Editor's note: This article was originally published on Nicole Burkholder's blog, 365(ish) Days of Pinterest. It has been republished here with permission.
My fingers moved over the keys, playing the beautiful melody, but my mind was very far away. As the choir sang these words, I silently wept at the piano, struggling to see through my tears.
Bow the knee, Trust the heart of your Father when the answer goes beyond what you can see,
Bow the knee, Keep your eyes on Jesus and believe the One who holds eternity,
And when you don't understand the purpose of His plan,
In the presence of the King, bow the knee.
At that very moment, I was painfully aware of the fact that I was in the process of losing our baby to a miscarriage and there was nothing I could do about it.
It took us almost a year to get pregnant with our first child, Bryce, who was born in December of 2004. When he turned 2, we started thinking about wanting to have another baby and began trying to conceive again. It took several months of trying, but we were excited to be expecting a new baby in May of 2007.
However, around the 8-week mark, things didn't seem "right." I couldn't get in to see my new OBGYN because I was under 11 weeks, and my old OBGYN wasn't taking OB appointments anymore. Thankfully, she let me come in anyway to do an ultrasound. I saw our baby moving around on the screen and then heard the heartbeat, but the measurements weren't lining up with how many weeks I was along, and I had already been spotting. My doctor told me I was "threatening miscarriage" but there was really nothing I could do but wait and see.
Three weeks later, early in the morning on a Sunday, I started to cramp and bleed pretty heavily. It came and went, and we had obligations at church, so we went along with the day as planned, but during a trip to the restroom right before the service started, I knew there was no coming back from this. I remember the shame and sadness as I wondered if I had done something to cause this.
Monday morning we went to the ER and I was in horrible pain and bleeding profusely. It was labor, without the joys of a new child. People talk of miscarriages often, but no one told me it was going to be so ugly. When they finally confirmed that I had indeed miscarried, I was sent home with orders to come back in every couple of days for blood work. I wept from the pain and nausea and the mourning of a life lost.
I'm writing this, not for you to feel sorry for me or to generate blog views, but to share my experience with you so you can be a help and comfort to someone else who may be experiencing this type of loss. It's fresh on my mind because the choir is singing "Bow the Knee" this Sunday and it's been almost seven years exactly since we lost our baby.
DON'T compare your experience to hers
As humans, we think of ourselves, first and foremost. I can guarantee that right now, she doesn't care what your miscarriage was like, how many you've had or how far along you were. Don't put the onus of being sympathetic and polite on someone who is grieving the loss of their child. Just say something like, "I understand and I'm here for you," and leave it at that.
DON'T try to rationalize it or find some logic or higher meaning
Yes, miscarriages are fairly common. Yes, there was probably something wrong with the baby. Yes, it's the body's way of eliminating a pregnancy that isn't viable. Yes, someday this may help someone else who has suffered a miscarriage. But right now, she doesn't want to hear any of that.
DON'T feel like you need to say anything
So often we don't know what to say when someone is hurting, so we just blurt out something to fill the silence. And more often than not, we say something stupid. I'll never forget one well-intentioned lady telling me that we already had an autistic child, so we should be thankful that we didn't have another unhealthy baby to have to raise. That doesn't help an aching heart, that just brings the roiling emotions and rapidly depleting pregnancy hormones to the surface and may permanently damage a relationship. If you must say something, tell them you love them and give them a hug. The end.
DON'T forget about Dad
More than one person lost a child. While an expectant mother has a physical connection to a life growing inside her, that expectant father is already day-dreaming about teaching his new son to play catch or wondering if his little girl will look like her mother. When offering your condolences or trying to help out, remember to include Dad.
DO offer to help in specific, measurable ways
It's great if you say, "If there's anything I can do, just let me know." But everyone knows that most people will never ask for help. Instead, bring a meal or two over so there's one less thing to worry about at home. Take older siblings out for the day so Mom can sit in her room and cry without worrying about concerning the other kids. Drive her to the doctor's office so she doesn't have to sit alone while they poke and prod, reminding her yet again that the pregnancy is over.
DO offer a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen
Not everyone grieves the same way. I am not really a "sit and cry with a friend" kind of person, but there are plenty of people who are. You know your friend, sister, cousin better than I do. What do you think they would prefer?
DO remain aware of significant dates
As time passes, everyone else will forget, but that expectant mother and father certainly won't. I was very grateful to be pregnant again and expecting our Henry when the due date for our baby in Heaven rolled around. I'm sure not another soul on earth thought about it, but the week that we should have been welcoming a child into our family was very hard for me. I'm so thankful God blessed us with a healthy distraction, but that is not the case with everyone. The other date is the day the baby woke up in Heaven. Time may lessen and dull the pain so that it's not a raw, open sore anymore, but those parents will never forget. A well-timed word or card around that first anniversary would probably be a welcome encouragement.
DO encourage a way to memorialize the baby
This also falls under the "everyone grieves differently" clause. We didn't have a formal ceremony or anything, but I do know people who have done that. For us, I just wanted a way to remember our baby with love and let him or her know that we didn't forget that short life. The first Christmas after my miscarriage, we were in a specialty store and I found the perfect Christmas ornament. It was a baby with wings and the name on the box was "Love." The year is marked on it and everything. That ornament is as precious to me as all of our other "baby's first Christmas" ornaments. Every year, I hang it on the tree and think of our baby up in Heaven. I love that it's associated with Christmas, which is a bright and happy time, full of family and love.
I don't have to understand loss and pain, I just have to accept it. I trust my Heavenly Father and I know that He knows what's best for us. That's what faith is all about. But navigating the tricky waters of pregnancy and loss can be difficult at times. I hope this helps you understand how to be a blessing to someone, or encourages you to remember your own babies with love. I don't dwell on the sadness and loss, I choose to say, like David, " ... wherefore should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me."