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.
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.