What to expect when you're not expecting

I can't take full credit for the title of today's post. I stole it from a project my cousin was talking about once, a book he was co-writing with a woman who, obviously, had a hard time having children. To my knowledge, the book with such a provocative title has not yet been published. (If anybody knows differently, let me know--I'd love to read it!) So since there's no book, why not use the title for a hopefully provocative post? So, here goes. I would say that most Mormon women have felt the pressure to "go forth and mutiply and replenish the earth." We are promised "joy in our posterity", and I think that most married Mormon women think seriously about the when and hows of starting a family. I can't say all women, of course, but I would still say the majority of women do. But many women face stumbling blocks along this journey of replenishing the earth. Some women face infertility, and endure long hours waiting for tests results and inconvenient (to put it mildly) and invasive procedures which aren't guarantees anyway. Some women wait through the frustratingly slow process of adoption, only to have their teenage birth mom change her mind at the last minute. Some women get pregnant, carry their babies to term, only to lose them, devastatingly, in the birthing process. Some women lose their babies earlier in the gestation process, a different kind of loss, but still, at the end of all of it, there is no baby. So what can we expect when we are not expecting? Hmm...no book on the shelf(yet) to walk me through what I can expect. No talk in church on Mother's Day about stillbirths. No Young Women's lessons on miscarriage. There was some talk on Times and Seasons (the post was titled Consolation for Tessa and all who loved her, or something like that. I don't know how to link to the exact post, just the main blog-sorry!) about the doctrine available for comfort in these situations, but there doesn't seem to be much definitive stuff out there. So for anybody out there who would like to know what to expect, here it is. Now, I have to say, I only speak for myself, and my experiences. If you have other things to add to the list of expectations based on your experience, please, by all means, add them. I would like this to be as comprehensive a list as possible. In the immediate aftermath of a pregnancy loss, you can expect: -shock -disbelief -overwhelming sadness -an irrational need to rewind the moment to when you still thought you were having a baby -a total shutdown of all irrelative brain functions In the hours proceeding the news, you can expect: -total numbness -total shutdown of all unnecessary brain functions continued In the days and weeks when brain function returns, you can expect: -Overwhelming sadness at completely irrational times. Beware--something that seems totally innocent can send you into a tailspin of momentary despair. -Difficulty seeing other women pregnant -A complicated relationship with babies. On the one hand, you want bury your head in their tiny little chubby necks and inhale their beautiful baby smells and bask in the glory of babyness. Beware, though, because doing so can again send you in an unexpected tailspin of grief that the beautiful smell is not coming home with you. Spirits will lift, slightly, however, if baby poops. Attitude about smell changes abruptly. -A stronger relationship with our Lord and Savior, because you couldn't take another step if it wasn't for Him, and you pray and plead with Him daily to help you be strong. And as was said over at Times and Seasons, pain is pain. It doesn't really matter what caused it. It might have been easier, however, if instead of feeling like I had been run over by a truck, I had known just a little bit about what to expect.


Blogger The Wiz said...

Just an FYI here Heather, a quick search of Amazon revealed that yes, there is a book by this title. Judging from the reviews, it is more a book on infertility than miscarriage, and is very Christian in nature. Just taking the fact that you said you'd like to know literally.

3/07/2005 03:07:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

Thanks, Wiz. Maybe I'll check it out sometime.

3/07/2005 03:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heather, I enjoyed your post. We would love to have you submit a guest post at Millennial Star at www.millennialstar.org. You can point out that you have your own blog there. I would have e-mailed this, but I couldn't find your e-mail. Best, Geoff B.

3/07/2005 04:01:00 PM  
Blogger Andrea Wright said...

Heather, I couldn't agree more. I was completely caught off guard with the intensity of pain and sense of loss I felt with a miscarraige.

One I would add to the list is a feeling of isolation. Because miscarraiges tend to happen early on, many are unaware there was even a pregnancy and so often we suffer privately which can be good, but also very lonely.

3/07/2005 06:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post. It really helped me feel like I am not the only mormon lady out there who went through these emotions and at times still do.
Friends have refered me to posts where all the ladies just cry. And though it is sweet and I understand how they feel, I want to be able to happy again. I find joy in knowing I will be with my child again someday.
My sister just had twins and my sisters-in-laws are expecting and everyone is worried about me and hurting me. I think what hurts the most is when they, in trying to protect me, totally exclude me from their mommy talks. Ignoring the fact that I do know their joy. For a brief time I was a mom on this earth. Now weather or not our Father ever blesses me with this chance again, I dont know. But it would be nice to not be put on the outside of mommy circles anymore. I guess I said all of that as my *a year after* emotions.

Thanks again for sharing this post. It puts into perfect words exactly how I have been feeling this past year.
May you all find Joy and Peace in the gospel.

3/07/2005 06:14:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


Good one! My last 2 miscarriages, very few people knew I was pregnant to begin with. I just told my visiting teacher that I had just recently had 2 miscarriages and a D&C. She was furious that I didn't tell her, and wondered why I didn't. I didn't tell her anything because, well, I just couldn't stand the thought of making yet another phone call to tell somebody some bad news and listen to her awkwardly try to come up with something to say.

3/07/2005 06:22:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


Thanks for your thoughts. I especially liked your emphasis on finding joy again, and wanting to be included in things. I think sometimes people just don't know how to handle other people's pain, or they don't know exactly what to say. Thanks for sharing your needs and thoughts with us.

3/07/2005 07:09:00 PM  
Anonymous JKS said...

Perhaps you should read Genesis again. When Adam and Eve got kicked out of Eden, Adam got told he'd have to work, and Eve was told she'd bring forth children in sorrow.
Miscarriage is one of those things that people react to so completely differently. Many women easily move on. Many women feel the loss greatly.
I'm glad I learned this the first few years of marriage. I'm glad that I had friends who shared their experience so I could learn from it and be more sensitive to others who go through it.
It always means so much, especially to women, to know of others who have gone through the same thing. This helps them not feel alone.
I encourage you to voice your opinion. TELL your friends and family that you don't want to be excluded. Tell them you want to hear about the pregnancies and new babies. Tell them whether you want them to refer to your miscarriage, or just give you hugs, or whatever.
Email them. Or write. Or have someone make phone calls and pass the word around.
I always feel awkward in these kinds of situations. What do you do when a casual friend is dying of cancer? I just talked to her mom and asked what I could do to help. Her mom asked me to visit.
I'm glad to know how to help, but it is awkward, I feel awkward. But I care, and so I'll just try my best to forget my insecurities.

3/08/2005 12:17:00 AM  
Blogger Sweet Pickle said...

My wife and I are infertile, and we are in the process of adopting our second child. Our fist adoption was perfect. Great birthmom, beautiful child. Our second and third attempt at adopting was terrible. When we got to the hospital to see the second child, we found out that he didn't just have epilepsy, he had a deteriorating brain disorder. Something we were unable to handle. The third child we actually held in our arms. And when we came to pick him up the next day from the hospital, the birthmother changed her mind and wouldn't let us in. I will never forget the pain we both felt that day. We had driven separately, so we drove home 2 hours alone. When we got home, our best friends had snuck in and decorated our house with "it's a boy" banners and ballons. My wife completely shut down, she wanted to sleep. I needed to occupy my mind, so I went to a movie. Before the movie started I went to eat lunch. I sat in the smoking section, because I didn't want to be around a lot of people. I remember the waiter asking me how my day was. I said, "not good", and then I told the complete stranger what had just transpired. Thinking back, he was probably a little freaked out. I just had to tell someone. It took a long time to feel normal again. We are not private people, so we had told everyone, when we were picked. Although it was a very sad event in our lives, we had plenty of close friends to share in our heartache. It felt like we had just had a child die. For some of our friends and members of the ward, they didn't understand that. And I think during time of grief, when people don't know what to say or do, they do nothing.
So that's our story. Hope it relates. I'm not as eloquent as many contributors in the bloggernacle.

3/08/2005 09:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Mary said...

I have not had the heartache of losing a child, but it took us 4 years and lots of fertility treatment to have our first daughter. I agree with another poster who said there is a feeling of isolation with all of this. I didn't feel I fit in with the childless newlyweds, and I didn't fit in with the mom group either. Some days I really wanted to just be included in the mom talks, and others I had to keep my distance from those so as to not have to rush to the bathroom and cry in a stall. Initially I was hesitant to talk about our infertility. It is hard to know how people will react or respond to you. In our own families, there were roughly 11 nieces/nephews born during the years we were trying for our daughter, so siblings felt awkward approaching us with pregnancy and kid news, etc. Sometimes upon sharing our situation, we knew we had found good, understanding listeners. Others, we heard the famliar refrains of, "Just relax," "You're young, just be patient," "If you stop trying, then you'll concieve," "Gosh, I have to try NOT to get pregnant!" and on and on... Things that helped us included maintaining a sense of humor, finding joy in little things in our lives, and perhaps a good dosing of chocolate now and then.

3/08/2005 10:48:00 AM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

I love the stories. Keep them coming! And thanks for the bit about finding joy and maintaining a sense of humor.

3/08/2005 11:13:00 AM  
Blogger Ana said...

Heather, I love the title "What to expect when you're not expecting." When I was confronted with infertility, I literally wondered why no one had ever told me this might happen to me. I remembered my mother whispering to me about our children's librarian, who was a member of our ward, who "could not have children." It seemed like the worst thing in the world at the time. And when it happened to me ... it was worse than that. I had no idea what to expect.

After five years of testing and unsuccessful treatments, it was a huge relief to me to realize that I could get off that train and choose a path that really would lead me to motherhood. Adoption is not easy -- sweet pickle, I'm so sorry for your losses. We nearly did not get to bring our first home. His birthmom missed our court date and we were sure she was at the foster home picking him up while we sat in the courtroom sobbing. But a few weeks later she made that courageous appearance and we brought our little boy home. He's a kindergartner now. Our second adoption was smooth and easy. I've heard everyone gets one of each.

There have been some good Ensign articles on infertility. One was in August 2000. I wrote the sidebar, which I originally titled, "How not to piss off a bitter infertile woman." I had to change it, though. Here's a link:


You may have to copy and paste.

3/08/2005 11:46:00 AM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


What a great link, thank you so much. I understand why you had to change the title, but I have to admit, I really liked your original title. It seemed to drive the point home a bit better!

I don't know why people say the things they do. One woman in my ward who I hadn't seen for years said, "Don't you have kids yet? You better get busy!" and poked my stomach playfully. I was so stunned by the insensitivity of it, I just stared at her, then managed to mumble that we had 1 child already. I have learned, however, to control my knee-jerk reaction when people say, "How many children do you have?" followed by the inevitable,"Do you want more?" I've calmed down enough to usually just say "Yes, we want more." I also can answer simply the question, "How many do you want?" with a shrug and a "We'll see." That seems to end the inquiries. I understand that by and large people are not trying to be deliberately hurtful. They are just trying to make conversation, however awkward.

3/08/2005 02:33:00 PM  
Blogger annegb said...

You know, Heather, when I had my first miscarriage, I had a one year old, I was only 2 months along and I got over it with a minimum of sadness.

But the second one, I was on my third marriage, I'd lost that two year old to an accident, and I really wanted that baby. I was also 4 months along. My body took a very long time to return to normal, but it took my psyche a long time to recover. My sisters were all having babies and my neighbor adopted two babies while I was trying to have my daughter and it was really awful. I had a momentary sense of real hatred every time one of my sisters would tell me they were expecting again.

Before I went through it, I didn't understand. Sadly, I have had to learn many lessons that way. Perhaps all for wont of natural empathy. Which, just forget that, that wasn't fair to God.

3/14/2005 10:59:00 AM  

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