The ANZAC spirit is alive and well with Catherine Sylvester, a dual Kiwi-Aussie citizen. Her ability to fight on through discouragement, and eventually triumph in spite of her battle scars, is inspiring to say the least! This is a traumatic story of grief, hope and perseverance in the fray, to eventually win the honor of motherhood. It’s also a story about holding faith through repeated miscarriage. Faith in God. Faith in others. And faith in self.
Catherine was interviewed on the Treasuring Mothers podcast, telling her story especially to encourage others who are having a difficult time taking a pregnancy to full-term. And now, she writes about her experience for us. You can connect with Catherine on Instagram, and on her website.
“We weren’t even trying!”
“Can’t believe it happened – I was on the pill!”
“We’ve just got to basically look at each other and we fall pregnant!”
Although this is some people’s journey to pregnancy, it certainly wasn’t mine. For me, motherhood was hard fought for and hard won. More difficult than some, easier than others.
As I would wander around the mall, I’d notice more pregnant women than ever before. Perhaps they’d always been there, and my radar had yet to be activated. Whatever the reason, I saw them everywhere – in movies, at the shops, at church! Everywhere except the mirror.
What happens for some people immediately, took us twenty-five months, nine cycles of the fertility drug clomiphene, and four miscarriages to achieve – a full-term, healthy baby. Along the way, we rode a roller coaster of the highest highs and the lowest lows. We experienced a monthly grief of “not this month”, and the heavier weight of losing four longed-for babies in the first trimester of those pregnancies.
I’m incredibly open by nature and found it beneficial to share with those in my life what was happening. This in turn seemed to open the door for others to share their journeys on the rocky road to motherhood – and fatherhood.
More than once I had someone confide to me that they too had lost a baby but had never previously shared that information with anyone. Still others who shared their frustrations and sorrow at having never been able to conceive. And others who were undertaking various forms of fertility treatments, and the ethical, moral, emotional dilemmas they felt in doing so. The community of those who shared in this journey, grew.
The Miscarriage Life
I found solace in blogging and reaching out to others. So much of the journey felt completely out of my control, for no matter what I did or didn’t do, it was beyond me to make it happen! It was all about holding faith through repeated miscarriage – something I did not always achieve, but that I endeavored to pursue nevertheless.
From these blogs I put together a book titled, Hope for Today; and also wrote, compiled and edited, A Common Thread. In A Common Thread that I collated different couples’ journeys, each unique, but all sharing a common thread of understanding. My hope is that those who read them will no longer feel so alone, or ashamed, or shattered.
Throughout our time of trying, life went on. We had wonderful experiences, but always in the back of my mind was the desire to get, and stay, pregnant. Should we take that job? I might be pregnant then. Better not eat such-and-such food. I might be pregnant.
I should’ve taken out shares in a prenatal vitamin company – I would’ve made a fortune from my purchases alone! Every time I heard someone’s tale of success in conceiving, I would try what they suggested, no matter how ridiculous it sounded.
Trial and Terror
Beginning drugs for fertility treatment added another dimension to it all. I was angered by those who casually suggested we “just stop thinking about it and relax”, that it would be “bound to happen” then. How on earth was I supposed to not think about it?
I had to be aware of Day 2 of my cycle, so I could start the drugs for five days. Then be aware which day was Day 12, 13, or 14 (all the while looking for “fertile” signs in my body) to make sure we had sex at “the right time”.
Then we had to wait for Day 21 for a blood test, and then count down the days to hopefully get to Day 28 and beyond, without the tell-tale monthly sign that once again, our attempts had failed. Throw into the mix actually getting pregnant, and being afraid to go to the toilet in case signs of a miscarriage were evident.
Honestly, “Not thinking about it,” just wasn’t an option.
Holding Faith Through Repeated Miscarriage
So many other emotions got thrown into the mix – joy for some friends’ pregnancies, and inexplicably, sorrow for our lack of pregnancy when we learned of others’. Then guilt for feeling that way. I experienced anger (I like to blame the drugs. But really …?!) Then joy when pregnant. And then grief when losing the longed-for babe. There was also hope. And disappointment. It truly was a roller coaster.
My husband and I have a faith – we believe in the God of the Bible – and this roller coaster journey affected that. Ultimately in a good way. It took me deep, clinging to Him when I felt I was going under. Questioning Him when His Word seemed to point in every way to children being a blessing. And confusion when we lost our fourth that I had 110% believed in faith would come to fruition.
But at the end of the day, what we emerged with at the other end was a raw, real, truthful, no-holds-barred relationship with a God who can handle our big questions. He can hold us in our lowest times, and celebrate with us on the mountain top. He truly is strong when I am weak. (2 Corinthians 12: 10)
And then came the day everything melded together beautifully and healthily, and the pregnancy continued – past our usual point of miscarriage, past the first trimester, past the second, and on to a full forty weeks.
I would love to say that I was the glowing picture of maternal joy. But if I am to be honest, it was nine months of anxiety, ante-natal depression, and sheer terror that we would lose her sometime before she was born.
Every scan brought great relief, to see her happy and moving. Every midwife visit reassured me immensely. So, to hold her in my arms after a very quick birth was absolutely amazing. Doubly blessed, a year later we found ourselves pregnant with our second daughter. I was so much more relaxed with my second pregnancy, and it certainly helped that she was a very active wee girl who let me know she was well and kicking – literally.
Staying Soft to the Angst and Tender Places
Over ten years have passed since our last miscarriage, yet whenever I need to have an ultrasound for some other reason, it brings all those emotions flooding back. Recently, I had the opportunity to sit and talk with other women who deeply desire to get, or stay, pregnant. And I was surprised to find myself tearing up as we spoke about holding faith through repeated miscarriage, and all the emotions that swirl around beside that faith.
That tenderness is still close to the surface in places I thought were truly healed. But I love that it keeps it fresh enough to reach out to others who are walking, where we once walked.
What to say to those who are struggling with miscarriage
If I could say just one thing to those who have lost a baby at any stage, it’s “I’m sorry”.
I’m sorry for your loss. I’m sorry for your heartbreak. For those for whom pregnancy is elusive, I say, “I’m sorry.”
I’m sorry this journey is so hard and painful and just doesn’t make sense. And I’m sorry that for some people, pregnancy is a hassle that “needs to be solved,” whilst you wait and try and grieve and long for that very “problem.”
It doesn’t seem fair. It’s okay to be angry. You’re human.
And I would also say – there is hope. Please don’t forget about holding faith through repeated miscarriage. Faith in God. Faith in others. And faith in self.
Dear One – Keep on Hoping
- Hope for a successful pregnancy, a successful adoption, a successful marriage and life if neither of those things come to pass.
- There is hope that it may not always hurt this much.
- Please reach out to others – but choose wisely who you share your hurting, tender heart with. Choose well.
- It’s okay not to go to every baby shower. Your true friends will understand. Send a little gift and stay home if that’s what it takes to survive.
- There will be days and times you can face it in strength, or face it in weakness, but face it nevertheless.
- If you have a faith in God, tell Him how you feel. Share your brokenness with Him. He knows, He sees, He cares, He understands.
- And if you’re the praying type, pray for yourself and your friends facing the same issues – yes, for a baby, but also for peace, and hope, and courage, and healing. Pray for the heart. That is my prayer for you also.
You can listen to the podcast of Catherine talking about holding faith through repeated miscarriage HERE >>>