Mabbat is a Hebrew word that means hope or expectation. I chose this word as the name of my blog as well as the name of the last baby we lost via miscarriage because I hope and expect that Mabbat could be my own working title. I am foremost a child of God and follower of Christ, which means that I try to love God, who is Truth and Love, with all my being. I hope that I demonstrate that truth and love through honoring God in my life and loving other people well. Like every other human on earth, I am not perfect, and I struggle with my faith, with my life, and with the tragedies that have happened in my life.
In the last three years, my husband and I have lost four babies in very early miscarriages – so early, in fact, that we never heard any of their hearts beat. I named each of them a Hebrew word that summed up my relationship with God at the time, but they are also telling in that each name shows my expectation of my faith.
Our first baby was so exciting; we had been married for six years, so the timing felt right, and we planned the perfect surprise party to tell our family and friends. We made the announcement early at seven weeks because we knew we were horrible at keeping secrets, and we were going to have to tell our families since we were going on a trip out of the country with my husband’s family. I had already read through the “What to Expect” book and their website twice, although I skipped the pregnancy loss section – that didn’t apply to me, and I could read it if it ever did. I started an open letter journal to our baby, and I bought his first teddy bear on our trip. And then I started spotting while we were still out of the country. I rested more, and it stopped. We got home, and I was bleeding lightly within a week of our return. The doctor had us come to the office right away, and the ultrasound showed that we had a blighted ovum; our baby had stopped developing several weeks before, there was no heartbeat, and my body was only just beginning to recognize his death. We were given the treatment options to weigh, and I chose to have a d&c to avoid waiting up to two more weeks for the miscarriage to be “complete.” Checking into the hospital the next morning was so surreal: the doctors and nurses had me repeat to them the type of procedure I was having, so over and over again I had to pronounce the death of my baby in medical terms. Those were horrible words, but I was sure that God loved me and that there was some purpose I couldn’t see yet. I tried my hardest to cling to faith and pour my heart into “finding God” in this trial, so I named this baby Baruch, or “blessing” in Hebrew.
A year later, almost to the day, we found out we were pregnant again. This time we thought we should wait to announce anything until we saw the doctor, who decided to run a few extra blood tests since our first pregnancy had ended in loss at only 10 1/2 weeks. For a week, I went to the lab every other day for them to check my blood HCG level. This number should double every two days in early pregnancy; my level only increased slightly on the second check, and it had begun to drop by the third test. By that point I was already spotting, but I knew if I prayed hard enough, God could save our baby. After all, my prayer for the last year had been that we wouldn’t get pregnant again unless it could be a healthy, full-term pregnancy. He wouldn’t let us lose another baby after we lost the joy and innocence of our first pregnancy, right? We lost Channah at six weeks. Since we had waited to tell anyone about the pregnancy until we knew more, we had to announce her existence and death in the same sentence. Her name means “grace” in Hebrew; I was in desperate need of grace, so I begged for it with her name.
Three months later, and three weeks before Christmas we had another positive pregnancy test. It was going to take us several days to see the doctor, but we decided to tell everyone right away so that if something happened, they would know why I was a little off (to so obviously understate the situation). We found out on Wednesday, and by Saturday I was spotting and terrified. By the time we saw the doctor on Monday, the hormone levels had dropped so much that their pregnancy test was negative. The doctor said vague things like “there just was no baby” and “chemical pregnancy.” He made me feel like this one didn’t really count; he wouldn’t even use the word miscarriage until almost a month later. At this point, I tried to believe that there just hadn’t even been a baby, and that I was just having a late period, except that it felt just like the second miscarriage. I even stage-managed the church Christmas musical while I miscarried because I was trying so hard to believe what the doctor had said. I didn’t really grieve because I wasn’t allowed to believe it was actually a loss. I was pushing Wise Men out onto stage while my baby was pouring out onto a sanitary napkin. Gross and horribly blunt to be sure, but I worked through the physical pain with ibuprofen and Thermacare heat wraps since I was just having a heavy period. I was present at Christmas, but my heart wasn’t there. I love making or looking for gifts that suit the recipient’s personality, but that year I just bought things and wrapped them because I couldn’t not do Christmas. By Christmas Day, I had been bleeding for almost three weeks, so I went back to the doctor who finally said, “Well, we don’t usually see this kind of bleeding after a miscarriage.” Oh, is that what I had? I hadn’t allowed myself to think of it as a baby, so I hadn’t named him or mourned his passing. I hadn’t even bought him a teddy bear. His name was Bohu, or “void,” “empty,” or “unformed” in Hebrew. I couldn’t talk to God for months. It was unspeakable, wordless even, that I had not only lost a baby, but I was allowed to believe that I was crazy or so completely hormonally unbalanced as to cause a false positive pregnancy test. I was too devastated and embarrassed to go to church; these people had prayed for my pregnancy, then told there was no baby, so it was a false alarm. How could I go back and say, “Well it WAS a baby, after all, and we lost it.” How could I face people who believed that God was good and omnipotent when I hated him for allowing this to happen again? Why couldn’t I have just had a “normal” miscarriage instead of thinking I was literally insane for weeks?
We found out about baby number four about a week before the anniversaries of the first two positive tests. It was a horrible day. I was so angry and sad, and I felt even more angry and sad that I couldn’t be happy or excited. I spoke in terms of “if” – if we get to keep this baby; if I stay pregnant for more than a week, if we don’t keep the baby… Everything was if, and I was trying to find something positive to hold on to. We went to the doctor the next day, and this time, it was a confirmed positive. He ran blood work and did an ultrasound, and everything was okay but not good. My hormone levels were trending lower than normal for six weeks, and the ultrasound didn’t show anything at all. It could have been a simple miscalculation of the actual conception date, or it could have been symptomatic of trouble. I prayed incessantly, and I finally felt peace that God could make this happen. There was no reason to worry until one of the tests said we should. I named this baby Mabbat because I had hope, finally, that we could really have a baby and that this pregnancy was viable. At six weeks, we were already at the same point as the last two but without any actual problems. And then I started spotting; and then the doctor called to tell me my progesterone level was low; and then I started having horrible pain; and then Mabbat was gone.
I have always believed that words have power: Genesis tells of God speaking the heavens and earth into existence, Jesus calmed a raging storm with words, and we have all experienced the power of words to wound or to heal. I have also always been fascinated with names in the Bible. Names in the Old Testament were words given to define a person’s role or to symbolize an object lesson from God (read Hosea, and tell me you don’t feel sorry for his children…). The New Testament promises that God has given each of us a name that only he knows, and it will be revealed to us in heaven. I have always wondered what my real name is, or what I may be doing that will determine that name. Now I wonder what God’s names are for my children. What does he call them when he speaks to them? What do they look like? Do they know how much I love them, or how much I hurt over their losses?
My whole life has been a struggle to accept and love myself; I’m still not completely clear on how that meshes with humility and the call to love others ahead of ourselves. The miscarriages devastated my sense of self and my faith like nothing else, so that now I am struggling to rebuild both my beliefs and the foundation on which they stand. I have never before had to fight so hard to find purpose or accept my limited knowledge. I have never had to fight myself to trust God. I have flayed my faith so that nothing stands but the skeleton of truth to which I can add layers of Christ only a little at a time. I am fighting to look in the mirror without hating the woman who looks back at me. I am fighting to find out exactly who the woman in the mirror is so that I can love her imperfect beauty, so that I can confidently say, “I am a beloved child of God, and I am exactly what he created me to be.” So, Mabbat is my journey if you care to join me.
An Addendum to My Story: Since I wrote the My Story page, my husband and I have had six more miscarriages. The stories of our pregnancies and their losses are written in other posts, but no names. We chose the name Shanin, which means “angel” and “repetition or multitude” in Hebrew. Shanin is used in Psalms to describe a host of angels sent by God; we used it to describe our little host of angel babies.