December 7, 1941
September 11, 2001
April 26, 2012
The first two dates I’m sure you recognize. I wasn’t alive for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, but the intentional crashing of commercial airplanes into the twin towers that made up the World Trade Center is an image that will forever be etched in my mind. I can quite vividly remember my college campus, classes were cancelled, the gym was open for prayer, and our eyes were glued to the television screen unable to believe what was now reality.
And so now you are scratching your head, and perhaps Googling, that last date trying to figure out what pivotal event occurred that day. You won’t find it. It wasn’t publicized. And for most of the world, it was a just a day like any other.
But for me, it changed everything.
On February 7, 2012, two pink lines strongly indicated what I had already sensed to be true – we were expecting baby #2! That was also the day I got on airplane to fly 2,000 miles to be with my best friend of almost 20 years who had just lost her baby boy smack dab in the middle of her pregnancy. (The common belief that “once you make it to 12 weeks, you’re safe” is a lie! Sorry, but it is.) Little did I know then how intimately God would weave our stories. I was nervous to tell her about my new discovery because I didn’t want to rub my growing baby in her gaping emptiness, but also because I had a very real awareness even then – maybe even before those pink lines were visible – that I would be walking a very similar path.
I know that sounds ridiculous. It sounds ridiculous to me, too! But honestly, I was so sure of it, by the time I got to 10 weeks and had yet to have any problems with my pregnancy, I began praying that God would just allow it to happen sooner rather than later. And since then, I have talked to MANY women who tell similar stories of just knowing.
Call it mother’s intuition if you want. But I sincerely believe God, in His loving kindness, was preparing my heart for loss. Something which still brings me to worship.
Five more weeks pass with a few doctor’s visits showing strong heartbeats and a healthy baby! A little bit of bleeding but nothing super concerning.
April 26, 2012: I was fifteen weeks and one day into my pregnancy. A Thursday. I was feeling fine. It was a good day! I had lunch with a friend at Steak n Shake, but then that evening, around 7:30, I started having a little bit of pain and a tiny bit of bleeding. I didn’t think anything of it as I know subsequent pregnancies and being older can spell pain with a growing baby, and I had had bleeding before so it wasn’t really a concern. But I called my doctor just to be safe. She asked me a few questions: was it a lot of blood? Was I having any stomach cramping? I answered “no” to both. She told me to call her if I had any more bleeding or if the pain got worse. I assured her I would.
9:00 pm rolled around and we were getting ready to put our newly 3-year-old (his birthday is April 23) to bed. I decided to try using the restroom, thinking perhaps the cause of my pain was constipation (tmi, I know. Pregnancy is gross and not for the faint of heart.)
After sitting on the toilet for a few moments, I look down to see the tiniest legs and feet hanging out of me. The source of my pain: I was in labor! (Back labor – which is why I told my doctor I was not having any stomach pain. Come to find out apparently I ONLY have back labor.) So I quickly jump in the bathtub – I did not want my baby falling in the toilet – and scream for my husband to call 911. At this point I think I became a little delusional. Somehow I thought maybe the EMTs could actually help my baby (even though she was now completely out of me) and that I would not have to go to the hospital. I mean, there was nothing wrong with me – it was my baby that needed help! But even in my delusion, I made a very coherent decision: no matter the outcome, I would not stop praying.
I would not stop praying.
Within a matter of minutes, six men whom I had never met, had crammed themselves into my bathroom (which I will be sure to include as a selling feature if we should ever move: can fit 7 adults in the master bath!) and were working frantically to assess the situation, try to keep me from passing out, and figure out how to get me out to the ambulance, only at the last minute thinking to ask if I wanted a sheet to cover my naked lower half from the obvious audience that had by that time surely gathered around the emergency vehicles outside my door. Umm, yes – yes I would. Thank you very much for your consideration.
One thing I have since learned that I wish I had known then, you can request which hospital you would like for them to take you to. Oh how I wish I’d known that then!
Short version: We ended up at the nearest hospital to our house – which many people will exclaim that they would not let even their dog go there! My doctor did not have privileges at this hospital so could only advise over the phone, and the doctors there opted to not do any of the tests she recommended therefore giving me not even an inkling as to why this happened. It was 5 hours before my baby, who was out of me yet still connected to me via the umbilical cord, was finally disconnected from me and I was finally allowed to relieve myself (after being pumped full of fluids via IV for almost that entire time). I was refused water for hours while I waited for them to figure out whether or not I needed a D&C to remove the placenta and when that might happen. (They conveniently decided to pay me a surprise visit at 4:00am – just an hour after I had finally fallen asleep – to wheel me away for said D&C.) Afterword, I awoke to a nurse and my husband yelling at me to “cough and breathe!” because apparently they were having trouble keeping my O2 levels where they needed to be to avoid brain damage or death. (I had had surgery a few times before with no such problems.) And the icing on the cake to everything, after several weeks of having our baby in pathology, we came to find out that they had, in fact, done nothing to try to figure out what happened other than a visual inspection of her body. We even had to fight to get them to test DNA to determine gender (as external organs were not yet clearly identifiable. That happens at 16 weeks.)
Every time I tell this story, I am still completely baffled that this is actually something we lived through! Talk about rubbing salt in an already gaping wound. Good night!
We, thankfully, only spent one night in this hell hole. Though my sweet husband, who had ridden in the ambulance with me, had to get someone to come get him and bring him home so he could get our car and my pants (remember I had left with nothing but a shirt and a sheet.) And also, spent considerable time cleaning my blood out of our bathroom so I wouldn’t have to see it again. (It took me a week before I could go back into our bath – opting instead to use the hall bath. And I can count on one hand the number of times I have used that bathtub – in 4 years. A bathroom remodel is on the agenda, but not the budget!)
But coming back home was not comforting either. That’s when life had to continue, somehow. The first night home I awoke very early in the morning and just started bawling. I think that was when I realized it was not all just a bad dream. So I just cried and clenched my empty womb, which now felt distinctly like a hallowed-out pumpkin, while my poor husband tried to comfort me. Also, in a few hours, we had to get up and take our son to his birthday party that was already reserved a paid for, and yet all I wanted to do was die. A feeling that became very familiar as the weeks and months passed.
Then, as if to add insult to injury, my milk came in. I had asked the lactation consultant at hospital if it would, and she assured me it would not as I had lost “too early” for that to happen. Well guess what? She was wrong. (Seems like for par for the course though for this circus hospital.) There is nothing more heart-wrenching than having a body that is ready to feed a baby who will never need milk.
We spent the next week blaming ourselves and trying to find a reason for our daughter’s death. Did we do something to cause this? Was God punishing us for some sin we had forgotten to confess? Please, if you hear nothing else, please know that the answer to that question is a loud and resounding “NO!” Jesus Christ took all the punishment for our sins on the cross 2,000 years ago. While there may be natural consequences to sin, God is not punishing you when things in your life go wrong.
My heart was broken in a way I had never known for a child I had never met. It is baffling to believe unless you live through it. And my poor husband, completely unraveled by the realization that there was nothing he could do to fix this, and though he tried – oh how he tried!-he kept finding he was never able to comfort my grief and my pain.
But that is because he was never meant to be my comforter.
To be continued…