You Were Mine, Angel Baby

02.14.2015

Today is Valentine’s Day. A day to celebrate Love. Oh, how I love Love.

How I love the simple sweetness of spoiling my children with forbidden chocolate donuts at breakfast. I love helping them trace and cut and paste red paper hearts covered in silver glitter that you know I will be finding everywhere for the next week. I love the gleam in their eyes as they turn clumps of cold dough into warm, gooey chocolate goodness. And, oh, how I love the joy in their giggles when I tickle and chase them as we play. Yet, today, amidst all the love, my heart is sad.

Today my heart grieves the loss of a life that wasn’t meant to be.

Just over 5 weeks ago we discovered we were expecting what would have been our fourth child. Excited at our news, I eagerly created this announcement and sent it to our family and closest friends.

Aren't they precious?

Aren’t they precious?

I knew it was against tradition to announce my pregnancy so early. In fact, with our first 3 children we didn’t let the world in on our secret until we were clear of the first trimester. But this time, somewhere deep inside me, I felt this urgency to share our happy news with our tribe immediately. I rationalized that the reason most people refrain from spilling the beans so early is “just in case” something were to go wrong with the pregnancy. The way I saw it, if something did go wrong, I would need as much support as I could get. Funny, how the universe works.

Last week, at my first ultrasound, I learned that something had in fact gone wrong. I was measuring at only 6 weeks when I should have been (according to my meticulous calculations) over 9 weeks along. And while my gestational sac was fully formed, it was missing a crucial component – an embryo.

When the ultrasound technician first shares this information with me, I’m confused. I tell her I don’t understand what she’s saying. I’m not pregnant? But I took a test and it was positive. My period is late and there have been other signs, too. Sure, my morning sickness has paled in comparison to the first three, but I’m still getting it. This just doesn’t make sense.

The tech glides the wand over my bare belly…top to bottom, side to side, spreading the warm goopy gel over my abdomen as she shows me an empty oval on the monitor. Nothing’s there. There’s no white blob on the screen. No flicker of a heartbeat that should have been there weeks ago. Nothing but a big empty black hole. I was pregnant, alright, but there was no baby.

As the realization of what this means hits me, a single tear runs down my face. “Don’t cry just yet, dear, perhaps your dates are just off,” the well-meaning technician assures me. I feel the heat flush over my face as she finishes my exam and wipes my tummy dry. My dates are not off, I think to myself as I feel myself grow numb. This baby had not been an accident. This pregnancy did not happen by chance. Together, my husband and I had discussed this baby and planned its conception and we were excited to complete our family. That’s how I knew we were expecting before I even missed a period or felt that familiar sourness in the pit of my stomach.

You see, ever since the birth of our third child, I have felt as though I’m missing a child. I know it sounds strange and it’s rather difficult to explain, but it’s a feeling I’ve had since the day I brought her home – that our family is not yet complete. I remember sitting at the kitchen table that first week and having to re-count how many kids were seated with me about 3 or 4 times. I kept feeling like I was short one child and even imagined I heard a fourth one crying in another room on more than one occasion. (Now, before you start questioning my sanity, I’m well aware that these hallucinations were purely figments of my mind and more likely than not, the result of sleep deprivation. After all, I did have a newborn and 2 other children under the age of 3!) So I confided my feelings in my husband and after considering our children’s present ages and our future life plans, we decided that now was the time to have our last baby. I watched the calendar, I charted my cycle and I even kept track of our love-making for a spell. That’s how I knew.

I knew that my dates were not wrong. I knew that when I returned to the doctor’s office the following week, the technician would not find anything new.

I knew that we were going to lose this baby.

I knew as I sat in that little waiting room, waiting for the ultrasound technician to give my doctor her report. I knew as nurses walking past stopped to hand me a tissue or try to offer their assistance. I knew as a doctor that was not my own pulled me aside, told me my results were “not promising” and advised me to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. I knew as they scheduled my follow-up appointment and as they drew my blood to check my hormone levels. I knew I had to tell my husband; that he was going to be sad and disappointed. I knew there were others to tell after that, including my son whose face had lit with joy at the news of our impending new arrival. All of this, I knew, and so I wept.

I wept for days as I waited in suspense for my next ultrasound. My mind began to toy with me again and signs of postpartum began to show once more. I felt as though the impending miscarriage was my fault. That I caused it; that I could have prevented it. I felt like a failure for losing the life that was beginning to grow inside me. I felt as though I didn’t deserve another baby; that I was being punished for being a bad mother. I felt angry. Sad. Hopeless. Confused. Angry. “It’s not fair!” I pouted to myself. And the tears began to flood again.

{To be continued…}