It's said the first year of marriage is known to be one of the most challenging for some couples. You have two people who recently entered into this sacred and holy matrimony with a fresh love awakened for each other and yet, reality hits immediately following the honeymoon when you discover the truth that you are two different people now seen as one.
Though many share stories of their marital bliss, some couples experience a gloomy toughness immediately following the honeymoon-- like that of the loss of their first baby.
When my husband and I got married, I imagined we would have to learn quite a bit about each other. We were in our early twenties, vibrant and zealous about getting started with our imperfect lives. We were preparing for marriage and a family together at the same time, which meant apparent falls made our road a little bumpier. But, by God's grace and our decision to continue on our journey in marriage, we pressed forward.
It wasn't until the first ultrasound that the reality of our first year hardship was evident.
We were two excited and nervous expecting parents. We walked into our doctor's office a little shaken by the idea that we were really going to be parent's so soon in our marriage. We had only been married for two months and it was time for us to see the first heartbeat in an ultrasound. So, we checked in at the receptionist desk and found two vacant chairs.
The room was noisy-- babies cried and laughed, while women more advanced in their pregnancies waddled to and from the front desk to check in. We waited, glancing at each other with apprehension beaming in our eyes and joy ringing loudly from our smiles. We knew that this person, whoever God had for us, was going to be a special unique person and that we would likely get to know him or her while getting to know each other too.
After the initial small talk and congratulations, my doctor decided to do the ultrasound that would change my life. After checking and rechecking, no heartbeat was found.
He told us to pray (yes, we is a Christian doctor. Love that!) and that it could be too early to detect the heartbeat. And he wanted me to come back in two weeks. We did, and once again, no heartbeat and this time, no growth, no progression.
I'll never forget watching my husband beat the steering while with tears flowing down his well-defined cheeks. He was hurt. I was in physical pain, and yet we were both unaware of how the next year was going to be.
More child-loss. More pain. Again and again.
"My faith is too great to be shaken," I once thought. It wasn't until after I had miscarriage number three that I saw just how untrue that was. My husband and I were ready for children. So ready that we began planning for our little blessings early. I looked at color patterns, we discussed the nursery, and we had a long list of baby names- all beginning with the letter K. But after our first miscarriage, we were often found exchanging our faith for fear of experiencing this very traumatic experience again. Who knew wanting to have a baby so bad could be so nerve-wrecking? Instead of a joyous intimate experience, we were often stressed and filled with questions. It was nothing but God's grace and love who kept us during that tough season in our lives.
Miscarriage is something many doctors say "just happens." According to American Pregnancy, 10-25% of all clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage. These are staggering statistics that are sometimes documented by people who may not fully understand the emotional turmoil it produces for those who experience it.
I couldn't pray. I couldn't eat. I couldn't think. I couldn't cry. My emotions consumed me many nights and it did nothing but cause a huge gap between my husband and I. It was hard facing this challenge with him. So, I opted for dealing with it on my own. That was a big mistake. Through trial and error, there are a few things I learned that I believe are beneficial for couples who face grueling challenges in their marriage:
1. Get to know each other: I learned that my husband is a quiet man who isn't very expressive with his feelings. Many will agree that most men are like that. Because we were so new into marriage, we had to learn exactly how each other hurt and heal. He was trying to deal with his own feelings. We were both two people in one house fighting for our emotional sanity. We didn't blame each other, but we didn't help each other either. I needed hugs and affection. He needed to let his feelings out gradually. It took time, but with lots of prayer and a desire to comfort each other, we were able to console each other during our time of grief.
2. Stay connected: Some would say that separating may be better because you have more time to think about your issues before you come together to communicate about them. That may work for some situations, but with ours, it didn't. We tried to handle our feelings separately and it only left us feeling like we were alone. Staying connected to each other is the best way to know how each other are coping. If I didn't communicate with him, I would have continued to believe that I was unworthy to be his wife because I thought I couldn't give him children. Through our circumstance, God shows us how important it was for us to seek him together about our hurt. He then began to use us both to aid in our healing. Soon after, I saw how to be there for him too.
3. Encourage each other: One day, my husband looked at me and encouraged me to pick myself up and move on- that it wasn't the end of the world for me. His words embraced me and wouldn't let go. They were water for my thirsty soul-- timely and refreshing. He encouraged me by reading scripture verses with me and letting me know how much he loves me. That God knows and has a specific plan for my life, which he believed children were a part of. After we finally got to know how to be there for each other and communicate about it, we were able to encourage each other. I felt like I was literally being lifted out of the swamp of depression and could finally see the light of God's love through it all. He helped me re-examine my faith.
Trauma in early marriage is difficult to endure, but I believe that if we truly get to know our spouses, stay connected with each other and encourage each other, we'll find that joy amidst the pain and be comforted in knowing that no matter what type of loss, pain, fear or rejection we may experience in life, if we hang on to our faith and trust God, he can show us how to heal together.
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