What I Learnt in the Battle

Okay, so it has been a LONG time since I’ve posted anything.

To be honest, recently I haven’t had the head space for actually sitting down and writing what I was thinking because I didn’t really understand a lot of what I was thinking.

Things are coming back into focus now though, and my absolute central hope is that God would be glorified in the battles I’ve faced this year.

The very best thing, would be if there would be something small in what I’m about to share that would encourage you in whatever you’re facing.

If you’d asked me this time last year if I had walked through struggles in life, I would absolutely have said yes.

I mean I had.

I’d suffered that usual teenage cocktail of self doubt/feeling-insecure-because-of-my-nose/lack of confidence thing, AND an awful break up from a first boyfriend who pretty much sucked, AND learnt (often the hard way) about how to function in church ministry.

In my mind, at least, I’d seen it all. Or at least, as much as I expected to see…

2016 had rocked for me, by the way. Josh and I had been married a whole year and were getting into our stride, work had been good, my writing had been good.

I was good.

Even better, two days after Christmas, after barely three months of trying for a baby, I found out that Josh and I were expecting a baby.
This was genuinely something I wanted really badly. I had streeeeeeeeeessed about getting married (worrying about how I would adjust, how we would agree on what TV Shows to watch etc) but having children? I didn’t even blink an eye. In fact, we sort of waited that first full year because people told us it was a good idea, not because we wanted to.

Because I am a super planner, instantly I began a list of everything we would need to buy, I began googling and listing names I liked, My parents had given me a sewing machine for Christmas so of course I made our future little one a stuffed jellyfish.

The idea of something going wrong had crossed my mind – mostly because, as mentioned above, I worry about everything – but I didn’t genuinely believe anything would actually happen.

I mean, year I’d had problems in the past, but miscarriage? That was a BIG problem to me, a problem that other people experienced, not Me. Not Jessica-who-worries-about-everything-for-no-reason-at-all.

The doctor recommended we go for a viability scan at seven weeks – which was for exactly what it sounded like, to make sure that the pregnancy was ‘viable’. Admittedly, I did wonder whether we’d bother having one, but decided we would, mostly because I was really, really excited to hear our little baby’s heartbeat.

So, at seven weeks, I showed up to the radiologists for that first scan, and with no concern at all, they told me that everything was a bit smaller than they expected. They couldn’t see a heartbeat yet, which was fine, it just meant I got my dates wrong.

I rolled my eyes at this part. Dates wrong? Me? Over-organized-Jessica? I didn’t get dates wrong.

They asked us to come back in another ten days. Of course I was nervous, ‘All I want to see is a heart beat.’ I told God, ‘then I’ll be happy.’ But honestly? The whole thing felt like a little speed bump. A good story I would tell people later about a ‘struggle’ in my pregnancy when I was worried and had to lean on God.

We went back ten days later, and the scanned again, picking up the tiny beating of our little 5mm long baby’s heart. I cannot tell you the relief I felt.

‘See that?’ the woman with the highly technical medical device said, ‘its irregular. The beat is irregular, and probably a little slow.’

She looked at my husband and I with a pretty stoic expression – explaining that this wasn’t ideal, but the heart could have ONLY just started, so we would have to come back in another seven days for another scan.

Her words made me nervous, but I didn’t genuinely see anything going wrong. People were born with irregular heartbeats, no drama.

Regardless, I still worried, so I prayed like crazy – my family prayed like crazy – and I set to work distracting myself for the next seven days. I was sent for blood tests too, every sequential day to watch my hormone levels – FYI, I hate blood tests.

The day of that final scan I was not as nervous as I thought I’d be. I mean generally when I worried about something it never actually happened. I headed to the radiologist and sat in the waiting room. They were running ahead of schedule so I was seen before my husband arrived.

They I lay down, they took a look and the second the image came to life on the screen I knew.

What had last time been a little flashing light, had become an arched outline, all shadows. I remember thinking it looked like a fallen star, out of the William Joyce Book about the Sandman.

I don’t remember exactly what she said, but I remember how she said it. Unemotionally, I was informed that the heartbeat had stopped, that she had expected this, and it happened frequently, and a referral would be sent to my doctors for the next step.

Totally numb, and trying as hard as I could in that moment at least to reflect the emotion of my radiologist. That I wasn’t that upset, that it wasn’t a big deal, I left the room, handed the receptionist my slip, and then looked at my husband where he sat, and shook my head.

He asked me if it was bad, and I said ‘really bad.’ just wanting to get out of the building. He didn’t seem to totally understand so I actually had to say it, ‘the heart stopped.’

The whole thing felt totally surreal, and we got into my car and I just cried, trying to reason this in my head. These kinds of things never happened to me – I just worried about them. But it had happened.

My husband was amazing, and so incredibly supportive. He phoned my parents, he told them what I couldn’t even say without completely losing it. Then I went home. My family were amazing. I genuinely wanted to do nothing but cry and not think about what had happened, so they phoned the doctors, and booked appointments, and gave me and my husband space.

Up until then, because this had never seemed like a possibility, I had no idea what even happened when you miscarried. I didn’t know what the procedure was going to be, what I’d be expected to do, or anything. My husband and I went to the doctors the next day, unfortunately, the midwife I’d been working with hadn’t communicated anything back to my doctor, so I had to explain the whole thing all over again. I was referred to the Early Pregnancy Clinic and was told they’d be in touch later that day.

The nurses and doctors at the clinic were amazing. Trying to seem totally fine and cool, my husband and I went to see the first gynecologist, to discuss the next steps. She was the most lovely woman and saw totally through my faked smile and attempt at seeming in okay.

‘I can tell you’re a really friendly person, but how are you feeling?’ she asked me, and I totally lost it. Absolutely bawling, she asked us if this was a wanted pregnancy, and there literally is not a word to describe how wanted.

I had imagined my September, how my life would change and how excited I was.

Basically my body hadn’t realized that the baby had died. As a result, instead of an intrusive operation, or simply waiting for my body to catch up with what had happened, I decided to take medication to induce a miscarriage.

I was petrified. The nurses explained what would happen, that I would come to the Hospital, get a blood test, then they would give me an Anti-D (Because I am a negative blood type) and then the pills. Two, that I would take, then wait a half an hour to make sure my body hadn’t reacted badly. The whole thing would start.

‘You will, at some stage, feel like you’re going to bleed to death.’ the nurse told me seriously, ‘but you won’t.’

I went home after my appointment, and cried harder than I have in my entire life. On the bed in my spare room, my husband just sat with me and I couldn’t understand how he couldn’t hear the screaming I felt inside. Just so broken and disappointed.

This was never meant to happen to me.

What I found was hugely helpful was that as the nurses explained every part of the process that I really, really didn’t want to undergo (starting to bleed, the actual pregnancy material passing, everything I had never wanted to experience) they would say ‘we want this to happen, because this means that…’ so as terrible as I felt about it happening, I understood the why.

So I got the blood test, took the Anti-D, then the pills – which was totally the hardest part because I guess I had to swallow them, my actions, separating me from this little forming person I so deeply loved.

I went home, waited. And nothing happened.

I went from being super nervous about the process to just wanting it to happen.

Then I felt angry with God. He took my baby, and now I couldn’t even lose it properly. I felt stuck, just wanting to deal with everything, but he couldn’t even help me out enough to have the pills work.

And then someone intentionally drove towards my husband on his motorbike coming out of our driveway (just to spook him for fun) and made him drop his bike.

And then when I went back to take the pills again, I ended up in the Emergency Department a day later because the bleeding was so heavy and painful, that normal medication wasn’t taking it away. And then I fell off the patients list between the change over of staff, so I didn’t get seen until 1 in the morning. By that stage, I had had over nine blood tests in a week and a half, I had a lure in my arm, there was a LOT of blood, and I had a total emotional melt down in the back room of the nurse’s office.

And then (still heavily bleeding) I showed up home and the pain in the butt neighbors over our fence parked in my carpark so I had to walk a huge distance to get inside my house when I just wanted to sit down because without going into huge detail, if you miscarry, gravity is not hugely helpful.

And then we ended up at the emergency vets with one of our rabbits, who had suddenly gotten sick.

It was like every single thing that could go wrong, went wrong.

Often when I’d gone through hardship before, there would be the crap, but God would sprinkle little blessings over the top of it, as if to say ‘it is okay, Jess, I know this is hard, but I love you.’

I did not feel this at all.

I felt like God had forgotten about me. I told a close friend I felt like I was in a one way relationship with Him. As if God expected me to pray and worship and love him, and I was meant to be happy and this horrible situation in my stride because I didn’t deserve his love anyway so why should I expect to be blessed in anyway?

I need you to understand – my lovely reader – I have never, ever felt that angry, and that distant from God in my whole life. I didn’t want to have to rally myself, put the effort in, press closer to him, I needed him to come and find me, right where I was.

Talking one day with a friend I confided in her about how I was feeling, and she said to me, ‘Jess. God knows what it feels like to lose a child.’

It was later on, while I was taking a shower this thought fully took roots. I was seeing God wrong in what had happened.

Up until then, in my mind, I saw him standing to one side, hands in the air as the intensity of our situation hit us, saying ‘Sorry, there you go!’ Like he didn’t care, like he wasn’t upset at all, like it meant nothing to him.

Then I realized, fully, that I had seen God in my trial wrong. He wasn’t to one side, indifferent, he was heart broken, and he was just as upset that we had lost our baby as we were.

Miscarriage is a part of the curse a direct result of sin. It was not what God ever wanted, it is what has happened as a part of the fall. This was the first helpful revelation I had. That God hated my situation just as much as I did.

I really want you to know, if you are in the situation I was in, or another that is equally as heart breaking, this heartbreak is not God’s purpose for you. I promise you.

It was like my eyes were opened, I suddenly saw the cross, this symbol of what should have been death, that now millions of people wear around their necks as a symbol of hope. I suddenly appreciated the depth and the intensity of that statement that Apostle Paul makes, ‘death? Where is your sting?’ that ‘God works all things together for the good of those who love and follow him.’

I could see very clearly that God’s plan was not the death of our baby, our baby died because we live in a world impacted by the fall and original sin. But the hope that we have, the eternal hope that God has already won. One day I will meet by little one (something I am hugely looking forward to) but not only that, God’s promise in Romans 8:28 is that regardless of the crap that happens, the devil gains no ground because God makes those horrible ugly situations (like the cross) into his glory and testaments to his faithfulness and goodness.

As much as I hated people saying it, I would be stronger, and more sure, and God would show and tell me things that regardless of the pain and loss, would bring him glory and be restored.

It became clear to me that the bible is not just a book with really helpful advice with this lovely Gospel in it. It is more than that. It is the wrestling of two kingdoms. God’s Kingdom of light and the devil’s rebellion of darkness.

I understood that God wasn’t responsible for my miscarriage, the devil was. He did it, and I believe in those horrible moments the devil likes to make us feel as far away from God as he possibly can. I (and you) are caught up in this battle, this war.

When I understood that, I didn’t see God as this passive powerful entity that stood to one side while I suffered. I saw that until his Kingdom returns, there will be hardship, between the contention of the ‘Now’ we live in and the ‘Not Yet’ of what Jesus accomplished on earth.

Like A.W Tozer says, I was going to talk back to the devil.

My friend (the same one from earlier) reminded me of that old song from the 90s we used to sing in church ‘I went to the enemy’s camp and I took back what he stole from me.’

Was the devil going to derail me? Hurt me? Render me despondent and disappointed with God and my life? HELL, no.

The next really helpful revelation came one night in church, as I stood in worship.

I had sort of become too fatalistic. Understanding the battle, and the fact that we get afflicted by the devil in this world… and was leaning far more to almost expecting trail.

This wasn’t healthy emotionally, as it was basically robbing my hope.

My husband and I decided to start trying for another baby as soon as we could, and I expected (as it had been last time) that it would happen quickly. I grieved not only our little baby, but the role I was going to step into as a mother.

Unhelpfully (yet wonderfully) I found out friends and even family members were pregnant, which made this differed expectation way worse. I became jealous of these women for feeling sick, or tired – which sounds weird.

I felt bad for being skinny still, as they got bigger and bigger. I would hide from people with their baby and pregnancy photos on Facebook because I couldn’t handle it but it was especially hard when people in real life around you are celebrating their excitement and you’re just waiting.

It says in Proverbs, ‘Hope differed makes the heart sick.’ and my differed hope was making me unwell, emotionally and spiritually, and as you’d expected it impacted everything.

I stood in worship that night and felt God whisper a bible verse to me, I literally couldn’t recall the reference, but I felt him impress it into my heart.

‘I would have despaired had I not believed that I would see the glory of the Lord in the Land of the Living.’

The following day I just happened to flip the news paper over, and my eyes fell to where they print the daily bible verse. I could barely believe it when I saw the same words God had spoken into my heart the night before there in black print.

Psalm 27:13

The second thing I learnt in this battle is that you cannot allow the devil to rob your expectation of the now. God’s plan is not for us to live, constantly afflicted, in heartache.

If this is your situation today, firstly, I am so, so, sorry, because I know how dark that feels. But I want to encourage you that this season will pass. You WILL see the glory of God, the goodness of who he is, this side of eternity.

After the miscarriage, things weren’t easy. It can do weird things to your marriage, and put stresses on you as a couple and individually that you never, ever expected. Especially when it comes to trying again. It genuinely did feel like we were swept up in this awful horrible year.

One of the best things my husband and I did was take communion together. I felt like the enemy had had a good go at us this year, and we needed to draw a line in the sand. That out expectation wasn’t more bad. So together, we prayed through out house, and then took communion together, identifying that we were in unity with Jesus in his death and resurrection, and as a result, we can bind the works of the devil.

It was one of the most freeing and best things we did, and if you are in a season of attack, I really recommend this, not just emotionally, but I believe it does amazing things in the spiritual too.

The third (and last) thing I learnt in this season of battle, has been God’s restorative power.

I always loved the references that God makes all through the bible about transforming wildernesses (desert places) into Gardens. Isaiah 35 is all about this actually, God’s salvation and what his restoration looks like.

This revelation came to me recently, when I realized that while God did not take my baby away, he had charge of my healing. I was so impatient to get pregnant again, and be back where we were that I didn’t see the work God wanted to do in my husband and I, individually but also as a couple.

Truth is God knows us better than we know ourselves. God knows what restoration needs to take place, and he is in the business of total restoration. Whatever you are in right now, be it miscarriage like I was, or a relationship break down, or loneliness, or illness, or stress, or just feeling overwhelmed, I promise you, God plans to undertake a restorative work.

We have to have Abraham faith.

In the book of Genesis we see Abraham being asked by God to sacrifice his miracle, his only son, Isaac. The very thing that God promised him. Faithful, Abraham takes Isaac to the mountain to sacrifice him, and right at the last second God says ‘NO!’ and provides a lamb.

In Hebrews 11:17-19 we find this scripture that reads:

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; 18 it was he to whom it was said, “In Isaac your descendants shall be called.” 19 He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead

Abraham believed in the restorative work of God. That even if Isaac died, God could raise him from the dead. He can make death, life, bring beauty from chaos.

He can reach right into your circumstances, and my circumstances and begin not just a quick patch up, a do up, but a complete restoration.

I believe that for you today, even as you sit reading this.

I felt God tell me – when he revealed this plan of restoration – that there was a part I needed to play too. He began to bring to mind things I had said (mostly to my husband) that I needed to apologize for. They were things I had completely forgotten about but I remembered saying or feeling or thinking them and understood that while it seemed like a small thing, God’s total work was going to be in lots of small things that then fixed the big things.

Look, I won’t lie, I won’t say this has been a breeze, and that I’ve always been absolutely composed and perfect, and waltzed through this hardship in the way that I would only ever be proud of.

I’ve felt angry, alone, I’ve said things that I should never have said. I have felt like a burden on those I love, I’ve felt like a total drain on everyone’s emotions and like a total hassle. But God doesn’t expect us to walk through things perfectly. It says that his strength is perfected in weakness.

Whatever your situation, whatever your battle, please take a deep breath, and give yourself some grace. I hope what God has been teaching me is helpful to you, and that you can find a little comfort for what I expect would be a very wounded heart.

I wrote this song in the middle of all of this, mostly because that’s how I work, I write songs that I need to sing, then I sing them until I actually mean it.

That little plate in the picture is hugely significant for my husband and I. It sits on the shelves in our bedroom. We have two bunnies (Rupert and Jemima) we always joked that they are our ‘practice’ children, and when I found out I was pregnant we used to call the little baby ‘Big Lunch’ as that’s what it looked like I had or our third bunny.

To mark our first little one’s life we brought this plate, our sleeping third bunny, that one day we’ll meet them. Behind this plate is the only picture we got of them, 5mm long, with their little flashing heartbeat, before that final scan.

I had wanted to only share this journey when I was pregnant again, you know? As a ‘I made it! I survived!’ because admittedly, I still get really sad, and it is still really hard watching everyone I know get pregnant and have totally normal pregnancies and then meet their little babies when I didn’t get that.

It is still a struggle and we are still working through it. I guess also miscarriage is this thing we feel like we shouldn’t talk about. I am pretty quiet about it, but I felt that God wanted me to share my story.

Maybe practically you find it helpful, if you opt to take the pills and they didn’t work the first time and you’re scared.

Or you don’t think your body will go back to normal, or you’re emotionally battered.

Or maybe emotionally you will find my story helpful, the revelations God has shown me.

Whatever it is, I hope this has helped.

I’m not going to share this post on Facebook – at least not yet – because I am still taking my steps through this, rather helpfully barely any of my friends don’t actually read my blog anyway… but I hope that in sharing my story, in this little secret corner of the internet, someone out there finds a little glimmer of the hope they need.

God is genuinely good, and he is with you

x Jess

 

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