It was a regular OB visit. I was 16 weeks pregnant and despite the growing aggravation of increased bathroom visits, I felt great. I was pregnant with our third child and was elated to be adding to our family. At 35, I was on the cusp of being considered a high risk pregnancy, but my two earlier pregnancies had been fairly normal and gratefully uneventful.
This visit to the doctor was especially convenient because my other two daughters were at home with their father and I didn’t have to keep them occupied during the exam. I remember looking at my silhouette in the window as I walked into the hospital foyer. Being my third pregnancy I was already beginning to show. I was wearing a trendy, somewhat sheer black maternity top with black capri leggings and I felt that maternal glow.
It was nice to have a little “me” time even if it meant reading old issues of magazines while I waited my turn. The nurses in my OB’s office knew me well by now and they always had a kind word or maternal wisdom to offer.
Everything about the visit was normal…until my doctor couldn’t find a heartbeat. Not to be alarmed he said, there was a heartbeat there before and sometimes the fetal heart monitor couldn’t always locate the heartbeat very well. He sent me down to the ultrasound tech to confirm that everything was okay.
The ultrasound tech, Theresa, was sort of a friend. We went to the same high school, just several years apart. Theresa had done every single one of my ultrasounds with my two daughters and I felt comfortable and safe with her. I was not even remotely prepared for look on Theresa’s face as she did the scan.
She paused, took a deep breath and asked me if I had every miscarried before. Her eyes looked at me with a deep caring and concern and I knew she was trying to tell me my baby had died. And whether it was a blessing or a cosmic joke, my baby wasn’t even a fetus anymore. It’s tiny body was disintegrating and being absorbed into the placenta. My womb was empty.
Honestly, I don’t know if I cried there on the exam table. I just remember Theresa offering some kind words of support and her asking me if I had come alone. Did I need someone to drive me?
Yes, I had come alone. But I wasn’t alone when I arrived there. I was with my baby. Now I was utterly alone. And I had to make the hour long drive home…alone. Alone to ponder why this happened. Alone to mentally abuse myself with “what if’s.” Alone to figure out how I was going to tell my husband and my girls.
Somewhere in the depths of my soul I knew that God doesn’t bless you with a soul to take it away from you as a punishment. I knew somehow that this little soul, even if it never got to experience the world or our family, had a purpose. Whether there was a physical or medical condition that prevented “him” from developing, it was God’s will that was served and not mine. I had no choice but to believe that some greater purpose had been served by the early release of this tiny soul. Realizing that did not heal my grief and deep sense of loss, but it was surrendering to that mystery that forced me to just trust in God.
And in that moment I realized I wasn’t alone. I am never alone. And I am never thrown life’s tragedies without an angelic net to catch me.
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Miscarriage, still birth and early infant death are incredibly painful topics to discuss. Most of us have no words of healing or wisdom to offer even though there are millions of us who experience this devastating loss. Having been on the other end of “kind silence” the only thing I am able to offer up is “I’ve been there too and I know how badly you are hurting.” Words can’t heal this pain but being supported by a community of women who “get it” is safe place to start. Here are links to a few organizations that offer this kind of precious community support: Mothers in Support and Sympathy, Blessed Is She, Through the Heart, Hannah’s Heart and Love.
“…Bereavement is a universal and integral part of our experience of love.” – C.S. Lewis