed when I was told that one in three pregnancies end in miscarriage.* I was shocked! The doctor and midwife dealt with me gently, but told me that miscarriages are so common that most of the time they do not even do tests to find the cause until the mother has had three miscarriages. I think this knowledge was supposed to help and comfort me, and it did in some sense, if only to keep me from despairing and letting my thoughts drag me down into the pit of fear and worry that my body was never going to be able to sustain a pregnancy. But with the knowledge that my experience was common came the knowledge that miscarriage would always be common, and that each successive pregnancy would carry the same, and even higher, risk. It was nice to know I was not alone, but my rose-colored glasses about pregnancy were shattered.
After the reality of miscarriage set in, I began to wonder how I had made it so many years without understanding just how risky pregnancy is. The more I considered it, the more I realized that even though I had rarely heard of miscarriages happening, chances were that I knew a number of people who had walked through the same grief that my husband and I were walking through. It is amazing to me even now, several years, a healthy pregnancy, and a second miscarriage later, that it is so rarely mentioned. Even given the fact that most people only want to share with their close friends and family, it seems surprising to me that the secret is kept so very well.
I wish it were different, even though I understand why miscarriage is rarely talked about. Subjects that bring pain and tears can be hard to talk about — no one wants to bring it up to the person who is experiencing it, and to mention it when you’re the one grieving sucks all of the winds out of the sails of conversation. Sadly, though, the result is that no one talks about it and those of us who miscarry are often thrown into it with no warning or expectation that it is more than a remote possibility.
Sometimes I wonder if or how knowing that miscarriage is so common would have changed my approach to family planning. I don’t know that I would have had the appropriate gravity, even had I known. But I still wish someone would have told me, and that our culture was better about talking about these things. Having now had two miscarriages I can say that my outlook on pregnancy, childbirth, and children is significantly different than it was the first time I saw that double line on the pregnancy test. I no longer see or hear of pregnancies and assume that all is well (or will continue to be so). I count pregnant women fortunate that make it into the second and third trimesters with no hitch. And I often hope that they realize just how much of a blessing it is to have a healthy, full-term pregnancy, and how many people see their pregnant bellies with a twinge of grief and sadness.
Positively, I have a much richer appreciation for life outside the womb than I ever had before miscarriage. What a miracle children are! Every “‘nuggle” (translation: “snuggle”) with my daughter feels packed with meaning for me, and I never want to learn to take it for granted. Every smile, every step, every sniffle, is a gift. There is nothing I could have done to ensure her safe arrival in my arms . Everything that she is and does is a testament to God’s kindness, and a witness to his sovereignty over every cell in both her body and mine.
Life outside the womb is a gift, not a given. I know that now, and I hope you do to.
*The Mayo website says that the number is lower than that, however, they also say that studies indicate that their number is low. In my case, I have had two midwives and two doctors tell me that it is more like 1 in 3.