Wow. Where to begin…
This blog post has been a long time coming. I’ve been wanting to blog about it but have just never gotten the courage to do it. Until now.
In February of this year, I had a feeling I was pregnant. I am regular as clockwork, and knew something was amiss. Call it intuition, or the sixth sense, I knew something was up. I took a pregnancy test and saw a super faint line. According to the box, any line, no matter how faint, is Positive. I didn’t want to read too much into it, so I decided to wait a couple of days and test again.
Two days later, a darker, definitely more pronounced line. I wasn’t sure what to feel. We hadn’t been really trying, but at the same time, weren’t being super careful about preventing it. I was excited, but knew that this would definitely be life-changing. Little did I know, it was the beginning of the unexpected.
I took pre-natal vitamins, rested, slept – a lot. But other than the absence of the period, I didn’t have many symptoms. Timing was perfect. We were set to move back to Australia in May. Perfect, as I would have just started my 2nd trimester by then. This year truly was turning out to be amazing, especially after a pretty shocking 2014.
We decided to see a local doctor to take a blood test. Week 4 – 6 passed in a big blur. I didn’t expect things to change so quickly. On the one hand, hubby and I were starting the thought (and feelings) processes of preparing to be parents. Thinking of the possibilities, hopes, dreaming, having ideas, imagining how much this would change us, for the better. Life would never be the same again. Our family would never be the same either. Anticipating this huge change, not only physically but in almost every other aspect of life, to occur in the lead up to late October (predicted due date).
By the end of week 6, there were some irregularities with the blood tests. My hcg levels were increasing, but just not as much as they should have been. There was expected to be exponential growth, but there was just a gradual growth instead. This was causing my doctors some concern.
I struggled so much with the Chinese health care system. Even though we were at a private international hospital, things were just getting uncomfortable and lost in translation. Not everything was translated, even with the translator there. We struggled with the way things were done. And after hearing that they concerned with ‘the baby not being in the baby house’, we knew we had to look elsewhere for help. Anyway, that brought us to the international clinic that friends worked at. And there, things were not much better, but at least communication was clear and results were interpreted correctly. Explanations were straight-forward.
Week 7, the clinic doctor asked us to consider the worst, and that we should consider getting further tests and ultrasounds in a hospital that had the technology and expertise required. He was quite concerned that this would not be a viable pregnancy, and that it was likely to be outside the uterus. Worse case scenario, ectopic pregnancy and a possible rupture, which would mean serious internal bleeding and emergency surgery. The doctor was experienced and knew that part of China well and knew that we would be more comfortable with health care elsewhere.
So here was the roller coaster of emotions. I was distraught, but now also had to face further travel and other expenses ontop. How could something so amazing and filled with joy, be just ripped away in what felt like a blink of an eye? How could things change so quickly? How could what we felt that God was blessing us with (down to the perfect timing, etc) be taken away like this? How could what would be a blessing of life, bring danger to my own? All these questions and more were what brought on some seriously sleepless nights. This is of course, on top of my already improving depression and anxiety. I was doing SO WELL. And had almost gotten to the point where I was almost, almost, back to how I was.
Hubby knew that I had no emotional energy to sought out insurance, hospital, travel, etc. So, he took charge of all that. And what a blessing that was! But a huge toll on him as well. Because, it wasn’t just me going through this, it was us both. Definitely different as a man, but he was still going through the understanding and emotional stress. So, during that seventh week, we made the decision to fly to Thailand to a world renown hospital to receive medical care. The other options were to stay in China (highly not recommended by doctors that have worked there for over 15 years) or to fly back to Australia (which would be long and may cause a rupture and uncontrolled bleeding).
By this stage, I was distressed because I was concerned about my health and well-being, and also about the cost of flying anywhere. At the same time, unable to trust that China would provide me the best option after experiencing what I already had. So off to Thailand we went. To make matters worse, our insurance company didn’t cover any of it. They were adamant on choosing the Chinese option.
Anyway, we got to Thailand when I was 7 weeks, 6 days and I was honestly at the end of my tether. I’d cried, and already begun mourning (in a way), but I was clinging to that one piece of hope, that there was still a chance that I would get there, and the OB would do the ultrasound, and there would be the foetus, healthy and with a heartbeat. And I’d just made the decision to spend the money and travel, just to get that piece of mind.
Week 8 was the following day. We went to the hospital for our appointment. They did an internal ultrasound and saw a sac. The OB told us straightaway that it was empty. That I had a blighted ovum. I’d never heard this before and had to Google it later to find out more about it. It is when the embryo sac develops, but no foetus forms, or it begins to form, but then the body realises there is a problem with it, and stops continuing to put nutrients into it. God’s way of reclaiming his own. I was shattered, but not completely unprepared.
Supposedly, one in two miscarriages before 12 weeks is due to the blighted ovum. And majority of cases, most women don’t even know that they are pregnant. Blown away. And every single person I’ve talked to (including counsellors) have never heard of it, or did not know that the incidence was so high.
So that day I found out, the doctor actually told me that it was better to allow my body to discharge the sac on its own. To not get a D & C. Where they go in and basically scrape out everything inside the uterus. I’m glad we went with the natural too, more drawn out, but less traumatic for me in the long run.
That day, whilst in Thailand, I started bleeding. It was just like a period in a way, but much, much heavier. And oh, the BACK PAIN. It was horrific. I never get back pain too, so it was a shock. I could barely walk. Some women say that it is similar to contractions when giving birth, but as this was my first pregnancy, I had nothing to base these pains on. It was just bad. We left Thailand the following day.
And thus began the journey of grieving and mourning. Of crying the most I’ve ever cried in my life to date. Of being in pain and uncomfortableness of bleeding, but getting no end rewards to speak of. Of wanting to stay in bed day after day and just shrivel under the covers away from the rest of the world. Of wanting a bathtub SO BAD, just to soak in to ease the pain and tension I was feeling.
Spiritually, of doubting God’s goodness and sovereignty. Of being so so angry with God. Of being treated like a pawn in a game of chess. Being made a cruel joke of. I had so many angry outbursts at God, which eventually subsided into sad moanings of ‘WHY ME’? All this time though, it wasn’t as if I doubted God existed. Similar to my experience with depression and anxiety, I never once thought that God was not there. I needed him to be there in a way, so that I could be angry at him. I needed him to be there, to blame.
The anger fizzled out as quickly as it began and so began the time of extreme sadness. It actually got to the point where I could not go a day without crying. Without something setting me off just randomly. I cried myself to sleep night after night. And slowly, as I journalled this whole process, I realised that the sadness was my way of grieving. Grieving the angel whom we would have had. I was battling with thoughts of – ‘was this baby real’? Can I even call it a baby? And I realised, I wasn’t mourning so much the child, but the idea of the child. Of the life it would have had. The change in our lives. The should have, could have, would have moments… And to me, this was far more distressing. It was a downward spiral of self pity and AFFLICTION. WOW, man, did I feel like the lowliest of lows. No one that walked the earth could have been in a worse position than I was – not even Job. That’s exactly how it felt. Wave after wave of intense sadness.
Needless to say, my tolerance of China and the Chinese people and culture declined rapidly from that point. When things are going well in life, dealing with the differences in culture, etc have minimal impact on your life. But when things are so bad (from all perspectives that you can see), every little cultural thing rubs you the wrong way.
I even experienced this local man on the flight home from Thailand, sat next to me and whilst I was sketching my feelings, he told me all these suggestions about my drawing to improve it, and even took my pen and drew on his napkin to show me. I was pretty pissed off – how does he have the nerve?! But I was too exhausted, and in pain to bother making the point with him. All I kept thinking was – “Nice one God, way to rub salt into the wound.”
I went through some serious lows during this time, a time when I felt I should have been experiencing highs. People around me were not the most comforting at the time either. I did not have a single person who had gone through miscarriage, coupled with recovering from anxiety and depression. I was alone. I started to feel like such a burden for Hubby to take care of, to get meals for, etc. I was just sick of feeling bad and guilty for other people. For spending energy making other people feel better, about my own situation. And it was so hard to say, ‘His will be done’, when I couldn’t see how this could be His will!
Affliction is God’s working in my life. And the more days passed, the less painful it became. It was still tough, but just not as sad. Not as unsteadily emotional. And, it was a conscious choice to not be bitter, but to choose joy.
Hubby was concerned at that point, that I was becoming a recluse. I’d only left the house twice in two weeks. The days I went out, I felt ill afterwards, the back pain would return. I still felt ‘afflicted’, and it didn’t help at the time that there were quite a few pregnant women close to me in my life. I was joyful for them, but speaking to them, would trigger really sad emotions. I thought, WHOA, God must be looking down at me and thinking, ‘What a spoilt little kid.’ And, I wouldn’t blame him. After all the things He has brought me through, the countless blessings in my life, I would react in a way that resembled whining.
I started to share, first with LG in China, and then others. I still felt God’s presence, sometimes, annoyingly so. He would move me during worship, and I’d be a complete mess. My friends would pray for me in a group setting, and they were feeling just as sad, angry and unjust as I was. Devastated – was the word I was thinking. Broken too.
I got to the point where every encounter with someone would be picking at a scab that I have tried to heal. And heading back to Australia was going to be more picking at a red and raw scab, over and over again. People asking how I was, finding out, not knowing what to say, feeling awkward and pity, then me trying to spend my energy making them feel better. I was just so over it!
The fact that the symptoms of pregnancy and miscarriage were being experienced, but no fruits of that labour. I started to feel like the only time I would ‘catch a break’ was when I was dead and with Jesus. Not that I wanted to die, just that I had to acknowledge that this was hard, that I couldn’t do it alone, and that I was not alone. God is with me.
Speaking to a counsellor, I was able to speak with clarity. I remember not needing or wanting to cry whilst speaking to her. I didn’t need to. They grief was for me. The counsellor encouraged me to listen to Rick Warren’s video on dealing with grief – after their son committed suicide. I was so encouraged! He and his wife went through the six stages of grief – shock, sorrow, struggle, surrender, sanctification and service. It reminded me that life doesn’t make sense, but we know God is with us and loves us. When we realise that there is no answer to the question… WHY?, we realise the only true path to peace is surrender. God knows how it feels to lose a child. The biggest lesson for Hubby and I was the realisation that, everything on earth is broken, but we can have joy because we know God is good and has a greater plan. We were comforted that we could rebuild and try HOPE again. And the grieving? It was for us. For Hubby, for me, for our families, and friends. Sometimes unexpected things become a part of life. The Lord uses these things to be a part of our life’s adventure.
At retreat, the speaker asked us to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us the Father. As soon as I closed my eyes, I saw God the Father’s hand touch my face and His thumb wiped away my tears, and then lifting my heavy head and eyes to see Him. It was an amazingly powerful moment. And a friend told me afterwards that she saw Father enfolding me with loving arms. Also, another friend came up at the retreat after noticing my tears, he didn’t want to know what was happening, but blessed me by reminding me that God is faithful.
After that, I was on the path to true healing. Only time allowed the pain to fade, but like I mentioned earlier, every once in awhile, the emotion will resurface. I returned back to Aus with mum who came to support me. And rested both physically, emotionally and spiritually. Hubby followed soon after.
I received 2 Timothy 3:11-12 in a devo not long after being reunited in Aus with my Hubby. ~ ‘the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.’ Was so encouraged that God was with us during all of this. That we go through life’s trials and troubles hand in hand. Living a godly life involves persecution. Life is not meant to be easy, and no one should expect it to be so.
I also came across John 15, as Hubby encouraged me to read it one day. That we should remain in God and He in us. That I long after Him, I pursue Him, I want to be close to Him, that His Word guides all of my actions because it is a part of me. God remaining in us – WOW. If He is in us, nothing can go against us and bring us down, as nothing can bring God down. And if He is in us, we should be lessened and others should see us less, but Him instead. That Love and commands go hand in hand. Obedience is our response to God’s love. God gives us commands as His love to us, because He loves us, He commands certain things of us. To grow and nurture us, just like parent and child.
Complete joy, what a concept! God tells us all this so that we may have His joy. What other joy can be more complete than what God has? It is a daily battle for me – JOY. It is through the thick and thin that we get this, and I feel the more peaks and valleys we experience in our life walk, the greater the joy we experience.
It’s taken some time for me to share this blog publicly. I wrote it awhile back, but just knew I wanted it to be something that takes the focus off me, off Hubby, and puts it squarely back on God. He is the one who knows all things, and knows the pain we go through. Hubby and I have come out of this stronger. Just like with the depression, it was a hard hit on marriage, but to get up and keep fighting, that is what makes us stronger. So cliche, but so true. Only those that have gone through loss or grief will understand.
I remember, during the first week back from Thailand whilst going through the miscarriage, I was struggling one day and hubby showed me a journal entry he had written. I remember that he asked God when were we going to ‘catch a break’. Especially after going through depression and anxiety, it just seemed like blow after blow to me, to us. Looking back on that, we both had very human emotions, and that is OK. We learnt through all of this, that God, through our own weaknesses, triumphs. Hubby and I shared about our last (what may seem to be a shocking) year with two services in Melb, and we prayed that they could see Him through it all. That the joy far outweighed the grief, trials and troubles we went through. We are both so much stronger and know that we want to help others who are or were in a similar situation. We don’t want to be surface Christians, those whose lives are seemingly ‘all good’. It upsets me that that is how I was before going to China – a ‘good’ person or a ‘good Christian’. No one is ‘good’. So, we are ready to be open, transparent and vulnerable, if that makes God higher, and us less.
Thanks to all those that have supported us. You know who you are and what you mean to us. Share this with people you feel the need to, who need to hear something like this. Also, we can be contacted to talk and support you too.
We are in this together. And I can say, it is well, with my soul…