The valley of the shadow of death..

I took a pregnancy test, was amazed that it had two lines, came down and announced to Lawrence that he was to be a Daddy for the third time! We couldn’t believe it but were so excited, from that moment we were a family of five now!

The next day we gathered my family in the kitchen and excitedly told them- my parents mishearing and us having to say it twice! We told friends who were also pregnant and the joy that we would go through this together! I planned and ran an event, feeling so tired but beautifully so, as I knew it was because I was carrying her. I went on holiday feeling so sick, didn’t drink at the wedding, told my closest friends and we all talked and dreamed of how 2020 will now look with all this baby will bring. Lawrence applied for a full-time job in order to provide while I went on maternity leave. We looked at bigger cars, planned how bedrooms would work, talked through things that would need to change and all the joy that was to come.

We had a scan, saw her heartbeat, felt more secure in the future that was before us.

So we told a couple more people, even telling random women at checkouts where I could because I was so happy I just needed to share it! My body felt different, I recognised all that had happened before- only this time I felt pains. This was different to before. At my midwife appointments we talked about how this time would be, I went through plans, to possibly have caesarean and so booked in future appointments. I asked about the pains, but was assured it was probably stretching and growing, nothing to worry about.

I started to plan maternity cover, how it would best look, and the date to share our news wider was set.

Then, the pains increased, the worst week of my life hit, and we lost our baby.

The term is ‘miscarriage’. Though to say ‘I had a miscarriage’ feels so small in comparison to the trauma, pain and grief I have walked through in the past six weeks.

I have always loved Psalm 23, just before this happened I heard and shared something from Kris Vallotton

‘The Valley of the shadow of death is where you walk through, you do not sit or lie here as you do by the still waters and green pastures, you don’t set up camp here, you walk through it.’

I am not writing this from the other side, I am walking through, it is the most slow painful deeply sad valley I have had to journey. I have tried to find answers or just other people who have been through it. It has been so helpful. So, I will try to share some observations I am seeing while I walk through this valley.

  1. It is not quick.

I think from movies I have seen, a woman screams in a bathroom, and it is over. I thought it must be a quick loss and all done. Yet what I have seen through friends and now sadly myself, is that it is different for everyone but quick for no-one. For me from start to end physically it was 17 days, I had surgery so that is relatively short in comparison to many other women. Women who you may work with, who won’t say a word, yet are walking through this pain for weeks.

2. It is painful

You are in labour, it is contractions, at points I couldn’t help but shout out like I had in labour previously. You can feel fine then suddenly it starts again. I had to go back into hospital as it wasn’t right. To go through this pain, without the joy at the end, is the most painful part.

3. There is no ‘right or wrong’ way to grieve

I am sad to say that many people I love have lost their babies. Some have chosen to keep it between themselves, to hold it and privately grieve. Others have chosen to let go of a balloon or have some kind of symbolic ceremony. Some had their baby and chose to bury and have a special place. The majority of people, as I see it, choose to not share what has happened. 1 in 3 women experience this loss, this makes me aware to be more kind. To give both men and women, these Fathers and Mothers, more grace, people are often facing something we may not know about. So I want to be more kind.

For us, we buried our baby. We named her and took her to a place that is precious to us. A place we can visit. This wasn’t easy, none of this was easy. Yet our special place brings me comfort and a place to feel peace.

4. To know we may one day have another, feels kind of irrelevant.

It may feel helpful to say or think we can just try for another. That maybe we can have another child one day and so it’ll be ok.

The point is- we love this one. I spoke to this baby everyday, I prayed and believed for the life they would live. I carried her and was so excited to hold her and do life with her. She has siblings, an older brother who talked to her and was excitedly keeping the secret and watching my tummy start to grow. She has a sister who loves dolly’s and prams and would have loved a real baby.

We had taken our announcement photo, a picture which now feels more significant than we knew.

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That little chair will remain empty. Even if we have another child, their chair will go next to this one. I have three children.

5. You have choices

If I imagine a room, in that room is a button, if the button is pressed then my baby will live, the button wasn’t pressed, my baby died. If I knew that my Dad was in that room, I would have a choice.

Choice A: To hate him, because he was in the room and didn’t press the button- that whatever went on, he should have pressed it and now I want nothing to do with Him.

Or Choice B: That because my Dad was in the room I trust that something more has happened here. All because I know him, I know his character, I know he loves me and loves my baby and only wants the best. That other things must have gone on in that room that I don’t understand and won’t know. Yet I trust my Dad, and I love my Dad and I know he loves me.

This is my choice with God. I don’t understand it, at times I feel so angry, hurt, confused- I decided if this time were a book I would call it ‘WHAT THE !?’. There are things I won’t know this side of heaven. Yet, I know His character. I know He is faithful, He is Just, He is merciful, He is close to the brokenhearted, He is kind, He is good, He doesn’t want or intend pain, He loves me far more than I could ever know. He knows suffering, pain and loss.

That is truth, and I have a choice to hold onto Him.

‘The presence of God is my North Star, it always leads me home”

Melissa Helser

I have chosen to lean into His presence, even when it is painful and hard. To listen to podcasts and hear a line that speaks to me and note it down, to listen to worship and sing it to my soul, to read His word. To be still, and Know that He is God. I know that in His presence I will eventually heal, be restored and find who I am again. Not the same as I was before, but I would rather walk through this with Him than without Him.

This has been the most ‘steal, kill and destroy’ experience I have been through. Those words, describe the enemy, not my God.

I went to a worship night 2 days after surgery. I sat, utterly broken. As others around me danced and sang loudly ‘THE KING IS COMING IN’. I felt, ‘it would have been great if you’d come this week, if you’d done something’. Then I paused, and said ‘but I need you, I know I need you, speak to me’.

I closed my eyes and watched a Lion walk into the room. From the back to the front and stand before me. Huge and majestic, powerful and strong. He sat down, leaned forward on his paws, tilted his head, as though to invite me in. Invite me to just rest on Him. Like Aslan bends low and invites Lucy, in Narnia.

This has been the theme so far throughout this time. In many different ways, the same thing has echoed. Just choosing to be here, in His presence, is enough. I don’t have to ‘do’, I am loved just by ‘being’. So I chose, hard as it is at times, to be.

6. I don’t know when you feel better.

Six weeks ago today, my baby was removed, six weeks ago tomorrow we buried her. I can feel ok but then see a pram and feel like I have been kicked in the stomach. I can feel ok and then see someone at the same stage as me announce news, the gender, their joy and it feels like I might collapse. I can feel ok and then any number of small insignificant things can feel so huge that I am overwhelmed and have to cry and cry. There is so much that should have been, and now is not.

I miss my baby. I miss carrying her, how my body felt so full and now feels so empty. I miss planning for the next year- plans to be hugely pregnant at Christmas playing Mary in the nativity, for a baby-party with excited family and friends, maternity leave, pushing a pram, warm tiny cuddles, for my parents to be grandparents again and my sisters to be aunties, for the joy that awaited and even the sleepless nights, now I struggle to sleep for a less welcome reason. I miss the life I thought was coming and now isn’t. Having to get back into everything as it was, and nothing has changed, continuing with the norm yet holding this great loss.

That is what I mean when I say ‘I have had a miscarriage’. A whole world I didn’t know the depths of until I experienced it myself. A new respect for the bravery of so many men and women who have walked this path.

Melissa Helser shares a word she chatted through with God. That in a forest in winter time, when it is cold and the landscape is barren. When all looks dead. If we were to go up to the bare trees and shout at them ‘Hey, spring is coming, don’t worry, it won’t be winter forever, spring will come’. The trees would bend down, smile and speak into our humanity and say ‘we know, we know how to rest’.

So for now, I will rest.

*If you are experiencing this pain right now please check out: Saying Goodbye Zoe has personally helped me through this and her book and resources are wonderful.

*I can to do another post with many of the verses, quotes, songs etc that have brought me some peace in this time. Or if you’d like to contact me please do: Hannah.bettany@gmail.com

*Huge thanks to the family and our friends who have loved us so well through this time, we so appreciate you.

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