5 years ago…
Happy Monday. It’s a bit of a dreary Monday here, the sort of late February day that serves as a harsh reminder: winter isn’t over yet. We were hit with an ice storm this weekend, and everything is made of glass. The sugar maple outside my living room window looks as if it has been handblown by a master artist. And I suppose in a way it has. It’s breathtakingly beautiful, but I can’t help wishing for the mud puddles of a week ago.
I guess I’m feeling a bit melancholy this afternoon. There’s no reason for me to be blue–at least, that’s what I’ve been telling myself. But as I glanced at the calendar a few minutes ago, something inside of me stirred… And I remembered.
It’s been almost exactly five years since I lost my third baby, and even though the years should erase the mark of that passing there is an indelible scar that continues to whisper of a time I would rather forget. Funny how the heart clings to things the mind is so quick to discard. Usually when I start to feel this way I cover it up with busyness. Cooking or baking or cleaning or phoning a friend or cuddling. Cuddling really helps. But for some reason I feel like talking about it today. I feel like remembering.
When the ultrasound technician found that little babe, I knew immediately that he was already gone. She counted each of his fingers and toes, and pointed out his perfectly formed little elbow as it crooked against his chest, covering a heart that she then told me wasn’t beating. It was such a devastating blow, such a horrible thing to hear even though I knew full well that the room should have been filled with the gallop of his racing heartbeat. She told me that this was the hardest part of her job. That she hated doing it, and did I understand how difficult this was for her? Difficult for her? I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
I went home to grieve, and to begin the long, slow process of letting my body let go of the life it had sustained for over three months. I thought that there should be something more than this–that I shouldn’t be allowed to just lay on my couch while something so momentous happened. But they don’t hospitalize you when you miscarry. Unless you spike a fever.
The very next day I was back in the emergency room, burning up and being prepped for surgery since the doctors assumed I had developed an infection. A well-timed cough saved me. Just as the doctor was on his way to call the anesthesiologist, I bleated a tiny, dry cough. He spun on me. You didn’t say you had a cough. I tried to assure him that I didn’t have a cough–I was merely clearing my throat. But he ordered a chest x-ray anyway, and when it came back it was obvious I had pneumonia. They hospitalized me for three days. For the wrong thing. I didn’t much care about my lungs.
I remember laying in the hospital bed, wishing people wouldn’t visit and then missing them when they didn’t come. I wanted to go home; I never wanted to leave. The nurses offered to give me back rubs, but I turned them away because I thought that if they touched me I would cry. I turned to skin and bones, and hated the hollow where my stomach was supposed to round. It’s so hard to think about that time. And yet, even then the bitter was tempered with sweet.
It’s amazing to look back now and realize that it was in that hospital room that I opened up my heart to adoption. And if I could tell that broken little girl something, I’d whisper this in her ear: “He makes all things new. Maybe not in your time, and maybe not the way you had hoped or imagined, but hang on. It’ll be worth the ride.”
I wonder sometimes where she was when I was losing my baby. She was four months pregnant–one month further along than me–and probably living in conditions I can’t even begin to imagine. Did she know then that she would give her son up for adoption? That she couldn’t care for him? Did she pray for me like I later prayed for her? I still ask God to grant me the gift of meeting her someday. I realize that’s an impossible request in this life, but still. Someday.
The baby boy I lost was due on August 22, 2006. And on August 22, 2006 our telephone rang at lunchtime. “Nicole?” I recognized my case worker’s voice immediately, and I almost dropped the phone. “Nicole, I have some pretty amazing news for you. It’s a boy.”