I’m supposed to be pregnant.
I’m supposed to be mid-third trimester, eight months along.
If it were up to me.
If I was the one who got to decide.
I’m supposed to be gushing over 3D ultrasounds and journaling about how many times the baby kicked today after I drank orange juice and snuck an extra cupcake.
I’m supposed to be complaining about feeling huge and about my middle being stretched to the max and about heartburn and about having to wake up every few hours to use the bathroom.
But I’m not.
It’s not up to me.
I don’t get to decide.
One of my prayers in 2013 was taken from the Lord’s prayer, to truly ask that God’s will would be done here on Earth – or more specifically, in my world, my life – as it is in heaven. I’m an organizer who loves to control, and God had been working on me, for well… at least two decades, about acknowledging Who is truly in charge.
But back to the story…
I discovered I was pregnant with my first daughter Gianella on my Pop Pop’s birthday in 2010. I couldn’t wait to tell my husband. Shortly after, I wanted to tell my parents and then announce it to the whole world!
But, then, there’s the three-month rule.
It seems to be the common standard that everyone waits until they are three months pregnant to make a public announcement about a pregnancy. You know, before they make it Facebook official.
I really didn’t want to follow the three-month rule, like so many other people do. It didn’t make sense to me. I was pregnant. It was exciting. And it was a fact. And I wanted other people (ahem… anyone and everyone) to know!
“But,” say the three-monthers, “The first three months are the most risky. What if something happens to the baby?”
To which I say, “I’m pregnant. I’m celebrating, and I want everyone to celebrate with me. If something happens to the baby, I’ll be mourning, and I would want everyone’s support.”
But, alas, my husband and I think differently. He’s the mozzarella; I’m the tomato (if that doesn’t make sense, read this). He is more private, and he wanted at least a few days for us to celebrate together, like a fantastic secret we could enjoy on our own. Then, he wanted to share the secret with just our parents and siblings. He was ok with letting the outside world wait their expected three months. Although I didn’t feel that way, I could see where he was coming from, and we waited.
Everyone did indeed celebrate with us, and our daughter was born in August of 2011.
Fast-forward nearly two years. I found out I was pregnant again! I had the same can’t-hold-it-in feeling and couldn’t wait to tell my husband. It was July 17, the day after our eight-year wedding anniversary. This time, we told our parents right away. Before the prescribed three months was over, I brought our first ultrasound photo to that same Pop Pop; this time I told him the news as he lay in bed in a nursing home. I shared the news with the family members who were visiting him that day. I shared some more to my favorites at girls’ night out. The celebration started early this time! But we still kept the news from most of my family, friends, the general public… and Facebook, just like the first time.
I’m a planner. With my first pregnancy, I read the books and planned as well as I could, but there was still so much uncertainty. The second time around, since I had gone through this pregnancy thing already, now I was confident, and I started preparing with vigor and direction. I packed all the winter pants and sweaters I knew I wouldn’t be able to squeeze my pregnant belly into. I unpacked some maternity favorites from a few years before. I picked out my favorite formal maternity dress I didn’t get to wear the first time around, and I made a mental note that this time I would get to wear it to my cousin’s November wedding. I signed up on pregnancy-related websites to receive weekly emails about what my baby would be up to that week… when his or her eyelids and fingernails were formed… when he or she could hear me or get the hiccups… what kind of fruit was comparable to the size of my little Mister or Miss that week. I also scheduled a 3-D ultrasound, so we could get a glimpse of our new little one as early as possible – this was one of my favorite things to see when our daughter was pre-partum.
I waited anxiously as I approached week six. It was around this time with my daughter’s pregnancy that I began to get extremely nauseous. You know, morning sickness… or, as I like to call it every-waking-minute-of-my-day sickness. My husband was resigned to cook all of his meals outside on the grill, since the smell of food sent my stomach reeling (not that he complained about grilled meat every day!). But this time, week six came, and the sickness didn’t start. Those favorite girl friends said that every pregnancy is different, so I figured that was the case. A few other things just felt different too; I look back now, and I’m not exactly sure what those things were, but it was just… different. My conclusion? This new Baby was a boy!
We had an ultrasound to get a more accurate due date for the arrival of Baby. I had done this once before with our daughter, too, and I was secretly just really excited that we get an early bonus ultrasound picture to swoon over! The ultrasound technician took the measurements, showed me the Little One on the screen, and yes, printed me that coveted picture – the one I would later bring to announce Baby to my Pop Pop. She said the due date was March 21. The first day of Spring! The first day of new life. The first day we could plan to hold our Little One. So perfect!
I was in love. But I was also worried about a few things… how were we going to afford another baby? We were barely making it work since adding the third person to our family and purposefully cutting down my hours at work. Where would Baby sleep in our two-bedroom house? Since they’d have to share a room, how would they both make it through the night and naps without waking each other up? How would I be able to function and take care of a two-year old when I’m sleep deprived and nursing a newborn?
I noticed some spotting one morning, so I called the doctor’s office. I had some spotting with my first, so I didn’t panic. It must have been a prime day for ultrasounds. The doctor’s office and the corresponding hospital were booked that day, so they got me in at literally the sixth place they tried.
I was a bit nervous, so trying to find the right place in a new hospital and filling out the right forms and then trying to find the next place to go to, and waiting… and waiting… seemed like forever! Finally under the harsh lights on the ultrasound table, the technician and his assistant pointed out a few things on the ultrasound picture like the yolk sack. I finally asked, “Does everything look ok?” He asked me when the due date was, and then he suggested it might be more like March 26. Even more perfect, I thought! My Dad’s birthday! I forget now the exact words he used to answer my question when I asked the second time. But whatever the answer was, I took it to mean everything was normal, and we were back on track. He also said he would send everything to my doctor, who would call later today.
I texted my husband the good news. A little while later, the phone rang- a call from my doctor’s office. “I’m so sorry to tell you this over the phone, but I wanted you to be prepared,” said the nurse. My heart dropped. “The baby’s heart beat was at 140 beats per minute at the first ultrasound, and today’s test measured 70.”
What does that mean… really?
“It’s not good.” She said, “I need to you be prepared.”
What can I do? How can I best fix this?
“There’s nothing you can do,” she said. “Just rest; put your feet up; relax.”
Um, what? Did you really just tell me to relax after telling me Baby isn’t doing well?
We scheduled an appointment for a week later. Then we would know more about Baby’s heart.
I wept. I called my husband and sister and parents.
And I wept again.
I felt almost in a daze the entire week.
Waiting. Wondering. Waiting.
“Wait on the Lord.”
I was afraid to move. Afraid to eat. Afraid not to eat. Afraid to cough. Intensely sensitive to every sensation, wondering what it meant.
In a fast-paced life, I had craved down time. Now, my world slowed to an agonizing pace.
My husband and I went to the ultrasound at the end of the longest week of my life. We waited for ages as the tech worked. Then the words.
“I cannot find a heartbeat.”
Grief. Shock. Emotions so heavy.
“But at least you have a child at home.” This doesn’t comfort me. I love my child at home. I love this Child just the same. I didn’t mourn a pregnancy; I mourned My Baby. I didn’t want just another child. I wanted This Baby. This Life.
The waiting was over. But it wasn’t.
We went down to the waiting room, full of unknowing pregnant women, before we could talk to the doctor.
The nurse led us back and recorded my weight, my blood pressure. Really? Did she even know I lost My Baby? Why was my blood pressure important right now?
The doctor knew. He rattled off numbers.
One in every four women miscarries.
Miscarrying is most common in the first 12 weeks.
But there is no comfort in numbers.
He explained the options, and we went home for more waiting. I had never really considered this part. My Baby’s body.
We waited. When nothing happened, I followed the doctor’s advice to have a D&C. Typically, I research and confer and try to educate myself. This time, I did not. I felt I couldn’t digest anything. I just followed his recommendation and found myself in a cold room awaiting surgery.
It was so medical. Not comfortable, warm and caring like the birthing suite at the same hospital two years before. It was cold. Minimal. A matted print had fallen crookedly within the frame on the wall, so I couldn’t even make out the scene. No one else seemed to notice or care.
I was there to have a medical procedure. That’s it. To them, it was simply another minor surgery. To me, it officially marked the end of My Child’s life.
They wheeled my bed past the non-stress test rooms where I spent three days every week with my firstborn under my skin the last few weeks of her pregnancy. Emotions swelled.
Only one member of the anesthesiologist team offered his condolences. That meant the world to me. This wasn’t just another surgery, and he acknowledged that.
The crescendo of emotions culminated in the surgical waiting room. I clung to the words I had read over and over while in the waiting week, from a list I compiled of comforting truths from God’s Word. “From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” (Psalm 61:2). If I was ever overwhelmed, it was now. Overwhelmed. I pictured what I felt… turbulent, deep waters crashing over me so much that I sink below; my feeble attempts of escaping it on my own are futile. But I cry out. “Lead me.” I envision what the Psalmists painted in his words. Stalwart and gentle hands cradle my entire existence and lift me up out of the waters. He gingerly places me on a towering, solid rock that I never could have climbed on my own. I bask in the sunlight and feel the warmth radiating from the rock. The storm still rages, but He rescues.
I don’t have to worry about solving our small house, two-bedroom dilemma. I’m not trying to master the art of holding a cranky toddler while maneuvering a growing bump. My early worries are now missed joys.
I wouldn’t be wearing a maternity dress to my cousin’s wedding.
We wouldn’t be celebrating Baby’s first pre-born Christmas.
We wouldn’t be gawking over ultrasound pictures or talking to my daughter to get her ready to welcome New Baby to our family on the first day of spring.
It was back to normal. Except, it wasn’t.
The hardest thing about following the three-month rule, about not sharing news of a baby, is allowing the baby to go unnoticed. Unremembered.
I don’t feel I need need other’s sympathy, but I do want people to know about the Little One. I need them to know that we are no longer a family of three, even though only three toothbrushes are near the sink, three coats hang by the door and three heads lay on their pillows at night. One of us is not here.
My life is forever different.
It looks the same to most. There are no visible signs of change.
But my life is changed. And not merely changed back to what it was before I knew I was pregnant.
It changed once when we discovered the Baby was alive. It changed again when we discovered My Little One was gone.
I lost My Child, my grandma and my Pop Pop in 2013. My grandma had suffered from Alzheimer’s for years. Before that, she was an exuberant, event-planning, Uno-playing grandma who loved to sing and have sleepovers with her grandchildren. My Pop Pop was a witty, hard-working, polka-loving war vet and gardener, a great storyteller whose thumb was the deepest shade of green. My Child? I can’t tell you what My Child’s favorite color was. I can’t explain how My Child’s temperament compares to his sister’s. I don’t even know My Child’s name.
After my grandparents’ passings, it was comforting to gather with others who loved them. To recall that person. To remember the happy times. My pain reminded me how deep my love was for them.
I didn’t have that with My Child. We couldn’t reminisce. Hardly anyone knew this Little One even existed. Those who knew were supportive, but after the initial “I’m sorry,” bringing up the loss of a child is apparently taboo. Like no one wanted to remind me it happened. But the truth is… It happened. Little One was here. And then gone. Though it’s not easy to talk about, I will never forget it happened.
I remember when I cancel the ultrasound.
I remember when a pack of newborn-size diapers appears in the mail.
I remember when I see photos of young siblings.
I remember when I see a friend’s due date of March 21, 2014.
I remember when I put on a non-maternity dress for my cousin’s wedding.
I remember when I open my eyes, when I breathe in, when I exhale.
I will never forget Our Child. And to speak of it might be painful, like it is to speak of my late grandparents, but it’s also good to know that a life is remembered. Is it easier because we don’t have those memories? No. Is it less painful if I just never talk about it again? No.
I could pretend it didn’t happen. It would make answering questions easier.
How many kids do you have? (Two… but one… but really two.)
Is she your only child? (No. Well, she’s my only child on earth… who I can hold… whose name I know…)
Do you plan to have another soon? (As if the timing of the creation of a life is actually something humans are capable of orchestrating…)
Now, the answers are more complex.
And so are the questions.
I confidently do not know.
But I also confidently do know a few things. And though I only know a few things, they’re pretty tremendous things to know.
God is the one who gives life. No matter how much our society is deceived into thinking that we get to choose when to have a baby, God is the one to grant life. He is also the one to take it away. As I was waiting and wondering and wandering through the longest, hardest two weeks, he already knew the outcome. He was already there. And He is already there on March 21, 2014.
God knitted my Little One in my womb. Although the knitting was abruptly halted, He loved My Child, and He was not surprised when My Baby’s heart stopped beating. He numbers our days. He knew the number of My Child’s days would be exceedingly lower than I ever dreamed. His ways are higher than my ways. His thoughts are higher than my thoughts. He is good.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.”
I am not even sure if heaven works this way. In fact, it probably doesn’t, because all of heaven’s residents are likely too busy worshiping the one true God to greet the newcomers. But, it would be nice if God allowed my grandparents to hold their Great-Grand-Baby in heaven… or if it doesn’t work that way, to even brush by each other as they are mid-song, praising the one who knitted them all.
I plan to do something to honor and remember My Baby. I need to find purpose in the pain. More on that to come.
I’m still grieving. I always will be. And although it’s not always easy, I rest in the fact that God will do His will and not my “supposed-to-be” plan.
I’m not seven months pregnant today. I’m not supposed to be.
God is working. God is love. God is good.
Even when… No, especially when I don’t understand.
My Child is not in the womb of an imperfect mother, but in the arms of a perfect God – who, as I never will, knows My Child’s name.