The Weekend is upon me. I don’t mean the weekend. I mean The Weekend.

Mother’s Day.

One year.

I don’t know how I feel. I don’t know how I should feel. I don’t know what to say.

I wish I had some sort of eloquence with which to mark this occasion, but I don’t.  No words feel right.

I wish I had some grand, beautiful plan of how to mark this occasion, but I don’t.  No course of action feels right.

I wish it had turned out differently.

And that, really, is the best I can do.

A Year

One year ago today I missed my period.


Because I’m the obsessive pregnancy tester I am I had actually known I was pregnant for several days.  But to actually miss my period?  Made it real.  It meant something was really going on in there – finally!  Something robust enough to transform the landscape of my hormonal existence in its entirety.   After four years!  We tried, we hoped, we prayed, and when we had finally given up it happened.  We were having a baby.


We were having a baby.




It is 2011.


Our family of three should be a family of four.  I should be up every few hours each night, suckling a little baby with the nourishment from my body while I nurture her preciousness in my arms.  Tahd should be the beaming, protective father of a daughter and Gabe the doting, proud big brother.


But we’re not – at least not in the way we imagined.




Three hundred and sixty five days later I’m starting to dream again – little dreams of making it through each day.  Bigger dreams of babies even though the odds are against us.  Giant dreams about what I want to do with my life and what makes life worthwhile.  How did I get from there to here?




I love this picture.  I loved it when I first saw it and I love it even more now.



We had just released balloons while Kelle Hampton took our family photos.  Watching them float away touched places in me I didn’t know existed, and this picture sums it up beautifully.  Notice the hives on my neck and Tahd’s lone tear?  They only hint at the broken hearts we nursed as we watched our present joy slip through the clouds.  But there are also faint smiles on our face while our gazes turn upward.  To me, that’s it.  That’s how we made it through this year, and how we make it every day, and how we’ll probably make it from here to there.  There’s junk and muck all around us and we have no choice but to let our souls feel it.  But our hope is ever present, tenacious beyond the gentle effect hope naturally signifies.


Our hope, even dashed, was strong then.  It is stronger now.




Mara, with hearts full of love we miss you.  Thank you for leaving us with a new and precious hope.  It makes us strong.

Fragments, Part Five

Ten weeks.

I had known I was pregnant for approximately ten weeks – ten hopeful, beautiful weeks that tortured me and terrified me and changed my life.

As I had for the last ten weeks, I awoke and thought of the babe in my belly.  As I had for ten weeks, I asked myself if this was too good to be true – could I really be pregnant with our second child?  And today the answer rang in its finality – I was pregnant today, but tomorrow would be different.

I cried.

According to the plan the on-call doctor and I had established on Sunday, I called my doctor’s office when I awoke.  My on-call doctor said they’d attempt to fit me in for surgery on Monday, but that it could be Tuesday or Wednesday before the surgery could take place.  If I had started miscarrying on my own they would have immediately taken me for an emergency D&C, but otherwise they’d do their best.  When I called – full of dread and hopefulness all the same – I felt relieved to learn that not only could my surgery be scheduled for that afternoon, but the doctor who had seen me last week, the one with whom I had “fallen in love,” would be my surgeon.

I think I cried again.

Because my surgery was scheduled for just after lunch and I needed a pre-surgery consult, we rushed to get ready, showering and packing the things I’d need throughout the day.  In the shower, I washed my belly with care, tears mixing with water as surrealism punctuated my every breath.  I couldn’t believe I was preparing to go to the hospital to have my baby surgically removed from my body six months too soon.

I finished my shower and walked into the bedroom to continue getting ready.  Tahd, thick in his own grief, stopped me at the door and rested his hand on my belly, crying.  He hugged me, and the longer we stood the more I felt like his pain was squeezing the air out of my chest.





This couldn’t be happening!  When he finally let go, I struggled to regain my breath, let alone the momentum to continue getting ready.  But it had to be done, so I did it, but only because I was afraid of what might happen if I didn’t.

We were beyond late, but I still paused long enough to take one last photo of my belly.  Fearing we’d become inert if I asked Tahd to take it for me, I quickly set the timer, put the camera on my dresser, and grabbed one shot and then another, just in case the first didn’t turn out.  As it was, neither shot was stellar, but they still mean the world to me.

On our way to the hospital, I took out the sweater I had worked on – the sweater in which I had hoped to bring home the baby.  It wasn’t elaborate and it wasn’t perfect, but it was made from my own hands, delicately and lovingly knit.

Carefully, I disassembled the pieces – the front from the sleeves, and the sleeves from the back.  It seemed wrong to disassemble something in which I had poured so much love, but I pieced it apart, remembering the work that had gone into it, and I put as much love into disassembling it as I did when I knit it in the first place.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, this sweater would become a pivotal part of my healing process, an ebenezer stone, if you will.  It was beautiful, beyond what I ever could have orchestrated or imagined.

I was going to write about the details of my surgery and the rest of the day, but when I went back to read what I had written at the time, I find it to be much more thorough than what I could write six months later.  Rather than repeat myself, I’ll link to it here and will post one final follow-up in this series soon.

Fragments, Part Four

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

We went directly from the hospital to our house – a five minute drive at six o’clock on a Sunday morning – so I know it didn’t last long.  But my emotional memory of our car ride and walk into the house  seemed like when, by sheer force or mind, you will the last dregs of honey from the bottom of the jar and into your measuring cup. It dragged o.. n…. i..n…. s..l..o..w…. m..o..t..i..o..n, and I felt like I stumbled through those moments trying to find some equilibrium.  My parents, living two doors down, had agreed to meet us at our house, but thinking we had gone to a more distant hospital, they had to rush over once we got home.  I remember looking out my entryway window and watching my mother, silhouetted by the rising sun, racing across the sidewalk and up the walk.  My father followed close behind.

I can’t remember the order of the things we discussed.  They quite obviously didn’t know what to ask, and one of the first things I think we discussed was what happened.  Much of this series of blog posts will probably be news to them, because in that moment I could only utter the simplest words.  I couldn’t find the heartbeat.  I tried, but couldn’t find it, so we went to the hospital, and they couldn’t find it, either. My father, a big, powerful, “in control” preacher pressed his forehead into my living room wall and choked up.”Why, God, why?  We don’t understand!”  That image of him bringing his anguish to God is indelibly engraved on my heart and did more to preserve my faith than almost anything else.

Gabe, now delirious from lack of sleep, tooled about in the way only a confused, overtired five-year-old can.  “Grandma!” He exclaimed with a smile on his face.  “We can take back those shirts!  We don’t need them anymore!  The baby died so we can take them back and get our money!”  Having heard it once before at the hospital I was prepared, but it was clear his frankness caught my parents by surprise, and I wished I could have gotten to them first to prepare them for his state of mind.

We talked about Gabe and arranged for him to go to my parents’ house with my mother so Tahd and I could (attempt to) sleep.  Dad said he’d go to the pharmacy to pick up my prescription, and we asked them to call my sisters.  Dad, scheduled to preach in three short hours, asked us if we wanted him to tell people, and my unequivocal answer was yes.  I told him the more people he told the fewer people we’d have to tell, and that prospect sounded extremely helpful to me.  Dad wasn’t sure, however, whether he should preach at all, and when he left my house I wasn’t sure if he’d be at church or not.

Once they left, Tahd and I surveyed our surroundings.  I looked at the doppler on the coffee table and felt numb as I realized how everything had started only a few hours earlier.  Tahd tried to convince me to go to bed, but I couldn’t do it.  I was not only overwhelmed, but terrified of having the miscarriage actually happen in my bedroom.  So we set up shop in the living room, and I tuned into Kelle Hampton’s blog to listen to her funky, inspiring playlist while I began to process.

It quickly became apparent to me that I needed to write.  I needed to put some context around my story, to “pretty up” its bones with some skin.  It came quickly – the words through my fingers – and it felt like the story had always been written and was just waiting for its opportunity to come out.  As I wrote, my cousin – hours away in Canada –  had written this message on my Facebook wall:

I want you to know that we feel the pain, all the way across the miles…speechless, tearful, heart in throat. We love you so much. I hope you feel our embrace today, and in the days to come…..All our love…xoxo

I appreciated the message, both for its sentiment, but also because it started the process of getting the word out and encouraged me to start seeking support by sharing.  I posted this on my Facebook wall:

We are heartbroken & shocked to have learned that at 12.5 weeks our baby went to be with Jesus. We’re blessed to have had those weeks, the ultrasound peeks, the many chances to hear a strong, beautiful heartbeat & the chance to imagine & celebrate the growth of our family. But mostly, we are just sad. Thank you a thousand times over for your loves & prayers, which we have already gratefully received from so many.

All the while I wrote on my blog, sweet messages of love poured in, and we soon became aware of the many people who surrounded us, offering their shoulders to share our burdens.  It was truly extraordinary, and when I think about it now it takes my breath away.  Eventually the exhaustion gave way to sleep, and upon awakening the only light in my eyes came when I reviewed the cares and concerns of others that had been sent while we slept.  Never before had I so fully understood the gravity of love and how profoundly it changes things.  I’ve always been fortunate enough to experience life on a pillow of love, a pillow that cushions me from the inevitable falls and disappointments of living the human existence.  But in this instance, when I felt everything had been cruelly stripped away and I couldn’t find anything certain underneath my feet, the love of those around me rushed in to fill the voids and we were literally carried on their backs through those most dark hours.

Throughout the day sleep found me intermittently.  Each time I awoke I reminded myself of my new reality and wished I could be asleep again, away from my nightmares.  Getting back to sleep, however, was difficult because I harbored so many fears about how the physical process of loss would begin.  I alternated between Xanax and tylenol, alternately attempting to quell the rising panic and rising cramps.

I remember very few details from the daylight hours.  At one point, I called the on-call doctor with my ob/gyn clinic.  Obviously at home with his family on Mother’s Day, I could hear his little girl in the background.  He listened to my story and listened even more closely to my fears and helped me formulate a plan so I knew what to do.   A dear friend came over bearing a beautiful card and a charming apple tree.  I don’t remember if we talked or just sat; knowing us, we talked about something.  🙂  I do know she prayed with me – precious, comforting words I didn’t imagine possible in those moments.  While she was there, an acquaintance of ours whose wife had recently experienced several miscarriages and who had lost their 8-week-old baby to SIDS several years earlier called to speak with Tahd.  I had been so concerned about Tahd that I asked my mother to get in touch with this friend to see if there was any possibility he might reach out to Tahd.  As much as his phone call ministered to Tahd, it ministered to me equally knowing there was someone who would invest in my grieving husband when I couldn’t.

I also remember that my parents asked me what I wanted to do about Mother’s Day.  Originally, we had planned to gather Sunday evening as a larger family with my sisters and one brother-in-law for a Mother’s Day dinner.  Given the turn of events, no one knew what to do and everyone was ready to follow my lead.  Unsure myself, I begged them to pretend to be happy.  I wanted to spend the evening without crying and without falling apart and smiling at least a little bit.  In spite of the tremendous hole in our hearts, I wanted to find some modicum of happiness on Mother’s Day.  I felt like I needed it; I need to keep a seed of happiness in that day for the sake of future Mother’s Days.

I’m told Gabe slept until 10:30 that morning, but I don’t recall that I saw him until we went to my parents’ house to “celebrate.”  I don’t remember what it was over, but Gabe had gotten very angry with her earlier in the day when she had tried to talk with him about our loss and his experience.  I think it may have been over presents…  As a part of their Kohls shopping trip when he purchased onesies for the baby, he also purchased some presents for me – several things I could enjoy whether or not I was pregnant (one being jelly beans), and a maternity shirt for “me and the baby.”  Mom suggested that he not give it to me because it might upset me, and at that statement he became fairly angry.  I don’t remember when, but at some point I told Mom that she should let him give it to me anyway and that I’d be fine.  He did, and was very proud of his choices.

I don’t have the shirt anymore, but I still have the candy. 🙂

I wish I could describe dinner, but I can’t remember it.  I don’t remember what we ate, but I do remember I ate very little.  I only teared up one time, but I don’t remember why.  I do remember not tearing up when I expected to, however, and it was when I was saying goodbye to Gabe.  My sister from Chicago had offered to take him home with her so he’d have something special and fun to do for the few days while I had surgery and we regained a small amount of equilibrium.  I didn’t want him to go, but I knew I needed – and he needed – to go.  Staying at home during the chaos of my impending surgery would only have complicated matters, and I knew that as good as the diversion would be for him, Tahd and I were in no shape to be in charge of the caregiving.

Tahd had gone home to pick up a few things we had forgotten to pack, and while he was gone I asked Gabe to come talk to me.  We talked about how he’d be having a super fun time with Auntie but that when he came home there probably wouldn’t be a baby in my belly anymore.  He said one last goodbye to the baby, and without any tears from either of us I gave him a big snuggle while I kissed him goodbye.  And still – no tears.  I didn’t even want to cry, really – not due to a lack of feeling, but due to an abundance of feeling for my son, and a fierce desire to somehow assure him that we were going to be okay.

We were going to be okay.

I didn’t realize it while we said goodbye, but the things I said to him were the same things I needed to hear, too.  We had love.  We had each other.  Our baby wasn’t coming back.  But we were going to be okay.

And then it was over, the day that had stretched on for years.  It was over before I was ready for it to end.  Tahd and I went home alone to the living room where we set up a little “camp.” I preferred the floor so he got the couch, at least for most of the night, and CNN blared in the background, reminding me that there was a reality outside of the one in which I was currently stuck.

Fragments, Part Three

Part One
Part Two

Sometimes it’s the subtle things that tell you everything you need to know.  That’s how I felt when I saw the doctor walk into my room.  I knew my worst nightmare was coming true.  I knew I had lost the baby.  Until this point in my ER visit, I hadn’t seen a doctor – only nurses, techs, and PAs. The fact that I hadn’t seen her before stood out to me, too.  My news was “above the pay grade” for the other people who had cared for me, I think.  Who in their right mind voluntarily agrees to tell the infertile-come-pregnant woman that her baby is dead on Mother’s Day?  No, I’m sure the doctor came to tell me because she was the only one not allowed to say no.  But she didn’t even have to tell me.  I knew it when she walked into the room.

She kindly introduced herself and asked me for a little bit of information about why I came in.  I repeated the same story about how I’d heard the heartbeat at noon and couldn’t find it this evening and felt it would be wiser to get checked.  She nodded and told me that unfortunately the baby’s heart didn’t have a heartbeat anymore and I was having what she called a missed miscarriage.  She explained that first trimester* miscarriages are very common and almost always related to genetic issues and that I would need to contact my ob/gyn in the morning for further instructions.  This completely infuriated me; first, regardless of what you call 12.5 weeks, spontaneous miscarriages are not particularly common past eight weeks.  Some aren’t diagnosed until later, but most first trimester miscarriages have taken place by the eight week mark.  The fact that I’d had a clinically excellent ultrasound a few days earlier coupled with having heard the heartbeat Saturday afternoon automatically negated what she told me in my head.

(* Although my emergency room doctor told me I was having a first trimester miscarriage, others weren’t so clear.  Some called it a second trimester miscarriage.  For some reason, thinking of it as a second-trimester loss made me feel better, and since there’s some disagreement about when the second trimester begins, I choose to think of it as such.)

Also, I burned when she implied that the baby was genetically abnormal.  How dare she say such a thing?  How did she know that?  How could she feel comfortable passing along that “diagnosis” even though she had no evidence?  The truth was she didn’t know.  She had no way to know that a structurally-normal-on-ultrasound fetus was genetically abnormal just because it died.  Especially when I had so many complicating factors.  In fact, further research told me that babies miscarried later in the first trimester and early in the second trimester are more often related to uterine abnormalities, umbilical cord abnormalities, placental issues, and cervical problems.  Although she could rule out the cervical problems, each of the other potential issues could still have contributed and were just as likely – if not more likely – to have created caused our loss.

I struggled to maintain my composure with her.  Partly I was angry with her lack of knowledge and willingness to treat my loss in such a “glossy” way.  Partly, I was angry at the situation, not sure which end was up.  Mostly, however, I struggled to maintain my composure because Gabe was still in the room and I didn’t want to traumatize him.

The doctor talked with me about my options.  The idea of miscarrying on my own at home had always tormented me, and given the stage of my pregnancy and the delicate instability of my emotions, I didn’t feel strong enough to deal with that possibility.  She explained that the hospital wouldn’t do a D&C on a Sunday and that I needed to involve my OB since it wasn’t an emergency situation (i.e. since I wasn’t hemorrhaging).  Realizing that I was headed home with instructions to call my doctor’s office in a few hours, I summoned up my remaining amount of courage and asked her to give me something to help me sleep.  What I really meant was that I wanted something to help me hold on emotionally, but I’m not sure there’s a pill that takes away heartache and brings back dead babies.  She kindly obliged, ordering a stronger version of Xanax than I normally take.

The doctor also spent some time talking with me about trying again.  I don’t remember all the details of this conversation; it wasn’t an inappropriate conversation and didn’t anger me. She had experienced something similar – the birth of a child followed by unexplained infertility and a later miscarriage, only to go on and successfully birth another child.  I insisted that we were done – that this was it and we wouldn’t be having any other children.  She encouraged me not to make that decision immediately and that my mind might change over time.  In spite of the fact that I “knew” she was wrong, I’m glad she encouraged me to keep an open mind.

And then she left.

And it was over.

Except it had only just begun.

Because I could see only one thing before my eyes – Gabe.

With hardly a moment to center myself, I looked up at Gabe, sweet and confused, still playing on his Leapster.  When he woke up in the car on the way to the hospital he had become quite insistent in his requests to know what was going on.  Eventually, I told him that when I used the special heartbeat tool I couldn’t hear the baby’s heartbeat and we were going to the hospital because we wanted them to check on the baby to make sure it was okay.  We repeated this explanation several times throughout the night, adding specifics when necessary, and always following it up with something to the effect that it was possible that the baby was not okay or it was possible that the baby was fine.  I’m thankful for that foresight on our parts.  I incredibly grateful that we had the courage to speak honestly to him without glossing over the situation.

Tahd lifted Gabe from the hospital chair onto the bed, snuggling him between my left arm and the bed rail.  I wrapped my arms around him and with surprising composure explained that something had happened and our baby’s heart had stopped beating.  Simple.  Truthful. I just said it.  Some people would think those words might take courage, but they didn’t.  They were what needed to be said, and I was his mother – the one who should say them to him.  This – my parenting amidst shared heartache – was the first inkling I had that I was stronger than I thought.  I needed that.  I needed to know there were untapped reservoirs of strength available within me, ready to help me survive, recover, and reclaim.

I told Gabe that the baby’s body was still in my belly but its soul was in Heaven with Jesus and that He was taking care of our baby there.  I assured him that our baby was happy and safe and that we would see our baby again someday.  I talked about the ultrasound we saw together and how lucky we were to get to see our baby and how special it was that he got to talk to our baby and “tell it” what to do.  At some point I believe we prayed, too.  I wish I could remember more of the specifics – questions he asked or other things we discussed.  I know he didn’t cry, and I also recall that my mother had recently taken him to Kohls so he could buy an outfit for the baby.  Not knowing the gender of the baby, he bought two, a blue onesie and a pink onesie, just in case.  He excitedly exclaimed that now we wouldn’t be needing those anymore so we could take them back!


What great news.

At some point in the process, Tahd completely dissolved, kneeling on the floor beside my bed and crying loudly.  Bewildered, I tried to make him stop, both because I was nervous about Gabe’s response and also because I felt like I was in no position to “care” for him.  He left the room to go to the lobby and use his phone to call my parents, and when he stumbled back his spirits were no better. “You have got to pull it together,” I told him, angrily, an emotion I wasn’t sure how to handle in the moment.  I wanted to fall apart.  I wanted to cry inconsolably.  I wanted to get lost in my head and stop thinking about the outside world.  But I couldn’t, and I felt a strange mixture of anger, confusion and relief – anger at the obvious, confusion because I had never seen Tahd fall apart, and relief because he actually did.  His grief, however infuriating for me, made me feel like my grief was legitimate, too.

Of course, my grief was legitimate, even if Tahd had faced our loss with logic and stoicism.  But the fact that I looked at him as a gauge for my own emotional response betrayed how overwhelmed I felt.  My worst nightmare was playing out before my eyes, and everywhere I looked there was no way out.  I don’t know how I functioned in those moments, getting myself from the hospital room to the exit to the car and then into the house in one piece and on my own two feet.  The sun had just begun to rise – the beginning of a new day but the end of a coveted era for us, and the entire world seemed to stand still as we left the hospital and returned to our little sanctuary of a home.  It was all so, so surreal, and the only thing that provided me with any sense of normalcy was Gabe and knowing that he needed to be cared for and parented through this situation.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...