Fragments, Part Two

Part One

Tahd came home the day after the ultrasound.  I use the term “came home” loosely, though, because if the airline had anything to do with it he wouldn’t have arrived.  On his way home from Montana, he discovered at his layover in Denver that his flight was canceled and he was unable to get home va his original route until the next day.  Keep in mind it was May with beautiful weather, so it wasn’t like the airline was desperate and traumatized by events beyond their control.  Luckily, we live relatively near to several airports, and after much coercion he was able to convince the airline to reroute him into O’Hare.  Gabe and I puttered down to the airport to get Tahd, and although it took them something like an hour to allow him to deplane due to an inept jetway driver and a broken exit door, the three of us eventually left the airport and stopped at a TGIFridays to pick up some dinner.

I don’t remember much about about the next day or two.  There was nothing outstanding, a testimony to the fact that our life had finally begun to pick and and move forward from the shock we initially felt at getting pregnant and dealing with the spotting.  We were beginning to exhale, to enjoy life as it came, to start adjusting our plans to include another child in six months.  Life was becoming regular and mundane, in a very welcome way.  A daily constant in my life was the “thump-thump-thump” of my doppler ritual as I dug out my fetal doppler several times a day to check the heartbeat.  Galloping steadily, I could pick it up quite easily in the lower right quadrant of my abdomen, almost always within the first sixty seconds.  It was one of Gabe’s favorite things to do, listening to the baby’s heartbeat, and it was one of my favorites, too.  I intended to figure out how to hook up the recording feature so I’d have some audio of the heartbeat, but I never seemed to get around to it.

We spent Saturday readying the house for a party.  At Christmas, I had given Tahd a certificate for a pay-per-view UFC fight, and he had decided to cash it in for the Machita vs. Rua fight that evening.  I paused around lunch to use the doppler and found the heartbeat instantly. I recall Tahd walking by the bedroom door and smiling in at me while we listened to the rhythm.  It was a good sound, a sweet sound – a sound that gave us much hope and relief.

In typical fashion, we just couldn’t get it all together, however, before it was time to leave for church.  So I dropped the boys off at church and ran to the store to pick up a few last minute things.  At the gas station, I grabbed two cases of soda, paid, and took them to the car, rushing to get back to church before the message began.  As I tossed the soda into the front seat I felt a strange “hot” sensation in my abdomen – not painful, but noticeable.  I resolved to move a little bit slower and take it a little bit easier since the fight was by no means more important to me than my pregnancy.  I arrived back at the church just as the sermon began, but the burning sensation continued – albeit weaker and less constant – during the message.

Back at our house after church, my family joined us for some pizza – leftovers of which ended up sitting out on our counter for three days.  My sister and I did a little crafting and talked about my pregnancy.  I joked that some little feng shui things I had done had been responsible for getting me pregnant, even though I knew my feng shui tips had really just served to irritate Tahd.  Meanwhile, I snuck out a time or two to attempt to use the doppler and attempt to listen for the heartbeat.


There was Nothing.

At first I thought my surreptitiousness in keeping the volume low had caused my difficulty, but after three failed attempts my mind started racing.  Where was the heartbeat?  Why couldn’t I hear it?  Tahd’s UFC fight ended around 11:00 and my sister and her husband left.  As Tahd closed the door behind them and turned to look at me, panic filled the distance between us when I told him I couldn’t find the heartbeat.

Ever unflappable, Tahd assured me that I should relax and suggested we try one more time.  Settling myself onto the couch, he sat beside me with his hand on my leg while I squeezed the cold jelly onto my stomach and spread it around with the wand.




I looked at Tahd for reassurance, but nervousness filled his heart and I could feel the fear behind his eyes.  We discussed our options.  Did I want to wait and have a good sleep that night and check again in the morning?  Or did I want to go to the emergency room immediately to make sure things were okay?  Although I didn’t want to go to the emergency room in the middle of the night, I also knew I wouldn’t sleep at all if I had to wait until morning.  Not wanting to spoil my Mother’s Day, we eventually decided to go to the emergency room immediately since we were “sure” everything would be okay and we’d be able to move on and have a wonderful Sunday.

It was 11:30 when we left our house, and because we figured we were probably overreacting, we decided to bundle Gabe up and bring him with us under the assumption that he’d continue to sleep.  How wrong we were!  He woke up in the car and didn’t go back to sleep until 6:30 the next morning.  Knowing what we know now I’m certain we would have done something different in his regard that evening, but knowing how rare later miscarriages are, we expected a quick, embarrassing trip in which we were told we were crazy anxious parents, and we didn’t want to disturb my parents in the middle of the night to watch Gabe for what would certainly turn out to be a false alarm.

I don’t know how to start the next part. I want to make it “pretty,” but it wasn’t.  It felt like the day I was 11 and was thrust into a new school mid-year with kids who looked at me strangely and thought I was weird.  It felt fragile.  Embarrassing.  Long.  Heartbreaking.  I felt insecure and hoped that the doctors and nurses wouldn’t be dismissive of me.  The intake personnel did look at me a little bit curiously.  I mean, who hears a heartbeat at noon and freaks out by midnight even though there’s no bleeding?  I couldn’t blame them, really, but I appreciated that they were friendly and never rolled their eyes.  The nurse assigned to my care was more than kind, constantly reassuring me that with my history of infertility and early losses I did the right thing.  She listened for the heartbeat with her own doppler, attempting to reassure me that ER staff wasn’t highly familiar with the use of a doppler and I shouldn’t panic over that.  A physician’s assistant joined us and did a pelvic exam.  My cervix was closed and they confirmed – I as already knew – that there was no bleeding.  Eventually, the ultrasound tech – called in from his cozy, warm bed – arrived to give me what amounted to the most lengthy, thorough ultrasound of my life.

By the time of his arrival we had been there for hours, which felt like days. While it was nice to be taken serious initially, laying in the hospital bed I couldn’t help but wish they had laughed me all the way out the door and back to my home.  To say we were exhausted was an understatement, but our fear had only grown and the adrenaline continued to surge.  Before the ultrasound began,I prepped Tahd by telling him that I needed him to give his full attention to the ultrasound screen because I was quite certain the tech would tell us nothing.  I needed him to look for movement, even the tiniest flicker.  Before the tech began the ultrasound Tahd ran to the car to get Gabe’s Leapster and headphones so he’d have a distraction and we’d have a modicum of privacy.  Throughout the entire ultrasound Gabe stared intently at the action on his Leapster screen, and Tahd and I stared intently at the lack of action on the ultrasound screen.

It’s funny that even though I’d had an ultrasound just a few days earlier I could hardly remember what I had seen.  How obvious had the heartbeat been?  How fast was it beating?  When this tech placed the wand on my belly, we saw a perfectly formed, perfectly still baby.  Maybe it’s just sleeping, I thought.  Occasionally, Tahd and I both thought we might have seen a flicker in the chest cavity.  But nothing was sustained, and I tried to convince myself that there was probably just some difference in the ultrasound machines or the baby’s position.  My worst fears couldn’t be coming true.  When the tech eventually left (after about 30 minutes, I think), Tahd and I talked.  “Did you see anything?” I asked.

“I don’t know.  I think so, but I’m not sure,” he answered.

And that’s how we spent the next hour – quietly wondering and occasionally speaking while we waited for someone to come give us the results.

I’m not exaggerating when I say it was an hour.  Unbeknownst to us, the hospital computer system reboots at about the same time my ultrasound was concluding.  The hospital does not keep a radiologist in the hospital 24 hours a day.  Rather, they have an on-call radiologist who receives the reports via network transmission.  He reviews them and issues his reports from the comfort of his own home, never setting foot into the hospital.  Because of the reboot, it took longer to send the report and have it processed.  Afraid of the results, however, I don’t think we ever once asked for a status update, even though it was clearly taking far longer than normal.  No news must be good news, we hoped.  And hoped.

Fragments, Part One

They wash over me like waves, little memories of Mara and May, and it occurred to me recently that I’ve only ever written down the “big picture” story.  I’ve left a lot of the details unrecorded.  Perhaps because they were too vivid or painful, or instead because they seemed mundane and irrelevant.  But the are, or at least they were, and I don’t want to lose them to the crevasses of my mind.

This will probably be a selfish post, one that’s entirely uninteresting to others.  I’ve hashed and rehashed the major events on this blog ad nauseum.  But for myself – for my own records – I need to see these things in black and white.  I need the lingering evidence of their existence.

I found out I was pregnant on a Saturday.  I was 9 days past ovulation – way too early to test and expect a reasonable result – but I had a spare First Response pregnancy test laying around and figured I might as well give it a go.  It didn’t take long – really, it was visible immediately – but I couldn’t be sure until I watched the seconds tick past on the clock.  Was that I second line I saw?  A real, honest-to-goodness second line?  I made a pregnancy test turn positive?  On my own?

The line only grew in visibility, and by 10 minutes I was certain – in my hands was





Whether or not I was pregnant remained to be seen.  Since I had only that test on hand, there was no way for me to corroborate its message.

Tahd had taken Gabe to a Home Depot Kids Workshop that morning and then onto his office to look at machinery, so I was alone when I took the test, but I didn’t know for how long.  I tried and tried to reach Tahd by phone, but it was to no avail.  When he finally called me back I nonchalantly asked what his plans were, and he said he’d be home in about a half hour.  My heart skipped a beat, and I knew without doubt how I’d be spending my next 30 minutes of that March 6th morning.  I grabbed my keys, locked the house, and took off on a fast walk the few blocks to my nearest Walgreens.

On my way home, a box of digital tests in hand, I quivered with excitement.  What if it was negative?  Could I sustain the precipitous fall from elation to letdown?  How would I feel? Humiliated? Sad? Hopeless? Angry?  But what if it was positive? Could I sustain more elation than I was already feeling, or would my heart simply explode with joy?  Unsure, I walked quickly through the cold, too nervous to slow down and too speed up.

When you take a digital pregnancy test, it begins with a blinking notification so you know it’s processing.


What’s it going to say?


I’m sure it’s going to be positive. Of course it’s going to be positive!


There’s practically no such thing as a false positive.  The first test I took had to be reliable!


But what if it’s not?  What if it’s negative?


Negative! Of course it’s going to be negative! I never get positive pregnancy tests. I’m Heidi, the girl who can’t get pregnant again.


And there is was – solid and clear before my eyes.  No more blinking.


I was really pregnant!

I think I paced the halls for an eternity – back and forth from the bathroom to my bedroom and back to the bathroom again.  Then into Gabe’s room when I needed a change of scenery.  I can’t remember how long it was from the time I got the positive digital to the time Tahd and Gabe got home, but I’m quite sure the loop I walked wore ten years into my carpets.  I didn’t know what to do, how to feel, what to think, or how to be.  Was this really happening?  To me?

A few days earlier a trip to Hobby Lobby had netted me a small nest with some wooden eggs I had painted blue, and I thought they’d be a clever way to share the news with Tahd.  I filled the nest with four aquamarine eggs and topped them with the pregnancy tests and waited with camera in hand for Tahd to find my present.

He did, and the picture – which I’ve shared before – speaks for itself.  I don’t know exactly what was going through his head at that moment, but I suspect bewilderment thoroughly summarized the scope.

Underfoot and oblivious to the gravity of the moment, Gabe bounced around while Tahd hugged me a whispered, “Really?”  I shook my head and Tahd held me tighter and we smiled and trembled while Gabe tried to make his way through our legs.

Panic over possible miscarriage set in that very same day, and the only thing I could think to do was schedule an acupuncture appointment.  While there’s little conventional medicine can do to prevent miscarriage and encourage healthy implantation, acupuncture boasts some reasonable successes at doing both of these things.  Since my acupuncturist had passed away several months earlier, I had two options – to schedule an appointment with a new acupuncturist I hadn’t seen before but about whom I had read good things, or schedule an appointment with the acupuncturist I had when I first began acupuncture a number of years ago. Because of my unsatisfactory experience there, I opted for the first choice, but when I realized it would take several days to get in, I decided to set my worries aside and return to my original acupuncturist for some pregnancy-stabilizing treatments.

I had two appointments with him, both a little uncomfortable due to the unexplained gap between our last visit and these next visits, but I hoped the treatments were doing some good and were encouraging healthy progress.  I left my second appointment and stopped at the restroom before I went to my car, only to realize I had started spotting during my appointment.  Terror paralyzed me, and I eventually decided to return to his office in hopes that he could do something to help or suggest an herb or could shed some light on the situation.  Instead, he looked at me with confusion and told me I really should talk to my doctor because it was probably nothing.

That was the last time I saw him.  I didn’t like that he took credit when things went well and told me to call my doctor when things began going poorly.

Talk to my doctor was the very next thing on my list, and as a result of both my spotting and my history, my doctor ordered several rounds of blood tests as well as some general activity restrictions. Hormone levels looked wonderful, but the bleeding continued tenaciously and would not stop.  Every trip to the bathroom became an emotional disaster, and I struggled with a scope of of fear and anxiety I had never before known.  As wonderful as my doctor was handling the care of my pregnancy and its complications, he was less wonderful with handling my anxiety, telling me I basically had one option – medication I was already taking and that wasn’t working well for me.  I alluded to the depths of my mental anguish in some of my posts during my pregnancy, but I never fully captured the heaviness it brought. I literally felt like I could not function.  My tremendous excitement at being pregnant was met by at least double the fear, a fear that ate at me from the inside and kept both my body and spirit immobile.

It was due primarily to the lack of help I received with my anxiety that I decided at twelve weeks to switch doctors.  I knew there were more options available to me to treat my anxiety, but I needed to find a doctor who would offer them to me.  At twelve weeks on the dot, I met my new doctor, Dr. D, and instantly fell in love.  He was an older man of Irish descent, and something about his thick accent soothed my spirit.  His assurances that we would be able to effectively address my anxiety didn’t hurt matters, either. Gabe was with me that day, laying on the examining room floor (yuck!) and playing on my iTouch to pass the time, and when the doctor offered an ultrasound I jumped at the chance, excited to show Gabe his new baby brother or sister.

I had two ultrasounds before this one, both picture perfect in which the baby was measuring slightly ahead.  I don’t recall whether this third ultrasound was abdominal or vaginal, but I do know Gabe and I got some wonderful glimpses of the baby!  My only hesitation was that Tahd was unable to be there since he was out of town on business.  What if – by some freak accident – I lose the baby? Shouldn’t I wait until Tahd can be here so we can have this experience together? Am I being selfish for accepting an ultrasound right away just because I don’t want to wait to see the baby again? These thoughts niggled at the back of my mind, but I dismissed them quickly since I was already 12 weeks and the spotting had stopped several weeks earlier.  You’re in the clear, I told myself!  Sit back and enjoy!

Enjoy, we did.  Gabe spent the time transfixed on the screen, eagerly “meeting” his brother or sister. Because this ultrasound included the nuchal screen measurement, the baby had to be in a particular position in order to allow the ultrasound tech access to the skin folds on the neck.  The baby, however, wasn’t positioned properly, so the tech asked Gabe to “tell” the baby to roll over so she could do her job.  As if on cue, the baby’s position adjusted perfectly when Gabe gave his command, and it was in that moment I saw my first baby bond with my second.  He fell completely in love with the idea of being a big brother, and in that moment the baby became very real to him in an almost tangible way.

Only one thing bothered me from the third ultrasound.  Although the tech was thrilled with all her measurements, the first dating measurement showed the baby to be about 11 weeks instead of 12.  This was quickly averaged with measurements from other locations, and I knew that dates can easily be off by several days.  Since the ultrasound tech wasn’t concerned, I resolved to let those fears ride and focus on enjoying the experience.

On Decorating

I’ve said it before.  The body remembers.

I didn’t realize it until this afternoon while I was knee-deep in the process of spontaneously painting my kitchen.  I’ve spent the last month of my life decorating, redecorating, organizing, reorganizing, and checking out of the library every decorating book known to man.

I’m nesting.

But it’s almost midnight and my kitchen smells of the strange, appealing odor of new paint and my decorating books are stacked up beside me and I have plans for step two in my decorating project – which, I might add, I’m doing for free because I’m the sort who buys random gallons of paint and stashes them in my basement until I decide what to do with them.  Comfort Gray came in handy today!

It’s just that I couldn’t stand looking at the kitchen anymore.  It was orange.  I love orange.  But I had loved this orange for five years and it had begun to feel heavy and old and stained and representative of the person who I was then.  Which is not, quite certainly, the person I am now.

You know what I love?  The gray.  It’s cool and fresh and totally different from the energy of the warm, rusty orange.  That was intense.  This is calm.  That was specific.  This is amiable.  That smelled of five years of food that baked into the walls.  This smells new.  I told Tahd that the smell of new paint is just as good as the smell of new babies.  He laughed and agreed, but I think he was lying. 😉

I’ve been struggling a lot with what place to give Mara in our family.  I’m the only person who’s had a miscarriage I know who has integrated the baby into her family as much as I have.  And I’ve been feeling self-conscious about that.  In my head, I think, I had a miscarriage.  Not a stillbirth.  Not a baby who died from SIDS.  Just a miscarriage.  People have them every day.  I shouldn’t make this any more special to me than others make it to themselves.

But it was different, too.  Most people don’t miscarry at 13 weeks after everything looks fine.  No, perfect.  I lost Mara just after I had fully let go and embraced the pregnancy as a “sure thing.”  I had just started gaining a sense of sanity over my anxiety.  I heard her heart beating every day.  We were good.  It happened fast, too. Of the few people who miscarry around 13 weeks, most actually lost the baby several weeks earlier.  I didn’t.  I know within 24 hours of her last heartbeat that she was gone.  And it was Mother’s Day.  Nobody miscarries on Mother’s Day.  That’s just crazy.

It occurred to me today, though, that the biggest reason we’ve integrated her into our lives is because of Gabe.  At about 11 weeks – when everybody said we were good to go – we told him.  We got him a book about having a sibling.  We started using the word “brother.”  He thought of her as his baby, and he kissed my belly tenderly and his eyes sparkled with excitement.  When she left, thinking about taking that identity and joy away from him was too much for me.  So we integrated her as a part of our family – a member of our little group who didn’t stay long, but stayed long enough to change us.

This struggle would undoubtedly be different if we hadn’t told him.  I would have grieved privately.  It would have been hard.  He would have been protected from the heartache he has experienced.  But that’s not the way it turned out, so I’ve decided to make my peace with the fact that it’s okay for me to think of us – and talk about us – as a family of four.  I wish our “family of four” experience would be different, but to deny there is a fourth presence in our family is to deny everything I know for sure – like that Tahd loves flashlights, that Gabe loves recess, and that my body remembers.

So for now I’m nesting – not in the way I hoped to be nesting, but in a way that feels good anyway.  And I look around at the changes I’m making with a smile on my face.  This is not the reality I hoped for, but I like how I feel when I make my surroundings reflect the transitions my spirit is experiencing.

Comfort Gray.  I like it and all it represents.  Especially the “comfort” part.

Red Shoes

Gabe goes to AWANA.

Which is totally not relevant to this story except that it was at AWANA where this event took place.   I’ll save my discourse on AWANA for another day!  Anyway, at this particular AWANA program, parents must come to their child’s room and pick them up.  They won’t release the children to go find his parents on his own.  The parents have to physically show up and personally claim their child.

I like that.

Because I’m neurotic and grieving and a little crazy, I’m sort of obsessive about collecting Gabe as soon as I possibly can.  School gets out at 3:20 and I arrive there at 3:00 so I can get one of the first places in the pick-up line so he doesn’t have to spend one extra moment at school waiting for my turn in the pick-up line.  Likewise, for AWANA last night I kept a close eye on the clock; when it was 7:30 and we had a half-hour left I excitedly declared that we had only a FEW more minutes left until we could see him again.  Tahd, who half thought I was joking, rolled his eyes at me a little and told me I was cute.  But I wasn’t joking.  I couldn’t wait to pick him up.  When it hit 7:42, I decided the time had come and we could go in to wait for our turn outside his classroom door.

While we waited, another mother – like us –  waited outside the same door for her son.  Except unlike us, she had a daughter – a little tow-headed girl whose gallons of energy easily overflowed and infected everyone in the hall.  The toddler backed down the aisle, turned toward her mother, and barreled at top speed toward her, forcefully ramming into her mother’s leg and dissolving in piles of giggles.  Tahd and I couldn’t help but follow suit, and the mother acknowledged that her daughter was a handful!

I watched the little girl collide with her mother’s leg, and as she ran I noticed she had red shoes.  Red patent shoes like the ones at the top of this post, the ones I posted in yesterday’s “What I Wore Wednesday.”  Except they were sweeter, more like Mary Janes with coordinating flowers on top. Maybe like this, except with more floral accessories…

Before I knew it, I had murmured to Tahd who was standing behind me, “I totally would have bought Mara shoes like that.”


And then I cried, for no reason except I realized one thing – one concrete, real thing – I will have missed with Mara.  Red shoes.  Red shoes like mommy’s.


She would have looked really cute in those shoes!


When we took our trip to Pennsylvania several weeks ago, we drove instead of flying. This choice netted me lots of spare time in the car.  I don’t know why, but at some point I picked up Tahd’s phone and flipped through his collection of photos.  I tend to take photos only with my big camera.  If I don’t have the camera, I don’t have any photos.  Tahd’s better about remembering to pull out his cell phone and snap a little something to remember the moment.

I wasn’t expecting it, but I found these photos.  From May 8-10, when Mara died.  It took me a while to come to terms with them.  I feel really raw when I look at them.  Tahd apologized to me for taking them, but that wasn’t it.  I am glad to have them.  It’s just that seeing pictures of the events of those days makes them seem much more tangible once again.

In the emergency room.  Apparently Gabe had a black eye that night.  You’ll have to forgive me.  That’s one detail I don’t really remember.  Check out how tired he is!

The sweater became a blanket, then the blanket that healed me – at least a bit…

My day surgery room for the D&C…

My bed…

Me in my bed after surgery.  I love that sweater.  It’s so comfy. I wore it excessively when I had nose surgery, too.  I wore this exact outfit for two solid days after the D&C.  I refused to take it off, stretchy granny surgery underpants and all.  I know this means I’m publicly admitting that I wore the same pair of underwear multiple days in a row, but it’s true.  I was too overwhelmed and wasn’t ready to let go.

“Checking out.”  Whew, was that hard.  I wanted to scurry back to the room, wind the clock back, and get a second chance.  My sweet mother and sister stayed with us until the very end.

My father is the senior pastor of a local nondenominational church.  We called his home that Mother’s Day Sunday morning heavy-hearted about many things, one of them being the fact that we were telling him horrid news just before he had to go preach in front of hundreds of people.  He considered calling someone from his preaching team to take his place, but he felt that in the long run it would be most helpful to handle this situation himself.  So he went to church, preached his sermon, and concluded each service with a beautiful statement about what had happened.

Some people wonder if that’s weird for me – to have had my father “announce” in front of hundreds of people that I had lost my baby.  It’s not.  It’s not because I’m used to being the “pastor’s daughter,” and it’s not because I felt like Mara was the “church’s” baby.  They had faithfully prayed her into existence during the years we had been dealing with infertility, and those who knew of her existence had been regularly praying for her health and my health.  She was a part of that church family in the same way I am a part of that church family, and telling the congregation of her loss was in some senses an act of appreciation for what they had already invested in her life.

He starts out with a greeting for all the mothers present in the service, moves on to affirm the women who have been unable to have children, and then tells the story.  It’s a 7-minute clip.  I agree with every word he said.  They don’t always feel like easy words to agree with them, but they are within me and are part of  me – not because of anything I’ve done but because I believe God spoke healing into my heart.  You can listen to my dad’s statement here.  It still makes me cry.

(For those of you who are nonreligious, this clip is definitely religious in nature.  Just a heads-up.)

Dad’s Clip

Finally, a video of the song he referenced.  I’m putting it as the first song on my playlist, also, but I won’t keep my playlist like that for long so I wanted to embed it in the post, too.  This isn’t the version of the song Dad would have heard when he was young, but it happens to be my favorite version of the song, so that’s why I’m posting it here.  Be sure to pause the music in the sidebar first.

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