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My Dearest Fetus: Enduring Unimaginable Loss

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Maryam (an alias) writes about her painful physical, emotional, and spiritual experience with the loss of her dearest fetus, and offers some valuable advice.

Trigger Warning: Trauma / Miscarriage / Blood 

 

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I quaked and cried in bed alone. I didn’t know, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). I kept telling Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), I didn’t know.

It is a lonely road to be childless. To hear laughter and crying at every gathering. To hear the “ma” “mom” “ammu” at grocery stores. I see children fussing about with their clothes, their droopy eyes when they are tired, the smallest hands making a mess, and I listen to their never ending stories with no clear beginnings.

I waited to become a mother: to finish school, to have my husband finish school, and to settle closer to family. I waited, and perhaps I regret that the most. See, I thought it was part of my story, my control, that when I was ready, we would try, and it would happen. After all, since the sixth grade, we were taught that any moment, even with protected intercourse, pregnancy can happen. And I too witnessed, year after year, as cousins and friends got married, it seemed that within a year, there was a baby. Fertility issues were, in my head, uncommon.

But, when I was ready, it didn’t happen the way we wanted. It was month after month of calculating.

It did happen, after a while. It was the most joyous moment, to see the additional line on the test, and hide the fact. To tell my husband when he came home, and it was our secret. We waited weeks for an ultrasound appointment, and a while more before telling our parents and siblings.

I felt the bouts of nausea, I felt bloated all the time, I ran to the restroom every hour, and had the broken sleep. But every morning I woke up grateful and spoke to my baby. I started the new Khatam-al-Quran (one complete recitation of the Quran) for him or her, just as my mother had done ten khatams with me inside her. I’d strive to do as much as I could, even with my full time job.

Everything was beautiful. We told no one else, and bought nothing, but we spoke to each other: about names, about where the crib would go, about how we should worship more.

Blood

Then, a few months in, it happened out of the blue. It was Fajr time and I saw some blood. Some very faint blood that I dismissed as thread from my attire. We prayed it was nothing, and I refused to think of anything else.

But, that night, I saw more. More than a little, and not discolored enough to dismiss. My husband and I started our internet rabbit holes: videos, articles, vlogs, Reddit threads, and research. It could mean anything. It could mean nothing.

My appointment was two days later, so it wasn’t worth going to the hospital. I could wait. So, we waited another full day. And that night, I felt the first pang of pain. It held me hostage to the bed, with a hot bottle atop. I’d see the OB in the morning.

So we go in the morning, and she says everything is fine. The exam says everything is fine; the cervix is closed, it seems the blood was normal. A lot of pregnant women experience blood during the time of their period. I’m fine.

I asked if we could still do a sonogram right there, just in case. She was kind, wise, and obliged. She stared at the screen; there was my fetus, but nothing flickered. She paused, she waited, she asked my husband who is a physician to see it too. Nothing flickered. She said there’s a better machine, if I wanted her to see it better, I’d have to wait.

No Heartbeat

We waited. In the room with cream walls, begging Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for all to be okay. The machine was brought, and I waited, whispering to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), please I’ll do anything. She looked, and looked, and in silence, I waited.

I’m sorry, there’s no heartbeat.”

She’s not sure, I think. “Can you keep checking? Can I hold my breath? I can be really quiet and still.”

“I’m sorry, honey.” She moved around for a bit, letting my husband see too, and she was right. There was no heartbeat.

My baby was inside me, completely encased, with no heartbeat.

I was told all my options: to do nothing, and let my body take care of it in due time, to take a medication to start the dilating and help my body do it, or to do a dilation and curettage (D&C).

I opted to take the medication at home when I was ready. We sat in the car, my husband and I. Him, repeating, “Alhamdulillah”, and I just sobbing. Him, repeating “Say, Alhamdulillah”, and I mumbling “Al hamd u *sniff* lillah.”

Miscarriage

He told our parents, who comforted me with words, but every word was blocked out. I heard nothing but my own drowning, and the repetition of “no heartbeat”.

We came home and I was pain-free, and with both of us having a day off, the plan was to go get lunch. We spoke about other things, and we went to get lunch. I ignored the heartbreak for a few hours, and we went to pray Maghrib at the masjid. It was as if nothing happened in the morning for me. Until the last rakah of Maghrib, where the pain shot up inside me and I fell from standing. I was alone on a floor at the women’s side, so no one could reach out to me. I cried as I finished, and didn’t do my sunnah. I could not move.

I text my husband, who waits patiently, until I muster the strength to get up and go home.

This was when it all started. The unimaginable pain of full contractions. Surprising me out of nowhere, my body decided to miscarry.

It sounds so simple. I always thought it was simple: just like a heavy period.

It is nothing like a period, but I didn’t want to go to the hospital, I wanted to be home without a hijab, in my own comfort. I could feel the rush of blood pouring out. I went from bathroom to bed, to bed to bathroom, in a pool of blood and tears and pain. I felt the mass fall and couldn’t bear the sight, so I flushed.

The most regretted flush of my life. The night went on, with the pain and clots. The morning came, with more pain and clots. But it tempered off, and the week went by.

Searching for Tawakkul

I became insane. I was inconsolable. I faked my way through a few hours, making jokes with siblings. I went back to work the next week and faked normalcy more. Two days into working, I felt insane again. Unable to stay focused, unable to stop crying.

I know deen, I know sabr, I know tawakkul. But in that week, those were words and abstract concepts I couldn’t hold.

In the weeks of my pregnancy, no one else woke up every morning to the moments I did. No one else dreamed the days of holding my baby in my arms. I wasn’t alone even when alone and now it felt like everything was gone.

I felt like I wasn’t deserving to be a mother.

The ahadeeth on miscarrying were unclear. What does it mean that a miscarried fetus pulls its mother by its umbilical cord to Jannah? Does it mean after the rooh is given? Is it after the 120 days? How do I know if my fetus had a rooh? It had limbs from what the calculations shared, but they weren’t formed, so what does that mean? Was I supposed to name it? Was I supposed to bury it? But I didn’t check to see how formed it was. Everything was so confusing, and all I was left with was regret.

Because I flushed my baby down the toilet.

I flushed my baby, ya Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). I didn’t know I could have buried this fetus. I didn’t know anything. All I knew was the pain of contractions, and all I saw was blood and masses. I didn’t think to pull out the mass and open it to find the fetus with the little limbs that had begun to form.

Every period since my miscarriage, has felt traumatic. It reminds me of the incredible loss.

The loss doesn’t get better. But I learned a great deal, especially due to my access to Shaykh Muhammad Elshinawy.

Firstly, that the miscarried fetus, mentioned in this hadith:

Mu’adh ibn Jabal reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “By the One in whose hand is my soul, the miscarried fetus will carry his mother by his umbilical cord into Paradise, if she was seeking its reward.” [Source: Sunan Ibn Mājah 1609 Grade; Sahih authentic according to Al-Albani]

A fetus has no number connected to it. It doesn’t matter if it was a few weeks or a few months, it’s a fetus nonetheless. Therefore, we should be hopeful of a Most Generous God that He will endow anything that falls under the term “fetus” with this priceless potential for us on the Last Day – ensouled or not.

Secondly, the burying:

I learned that some scholars hold that shrouding, funeral prayers, and burial, only apply to fetuses that have reached 120 days, because only then should it be treated as a human, and therefore be entitled upon its death to the honorific treatment of every deceased Muslim. Others hold that this only applies if the child is born and shows signs of life like crying (which would exclude stillborns). But some did say this should happen even before 120 days, once the fetus develops discernible features. But I knew nothing about this when it happened, so I didn’t think to open the placenta and find the fetus.

I do regret that flush. I know it’s unlikely that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) would hold me to it, since it stemmed from a lack of knowledge, not a lack of obedience. But I wish I had buried my fetus so I’d have a place to go and remember more closely this trial and how fickle I am to think I was in control.

The Bigger Picture

As the months go by, I learn more. Every Friday with Surah Kahf, I find out a great deal more, with the same story. It’s the story of Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and Khidr, and Khidr’s command for the child to be killed.

 

 

 

 

 

“”So they proceeded until they came across a boy, and the man killed him. Moses protested, “Have you killed an innocent soul, who killed no one? You have certainly done a horrible thing.” He answered, “Did I not tell you that you cannot have patience with me?”” [18;74-75]

 

 

 

“And as for the boy, his parents were ˹true˺ believers, and we1 feared that he would pressure them into defiance and disbelief. [18;80]

It felt harsh when Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) chose me for this test. But a child does indeed change their parents. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) could have given me a child that made me forget this deen, forget Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) due to his defiance, or the significant trials raising a difficult child. Isn’t it better that I suffer the loss of my fetus and grow stronger with Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), than to have raised a child who convinces me off of the path to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)? All of Khidr and Musa’s 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) interactions in Surah Kahf show the knowledge of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He): the big picture. I do not have the knowledge of the future, and Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) knows me better than I know myself. Perhaps this miscarriage is exactly what I needed: to better my deen, to read more Quran, to feel more sympathy for mothers, to not take motherhood and pregnancy for granted, and always ask.

A Culture of Suppressing Pain

I share my story not to write about a frightful trauma, but to give comfort to the mothers who suffer silently. Our religion is very clear, but our culture is very ashamed. God forbid even my close relatives finding out; they would say my body is cursed, or that I will never have children, or perhaps that it’s due to a sin. They would wonder if my husband should marry another. So, the fact that I now only hear from others that they too miscarried, is a shock. So these mothers hold onto this secret, in hushed living rooms, only to share them when someone close is suffering. How exactly are Muslim women supposed to get help recovering, if we don’t even know who else has gone through it in our own families?

Now, I hear of my mother’s miscarriage, my aunt who has had several, my other aunt who had stillborns. Now, I hear the murmured stories and only when I am willing to risk “reputation,” to share.

How To Support A Loved One After Pregnancy Loss

Naturally, this means that those who have never miscarried have no idea how to comfort the one who has. So, here’s what I will also share about the days after:

  1. Space: My mother-in-law did not coddle me or show extreme positivity in the way my mother did. My mother meant well, but it was too much of “trying to force a smile and be happy,” and too quick to think about all the future babies I will have. My mother-in-law did not wake me up, and just let me be in my bedroom crying until noon. She did not ask about my feelings or try to make conversation with me. She just let me be, and asked if I wanted anything specific to eat that she could cook or get take out. She gave me the breathing space I needed and I really appreciated it.
  2. Meals: Just having an array of things in the fridge let me eat when I wanted to. I had a craving for Thai food and my best friend got that for me. I didn’t eat a lot, and no one forced me to eat. Pro-tip: give them disposable utensils and plates so that they don’t have any dishes to do for some time.
  3. Drives: Changing space helped. Being around people and then being alone, and then with people again. I’m blessed to have three homes, not houses. I am blessed to have car rides too. Going out sometimes just for a drive to get food was a change of pace, and it helped.
  4. Listen: My best friend did this for hours. She just sat, with our containers of food, and let me talk. Let me pause. Let us sit in silence for some time and let me talk again. She softly smiled, and nodded. She made a joke or two after a few hours. We spoke about life, about high school, about what’s left of it. It wasn’t a “distraction” but it was just hours on a sofa, being just me without formalities, or barriers, or to-dos. She did not listen to reply. She just listened to let me let anything and everything out.
  5. Quran: I didn’t have the energy to read as much. When I opened my mushaf, it was marked with a post it note that said “Baby No. 1.” I knew I had to finish the khatm regardless, so I kept at it. But sometimes it was too heartbreaking to read. The Quran is indeed a heavy message: of love, and might, and the temporariness of the world. But listening to the Quran was easy. I wanted to be in bed anyway, so playing it while I stared at the ceiling felt calming. Encourage your loved one to listen. Offer them Youtube links from time to time of just soft Quran recitations.
  6. Reminders of Identity: This was the hardest part. But, my husband’s reminder of accepting an identity that is childless was actually what allowed me to straighten up. To accept that this might not be written for me. To accept that so many women do not become mothers and that I too can be one of them. That this fact doesn’t make me any less of a woman. That mother Aisha raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) was only one example of being childless; yet a quarter of the deen and knowledge we have of the sunnah is due to her. Her inquisitive nature, her knowledge, her memory, and her voice. I too have unique traits that don’t revolve around motherhood. I too have endless possibilities and goals that I can accomplish. Having a child is not my end goal, and not the only legacy that I can leave behind. My husband’s reassurance was that: you cannot reject Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) destiny for you. You cannot challenge what He subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) wrote. So accept it, and look at everything else you do have.

A few days after my miscarriage, my father-in-law saw me broken: “You’re never this broken, come on. Does Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) have little property? How much does Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) have?”

And somehow that comforted me. How can I think of this as the worst thing that’s ever happened? I am the poor, and Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is the rich. I ask from the Creator of all things created and yet-to-be created. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is bountiful, if He subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) wishes, He could bestow children upon children. If He wishes, I could be a mother of twins, of tens, of however many. I am at the door of the All-Giving, broken-hearted, and wanting. How can He subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) turn His servant away without replacing it with something even better.

 

So if you are too just facing loss, I hope you find the strength to come to terms with your loss. I hope you find the hope to keep trying and asking. I hope you find happiness in small moments, and most of all: connect to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)

—–

Anonymous Maryam: A New Yorker and philomath, Maryam (an alias) enjoys writing creative non-fiction and works for Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research.

 

 

Related Reading:

Podcast: My Miscarriage And Healing Afterwards

When Children Die: On Tragedy, and What is Reported about the Death of Believing Children

Positively Muslim in the West: Sister Hafizah Ismail of Children of Jannah

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. NOS

    May 21, 2022 at 4:36 PM

    I think Ibn Rajab proved textually earlier what modern observation appears to have proved now, in that it is 40 days.

    Regardless, it is no issue. Allah and His Messenger speak the truth and that is what fetuses do as Allah and His Messenger have informed us. And the Lord who blew into Adam AS when he wasn’t anything human is more than capable of doing so for a fetus when He wills it.

    If you made an error with the body, you could not have picked a better place to make that mistake. Right after Maghreb in a masjid of all places.

    From what I remember that was the last prayer the Messenger of Allah sallahualayhiwasalam that he led in congregation before he was taken up.

    You could have followed the path of the legions who rejected Allah and set up rivals to Him, betraying their Maker and Master in the worst of ways who followed no guidance except the misguidance of Iblis and their forefathers. You could have been among those who, after being given His ayat and scripture, cursed Him like those before us did, ruining this life and the next.

    Instead He guidance you to the best of deeds. To praising Him in this trial. From the narration I remember, whoever does this after Allah has taken the fruit of his eye, then Allah tells the angels build for My slave a house in Paradise and call it the house of praise.

    And as this has afflicted you it has afflicted those who have no faith but you hope from Allah what they don’t hope for at all. Allah does not seek to deprive. He is al-Wahhab. By His own nature, not something we do, He wants to gift. Not reward, gift. Gifts are free, not for anything we’ve done or not done, nothing we could earn just something He is happy to give, gift and keep on gifting. He describes children as gifts. He is happy to gift, He does not gain or lose anything by it, He is happy to give because He is the gifter. We are praying He gifts you plenty of gifts in this life and the next.

  2. Ismail

    June 2, 2022 at 3:59 PM

    This was a very moving and beautifully written story. May Allah make it easy for you and make your unborn one a means to Paradise.

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