Prayers that sound like accusations.

th-1A couple of weeks ago I found a vintage copy of Elisabeth Bing’s “Six Practical Lessons for an Easier Childbirth” in the mixed-paper bin at the recycling center. It made me smile, and not just because of the awful 1970s hairstyles and maternity clothes. After four pregnancies in a row had stopped developing, my daughter was expecting again and this time a heartbeat was detected.

An omen, I thought.

Except that it wasn’t. At a second appointment on June 5, no heartbeat could be found. This embryo, too, had stopped developing, probably the previous week. Except for a very brief spell of crying as she got dressed, Abby described her reaction as “numb, with a slight underlying sadness.”  

After all, she’d been through this four times already. Who wouldn’t want to numb herself?

I’d tried it myself, in fact. Tried not to hope too hard, tried not to make too many plans. Yet of course I did. I looked up the costs of those cribs that turn into toddler beds. Thought about what names Abby and Tim might consider. Planned to use the buddy pass a friend gave me to get myself to Phoenix before the Jan. 14 due date.

Upon hearing the news, I went numb again. So did Abby. In a blog post called “Inducing miscarriages and other DIY projects” – typical of her at-times grim humor – Abby said she was still “floating on a bubble of something between denial and weariness. It hit me briefly on Saturday, and I cried for a few minutes.

“But that was more the idea that we’re just not going to have kids at all. And I suspect there’s far more water in that well.”

Eggshells and air

The DIY plan worked, by the way: Doing some heavy lifting started her body’s process of shedding the tissue that for a little while had us all walking on both eggshells and air. This time around she knew enough to ask the doctor for a prescription before the pain got too severe, and to lay in a supply of some of her favorite comfort foods.

I talked with her yesterday and she sounded as well as someone could be who was still in the process of miscarrying. Instead, we talked about practical matters and work-related matters and, yes, some personal matters.

But not too personal. While we did touch on our dashed hopes, neither of us addressed the loss deeply enough to lose control. Sure, there’s probably still lots of water in that well. But perhaps she can’t afford to break down right now. Or perhaps she doesn’t want her grief to take the form of hiccupping sobs over the phone.

I’ll be seeing her briefly at the end of July, on my way to a conference in Austin, Texas. When I booked the ticket I arranged for a stopover in Phoenix so that we could hang out, have dinner at Bobby Q’s, binge-watch some TV series on Hulu.

Abby and Tim also had planned to show me the CD of the first ultrasound. It was too early to hear anything, but you could see a tiny spot that flashed 108 times per minute. “Surreal,” she’d marveled as the cold wand glided over her belly.

I don’t know what would be worse: Seeing it, or not seeing it. I’m going for “not,” because I haven’t yet allowed my own sorrow to come to bear.

A sense of helplessness

When she was a toddler, she pulled too hard on a doll’s arm and it came off. I saw it happen because our Philly apartment had only two rooms and we mostly lived in the kitchen. Abby’s brown eyes widened in shock and the corners of her mouth turned down.  She came over to me and proffered the doll and its limb.

I popped the arm back into its socket. Happy again, Abby returned to her play. I watched, a little shaken by her utter confidence that Mommy would fix it. I thought, Can I really do this? What will happen when I can’t fix things for her? What then?

Now I know what will happen, because this is something I can’t fix.

I’m feeling the same sense of helplessness I felt when she was in the intensive care unit at age 19, paralyzed and on a ventilator due to Guillain-Barre syndrome. Oh, I did what I could – reading, massage, advocating with the medical types – but it felt like nothing at all.

Then there were the silent prayers, when I asked God if Abby could be raised up, whole, and I could be put down in her place. I knew even as I prayed that this was ludicrous. Didn’t stop me from trying, because I couldn’t face the truth: That she was gravely ill and there wasn’t anything I could do about it except hope she got better.

Not ready to trust

Lately I’ve been sending up more of those anguished prayers, except that this time they sound like denunciations. Why is this happening to her? Hasn’t she gone through enough? How come people who don’t even WANT kids get to throw litters of them? Can’t she have just one happy, healthy pregnancy?

Maybe, maybe not. Maybe after rest, healing and more consultations with more doctors, they’ll try again. Maybe they’ll decide they are physically and emotionally unable to risk more heartbreak.

I threw away that Elisabeth Bing paperback. Not because I saw it as a reminder of our family’s loss, but rather because I saw it as a failure of my faith. We would have been so ready to love a child but once again it didn’t happen – and I’m not ready to let that go. I’m angry. I’m not ready to trust God’s plan for the universe.

I’m back where I was 16 years ago. My daughter is suffering, and there’s not a damned thing I can do except hope that she gets better. That, and shout prayers that sound more like recriminations.

Related readings:

468 ad


  1. Glenna

    I am so sorry for your loss. I think it is even harder to watch your children suffer than to suffer yourself. Praying for peace for both you and your daughter for whatever life brings your way.

    • Donna Freedman

      Definitely harder to watch the children suffer. If it were me I would find a way to deal. As it is, I struggle.
      Thanks to all for your consolation.

  2. So, So sorry for all of you.

  3. My heart goes out to you. I am sorry for your loss, your suffering, and your loved ones’ suffering. If they do open themselves to the possibility again, perhaps they could look into acupuncture. Two good friends who suffered multiple (one close to ten) miscarriages eventually turned to acupuncture and had full term pregnancies this way. Many prayers for you and yours

  4. I am so sorry for all of you.

  5. Your family is in my thoughts and prayers.

  6. I feel so sad for your family’s loss.

    I wish there was something we could do to make things happier.

  7. I’m sorry for you and your daughter’s loss

  8. (((((Donna))))) I feel your pain, and your feeling of total loss of ability. I also understand your frustration with the one we call GOD. I remember praying to Him, bargaining with Him, and also being totally pissed off at Him. It took years of just living before I understood (and accepted) what he was dishing out. In the end I found that everything worked out, and I am at peace. Peace be with you, your daughter and her husband.

  9. 🙁

    You capture perfectly that helplessness.

  10. Pauline in Ithaca

    Oh, Donna… What pain, what utter helplessness we feel when a kiss and a band-aid just can’t fix it anymore. The bargaining, the tears, the what ifs and if onlys.. And no answers but silence. May you feel the caring and support coming to you from all of us who have cheered you on through all these years. Hugs to you and Abby… I am so very sorry.

  11. lostAnnfound

    So very sorry for all of you to hear of this loss!

  12. Donna, I’m so sorry your family is going through this. Whatever OK turns out to be, I hope you all get there in one piece as soon as possible.

  13. Cathy in NJ

    I am so sorry to read about the loss of the baby. May God grant you, your daughter and son-in-law the strength needed to persevere through the heartbreak.

  14. Oh, not again, I really hoped for all of you this time! My thoughts are with all of you, and, as Mimi said so well, I hope that you get to OK as soon as possible!

  15. Words just can’t capture how truly sorry I am. Like you I thought this time would be different but it was just not meant to be. And like you I often wonder why some folks seem to get more than their fair share of bad luck. I also share that sense of “helplessness” in not being able to “fix things” when they go bad for our girls. But I will say that you should get great comfort in knowing that Abby is a “tough kid” and will deal with this on her terms. Once again sorry for your loss….

  16. Lisa O

    So sorry for the hurt that this loss has cause to everyone. I am sending prayers for peace to all of you during this difficult time. I relate to your feelings as a Mother and not being able to help her, to understand why…when people who don’t want children just have then …why a person so full of love and would be a good parent is not able…life is a journey! Peace

  17. murphath

    I, too, wonder why some families suffer so much while others appear to go through life unscathed. Probably not the case, but it can seem like it. And being a wonderful, loving person has nothing to do with what gets thrown your way.
    I know it’s perhaps too soon to think about, but have they thought about adoption? Is that even a possibility for them? Could that be the path they were meant to walk?

    No answers here. I am truly sorry for the anguish you and yours must be feeling.

  18. My one question to God, why trample the downtrodden?

  19. My heart sank when I read the title of this article, just knowing what was coming. My heartfelt sympathies for the loss. I hope that somehow, someway there is a baby in Abby’s future.

  20. I’ve been thinking of you all. It’s just not fair. I wish there was a way any of us could help.

    • Donna Freedman

      Thanks for your kind thoughts. Thanks also to everybody who responded. This is one of those “sometimes life just isn’t fair” situations. You know, the kind of thing we tell our kids when they’re small and they’re upset that they can’t stay up as late as their friends or that they don’t have a pool in the backyard.
      This time the stakes are so much higher and yeah, it isn’t fair. #sometimeslifeinexplicablysucks

  21. For the record, you don’t have to worry about whether or not to see the CD. I tossed it soon after we got the news. I’m not masochistic enough to keep it around.

  22. I’m so sorry for your heartache. Please know that we are praying for you. Keep the faith. God is good and He loves you, your daughter, and her babies. Let Him be your strength during this time. Blessings to you and yours.

  23. Mirabella

    I am truly sorry for your loss. I had hoped, because there had been no update on Abby’s condition, that no news was good news. Now I pray for strength for your daughter and son-in-law as well as for you as you watch your child go through this.

  24. Your writing and hers pretty much sum up every emotion you all have so well that I just ache and hurt for you all right now…I am sorry.

  25. Holly S

    So, so sorry to fin that this has happened yet again.

  26. Thinking of all of you with sympathy and love. Hugs and prayers going out to all of you. I can’t imagine the pain you are going through right now…

  27. I’m so sorry for your family’s loss. I’ve been there several times myself. It’s not an easy path. Love and healing energy are being sent your way!

  28. Your post really struck a chord. I am so very sorry for your daughter’s loss, and thus yours also. Prayers for healing and that peace that passes all understanding. Because there is no understanding something like this.

    I was paralyzed with a tumor wrapped around my spine as a 4 year old, and despite the terrible odds against living, and ever walking again, somehow I survived. (And, thrived, you could say!)
    Over the years I have always tried to figure out how my parents survived those horrible, long years of experimental chemo, hospital stays, surgeries and radiation. Somehow, it is easier to be the one going through something than the one desperately wishing they could take your place to ease your suffering.
    Now, as a parent of 2 young children, I find even more awe in how my parents got through those tough times. They had strong faith, but as you know, faith gets tested.
    As I observe my own kids grow and change and take risks in life, I only pray that I can be half as strong and loving as my parents were (and are) for me.
    I have a feeling that your daughter might share this feeling too.
    You are clearly a rock for her in the stormy seas. God bless you.

    • Donna Freedman

      So glad your parents’ faith was rewarded. What a difficult early childhood for you, and what a blessing your own kids must be.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  29. Kandace

    So sorry to hear about the miscarriage and the dashed dreams. I hope you find peace.

  30. My heart hurts for your loss, and for Abby’s loss. It’s so hard to understand why these things happen. We live in a broken world and shouldn’t expect perfection, but it sure doesn’t make it any easier. God DOES have a plan for Abby, I’m certain. And it’s ok to send up “anguished” prayers to God. He wants a relationship with us. Keep talking with Him and clinging to the hope He gives us.
    “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure”. Hebrews 6:19


  1. Should you subscribe to a toilet-paper service? | Surviving and Thriving - […] and consolation about my daughter’s fifth miscarriage, both on Facebook and on my article, “Prayers that sound like accusations.”…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *