Alfield Reeves Photography
When I was younger, I was a big ball of happy, jumbled emotions when my ex & I decided to try for our first child. This unknown, unmade hypothetical baby was something I’d wanted since forever. We were married for 4 years and I begged him to start trying from the morning after the wedding. I had deeply & desperately longed for a baby since I was 14 when my completely obnoxious & raging maternal instinct kicked in. In fact, so strong were my desires for motherhood that I’d actually convinced my high school boyfriend that we should try for a baby. And we did! At 15! Lord Jesus & Father in Heaven thank you that that didn’t happen.
Many years later, my ex & I married young. At 23, I was a new wife. Now that I felt the security of a stable home and an adoring, gainfully employed husband I was ready to procreate. My ex, however, was not. At all. He wouldn’t be ready for another 4 years. Between then and the birth of my first born son I did what I could: I prayed for my unborn children religiously. I prayed for each & every one that would ever be. I hoped for 3, 4, 5 at least.
After the honeymoon, I drove the long way back from Detroit to haul old junk to my new home across the state when I started the practice of earnestly praying for my unborn kids. I prayed for their lives, their safety, their hearts & souls and every little thing I could think of. I decided this practice was something I should keep doing for as long as it took, not knowing how achingly long that would be…4 years later for the first child, 8 years later for the second…15 years later for the third I’m still hoping and trying to conceive. I longed for those precious little children in those childless years. Each passing year that we actively avoided pregnancy my heart growing more & more restless.
When we finally tried, I conceived in the first month. Before I’d seen those two little lines confirming a pregnancy a great big exhaustion had taken over. I had no idea what early pregnancy fatigue felt like which, for the record is comparable to the feeling of completing a marathon. Except everyday for 12 weeks straight. I’ve run a marathon. The exhaustion levels are not dissimilar. Within a week I’d missed my visit from Aunt Flo, taken a positive test and decided on a guiding theme for the soon-to-be nursery of Zanzibar African animals. By the next week, I’d started spotting and cramping. A few days later, I bagged a penny sized clump to bring to the doctor. The desperation of that gesture undeniably revealing. Here I was hoping the doctor could give me some explanation as to why I’d lost my first beloved and desired pregnancy that I earnestly prayed for for 4 years.
That day was December 23, 2004. I had previously planned to do all of my last minute Christmas shopping as was (and is) my custom. I couldn’t do it. I was still physically in pain, but emotionally I felt gutted to my core. But Christmas. It was coming regardless of my mood. On Christmas Eve, I ventured out to the mall amidst the hustle and bustle and tried hard to push aside my emotions to get this arduous task over and done with. Each step reminding me of my current distress. I watched people smile, I noticed the flickering lights, I listened to the happiest-time-of-the-year Christmas music and I wanted to stop time to let everyone know my baby had just died. I went to the mall bathroom and heavy sobbed…my baby just died…my baby just died. How? Why? For what purpose?
Even if this is an unanswerable question, the grieving barren mother still will not hesitate to ask.
The next month, we conceived our first son who was born with great joy in the next Fall. A couple of years later when I was ready for the next child, we went through the same song and dance as most couples do. In another year or so he was ready to try and after 8 impatient months, our second son was conceived and born the next Fall almost exactly 4 years apart from the firstborn.
Rhys, the baby, the whirlwind of energy and emotion is 6, Ransom the dutiful, loving big brother, 10. In that time, my first marriage ended and a new one began. With it, a mutual desire for one last child. With both of us at the ripe old age of 38 we instinctively knew it’s now or never. We began the TTC journey with gusto. It was with complete shock & awe when we learned we’d conceived after the first try. Literally. One perfectly timed try. As the old adage goes, once is all it takes!
After suspecting things awry, I took a break from work to procure a quick test to confirm my suspicions. When I saw the positive test I was completely surprised and unbelievably elated. I called my honey at work to deliver the news. He must have said, “your joking right?” about 5,000 times. We talked for 7 minutes. We discussed approximate due dates, made initial plans, started planning how maternity leave would work. All things we’d expected to deal with LATER…after it took forever to conceive because that’s how things work. Before we hung up, he checked in to be sure I wasn’t pulling a grand prank. ‘Baby’, I said, ‘we’ve been on the phone for a full 7 minutes! What cruel woman would joke about an impending pregnancy for 7 minutes? Naw babes, I’m forreal, forreal!’
I drove home thanking God for this beautiful gift –and after one shot! My husband texted me, “just told my Mom. And my Grandma. And my best friend.” He was on top of the world. We were outside ourselves with joy.
Two weeks later, the spotting began very slowly. I was inwardly panicky but I tried to keep my composure while I communicated to him what was happening. I thought maybe if I prepared his heart for the potential loss it would hurt a little less once we knew exactly what was happening. A few days later the loss was obvious and complete. We talked. We cried. We hugged. It felt different for me this time around. Having experienced miscarriage before the cruel familiarity of it somehow numbed the pain in a small but noticeable way. For my husband, this was all new territory. This little precious life was his first pregnancy, his first biological child, his first miscarriage. To be sure, I was sad, but to look on his saddened face…that was the worst.
Three weeks later, I was late. Wait? What?!?! A test confirmed the suspicion. I must admit, I had no idea a pregnancy could happen within three weeks of a miscarriage. Swear to goodness, I thought things went like this: ovulate-pregnancy-miscarriage-period-ovulate-next pregnancy. This time when I took the test, I’d been traveling for work. I texted him a picture of the positive pregnancy test from the airport bathroom. He responded back immediately, “this is epic! This is EPIC!” I took a seat in a quiet area of the airport and over the phone we prayed for our little pumpkin. We prayed hard for the safety of this beloved and desired child. ‘I have a good feeling about this one babe,’ he said. ‘Me too, Hun.’
Within weeks I was doubled over in pain on the bathroom floor. I called my husband, who was early at work -on a mandatory day no less- listing my barrage of symptoms. ‘Baby, go to the E.R. Take yourself to the E.R. right now’. And there I spent the next 8-9 hours in horrific pain…losing the baby.
The room was dark, eerily quiet. The woman performing a vaginal ultrasound was unyielding. Having her poke around in there was a gruesome experience. It felt like she was going into my uterus with a Samurai sword. I grimaced and eeked out moans of agony amidst quiet tears and emotive fears and pleading prayers: why is this happening again, God? Why?
She poked and prodded and took her images and left my question unanswered. I found her to be tremendously rude even though I got it. She didn’t want to give me hope when she could barely pick up a sign of life. But then, shockingly, she picked up what initially sounded like a tiny little heart beat but was in actuality the sound of my own blood coursing through my own body. Just briefly, hope soared. The little-zygote child was in there still but no heartbeat. It was much too soon. In that moment, I chose to say my goodbyes. At risk of sounding like a crazy woman…it was a holy moment. In a moment of clarified quiet peace, I told my baby I loved him or her and that this was goodbye. I thanked God for the joy we had while I carried that little precious pumpkin even for the infinitesimal amount of time I was honored to do so. Yet still. In the previous three weeks, I’d be been pregnant twice and lost both pregnancies. To say I felt overwhelm would be a fantastic understatement. Overwhelm, pain, sadness, lethargy, fear, feelings of being a failure, a bad mother. The intensity of these emotions was all consuming.
After some time the Big Negativity passed. The sadness smoothed out. The hope sprung up again. Now, we’re here. Charting & testing all manner of factors, sex on schedule, hopes and prayers for another pregnancy but this time to term. We talk about the two we lost. I check in on him now and then because, it’s all so recent, all so new, all so challenging, all so surprising, holy and depressing at the same time.
I take comfort in this. The ones I lost were foreknew. Prayed for. They were thoroughly loved and welcome into my body for every year that I’ve wanted all my babies since that first precious baby-child-pre-teen cycle at 14. When we lose our babies, we will always ask why but we must find peace in the knowledge that they were loved, seen and wanted. What more could any living being ask for no matter how long they exist in whatever form than to be fully loved, seen, desired & wanted?
The ones I lost are still with me. I think of them and I love them. I always will. And of those prayers? I will not stop.
Grace Sandra is a writer and mother of two living in Michigan. She writes regularly at Grace Sandra. | Jesus Follower | Social & Racial Justice Advocate | Wife & Mama | Writer of Blogs & Books |