My friends JT and Brittany Black are two of the most courageous people I know. Last week, they suffered the tragedy of a miscarriage late in Brittany’s pregnancy. Through their own grieving, they wanted to share their story while the emotions are still fresh and raw. Through their faith and healing, I believe their story will bring faith and healing to couples all over the world who have suffered a similar tragedy. This post is much longer than what I typically post on this page, but I encourage you to read it in its entirety. Brittany’s words will touch your heart.
If you’d like to contact JT and Brittany directly to offer your prayers and encouragement, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Brittany’s Blog.
“I miss my baby.” by: Brittany Black
All of last week, a strange thought crossed my mind continuously. ‘I miss my baby.’
I thought it meant I missed him, in a way that meant I was excited to meet him. Or, that since I had experienced the overwhelming joy of childbirth and motherhood, that I was ready to do it again. I thought it was early stages of nesting. I thought it was excitement bubbling over into thoughts that were deeper than what I understood.
On Sunday, we were at church pretty much all day, but we spent most of the day together as a family too. In between services, I told JT to be prepared for lots of emotions on Monday. See– we had scheduled our anatomy scan, which would reveal the gender of our baby. This gave me uncontrollable anxiety all day on Sunday. The gender of this baby, I felt, would change each of our lives in our own way. Would June be blessed with a sister? I so wanted her to grow up with a built-in best friend, like I had in my two sisters growing up. I pictured dressing them alike every single day. I pictured Saturdays with my girls. I imagined celebrating girlhood like my mother did, complete with tea parties and beauty pageants in the living room, broken hearts, and chick flicks. But oh, how I wanted a son! A tiny version of the man who my sun rises and sets on. A boy. My boy. A son, who I could teach how to appreciate women, who would think I did no wrong. A boy for JT to teach how to be a man after God’s heart. Somebody for him to enjoy sports with, run errands with on their off days, and be there for each other when Mama and June got to be too much with the girly emotions and affinity for shopping all day.
I was convinced it was a boy. When I carried June, for 9 straight months, I puked. No relief was ever found. The day she was born, via scheduled C-section, I woke early. I puked, got ready, headed to the hospital and had my baby. So this time when the puking stopped at 14 weeks, I knew! This one would be a bouncing baby boy! We scheduled the appointment to find out the gender, but I didn’t need it. I had woken up on that Thursday to an alarm ringing on my phone letting me know I had successfully completed first trimester. ‘Whoopie!’ I thought. But then, I didn’t feel sick. Everyday after that, I felt great. People would ask how I felt, and I would so excitedly say, “I feel great! It’s such a Blessing! I never feel nauseas anymore!” A few times I even exclaimed, ” I don’t even feel pregnant, other than this growing belly!” It’s so eerie to think back on that very statement and hear the echo in my mind.
On a gloomy Monday, I woke with lots of anxiety. My life would change that day. I would find out the gender! I waddled a little as I walked to the mirror. I took a peek, with one eye open and spotted a fever blister. Shoot, Brittany! You should’ve stayed calm yesterday. I didn’t have time to dwell on it. I needed to quickly get dressed, because as everybody knows–June takes just as long to get ready. No detail is left untouched, not even for a morning at day care. I picked a baby blue top to wear over my maternity leggings. It was a boy, I was sure. (Even as I write, I still feel those nervous knots in my stomach.) So much excitement, contentment, and anxiousness laid within the deepest part of my heart. We got out the door, dropped June off at the church, and headed downtown. We sat down in the waiting room and soon they called my name. “C’mon!” I told JT. It was all I could do to not run to the room where we’d see our baby.
Once in the room, the sonographer asked, “So you wanna know the gender?”
“YES!” we said in perfect harmony.
“You’re 18 weeks, 4 days?” she asked.
I could barely contain my shaky hands and growling tummy. JT stood in his usual spot, at my feet. The clicks of the mouse began, and I knew there was something different as I watched the screen. There was no movement. No noise. No features. No rapid little thud of a heart so precious. Nothing.
” I meant to drink my orange juice before this appointment, but breakfast didn’t make it in the schedule this morning!” I said, as I laughed nervously.
“That’s alright,” she said and click, click, clicked.
“Give me just a second,” she said as she stepped out.
JT began rubbing my feet. I told him to stop. “This isn’t good, is it? I’m concerned,” I said. But then, she returned with a “sorry bout that” and continued clicking. I exhaled for the first time in what felt like an hour. She just needed a quick restroom break, of course!
But then, Dr. Julieann Parker stepped in. “Hey,” she said.
And then I knew. I couldn’t believe it, but I knew.
“It doesn’t look good. The baby is measuring 16 weeks.”
And for a split second, I thought “that’s okay. We’ll get it figured out. Due dates change all the time!”
…”and there’s no heartbeat today.”
I looked at my baby on that screen, curled up and lifeless, and the mama in me just wanted to fix this. I wanted to take that baby into my arms and make this go away. As a mother, I’d never felt hopeless before, but this situation seemed so dark.
“I was afraid of this. I knew it when I started feeling better.” I told JT, as if making that statement was going to save me from some heartache. Like I could get ahead of this surprise and vulnerability.
“Are we done in here? Can I get out of this room?” I asked frantically, trying to swallow the lump in my throat, trying to find an emotion on JT’s face.
They quickly ushered me to an exam room, where I began to sob. “You don’t need to be tough for me,” I told JT. I could see the devastation waiting to flood his face as soon as he felt it was okay.
Dr. Parker stepped in, and with such grace and compassion and poise, she said “I’m so sorry.”With my first pregnancy, I never needed her like I was about to. I didn’t want to listen to somebody to try and console me. I didn’t want to listen to anything!
And then, like a beautiful script that no author could’ve written better, she said “We don’t understand why these things happen, but they do. There’s nothing I can say to make this okay.”
She was right. No logical explanation or even a warm fuzzy cliché was going to fix this. I wanted to run, but I wanted to fall where I stood. Everything was moving so fast, but everything was going in slow motion. She let me know that it was too late to do a D&C and that I’d have to deliver. Terror struck my heart. Was this really happening? I’m going to have to deliver a baby that I don’t get to take home?
We quickly exited to the parking lot without any inkling of a plan.
Should we call our parents? They’re waiting to hear our results.
Should we call our friends?
Should we sit on this for a little while?
Where should we go?
“I just need somebody to walk me through this! I can’t even think straight!” I told JT.
I asked him if he wanted to call his parents, and I could tell that he couldn’t yet. JT is only tenderhearted about one thing in the world and that’s family. Telling them was going to be the first tough hurtle in this awful process. We had been texting with them late into the night, joking about hoping the baby wouldn’t be hard-headed and cooperate for a gender reveal. They were waiting for a text, Steve (JT’s dad) was all the way in Austin for work, and Polly, in her classroom of second graders. I called my parents, who were already on the way to Augusta to help us celebrate finding out the gender. The phone conversation lasted maybe 30 seconds. I had to tell my mom, but I wasn’t ready to talk about it. I couldn’t articulate feelings that I had not even figured out yet. “I just need a minute,” I told JT as I asked him to park the car. There wasn’t one single ray of sunshine in the whole sky, and it started to sprinkle. “How perfectly cliché,” I thought to myself, and maybe out loud. I can’t remember. It felt like somebody had knocked the wind right out of me. This couldn’t be happening. We pulled out of the parking lot and headed aimlessly down a long, curvy highway. Where were we going? I wanted to go get my Junie, but did I really need to? Did she need to see her parents in this awful state? Would I be able to care of her for the rest of the day?
My next thought was to call our pastor, Marty Baker. Marty is a huge part of our lives because, yes, he’s our pastor but he’s also my husband’s employer, and he’s also our uncle. We eat lunch with him, Aunt Patty, and all of our cousins every Sunday afternoon. But none of that is the reason I thought of him next. Marty and Patty lost their first baby at a week old. He was just the person I thought of when I sat in the parking lot of the doctor’s office wanting someone to walk me through what was happening. We headed for the church. After we talked to JT’s parents, we ended up in Marty’s office. He met with us, and it felt like being with a parent. He was the first person we’d talk to face-to-face about any of it. I sat in his office, curled up, clutching a pillow, with a baby inside me that I so badly wanted to be alive. I wept, and talked through feelings. I was open and unfiltered, and that was exactly what Marty encouraged me to be. “People are gonna say some stupid stuff, and that’s okay. You don’t have to hang on to it,” he said. I continued to spill my guts through sobs. I was negative and I was positive. I was scared and I was courageous. I was pathetically weak but I was surprisingly strong and capable.
After we left, we hurried out and got June. She was ready for a nap and so were we. We rushed home and got her to sleep, but I still had a decision to make. As she lay next to me–breathing those deep heavy breaths that babies breathe while they sleep–I cherished her a little more than usual, which I didn’t think was possible before then. I grabbed my phone and called the doctor’s office.
“Hi, my name is Brittany Black and I had an appointment with Dr. Parker and there was an anatomy scan that didn’t go well. I was told to call back.” I hoped that’d suffice. I just wanted the lady who answered to read between my vague lines and take care of everything else. “Let me connect you with a nurse,” she said. Once the nurse answered, we worked through a conversation that I would never be prepared to have. I tried to explain to her what happened that morning, but I just wanted to blurt out what little I knew and proceed to cry. We came to the conclusion that my choices to deliver were either that evening or to wait until Wednesday morning. I didn’t want to wake up two more mornings in my house. I knew I needed to move. So I committed to that night.
After that, I laid down and slept. Not long, maybe an hour. It wasn’t refreshing. It didn’t heal anything. But I didn’t want to be awake. I didn’t want to cry anymore and I was only a few hours in. When I woke, I told JT something I wanted to clarify. He already knew it, but I wanted to be on the same page before the calls started coming in. “God didn’t take our baby,” I said, as he nodded. “And I can do this.” He nodded again. In my heart, I never wanted to go through this. In fact, I told JT that every half hour for the rest of that day. I did not want to do this. I doubted myself. I felt guilt. But I knew that the Lord had seen me worthy of such a test. I knew He would be present. I knew the Holy Spirit would bring peace in a time when it didn’t make sense, at all, to have peace. I knew He loved me, but had called me to be faithful through the trial.
There have been times in my life when my faith wasn’t strong, and I would scour at people who told me to “trust Him”. That’s hard for any believer to admit, but this time was different. I was at my lowest. I was broken. But, in the midst of that, I knew He loved me and wept with me, as a Father.
It was time to get ready for the hospital. When I packed for June’s arrival a year and a half earlier, it was one those very special times. I included my pretty pajamas, my favorite chapstick and lotion, all the stuff I love to use when I get ready for the day, a going-home outfit for her, and a robe for me that my mother had shopped for months for and had monogrammed. It was a beautiful stay in the hospital that I still talk about it all the time. I was so pampered and happy. Even the cafeteria food tasted amazing. They brought me unsweet tea instead of sweet and it still was the best tea I’d ever had. But this day, as I packed, I opened drawers and closed them without removing anything. I walked from room to room in my house without accomplishing anything.My parents arrived and scooped up June, giving her gifts they’d picked up along the way up I-20 East. We sat and talked a little while and then I attempted to pack again. Still no luck. I showered and cried. I did my hair and cried. It was time to go. I slipped on my olive green Chuck Taylors and asked JT, “This outfit look okay?” I kissed June goodbye ten times.
Then Marty and Patty arrived. After talking for a minute, we headed to the hospital. As we pulled out of the driveway, JT and I looked at each other and sighed big sighs. We couldn’t have been more devastated. We cried as we slowly drove down our street.
When we arrived at the hospital we headed to Labor and Delivery, where they’d be expecting us. I walked in and was greeted by a nurse with a sweet smile and a soft voice. “My name’s Brittany Black and….”I said and I began to sob.
“We lost our baby this morning,” JT whispered as he rubbed my back. I had been telling people that all day. We lost our baby. But it felt so wrong to me. I knew right where my baby was. It was where it had been all along. Where I cradled it for nearly five months. Since the week June turned one, when we found out we were going to have another baby. It was a little earlier than we had planned, but I was so happy. We were able to tell our parents the week of Father’s Day and it was so special. We figured up how many months there’d be between June and her sibling. “We’re gonna have our hands full with babies 20 months apart!” I’d tell people as I beamed with joy. I never dreamed this could happen to me. After all, I was the one who had those good, strong hormones. I puked several times a day!
“C’mon Honey. We’re gonna take care of you,” the nurse said as she led me to the desk and did all my talking for me as I cried. She got us settled into a room, where I changed into a gown, and then the waiting began. I looked at the big clock on the wall and it read 7:30. Sarah would be getting off work soon. Sarah is one of my best friends. She is a nurse in the ER at the same hospital I had just checked into. We were pregnant together this time. We were so excited to be having babies at the same time. Sarah loves June like her own and that’s probably because she was in the room when June was born. I wanted her by my side that day and she came to the hospital at 5 AM. We had planned it that way for months and she was such a friend to me that long, wonderful day.
I was ready for her to be here this time too. I wanted her to hear what all the staff was telling me so she could help me comb through all the details, choices, and emotions. She arrived about the same time as my nurse and the information and paper work started rolling in. They got my IV line started and then Dr. Parker arrived. She went ahead and administered the medicine that would make me start labor. After that, our family started to arrive in twos. First were our cousins, which I mentioned earlier, The Landrums, who we eat with every Sunday. But June sees them more often than that. She ends up at their house about once a week to play with their large golden retriever, Henry, while JT and I do something like go eat burritos and walk around Target- A true novelty when you have a 15-month-old.
My girlfriends sat at the end of the bed while I talked about the day and announced contractions occasionally. The room felt good as it filled with our close family and friends. Some of the guys JT works with stole him for a little while to go grab dinner since I would be fasting as long as I had an epidural.
Then came my parents and June. I had wondered if I wanted to see her while in this horrible state, but when she walked in (in a brand new outfit and a big smile) I knew it would be the best medicine I’d have all night. I held her, against my best judgment because of all the cords I was hooked up to, and smelled her hair and kissed her face. After about an hour, she started to get sleepy and so it was time to leave. Everybody left together. But before they did, they all gathered into a circle around my bed, including my nurse, and said a beautiful prayer, led by Marty. It was comforting and I was at peace. Our room went from ten people to just us two. It felt surprisingly good. I had laughed and cried with friends, and I was ready to get on with the process.
JT scooted his chair closer to my bedside and we held hands as he combed through probably a hundred text messages. “I don’t wanna do this,” I told him for the thousandth time that day.
“I know. Me neither.” He said.
The nurse checked in every couple hours and I requested lots of stuff, like ice chips and extra pillows. I asked lots of questions simply to occupy my mind and pass the time. We watched chick flicks and tried to sleep, but every time JT dozed off on that couch that was about as comfortable as a sidewalk in winter, I’d whisper some question like, “Can you grab me another blanket?” or “Can you pop my toes?” I was doing really well compartmentalizing my emotions as they came.
Disappointment. Anger. Surprise. Fear.
The clock struck 3:30 AM and I had been lightly sleeping for about a half hour when my water broke. I yelled and called for the nurse and I just knew it was time. She came in and let me know that it was good news, but just meant that progress was happening and that that was all.
But then, the 10th hour hit. It was 6 AM and I was starting to realize I should’ve taken them up on their offer at midnight for a sleeping aid. I could no longer feel the baby in my abdomen. I knew the time would be soon. Anxiety started to roll in. I consider myself a very collected lady when it comes to handling stress and the unknown, but this morning, while it was still dark in my room, I started to fall apart. For an hour I lost all control. The nurse encouraged me that it was a good thing. That I had held it together long enough and I that needed to let go.
“I want to cry but I can’t!” I said angrily. I begged for them to take me off the epidural. I clawed my arms and chest like a junkie. It’s the ugliest memory I have of the whole process. JT let me punch his hands while I gritted my teeth and fussed about how uncomfortable I was. My legs went from tingly to useless. I started to notice things like the fact that there was no window in my room, or that it felt like a dungeon and that I had been lying on a tube stuck in my back for 10 straight hours.
But then, those impossible tears came. Just as quick as switching on a light they flooded my face. JT came closer and I began to weep uncontrollably. I confessed things that I had been feeling all day but did not say.
Why did this have to happen?
Why was it me, the girl who wanted 10 babies?
Why did I have to puke everyday for 3 1/2 months only to lose my baby two weeks later?
Why couldn’t it have happened at 10 or 12 weeks so I didn’t have to labor for 12 straight hours?
Why were all my beautiful plans and dreams being ruined?
Why was this child, who I wanted so much, gone?
I wanted somebody to blame, to hate. But I couldn’t think of anyone at all.
I wasn’t mad at God. I wasn’t mad at my doctor who’d broken the news.
I wasn’t even mad at myself, even though guilt plagued me like any mother who’s losing a child.
I was just devastated.
Finally, the doctor arrived and it was time. I looked at the clock as they began to prep me. 8:30 AM. JT came close one last time and started to cry. “This doesn’t make it final,” I told him. We had already felt some closure earlier in the day when we talked about our baby being in the arms of Jesus and that it had been two weeks since the baby stopped growing. We held each other’s hands tightly and cried. I felt no physical pain, but it was the worst pain I’d ever felt in my heart. I sobbed as they kept working to keep me comfortable and finish the procedure quickly.
When it was over, per our request, they let us know that we had delivered a son.
Just like I had always known.
When they told me, I nodded with no surprise.
And we cried new tears.
My eyes burned in a way they hadn’t yet.
And I saw JT’s heart break in a way I had never seen in all of our years together.
And then the doctor and nurses left.
And it was over.
But it felt so far from over.
We rested for a few hours, and I grew hungry. I sent JT home to rest and shower and eat. I spent the morning with my friend, Christan. She came in with a bouquet of flowers in her hand, that if you saw, you’d say, “That looks just like Brittany.” It was white flowers with lemon slices in a blue vase that looks like you’d eat ice cream out of. She had been at work that morning, so in heels and curls she did the heavy lifting as they moved me from my dungeon to my recovery room. To my avail, it had a window with a vista of a brick wall, a window congruent to mine, and a roof full of gravel. We laughed and conversed in sarcasm, the way we do best with each other. They brought the food I’d ordered- a grilled cheese and tomato soup. It was less than delicious, so The Landrums ran out to my favorite local dig and grabbed me obscene amounts of tempura fried asparagus. we all grubbed and laughed about what pigs we were. More girlfriends came in and I reenacted my panic attacks from earlier that morning, because I was ready to laugh about it. If you know me, you may know that while I have a big heart, I can be irreverent at times–but only with my closest of friends. These girls were just that. I talked to them without any filters. I told them the things I had been feeling all day; the things that made me the angriest. They took my side on every single thing, just like good girlfriends do. And it was just the party I needed before I had to go home to face reality. They all filed out as JT arrived. It was back to normalcy for everyone else and back to just us. He catered me as the nurse came in to start the 5-hour leaving process. I showered and put on makeup and wiped away tears and reapplied. This was just the worst. I texted a few people back and checked Facebook. I tried to sleep. I tried to organize my things. I tried to relax. But I was just so sad. Everything felt so different. Getting ready was the worst because of my empty, flat belly. I was more than ready to go home.
The nurse came in, and removed the IVs. She administered a few shots, scribbled my prescriptions, and told JT to go ahead and pull up the car. He had a hard time leaving me, even for that brief moment. I took one last look around. I grabbed my flowers and waited in the hallway. Then, my chariot had arrived-a maroon wheelchair. I sat down slowly and began to cry, again. The nurse offered me a tissue as we boarded the elevator and then proceeded to offer condolences as she wheeled me to the car. We started the long journey home. A cloud seemed to hover over us the entire trip. This was not how we had planned to come home, with an empty back seat. No baby to hold and show to June when we walked in. This was not how we pictured it going. We were welcomed home by my parents and a house full of flowers from thoughtful loved ones, a freshly mowed yard, and a happy baby girl in a high chair eating strawberries.
We know we still have a long way to go before we understand even a tiny fraction of this and we know we’ll never fully understand why. But we know that we are loved. By our Heavenly Father, our families, our friends, and our community. So many people from so far away and right around us have showered us with love, prayers, and support. And delicious food, impromptu visits, and thoughtful favors. But when they’ve all gone home and it’s quiet again, that’s when I lean on Jesus, who said, “I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have trouble, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
We walk this hard road, but not alone. And I know we will overcome in due time and He’ll use this in a beautiful way. I surrender it to Him. All of it. The hurt, the anger, the disappointment, the uncertainty, the fear of reoccurrence, the unknown, and my broken heart. For He is the one who’s gifted us with these beautiful babies, no matter how long their time was on this Earth. He is the founder and creator and author of parenthood. And He’s the best father to our babies we could ever want.
A special thanks to:
-My many close girlfriends who were just as there for me in spirit as the ones who were in the room-Kelly, Christine, Amanda, Lauren, and many, many more.
-You – the readers, who let me tell this story to an audience. It’s therapy for m, and I’ll be able to relive it time and time again without forgetting.
-My mama and daddy- They took amazing care of June during this time. She’s so spoiled. We’ll have to send her to baby boot camp when this is all over.
-Drew Landrum- for being my editor and removing some of my redneck dialect.
-Everyone who called, texted, facebooked, prayed, laid awake, cried, and just thought about us.
We love you all.