Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Learning to Love and Live Through Loss: The Story of Our Third Baby

"Oh precious is the flow that makes me white as snow.  No other fount I know... nothing but the blood of Jesus"... I sang this past Sunday standing next to my husband and two children... thinking about the theme of that day's worship set at church - each song being about Christ's blood making me clean, making me whole... It was all very emotional for me, perhaps in a way I'll never be able to describe.  The timing of these songs at first seemed like a dark joke.  Like cruel irony.  But the longer I sang and the more I thought about it, my heart was warmed with the thought of God leading the worship pastor to choose these songs... they couldn't have been more timely.

I leaned over to my husband and whispered in his ear, "The songs are all about blood."  My husband's face told me that he had noticed too... and that he knew why it meant so much.

2 weeks earlier we had been debating on whether there was a second pink line.  My cycle was pretty late, and I just knew I was pregnant.  I had been saying for a week that I thought I was pregnant.  And I saw a second line on that test.  But I wasn't sure if I actually saw it, or if I just knew where it was supposed to be...  and really wanted it to be there.  Kyle said he didn't see it.  So I sent a picture to my midwife, and she said she saw it!  I went in for a blood test to confirm, and I was right!  My midwife sent me a picture of the lab results - a positive pregnancy test!  I couldn't wait to tell Kyle, so I sent him the picture too.  We were both so excited to be having a third baby!  We spent the rest of the afternoon discussing  what the baby's nickname was going to be... who we should tell first... and when.

We had told our parents in unique ways before with our first 2 children, and it just so happened that both our parents were going to be having dinner together at a pregnancy center's fundraiser that evening!  So I sent my husband's mom a text with the lab results picture saying "Can you please show this to my mom?"  And Kyle sent the same thing to my mom's phone.  When they both were finally in the same place and actually looked at the picture, we all Facetimed and laughed about how clever we thought we had been and about the new grandbaby!

We had already made plans to spend that weekend at my in-laws' ranch, and we had invited some friends and their kids to come spend the weekend there as well.  So when my husband got off work on the day after we had announced the pregnancy to our parents, we headed for the ranch.  Earlier that day, I had noticed that all the usual smells at the school where I teach part-time were all stronger and did not mix well.  Bleh!  I noticed that I could even smell the hand soap before I pumped it into my hand in the bathroom.  Later on that afternoon, I had gotten a little carried away (when don't I, huh?) and dressed my kids up for taking a picture for the announcement.  I didn't tell them why we were dressing up, I only said it was for a surprise later that day.  The picture was so cute, and I just couldn't wait to design the announcement, so I spent the hour drive in the car deciding on the layout to announce baby #3.  We decided that we were going to tell our kids right before our friends arrived at the ranch, so that they would still be super excited and blurt it out to our friends upon their arrival.  I envisioned this big happy exchange of hugs and smiles all around, and I was so happy with anticipation!

When we arrived at the ranch, we did the usual hugs and unloading of the car.  I told Kyle that I had to pee, so I ran inside the house to use the restroom.  And as I am still bubbly with excitement, I started to bleed.  I was so caught off-guard.  I had not had any bleeding with my first two pregnancies at all, and I immediately realized the worst-case scenario was probably playing out.  I texted Kyle to come to the bathroom.  I told him.  And I took the wind right out of his sails.  I love that husband of mine.  He gets excited about things he should, and he becomes sad about things he should.  I know from speaking to other women that this is a blessing, maybe a rare one.

In that moment I felt and thought a million different things:
-'I am so glad I didn't tell my daughter.'
-'I am so embarrassed.  I shouldn't have been so excited.'
-'Maybe this isn't what I think it is... what else could it be?!'
-'Of course this would happen when I am at someone else's house.  Without pads.  And all I packed were thong underwear.'
-'I am gonna have to sit here and cry while my husband goes to the dollar store and buys me pads and underwear.'
-'Maybe since the blood is really bright red, maybe that doesn't mean it is a miscarriage... maybe it is something else that is minor...'

So I spent a lot of the weekend in the bathroom or sitting on the heating pad.  I had all the wrong symptoms for a weekend in the country with guests, but they were all the right ones for a miscarriage.  Back pain, clotting, nausea...

I had a few good cries.  I texted my mom, my sister, my midwife, and 2 other friends.  They sent the usual responses one would expect - hopeful, prayerful, and loving words for my heart.  I also tried to be a good hostess to our friends and walked around the ranch with them, watching our kids play together.  It was pretty windy and chilly, but during the times I wasn't in the bathroom, I was so glad to be outside in the fresh air with people I love.

But I also spent a lot of time on the internet researching miscarriage.  I had never had to read on it before, and my sister always told me to "never read the bad news until you have to".  That is when I learned that my guess about bright blood had been very wrong... apparently, it is the darker the better.  I learned that there are several different reasons why a woman might bleed during pregnancy, and not all led to miscarriage.  Many of the miscarriage symptoms were also common pregnancy symptoms, so while this depressed me more, I was also more hopeful...

Now how I could have been both at the same time is difficult to explain and believe... but it is a reality that before I didn't know existed.

After 24 hours, we got more nervous that this might not be just implantation bleeding.  Kyle told me he wanted me to take it easy, and we went home.  He did laundry, got dinner, did the dishes, put the kids to bed... and I was thankful for the time to rest in my favorite lounge pants on the heating pad (on the lowest setting).

I texted our pastors telling them that we thought I was miscarrying and that I wouldn't be coming in to church.  They were very kind, told me to rest and that they were praying for me... and they told Kyle to stay home with me.  Our pastor took over Kyle's Sunday School class, and Kyle ran in early to the church for half an hour to finish the set up I normally do each week.

We sat around in our pjs doing nothing much, and it was so sweet.  The past 2 months had been so stressful for me and Kyle during his recruiting season, and I had missed so much spending quality time with him and my kids... as a family.  I was sad, yes, that I probably wasn't pregnant anymore, but I was also overwhelmed by the love I have for these people and how much I had missed them.  That seems like a weird thing to say about people you live with... but it is very possible to sleep and eat in the same structural space while not feeling connected to them in a meaningful way... to miss them just as much as if they were on the other side of the country.

I became more hopeful as my mom replied, "It is fairly common for women to bleed during pregnancy."  Or listening to a friend's story about bleeding off and on for 6 weeks at the beginning of her pregnancy, and she gave birth to a healthy boy, whom my kids now adore.  A friend contacted me and congratulated me saying my dad had told her the good news... and I asked her for prayer and explained what was happening.  She responded that she had had a miscarriage between her two first kids... she now has 5.  A woman I work with asked me how I was doing, and I asked her for prayer and explained what was going on... she told me she had had a miscarriage before each of her daughters... she now has 3 kids.

During my miscarriage, I learned how common it is to miscarry a pregnancy.  I did not know that 20% of HEALTHY women miscarry.  I did not know that almost every person I explained my situation to had also miscarried.  I didn't know that all these secretly lost pregnancies were all around me in my circle of friends.  I was saddened by learning about them.  I was frustrated by the ignorance of these facts.  I was encouraged that I was not alone, and that I am not a broken freak.

I was also challenged in a new way in my thinking toward our loving and good Heavenly Father.  During this time, I found out another friend is expecting.  She was not wanting to have more children, or at least not for a long while.  She has been struggling, stressing, and anxious over the future.  Over the worry about what it means for her family.  And here I sat at home losing a pregnancy I had planned and hoped for.  It is only natural to notice the irony... to ask God what He is trying to teach me.  To have to pray to check my heart - to ask God to protect me from bitterness, jealousy.  And He has been so gracious to allow me to be truly, sincerely happy for her and the many other women I know that are growing little beauties in their tummies as I type this.  He has shown me that He has lessons for them to learn as well.  And He has been so, so good to me.  And I have felt it every second throughout this loss.

So while my time miscarrying was sorrowful, it was also refreshing... and by Fall Break time, the bleeding had stopped.  I knew my hormones and levels would still be out-of-whack, so I was determined not to let the waiting and not knowing for sure ruin the time we all had off together.

We had the greatest Fall Break, and I think it was even sweeter because of our loss.  We went to the zoo.  We slept in.  We stayed up late.  We hung out with the college students.  We let our kids have a sleepover in each other's rooms, which I am usually very strict about saying NO.  We had a picnic in our backyard.  Kyle went hunting, but only in the mornings and met up with us at the pumpkin patch.  I took fewer photos than usual, and I took it all in a lot more.  I smiled a lot.  Yes, I would get teary-eyed too.  I just felt like something so unfortunate had happened at a time in my life when I needed a new perspective, a breath of fresh air to my soul.

I began to cry in bed that Saturday night, and Kyle held me.  I explained that I wasn't necessarily sad, but I was feeling so much at the same time.  I said, "While I am sad, I am also so incredibly warmed to know that life goes on, and everything in it is a little sweeter."

The next morning we sang all about how Jesus' blood gives us hope, the only hope.  I smiled and teared up at the contrast between what sadness the blood in the world can bring... injury, death, loss... but what great news that through blood, just as human in design as mine, yet given from the body of the God-Man's sinless existence... it makes all things new again.  And that is exactly how I had felt about my time spent with family during and after my miscarriage... like my love for them and my enjoyment of them was all made new again.

And with newness of living comes newness of thinking.  I have begun the process of preaching to myself the truths which do not come naturally to our sinful souls.  I am preaching these truths, with more to come, I am sure:

-There is absolutely no reason why I should have felt embarrassed about being excited about a pregnancy I only had a hunch about for over a week and knew about for sure for a day.  Each life is a life worth being excited about, and if the whole world sees me celebrate one day only to have to mourn the next, embarrassment has nothing to do with it.  There is no shame in wanting to share in excitement.  There is no shame in keeping it a secret until later.  There is no shame in being honest about what is going on in our lives, especially when it stinks!  I am thankful that I shared what was going on with me, because I found much comfort in hearing others' experiences and knowing I wasn't alone.  THERE IS NO SHAME IN LOSS THAT IS OUT OF OUR CONTROL.

-And it is out of my control.  That is a gift.  I don't want things to be in my control, because I know how often I mess so much up!  No, I want God to be in control... of even the things in my life that may cause me pain.  He weaves the most beautiful truths into the stitching up of our deepest wounds... and they are truths we remember forever.  We so often forget the lessons we are taught in the shiny, sparkly times.  I believe it is our fallen, sinful nature that requires us to be broken in order to be made right... to have to first look less like us in order to look more like Him.

-And since it is out of my control, then there is no guilt for what occurred... all that I am responsible for is how I avail my broken self to the ultimate Fixer.  Not so that I can have my way now or later, but so that I can honor God's purpose in all this by paying attention to the purpose in all this!

"Oh precious is the flow that makes me white as snow!  NO OTHER FOUNT I KNOW!  Nothing but the blood of Jesus!"

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