There is a scene in my longtime favorite movie She’s Having a Baby where hopeful parents Jake (Kevin Bacon) and Kristy (Elizabeth McGovern) are in the hospital, about to have their first baby when suddenly things start going wrong. Jake is forced out of the delivery room as his wife lies writhing in pain screaming “I’ve got to get it out! I’ve got to get it out!” and the doctor is urgently telling her to stop pushing. They give her a shot of medication, she passes out, oxygen mask goes on, sheets are ripped off of her large pregnant belly and the tray of surgical instruments rolls in. Flash to Bacon standing alone in the hospital hallway with shock, anger and fear on his face. Piano music starts and a high pitched whispery voice of Kate Bush begins,
“Ah ha ah ahhh, oooh” in an etherial, lulling tone that forces stillness upon this imminently altering moment in their lives.
Flashbacks of their life together, of the good and the funny and the tender and sweet moments, roll in his mind.
“Pray God you can cope” the voice sings
A tear begins to fall from his face and when it lands on the ground it is a drop of blood next to his wife’s hospital bed.
That drop of blood, color of life, reference of death, leaves us hanging, scared, hopeful, preparing for the worst and praying for the best.
All of life, we do this.
Blood started to come yesterday evening, and all of these emotions settled into the numbness that allows me to function, to seem to forget what flows fiercely beneath the surface, in the face of the tragic. Will it be well?
I was going to text my dearest friends for prayer, but didn’t want to be alarmist, didn’t want to allow fear to take hold. Should I have waited to tell them the good news until the “safe” twelfth week? I have lived and known even week 41 not to be safe. We waited with my first pregnancy, had a miscarriage at 8 weeks and spent the next year hoping month after month after lonely, scary, isolating month this would be the one when we would share the good news with the bad, and confess to the pain we had endured alone. Too many months passed, the narrative when finally unfolded felt hollow, a tin bucket that echoed with a pang of the details that had once been full of tears. We told at a moment’s notice with our next, my graduation day from Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California, when family and dear friends would be gathering to celebrate just days before we were to move away to Seattle. We relished the joy shared with our community of loved ones and our hearts broke to leave them. Little did they know how hard earned this joy was for us, the many many months of trying and the harsh blood that kept saying no each month.
Do we wait to invite those most dear, the world around us, into our joy that might become pain? Who are we seeking to protect? Of course I’d rather not tell the bad news after the good. But I think I would rather tell the bad news than have that hollow lonely experience ever again. We waited the full twelve weeks to tell the kids and the masses of our second son, whom we lost full term, and were ever so careful to wait to share the news of the baby who followed, our baby Bird now 16 months. This newest baby was a miracle of all miracles, meant to be from the amazing details of the conception and timing. God was in this and that meant fruition right?
“I’ve often bled early in my pregnancies, when the baby implants,” I told myself and my husband, who knows my history nearly as intimately as I, attempting to reassure us.
This wasn’t early enough though and I knew it. I was too far along. I knew it was too late. So I said my own prayers and went to bed, hoping for the best by morning, when my first OB appointment was already scheduled, first thing. I would have answers.
Blood was still coming by morning. My huge belly that popped out so quickly there was no way of even trying to hide my pregnancy from my children, and therefore the world, was already gone. Noticing my flat profile in the mirror while in the shower, I tried pushing it out, pulling on my skin with my hands, forcing it to look full again and trying to convince myself it was. But I knew. I had barely eaten dinner the night before, made it through the night without having to use the bathroom. Symptoms and signs were fading, and I knew.
I texted some friends who pray.
But I wouldn’t believe until I was in the ultrasound room, that horrible, awful ultrasound room where the black cavity of my baby Fisher’s chest proved his heart was no longer beating. I couldn’t wait to get to that room, and I almost passed out when I went in. Oh, yes, this terrible place of truth, the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, where I hoped that a serpent had not taken my baby but a God who loves us would have breathed life into her.
I have known the image of that 8 week bean with the pin top fluttering heart beat 5 times now, I knew what I was looking for. The search and search and attempts to find something within the black void of a small yolk sac were unnecessary. She was gone, there wasn’t even a lifeless form of white, just that damn circle of darkness and a bit of a cloud of blood escaping from the top.
“I am so sorry,” my OB looked at me, concerned for me.
I shrugged my shoulders and said, “I knew,” unable to cry just yet.
She had been so happy to see us that morning, we were all so excited to bury that hard story we’d drudged our way through and add one more for the good guys to the score board.
“This isn’t anything you did” she reassured.
“We’ve been moving, life has been full,” I confessed, seeing all the pitying faces of the last week flashing in my mind saying “you are so busy, how do you do it all?”
This is my life. Do I sit reclined on a one armed settee like a Victorian maiden with a plate of meats and grapes by my side, my children playing silently in white batiste dresses at my feet while I rest and nap all day? No. I live a normal life. I do things. I get up and care for my children and do a bit of outside work and volunteer where I can and am needed, I help with the recent extra needs of our family’s move, but did no heavy lifting and went to bed early and avoided deli meats and unpasteurized cheeses and tuna and alcohol and too much caffeine. I followed all the rules, I took care of my baby, followed the cues of my body, had a few busy days with pressing deadlines to be sure, but didn’t feel tension or stress, stayed physically, intentionally calm and reminded myself “it will be what it will be and there is nothing more I can do” when I was too tired to continue as I would pre-pregnancy. There was no task more important than the creation of this life.
I made all my confessions to Dr. B, I have been there before, and she shook her head at me until she could get a word in to say “No, there was something wrong that didn’t allow this baby to grow.”
She measured six weeks, I was undoubtedly eight, knowing my exact day of conception which absolutely miraculously and ironically was the exact day of conception of my son Fisher from three years before. I was amazed my body would line up in such a way and it felt like a detail of redemption. Two weeks ago my life was less full than the last. That made me feel better too.
But who knows. Maybe it was a poor choice on my part, or a moment of stress or strain on my body that I could have prevented. I will wrack my brain again and again, and promise to do better next time. Maybe I’ll start saving for that chaise lounge.
Dr. B explained what to expect over the next few days, knowing I’d been here before any of my babies were born, gave me some options and set me up for a follow up appointment at the latest possible time at the end of the week in case there might be something to hope for in the ultrasound, but mainly to make sure all the tissue had passed and I was out of danger of hemorrhaging.
The blood kept coming, bright and heavy, and hope dissipated. Once we walked through the glass door of the waiting room that held bellies full of anticipation I finally felt my stoic strength release and the tears surged and carried me down the hall, into the elevator, through the lobby and out the automatic glass doors. When the free and fresh air and the loudness of the city surrounded us, I could speak and I sobbed out, “I was so excited. I wanted this baby so much.”
My husband’s arm sheltered me tight and he said “me too,” tears releasing for him too.
“Can I buy you lunch?” I knew the abundance of work he had put off putting in extra hours on our move so that I wouldn’t have to, I knew it was a sacrifice for him to spend more time with me while we had childcare and potential work hours in front of us.
“Sure” I said, receiving the gift of his presence, “I want a turkey sandwich with blue cheese on it and a coke” I said defiantly.
That night I took iron and vitamin C to prepare for the large amount of blood loss, drank a glass of wine and made the brownies I’d been craving for a week, easing back into a life less calculated.
“How is that diet for miscarriage prep?” I texted one of my dearest dietician friends my late night snack.
She was reassuring and offered to be with me in the morning, and bring me food. Another dear friend brought dinner, others offered help and sent kind messages of their love and prayers. I felt God’s presence in their support and was grateful I had shared our joy, had weeks of time to revel and celebrate together, so that when this loss came I was not a hollow bucket trying futilely to explain the importance of a scene a you had to have been there for.
I am alone in this. No one else can do this for me, or with me, or take away the pain in my body, deep in my heart.
I stand outside this woman’s work,
This woman’s world.
Ooh, it’s hard on the man,
Now his part is over.
Now starts the craft of the father.
But I am loved in this. I am given grace and peace and comfort and the sustenance I need to endure this.
I know you have a little life in you yet.
I know you have a lot of strength left.
I managed to get up and outside in the early evening when the sun was still glowing bright in our new cul-de-sac and play with my children. I shot a few baskets with the big kids who are excitedly taking to this new sport their papa has been waiting years to have the right space to teach them. I pushed my baby girl on her trike and the scooter she isn’t nearly big or coordinated enough for but expresses such joy in being given a ride. We were all smiling and laughing and my body was bleeding and cramping but it felt good to be out and in the sun and in this moment. A new neighbor gave me a big embracing hug that felt like she’d been my dear friend for years. Another came out with her daughter, the same age as my baby, and the girls smiled and hugged their same size new friend. I looked around me as if my life was standing still and praised God I’d been given so much to be grateful for.
This is my body, broken for you…
This is my blood, poured out.
And I remember what He has done for me.