Thursday, September 19, 2013

Our Fourth Child

For the past ten days, we have been mourning the loss in utero of our fourth child.  

This baby, like all babies, was precious and wonderful and a beautiful, undeserved gift from God.  From a time before memory, this baby was much desired, and for eleven happy weeks, this baby was eagerly anticipated.

We are heartbroken that we will not know this baby in our earthly lives, but we rejoice in the hope that this baby is in Heaven, and we entrust his soul to the mercy of God.

I know a lot of people experience the sorrow of miscarriage and many choose not to share their suffering publicly.  I understand their desire for privacy, but I don't have the same desire at all.  

This baby had life inside of me and has an eternal soul.  This baby will forever be a part of our family, the one who waits ahead for us.  This baby is loved and cherished.  I want this baby to be known.

So, this is the story of our baby's life.

...

Three days had yielded as many negative home pregnancy tests.  And yet, one Saturday night in July, I found myself hanging my head over the toilet and calling for the Mister to go fetch just one more test.  He bought four, because he knows me well.  Two tests with two lines that night, and two more the next day, just to be sure.  We were elated.
The first glimpse of baby.
The beginning weeks were tough.  I was sick every day, and really sick a good many.  It was a lot like my previous pregnancies, but a little easier to handle, due to the sweet and devoted companions I had in Little Guy and Buddy Boy.  They were always running to get me a sip of Sprite or asking if I needed my tummy medicine.  Or staring in horror as I threw up in the car.  :)  When they finally started asking whether I would always have those germs or whether one day the throw-up will run out, we decided it was time to share the news with them.

Early one weekend morning, all snuggled on the couch together, with the Mister filming in proud papa style, we told them that God had given us another baby.  That the baby was growing in my tummy.  That we would have to wait a long time, all the way until March, and then the doctors would take the baby out of my tummy and he or she would come home with us.  They were so excited.  And so full of questions.

Almost every day afterward, Little Guy would ask whether I could feel the baby kicking yet.  He would usually lay his hand on my tummy to check, sighing a not yet a few moments later.

Buddy Boy asked repeatedly with his hand just a-patting and a big grin on his face, Da beeby in dere?

I took Little Guy with me to one appointment, when I thought we'd get to hear the baby's heartbeat, and he was crushed when we found out it was still too early to hear from the outside.  So was I.

We made plans for a little nursery nook in our new house, dreaming of whether the baby would be a sister for Baby Girl or a boy to join his big brothers.  We started putting names from this side of the family with names from that, and rolling them around in our mouths for fun.  We talked about the day when we'd have the Bigs and the Littles, with a fourth car seat in the minivan.

It was all happiness and expectation.
A drawing by Little Guy: "The New Baby in Mommy's Tummy"
And then, at about nine weeks, my morning sickness stopped completely.  One day, I was sick, and the next, I wasn't.  I noticed that I could stay up past eight o'clock again, and that I didn't really need to nap during the children's rest time.  I was so surprised, because I've always had morning sickness until close to twenty weeks.  I was nervous at first and even reported it to the doctor, but as the days wore on, I just figured I was being blessed with one of those easy pregnancies I'd only ever heard about.

We left for a wonderful beach trip with my family, and I was delighted to be pregnant and still able to enjoy our trip to the fullest.
Celebrating our sweet baby #4.
A couple days after we returned, last Tuesday, September 10, I had signs that something might be wrong.  On the way to pick the children up from their first day of preschool, I called the doctor, who assured me that everything was likely fine, but to come in for a quick sonogram to be sure.  Once I had gathered the children, we drove straight over to the doctor's office.  We waited a long while in a completely full waiting room, with no toys, no books, just a bottle of lemonade to dole out in small sips.  I think it was one of God's blessings to me that day that Baby Girl took a highly unusual nap in her stroller and the boys were on remarkably good behavior.  

By the time we were called back, I had calmed myself down and really did think the baby was going to be fine.  We all wiggled into that tiny, dark room, the boys sharing the visitor seat and Baby Girl waking up and asking for a snack, once I was already draped.  The technician brought the baby into view and Little Guy said, Is that the baby there?  In that kind of smiley face thing?  He was finally seeing the baby, and was so proud and pleased.  

If I hadn't been pointing the baby out to the children and answering their questions, I'm sure I would have noticed the technician's silence sooner.  As it was, her lack of words suddenly made me turn her way.  I have bad news.  There's no heartbeat.  A few more clicks and I'll get the doctor.  I was lying on my back, the tears coursing from the corners of my eyes, pooling in my ears and leaving my hair wet.  

The boys were asking what was wrong, why I was crying.  There was no way to soften this blow.  The baby died.

Little Guy sobbed first.  But I never got to hear the baby's heartbeat!  And then, Buddy Boy joined him.  

I did my best to comfort them, yearning to be comforted myself.  We prayed together, thanking God for the life of this child and asking that he take the baby's soul into Heaven.  

I called the Mister and he came quickly.  Our tender, loving rock.

Then, I called Mama.  And she too came quickly, by air the next morning.  My selfless, nurturing healer.

That first night was painted by shock and sorrow.  More tears came as the shock wore away and took the numbness with it.  I woke the next morning sobbing, missing my baby and all the plans I had for him.

The only real baby bump picture I took.

I called our parish priest, but he was out of town for the week, so I called the pastor of our new church. He was so wonderful to us, not yet even parishioners.  He talked us through the process of receiving the baby's remains from the hospital, and offered to bury the baby in the church's cemetery.  We were so thankful we would be able to do this for our baby.

Hospital personnel called several times, each asking for the same bits of information over and over again, the same bits of information that are a joy to share the day before a baby is to be born.  One call came at a time when Baby Girl was screaming and I was having a difficult time getting the woman on the other end to hear my answers.  She was short with me, and I was upset, and--embarrassingly--I ended up yelling the Mister's Social Security number at her, before bursting into tears.

Surgery to remove the baby was scheduled for the following day, Thursday, September 12.  That was, perhaps, the hardest part.  It went against everything in me to consent to have this baby taken away.  But signs of the baby's death were increasing, and I was anxious not to deliver the baby at home with the children.
One last picture of the baby resting inside me.
That day was so sad.  I'll never forget the depths of my sorrow as I came out of the anesthesia post-surgery.  The pain of what had happened gripped me immediately, and made me sick.  I remember the nurses kept asking me to open my eyes and I just couldn't bring myself to do it.  The finality was too great to witness with open eyes just yet.  I had to grieve in isolation first.

They took me to a recovery room, where I asked for the Mister several times.  They left me alone in there, and I remember the surreal feeling of hearing my cries echo off the walls and the cold metal of the hospital equipment, with my eyes still unable to open to the world.  It felt like ages before they brought the Mister, who slipped his hand in mine as the nurse's IV concoction took me from fuzzy to knocked out.  I slept the rest of the day...in the wheelchair on the way out of the hospital, in the hired car on the way home, in the elevator up to our apartment, and finally, in our bed.  

The next day brought preparations for the burial.  The preparations were sad and uncomfortable in many ways, and even horrible at moments, but they were also a balm to my heart.  It felt so good to be mothering this baby, to be making choices about how to care for this baby.  At every step, the Mister and I were thankful for this privilege.  

I also was able to begin to move beyond our loss and focus on the hope of what this baby has gained.  Eternal salvation is my deepest desire for each of my children, and I have abundant hope that this baby is already--as my Mama said--playing around the throne of God.  

Our pastor suggested that we name our child before the burial service.  The Mister and I chose the name Maximilian Maria, in honor of Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe, a Christian martyr who gave his life for a stranger at Auschwitz and who is a patron saint of families and the pro-life movement.  Since we don't know our baby's gender, we decided to call the baby Max.
In memory of Maximilian Maria, our last baby in the city.
I looked forward to the burial service for the peace I knew it would impart.  Heavy, gray clouds brought rain that day, and the President's Marine helicopters flew overhead as we huddled under umbrellas in front of the gravesite.  Max's remains were buried in an area of the pretty, old cemetery reserved for babies.  The service was beautiful, uplifting, and of great comfort to us.

One part of the rites keeps running through my head.  

Lord, in Your mysterious wisdom, You have pulled this child to Yourself...

As much as it still hurts, I am finding rest in that.

24 comments:

Eleanor said...

Oh Elizabeth, I am so so sorry. What a sweet and beautiful story you told of your precious baby. I will be praying for you and your entire family.

Wanting What I Have said...

Tears...lots of tears and a heavy heart for you and yours. We are praying for y'all as you grieve for baby Max. Thank you for sharing your heart here...with all of us. Y'all are loved-all six of you.

Jeanmarie Collins said...

Darling Elizabeth,
I am certain that there are many who grieve with you. We can not know the real pain as you went through this sad passage of life, but, our grief comes from the great love and respect we have for you.
You are amazing woman.
I send my condolences to your husband. His devotion to you and your children are obvious through your postings.
It is too soon to think of this now, but, maybe, in the future, you might consider publishing this, to help others. I say this because it is honest, truthful, and confirms your faith. You walk the walk.
I am sending great love to you this evening.
Jeanmarie

Susan Kolbe said...

Our prayers are with you and your family at this time of deep sorrow with Gods powerful love may you find comfort and in His promise of eternal life may you find peace. Love Susan & Rich Kolbe

eatprayrundc.com said...

Elizabeth,
Thanks for sharing your story. I know many, many women who've suffered a miscarriage and I'm sharing this with a few of them. Keeping you and your family in my prayers. Hope to see you around DC soon.

xx
Courtney

Stephen Ejide said...

Echoing the sentiments above... Teared as I read words. May many more blessings come to you an your family.

aj said...

Elizabeth, Your words are extremely descriptive and very beautiful, even while concerning a huge loss that will always be with you. I admire you for your bravery to share this, and the strength and peace you have found within God. There are so many things I wish I could say, such as "I wish I could make this better," or "I know how you feel," or even "God has a reason for everything." But the truth is - whether bad or good - this time in your life is going to be a part of you and will change you, however small or big that change may be. It is such a blessing that you have remained strong in your faith and it's also encouraging to others, such as myself (after 6 miscarriages). I have never really thought about how my miscarriages were actually a homecoming for my unborn children, into God's Kingdom. And right now, as I sit, 15+ weeks pregnant, the same fears still grip me that I might lose this one. I'm not sharing my pregnancy to hurt you - in fact, I'm thanking you for your reassurance. In addition, I want to thank you for your sweet words of support you've shared with me, as I've experienced loss throughout the past six years of infertility. Your blog and story of your child is incredibly touching, and I thank you for having the courage to not keep it inside, where it can fester. I also thank you for just being you - a very kind, sweet person who has always been encouraging and uplifting to others - and you do that so fearlessly, even at a very dark point. God does heal, and so do friendships. I thank God for you, your friendship, and ask that he be with you and your family at this point in your lives. If you ever need to talk, let me know. In Christian Love~

Katherine said...

Elizabeth,

This has left me moved and saddened and awed. Your story is so full of pain but also so full of your family's strength. I am truly thankful that you wrote this. I will be thinking of all of you.

Love,
Kat

gin said...

So sorry for your loss. I read your blog often, tho never commenting, but love your families' stories. We also had a miscarriage, baby #2 of our 4. It was 28 years ago, I was 5 months pregnant. Things were different 28 years ago. But the baby is still part of our family, in my heart and mind and soul, and loved as much as our others.

CheerleaderMOMFitness said...

Thank you for sharing this. I, too have suffered two miscarriages and the pain never really leaves but somehow I take comfort in knowing my Savior has them in His loving arms. Your words are so true and beautiful and have brought me peace through your experience. Thank you for your bravery in bearing you soul so that others may find comfort.

CheerleaderMOMFitness said...

Thank you for sharing this. I, too have suffered two miscarriages and the pain never really leaves but somehow I take comfort in knowing my Savior has them in His loving arms. Your words are so true and beautiful and have brought me peace through your experience. Thank you for your bravery in bearing you soul so that others may find comfort.

tarheelmom said...

What an amazing, personal, thoughtful, saddening, beautiful, and moving post. Sending prayers for you and your family.

Rachel Cagle said...

Max. I like that. It's a good, strong name.

Emily said...

Elizabeth, I read your post last night and I'm heartbroken for yall. I am so sorry. I know how much you delight in your sweet babies and the love that you have for Max was so clear from your post. So thankful that you shared his story with us so that we all got to know him :). It will be a sweet day when you get to meet him in Heaven :). Praying for yall! Emily

Anon said...

Praying for your precious family. What a heartbreaking story, so beautifully written.

Anna Ruth and Will said...

What a beautifully written story of your child. All of us mama's who have been through a miscarriage know the gut-wrenching pain. I had an empty feeling that I didn't ever think would go away. I hope many read your story. Thank you for having the courage to share your heart and your beautiful family. Love, blessings, and prayers to you.
Anna Ruth

tenth avenue south said...

Thank you for sharing your story. Your words are beautiful amongst such sadness. We, too, have lost a baby... two actually, before every having the chance to meet them. Our third baby, but first child is due in December. When you go through this is a mother you feel so alone and I am so glad you had the courage to share your story. Hang in there, lots of prayers coming from Alabama!

Buffy B. Allen said...

I love you so much Elizabeth and how much I hurt to know you & Jacob have been hurt..all our love to you and your three bundle of joys..God will hold Max for you forever..

Laura said...

Elizabeth-I'm so sorry for your loss, and am praying for all of you. What strength it took to write this story and to share it, but I have to say what great respect I have for the people who are willing to share the hard moments of their lives with all of us. I think in the FB/blog world, it's so easy to only say the good things, and as much as I obviously don't want people to be going thru horrible things like this, I do believe that the truth in sharing these moments benefits everyone. And, above all, this was such a beautiful tribute to Max's life. I pray for comfort for your family during this difficult time.

Lindsay S. said...

Elizabeth,

I add my tears to yours, and am praying for you and your wonderful family now. You are an amazing woman and mother. Baby Max was lucky to have you.

Much love,
Lindsay

Anonymous said...

Thank you for telling this beautiful story when you didn't have to. A precious life has moved on to worship eternally and never feel any pain or grief.

Mom Taylor said...

Elizabeth,
Your words have moved me to tears as I feel the depth of your sorrow. You are truly an inspiration and I am so glad you shared this--it will help more people than you know. Our love to you and Jacob and your three earthly angels and Max in heaven.
Love,
Aunt Sally

Natalie said...

i do not have the words. a beautiful post and so heart felt. my heart aches for you and i will keep you in my prayers. your faith is beautiful

Betsey said...

Elizabeth, I am seeing this blog post for the first time. Thanks for sharing your story and your sweet angel baby, Max. I have an angel baby too. They etch a special place on your heart. Praying for you and your sweet family. Love, Betsey