“Even to your old age and gray hairs, I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” – Isaiah 46:6
“And everyone they have a heart
And when they break and fall apart
And need somebody's helping hand
I used to say just let 'em fall
It wouldn't bother me at all
I couldn't help them now I can”
- The Avett Brothers
A few months ago I wrote a blog but I didn’t publish it. Then about a month later I revised it and added to it but still didn’t publish it. I couldn’t bring myself to putting my heart out there for all to read. But yesterday, I had four people touch my large pregnant belly, and one person asked if me I ever thought I would be in this place… in my third trimester… less than three months away from giving birth to my baby… after years of trying to build our family.
That’s a story I will tell one day, but it has been a slow process to work through my experiences and emotions. Also it’s been a roller coaster the past 5-10 years, and the final turn is still up on the horizon. The ending is still not written yet, but with God’s will soon enough… soon enough…
For now I’ve decided to finally share these random thoughts that came up over the course of my pregnancy. It’s time. When I wrote these two posts, it was my truth. I’ve been pondering for months if I could even come up with the right words to explain what I’ve been thinking since I became pregnant, particularly my feelings during the first trimester. I’ll be honest, what’s written below is not exactly what I initially envisioned, but I can’t sit on it any longer. Sometimes the rawest form is the only form that matters. These two posts are a little all over the place, but that’s where my mind has been, scattered and unsure. Please forgive me in advance...
Recently I declared that I had been holding onto a secret, a pretty big secret. I had struggled with verbalizing the secret over the past few months because I was scared. Slowly but surely I told more and more people, but for no other reason than necessity, and when the time was “right,” I made the public, or as my friend Nicole likes to say “Facebook official,” announcement.
I’m pregnant. After over a decade of infertility, God decided to provide us with a miracle through no help of our own… unless you count the sex part but I won’t go into those details here.
It’s an absolute shock and we’re still taking it all in. But that’s not the reason I’m writing.
The first thing I had to deal with when I saw that positive pregnancy test was normal first trimester physical symptoms, nausea and extreme fatigue. This proved very hard to deal with. I was constantly not feeling well, not wanting to eat, and not wanting to go out, yet I couldn’t let anyone know why I couldn’t be social. It got so bad that I began to get depressed, feeling completely unproductive and alone. Not to mention the fear I had because of my history of infertility and my only other pregnancy ending in a miscarriage... I bought into this common idea that you shouldn’t disclose your pregnancy until after the first trimester, but it was tearing me apart.
I didn’t realize until I listened to a teaching at church one Sunday that since we got the amazing news, I was hanging out in the wilderness. I was feeling detached from God, detached from people, making rash decisions to help protect myself from what could possibly happen if I became vulnerable and it was doing me no good at all.
Refusing to be honest was forcing me to dig myself into a deep hole and the only way out of it was to come clean, come out of the closet and tell people. I considered it as early as 7 weeks – telling people other than my closest family - I’m pregnant. But I didn’t… The fear was overwhelming.
Unfortunately, my situation is not rare, in fact it’s so much more common than many realize. It’s a part of our modern day culture. Woman gets pregnant. Woman has to hide said pregnancy for 6-8 weeks, until her doctor says things look pretty much in the clear. Why do women refuse to tell people they are pregnant for the first trimester? The first answer you hear is usually, “what if I miscarry.” That basically insinuates the very sad truth, that if a woman does miscarry in the first trimester than it’s better that no one knows she’s pregnant, because then she won’t have to tell them she miscarried. But this is a destructive line of thinking. It’s basically saying that women who do suffer from miscarriages in the first trimester shouldn’t have any support for their loss. They do not deserve for people to celebrate when they become pregnant and do not deserve to have comfort, support and help if they miscarry. Our society is basically telling women you are in this by yourself until the doctor says everything is ok, usually around 12-14 weeks.
Is this really beneficial to women who have lost their unborn children in the first trimester? Has not telling anyone helped her grieve her loss and find healing for her wounds?
I can tell you from experience, as someone who has gone through a miscarriage and only having told a hand few of people, that being alone through that, even though it’s what I thought I wanted at the time, was the worst experience in my entire life. I thought I was protecting myself from having to be vulnerable with people. I didn’t want them to see my grief, but now I realize I was suffering in the wilderness alone, without God and friends, and it took me months to realize that I had never truly grieved that loss. Even the people who did know what I was going through, well I refused to let them into my heart to feel that pain with me.
When we spoke at church about the antidote to suffering in the wilderness, which is connecting to community so you can in turn be connected to God who loves you, it was then I realized that no one should have to remain in the wilderness. That’s not where God wants us to be, and if we are going to thrive and find peace through our suffering, we need to be honest, vulnerable and in community with people who love us and want the best for us.
May 16, 2014
This is life sometimes, don’t pretend or compartmentalize or ignore or placate. Simply obey the sadness. Speak the truth of what is happening. Not the truth you wish were real. Not the truth that ought to be. Not the platitudes or time-worn cliches to minimize grief.
Of course, it’s wrong, we weren’t meant for this. This isn’t shalom.
But this is what is happening – whether it’s right in our own homes or halfway around the world in Nigeria – and so we learn to obey the sadness and live into the Gospel in the midst of it, to speak the truth.
I left work early due to a terrible headache, a flushed and almost dizzy feeling. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. I’m 17.5 weeks pregnant and have been feeling pretty good for the past month or so. Suddenly, like a ton of bricks, I just wanted to sleep my life away. I was so upset by this onset of pain that I felt as if I was on the verge of uncontrollable tears. Yes, I know, it could be the hormones (I know you’re all thinking it). But I think it’s something much deeper than that. It’s this feeling that we’re supposed to be something we’re not. We’re always supposed to be strong, to be “right,” to be “on.” But when life happens, hormones happen, sickness happens, and we aren’t “right” we begin to feel guilty, overwhelmed, less than… or maybe that’s just me.
There’s so much I’ve been thinking about saying as someone who has struggled with infertility for years and is now miraculously pregnant, but I’m feeling paralyzed. For months I’ve been focused on as much as I need to be focused on without really diving deep into how this whole experience is affecting me. I am continually bouncing back and forth between dealing with just the here and now, and being amazingly excited, anxious and consumed by this new phase in life.
So if I listen to Sarah Bessey’s wisdom, and allow myself to obey the sadness, part of that means sharing that sadness with others. Sharing thoughts, fears, anxiety, doubts, and even the wisdom that may eventually come along from it. All of it matters. All of it can help me make heads or tails of what I’m going through, and may be able to help others get through their own experiences through relating to mine.
I’m challenging people to consider helping our society open the door to the pregnancy closet. Provide the women in your life with the love and support they need to be honest with the people in their life so they can say “I’m pregnant” even as early as seeing that first positive pregnancy test, that way if, God forbid, the pregnancy is lost in the first trimester, they will have a solid support system of family and friends who are ready and willing to grieve with her, and she is ready and able to let them support her. Losing an unborn child in the first trimester is still a loss and that woman needs as much support as any other person who lost a loved one. Also, a woman experiencing pregnancy (especially for the first time), needs support to get through the myriad of emotions, anxiety, fear, doubt, excitement, etc. that comes along with this new phase in life. No one should be left alone in the wilderness to fend for herself until it’s more comfortable for society to deal with her situation.
As of today, 80% of women will give birth to a child and 1 out of 4 women will have a miscarriage at some point during their reproductive years. Women are not alone in any of this, so we really need to start talking about it and start supporting one another through all of it: pregnancy (whether healthy or with complications), infertility, miscarriage, stillbirths, motherhood, the good, the bad, and the ugly. No more should we fear being vulnerable, but instead we should take the risk, leave the wilderness and allow ourselves to be surrounded by those who love us and want nothing but the best for us, our friends, family, and God.
As long as we allow others into our hearts and our lives, we can escape the wilderness.
What is your opinion on telling people (whether it’s one or many) about being pregnant in your first trimester? Have you experienced pregnancy loss and had a good or bad experience with the support you received, if any? How can we women better support one another through our journey towards motherhood?