Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sharing My First Pregnancy: Hope, Loss, And Life

October 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. I've never shared my story on here before, so I wanted to today. It was healing for me to go back to this time in my life and write it out for others to read. I hope it is encouraging to those of you who know the pain of loss or are struggling toward motherhood.

I have always known I wanted children. It's the one desire I can trace back to my roots – ever present, never changing, never a doubt in my mind that someday I wanted babies of my own. I'd always felt that mothering was something I was born to do.

When Clint and I decided we were ready for kids, we wanted to just let it happen. No 'trying', no stressing – just letting it be. I had always loved the idea of holding a pregnancy test in my hand and letting the wave of shock and excitement rush over me as the second line appeared. I wasn't in a hurry. I truly believed it would happen in its own time, and there was no reason to rush.

Even though I'd read that it can often take several months, I still expected it to happen pretty quickly. After all, don't most people get knocked up accidentally? How hard could it be? Have sex, have a baby. BAM! One of the easiest things in the world, right?

A few months went by. No worries. I figured the wait was just giving me a little more time to be completely prepared. Then a few more months went by. And a few more.

I started to feel a little sick – not from pregnancy, unfortunately, but from the fear that had always resided deep within me. As a child, when I'd hear about women who'd never been able to have kids, I'd pray that God would protect me from that kind of pain. The worst thing I can possibly imagine, I'd think. The thought terrified me. It made me miserable to think that the one thing I'd always wanted – the only thing I'd ever felt as though I couldn't live without – might never happen.

More months. More waiting, more hoping. More pregnancy announcements, but never my own. I finally got to the point where I was no longer hopeful, but frantic. This needed to happen. Now.

I finally told Clint, “We need to figure out if something is wrong.” I couldn't fathom going another year with the possibility that there was something we could fix. Our relaxed approach was not working – it was time to take action.

Turns out there was no need. Even though I didn't want to see another negative pregnancy test, I took one anyway. As I waited for the result, I tried to suppress my hopes. I feared it wasn't meant to happen for me and prayed that I would accept the inevitable.

I sighed and picked the test up. Am I imagining that line? I thought. I squinted hard at the little window – one dark pink line and one very faint pink line. My jaw dropped. I stared hard, certain that it was a figment of my imagination, that all these months of waiting had truly driven me crazy.

I showed Clint. “Do you see that line?!” I asked excitedly.

“Yeah,” he said as he squinted at the tiny window.

“Do you know what that means?!” I said.

His eyes widened. “Scary,” he said.

I'm sure he meant awesome. In a big, scary, exciting, phenomenal sort of way. (Men react to these sorts of things a little differently.) Finally, I thought. I was elated.

We kept it mostly to ourselves, deciding to wait until after I'd seen a doctor before making a big announcement. We just told immediate family and a few close friends.

I felt great as we geared up to make a weekend trip out of town. We were thrilled to get away together and celebrate some time alone, knowing that those opportunities would not come as often once we had a little one. A sweet, perfect, cherished little one. I smiled inside, everywhere we went. Each moment of every day. Life was about to get so, so good.

I started bleeding that weekend. I tried not to worry – I knew that bleeding didn't necessarily indicate a problem. I had wanted this baby for so long – surely, God intended for me to have it. Surely, my patience was being rewarded. Surely, I was going to be a wonderful mother, and there was no reason to fear.

But the bleeding increased throughout our trip. Cramping set in. My assurance turned into concern.

I returned to work on Monday feeling uneasy. Everyone who knew about the pregnancy told me not to worry. I was told to kick my feet up and relax – all would be fine. I wanted to take their words to heart, but I knew I couldn't. I just knew. And by Tuesday morning the concern turned into panic.

I left work before lunch. I was a complete wreck. And yet everyone kept saying, “Don't worry. Everything will be fine. Just relax.” But I knew from what I'd seen and felt my body doing that everything was not fine. I just needed someone to tell me. I needed to know. I couldn't wait for the OB appointment that was still two days away.

So that evening I headed to the E.R. I was escorted to a room where I was calm as I answered a lady's questions while she filled out paperwork. She finally asked me my reason for the visit. “Possible miscarriage” were the words I managed to force out before I burst into tears. I wept while she forced her eyes back onto the forms. “I'm sorry...sorry...” I kept saying as I sobbed. She wordlessly handed me a tissue, her eyes glued to the paper as she wrote.

I don't know why she wouldn't look at me. I felt guilty for even being there because I knew it wasn't really an emergency. It was my own mental emergency, my need for closure in something I could no longer continue wrestling. I like to think that maybe she understood. Maybe she gave me space because she'd been down this road before with others, and perhaps she knew this pain all too well. These things happen so often, you know.

I was admitted to a room, poked and prodded and tested until I could take no more. I was there for hours before I was finally told the news I'd come to receive: there was no baby.

I went home, where the emptiness began to overtake the grief. Life continued as normal. Our plans were halted, and yet nothing had changed. To my husband, it was a disappointment. To me, it was devastating.

Just two days later I went to my scheduled appointment. I was there to have blood drawn to make sure my hormone levels were dropping, not to talk about my medical history and birth plan, like it was supposed to be. Instead of sitting in the waiting room, looking at all the swollen bellies with excitement, I looked with envy and longing. I dropped my eyes to the floor to keep from crying.

I scoured every article on the Internet about miscarriage. Every forum. Every blog post. I could not read enough to squelch the grief. I wanted to try again immediately. I wanted it back...the joy that had been ripped from me. And I wanted it desperately.

I became obsessed with learning all I could about fertility. I began taking my temperature every morning, charting my cycle, predicting ovulation. I turned it into a task to be conquered. I needed it to be something that I could make happen.

People started asking questions. So when are you guys going to have kids? How many do you want? Well, what are you waiting for?! They didn't know about our struggle – I couldn't share it. It was too deeply personal. On some level I felt responsible, as though there was something wrong with me. I felt embarrassed, ashamed.

I clung to my faith to get me through the pain. I tried to understand why I was not yet a mother, but I never received any satisfying answers. All I could do was go back to the truths that had always sustained me before: God's wisdom is infinitely superior to man's. I am ultimately not in control. He will give me the deepest desires of my heart.

But none of that made it fair. None of that helped me to understand why.

Then along came Christmas. I had hoped for a baby. Instead I got a stomach virus. Not just any stomach virus – it was the virus from hell. I saw several doctors, went to the ER twice, had numerous tests done, was unable to eat, and lost twelve pounds in two weeks.

I was scared. It was terrifying to be that ill and to receive no answers from the doctors. They told us it was most likely 'just a really bad virus', but we feared it was something much worse.

When your life is disrupted so much, you realize just how blessed you truly are. I realized I just wanted to be healthy. I wanted to spend many, many beautiful years with my husband. I was tired of trying to make my life perfect, tired of spinning my wheels to feel like I was in control. I just wanted to be well again. I was not a mother, but I could still live.

Gradually, my condition improved. It took a while to feel normal again, but I'm thankful for that illness. It taught me that I wanted life. I chose life. I no longer wanted to be consumed by fear and worry, plagued by that which was out of my control.

I let go. I was reminded to savor the present because we never know what tomorrow will bring – what illness...what blessing...what tragedy...what miracle.

My own blessing came about just three months later. Another positive test. And this one resulted in the most hilarious, precocious, beautiful almost-four-year-old that I enjoy today. She has a handsome little brother, too.

I know that for many women, their struggle to become mothers goes on for much longer on a road that is paved with much more pain. My heart aches for them in a way I could never express. My hope for them is that they know there is still life to be lived – that when they feel consumed by despair, they still know that joy is just a moment away.