Josh & Danielle Files | Please Know You’re Not Alone | Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness

This blog post has been almost two years in the making. Two years. After two years of silence, of stifling my emotions, of harboring the most painful secret of my life, I’ve decided to share our story of pregnancy loss in hopes that it will help a couple currently dealing with this gut wrenching reality. I’m taking a few deep breaths, trusting God, and baring my soul with this post because I’ve felt an undeniable urging and calling on my heart to share it. This post has literally been almost two years in the making. I’ve written it in my mind hundreds of times and I’ve started typing it and then scrapped it all and stared with tearful eyes at a blinking cursor. I’m scared and nervous to be so vulnerable, to willingly put aside my selfish and immature need to seem perfect and content, and to share something that has been such a huge struggle.

Josh and I will never know for sure the reason(s) our two children went to heaven before we ever got to meet them, but it happened, it’s part of our story as a married couple, and we’ve decided that we want to share it for a few reasons. We want couples out there who are going through a pregnancy loss or losses to know that they’re definitely not alone. Miscarriage is common (1 in 4 women will experience pregnancy loss). But it’s also taboo. Talking about a subject so raw, so incredibly sad, so inconceivable- it is difficult and people avoid it or sweep it under the rug or feel that it’s something that should be kept private for whatever reason (to spare others’ feelings, to avoid discomfort, to maintain a polished image, etc). We’re sharing to hopefully empower others who are dealing with this or have dealt with it. You’re not alone. And we’re also sharing because we don’t want to hide this part of our lives any longer. Our two angel babies’ very brief lives matter, they’re real people, they are part of us, and we have hope that we’ll be together with them someday in heaven.
In early March 2013, Josh and I cuddled together in our tiny master bathroom giggling and full of anticipation. I had taken an at-home pregnancy test and we both waited the few minutes for the results together. We both looked down in disbelief at a positive result. Really?! We were going to have a baby! We were happy, nervous, and a mixture of other emotions. We knew our lives had changed forever.
A few weeks later we held hands in the waiting room of my then-OB/GYN. We couldn’t wait to see our little baby on the ultrasound. I approximated that I was 8 weeks along. When the ultrasound tech started, Josh and I both watched the screen expectantly, blissfully unaware, and naïve. As I searched the screen, I thought something seemed strange. There was no little bean like I’d seen in other women’s ultrasound photos. My heart sank when the first word out of the tech’s mouth was, “Sorry.” “Sorry?” I thought. “Why? Please let me have misheard her.” I stared at the white ceiling and bright fluorescent lights as I listened to her explain that she saw an empty sac. She said she was going to show the image to my doctor and that we’d meet with her soon. As I redressed myself I looked in the mirror at my face, ashen and numb. A hard lump formed in my throat. No tears came. I was in denial; my brain was nothing but fog.
The doctor explained that my body had formed a pregnancy, but that no baby had formed. My hormone levels rose like they would’ve if I had been pregnant with a baby, a yolk sac and fetal pole formed, but . . . no baby. I had three options at that point- I could take medication to make my body expel the contents of my womb, I could have a surgical procedure done to remove it, or I could wait to miscarry what my body would eventually recognize as a non-viable pregnancy naturally. I attempt to deal with most aspects of life in the most natural way possible so I opted to wait for my body to miscarry naturally. I had no idea nor did the doctor prepare me for what would happen. I won’t get into too much detail here, but I’m here to discuss this privately with anyone if it’ll help them with anything they’re going through.
For six weeks (42 days), I woke up and went about my daily routines not knowing when my miscarriage would happen. The doctor had told me it’d be like a heavy period so that’s what I had mentally prepared for. This is another blog post for another day, but for a few days during those six weeks of waiting, we went to Georgia and attended the CONNECT Retreat while I was in this limbo, this strange waiting period, this dark and difficult time in my life. I need an entire blog post to explain what great and healing things God did in our lives through CONNECT, but I will say this: when we signed up to attend CONNECT, God knew what He was doing (as always) and put us right where we needed to be.
Throughout those six weeks, I felt so many different emotions. Mostly at first, I was in denial and felt nothing but numbness. After awhile, I got angry. My faith in God was shaken. I tried to lean on Him and I tried to pray, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t excruciating. Some days were easier than others. Some days I felt God close, comforting me, giving me hope, and very present amidst my struggles. Other days were dark, full of tears (the kind that wrack your entire body and exhaust you to a fitful sleep), and seemingly hopeless. Josh was everything I needed in a husband as we navigated the tumultuous and emotionally-charged unchartered waters of losing our first child. He was strong. He was my safe place. He was the rock- steady, calming, comforting- that I needed. Don’t misunderstand, he was crushed, too. We clung to each other like never before. After the numbness and the anger, one of the ugliest parts of the miscarriage ordeal was the self-blame. I felt guilty. I went over everything in my mind leading up to the pregnancy & everything after I received that positive test combing for possible mistakes I’d made or what I could’ve done differently. Rationally, I knew I could’ve done nothing to prevent it, but emotionally, I mercilessly tore myself apart in my mind.
Because we decided not to tell many people, we were forced to go about life smiling as if everything was great. At the time, I was still working my full-time job in addition to the photography business; the faćade of normalcy & happiness was difficult to maintain, but we managed. I reasoned it was preferable to fake being fine than to feel like everyone pitied me. I’ve come to recognize since then that allowing others in is all a part of healing. “Shared joy is double joy & shared sorrow is half sorrow.” (Swedish Proverb). Because I didn’t want others’ sympathy, I wanted to hide my sadness. Since then, I’ve been convicted & I’ve realized that by bottling my feelings & shutting others out, I’ve selfishly disallowed them to aid in my healing. Trusted loved ones are in our lives because they genuinely want to help us through happy times & through sad times. By distancing myself from others & keeping this a secret from them, I did not allow them to minister to me with love in the way that they would’ve certainly liked to as my family members & friends. I try not to regret the way that I dealt with my losses, but I do want to learn from the experiences.After suffering in silence for six weeks, my body finally caught up to what my brain had been aware of- this pregnancy was not viable. At 14 weeks pregnant, I began to experience the physical reality of the loss. Without going into detail, I will say that my then doctor highly underestimated the physical aspect of what I would go through.  I was in my second trimester & the physical pain was significant. For most of the worst parts, I was home alone.  Josh was photographing a session that we couldn’t reschedule for reasons I won’t mention here. Somehow, though it was lonely and extremely painful, it felt appropriate being alone crying out in agony. I wondered if God heard me. I felt helpless, alone, and defeated.Following the miscarriage, I had to get blood drawn once a week to ensure that my hCG levels (hormone present in the blood of pregnant women) returned to zero (meaning that the miscarriage was complete & that no tissue remained that could possibly cause an infection). I had to give blood for five weeks before those levels decreased to zero. It was just another constant reminder of the loss that I was trying so desperately at that point to ignore. I wanted to be normal again. To be the happy-go-lucky girl that I was before I ever peed on that stick & saw those two pink lines. The thing was, though, I’ll never be that girl again. This loss is a part of my story, of who I am, of the path God put me on. It doesn’t define me, but it is part of me.
We prayed and agonized over the decision of if and when to start trying to get pregnant again. It was scary. By the time everything finally happened, if we had gotten pregnant then, it would’ve put our due date in the height of our 2014 wedding season. This is also a blog post for another day, but we made the decision to wait to try until we could be due safely and conveniently within our wedding off-season. It sounds harsh & callous (like it’s just another business decision) when you read it in a blog post in black and white, but we have our reasons & it was a personal decision for us to wait.
Fast-forward to April 2014: another positive pregnancy test. I was cautiously excited, but my hopes were quickly dashed by another pregnancy loss. This one was nothing like the first one- it happened quickly without any doctor’s appointments. But there it was staring me in the face- another pregnancy loss after we’d purposely waited almost an entire year to try again. The horrifying and devastating thoughts ensued, “Was I able to carry a pregnancy to term?” “Would Josh & I ever be parents?” “Was there something wrong with me?” “Were Josh & I incompatible?” Self-doubt and worry began to creep into my life and gnaw away at me. The only way I got through was to rely on God. Two Bible verses stood out to me during that time. Jeremiah 29:11- “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” and Psalm 46: 1- “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” I also relied heavily on music & songs.  “Never Once” by Matt Redman is one song that stands out to me as particularly helpful during that time.
“Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far we’ve come
Knowing that for every step
You were with us
Kneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much You’ve done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in us
Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say
Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful.”
The second loss, though physically much easier to deal with, was still just that- the second loss. There was absolutely no way I would’ve made it through without my faith and hope in the future of heaven awaiting. Five weeks later I held another positive pregnancy test in my hand. We now know that resulted in our precious miracle Tenley who was born February 24, 2015. We thank God for her more than daily.To anyone dealing with a pregnancy loss, please know that you are not alone. Lean on one another. Listen to one another. Allow yourselves to feel and to express your emotions. Grief looks very different for different people. If you make a conscious choice to keep your loss to yourself or to a select small group of people for your own personal reasons, be confident in that choice, but please know that you shouldn’t feel that it has to be a secret that you suffer in silence because it makes people uncomfortable. If we all rallied together & stripped away the layers of taboo surrounding this subject, people would feel permitted to share and to rely on others. People wouldn’t feel as stifled. The more pregnancy loss is talked about, the less taboo it will be. Yes, it’s extremely painful. It’s sad. It’s raw. It’s one of the saddest events that could happen to a woman. But aren’t all of those things reasons we should talk to one another about it rather than reasons we shouldn’t? This secret club of women who’ve suffered miscarriages in silence grows every second of every day. This is a common occurrence, a devastating occurrence, and one that doesn’t have to be so isolating.  A few friends of ours had gone through miscarriages and had gone on to have healthy children. Other friends have gone on to adopt- completing their family in such a beautiful way. Those stories instilled hope in us during times of despair. Our prayer is that sharing our story will do the same for anyone out there suffering through their own loss.Mini_Menning_Maternity_0003