Monday, August 1, 2016
Today was great. I went for a run, worked on back-to-school stuff, made plans for the new youth track team we're starting this fall, played Blokus with the boys, and ate supper with friends. But today was supposed to be so much different. Today, I was supposed to be having a baby.
We really thought we were done after Max. I was even OK with it, despite thinking that I'd always want to have "just one more." After Max, I felt like our life was complete. I even said, "Heck no!" when people asked if we were going to try one more time for a girl. So, when I called my doctor to ask about some weird period issues and she told me to take a pregnancy test, I was sort of filled with dread. I drove to a different town to pick up the pregnancy test, not wanting rumors to get started in our small community. Wouldn't you know a former student was working the counter. And that pregnancy tests are frequently stolen (I sort of see why now) so now you have to ask for them. Awkward! Anyway, after giving her a clumsy, TMI explanation, I drove home, anxious to take the test to confirm that I was NOT pregnant. After all, I had just bled profusely a few weeks ago. But of course my mind wandered to the what ifs. What if I really was pregnant? We did NOT need a baby right now! Plus, that bleeding couldn't have been good.
I took the test with shaky hands and when I read the results, the word I muttered under my breath was not a nice one. I broke the bad news to Ryan with tears and fears. He was amazing. He right away said, "This is a GOOD thing! We'll be fine." That made me a little hopeful, until I remembered that I'd bled twice recently, once a LOT and with clotting. We decided to try not to get ahead of ourselves. We just prayed and waited. Well - that and I talked out every single possibility ad nauseam.
While I tried to process everything, I made five trips to the doctor in a little over a week's time for blood tests, ultra sounds, results, etc. It was an emotional roller coaster to say the least. At first, I really didn't want the life-altering event of another baby. I couldn't coach track for several years! We'd have five more years of driving to--and paying for--day care! We wouldn't be able to pay off the house as quickly as we had planned! I was going to get fat and stretched out again! And then I saw the baby for what it was - a precious life. Another little Reed or Calvin or Max or maybe a little Ella Raney! Then, I desperately wanted the baby to be all right. And I had a lot of guilt about my reaction when I first thought I was pregnant. The unexpected had brought out an ugly side of me. Things like finances, schedules, coaching, and my body were more important to me than a life. I was sort of brought face to face with my selfishness.
For most of the time, we thought we were dealing with a miscarriage and preparing to process everything when it was all over. I prayed for strength to handle either a miscarriage or a baby (both equally scary possibilities) and I also prayed that God would use this uncertain time as a "reset" button for me. For years - probably every since becoming a mother - I have prayed for the ability to "let go" of so many things, most of them completely stupid. Laundry, cleaning, school work, perfectionism, and unrealistic expectations kept me from enjoying a large percentage of my life. I felt really blessed and life was great and all, but I always carried a lot of stress around. I was so high strung that I rarely FULLY enjoyed the moment - or the people sharing it with me. While I was praying for forgiveness for placing stupid priorities over the life of my baby and asking God to give me a chance to right that wrong, I realized that I had three "babies" already who deserved to be more of a priority in my life. Whether I got a chance to cherish this baby or not, I could start treasuring the children I'd already been blessed with.
After a second ultra-sound, we were told that our dates were wrong. The strange bleeding that I thought was a period was probably oddly-timed ovulation bleeding, not related to the pregnancy. It explained low HCG levels and an undersized embryo at our first ultra sound. It explained how I got pregnant in the first place. The baby was probably fine, just a little younger than we thought. The doctor still wanted to watch closely, but she was confident waiting a month before checking in again. I was so relieved and, just like that, my fears vanished, and I became so excited about a new little one. I started a secret Pinterest board and reconfigured our house and my schedule and our budget to make room for another little Layton. Ryan settled into cautious optimism, not wanting to get too excited in case things were still not right, but we decided to go ahead and tell the boys on Christmas Eve. They were THRILLED!
After Christmas, we headed to visit my family in Kansas. I started bleeding lightly the night before we left. I cried. We prayed. And we left the next morning, not knowing what else we could do. I bled all the way to my parents' house, dreading every pit stop. It stayed light, but it never really stopped. It continued through the next day, my Dad's birthday. The day after that it got worse and we were pretty sure we knew what was happening. I very much wanted to miscarry on my own--not in a hospital, so I just called the doctor to ask what to expect. Ryan took me to Wal-mart to get thicker pads, and when we got back I decided to take a shower. Within seconds of stepping into the shower, I passed the baby. It was the most awful thing I've ever experienced. I stayed in the shower until the hot water ran out and Ryan came to check on me. We cleaned up and I crawled into bed, exhausted.
Awful as it was, it was such a blessing to be where I was. The boys had no idea anything was going on until we told them. They were sad, but they quickly had lots of people to take their mind off of the sadness and keep them occupied. Ryan was able to be there for me without having to worry about distracting the boys. My sister had suffered a miscarriage about a year before and it was so comforting to have her here. We ended up seeing my aunt who also had a miscarriage years prior and she could speak from experience on the grief.
And God's timing was so evident through the whole ordeal. If I'd lost the baby right away, I would have really struggled with guilt over not wanting him or her. We "had" this baby long enough to want and love it. If I'd lost the baby just a few days into knowing about it, we wouldn't have told the boys. Even though it was hard, I think our family is stronger because of going through pain together. And I don't want to keep a secret like that from them. It could have happened before Christmas break while I was at school. It could have happened while I was at home alone with the boys. It could have happened a few days before we left, when our water heater conked out and we were without hot water for a few days. Or on the road between Missouri and Kansas. Or on my Dad's birthday. Even just twenty minutes earlier and I would have been alone in a stall at Wal-mart.
But it didn't. This fallen world throws some ugly stuff at us, but God gives us what we need to withstand it. I am so glad I was already in the privacy of the shower and Ryan didn't see me go through the loss. For some weird reason, I'm really glad it was just me and God in that awful moment. I was in a warm, soothing place, alone, but surrounded nearby with people who loved me, knew me deeply, and could also distract me and my family from our sadness. Even the date has significance. New Year's Eve. The next day I sort of felt like we could box up the ordeal in 2015 and start 2016 with optimism instead of uncertainty.
And then we headed back to Missouri. Now I realize that our visit delayed the grief a little, because it hit pretty hard after we left. Ryan and I processed it more fully as a couple on the drive home. And then we had a day or two at home before we had to go back to work. Those were the hardest days I think I've ever experienced in my life. I felt so alone in my pain. Sure, Ryan and the boys were sad, but the baby was just an idea to them. I felt like I was supposed to protect and nurture a life, and my body failed.
But I'm grateful God provided those last few days to grieve and pray--and go on a long sobbing walk and then try to croak out the chorus to "Praise You in This Storm" in the shower. I needed that time. And then the real world returned even though I didn't feel ready for it, and going back to work was exactly what I needed to move on with life.
It's strange now, because in some ways it feels like it never happened. And yet God has used the few weeks of that baby's life to change me. I have tried to let go of stupid stressors for YEARS and just couldn't do it. Now, I can't believe I ever worried about some of the things I did. My house has been messier and I've been more relaxed than ever. Oh sure, I freak out every once in awhile, but then we give it a 5-5-5 and I'm good to go. And, I'll be honest here, around the time this all happened, I was to the point where the very presence of my children (and, quite frequently, husband) annoyed me a good portion of the time. I loved them, sure, but more than anything I just wanted them to go away and leave me alone! I won't lie and say I don't still feel like that from time to time, but it's much less often.
And the parts of my life that I thought were going to be "messed up" by a baby I regard with new gratefulness. We enrolled in a Financial Peace University class through our church and are buckling down with our finances. Coaching track this season was so amazing! And I've been eating a little better and exercising a lot more and feel better physically than I have in awhile. I told Ryan that I feel a little guilty about being so happy about the very things that were going to be "ruined" by a baby. But he pointed out that those are the silver linings to our loss, and I shouldn't take the blessings for granted. The other thing that this miscarriage has changed in me is a yearning for heaven. No, I don't want to die young, but I guess I see more clearly what I always knew--that this life is fleeting. We weren't meant for this world forever. And someday, I'll get to hold that baby. The one that I thought was going to "ruin" my life, but whose tiny existence ended up making mine so much sweeter!