A couple of years ago I took Cohen to see a local high school’s production of Seussical, the Dr. Seuss musical. We knew the kid playing the lead part of Horton, the elephant who saves the very small community he discovers on a speck of dust. His mantra throughout the show is that “a person is a person no matter how small!”
Cohen will still talk about the show even though in a few days he’ll be 6 (yes! 6! Don’t ask me how that happened) and he’s on to new adventures. In fact, I’m sitting in the backyard soaking up the sun and he just came in from the front yard to announce “that squirrel is SMART!“ Apparently he’s going to spend this afternoon trying to “catch” the squirrel who lives in our maple tree, armed with string and some acorns he has assembled.
He’s on to things other than Dr. Seuss stories today, but that line has been running through my head all morning.
When I got pregnant with Cohen, it was a shock. Like, I’ve-been-taking-the-pill-and-preventing-this-shock kind of shock. I will never forget how the pit in my stomach grew exponentially with those two pink lines. I couldn’t believe it. It was a different scenario when David and I got married because we knew we wanted to have more kids and we were both 29. We opted to not prevent, unsure of how long it would take. I thought it might take longer than it did with Cohen since I was almost 30. Nope. Barely 6 weeks after the wedding, we sat in the bathroom together waiting for proof that we would be parents again… and there it was. And a couple of years later, that blond little boy with the killer smile is upstairs in our house taking a nap.
I imagined what it would be like this time…We talked about how to re-organize the bedrooms to make room. We started a list of names (its still hung on the frig with ABC’s magnets). I pinned a bunch of “baby announcement” ideas on pinterest. My favorite was the one where the mama is standing in front of the chalkboard with the date behind her and her will-be pregnant belly drawn next to her in chalk. I wasn’t sure I could pull it off, but it was my favorite.
We thought about the dates and carefully decided to start trying in March with the hopes of having a whole pregnancy and delivery all accounted for on one year’s insurance deductible. I figured that we’d have a couple of cycles to try and still have a due date before January 1st and given our history, I thought that would be enough wiggle room.
On my birthday it was confirmed. We were pregnant. Neither of us could believe it had happened so quickly, but we were happy. Maybe even a little proud of our timing.
As the weeks went on, I started to “feel” that this baby was a girl just in the way I had “felt” that both Cohen and Adler were boys. The pregnancy was really different. With both boys, it was like once I knew I was pregnant, I was puking. I had great deliveries, but awful pregnancies. If there was a possibly pregnancy symptom, I had it.
Not this time. I felt nervous, but happy about how I was gliding through it…
…until last week.
I had some spotting. No cramping, but still I had never spotted with the boys. I hadn’t even had a doctor appointment yet (or even decided if we were even going to use a doctor ,to be honest) so I called the local OB. They sent me to the hospital for some blood work and then set up an ultrasound for the next morning. I went and gave blood and then painfully lived through the day, waiting to hear. After dinner I got a call. My hcg level (baby growth hormone) was fine, but my progesterone was low. So they called in a progesterone pills.
A week ago last Friday I went in to have the ultrasound, assuming that my very light spotting was no big deal. I was a little nervous, but also excited to see the baby even if it cost us a few hundred bucks and even if the baby would look a lot more like a blob than a baby.
But the doctor didn’t see a baby.
She did see a gestational sac and (thank God) a yolk sac. But there was no fetal “pole” and no heartbeat. By my dates and I had been keeping close track, I should’ve been 7 weeks 1 day pregnant. By 7 weeks 1 day there should’ve been a heartbeat or at least a fetal pole. Dr. Graham couldn’t have been sweeter or more kind or taken more time to explain. She concluded that either I was more like 5 wks 6 days and off a bit on my dates or that the baby had stopped developing.
She scheduled another ultrasound for the next Friday morning.
A week of waiting to find out whether or not your baby will ever take a breath is a pretty long week of waiting. Some days I spotted, some days I didn’t. Some evenings I obsessively searched google, reading stories about women who were told to expect a miscarriage because of the same situation I’m in, but then had a healthy baby months later. Some evenings I obsessively searched google for stories about miscarriage and what to expect when it happens. There was a least one day when I had myself convinced that I was over reacting about a tiny bit of spotting and a very early ultrasound. But then the next day there was a lot of blood. And not pink spotting either. It was red.
So Thursday morning was a sad morning for us. David came home from work at lunch, I think mostly so that even if he was working in the basement we were at least occupying the same space. Thank God it was a crazy busy day with lots of kids to take care of and my cousins putting up trim in the kitchen and finishing the odds and ends we never have time to get to. Thursday evening was just as full. We moved puppies to a bigger area now that their eyes and ears are open and they’re walking. It was a big job that David and I didn’t finish until almost 10pm. He fell into bed, bone tired. I couldn’t sleep. I laid awake, willing myself not to finish the ice cream in the freezer and instead drank the last of my fizzy water while I laid on the couch watching The West Wing.
I filled Friday morning up too. The appointment was at 8:30 but I’d been up and moving since 5 and had run errands and even taken Adler to the early hours at our doctor before I showed up for the ultrasound.
We waited in the room for ten minutes and that was the worst waiting. David was bouncing an unaware Adler on his hip and I was sitting there just covered up with that paper sheet they give you. That waiting was the worst.
Dr. Graham came in and had me lie down. She had the ultrasound machine facing her so I was just watching her face. I didn’t expect there to be anything in my uterus, but I winced a little when I could tell she wasn’t pleasantly surprised by a heartbeat, but instead with her jaw set, was searching the images for something.
She finally turned the screen toward me and I saw nearly exactly what I had seen seven days before. There was a gestational sac that looked bigger and a more defined yolk sac. Still no baby, no heartbeat. The week before I was measuring a little over 5 weeks and now I was measuring a little over 6.
I was sure I had miscarried. I was sure we were either going to get that definite answer or that we were going to witness the miracle of a flickering heartbeat. In the place of a sure answer, we got a prescription for more waiting.
We scheduled another ultrasound for two weeks out.
Before the second ultrasound I posted on Facebook that I needed to get better at waiting. I had no idea that I was going to need to get better at waiting like right away, but I am. Thirty one hours down, only three hundred and five hours left to wait. Not that I’m counting.
Its hard for me to be sad. Some people are so free with their emotions, but its hard for me. I want to quickly move on to acceptance and be “practical” and “realistic” about wounds. I try not to linger in grief; sometimes I even try to avoid it. I didn’t even really want David to go to the ultrasound because I was expecting to have already miscarried and I knew Dr. Graham would say how sorry she was and I knew I’d hear myself trying to comfort her with “its ok” or “I was expecting it” or something. I knew that’d be harder to do with David present. Because David is one of those people who can just feel what he feels without needing to move on quickly.
Our baby, if he or she is alive and growing is contained in sac that’s now only 16mm wide. That’s maybe as small as Dr. Seuss imagined the people in Whoville. And dead or alive, growing or not, that little person is still a person. We had still imagined what he/she would be like. We had still been thinking of how and when to tell our friends and family. We still have a list of names on the frig.
A wise friend, in answer to my complaining about waiting, commented with lines from one of my sister’s songs that I hold most dear. “You can do more in my waiting than in my doing I can do.” It has been a comfort to have those lyrics hovering over my heart these last few days.
At this point, there is nothing that can be done, one way or another. I cannot put my feet up enough or drink enough water or take enough prenatal vitamins or wish hard enough to make the tiny being in my womb grow. I can’t wish the DNA to be right and healthy and I can’t knit him or her together with my hopes. All I can do is wait with the assurance that God really can do more in my waiting on Him than anything I could ever do. Ever.
We may be waiting on the Lord as he allows my body to release this little baby. And if so, then, let it be. We will work on how to be sad together and when its time, on how to try again without be strangled by fear. And He will be as good as He always is and with us in the heartache and trouble He told us we’d find here. And if in two weeks we go to an ultrasound and there is, for the first time, a fetal pole and signs of a flickering heart, then our waiting will be turned to triumph and our sadness to joy and our mourning to dancing. And if Dr. Graham doesn’t believe in miracles now, then maybe she will.
He really is the One who gives and takes away. Funny how before last week, when I’d hear that, the emphasis would be on the taking and then faced with a loss we thought was eminent Thursday morning all I could hear in my own heart was the giving. David and I laid in our bed after I told him I thought I had passed the baby. I thought about how easily I’ve always gotten pregnant and we talked about the two amazing, infectious, gregarious gifts asleep across the hall. Truly, the Lord is the One who gives and takes and we have been so blessed.
I’ve been reading the Psalms a lot in the weeks past and I keep being struck by how the psalmist describes “waiting”. I love my amplified version which often expounds on the word waiting to mean “looking, watching and expecting [The Lord]“. I scarcely ever read the word “waiting” with seeing next to it: “[expectantly]”
I don’t want to wait in fear or dread. I don’t want to wait obsessively, alternatively confirming my worst fears and then looking for reasons to hope for an unlikely outcome. I want to wait on the Lord- to be looking for him around every dark corner and every unexpected spot our hearts may find themselves.
So, please pray for us as we wait. Pray with us. Pray for God’s will for our family and for this little baby that some would say doesn’t even yet qualify as human. We are asking God for a miracle because He is a miracle worker, but we aren’t demanding it of Him because we know His ways are sometimes just too lofty for us to understand.
“[What, what would have become of me] had I not believed that I would see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living!
Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for andhope for and expect the Lord.” Psalm 27: 13-14