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"As I gave up steering my own ship, I watched God miraculously open doors I had no business walking through; doors that I never could have opened on my own. "

  • Writer's pictureDenise Grace Gitsham



Don't Waste the Pain

There’s nothing like an emotional wreck to put you on the fast track to enlightenment.

Whether we learn from our pain, however, is fully dependent on whether we allow ourselves to sort through the wreckage. And in my case, that was the last thing I wanted to do.

To recap, a week ago, I tested positive for

an IVF-facilitated pregnancy we’d been praying, waiting, and longing for: as a couple, for months, and as a woman, for years.

Twenty-four hours later, our hearts did a 180, as the results of my blood test showed hCG levels too low to support a healthy pregnancy. Two days later, a follow-up test confirmed what we already knew: that my too-short stint as a mother was over, at least for now.

My husband was in Mexico City when he heard the news. Unbeknownst to me, he stayed up all night, Googling obsessively in his hotel room. He wanted to know what went wrong, and if any of it could be attributed to him. That’s my husband - always willing to be the fall guy when things go south. It’s one of the reasons I love him so much.

I took a radically different, but classically “Denise” approach. Instead of looking for answers, I looked for something or someone else to blame. My reasoning went like this: if an x-factor could be identified as the cause of our miscarriage, then that meant we could do something about it before we tried again. I literally craved control over a process I had no control over, and never would.

I also tried to “get over” my feelings, instead of letting them do their thing. In my head (where I most often hide), I reasoned that “moving on” would help me leap-frog over the pain. So I channeled my attention towards planning “next steps” in our fertility journey, and distracted myself by hosting my husband’s birthday celebration in Palm Springs, less than an hour after our loss was confirmed. Focusing on other things – anything – helped me hide from my broken heart … until it didn’t.

Ten minutes into our drive home at the conclusion of our weekend getaway, there was nothing left to distract me, and I crashed hard. After keeping my emotions at arm’s length for four long days, I felt all of them at once. Sobbing, I crawled into the back seat of our SUV, while my husband drove home in silence. There was nothing he, or anyone, could do. This was a necessary step in the healing process, that I could no longer delay or deny.

My tears were cathartic, and gave me the clarity I needed to see God’s grace in the midst of our pain. Looking back, the friends we’d invited to join us for the weekend - months before we scheduled our embryo transplant - were the very people we needed by our side. They encouraged us to talk, let me vent, prayed for us, laughed with us, and loved us. We needed them, and God knew that, long before we did.

God also showed up in the calls, emails, and texts of those who supported us from afar. The wisdom they offered were lessons I could only have learned in the process of grieving. And since we’re one of literal billions who’ve suffered the pain of miscarriage, I wanted to share what I learned.

God hurts too. A dear friend from Texas helped me clear a spiritual hurdle that I was really struggling with. In a moment of brutal honesty, I told her I didn’t get why this was part of “God’s plan,” to which she responded “it’s not.” Wait, what?! No, she reminded me, this is not God’s plan. God’s plan never includes death and sorrow; everything He represents is life, love, and restoration. Death and destruction happen because we live in a broken world, and God isn’t neutral or “whatever” about any of it. In my mind, I’d made God into something He isn’t: an other-worldly, distant being, too far removed to feel what we felt. But in my heart of hearts, I know that He’s actually a God of love, who walked this earth and lives inside of us, so that when we suffer, He does too. Being reminded of this truth enabled me to seek comfort in His arms, which is what I needed most.

Comfort runs full circle. A friend who had no clue what we were going through, called last Friday to ask for prayers over her own situation. I half-heartedly listened, wanting to just hang up. The only reason I didn’t is because I felt God nudging me to stay on the phone. Even though I had zero desire to comfort her, I offered what little I had, and surprisingly, felt better with every word I spoke. Encouraging her actually encouraged me – because everything I declared over her life was equally true about mine. Comfort, I learned, runs full circle, and we both ended the conversation in a much better place than where we started.

Turn towards, not away. As an only child, my first instinct is to self-isolate. Whether the news is good, bad, or ugly, I always prefer reacting to it alone. The fact that Josh was gone when we got the news was actually a relief; I could react however I wanted to, without worrying about how my emotions would affect him. But this weekend, I couldn’t hide my tears – and I’m so glad I didn’t. As relative newlyweds, we still haven’t fully figured out how to do the “couple thing,” but choosing to confide in him, rather than cry in isolation, strengthened our marriage more than anything else has. And while I’d rather have had a baby and lived happily ever after, I’m glad this experience pushed me right into the deep end our marriage, where my husband was waiting, with open arms and a floatie.

Fear is a liar. When our doctor told us we could proceed with another embryo transplant immediately, I felt sick to my stomach. The very thought of having to go through this experience again (and possibly again) made me want to give up right then and there. Anticipatory fear is the most debilitating type, and can only be defeated with truth. In my case, I had to decide which truth was truer – the possibility of more pain, or God’s comfort in the midst of it. Having experienced both, I now know that fear is a big, fat liar. Nothing - no matter how painful or devastating - is beyond God’s love and comfort. So instead of letting fear bully me, I’m telling it to go straight to hell, and never letting it get in the way of pursuing my heart’s desire.

There’s no way to wrap our story up with a bow. It’s still sad, even though every day feels a little brighter. I can’t predict what the future holds, and have no clue whether the child we so desperately want will ever materialize. But today’s Jesus Calling devotional (screenshot and posted above) reminds me that tomorrow is God’s responsibility, not mine.



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