A Miscarriage After Our First Month of Marriage

Positiva.

Even though my Spanish wasn’t excellent, I couldn’t mess that up. It was clearly positive. When I opened the email containing my blood test results, I skipped over everything else and went straight to the part that showed my hCG hormone levels and arrived at that one word that started a ripple effect in my life.

Positiva.

It took my breath away. Like the time I fell out of the big tree we always used to climb in my grandparents’ backyard as kids. I landed on my back and for a few moments the impact left me breathless for what seemed like an eternity. On the day I read my pregnancy test results, it was very similar. It hit me with such an impact that I was stunned. I wasn’t expecting it at all and I was left gasping for some sanity.

This is an intimate blog. I want to be vulnerable because I know I’m not the only one who has struggled through this. Some of the following is very personal, but it is heavy on my heart to share it openly and honestly.

About two and a half weeks into our marriage, I felt a little out of sync and suspected a UTI or a yeast infection, so I went to the doctor. He confirmed my suspicions and then asked if I was pregnant. I nervously laughed and said that we had only gotten married two weeks ago. He put me on medicine and said no sex for at least a week. Exactly what you want to hear your first month of marriage … after you’ve just had a long-distance relationship for 17 months.

After a week of abstinence and medicine, my infection started getting a little better, but I was still feeling a little odd, so the doctor sent me in for a blood test to check out my cell counts and other medical things I didn’t understand. The thing I did understand was that he also asked them to check for the pregnancy hormone. I was panicking. I hadn’t even been married for a month, I was still dealing with culture shock from my mission trip, still getting to know (again) this man I married after a ridiculous long-distance relationship, still getting accustomed to moving back to Costa Rica after being gone for almost two years, super emotional from all the changes, and frustrated that we couldn’t have sex for two weeks during our first month of marriage. Everything was out of control.

Then I received my results. Positiva. I was pregnant. Two days before our one-month anniversary, I found out we were expecting and I literally could not handle it. I’m ashamed to say it, but honestly, I was devastated. This wasn’t what I had planned and I didn’t feel emotionally stable enough to take yet another change on top of all the madness. It was so overwhelming, I just shut down.

I spent a few days in survival mode. Albin tried the best he could, but I would just lay in bed and cry. I felt lost. I was thousands of miles away from my family and my best friends, and my poor husband was at a loss. Finally, a couple of days later, he sat down and told me that we needed to accept that I was pregnant and that he wanted our baby to be “wanted.” Completely valid, and again, I felt completely ashamed. It wasn’t that I wasn’t going to love or want our child, I was just too overwhelmed to fathom that we were going to have a child. Albin’s comment struck my heart though, and that day I decided that I was going to accept that I was pregnant, embrace this new life inside of me, and move forward.

Over the next few days, we began working through this new situation and I started coming to terms with the fact that things were going to be different and that was okay. I knew God had a plan and it’s not like we were unwed teenagers with no means to support ourselves. I was 26 and Albin was 30. All my friends were on their second child. It wasn’t the end of the world by any means.

Then I started having some back pains. Then stomach cramps. Then spotting. I was so confused. We had just started to embrace this baby and move forward. Albin took me to the doctor. I can’t adequately describe my emotions at this point. I was in a daze. I remember sitting in the cold, white examining room and trying to answer the medical questions being fired at me in Spanish, but instead just wanting to be at home in bed. At one point, the nurse asked me something I didn’t understand. I looked to Albin helplessly, but he didn’t know how to translate her question. After a long and grotesque description of the word they were using, I realized she was asking if there were many clots coming out in my blood. I affirmed that there were and she tried not to show her dismay. I could see in her eyes what I already knew. I was having a miscarriage. The doctor drew blood and checked my hormone levels again. My hCG levels were dropping and I was losing our baby. Again, I was left speechless.

One of the worst parts of that day was that they kept referring to the miscarriage as an “aborto.” In my mind, aborto= abortion. Being adamantly pro-life, I kept trying to correct them and tell them that I didn’t have an abortion. Albin gently explained to me that “aborto” was the medical term they used also for when a woman’s body rejects a baby naturally. It seemed too harsh. All I was hearing was, “Your body is aborting your baby.” Like I had chosen to lose this baby. Like my body wasn’t good enough to keep the baby in. It’s almost too painful for me to write about. I felt like my heart was being ripped out.

I went home and was paralyzed with shock. A little over a month ago I was in a white wedding dress with a beautiful adventure in front of me. It wasn’t supposed to look like this. The next few days were miserable. If you have ever had a miscarriage, you know how excruciatingly painful it is for you to see those “clots” and all the blood. Part of you is seeping out slowly and there is nothing you can do about it. It was absolutely sickening for me to flush the toilet because I knew. I knew it wasn’t just a normal period and that fact left an internal wound somewhere in me that I didn’t even know existed.

Then it is over. You’re left empty. Lost in your own thoughts. Overwhelmed with regret, shame, grief, confusion, leftover hormones, and shock. It came in waves. Waves that threatened to pull me under with each fresh swell. If I’m brutally honest, I was so afraid. I was terrified that it was my fault we lost our baby since I had cried so much about not being ready when I first found out I was pregnant. I was devastated all over again.

Those were some of the darkest days I’ve ever experienced. Because of the miscarriage, sex was off-limits for another two weeks. I mention that because not having sex for a month during your first two months of marriage creates a lot of unwanted distance. On top of that, I was so utterly wrecked that I didn’t even want Albin to come near me. One of my biggest mistakes was not sitting down and working through everything that had happened. I tried to move forward and forget because I felt like I couldn’t handle the burden of everything. My family and friends felt a million miles away. I didn’t tell many people about our loss because it was too painful and too abrupt. Several people that I did tell tried to comfort me by saying “at least it was an early miscarriage.” I stopped telling people I had a miscarriage after I heard that a few times. Does the fact that we lost the baby in an “early miscarriage” make that baby’s life any less valuable? I felt as though my grief was unjustified when people said that. I understood what they meant. They were relieved that I wasn’t far along enough to have to suffer through the D & C procedure, relieved that I hadn’t told all of Facebook and started purchasing baby clothes. I truly did understand, but in my head all I heard was that I had no right to mourn like other women whose situation was “worse.”  People who meant well were incredibly hurtful and I tried not to be offended, but we had lost a part of us. How could I not take it personal?

It took months for my body and hormones to get regulated again. I wish I could say the same for my heart and my mind. I had been through so much in such a short time, I was literally reeling. We went through several very difficult situations after this as well (future blogs to come) and I felt like a trapeze artist tottering on a high wire, afraid that one misstep was going to send me into an abyss of depression that I couldn’t get out of. I was overwhelmed with confusion. I kept asking God why He allowed that to happen so soon after getting married and during a time when I was going through so many other things. Why did I have to even find out I was pregnant? If I hadn’t received the blood tests saying I was pregnant, would I have known? Would I have just thought I was having a late and abnormally heavy period? Was all of that necessary? I wouldn’t say I was angry, but I was shaken to the core.

There are a lot of questions that are still unanswered, but one thing I can say that I am certain of now: God was there in the midst of that situation. Just as He has been intimately involved in every aspect of my life since day one. None of these things were a surprise to Him. He holds our lives in His hands and He cares. He knew and created that baby inside of me even though it was just starting to form. He held that little life in His hands.

For a long time, I had almost pretended that the miscarriage didn’t happen, like it was just some bad nightmare. About a year and a half after it happened, I wasn’t able to sleep one night and I heard the Lord whispering to my heart. He told me many personal things, but I want to share something that set me free in a lot of ways.

Tricia, that baby was real. All of that really happened. It’s okay to acknowledge that and grieve your loss.  Someday you will meet him in heaven, but for now, I’m taking care of him for you.

I can’t even begin to describe to you the release that I felt in my heart. The permission to truly grieve and to be reminded that the Creator was intimately involved in the situation gave peace to my heart. The Lord started to heal those deep places of my soul that were wounded from our loss, and also began to heal the pain from the cutting words people had unknowingly pierced me with.

Healing, as always, has been a process. I had to work through the thought that maybe my body was defective in some way and that I wasn’t able to do the one thing women were supposed to be able to do. I had to work through mixed feelings when friends found out they were pregnant. I had to surrender the paralyzing fear of having another miscarriage when I was pregnant with Mariah. Oh, and I still hesitate when people ask me if Mariah is my first child. Yes, well no, but do I really want to explain?

The ugly truth is that a miscarriage is a heart-wrenching experience and the healing process isn’t easy by any means. The beautiful truth is that our Creator is intimately involved in every moment of our lives, from conception to our last breath.  He knows that there is a time to grieve and a time to rejoice and is there in the midst of it all. He is there with us when life knocks the wind out of us and He is there in every positiva that comes our way. He is not surprised, not confused, and never uncertain of the next step. I can rest in the fact that since He created the depths of our souls, He is more than capable of healing them too.

I would love to hear from you on this one, especially if you’ve gone through a similar situation. It’s always encouraging for me to hear that I’m not alone from people that understand.

Psalm 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Psalm 34:18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalm 139:13-16

For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.

I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;

Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.

.

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Wildly Successful Marriage

Nobody wants their marriage to fail, including me. Before I got married, not only did I not want to fail, I wanted my marriage to be wildly successful. I loved to win. I wanted to be the best at everything I did. My parents have an amazing marriage. In my mind, it was pretty near perfect. It hasn’t been easy for them, but they have set an incredible example. In my mind, their example was the standard. I was crushed when I found out that I couldn’t meet my own high expectations.

When Albin and I first started dating, a well-meaning missionary lady asked me to get coffee. She told me she had worked with several bicultural couples over the years and that they hadn’t had much success. She told me a few horror stories about her friends. In some cases, the problem wasn’t the cultural difference, the problem was that they married crazy people. There was, however, some truth to a lot of what she said and I appreciated that she cared for me. A little seed of fear was planted.

Throughout the rest of our dating relationship, engagement, and marriage, we encountered SO many people that were more than happy to give us any negative comment, horror story, or struggle they’d ever heard of in a bicultural marriage. Each time, another little seed of fear was planted in my heart. Comments about how we would be miserable, how Albin would treat me as a second-class citizen, how the Tico man/Gringa woman marriage was rated the most likely to fail (how does one even measure that?!). On several occasions I was told that I was crazy to stop traveling and get married to live in Costa Rica. I am not kidding you; the list could go on and on.

The problem was that the negative comments came so often that I started to believe them. All that fear became a huge ball of anxiety in my gut. Fear about things that weren’t even close to being true about my husband, about my marriage, or about my life. I was discouraged and had a hard time recognizing what was true and what were pure lies. We went through a lot of difficult challenges during that period, and each time I felt like all those negative people had been right after all.

Here we are "cutting" our first anniversary cake...

Here we are “cutting?” our first anniversary cake…

We finally went to marriage counseling and I told the couple we were working with that I felt like such a failure. I still wanted my marriage to be wildly successful, but I didn’t know if that was even possible based on all the negativity I had heard. One thing the counselor said totally changed my perspective.

You need to make your own success.

It’s simple, but it was the proverbial shot to the heart. I had been basing my idea of success off of what I saw from my parents, pictures on Facebook, my friends’ marriages, my unattainable expectations, etc. I was doing a lot of comparing, and that is never healthy.

Albin and I started praying that God would show us what His idea of a successful marriage was. Hearing His truth spoken over us was amazing. He showed us how to reject the negativity spoken over our marriage and how to set limits with people who were literally speaking death over us and stealing joy from our marriage. We started guarding our hearts and minds against all of the attacks.

We realized that we needed to make our own “culture” that worked for our family. We chose our favorite parts from each of our upbringings and instilled those into our family culture. I was reminded again that one of the very reasons that I was attracted to Albin in the first place was his culture and that he was different than anyone I’d ever met. I decided that I couldn’t let the negativity of others steal the joy from what is one of the things that attracted me to him in the first place.

Ultimately, our success comes from Jesus. He shows us what true success looks like. We can read over all the statistics in the world about bicultural marriages; but none of those statistics are taking into account that both of us are surrendered to Jesus and that a relationship with Him changes everything.

I still want my marriage to be wildly successful. We haven’t “arrived” by any means, but I can tell you that our perspective of success has changed for the better. Though we only have three and a half years of experience under our belts, we are on a mission to encourage all of you who are bicultural marriages and relationships out there. We want to be painfully real and extremely honest, but we also want to speak life, encouragement, and fight fear.

Just remember that what you’re fighting so hard for is worth it. It’s possible. You can be wildly successful.

And a note to my husband, Albin:

So many of the negative comments that were made about you and us were as far from the truth as possible. I will never be able to express how grateful I am to you for your faithfulness and unconditional love. The way you have loved me and our daughter (and our ridiculous dogs) is such a testimony to me. You are the most unselfish, caring, and patient man I’ve ever met. I am so glad that none of the Debbie Downers talked me out of marrying you. You are such a blessing from God to me and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

photo clips

 

Long-Distance Relationships

Honestly, long- distance relationships are not for the faint of heart. Albin and I got married after a seventeen month long-distance relationship. You might be thinking, “Well no wonder you guys struggled your first year of marriage.” (Don’t worry, the multitudes have already made us aware that this is a common perception). However, for those of you out there doing the long-term, long- distance relationship thing, the good news is that there is hope despite what the multitudes may say.

In a nutshell, Albin and I were close friends for a good nine months before I (finally) acknowledged that there was a little more there than just friendship. The nine months definitely count for something because we knew each other pretty well before we entered the only month we actually dated within the same country. We dated for a month and things got pretty serious pretty quickly. We both knew that if we were going to put up with the emotional madness that is a long-distance relationship, we better be mighty confident that other person was worth the wait, grief, phone bill, etc.

After our first month of official dating, I went home for two months and we were able to use Skype every night (this was before we owned those newfangled internet iPhones and all day texting was possible). Then I left for the World Race for eleven months. During those eleven months we were only able to Skype once a week. Since I was in remote and different places each month, the connection was almost always unreliable. We emailed a lot as well.

family photo

A “family photo” of my sister and me skyping Albin

Thirteen months after doing long distance, I came back to Ohio and Albin met me there. It was also the first time he was going to meet my dad, sister, and extended family. I also knew he had an engagement ring in his bag.

I panicked.

Not only was I going through culture shock and processing my trip, but I was looking at this guy who I knew in and out over the phone, but not so well in person anymore. The struggle was real. People can change a lot in a year. Let’s just say there were a lot of serious conversations for us and a lot of serious sweating for me over those next three weeks. The worst thing I did was put a lot of pressure on myself to make everything get back to how it was before. I expected us to just “click” again, and that was unrealistic. Even though we had spent thousands of hours talking, it is so different than just hanging out when you’re dating. The best thing we did was do “normal” stuff together. Go to the grocery store, go for morning runs, play games, and dress up to hit up the “Goettafest” with my family (Goetta is a breakfast meat that we love in Cincinnati. We have a festival to celebrate it.).

photo credit: 365cincinnati.com

That’s my sister in the mullet wig. photo credit: 365cincinnati.com

While doing “normal” stuff helped us reunite in a way, it didn’t change the fact that many things had changed and we weren’t going back to what we had before. I think that’s okay. We knew we were supposed to be together. God had confirmed it to both of us and that is what we were clinging to.

Near the end of his visit, we got engaged. He then went back to CR and the long-distance fun resumed until I went to visit two months later. I stayed for a week, left, and then a short month and a half later he was back in Cincinnati with his mom and grandma in tow for our wedding. It was insane.

When we were finally married after those seventeen months of long distance, we got to our hotel room and kind of just looked at each other. It was almost shocking to not have to say goodbye to one another and hang up. I’m thankful to say that we were both virgins when we married, so it’s funny for me to think about how our physical relationship before marriage was not only just limited to kissing, but really we didn’t have much physical interaction in general. Like “not even sitting in the same room” kind of physical interaction.

I’ll be honest here. Those first few months of marriage were so hard. In a sense, I feel like it was reminiscent of an arranged marriage. We literally had to get to know each other all over again. We knew a lot about each other, but so much had changed. I am convinced that if we hadn’t had Jesus in our lives, we never would have made it. We fought so hard for “us,” and our relationship came out much stronger because of that.

While it wasn’t the ideal situation, it’s what we did, and we fought to make our marriage “meant to be.”

If you’re in the throes of a long-distance relationship, let me encourage you with this: there are many beautiful things that come out of the struggle. Here are my favorites:

  1. You find out of if you’re really “in love” or if you’re actually just “in lust.” When you take out the physical temptation, you find out if your relationship really has sustenance.
  2. If you know you’re relationship has been 100 percent confirmed by God, it’s an awesome opportunity to learn to trust Him at His word. There will be a lot of doubts and negative comments along the way, but listening to what God says instead of what  others say will grow your faith exponentially.
  3. If you find a guy (or gal) that will wait for you for an extended period of time while remaining faithful to your relationship despite the distance, that person deserves your respect. I would also be willing to bet that this person has staying power and faithfulness when temptations or dry periods come during your actual marriage as well.
  4. It’s commendable to see two people sacrifice time together to do what they believe God has called them to do now. I believe that God will reward that obedience and give you the grace to finish well.
  5. You get to know someone SO WELL when you’ve played 20 questions more times than you can count. Word of caution: Even though you may know your man’s favorite color on Sundays or what he would do if he was given a million dollars, that person has a lot of quirks and habits that don’t come up in “Twenty Questions” or during Skype conversations. On the one hand, we’ve realized that we both do things that annoy the crap out of each other and that had we known about them pre-marriage, they could have been petty reasons for us to call it off. On the other hand, we didn’t have those petty annoyances to complicate our relationship before marriage, so we married for foundational truths. Now, when things get murky and we start focusing on stupid little differences, it’s easy to look back to our long-distance relationship period and clearly see those foundational truths we based our relationship on.  Hopefully that makes some sense.
  6. You do not take the times you are together for granted because you know what it feels like to be apart.
  7. When you go through long periods of difficulty in your marriage, you can quickly recognize how going through the difficulties together is so much better than when you are apart.
  8. You win when people are playing the “let’s compare dating stories game.” Oh, joy!

Anyway, I know many of you are in long-distance relationships, and whether you’re with someone from another culture or not, it’s just plain hard. I get the frustration, the love/hate relationship you have with Skype, the doubts, and the fears. You’re definitely not alone and need to keep reminding yourself that it will all be worth it in the end. God has you in this season for a purpose and He doesn’t make mistakes.