Tag Archives: miscarriage

Hoping for Italy

Tuscany

I heard of the trip years before, three or four maybe, when I had gifted my husband, the writer-in-residence of the relationship, with a class studying narrative non-fiction. He’s written poems and lyrics, a screenplay, a book, an inspiring blog, sermons to change your life, and short stories that earned him English Department Scholar for his graduating class at Whitworth. He’d been to 6 continents by his late twenties and has plans to visit Alaska and Greenland as final frontiers, until the next destination calls. A writer and traveler, perceptive and proactive, I’ve loved him and wanted to live the adventures of life with him from our first encounter.

But that is him, and much as I could talk on and on about the great things he’s done and how wonderful he is, this is about my adventures though, lest I fall habitually into my most accustomed role as supporter and encourager of all that is around me, and not so much what is within.

It feels crazy to think of taking this trip at this time. My baby daughter broke her arm this week after bracing herself from a fall. We were up multiple nights caring for her in her pain, in the ER and as she transitioned to life with a cast. My husband’s busy season of work begins next week. I have so many end-of-the-year-events for my kids that I am having trouble keeping track. We are still living amongst boxes and unpacked bags in our new home. What kind of wife and mom am I to leave my family at such a time? Let alone the expense! As a church, and as a family, we are currently in a season of seeking to live more simply in order to raise money for wells to bring water to people in need in Africa. We will not draw from that donation, but still I struggle with Christian guilt around things like this. (Luckily I am married to my pastor who understands grace and celebration of life far better than I and continues to bless me with reminders)

We live a full, FULL, life with our 7 year, 5 year and 17 month old children, careers, ministries, volunteer work and activities. I am a binge and purge sleeper, rare that I get myself to bed at a decent hour, but relish it when I can luxuriate in it. What mom with any passion in addition to motherhood does get regular sleep? It is at night when all the ideas of my days that go untapped unleash. I get a few paragraphs into a blog, (but rarely have time or bravery to edit and post), pen a journal entry to one of my children capturing an epiphany of their personality, significant moment from their day or a prayer for their life, or daze out over a few hundred e-mails I must deal with at some point, so why not now? feeling that fleeting wink of a high like I have actually checked something of off my ever long to-do list. Life as a mom makes the hours in the margins bulge.

May I make myself perfectly clear though, I adore my life as a mom. I embraced motherhood like I did swimming, diving confidently, deep and excitedly into waters that felt more like home to my immersed body than dry land ever had. I have relished it, found purpose for my in life in it, and in seasons, have sought to maintain my identity as an individual with interests before and beyond early it. It is easy for these pieces of myself to feel lost, like all those little mismatched socks in the ever-bearing pile of laundry. The demands of mothering are constant, require more of me than I sometimes have to give and are wrought with rewards beyond measure.

Following my recent miscarriage (two and half years after the devastation of our stillborn son) Scott secretly inquired to see if there was still room in the writing class to Montalcino, coming to the realization that recent circumstances in our lives, including the miscarriage, could make the trip a possibility. I felt a call to write a few years ago and have sought to follow that as time and life circumstances have allowed. One of those pursuits was a writing class this fall in Seattle where I had learned of the Italy class and had kept the flyer for the trip on my bulletin board ever since, even brought it with us on our recent move to our new home. Scott and I spent our honeymoon in Italy, a whole week exploring the Tuscany and had particularly enjoyed the small hill town of Montalcino known for their Brunello red wine, the most reputable in the country. I remember reading in Anne Lamott’s book Operating Instructions about her life as a new mom that she had been a food critic at the time. How wonderful, I thought, to eat amazing food and be able to write about it. I thank God for every meal and have had experiences with food like that felt divine. I held hope that one day it would all come together to go and learn how to form gratitude for delicious food into inspired words. One day, when I was not pregnant or nursing. One day when we had a little extra money set aside. One day when we could use some airline miles for tickets and the kids could be cared for while Scott worked and I could leave my work and obligations for a bit and, and, and…one day.

There was one spot left, this would be one day. This is why I love my husband. Not because he is regularly so extravagant (he is typically wisely frugal) but because he believes in pursuing life experiences. He makes things happen.

When I met Scott at a Young Life fundraising event we were both nervous young college students speaking to a room full of respectable donors about our love for God and our love for kids and our dedication to ministry. We were each immediately smitten in hearing the other’s passion and priorities. I was volunteering at various stations throughout the evening and when Scott coincidentally kept showing up in the vicinity I gradually realized this was on purpose and gained the courage to notice and respond. Our first conversation is etched in my mind. A piece of that was discovering he was studying American travel literature and after graduation planned to travel to every state in the lower 48 states of the U.S. and write a book about it. He spoke with such assurance, humility and purpose that I knew he meant it; rare for a young college graduate, or anyone I’d ever met for that matter, to have such a vision and follow it. I knew him for 3 life bonding months before he left. Much as my heart ached to see him go, I knew he must in order to be the man he was created to be, and the man I would always adore.

In addition to securing my place in the class, Scott booked airline tickets scraping together some hidden air miles and made arrangements for the care of our kids; things I needed to come together well in order to feel any peace about going. He kept telling me it was so important for our kids to see me follow my dreams, to offset the mom-guilt he knows plagues me whenever I feel like I am being self-indulgent, much as I agreed with him. I preach self-care, but still it is hard to feel worthy of such an experience. It was also very scary to think of being apart from my family when life so recently reminded me once again how unpredictable our days can be; both a motivator to pursue my passions while I can and to never leave the vicinity of my loved ones.

So I am off to Italy, to follow a dream and a call, learn a new craft, relish some time of creativity and solitude, and meet new friends from all over the country. I will ache for the voices and hundreds of moments of physical contact I have with my husband and little ones who hug and climb and cling and fall and need me throughout the day, as I need them.

This is how we live – longing for togetherness and connection even as we seek to live out our unique purposes and passions as individuals. The beauty of it all is how we dance, in and out of sync, sometimes solo and adrift moving to the rhythms we alone perceive and sometimes in embrace aware of the joy and shelter we share in and create as we move. We sing and we cheer and we smile and we delight when we gather in our living room with music turned loud passing baby and big kids up and down and around for swings and for dips and stealing a kiss or a twirl, remind each other of why we seek so purposefully to capture and cherish this beautiful life we have been given.


Blood Drips Down

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.