Walking through Miscarriage Together: Abbey Wedgeworth
What's it look like to grieve miscarriage together? Author Abbey Wedgeworth gets real about the distress of loss and the initial gulf in her marriage.
About the Guest
What’s it look like to grieve miscarriage together? On FamilyLife Today, author Abbey Wedgeworth gets real about the distress of loss and the initial gulf in her marriage.
Walking through Miscarriage Together: Abbey Wedgeworth
Abbey: We look to our husbands for leadership—but we also look to them to be fixers—to make things better for us. And sometimes, there’s just nothing that can be done to make it better. Part of me is like, “I forgive you”; but there’s another side that: “I don’t know if he could’ve done any different,” “Was that really sinning against me?—that he was so limited in his humanity in that way, that he could not participate?” I don’t think he was sinning against me; I think he was doing the best he could, as a human being.
Dave: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Dave Wilson.
Ann: And I’m Ann Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife® app.
Dave: This is FamilyLife Today.
I would say probably one of the hardest things for a marriage to endure—do you know what I’m going to say?
Ann: No; I’m waiting on pins and needles. [Laughter]
Dave: You’re looking at me like you have no idea.
Ann: What are you going to say?
Dave: You looked at me, like, “Football season,” or something like that; [Laughter] no, I’m not trying to be funny at all.
I think a walk through the valley of suffering—any marriage, even the best marriages—that will test a really good marriage and, maybe, crumble a bad marriage.
Ann: I agree with that because we all deal with suffering in different ways. I think we can tend to judge one another in how the spouse—or how you—are possibly—
Dave: The way you’re saying that, I think you’re being autobiographical here. [Laughter]
Dave: We judge one another here.
Ann: I think we do that; I think it’s normal: “Why isn’t he sad with me,” or “Why is she still sad?” It’s hard in a marriage.
Dave: Let’s help couples today understand how to walk through suffering well. We’ve had to do it; I’m not saying it’s been easy. It’s a journey every couple needs to know how to do.
Ann: —because if you live in this world, you will endure suffering at some point.
Dave: We have Abbey Wedgeworth back in the studio. You’re smiling because, now, you’re walking into: “Oh, we have a person, who’s walked through suffering”; right? [Laughter] Anyway, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Abbey: Thank you; I’m grateful to be here.
Dave: You wrote a book called Held, which was a journey you walked through with your miscarriage. You did such a good job talking about the theology of suffering. I think that’s something missing—we sort of think we’ll never suffer—and if we do, God’s not here/God’s distant; He can’t ever allow this.
Ann: Abbey, this is something you’ve been talking about—you have a podcast—what’s the name of your podcast?
Ann: There we go! It’s called Held. You’ve been talking to women. You’re just good at this because you’re very honest and real of what you’ve endured. You’re trying to give women hope as well.
Dave: What does Held mean?
Abbey: Held, the title of the book, comes from the passage that the book walks through: “Even there, Your hand shall lead me. Even there, Your right hand shall hold me.” There’s a lot of different ways you could take it; but I think, ultimately, God holds us in our suffering. He holds us, within time and space, with a powerful omnipotent hand, keeping us from moving out of suffering sometimes. But He holds us in a way that preserves us.
Ann: Held is a devotional, which is beautiful; and you’ve based it off of Psalm 139.
Dave: I want to talk about your marriage. [Laughter] How did that moment—
Abbey: We’re supposed to be one; I’m looking around for my husband.
Dave: He’s not here.
We talked about suffering: walking through a valley in a marriage can be really, really difficult. I’m wondering what that journey was for you and David.
Abbey: Yes, this was our first experience of suffering. We had had a really easy road; things have been really wonderful for us. We have supportive families, and we live in a beautiful place. This was our first bout with suffering; I think we were both shocked.
Ann: You were at the doctor’s office by yourself. They didn’t find a heartbeat for the baby; and so your husband came to you, or did you go home?
Abbey: He came; he came. I called him because I was not in a place to drive. I called him because I could not have seen through my tears; I was utterly shocked. He came. To this day, I think it’s the hardest thing we experienced—you mentioned this—it’s because we’re different.
This side of the experience, there are things I wish I would’ve known. Obviously, when you’re writing a book, you spend lots of time meditating on the subject matter. I spent a lot of time meditating on this passage, which presents God as omnipotent; He’s all-powerful; omniscient, He knows all things; omnipresent, He is everywhere with us always.
Part of acknowledging that God is all of those things, and that He is God, is recognizing that we are not those things. We use the Psalm for repentance in the last verse: “Search me and know my heart; try me, test my thoughts; reveal any grievous way; and lead me in the way everlasting.” He’s ready to confess his sin as a result of seeing who God is. Also, when we understand who God is, it leads us to understand the humanity of others. We expect different things from them. I have repented to my husband; I expected him to be God after we lost our baby.
Ann: Did you hold onto that at all?—like: “You weren’t there for me.”
Abbey: We have worked through that. I am a huge proponent of couples therapy. We tell everyone—all couples, no matter what season—“Everyone should be in marriage counseling.”
Abbey: Routine check-ups—it’s just so helpful for uncovering things that are covered—maybe that we don’t even know we’re holding.
Yes, he’s not all-knowing; he can’t be with me all the time; and he’s not all-powerful. I think that’s a mistake that a lot of us make: we look to our husbands for leadership—but we also look to them to be fixers—to make things better for us. And sometimes, there’s just nothing that can be done to make it better. The spouse feels that acutely, when their spouse is suffering.
Dave: I’ve felt that, sometimes with Ann, when there’s a suffering; and I didn’t respond the way I should, or I wasn’t there—you sort of hold that—I wonder if he’s felt that.
Abbey: Oh, yes; yes.
Ann: You’re doing therapy, basically: you’re writing this book; you’re going through the Word. That was probably a balm to your soul.
Abbey: It was a balm; it was a balm to hear others talk about their experiences and their marriages. It’s so much easier to see from the outside; right? Seeing who God is, it gives us grace for the humanity of others; and it also leads us to repentance. That’s the way we’ve walked through that.
Part of me is like, “I forgive you”; but there’s another side that: “I don’t know if he could’ve done any different,” “Was that really sinning against me?—that he was so limited in his humanity in that way, that he could not participate?” I don’t think he was sinning against me; I think he was doing the best he could, as a human being.
Ann: I think that’s just a word for marriage in general.
Abbey: Yes; we’re limited!
Abbey: We’re limited, and we’re limited together. Part of it is being able to sit together, and say, “Hey, you’re limited.”
For the woman, who is enduring miscarriage—it’s a physiological experience—I think the husband needs to recognize: when his wife is weeping at the kitchen sink, or the weeping: I mean, that happens post-partum; it happens after miscarriage. There’s got to be grace for her humanity, for what’s happening in her body. It’s vice-versa. The enemy—who seeks to come in and destroy—the scheme of the enemy in that situation is to prey on our frailty.
Ann: I think so often, as we hear this, my heart goes toward the woman as she’s losing the baby. Often, we don’t think of the husband and the dad, of the loss they’re experiencing. I know Dave handles things so differently than I do. I’m way more expressive; I’m telling him everything that I’m feeling, and he’s more quiet in it. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t suffered just as much.
We recently had Eric Schumacher on. He wrote a book called Ours, and it was going through the book of Luke as he dealt with miscarriage. This is from a man’s perspective. I loved that he was in [the studio], because I had never really thought of the dad’s perspective.
He was in a situation, where his wife had had four miscarriages. This baby that she had lost, in this particular time that he was referring to, she had to be induced. She was at the hospital. It was taking longer than they had anticipated, so he went down to the cafeteria. In the cafeteria were a bunch of men, who had just had babies. We wanted you to hear this as Eric talks and, then, maybe comment on what he was experiencing.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Eric:At this particular hospital, they had a room for fathers to come in and get meals. They brought them to Jenny, but dads could go get them from a little mini-cafeteria. The meals were only available at certain slots during the day. Without even thinking about it, I head down to get my meal; and the room is full of dads. All the dads are in there talking about what they had, showing each other pictures of babies or what they’re expecting.
It finally gets around the room to me; and someone says, “What about you?” The feelings that come up are: “Wow; I’m going to be such a disappointment to this room and to these men. I’m going to introduce death into their celebration of life.” I told them/I said, “Our baby died in the womb, and my wife’s delivering it,” or “…had delivered it.” Everyone expressed their sorrow, but the energy was sucked out of the room.
Then, I made the point of—shame drives you to behave different—I made the decision that, when I went for meals, I waited until the last ten minutes they were available; because I knew all the other dads would be gone.
Ann: What does that make you feel, when you hear that, Abbey?
Abbey: Firstly, I feel so grateful for Eric, especially his articulation of his experience with shame. He wrote an article for Risen Motherhood, where he talked about his shame as a dad that really opened my eyes to my husband’s internal experience of shame in the wake of my loss. He talks about not being able to pick up his baby, or not being able to be in the room with his wife was something he experienced. I’m grateful for his authenticity, first and foremost.
I think, also, grateful for his voice to move us to consider the experience of spouses. I cannot imagine the pressure of navigating the experience of loss in the womb as a man. You don’t cry to be strong for your wife; she thinks you’re not grieving with her.
Ann: It’s true.
Abbey: You cry—you’re making it about yourself—anything you do could be the wrong thing. Also: “Where are you going to talk about it?” and “Who’s going to understand?” You feel like an alien because it’s a physiological experience for your wife, and you’re enduring it differently. Other men have not experienced that in the same way; it sounds so lonely. That experience, in that room, is a microcosm for probably how fathers of miscarried babies feel.
Ann: I felt the same thing: it gives men a voice, like: “I have been there,” “I have felt that.” A lot of times, we don’t acknowledge the dad in the situation.
Dave: One of the things that happens in any kind of suffering in a marriage is that you process it differently. That’s where, a lot of times, you have this rub; because you think your spouse should be processing it like you are. Or you might be in a different stage of grief.
Ann: Or you just have different expectations—as you said earlier, Abbey—of what he should or shouldn’t be doing.
Abbey: The line that’s so comforting for women, who lose babies is: “I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
- Every life in the womb has dignity, because they’re an image-bearer of God, so there’s “fearfully.”
- But we’re, also, “wonderfully” set apart from animals, as creation; human beings are.
Also, we’re distinctly us; that word, “wonderfully,” is distinct. You’re distinctly you, Dave; praise the Lord. And Ann is distinctly Ann. You are not the same person. We hold that as truth when we sit with our spouse before the Lord. It should not be personally offensive to me if my husband’s journey through grief is faster than mine. The God who created him is sovereign over his experience of grief. He’s sovereign over his chemical makeup, and He's sovereign over his life—the story of his life. He’s writing a story for David—we’re married; yes, we’re one—but His story for David is different than His story for me, because we’re uniquely us.
One thing I would suggest is praying together. If you come up in a moment, where you’re like, “Wow! You’re light years ahead of me; I’m still way back here,” having compassion for the other person—in both directions—and saying, “Lord, we praise You that You made us different; and You can hold us here. Help us to minister to each other. Help us to not take the other’s humanity personally. Help us to discern what is sin, what’s to be repented of, and what is just to be shrugged at.”
Ann: That’s good.
Dave: I think that patience is key. If your spouse is ahead of you, that’s one thing. When they’re behind your process, you get impatient: “We’ve walked this long enough.”
Abbey: Yes; especially, when you want to try again, like a dad who wants to try again. For a long time, intimacy was so difficult for us; because I didn’t want to be pregnant, again, immediately; like, “I can’t do this again!” That was hard, because it was a surprise pregnancy for us; right? So anytime was a risk—that it would happen again—that was frustrating for him.
Dave: Oh, yes!
Abbey: That was extremely frustrating.
Dave: How did you navigate through that?
Ann: You’re saying, “Pray for one another.”
Abbey: Yes, praying for one another and praying with one another.
Ann: One of the things that has surprised me in the last several years is: as people go through suffering—or miscarriage to be specific—there’s been a blame, even of people feeling like, “What did I do to cause this?”—whether it be something physical or maybe some sin area. I’ve been surprised people could be thinking: “It was because I did...” Have you heard people say that?
Abbey: Oh, yes. I felt that, Ann. Part of it is: “What do you do when you first find out you’re pregnant?”—you learn all the rules; right?—which change all the time—like: “You can’t eat deli meat,” or “You have to take your prenatal every day.”
When our baby died in the womb—it was alive; we had a heartbeat—and then, we didn’t. “What did I do?” I was working out: “Did I exercise too hard? Did my heart rate get up too high?” Part of that is the quest for answers—we think—“If we can know, it won’t hurt so bad maybe.”
But you’re right—there’s the blame or even the loneliness—like if you wanted the baby more than your spouse, or he wasn’t so attached. I think we look for a scapegoat. It’s important to remember that the person who is behind evil is Satan—once we remember that—to remember that God does not allow anything apart from His perfect wisdom and perfect love—which is so complicated—but somehow, all things work together for our good.
Ann: And we live in a broken world.
Abbey: Yes; part of acknowledging His power over all things—again, is just to say—“I am not all powerful.” We need to remember God’s power—Psalm 139—that “He numbers all of our days. All of them were written when, as yet, there were none of them.” He’s sovereign over our days; our spouse is not, and we’re not. We cannot control what happens in the womb.
Ann: Then you guys get pregnant, again, after your miscarriage.
Ann: Were you scared?
Abbey: Oh, yes; 1,000 percent.
But the beauty of that journey was that I was writing this book. The timeline is: when I was two weeks postpartum with our “rainbow baby,”—as they would call it—I began the process of this book coming into fruition. At that stage, you’ve already thought through so much of it. So the entire time I was pregnant, I was working on this book to prepare it to send to the publisher, or whatever form it might take.
The gift was all the things that are comforting in the wake of loss are the same things that ease anxiety in pregnancy after loss—that God is good, that God is in control, that He doesn’t allow anything to happen to us apart from His perfect wisdom and perfect love—that He will hold and preserve us through anything. Those things were a gift to my anxiety.
Our fear is a gift inasmuch as it drives us to the Lord; right?—to acknowledge we’re not in control. Anxiety begs for action; and when we can’t take any action, we realize He’s the One who can; so we go to Him in prayer. When we don’t expect our spouse to, we go to Him in prayer together.
Ann: How is your marriage different as a result of having gone through this together?
Abbey: It’s richer; yes, it’s richer. Obviously, it’s a trauma; miscarriage is a trauma. Our marriage endured a trauma; and there certainly, has had to be healing. But God is a Healer. We have the same therapist now. We are actually scheduled to go to a marriage intensive with her soon, and we’re both looking forward to it so much. On certain days, he goes: “I don’t want to go, because I know I’m wrong.” [Laughter] I feel the same way!
We are so much more humble; both of us are so much quicker to repent. I think we could be in the Olympics—the fastest repent-ers that there are—[Laughter]—quick to say, “Sorry.” We’re so in touch with our humanity: miscarriage is a very human experience; miscarriage tells us we’re limited. There was nothing I could do to keep my baby alive. And I was limited, afterwards, by blood loss, and weakness, and my hormones.
Obviously, David experienced his limitations in a way that was acute for him—a lot of shame of—“What kind of man am I if I can’t stay in this sort of situation?” But being comfortable with your humanity/being human together, it drives you to the Lord. That’s a gift! It’s a gift to see your humanity and to know that you’re fallen. That’s what makes us quick repent-ers; right?—when we behold God as perfect, and we see the life of Christ.
I’m thinking about Jesus in the desert and the beauty of that. He’s more than an example to us there; right? His body is so weak. When I felt weak in the wake of our miscarriage, or in times when I’ve felt weak, sometimes, I’ve been tempted to look to Him as an example, like, “Oh, Jesus was perfect when He experienced this”; but it’s more than that.
You mentioned patience earlier, Dave. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit. It’s not something we can hold our fists really tight and white-knuckle up patience. We have to recognize our need, and how does change come?—through repentance; say, “I wasn’t patient with you.” And before the Lord: “I wasn’t patient with my spouse. Will You help me?” And He’s so faithful to help.
Shelby: Jesus is so faithful to help; if only we’d ask Him and believe that He can help. You’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Abbey Wedgeworth on FamilyLife Today. Stick around as Dave has some final thoughts on the importance of embracing hard times together, as a couple.
But first, Abbey’s book is called Held: 31 Biblical Reflections on God’s Comfort and Care in the Sorrow of Miscarriage. You can pick up a copy on FamilyLifeToday.com. While you’re there, Eric Schumacher has a devotional book for men grieving miscarriage called Ours. It’s another great book to check out at FamilyLifeToday.com.
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Okay; here’s Dave with some final thoughts from today’s conversation.
Dave: One of the things that can happen in a marriage, when there’s a miscarriage or any kind of suffering, is you can turn away from each other because you’re hurting. And maybe they’re not processing the way you are. Or—and it’s really our choice—you can turn toward one another, and say, “I need you, and I will be here for you”; it’s both sides of that.
You just said it—every couple I know, including us and you guys, have gone through suffering and met God there—you come out mature; you come out better/richer. We all want to run from the valley; yet, as you walk through the valley with a deeper understanding that He is with you, you will be in a better marriage. Hang on; cling to one another; don’t turn away. Yell at the ceiling if you have to—lament together—but turn to one another. Hold each other tight, and hold on through the storm; you’ll get there.
Shelby: Are you feeling like you’re stuck in a rut? Stay tuned because next week, on FamilyLife Today, Dave and Ann Wilson will be joined by Karl Clauson to help us get back to joining God, killing our sin, and refocusing our efforts. That’s next week.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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