We recently celebrated Jaden, our 2nd son’s, 100 day celebration. In Korean culture, people would celebrate a baby’s first 100 days of life as a signifier that the baby is now healthy enough to survive the rest of life. To me, it was a celebration of Jaden’s 100 days outside of the womb and 9 months inside the womb.
With our firstborn, we went the traditional route and waited until the first trimester passed before we shared the news with everyone. Conventional wisdom advised to keep baby a secret because if you were to lose the baby during the first trimester (usually the time when it happens), then you don’t have to go through the painful process of untelling everyone about your pregnancy.
For Jaden, something in my heart told me to tell people right away. Precisely because if anything did happen to him, we would have community around us to be there with us. With how the past years had been going, I knew that for me, being isolated in grief would be too much to handle. So we told our family and church here in Singapore. We shared in the joy and were excited to see the pregnancy develop.
And then the spotting began. It started a few days after we announced our very new pregnancy to our friends and family. We had just come home from a trip to the zoo when I saw evidence of a threatened pregnancy. My emotions plummeted so quickly my head spun. What is happening? Why is it happening? Is baby ok? Did I do something wrong?
The next day we went to the doctor. The only thing I wanted to hear was “your baby is doing just fine”. But I didn’t hear it. And I wouldn’t hear it for 3 months. What I did hear was, “your baby is still there but you must not move around – you must remain in bed”.
I was in turmoil each day, wondering if this would be the last day I would have with the baby inside my womb. Each move I made felt like a gamble – fear that my next step would be too much and cost me my child. After I did more “strenuous” tasks like washing the dishes or cooking a meal, the spotting would return. Bedrest would literally mean rest.in.bed.only. The only exception would be my weekly visits to the doctor for hormone shots and ultrasounds to make sure baby was ok.
I proceeded to cancel many of the meetings I had scheduled for the week (a pattern that repeated itself for most of the pregnancy). There was a scramble to figure out childcare – I could no longer carry/chase/run around with my 1.5 year old. My church became a cloud of love and care covering over me and my family. A flurry of messages making sure we found childcare, people coming over to cook, clean, take my son out to play, and many many prayers for us. This was my solace. This was God’s grace.
In bed, I was afraid to do pregnancy-related things: read websites pertaining to all things baby, make Amazon lists of baby items, or take out my maternity clothes. I stopped obsessively googling searches like “How to address morning sickness?”, “How to tell if baby is a boy/girl?”, “Top 10 things you need for pregnancy”. I feared that with each new article, my heart would become more and more devastated as my attachment grew. The fear was paralyzing.
Some doctors were telling me to stay strictly in bed. Others were telling me live life as usual because if the baby can’t handle my movement at this point, the baby’s not strong enough to make it through the pregnancy. It was as if everything and nothing made sense. I didn’t know what to pray. Do I ask God to save the baby? Is that selfish? What if baby is too weak and wont make it?
Where do I find the courage to pray and deeply attach myself to someone who might be ripped away from me? How do I brace for the worst and hope for the best?
All the while, I was pouring over God’s word, finding it to be a quiet place of comfort and stillness. And one day, I felt God speaking to me. He reminded me that my child inside of me was already my child. He was mine, and I had the privilege to embrace each day I had with my child now. It was as if a lightbulb switched on. I was already, at that moment, a mother of 2 kids, not a mother of 1 son and 1 “maybe”. And the first thing I did, was begin praying and deciding on a name for our baby with my husband. The baby was our child. The baby had a name. The baby was already ours.
Jaden means “Jehovah has heard.”
And from before Jaden was formed, God had heard our prayers. Our prayers to have him. Our prayers to protect him. Our prayers to provide for us while we guarded his life and the life of our older son as well. Prayers for hope and the courage to have hope. Prayers for a community to surround us and carry us through a devastating time.
I’m beyond thankful that I get to hold Jaden in my arms. I get to watch my older son, Judah, give Jaden wet kisses and give him toys to play with. Our nightly “family hug” gets to widen and fit our baby boy.
With heavy heart, I know that this entry may be hopeful for some and excruciatingly painful for others. I have only glimpsed into the grief of other women, who struggle with far deeper and longer pain. To those women, I pray that the grace of God would cover you and quiet the roaring cries within you for even a moment.
I’ve read articles before about “how to encourage women through miscarriage”. I’d read them hoping to learn how to best support women around me struggling with these and similar issues. Now, having been at the receiving end, I wanted to add to their list with some practical things that helped (and did not help) me in my particular situation.
Practical things that helped:
- Contact. Any contact at all. I could feel the absence of messages because of the fear of not offending/hurting me. I understood. I’ve been there. The fear that grips you because you don’t want to make things worse for your grieving friend. But the silence made it worse because it emphasized an already existing isolation in me.
- tip: if you’re REALLY afraid of saying something dumb, you can simply say, “I love you. I’m here for you. Is there a way I can best support you right now?” A good friend of mine said “I’m sorry, I’m at a loss for words right now. How can I be there for you?” I saw that she cared, and appreciated how she would regularly check in on me, even though she didn’t know the “best” things to say
- Prayer. Any prayer at all. Messages saying that people were praying for me were encouraging. Messages that contained the actual prayer were even more helpful – at times when I felt at a loss of words to pray to God, I could read those and pray by proxy.
- Songs. A good friend of mine who went through a similar situation shared a song with me that she would play for herself in times of despair. As worship filled the room, it eventually filled her heart. And the same happened for me. In times when I was numb, I would play the song and it would sing words of hope that would make my heart fill and tears spill.
- A hug. Sometimes words were unnecessary and my mind was too clouded to process anything. A hug was a physical expression of a thousand words.
- Meal delivery/errands/cleaning. The last thing I wanted to do was take care of practical concerns. Especially since I was on bedrest too. I was so thankful when people sent over meals, insisted on washing dishes, and ran other errands, just so that there was one less thing to worry about.
- Home visits. This one may be more personalized to me because I’m wildly extroverted. To be in the presence of people helped me process what I was feeling, be comforted by their company, and have an opportunity to laugh (if I was up for it).
- Checking in after the dust settles . An interesting thing about having an ongoing issue is that the novelty of the “risk/tragedy” wears off. The first couple of weeks, when people hear the news, everyone is alert and attentive. But once the news isn’t new anymore, it becomes harder to process and ask for help. Having people consistently check in gave me space to recover physically and emotionally at my pace.
Things that didn’t help me:
- Not talking to me. Above all other “errors” a person could make, by far the biggest one is to NOT reach out. If something inside of you nudges you to reach out, please do it. To avoid the risk is to say a million more hurtful things than a misfired word of care (ie. “my self-preservation outweighs my care for you”, “I don’t care about what you’re going through”, “I have no idea that anything is even wrong”, etc.) When you do reach out, please don’t expect a certain kind of response or be disheartened by the lack of enthusiasm. The list above are not cure-alls. They are rather balms that slowly and subtly provide relief.
- Telling me that the baby is definitely going to be ok (unless you’re a doctor and have been doing the scans. then this goes to the top of the DO list). Because what if the baby wasn’t going to be ok?
- Avoiding the topic. It’s not that I wanted to only talk about this. There were times it was nice to talk about lighter topics or other people’s problems to get my mind off of things. But not talking about it at all felt like it was a non issue. The thing that was consuming me with grief was sidelined by “small talk”.
To my beautiful son, Jaden: umma and abba love you dearly. We’re so grateful that we get to hold you, hug you, kiss you, and be with you. May you always know that you are dearly loved and heard by us, but even more importantly, by our good God.
Celebrating Jaden’s 100 day with our married couples’ LIFE group. The extensive “DO” list is all inspired from the way they came around us through the entire pregnancy and even now. I love our church.