I have always wanted to have two children. The E.P.T. home pregnancy test gave us the results we were hoping for the last Saturday night of March, 2015 and the following Thursday was my first doctor’s appointment for you. My doctor was delighted to confirm your existence because I had told her on previous visits that your Daddy and I been hoping for another, and she delivered your brother, who will be two in September 2015.
Your Daddy and I had fun searching on-line for big brother T-shirts. We talked about dressing him in it on Easter morning to make the announcement in the church nursery. We never actually made the purchase because we couldn’t agree on the color and style. We also discussed ways to transition your brother from crib to toddler be and then I began to worry about how I would manage to chase after your active, energetic brother once you grew heavier within me. I figured I would deal with that when the time came. Thousands of mother have done it for thousands of years. When your Daddy’s parents arrived on Friday night to spend Easter weekend with us, we told them about you!
Later that same Saturday night – a week after we found out about you – some mild cramping came over me and dark red spotting appeared, but I didn’t think anything of it because spotting can be common in the first trimester. By Easter morning, however, the blood had increased and turned bright red. Now I was worried, but then again, my mother had significant bleeding with me. I had no opportunity before leaving for church to shower or dab on makeup because of tending to your Grandma, Grandpa and your brother. Your Dad had to usher at an earlier church service so her was unavailable to help me. I knew I was pale and bleary-eyed as I threw on a dark lavender dress, pulled my hair into a ponytail, and loaded your brother into his car seat.
After the service, when everyone had gathered in the lower level parish hall to enjoy the generous Easter spread, I disclosed what was happening to a friend and former nurse. She told me to stay off my feet as much as possible for the rest of the day, and call the doctor Monday morning. A block of cement was sitting in my stomach and more blood oozed. Your brother raced all over the parish hall, weaving in and out of clusters of chatting people while I sat in a tight ball in one of the chairs lining the perimeter of the room, as if sitting with legs folded underneath me would somehow stop the blood, and I struggled to eat a strawberry and choke down some water. Your Dad was torn between worrying about me, tending to your Grandparents and reining in your brother.
I’m not sure your Grandfather was cognizant of what was going on. He suffers from Parkinson’s disease and struggles with daily self-care tasks when he isn’t in the familiarity of his home environment. I think your Grandmother was focused on him and making sure he was taking his medication. The slow bleeding continued all Sunday afternoon.
By Monday morning, your Grandmother was fraught with anxiety over catching the connecting flight in returning to their home in North Carolina. Your Dad drove your Grandparents to the airport and helped them through security. He offered to take me the E.R. before reporting to his new job at noon. I declined, certain that the bleeding would stop by then.
But by late morning, it was beginning to look like I was having a regular period minus any significant cramping. My anxiety level was escalating as fast as the blood escaping my body. Frantic, I texted a couple of friends to inquire of their availability to watch your brother so that I could take myself to the E.R. Neither was available. I texted my Mother in Des Moines multiple times, who did her best to calm me. I emailed my parents Saturday night before going to bed, announcing the pregnancy and then disclosing the bleeding. I texted your Dad who didn’t feel it was appropriate to ask for time off during his first day, and I understood. I’m not sure what I did with your brother on this particular afternoon. Normally we leave the house to do some sort of outdoor activity. I couldn’t stop tears from sliding down my cheeks as I fed him lunch. Relief came when I put him down for his nap at 12:30. Only then could I allow myself to sob. Because I wasn’t in physical pain, I held onto the hope that the bleeding would subside and all would be well.
Your Dad was able to leave work by 4 p.m. and by 4:30 the three of us left for the E.R. Questions. Forms to fill out. Waiting. I was ushered to a bed where one of the nurses made sure I knew that the remote control worked for the T.V. mounted on the wall opposite my bed. As if casually watching network television would somehow stop my body from betraying me. I wanted to smash that flat screen with the remote, and then I wanted the privacy to sob. Blood draws. Urine sample. Tears. More waiting. A sonogram. “I don’t see the pregnancy sac,” the young technician gently informed me. More blood. More tears. Finally, the physical exam. The physician peered between my legs. “Ah yes. I see a huge blood clot.”
I know she was just doing her job, and had dealt with many other cases like mine, but Josh, she called you a blood clot.
Four hours later, the attending physician was not willing to absolutely confirm, but suspected, that you had passed from our world to the heavenly realm. Her words were more clinical, of course. She wasn’t sure if it was an ectopic pregnancy or partial miscarriage because they tend to look identical. The only way to know for sure was to get another blood draw in two more days to make sure the pregnancy hormones were dropping. She had already notified my OB at my regular clinic so they would be expecting me on Wednesday.
This August you were supposed to be about six months within me, and I would have been enjoying your pokes and kicks. I knew what I wanted to name you as soon as I learned you were coming. I had no choice with your brother because it had to be your Dad’s family name. Somehow, I knew you were going to be another boy. Joshua was the name of the leader who took over after Moses died in leading the Israelites to the Promised Land in the Old Testament. I wanted you to be a courageous leader, like Joshua. Your middle name would have been James because that’s the middle name of the my Dad. We were going to give you a choice of whether you wanted to be called J.J. Bake or Josh Bake.
Random conversations with other moms, as we watch our children at the playground, have taught me that so many other women also silently carry the pain of empty wombs. I have been asked on several occasion if your brother is my only son. Every time I respond, I hear myself say, “so far, yes.” Another Mom stared misty-eyed at your brother and a few other toddlers. “They’re all such miracles. A good friend of mine is struggling with infertility,” she said. I blurted out my story, and she declared with utmost sincerity, “I will be praying for you. It takes faith to get through these things.” Amen.
Writing this was a struggle. The words wouldn’t come until I read another women’s Facebook post about miscarrying her second pregnancy on an airplane. Although I don’t know her, we are part of a sacred, closed, on-line group of Moms who seek to encourage and support one another during this crazy journey of mothering our infants and toddlers. I promised myself that I would not ask God “why me?” or be angry. But then, for the past few weeks, everywhere I have gone, I have seen pregnant women. I have been telling myself it was no big deal, that it wasn’t the right time, that I was only seven weeks, and then I wrote a post sharing my experience, and apologized for whining. The outpour of love and affirmation brought me to more sobbing.
Yes, I have the right to grieve over you. If I don’t, who will?
As one woman put it, “We begin loving our babies from the moment we think we’re pregnant, and that love only increases when it’s confirmed and then as they grow. It doesn’t matter how many weeks we were.” Oh how true that is.
Another responded, “Yes, you the right to be pissed off at every pregnant woman right now. It’s part of your healing process. In fact, I had to rush out of Target the other day because there were way too many swollen bellies and it was just too painful.” Okay, so I’m angry. Why God why?
You’re not whining or complaining. You are processing,” someone else wrote. Too often, someone in the middle of grieving is accused of whining because our culture fails to understand what grief is.
“People will not respond to you in the right way because they don’t know how. Forgive them in advance,” someone else chimed in. Yes. Never say to a woman who has just lost a pregnancy, “It wasn’t the right time. Everything happens for a reason.” Whether she’s a drug-addicted, poverty-stricken single woman or an executive earning a six-figure income who has been trying to conceive for years, the grief is the same. Never never say, “You can always have another. As if a different baby can somehow cancel out the loss of the first.
Josh, when someone verbally acknowledged my pain and agreed that losing you was horrible, and made me feel it was okay to not be okay, to be in a temporary state of rage, sorrow and envy, I could draw a deep breath again. And that someone was the associate female pastor of my church, because yes, her first pregnancy also resulted in loss. I lost a part of myself because you were alive inside me. This is why it takes a woman much more time to recover emotionally than it does for the baby’s father. That’s why your Dad wasn’t much consolation for me, but refer to the first sentence of the last paragraph. I have forgiven him.
I was grateful for the three sympathy cards, all from unexpected sources. One from a distant relative who had never been able to have her own children. (My parents told her.) One from a former Bible study participant who also has no children, and one from another church member who has also suffered some recent loss.
My doctor called a week after losing you to reassure me that it was not my fault. Logically, I knew that, but it helped hearing it from her. She told me that one out of five women miscarry, sometimes before they know they are pregnant, or before it is confirmed by a health-care provider. They just think their period is a few days late.
Josh, during the process of writing this, I have realized two purposes. The first is personal. It’s my way of finally accepting that I will meet you when I pass into the heavenly realm, and not here on earth. It is not fair that you got there before I did, but God’s plans, as you well know, since you see Him on His heavenly throne everyday, are better than any human plans. Say hello to your Great-grandmother Doris and Great-grandmother Orva for me.
The second purpose is more benevolent. I have become much more aware of how common losing a pregnancy is and how difficult it is to talk about it. I shared our story with a newly formed writing group of six women ranging in age from 50 to 60. Three of them welled up in tears and opened up about their pregnancy loss from years ago. Then I noticed a post from Mark Zuckerberg, the guy who founded Facebook. He disclosed that his wife had suffered three miscarriages and she was now far along with her fourth pregnancy to announce it. He wrote a reflection on how his losses had affected him.
“You feel so hopeful when you learn you’re going to have a child. You start imagining who they’ll become and dreaming of hopes for their future. You start making plans, and they’re gone. It’s a lonely experience. Most people don’t discuss miscarriages because you worry your problems will distance you or reflect upon you – as if you’re defective or did something to cause this. So you struggle on your own. In today’s open and connected world, discussing these issues doesn’t distance us; it brings us together. It creates understanding and tolerance, and it gives us hope.”
Josh, could you and the other babies you hang out with in Heaven let us Mommas know that you are okay? I know God has a special place reserved just for all you little ones who skipped the earthly realm. You don’t mind if we Mommas continue to talk about you, right? Just because you were all unseen and unknown doesn’t make you any less important or significant. Maintaining silence in the wake of our loss doesn’t deter the pain. We never got the chance to hold any of you in our arms, but we still need some way of remembering you.