Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I'm a Mother of Five

Today I have a vase of flowers on my counter. No, they aren’t from Valentine’s Day. (I have those too.) These are a small bunch of narcissus. Elizabeth picked them for me at our camp this weekend.

I planted them four years ago when Elizabeth was just a year old. Right around her first birthday we learned to our joy that I was pregnant again. I felt great, much better than I had when I was pregnant with her. I had lots of energy. I craved broccoli and oranges.

On February 9, I had signs of miscarriage. With heavy hearts we went to the doctor. After an ultrasound he gently told us what we already knew: Our baby was dead.

We were philosophical at first. Well, we told each other, we could now be an encouragement to others who would go through the same thing. There was a purpose in it of course, we said. That night, reality hit and we cried together. This was our baby. Our baby.

I envisioned a tiny boy who looked like Elizabeth, round and sweet with a fuzz of blonde hair. I’d never get to hold him and kiss his soft cheek, look into his blue eyes, snuggle him close for a night nursing. I’d never wipe his little tears or hear him giggle, never see his first tooth or his first wobbly steps. Even though I knew that most miscarriages occur because of chromosomal or genetic problems, that knowledge didn’t make me feel any better that my baby had died.

Friends and family poured out their love. I received calls, cards, flowers, and meals. Their care was a balm on my aching heart. One dear friend encouraged me to grieve and even suggested that we give our baby a name if we wanted to. Her loving words helped validate my loss, not just the loss of a pregnancy or some distant future hope, but the loss of a child.

The next week we went to our camp. Billy bought me some bulbs and we planted them along the fence in memory of our baby. On that cold, rainy afternoon, I dropped the bulbs into water-logged holes and pushed big mud clods over them, not even sure if they’d come up.

I got pregnant again in April. I didn’t get a pregnancy test at first, but I knew I was pregnant because I had every symptom possible. The day before I planned to buy a test, I felt a familiar sensation. “Oh, no, God, not again!” I cried. But without a doubt, I was miscarrying a second time. I knew what to expect, so I just stayed home to lose my baby. I was not only brokenhearted, but scared. What if there was something terrible wrong with me? What if I could never had another baby?

It was more difficult in other ways too. Since we hadn’t announced it, or even gotten a positive test yet, and since it was the second time, people just didn’t know what to say. My doctors wouldn’t even put in on my chart since I never had a positive test. My closest family and friends supported and prayed for me, but overall it was a lonely grief.

I had a vivid picture in my mind’s eye of this baby—chubby-cheeked and dark-haired, peacefully asleep, wrapped in a soft pink blanket. How silly, I thought. Billy and I were both blonde babies and so was Elizabeth. I don’t have dark-haired babies. My grieving mind is just generating images.

We moved that summer, and right after we settled into our new home I found myself excessively emotional. Everything made me cry. No surprise, I thought. It had been a tough six months and we were still in major transition. I figured I was finally reaching the end of my emotional rope. However, I soon began to suspect that something more was going on. The day before I would have been due with the first baby I miscarried, I discovered that I was pregnant again.

I was afraid to get too excited at first, afraid that I’d lose this baby too. But after a number of weeks we realized that that scenario was unlikely. This baby was going to make it!

In February, almost a year to the day that we had come the year before, we made another visit to the camp. I couldn’t believe it, but the narcissus bulbs I’d planted were in bloom. I wasn’t even sure what they were when I planted them, but their dainty perfection and sweet fragrance perfectly embodied a memorial for our little one. When I saw them I cried over my big pregnant belly for the baby I’d lost one year before. How was it possible to be so happy and so sad at the same time? How could I celebrate the new life inside me while I simultaneously grieved the death of my other child? It was hard to reconcile.

Sweet Silas was born in April, almost one year after my second miscarriage. What joy!

A few weeks after his birth, I had a jolting realization. The picture I had in my mind of the second baby I lost was virtually identical to Silas, except in pink—dark hair and all. I did have dark-haired babies! I truly believe that God gave me glimpse of my sweet baby and what she would have looked like if she had lived. Maybe I even saw what she looks like in heaven. That gave me a great sense of closure, and I finally felt able to fully heal.

I did learn a lot through my miscarriages. I learned that it’s truly the loss of a child, and even when others are insensitive or dismissive, it should be acknowledged as such. I learned that I needed to let myself grieve. I learned how important it is to acknowledge the loss of someone who has miscarried—something I had failed to do in the past, but determined never to fail in again. I have a new perspective on heaven now that I have two little ones waiting for me there. I know that I’m a mother of five. I still feel a gentle sadness when I remember my sweet babies who died before birth, because I’ll never know them here. Yet I have comfort in the knowledge that they never had to know the pain and grief that earthly life can bring. They’re safe in the arms of Jesus. And I’ll meet them one day. I have peace. I have hope.


Windy said...

Steph... I am having a hard time even responding to you on this. My heart goes out to you, more than you know!!! I know the feeling of, "is there something wrong with me?" or the deep sadnes of the loss which I have learned to cover up all to well. We are so blessed to even have Hannah and I know God has a plan, but sometimes it doesn't help with the ache of wanting more children and not being able to.

I am so thankful that you had supportive and loving people around to embrace you during your time of need.

With love,

Charity Grace said...

My heart goes out to you too Windy. Thanks for writing. I'll keep you in my prayers, whatever God has in mind for you!


Teisha said...

I'm a mother of five too!
I miscarried my very first pregnancy so I think I know what you are feeling. It's almost as if I wasn't sure 'how' to mourn a child that I never even got to see or hold in my arms... At first I just cried without thinking. Then I cried and cried some more and asked God "Why?" Now I see that 'why it happened' really doesn't matter, what DOES matter is that God needed our babies to be with Him. It took me a long time to feel that way and I don't know if I would feel the same should God need one of my living children anytime soon, but I'd like to think that my baby was so amazingly special that God had a great purpose for her right by His side.

It's exciting to me now, to know that I have another child waiting for me in the most perfect place imaginable. How lucky for her to be experiencing Perfection and Glory without EVER having had pain or fear in her lifetime. All she has ever had and will ever feel is God's awesome LOVE:-)
You must have some pretty special babies!