Welcome, Sarah, to myferriswheel. Thank you for sharing a part of yourself with the world.
Sarah Johnson is a wife and mother who homeschools her kids, enjoys arranging flowers, powerlifting, playing the trumpet, and occasionally works as a nurse practitioner in her spare time. You can find her on FB (Craig-Sarah Wilson Johnson) or reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
- What specific hurdles into parenthood have you faced and what does your family look like today?
When I was 30, I was told I would likely be unable to have children due to PCOS and low thyroid. I didn’t get married till 35, and was able to get pregnant during my first year of marriage without any medical intervention. This first pregnancy had a lot of complications including preeclampsia, HELLP syndrome, several weeks on bedrest in the hospital prior to an emergency C-section delivery. After delivery, I had severe anemia which required 9 weeks of IV iron, recurring mastitis, poor milk supply, and postpartum depression. I loved my sweet baby son but he was also a preemie that spent a week in the NICU before we brought him home.
When we were ready to try again a few years later my doctor’s office told me my fertility level was 0.3 on a scale of 1 -30, with 30 being fertile. I literally sat in my car and wept and prayed. I held my hands up to the Lord and asked Him to open my womb and give us another child. He graciously answered, and my second pregnancy was blessedly uncomplicated. After my water spontaneously broke, I had a mere 34 hours of labor before delivering vaginally.
We conceived with our third son again with the aid of fertility drugs; Baby #3 was an induced labor, and because of my age and prior issues was considered “high risk”. However, the pregnancy and delivery were again without serious issues, especially compared to our first child.
Through an unusual set of circumstances, we were offered the opportunity to adopt a 2 month old baby girl from extended family. We said yes. Less than two months after we brought home our adopted daughter I found out I was pregnant with baby #4. Early on I had two different episodes of cramping with heavy bleeding but both times there was a strong heartbeat and bleeding stopped.
At the 14 week office visit we found out the baby had died the day before. We had a funeral for him with family and our closest friends. It was of enormous comfort to me.
Within 2 months I was unexpectedly pregnant (#5) again, only to miscarry 8 weeks later.
Baby# 6 was conceived a year later, and had a heartbeat at 8 weeks which was slower than it should be, and had stopped altogether by 9 weeks. Although we only ever heard one heartbeat, I delivered 2 babies during the miscarriage process.
So now we have 3 boys and one girl (adopted) here on earth and 4 children in heaven.
- Is it hard for you when people ask if you have children or how many children you have? What do you wish people would ask or say instead?
It is hard because I think constantly about the children I have in heaven, but I can’t tell folks I have 8 kids, “4 in heaven and 4 on earth” because of how uncomfortable a subject it is for our culture. Everyone then assumes I want sympathy or haven’t healed or am odd. I don’t know how to make that different other than to keep finding ways to acknowledge that even though I didn’t hold these babies in my body for long, they are still mine, still part of my family, and still loved. They aren’t obliterated – they are in heaven. I wish that we could find a way to work that into the fabric of our daily speech without awkwardness.
- What emotions have surrounded your journey and how have they changed over time?
Fear, apprehension, joy, sorrow, doubt, grief, guilt, resentment, puzzlement, anxiety, etc. I am not sure there is an emotion I haven’t felt at some point. I have found such peace ultimately though in my faith in God’s sovereignty. I still realize that things may change in time, but I want to choose love, to choose joy and to choose peace. There is tremendous freedom in recognizing I don’t have to be a captive to my emotions. With each pregnancy I have realized that I have a choice – to love this child as fully and as completely as I can for as long they are here, or to withhold my emotions in fear of being attached. I have also realized that God doesn’t promise us life this side of heaven for any of us. I recognize God may choose one day to take one of my other children earlier than I would like or plan.
- Do you consider your family complete? If so, how did you reach that conclusion?
No I don’t consider my family complete. We are still looking at and praying about adoption. I am still *technically* premenopausal but because I am 45 the doctors will not prescribe any fertility meds for me because of how high the miscarriage rate is at my age. I know that the Lord controls the womb ultimately though and pray for His will to be accomplished in our family.
- How has your journey shaped you? Are you stronger? Resentful? More compassionate? Angry…?
I don’t think there is enough ink in the world to convey just how much the journey has changed me. I definitely look at my children and others differently. I was in deep pain when I lost so many babies in a row. The blows were heavy and caused me to examine my faith in a different way than when I had faced grief before. I am so much more sensitive to others who are going through a loss. I also recognize that my family seems huge to the woman who hasn’t been able to conceive at all.
- What role has faith played in your journey?
The most important role- my faith in Christ as my Lord and Savior shapes my view of marriage, my view of children, my view of health, and eternity, and grief. I believe with all my heart the Lord orders my steps and what happens to me. I know He can handle my emotions, and He chooses what trials to allow to affect me. I have great comfort in His sovereignty and His compassion.
- How has this experience impacted your relationships with those closest to you?
This is a hard question because it makes me feel vulnerable. Men and women often grieve differently and I think in a marriage you need to acknowledge that and talk about it. I realized there is a stark difference between those who have the view that we are in control of our fertility vs those who see that we are not. We can do everything right and not get pregnant. We can do everything we can to prevent pregnancy and still get pregnant. We don’t decide when life begins, or ends – God does. Not everyone shares that view. I was so very grateful that my family loves me, that God brought people into my life who helped me heal, and that I had so many close to me who were kind, loving and sensitive.
- What questions have you been asked that were particularly hurtful, inappropriate, distressing? What questions do you wish you would be/have been asked instead?
Oddly enough some of the most painful things that were asked came from people who I expected to know better. Questions like “you will stop trying now won’t you?” Or “You do understand you have the family God meant for you to have? Be happy, your quiver is full!”) “Why were you trying? You have 4 kids, that’s enough!”
I think for me, its tremendous hubris to claim to know the mind of God. Maybe I do have all the children He meant for me to have here on earth – or maybe He plans to give me more. I did try to realize that people meant well, people loved me and were trying to give me comfort. However, I am reminded of the example of Jesus in John 11:35 – Jesus Wept. He didn’t say “oh don’t cry, I am going to raise Lazarus from the dead in about 15 minutes!” and He very well could have said that!!! He just wept, and everyone there knew how much He loved Lazarus. If Christ can weep with Mary and Martha, knowing He would raise Lazarus – then we can weep with our brothers and sisters, even though they will see their children again in heaven. I did have some women come forward to share that they had also had miscarriages, even multiple miscarriages. One dear friend who is mother to 6 children now, has had 6 miscarriages also. Her experience and her presence meant a great deal to me.
- What advice would you give to people in a similar place?
Take time to heal. Take time to grieve. Take time to be alone with the Lord. Know that God can bring joy again, can bring healing and love back into your life and that there will come a day when the pain isn’t as fierce. I cannot say it will ever be gone but it will be bearable. Run to Christ and be willing to accept that sometimes the answers you look for don’t come in the expected places. Realize you are not alone. Find outlets that work for you to reduce stress and channel your grief. It won’t be the same for everyone. For me journaling helps. So does exercise, and music, and holding a friend’s baby who was due the same time. Though it was bittersweet it also helped me remember that some babies do live, that God’s goodness is seen in different ways. Consider having a funeral or memorial service. Be kind to yourself and don’t feel like you have to be around folks who are dismissive of your grief.
- What do you want people to understand about what has been hardest for you?
I think everyone has their own cross to bear, everyone has their own grief. I don’t know what I would say was the hardest… ironically I think one of the darkest/ hardest days was cleaning my bathroom after delivering at home when I miscarried the second time. I had gone into labor, and was in and out of the tub and it was just so hard to scrub away the remnants. I didn’t feel like I could talk to anyone about that or ask for help. It is a truly deeply personal experience and I think every woman will respond a little differently. I have often cried after family pictures because I feel the ache of those who aren’t here for the picture. That doesn’t make sense to some women and that’s ok. We aren’t all alike. I know there are a lot of expectations for women in today’s culture, and I don’t meet all of them. However, I am ok with that.