Saturday, July 6, 2013

Emily Grace

This is the first in a series of posts I'm writing about the six babies we lost to miscarriage. We never named those babies until now, so I wanted to write something about each of them as a memorial. It should be mentioned that we do not officially know the gender of each baby, but we have decided to name three girls and three boys. We feel comfortable with that decision.

We found out about our first pregnancy on May 6, 2002. When I look back on that time, what I remember is pure excitement. We were downright giddy. I'd been doing all of the charting and tracking and temperature taking for a few months and there we were. It was definitely a planned pregnancy. My period was late and I had my suspicions, so I took a home pregnancy test on a Friday but it didn't convince me. That second line -- was it there? Or not? We went out of town that weekend and I remember feeling that excitement the whole time. We attended the first birthday party of the son of some of our dearest friends. Lots of good friends of ours from our first young married couple Sunday School class were there, many of them with their own young children. I looked around the room in amazement, wondering what it would be like to have our own child, too. We kept quiet about our suspicions all weekend, even with family, and tested again the following Monday at home. It was definitely positive. My hubby was home sick with a cold and we were just in awe. We were young, had just moved to a new town (and state) a year earlier, he had a great new job (his dream job, really), and we had been looking to buy our first home. Things couldn't have felt more right.

My first appointment with my new OB/GYN was May 14. A blood test confirmed the pregnancy and over the next few weeks we began telling our immediate family members in special ways. I told my sister first. We told my sister-in-law at her birthday party and my mom on Mother's Day. We told my in-laws at a family gathering for my brother-in-law's graduation. We were on Cloud 9, and our families were so happy too. My sister and I were due just a month apart. She was expecting her second child that December and my baby was due January 21, 2003. We've always been so close and we were beyond excited about being pregnant together.

May 22 arrived, along with the much-anticipated first ultrasound. It was my first ultrasound experience and I was full of anticipation. My bubble burst, however, when it didn't go very well. We were worried, but were reassured that it was probably just too early to see the baby just yet. Maybe I ovulated later than I'd thought. I'd been having irregular cycles, so it made sense to me and it all seemed to add up. Blood was drawn and my HCG level had gone up appropriately. The doctor didn't seem worried. A second ultrasound was scheduled for a week later, and on May 29, 2002, we saw our baby's heartbeat for the first time. What joy we felt at seeing that tiny flicker! The baby measured 4mm and the doctor said she thought I was 6 weeks along. We went home with those coveted black and white first photos of our little bean, and they went right up on the refrigerator so we could see them every day. We were so very relieved that our worrying had all been in vain. It had given us a little bit of a scare -- and definitely put our celebrating on pause for a moment. In my journal I wrote these words:
"If I learned anything this week, it's how much I am really anticipating this baby and how attached I already feel to it. I also felt in a powerful way how God can be my strength when I am weak."

How true those words would turn out to be.

We lived in bliss for the following few weeks. I had an uneventful OB appointment on June 11. Things were progressing well, or so we thought. We'd found a house and were set to close on June 28. Two days before that, however, I began noticing some brown spotting. The doctor suggested I might have an infection. I never expected the worst. I knew several people who'd had spotting and bleeding early on in pregnancy and everything turned out okay. We signed papers for the house and I took it easy, but I noticed the discharge becoming heavier over the next few days. I started feeling crampy, and I started feeling scared. My doctor did an exam on July 1 and said everything looked normal. She tried doing an ultrasound but told us she wanted us to go to the hospital to get a clearer picture there. By now we'd been waiting all morning and our worries had reached their peak. At 11 weeks, we should have been able to see a great picture of our growing baby on the screen, but we learned at the hospital that our baby was way too small and was measuring more like 7 weeks. We returned to our doctor in tears as she told us to expect a miscarriage.

Expect a miscarriage. But the fact was, I had NO IDEA what to expect. I'd been expecting to hold a brand new baby in January and now I was devastated. All of our plans came to a screeching halt, along with our hopes and dreams for this little baby we already loved. We didn't want to believe it was true even though we knew it in our hearts. I was afraid of having a D&C and I felt a strong desire to let things happen naturally. I think it was my way of being absolutely sure the baby couldn't make it. I was trying to cling to anything I could, any hope that we wouldn't lose the baby, but by July 3 I'd begun cramping and bleeding. We passed the time by working on the house. I didn't do much working, but family members came to help out and to keep me company. We tried to stay occupied, distracted. We kept the grief just below the surface while we waited.

By Friday evening I could tell things were changing. I went back to our apartment to try to rest, but the pain was tremendous. It came in waves for hours, all during the night, as I labored with our child. Around 4 AM I reached my breaking point. I couldn't handle the pain any longer and I began passing large clumps of blood and tissue. We called the doctor and decided to head to the ER when the pain became absolutely unbearable. I don't know what I expected them to do for me, but I was too scared to stay home at that point. After I was admitted and they brought me back, a doctor came to examine me. I remember it very vividly, that immediately after I was reclined on the bed there was one last wave of pain and it was instantly over. I knew at that moment that our baby was gone. It was around 5 AM on the morning of July 6, eleven years ago.

The doctor told me the miscarriage was "complete" and did a final ultrasound. I was brought to a room to rest and recover from what felt like my worst nightmare. I was traumatized, but doing okay physically. We went home later that night feeling like we were still stuck in a bad dream. My emotions were all over the place a few days later as I wrote in my journal. I was torn between the overwhelming desire to have a baby and the absolute fear of going through such an awful experience again. I felt angry, sad, disappointed, and scared. Above all, I was truly heartbroken. I wrote in the journal:
"I know that the pain of this loss will be with us forever. It's so hard for me to think I will ever be ready to risk trying again, yet I know we want a child now more than ever. How do I get through another first trimester? Before that, how do we find the courage to try to get pregnant again? Emotionally and physically, I don't see how we would handle another miscarriage."

When I read those words now, after everything I know would come after, I can see that it was my fear doing the talking. And looking back I know without a doubt that I would be willing to endure a whole lot more for my children. That first loss felt HUGE. And it was. I didn't know that it was just the beginning. I had no way, yet, of realizing how God would see us through and give us grace for that moment and every other trial and every other miscarriage that followed.

Sometimes I think about the young woman I was then. I remember the joy and the excitement of those early days and I wonder, if I could go back and talk to her, what would I tell her? The answer is -- nothing. I would let her feel that same happiness all over again. Ignorance is bliss, and I would never spoil that for her by trying to prepare her for the hardships and disappointments to come. I'd let her live right there in the security of that moment, enjoying the feeling that her dreams were about to come true.

I don't know whether the baby we lost was a boy or a girl, but I know that we had imagined ourselves with a couple of little girls... someday. Our favorite girl name was always Emily. I can say with certainty that, if that baby had been born here on earth and had been a girl, she'd be our Emily. We thought about using the name years later but it never felt right again. While we still loved it, we truly felt like our Emily had already come. We've given her the middle name Grace, because it was the beginning of one of the biggest lessons of grace we would ever receive. Through that time and everything that was to come, our gracious Lord held us in the palm of his hands. He already knew our story -- beginning, middle, and end -- and we had to trust that he was walking right along with us.

Emily Grace
Mommy and Daddy love you so much. You are our first child and the one who began to show us how much love we had in our hearts and how much we wanted to be parents. You were the beginning of a dream and a longing inside of us. We know that you are safe with Jesus, and we can't wait to wrap our arms around you one sweet day. We love you and miss you, sweet baby. 
Love, Mommy