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22 October 2015

Mercy's Story

Its January of 2015 and I have a babbling five-month-old baby girl on my hip. I spend my days staring into her eyes and taking a million pictures of her. She's not my Hope, but I am so thankful for her, for my Daphne. The pain of losing Hope hadn't been replaced by the joy of having Daphne, rather it had multiplied my constant vulnerability and given me determination never to miss a moment of my daughter's life. Motherhood was hard, but only fanned the desire in my heart for more children.

Motherhood had given me a purpose I had never known before.

Being slightly crazy and more than a little na├»ve, I’m one of those moms that imagines herself with a houseful of kids all walking and talking and playing together. After a few months of trying I found out we were pregnant again!

I remember pacing back and forth at home, occasionally running to check and make sure that I was indeed still pregnant. Waiting for my husband to get home felt like an eternity. I just couldn't hold the big news in one more second. I had to tell somebody! Who better to tell than Mom?! She knew right away and we both squealed with joy and also a little bit of "this is insane".

I felt almost no anxiety as we told close friends and family and asked them to pray with us for a healthy baby and uneventful pregnancy. In the back of my mind I kept thinking, It would be highly unlikely for me to miscarry twiceright?

I went ahead and booked an appointment to see my OBGYN early to make sure everything was okay. All of my tests came back stellar! My blood levels looked great and the doctor wasn't even a little bit concerned. I had even started shopping for a "Big Sister" shirt for my daughter and was planning how and when to announce that our little family was growing! Everything seemed so easy this time around.

The spotting started a few weeks later. I immediately texted my close girlfriends and asked them to pray. A friend reminded me that I had actually spotted early on with my daughter and everything turned out to be completely normal. I sat on the couch with my husband that night while the TV played in the background. I think both of us just knewit was too familiar.

That heavy helpless feeling returned and settled in my spirit. Every labored breath felt like a sharp pain in my side. My mind raced. My heart sank. There was nothing I could do. It was all completely out of my control.

As I laid on the sonogram table the next day, my body felt cold and my hands were trembling. The lump in my throat was a sign that all of my emotions were at the ready, poised for the knowledge that this was happening all over again. This room had become the backdrop for some of my deepest pain and my biggest excitement. My husband was quiet as we both looked up at the screen and saw what we knew meant that we would be losing a second child in an early miscarriage.

After the technician left, I fell apart in my husband's arms. Instead of being numb, I felt angryat the injustice, the grief, the sorrow and the depth of love I already had for this baby.

I saw her little profile in my mind. I pictured her birth, the first moment that I would hold her in my arms. I imagined my own daughter leading her through life. I cried out for the cries I would never get to hear. I grieved for the milestones I would never get to witness. Why, Lord?

My husband asked the nurse if we could wait in a private room instead of the waiting room for the doctor to come and speak with us. Boy am I glad he did that. I was in no shape to see blissful mothers-to-be who have the privilege of peeing on a stick and never thinking twice about whether they will get to meet that baby. In fact, they're probably more worried about how fat they feel than how insanely blessed they are to have effortless pregnancies. 

Obviously, I still have a chip on my shoulder about that one.

The doctor came in and told us that he wasn't sure why things weren't looking normal when my blood work had come back so positive just weeks before. He said it could be that this was going to be another unexplained miscarriage but we would just have to wait and see.

After he left I was really hoping that my husband wouldn't make me have hope that this would be a successful pregnancy with a healthy baby when I just knew in my gut that it wasn't.  He looked up at me and said, "It's okay to know what this is."

Those words unlocked the familiar place in my heart where I stored all of my comforts and sorrows from my miscarriage with Hope. I expected to feel angry. I expected to feel hurt. I expected to feel injustice. What I did not expect to feel so soon was peace.

But peace washed over my soul. Losing Mercy didn't hurt any less than losing Hope, but losing Hope had changed me. I knew the peace that passes all understanding, the Lord had sung it over me once before. And in a moment where peace makes no sense at all, peace was lavishly given, again.

I drove myself home from that appointment and turned on my favorite Bethany Dillon CD. That girl has sung me through some of the darkest times in my life, and she didn't let me down that day. I let "Hallelujah" play over and over until, through tears, I could sing this anthem along with her:

And only you can see the good in broken things
You took this heart of stone and you made it home
And set this prisoner free

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Whatever's in front of me
Help me to sing Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Whatever's in front of me
I'll choose to sing Hallelujah

In the next few days I would miscarry our second baby at home. Mercy was much smaller than Hope but the actual miscarriage was very similar, as I was about 6 weeks along. But this time I was determined to grieve her properlyto echo the truth that life begins at conception. Her life had begun and unfortunately ended before I ever truly knew her.

We placed Mercy under the soil in a planter on our back porch. Nothing was said. I just sat with her awhile. This short burial ceremony went a long way towards giving me closure. There were still questions and sorrow in my heart, but the wiles of a six month old were keeping me always distracted. Distracted but never abandoning my grief.

11 October 2015

Hope's Story

It was four o'clock in the morning. I laid awake in bed trying to coax myself back to sleep. All I could think about was taking a pregnancy test. It had been about six months of trying for our first baby and I was starting to get disappointed and even a little concerned that something might be wrong.

I mean, if sixteen year olds can have sex for the first time and miraculously have a healthy baby—why can't we figure this out?!

I couldn't take it anymore. So I snuck out of bed, careful not to wake my husband, and went into the bathroom to find out if we were pregnant this time. 

Those two pink lines changed my life forever.

After I had myself a silent dance party in the bathroom I crawled back into bed, heart pounding out of my chest, and tried to figure out the best way to tell my man that he was finally going to be a Daddy!

I woke up that Saturday morning and tried to play it cool. On my way to the kitchen I asked my husband if he wanted some eggs for breakfast. As he took his time waking up, I cut up an apple and placed one of the little seeds in a bowl and put it at the table where he normally sits. My heart was pounding as he sat down. He looked at the bowl and then looked at me, "What is this?" to which I casually replied "Oh, I just thought you'd like to know how big your baby is before you ate breakfast."

The next few moments are a bit of a blur of excitement. We were finally going to be parents! We couldn't hold it in, we began to call our family and friends and asked them to keep our secret with us and pray for a healthy baby and pregnancy.  

At our first sonogram we entered the room like giddy kids in a candy store, we were going to see our baby for the very first time. We gushed to the technician about how this would be the first grandbaby for our parents and she smiled and talked about her own grandkids. Everything just seemed so perfect.

I laid there looking up at the screen and it just didn't look right. I glanced over at the technician and her smile had faded into concern. She seemed to know something that we didn't, but she didn't say anything definitive. But we knew this wasn't right. We no longer felt like kids in a candy store, we felt like parents. Helpless parents who desperately wanted to know if their baby was going to be okay.

As we waited for the doctor, I felt like I couldn't even think straight. This wasn't supposed to happen to me. We were supposed to have this baby. This wasn't part of my plan. Why would God let this happen?

The doctor came in (about 15 years later...) and told us that the sonogram was inconclusive and that we were either not as far along as we assumed, or this pregnancy will end in a miscarriage. It was too early to tell.

You know when something painful happens to you? Everything feels heavy. Everyone seems inconsiderate. No one understands. Nothing makes sense. There is nothing else except for the pain. You cling to it, like that pain is the only thing that connects you to your loss.

I left that day feeling crushed. My dreams of motherhood felt so fragile. I just wanted a little bit of certainty that everything would be alright.

My husband—eternal optimist and nothing-really-bad-could-ever-happen-ist, seemed to genuinely believe that everything would be fine. I am, admittedly, a bit "woe is me" and an if-something-bad-can-happen-it-will-most-likely-happen-to-me-ist. So I was honestly a bit upset that he didn't let me feel like I could go ahead and grieve this loss.

We had to wait to get some test results back from the doctor. Days later, he called to say that the results looked totally normal; he saw no reason why this wouldn't be a healthy pregnancy with a healthy little baby.

Such instant relief rushed over my whole body. I placed a grateful hand on my belly and basked in this good news. Carson gave me an "I-told-you-so" look, and I didn't even mind at all. We took this time to argue about whether a girl named Felicity would end up being a really cool chick or a cow herder.

Everything felt perfect again! Gone were the days of anxiety, forgotten were those moments of pain. The days of milking my pregnancy and deciding exactly how many baby bows is too many were officially at hand!

The bleeding started two weeks later.

When I saw the first drops, my heart sank into my stomach and everything seemed to move in slow motion. I fell to my knees and immediately began whispering to the Lord, "Lord, no. Please Lord, no." I called my husband who was at our church just minutes away from having to play piano for the service, and he told me that he would be home as soon as the worship was over. I still can't imagine how hard it was for him to play that day.

He had said all the right things and reassured me of the doctor's certainty, and that everything was going to be okay.

But in my heart I knew.

We went to the doctor the next day. After waiting what seemed like 3 hours in a horrible waiting room with unbearably happy parents-to-be, we were finally called back.

Hours later the doctor confirmed what I already knew: we would lose our baby.

He said the miscarriage should occur sometime this week or next. My body was already rejecting my baby. The doctor reassured me that this was not my fault—it was just an unexplained miscarriage.

An unexplained miscarriage. There is something so bitterly cruel about your own body rejecting your baby. Wasn't I created for this? Wasn't my body meant to create babies and bring them into the world? How could my body betray me in such a way?

I was completely numb as we spent the next hour in the waiting room before completing some blood work. That intense kind of loss and grief completely overwhelmed me. There was no room for hope. There was only pain, and it suffocated me.

At some point I asked my husband to go ahead and send out a text message to our friends and family who had been praying for us and let them know that we were miscarrying our first child.

I've always been rather open about my life but it still surprises me that I was so quick to reach out to my community. But I am so thankful that I did. The messages that poured in helped to keep my loneliness at bay. I still felt lost, but I had made myself accessible. I shudder to think of the potential darkness I could have succumbed to, had I cut myself off from those closest to me.

I was all alone in our apartment the day that I finally miscarried our baby.

I expected to feel some kind of contraction since I was about 9 weeks along, but there were none. I held in my hands a golf ball sized mass. Inside of it was my baby.

I just stared at it remembering things that well-intending friends and family had said, "At least you weren't that far along." But I was. Look at what my body had created for my baby. 

My body had been busy forming a beautiful home for this child that would ultimately become a tomb.

I flushed it down the toilet. I wish that I had known that its okay to bury your miscarried baby. I wish I hadn't been alone. I felt so barren. So empty.

The numbness returned. I shot my husband a text that said "It happened." and I don't really remember a whole lot from the next few days, except a whole lot of tears and sleeping. Maybe hoping that I would wake up from a really terrible dream to a swollen belly with a healthy baby inside.