Episode 2 - Finding Peace after Miscarriage with Alisha Illian
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Join us for a conversation with Alisha Illian about how to find peace after miscarriage. Alisha shares her story of finding out that her second baby had no heartbeat while she was all alone at a routine doctor's appointment.
Blindsighted by grief, Alisha discusses with Ashley how she learned to rely on God and surrender her plans for her life. She encourages grieving moms to stay in Scripture and fixate on Jesus in order to find peace after pregnancy loss.
In this episode we discussed:
How God stretches us when life doesn't go as planned so that we can learn to depend on Him
Why are we not talking about pregnancy loss more?
Feelings of guilt after losing a baby
How God gave us a motherly instinct to bond with our baby right from the start
Why nothing can satisfy or comfort us like God can
Learning to surrender control and not depend on our own adequacy
Scripture memory and why it's a powerful healing tool during grief
The perfection of Jesus and how amazing Heaven will be with Him and our babies for all of eternity
The fact that our babies didn't have to suffer on earth
How hustle culture and staying busy can negatively impact our grief
Why it's important to get in our Bibles and read Truth
Alisha's ministry Women (re)Purposed and her book Chasing Perfect and how they can help you grow closer to God in grief
Each episode has a special Hope Guide that you can download by clicking the button below. It is packed with hope-filled resources and extra information from the episode!
Discussion / Application Questions (leave your answers below in the comments!)
Alisha shares a quote from C.S. Lewis that says, "Pain makes us put away our toys." How do you relate to this quote? Are there ways that you are still relying on your own strength/adequacy or things of this world to cope with your grief? List them and pray for God to help you surrender them.
Alisha clung to Psalm 139 after her miscarriage. Is there a particular Scripture that's comforting to you? Write it out and commit to memorizing it this week.
In this episode, we talked about hurrying through grief. Do you feel a cultural or internal pressure to stay busy/distracted? In what ways can you slow down and allow God to sit in your sadness with you?
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CONNECT WITH OUR GUEST
Alisha is the founder of Women (re)Purposed, the author of Chasing Perfect, and an avid teacher and student of the Bible. Her heart beats wildly to inspire women toward a deeper knowledge and love of God.
Alisha experienced a first-trimester miscarriage in her second pregnancy. She lives in Kansas with her husband, three living children, and Golden-doodle dog.
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Ashley Opliger is the Executive Director of Bridget's Cradles, a nonprofit organization based in Wichita, Kansas that donates cradles to over 1,065 hospitals in all 50 states and comforts over 26,000 bereaved families a year.
Ashley is married to Matt and they have three children: Bridget (in Heaven), and two sons. She is a follower of Christ who desires to share the hope of Heaven with families grieving the loss of a baby.
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Episode 2: Finding Peace after Miscarriage with Alisha Illian
Ashley Opliger: [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Cradled in Hope Podcast where we believe that the hope of Heaven, through faith in Jesus Christ, has the power to heal our hearts after the loss of a baby. It’s a pain no mother should have to endure, and we want this podcast to be a safe place for your broken heart to land. Here, we are going to trust God’s promise to restore our joy, use our grief for good, and allow us to spend eternity with our babies in Heaven.
I’m your host, Ashley Opliger. I’m a wife, mom, and follower of Christ clinging to the hope of Heaven. My daughter, Bridget, was stillborn at 24 weeks in my first pregnancy in 2014. In her memory, my husband and I started a nonprofit ministry called Bridget’s Cradles, and God has given us purpose in our pain, and we’ve seen beauty come from ashes.
Although we wish you didn’t have a need to be listening to this podcast, we believe God has a reason for you to be here today. We pray this time would be a source of healing for you as we remember that Jesus cradles us in hope while He cradles our babies in Heaven. Though we may grieve, we do not grieve without hope. Welcome to the Cradled in Hope Podcast.
Hi everyone. I am so honored to introduce to you today, our very first special guest to the Cradled in Hope Podcast, my friend, Alisha Illian. Alisha is the founder of a ministry called Women (re)Purposed and the author of a book called Chasing Perfect.
She is an avid teacher and student of the Bible and her heart is to inspire women toward a deeper knowledge and love of God. Her greatest passion is to disciple women as they learn to walk with their Savior. I know you are going to be so blessed by the conversation that we had about how to find peace and pursue Jesus after a miscarriage.
Let's welcome Alisha Illian. Welcome, Alisha. Thank you for being here.
Alisha Illian: [00:02:09] Thanks for having me, Ashley. I'm so excited to be having this conversation with you.
Ashley Opliger: [00:02:16] Yes, I know. I know it's such a hard topic and reliving that pain and the grief that you walked through, but I'm just so thankful that you're willing to be vulnerable and share your story.
I just want to jump in and ask you to share your story and a little bit more about yourself and the children that you have on earth and the child that you have in Heaven.
Alisha Illian: [00:02:40] I would be glad to. So, my husband and I have been married, I'm going to say like 15 years now I can kind of lose track after 10 it's like, is it a dozen?
I know we're headed towards 20, feels like a long time, but it goes really fast. We've been married for about 15 years and we have three kids.
We got started real quickly, so I got pregnant five months after we were married with my first, whose name is Reign as in the Lord reigns. And, he is now a teenager, which is a whole new world for us and we're loving it.
He has his ups and downs, so that's been a lot of fun to navigate, but, it is definitely making me more dependent on the Lord. Then we have our daughter who is 11. And our youngest son Rogue, he is nine and he lives up to his name. We call him Rogue and we tell him it's because he was set apart for God.
So he goes his own way. And definitely be careful what you name your kids. We love our family. All of our kids have been a huge blessing to us, but as you know, and you're familiar with Ashley, I'm a planner by nature. I don't know about you, but I like to have everything planned out. And so in my mind, as a little girl, I was like, I'm going to get married and I'm going to have like 10 kids.
And then I had my first kid and I was like, well, maybe like six. And then I had my second kid and I'm like, maybe like three kids, but, anyways, I was such a planner. And so in my mind, this is the way it's going to go. I'm going to have my first and then my second and third. And, the Lord He's good to me and that I say this, I don't like it, but He does stretch me in that.
He doesn't allow my plans always to go the way I think it should, because He wants me to be dependent on him. And if everything always went according to Alisha’s plan, I would naturally not be dependent upon Him. And so one of those situations did happen after our first child, we didn't really have any complications with him.
I got really sick with my first pregnancy, meaning I just was nauseous the whole time, hooked up to IVs in my first trimester. I really wasn't prepared for that, but we got through it, we managed. And like, after you had your first, you kind of forget all the hard things and you're like, I can do this again.
It wasn't really that bad. And so I got pregnant again. I think it was about 10 months after having Reign, our first, and everything was going according to plan. I had my first sonogram and everything was great with that. The heart rate was a little bit on the low side or slow side, but they weren't concerned at all.
And so I went in for my second appointment and I was sick again with the second pregnancy. So I thought, “Oh, the hormones are doing what they're supposed to do because they're making me really sick.” I wasn't having any issues. So I went in around 11 and a half, 12 weeks, I even told my husband, because he had gone to every single doctor's appointment with me, I said, “Baby, you don't need to go in on this one, it's going to be fine. It's just going to be routine.”
We've already had the big first sonogram and he was busy at work. And so I went in for that second sonogram, fully expecting a very normal appointment. And, I just remember they did the little sonogram and they could not find a heartbeat on the outside.
And it just took them forever and I just kept thinking, “Well, this is really weird because normally they're supposed to probably find it pretty quickly at 11 and a half weeks.” Then I knew something was wrong when they're like, “We're going to have to actually go in and see if we can hear the heartbeat with a sonogram.”
And so when they got in, they told me, “I'm so sorry, but you have lost your baby.” And it just hit me because I wasn't prepared once again. I'm a planner. If I can just have it all planned out and prepare myself, but that wasn't what the Lord wanted. And so it kind of broadsided me a little bit.
I wasn't bleeding. And so I called my husband at that point. He rushed in, and my doctor, we were down in Texas at the time, and she was so great. She was like, “You're coming to the office, sit down with me and I'll let you just stay in there as long as you want.”
And that meant so much because she told me one in four pregnancies end up in miscarriage. And I was kind of taken back a little bit because I was like, what? Nobody really talks about it, you know? And that kind of shocked me. One in four pregnancies.
That's a lot if you think about all the pregnancies that happen. Miscarriage is happening a lot and she's told me, “This is the part of my job that I hate the most is having to tell these new moms this information.” And I was like, wow, that in a strange way, though, that was helpful to know that I wasn't alone, that this isn't just something that doesn't ever happen. And immediately I felt guilt. Like, what did I do? Did I eat something wrong? Did I do something? Did I sniff the wrong paint, walking in the room painting?
You're like: what did I do? You know, that caused this? And that's horrible to have to deal with that guilt. It was really helpful her coming in and saying, “You know that it happens very frequently and this is normal.” And, as I thought about it, you had this process of pregnancy and a woman getting pregnant and the sperm and the egg coming together.
Of course, it happens a lot, all the things that have to go into making a healthy pregnancy. It's amazing when you start reading about it, I mean that it [miscarriage] doesn't happen more. Honestly, it made me think of how big our God is and how amazing He is to design something. Cause I'm really wanting to understand the whole process then at that point and how it all works.
And so I left. Of course, I was upset and grieving and I had to go through the initial shock of this baby that in short 12 weeks, I guess it wasn't even 12 weeks that I knew I was pregnant, like eight weeks at that point, I had already connected to this life.
I think that is so designed by God that the mom and even my husband, he wasn't even carrying the child, but he had formed a connection already to this life inside. It wasn't just a clump of cells. There was something so meaningful and intimate about that relationship that you have with that newborn and you start thinking about and preparing in your heart for what's going to happen and then to have to go, okay, well that wasn't God's plan.
And so I remember going back home and we decided to opt for a D&C because my body had not realized that I was [miscarrying], it still thought it was pregnant. And so she was like, “I don't know how long it's going to take for your body to realize that you have miscarried.”
Knowing that the baby was not alive at that point, I didn’t want to be carrying the baby any longer. And so we did a D&C and we did all the genetic testing because my mom had a pregnancy loss. Actually, her baby was born alive, my sister lived for seven hours. And so we wanted to make sure that there wasn't anything similar going on.
And my sister has a son that has a neurogenetic syndrome called Angelman Syndrome. And so there were just some things that we wanted to make sure weren’t connected. And so we had the D&C. This turned into discovering that the baby had twice the amount of chromosomes, which can lead to a molar pregnancy, which sometimes can turn into cancer.
And so then I ended up having to have all these blood tests done to make sure that my hormones were dropping and that the cells weren't growing inside of me. And so not only was I grieving the loss of our pregnancy, it turned into, okay, this could be something very serious for my body. And now I've got to consider how do I take care of that and start praying, Lord, what does this mean for me now?
And He was faithful too; there wasn't any complications and I'm super thankful for that. We ended up having to wait until the hormones were all back to normal. And then we were able to try again and got pregnant with my daughter.
I will tell you, Ashley, I think that you probably know this too, cause we've talked about this, but, after this happened, I had so many women reach out to me and say, “Me too, I had a miscarriage, I had two or three miscarriages,” all for all different reasons.
And I was like, wow, I wished I had known, and I don't know what it is. I'd love to hear your thoughts too, why do we struggle to talk about this? Is it shame? Is it just not wanting to make people feel awkward or not know what to say? I wish at that point that other women had shared so that I didn't feel alone as I was.
Ashley Opliger: [00:12:39] Yes. And I'm just so sorry, you went through everything that you went through and I'm so sorry for the loss of your precious baby. Because I had complications in my pregnancy and was somewhat prepared for Bridget to pass away, my heart just breaks for women who, I mean, and that's hard and in and of itself, having the anticipatory grief and those questions and walking that road of grief.
But my heart is also so sensitive to moms who go into an appointment just expecting to hear their baby's heartbeat and nothing's wrong. You're not bleeding. You don't have any complications. And then to be blindsided with the worst news of your life.
And like you said, no matter how many weeks you are, you're attached to that little baby, you have hopes, you have dreams, you're planning, and maybe you had already bought clothes or started thinking about the nursery, but it's your motherly instinct to already be connected to that little life inside of you and to be thinking of them.
And so I'm just so sorry that you experienced that and had to walk through that and be at that appointment without your husband. I know that must've been really hard. And I think that has made me even more heartbroken for the moms that have walked through this in COVID, going to their appointments alone and finding out this news by themselves.
But to answer your question, I will say from the time that I lost Bridget until now, which has been almost seven years, I do see that people are talking about it more and more. There’s still room for improvement and there's still a lot of people that aren't talking about it.
And I think that comes in with our culture's idea of not announcing pregnancies until after you're out of the first trimester. And so if you don't announce that you're pregnant until after 13 weeks and the majority of early miscarriages, those are happening in the first 12 weeks, then I think a lot of moms feel that it's difficult to come out and say, “Well, I had a baby. I miscarried.” When they hadn't even announced the pregnancy yet.
And so I am a really firm advocate and passionate about announcing pregnancy early, which may sound interesting. But with our second child, our son, we announced at five weeks, which is really early, because I felt like for us, it was like, this life is a life and no matter what happens if he passes away or we have a miscarriage, I want to talk about it and I want to talk about his life, but he's my child.
And so I do see the tide turning a little bit as there's more organizations and more people blogging and writing on social media. But it's like what you said when the nurse told you there's one in four pregnancies that end in loss. Until you've gone through it, I don't think your eyes are open to that because I certainly think before I lost Bridget, that was happening, but I wasn't aware of it.
I didn't know anybody, but then I went through it and then I realized, wow, this is happening to so many women. And so I think you just become even more aware of it once you've walked through it and people reach out to you because they know you've walked through it and they want to share too.
So you talked a little bit about your faith and you knew that God had a purpose and that you were going to rely on God and that you needed God to get through that grief. Was your faith impacted in any other way? As you were wrestling through that, I know you were also going through things with your own body and just the trauma of all of that happening at once. Did you feel like your relationship with God changed during that season? And what did you learn about God during that time?