bittersweet (photo Gregory Bodnar, Creative Commons)

Bittersweet

In an attempt to describe the past week’s events, bittersweet is the only word that even comes close. Let’s start with last Wednesday and the birth of Henry, my nephew, the first baby on my side of the family. A super cute little boy who’s already brought a lot of joy to my family. We then move to Sunday and a powerful church service where my husband Dave preached. You could feel God’s presence. We prayed for and anointed church members; people were healed, we prayed for freedom from addictions and illness and for a renewed understanding of God’s love in people’s lives. What made this even more beautiful was that each adult praying was paired with a member of the youth group; these teenagers were amazing and so full of faith as they prayed. We then move to Monday, an early morning scan to see our developing baby at 10 weeks.

Sadly we never saw this.

Our baby had died at 8 weeks and 1 day.

The rapidly beating heartbeat and developing body we saw 2 weeks ago was just a memory and we were faced with a lifeless dark shape on the scan photo.

As we were ushered into a private room to grieve I couldn’t believe that this was actually my life. Surely life cannot be this painful? How is it possible to lose six babies? I’m not careless. I’m not reckless. I’ve not been taking drugs and bungee jumping. Quite the opposite; I’d stopped drinking caffeine and alcohol, was taking a variety of vitamins, as well as injecting myself each day to stop my blood clotting and taking extra progesterone (in the form of a pessary, a word that sounds far nicer than it actually is). How could we have seen and experienced so much life and hope in the past few days but then come face to face with death in such a shocking way? We prayed to the same God for the life of our baby, as for the people at church the day before. The only word that came to mind was ‘bittersweet’; I had to allow both to exist, now wasn’t the time to finding the answer as to why this had happened to us. The nurses explained our options, my fear of having to go through another six hours in A&E was at the forefront of my mind, but they promised they would care for us. I couldn’t read the information through the tears running down my face, but fortunately Dave was able to read out the details of how a medically managed miscarriage works and we agreed to return the next day to start the process.

What are you meant to do when you’re waiting to miscarry? How do you kill time? Well, we just filled our house with people. Amazing, beautiful people. We ate a lot of crisps, chips, and chocolate (basically food beginning with ‘c’ as long as it was unhealthy). That night our lounge was full of people who wept with us; an unforgettable moment of sweetness in the midst of such a sad time. We spent the next couple of days eating and sitting on the sofa with friends, waiting for the medication to work its way through my body. On the Thursday we arrived at the hospital where I would stay until I had miscarried. As I walked in I thought of my dear friend who had lost 3 children and was due to give birth any moment. I walked into the ward next to the birth centre once again acknowledging the presence of another bittersweet moment, knowing she was likely to be next door celebrating new life as I mourned the loss of life. That day was shared with two other women experiencing the same loss. That ward was a hidden place, where three lives that never saw this world were lost, a stark contrast to the joy of sharing and celebrating the birth of new life across the corridor.

Not wanting to push an illustration too far, but I do feel like I’ve got all the bitter, nasty bits of life at the moment, whilst those around me have got all the sweet bits. But I don’t want that to make me into a bitter person. In acknowledging the existence of both I hope this will keep me soft. I’ve learnt from experience not to pressure myself into having to be the first person in line to hold the new baby and change its nappy. If it’s too painful then it’s ok to step back. Acknowledging there are sweet moments in people’s lives doesn’t mean I have to be the life and soul of the party; I just need to let those moments happen. There are always those annoying people who say you need to count your blessings when things are difficult. In this time I do acknowledge the sweetness of the friends and family we have and their love and compassion as well as the amazing food they’ve brought us. But I will not deny the pain and sadness we feel right now. I love my husband, my family and my friends but that does not make this time any less painful. Instead it shows me once more that life can be bittersweet, and that’s ok. For now I will rest in that, there will be a time to wrestle with God and get angry and work out how to live beyond a day at a time. But right now I’m not in that place and I think God’s ok with that. Jesus was a man of great suffering as well as great joy and that’s enough for me right now.