Doug and Deanne Walker have 19 children, 10 of whom are adopted. These loving parents have been up and down and all around adoption, and seem to me to be an endless bucket of adoption knowledge and wisdom. On top of that, the Walkers are welcoming, inviting and friendly! This series of articles covers everything from being an organized home executive to failed adoptions to finding the right agency. So as you read, imagine taking a comfortable spot on Deanne’s sofa as she openly shares her insight into each topic.
Miscarriage is all too common. But as common as it is, those who haven’t experienced miscarriage sometimes have a hard time understanding the intense emotions associated with it. We often hear about the heartache of miscarriage, the emotional pain that exceeds the sometimes unimaginable physical pain, the loneliness and feelings of loss. But somehow, many expectant mothers who lose their children through miscarriage also experience feelings of guilt. For some, guilt arises from thinking the miscarriage could have been prevented: “if only I had/hadn’t . . .” And for some, guilty thoughts come after the surprise pregnancy evoked negative feelings–“It’s my fault because I didn’t want this baby,” “I didn’t deserve this baby anyway because I wasn’t grateful.” These are just some of the phrases that play over and over in the guilt-ridden minds of some mothers. The shame these mothers feel may seem irrational to some, but it’s very real. Following is Deanne’s story of shame and guilt . . . a story that so many of us can relate to:
I was a mother of 6 children. Happy in what we had built for our family. Not too long after our second child was born we felt strongly that there was a child for our family that would come through adoption. We had it all neatly planned out. We would have 6 biological children and adopt one. Our perfect plan was in force and we were satisfied. One day a most unexpected thing happened. I found out I was pregnant. Unlike my previous 6 pregnancies, I was not happy. “How could this be? I don’t want to have any more children. We’re supposed to adopt.” This was not in our plan and I was not okay with it. I had feelings of anger and confusion. When my pregnancy got to the six week mark I began bleeding. How ashamed I was to feel happy that I was miscarrying. What kind of person did that make me to be happy that I didn’t want a child? Very quickly those feelings of anger and resentment that I was going to have an unplanned baby left and I was immersed in a darkness of guilt and sorrow. Guilt that I hadn’t wanted a pure innocent child. Guilt that I had done something to cause the miscarriage and death of my baby because I didn’t want it. Feelings of self-disdain because of my rejection of a child. How could I be that person? That was someone else, not me. I was caring, giving, and charitable. I plunged into a spiral of self-loathing and doubt. I was so ashamed of my feelings that I couldn’t even admit them to my husband.
I don’t know how I pulled myself out of it but I do vividly remember vowing to God and myself that if I was given the opportunity to have another child I would not reject it. About a year later I once again became pregnant. Still unplanned, I was not emotionally prepared. Feelings of guilt came washing over me once again. Guilt for the miscarriage and guilt for being fearful to have another baby. Our plan was ruined. We were not in control and I was vulnerable. Over the course of the next nine months we struggled with letting go of our plan. Letting go of our fears. Our concerns with our abilities to parent this many children and how this would alter our life plans were heavy on our minds. Through our struggle not one time did I reject this beautiful baby. I was in a constant state of apology to my child for my emotional struggle. I hoped that my negative emotions were not affecting my child. I hoped that she would still love someone like me and want to be my daughter. I could not erase from my heart or mind the complete rejection I had of the previous pregnancy and I couldn’t fully forgive myself for it.
About a year after we had our 7th baby and 6 months after we adopted our son, I found out I was pregnant once again. This, also, was a complete surprise. This time, however, I had dealt with some emotions and learned a little more to let go of my life and allow things to happen in their proper order. I was thrilled I was having another beautiful baby. I wanted to fully embrace this experience and flood my baby, family, and myself with the light that can come through pregnancy. We celebrated the good news and went forward with faith in ourselves, and that all things would work for good. I struggled with some nausea and being tired, but I was ever grateful for this opportunity. Sixteen weeks into the pregnancy I went to the doctor for a check up. Things weren’t right so they sent me for an ultrasound. The baby was dead! I was in shock and couldn’t feel anything. They sent me down to get prepped for a D&C when I started to bleed profusely. The D&C became an emergency and I was wheeled into the OR. When I woke up, my precious baby was gone. I no longer had the child I loved and wanted. The guilt came crashing in. I was being punished for the first child I lost - the one that I didn’t want. I deserved it and would never be forgiven. I went into a dark hole and would not come out. Friends tried to help by bringing me gifts, taking me places, making phone calls, and staying close. It took a lot of soul-searching and promises on how I would react in the future and the things I would do before I could emerge from my self-imposed prison.
Over the next several years I adopted more children and had two more biological kids–all of whom I wanted with all my heart. Success came after the trial. I overcame my fear of the future and let go of my plans for my life, to the point that I would have continued to have more biological children if I could have physically done so. We are still adopting and I love children. I count them as one of my greatest treasures. I had vowed that I would accept all the children that I would be given and only that one miscarriage was the exception. Through it I have learned to be less judgmental of myself and others. To love everyone because you never know what struggle they are going through or why they struggle the way they do. I don’t know if that first miscarriage is part of why we now have so many children, but I do know that I am different because of it.
We all deal with shame and guilt in our own ways. It’s important to know that we are not alone. All of us who have experienced miscarriage have hurt. We have all doubted ourselves. But we can emerge from the darkness of miscarriage. All of our experiences help to make us who we are. Even the painful ones. There is light ahead. There is joy in our future.
More from the Walker family: