Last year my husband and I went to a local private clinic in our city of Nampula, Mozambique for an ultrasound. We were so excited to be expecting our 3rd child! We needed to check on the baby’s dating, because my 6-week ultrasound showed a beating heart but the baby measured quite behind. My midwife in the States encouraged me to get another one.
I was supposed to be 12 weeks that day. The doctor put the scope on my abdomen. We could all see the baby. But there was no movement or heartbeat. I suggested to him in Portuguese to try another view. I was trying not to be pushy and holding off my identity as someone in the healthcare field. 2nd view, 3rd view, 4th view. Nothing. He measured baby: 8 weeks. The baby had passed a month prior.
Devastated. Heartbroken. Surprised. The conversation immediately went to “Have you had any bleeding? Have you had a miscarriage before? Here are your options…” Whoa, whoa, whoa. Slow down, buddy! I was trying to hold it together and realize what just happened. Shock makes your brain numb.
All of a sudden, the Spanish accent of our Cuban doctor was thicker than before and I needed a play by play of each sentence. I so wish I had misunderstood him before when I was on the table and that this was all wrong and that there actually was a heartbeat. My husband Steve had to translate everything after that point, because I just wanted to make sure I really understood everything correctly. Unfortunately, I did and nothing could change what had to happen next.
We found ourselves waiting to pick up pills at the pharmacy and waited again after that to pay for the visit. Those 30-minute felt like an eternity. I just wanted to run away. What was supposed to be a joyful appointment turned into a gut-wrenching experience. We left the office with an ultrasound photo of our dead baby and pills to pass him/her at home. It was horrible.
As soon as I got home, I called my midwife back in the States. It was so nice to have someone I knew and trusted to guide me, even if she was so far away. But that day, I really wished she wasn’t so far away. I even phoned an OBGYN missionary friend of ours to discuss what the doctor said and confirm the next plan of care. It felt so freeing to ask her questions too. But, again, she was countries away, as well.
What I went through those next 72 hours was scary. I didn’t know what to expect. And, honestly, I felt bad for not knowing nor understanding. I’m a midwife… why didn’t I know this better? But it’s because I wasn’t usually on this end of managing care.
But, now? Now, I know. What I wanted right then was a midwife to midwife me through this miscarriage. It felt like an unassisted homebirth of death. Steve was right there with me, but he didn’t know what to expect either. As the days went on, I had some needs arise that I was able to go back to the local clinic to take care of.
But being able to talk candidly in my native language wasn’t an option, which felt incredibly isolating. So, in the upcoming weeks, I just didn’t go back. And the way things are done here without follow-up nursing care made me feel like I was kind of on my own for further issues, explanations, and plans of care. I hated feeling like I was my own provider. Despite popular belief, a midwife cannot midwife herself. With that in mind, here are some things that did help me:
This was so helpful and healing the next few weeks. Getting words out on my computer screen aloud me to articulate the pain that was in my heart. Sharing my writings with close family and friends provided a bit of relief from my heavy burden.
2. Letting others in: near & far.
Genuine tears and hugs could be felt through each FaceTime call, despite the 2, 6, and 9-hour time zone differences. One of our family members even offered to fly in from the northern part of the continent to be with us, but it would still cost a fortune because Africa is huge and we were on opposite ends of the continent. We were already scheduled for furlough in 2 months. Home was just around the corner. We yearned for family, but God still provided this in our community. He provided friends who cared for us like family to bring us meals, cry with us, watch our girls, and be supportive listening ears as we walked this path of loss and grief. Letting others care for us was healing.
3. Reading the book of Job.
What a source of encouragement to read of story of suffering… someone who’s been through unimaginable pain and made it out on the other side. Job was a godly man who was wealthy in every form of the word (large family, successful business, grand house, good reputation, health). Satan attributed Job’s faithfulness to God only because of how externally blessed he was. God gave Satan permission to take those things from him, first everything except his health, but then that too. All of his family died except his wife who told Job to curse God and die.
But Job didn’t. He stayed faithful to God. He did, however, grow incredibly discouraged and cursed the day he was born. His closest friends insisted he did something wrong. He defended his righteousness to God and had many questions for Him. And then God spoke. He never answered Job’s questions, but He did ask Job about creation and what it was like running it. He asked Job how it was controlling the largest creatures of earth, forming their young in utero, and making the earth supply its food.
Job’s WHY’s turned into WOW’s. “I am unworthy– how can I reply to You? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer– twice, but I will say no more.” (Job 40: 4-5 NIV) Sometimes our horrible experiences can make us forget Who God is: sovereign, mighty, holy. He sees the WHOLE picture and controls it all. Thankfully, He is also a loving God Who is not far from us. In fact, not only is He always near, He is well-acquainted with grief. Jesus came to this earth and lived a human life that included loss, shock, betrayal, and trauma.
God knows innocent suffering. And because of it, there is grace. Thankfully one day, He’s going to heal this earth of its pain. This hope means more to me now after this experience, as well as after having lived in one of the poorest countries in the world for the last 2 years. But right now, starvation, corruption, and injustice still happen. But all of these travesties still have to go through Him to happen. And He IS working it into His greater plan for His Kingdom. I don’t want to know WHY my baby died. There’s not a good enough reason I can think of right now. But I know my God. He is Creator of all and He “fits [everything] into a pattern for good, to those who love [God] and are called according to [His] design and purpose” (Romans 8:28 AMP). He can redeem anything and He does.
(In my next post I’ll explain some ways you can support a woman walking through the suffering of pregnancy loss.)
Nikki Simpson is a certified nurse-midwife and family nurse practitioner from south Florida who serves with her missionary pilot/aircraft mechanic husband Steve and 2 young daughters with Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF). They spent a year in Portugal for language school before serving with MAF in Mozambique for the last 3 years. Their passion and vision for medical missions has led them to a new assignment in the mountainous country of Lesotho (making the airplane a vital service for the clinics in the mountains to transfer patients to the city hospital). Once they settle in as a family in a new home, Nikki plans to get her local nursing license and find opportunities in the community to use her skills to serve others. Nikki enjoys running, spending quality time with her family, and drinking a warm cup of tea in the coolness of the morning. Read more about their adventures at www.thesimpsonscoop.