Our story of MG’s birth ends well. It ends with a healthy and beautiful baby girl. More perfect than we could ever could have imagined. But it doesn’t start that way. It started with one of the most painful events of our married lives.
But there is, as they say, beauty in pain.
“There is always some shame and fear in this, I think, shame for the terrible selfishness and loneliness of grief, and fear of the difference between your grief and anybody else’s. And yet comfort somehow gets passed around…Once in a while we hear it sung out in a hymn, when every throat seems suddenly widened with love and a common longing: In the sweet by and by, We shall meet on that beautiful shore.” Wendell Berry, Hannah Coulter
In September of 2009, I had been having a lot of “weird symptoms”. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something was off: I was feeling nauseated, exhausted (but having trouble sleeping), and restless. When I couldn’t shake these feelings, I turned, as usual, to my outlet of choice: the Internet. Immediately, all the signs pointed to pregnancy. I freaked. This was not our plan. We still had a lot of “living” left to do.
I shared my newfound computer knowledge with N. He wasn’t fazed and told me there was a simple solution: just take a pregnancy test. Negative. So I tried to put it out of my mind for a couple of days. But deep down, I knew…I KNEW what my body was telling me.
On September 22, I woke up early (again) after a restless night of sleep (again). The pregnancy tests came in a pack of 3. I decided it was time to seal my fate with a second attempt.
I didn’t have to wait the full 3 minutes before I began to see two blue lines appear. Proof. I was pregnant. Though I was staring at reality, I couldn’t hardly believe it. I never thought it would happen this way…unplanned, uncomplicated, unemotional. I felt as though I had just sampled from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Our youth was gone. Our future was determined. Our eyes were now open to a new and permanent reality.
I had to tell N immediately. I let him sleep until his alarm went off, but I knew the second I heard him stirring, I would not be able to hold back our news. There would be no cutesy banners or gift-wrapped onesies announcing our future. Just two sleepy, bed-headed sojourners at five in the morning.
He saw the light on in the guest bedroom and came padding in to find me reading. “Didn’t sleep well?”.
“Nope.” pause. Pregnant pause. I could find no good delivery.
“I took a pregnancy test this morning.” He waited patiently.
“Well, you’re going to be a father.” (just a lot sooner than you envisioned. I hope you’re okay with that. I’m sorry that I’m going to be a wreck for the next nine months.)
“I think I’m going to be sick” he said, and ran to the bathroom.
I couldn’t help but laugh at what I encountered when I found him there. He was lying on the floor, broken out in a sweat, eyes closed, with a smile on his face.
“Did you throw up?”
“No. I just feel like I could faint.” Oh boy. I laid right down there on the floor next to him. My husband. The father of my baby. While I’d had some time to prepare for this and an hour or so to compose myself, he had just let himself believe it for the first time.
And he was smiling. This was a crazy journey we were on, but he was happy to be on it. And suddenly, so was I.
After work that day, N brought home a cookie cake (my favorite) that said “My Baby’s having my baby”. It was a sweet gesture on his part, but I think it was also because N hates to keep secrets. And he needed to tell someone, ANYONE, the biggest news of his year. He did make the baker promise not to tell anyone. And we let ourselves celebrate this new and overwhelming journey we had begun. It was our little secret, between just the 2(.5) of us (+the baker & the receptionist at the doctor’s office) eating cake and laughing in the face of our future.
We had let this baby into our hearts. We had just begun to love it and think of it as our own. We had grown giddy with excitement over its growth. So who would have predicted that it would end so soon? Why would God surprise us with new life and then just as quickly take it away?
Exactly one week later on September 29, I woke up to a card at my breakfast spot. It said something sweet about the pregnancy and N proclaimed a new tradition to give me a card every week of the pregnancy. (Secretly-I think he felt bad for his initial reaction, so he was trying to show me that he was truly glad we were pregnant). It was a wonderful way to start the day, but when I arrived at work, things began spiraling.
I had arrived early to set up my supplies and get my room ready for the students. Soon after, I discovered some alarming bleeding. I called N right away and he talked me through it and we started praying.
The doctor’s office wouldn’t open for another hour and a half and thankfully my two morning classes were a good distraction from my frantic mind. Much to my heavy heart’s dismay, the bleeding worsened. Finally the doctor gave us the okay to come in to his office. Before I left, another teacher pulled me aside and asked me what was going on. I told her that I just needed to leave, that something was up, and asked if she could cover for me. God bless her heart. She must have known but she never said it. She walked me to my car and alerted my boss.
N and I had carpooled that day and thankfully his office wasn’t at all far from the doctor’s. I picked him up. We didn’t talk. There was nothing to be said.
In the doctor’s office, we must have made quite the pair. I was the only one in the waiting room crying. Nate tried to comfort me. I’m sure some women were there waiting for the happy news they were pregnant or to find out the gender of their baby. We most certainly tempered the mood.
The doctor examined me. He told me I was still pregnant, but often, the bleeding will lead to loss. But then he gave me some hopeful news. He told me that he had seen miracles before. I held on tightly to that word.
We weren’t yet ready to go home. It was too late to return to work. So we drove to lunch and in the car we talked about it for the first time. N had lost all hope. He tried not to show me, but I knew. “We can still have a miracle.” I said thinly. But I knew he didn’t believe that this would end well.
It felt really weird to sit there and eat our lunch, silently begging God for the life of this child that we had only known for about a week. Just a little over a month ago, pregnancy had been the furthest thing from my mind. Now I was consumed with thoughts about saving my baby. The rest of the afternoon, I fielded curious texts from co-workers and lay on the couch watching episode after episode of Laguna Beach. It felt good to escape to the land of high school where the biggest problem was making sure you had a good date to the senior prom. I prayed and prayed and asked God for a miracle.
The next day, I didn’t know what else to do but get up and go back to work. The bleeding had continued, but not enough to let me know if anything had happened one way or the other. My boss confronted me; I told him the truth and that we were still in limbo. He was so kind. Later that day, he emailed me a prayer he had written for our baby. The big and small and kind gestures of others is truly something I will never forget during this time.
I asked him if I could leave as soon as my classes were finished to go home and rest. He told me not to worry and leave whenever I needed. That was good because around 10am, the cramping began. At first, I was able to walk it off, but they soon became stronger and I didn’t know how I could continue to teach the final two hours before lunch. I told the neighboring teacher that I had to leave immediately. When she looked concerned, I started crying.
I don’t know how I made it home that day. The pain was so intense that I thought several times I was going to throw-up. I knew I was losing the baby. Nate came as soon as he could. He held me while I cried. He didn’t cry much because he had already mourned the loss. He had already known. Up until that very point, I had held on to the thought that somehow I could save this baby. What else can a Mother do? I finally allowed myself to grieve its loss.
The doctor had asked me to come in the next day and he confirmed what I suspected. The life within me, the great surprise of our year, had passed. Thankfully, my body had emptied itself and no surgeries would be necessary.
He told me to wait at least 3 months before becoming pregnant again and most importantly that this was not my fault. Even though I knew this was true, I kept finding different ways to blame myself. I wondered if God was punishing me for something. I wondered if I had not loved or wanted the baby enough and that’s why it was taken away. I wondered if I had not taken care of myself and all of the running I had done had provoked its demise.
I had only been given a few weeks as a Mother and already I had failed at my number one job: protecting my baby.
When those terrible thoughts resurfaced, I reminded myself that it wasn’t my fault. Over and over and over.
It’s funny how things can so quickly change. A month prior to this, I had never noticed all of the pregnant women around me. Now, during these 3 months of wait, it seemed like every where I turned, there were round bellies and news of expectation. I avoided Facebook for a while because every time someone complained (probably legitimately) about their children or their pregnancy aches and pains all I could think about was how I would gladly trade places with them. My grief was consuming at times and next to non-existent at others.
In hindsight, those three months turned out to be a wonderful time for us and our marriage. It gave us time to step away from the emotions and consider if having a child now was something we really wanted. It taught us to have patience and rely on God’s timing and not our own. It allowed my body to heal. And it gave us a true, longing, all-consuming desire to become parents.
And as you already know, this story ends well.
There is pain in beauty and beauty in pain.
Sometimes I still think about our first little baby. The little one whom we never knew nor held on earth. The longer we remain on earth, the more we come to realize that Heaven is slowly being filled with people that we have known well or have longed to know. This has only increased our ache for it. Someday we will kiss the face of our unknown little one.
But had it not been for the life OR death of this child, we would not have our MG. This tiniest of tiny human beings began one of the most important chapters in the story of our lives.
Such is the miracle of life.