She told us there was no heartbeat. She said it matter-of-factly, in a quiet apologetic voice. I felt my stomach instantly drop, emotion immediately clogging my throat. I wanted to tell her to check again—oh, please, please check again. I could see it right there on the screen, right there in front of me. How could the baby be dead?
I don’t understand how prayer works. I’ve been praying my whole life, ever since I was a kid, but I still am confused as to how me, my requests, and God all fit together.
When I was eight, my mom told me that she thought I could be a “prayer warrior.” I liked the sound of that, especially because I knew that’s what my great-grandmother was. I’d heard stories about Great Grandma Edna—how she prayed for each one of her children, each of her grandchildren, and each of her great-grandchildren—every day of their lives. She’d sit in her recliner in her small room of the nursing home, with a list of names, and pray for hours. Every day. She was a woman of great faith: she truly believed that God cared about her prayers.
I wanted to be like my grandmother. I wanted to be a “prayer warrior” too. So, I began to make lists of prayers, thoughts, and requests. I found a comfy fuzzy blue chair that I situated beneath my bedroom window and made it my morning prayer spot. Every morning after my shower and before breakfast, I sat in that silly chair and prayed with my list in my lap.
As I got older, I lost the habit. I, instead, prayed on my drives to and from school. I mostly prayed about boys: “oh, please let him love me.” That sort of thing.
Years later, someone did love me. God gave me the “man of my dreams.” Rob and I met in college, fell in love quickly, and married as young twenty-two year-olds. I felt like God had answered one of my deepest prayers, one of my deepest longings.
And then I had a new longing. I wanted to be a young mother; I wanted a family. We enjoyed life just the two of us, but, when Rob was ready too, we started to try for a baby.
My body didn’t cooperate for a while. My polycystic ovarian syndrome—it’s basically a mess-up of hormones—gave us fertility issues. Every month, I’d pray that I could finally ovulate. At the end of that month, I’d face a negative pregnancy test. It was a devastating cycle and I began to fear that I’d never get pregnant.
When I finally saw the two pink lines on the test, I couldn’t believe it. God had finally answered my prayer! We were going to have a baby—we were going to have a baby! We began to talk about names, look at diaper bags and bassinets. I even bought some maternity clothes. It was a new kind of happiness that I’d never tasted before.
I started to spot a few weeks later. I immediately began the googling, reassuring myself that spotting could just be a normal thing that happens to some women in early pregnancy. I started praying that God would keep our “little blueberry” safe and that it would hang in there until the twelve-week mark, when risk of miscarriage goes down considerably.
“Oh, God, please let it hang in there. Please keep it safe. You know how much I want this baby.”
But then we had the ultrasound. I still can’t get the doctor’s words out of my head: No heartbeat. No heartbeat. No heartbeat.
The doctor told me that my body simply wasn’t recognizing the death, so I needed to either take some pills or get surgery to remove the dead “tissue.” (I hate that she called it that.) I opted for the pills and wanted to do it right away, just to get it over with.
The actual miscarriage was pretty horrifying. It took a couple hours for the medication to kick in, and when it did, it hurt. I’d never had that kind of cramping before. It made me terribly sick, and poor Rob had to clean up all the vomit as I sat moaning on the toilet with diarrhea. It was traumatic. When the pain medication took over, all I could do was weep in silence.
I was in shock for a few days and then all I could do was cry. Grief came in waves over the next week and a half. I guess it’s still coming in waves. I’ll be fine for a while and then it washes over me. There is no baby.
Just as it was a kind of happiness I’d never tasted before, this is a kind of grief I’ve never experienced before. But it’s something I’ve never wanted to taste. Not ever.
I wish women talked more openly about first-trimester miscarriages. Why don’t we talk about it? It’s very common—not to lessen the pain—so I wonder why there is not more support. There is no funeral, no open mourning. I guess people think that first-trimester miscarriages are so common that the pain shouldn’t be that big of a deal—even when it is. Many women slip into depression after a miscarriage, women like me. If we can talk about depression, (which we really need to do) surely we can talk about miscarriage. Losing a baby, even in the first trimester, is a wound that may never be fully healed.
So where does God fit into all of this? I’m struggle with the thought of those prayers.
This miscarriage doesn’t make me doubt God’s existence, or even his goodness. I’ve been through other times of trial that have tested and refined my faith, and I have assurance in that faith.
Maybe it’s not a question of where God fits into all of this, but where prayer fits into all of this.
Why pray if God is going to do what he’s going to do anyway?
Why ask for something if God already has a plan set in place for my life?
I don’t know the answer to those questions right now. My grief clouds any answers. It’s a lot to mull over, and I’ll be thinking about it for a long time. I’m trying my best to make sense of something that just doesn’t make sense.
But I don’t think I’m going to stop praying. I think there is a mysteriousness to prayer that we aren’t meant to understand. It can be incredibly frustrating—I know that. It can even be heartbreaking. When God doesn’t give us what we want, how can we not be confused? Angry? Hurt? God never promises to give us exactly what we want, and that’s hard when I really don’t want that to be true.
I still want to be a prayer warrior. I don’t know what that means in light of a miscarriage, but the desire is still there. It’s probably going to look a lot different from when I was eight. Life is more complicated.
Right now, my prayers are a kind of uncertain, tentative hope—hope in the midst of mystery. God is calling me to trust him during this time of grief. He is telling me to keep praying, despite my confusion, despite the sadness—and now depression—that just won’t go away.