Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Tell me there's a better way

I didn't post about my follow-up appointment with my midwife yesterday. I think, honestly, I just needed a little time to digest the whole thing. If I were a person of few words, I would sum it up like this: "It was bad." But I'm not a person of few words. So here goes:

It was a dreadful appointment. I knew it would be the minute I saw the midwife come around the corner with a big grin. Instantly, I thought: "She doesn't know that I lost the baby." Bingo. I had hit the nail on the head. Her first words to me: "How's baby doing today?"

Clearly not the way to start an appointment designed to make sure I was recovering from a miscarriage.

In her defense, the midwife works in a large hospital's "Midwifery Center." My options in this state are severely limited as to who will offer my ob care; I am too high a risk for a regular independent midwife (large babies, pre-term issues) and I refuse to go to one of those McObstetrics clinics where you rotate through the doctors like a sandwich in a vending machine. Somehow, seeing a *midwife* in a big practice seemed o.k. Somehow, I was wrong. own hang-up, I know ....) and Midwife C. Now, forgive me if I'm wrong, but that's a lot of people to talk to about one tiny little life. It's also a lot of people to explain your life story to--which I did, every single time I had to have contact with someone. It was like starting from scratch with every conversation: my background, medical history, date of In the course of my 8 week pregnancy with Gloria, I saw one midwife. We'll call her Midwife A. I had two ultrasounds, each performed by a different technician. I spoke on the phone with their office three times: to Midwife B (male, which makes me uncomfortable in gynLMP, u/s dates ... the whole thing.

Apparently what had happened was that Midwife C, who spoke to me on the day I began miscarrying, neglected to make any notes in my chart. As far as Midwife A knew, I had had an ultrasound, spoken to Midwife B about the less-than-positive results but was still carrying a healthy pregnancy.

After I informed Midwife A of the miscarriage, she apologized vaguely about "the system," but seemed unflustered. I got the impression that while I had avoided McObstetrics, I had stumbled into Baby King.

During the physical exam, Midwife A introduced the topic of birth control. When I declined her offer of a three-month supply of pills to ensure that any subsequent pregnancy had "the best possible chance," she looked at me like I had six heads. I told her that my husband and I were comfortable with abstaining. I think this was the first time she had heard such things, and also that she didn't fully trust me to be responsible enough to actually keep my word on this. She told me that I had to have at least one period before trying again, and we left it at that.

Lessons here ... oh, they are so many. I could go on and on about the state of healthcare. The double-edged sword of HMOs and insurance giants. But I think the thing I will take from this experience is that before I sign on with another healthcare professional to walk by my side during a pregnancy, I will make sure it is someone who shares my values, who believes that life can not be reduced to terms like "tissue," and who looks to truly keep abreast of changes in patients' status. Who knows. Maybe I'll even find someone who returns their own calls.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


I've always had a thing about names. Maybe you're like me and you knew, just knew, what you were going to name your babies before you met your husband. Maybe you're pregnant and you've got an actual list somewhere on a sheet of paper, boy's names on the left, girl's names on the right. Maybe you talk with your husband about it. Maybe you go through baby name books, looking for it: the perfect name. If you're like me, you guard that perfect name when you find it. You savor it, waiting to wrap it around that beautiful pink little body the minute your arms are full and your womb is, at long last, empty.

A little over a week ago, I was already well on the trail of the perfect name. I had even posted somewhere, asking about the pronunciation of a name I'd come across. It sounded, to me, like the perfect name for our new little one, based on it's meaning. See, I'm a big fan of names that actually have meaning. "Consecrated to God," that's a powerful one. "He has heard me," is another. "Wished-for child," is a favorite. I myself am IRL saddled with a trendy 70's name that means ... "flowering bush of purple flowers" (talk amongst yourselves and see if you can figure it out). I always wanted my children to have names that imparted meaning, maybe gave them a bit of something to carry with them when they were filling out their tax forms.

Names are important. They tell us who we were thought to be in the time before we ourselves knew who we were. Our parents too great care in selecting what they considered the perfect name for us, no matter how much we have come to dislike it as we grew. People's first impressions of us are formed on the basis of our names, like it or not.

I came to realize last night that part of what I need to do in my next step of healing emotionally from the pain of this miscarriage is to name our baby. But how? How do you name someone when it's all backwards--your womb is most certainly empty, but your arms are not full? How can I name a child when I know that the name will never be written on a form, no card issued. No one will ever call my house and ask for that name. No one will ever receive mail addressed to that name. There is no future in it. So how do you give that baby a name?

This struck me so hard that I found myself sobbing, again.

I asked DH his opinion on a name for our baby. This is a man who has steadfastly refused, in every pregnancy, to even consider any name until well into the second trimester. How, he asks, can he choose a name until he has seen a bit of the baby's personality through the poking feet and sliding bottoms he feels through my bulging belly? How can you choose a name at random? It's far too important a thing. Not a task to be taken lightly. That being said, he said he was unable to come up with a name for our lost little one. "I can't," he told me, "because I will never know her."

We both have felt all along that the baby would be a girl. Our daughter has prayed for a sister so long that it has become a rote request in her prayers. "And please let mommy have a baby, and please let it be a sister for me." She has actually already returned to this practice, after an agonizingly short period of being able to issue praise in the form of, "Thank you for our baby, and please let it be a sister for me!"

I went to sleep last night with names on my mind. And of course, God hears even those prayers that we don't give voice to. In the middle of the night, I awoke with a name on my tongue.

Gloria. "Glory to God," "Praising the Lord," or just plain "Glory," depending on your source.

Gloria has never been on one of my "short lists." I've never considered it for one of my three little ones. As a matter of fact, the one person I've known with the name was frankly, not my favorite woman. But the name came to me, and it fits so perfectly that I know it was meant to be. The fact that I could not have chosen it somehow makes it more dear, as if the name was whispered to me by angels as I slept.

So Gloria it is. My missing daughter, who I will never hold on this earth, but who waits for me in heaven.

Sunday, January 8, 2006

On Being Served

I am, by nature, a servant. It’s one of my gifts, and one that I have had the opportunity to exercise often. In addition to being a wife who likes to serve her husband (really), I happen to have been given three children who rather like the fact that mommy is so willing to use her gifts in ways they can benefit from. :-) At my church, I am the Director of our AWANA Cubbies program, active in planing and teaching for Vacation Bible School,and I lead a table for new believers and seekers in our ALPHA program. For some reason, I am a main point of contact for people’s questions on homeschooling (don’t ask how this happened), and my living room has been the site of more curriculum shopping than I ever though possible. I am a deliverer of meals, a shopper for the homebound and a prayer warrior for those who need to add another voice calling on the Lord in their name.

What I am not is someone who is comfortable with being served. Grateful, yes ... but slightly uncomfortable. Like so many women, I hesitate before calling on others, even in times of great need. If given the chance, I will usually protest and say that things are fine, I can handle whatever it is. The events of this miscarriage have stripped me of that luxury--I have been laid so utterly low in my heart and body that my needs, and the needs of my family, are painfully obvious.

These past few days have brought me a whole new lesson on being served. I have nothing to offer anyone. I can not handle this by myself. I have needed Scripture, specifically Jeremiah 29:11. I have needed my husband, who has tended to me with love, caring and concern night and day for three days running. I have needed my beautiful children who have brought me leaves collected on their walks and kisses collected from their hearts. I have needed my friend who has cared for my children and made countless calls on my behalf. I have needed every neighbor who has dropped by with food and every well-wisher who has prayed for us. I have even needed my family, despite the fact that I haven’t yet had the heart to return their calls.

The worst physical aspects of the miscarriage are now over. It took longer than I had honestly expected, and was far more painful. And while I am regaining my strength of body, mind and spirit, I know I will feel that familiar tug back into self-reliance. My prayer is that I will not succumb. I know that the stages of healing from this loss have only just begun, and my needs will continue for some time. Perhaps one of the lessons the Lord has for me in losing this child is that I can be vulnerable, and not just to Him and Him alone. I can give *and* receive within the Body of Christ ...if only I will allow myself to do so.

Friday, January 6, 2006

Angels of Mercy

I made it through the day.

There were moments I was honestly sure I wouldn't. But God sent an angel of mercy yesterday morning in the form of fellow SLer munchkinmom9 (Sarah). A few short weeks ago, I prayed alongside countless others on the SL forums for Sarah as she waded through this terrible waiting game. The Lord chose to take Sarah's little one, Robin. So her pain is still new and fresh, the kind that makes most people bury their heads in the sand. But God crafted Sarah of stronger stuff than that, and instead of ignoring my post, she reached out to me. (Thank you, Sarah.)

One thing she said that stuck out was that she kept busy. Good idea, I thought. But how do I keep busy when I've got three kids with strep laying on sleeping bags in the floor?

You play, of course. We played countless games, including a very intense domino rally that snaked around the coffee table, into the dining room and under a tower of bells designed to fall as the dominoes crashed. We played "Harvest Time," a co-operative game that says its for 3-7 year olds, but is fun for all in my house. We started reading, "Peter and the Starcatchers," a book that has NOTHING to do with school and everything to do with getting out of our own heads and into a crazy fantasy. We made a tent from the couch to the coffee table, climbed inside and breathed the streppy air with abandon while we strung beads.

Did I say God sent me an angel of mercy yesterday? I'm sorry ---God is much better than that. He sent me *four*. My children were in my arms, on my lap--on my back even--all day. Three little angels, my precious gifts that walk the earth and were born to my arms.

We saw the first trickle of support from our friends here as well. My best friend asked what she could do to help, and I assigned her the task of spreading the news for me. My husband asked our pastor to do the same. By mid-afternoon, I'd had offers of meals, calls of support and a beautiful vase of colorful miniature roses delivered.

Four angels? My God is much bigger than that. When He reaches out to hold you, His arms engulf you. Let's see ... twelve or fifteen angels so far, I think.

Before I went to bed last night, I logged back on to the internet. Waiting for me were a dozen emails letting me know that they would call the next day (giving me space ... oh, how these people know me!). I finally checked back in on the SL forums, something I hadn't had time for all day. (Too busy, I guess.) There, beneath my original post, were more replies than I had ever seen to any of my own comments on the forum. Notes of support. Notes of empathy. And prayers .... so many prayers. I ended up crying in front of my computer, overwhelmed with the love I was seeing from people who I've never met.

How many angels? Our God is the God of Mercy and Love. He has at His disposal an entire army of angels who are His followers. Who can number the stars?

Yesterday was awful, but touched by His mighty hand at every move. If you were one of His angels to me yesterday, thank you. I will never be able to count the ways I was blessed yesterday.

Thursday, January 5, 2006


I drove home from my ultrasound appointment today and this song (“Held”) came on not once but twice. Twice. The first time I heard the opening strains, I roughly twisted the knob of my stereo to “off.” The second time, as I tried another station for distraction, I gave in.Yes, God, I hear you. You’re speaking to me. I’ll listen. I don’t want to, but I’ll listen. I know Your arms are holding me. I know I am loved. But I also know that this day has, indeed, been one in which the sacred was torn from my life.

Nothing went right today, but I know that in God’s eyes, everything did. Two (three?) of my kids have strep throat, which meant that the planned family trip to “take pictures of the baby” were hastily rescheduled; All three were dropped off at dh’s office with books, crayons and a hearty supply of ibuprofen. I went to the u/s solo, which wasn’t how we wanted it. We wanted the big, happy family atmosphere where everyone giggles and tries to make out the fuzzy lines on the screen. We settled for a promise of pictures for everyone and Mommy going it alone. Thank you, Lord, for what seemed like a letdown at the time. Your ways are truly higher than ours. I don’t even know what you spared me today.

“To think that providence would/

Take a child from his mother while she prays/

Is appalling”

I knew the minute I saw the image come up on the screen that something wasn’t right. I’ve done this before--I know that at seven weeks you’re supposed to see a little lima bean with a flash in it’s middle, that tiny flicker that says that life is growing. I saw a small sac with a small straight line in its center. No bean. No flicker.

The tech measured the sac and found that it had grown only slightly from the last ultrasound, performed 13 days ago. The baby had grown for approximately 5 and a half weeks, and then stopped.


My miracle baby. Prayed for? Oh, how this child was prayed for. Conceived after 18 months of pursuing adoption. Our blessing after the Lord led us to reverse dh’s vasectomy. Due on the one year anniversary of the reversal. Announced to family and friends with tears of joy and praise.


“We're asking why this happens/

To us who have died to live? ”

I held back my tears down the hospitals corridors, on the elevator when the nice gentleman asked how my day was going (I answered, “Not too good, I hope yours is better.”), and out to my van. The minute I was safely inside I began sobbing. I went to dh’s office, where I sobbed some more. Dh and I were able to pray together before the kids lost interest in the PBS show they were mesmerized by. “Lord,” my husband prayed, “I don’t understand this, but I put my trust in You. Carry us through this.”

Then to one of the hardest parts of all: telling our children. Our oldest, especially, has seen this pregnancy as an answer to her prayers, specifically. We sat them down all together, and not for the first time I thanked the Lord that dh has an office all to himself rather than among co-workers. We prayed together as a family, and then explained that God had chosen for our baby to not grow. That seemed like a good explanation, especially since they know that babies start out very tiny and take a long time to be big and healthy enough to live outside their mothers. There was a long pause; deafening silence really. My daughter, who was on my lap, started shaking and sobbing. And my five year-old (ever practical, that one) asked, “So the baby is dead?”

Those minutes were agony. Explaining over and over, trying to get the concept down to a three year-olds level, comforting children who have waited for so long for another sibling. And then, of course: “Why would God do that? It’s not fair.” I had wondered who would say it first, but in the end it was our preschooler, who is still mastering the art of “fair” himself. Later in the day, the other two would pull me aside and ask the same question in a different way dozens of times. “But we’re Christians. Why would He take our baby?” “How is He showing us love?”

There are no answers you can give a mourning child as to why the Lord withdrew His blessing. No answers that bring peace when they wonder about the workings of things that even we adults don’t understand.

"If hope is born of suffering/

If this is only the beginning/

Can we not wait for one hour watching for our Savior? "

So now we sit and wait. For what, I’m not really sure. But I’m waiting for it, dreading it but knowing that this is the way God wants it to be. The physical pain is something I won’t relish, but it’s the emotional pain I fear most of all. Like any overzealous family, we have trumpeted the news of this blessing from the rooftops, praising the God who has been so good to us. Our pastor, father of 8 children himself, announced in last week’s sermon the news of the fruit of our reversal. Our town is small, and a trip into the grocery store usually yields at least a handfull of acquaintances if not good friends. The homeschooling community here, while large, is tight-knit. This news of our sadness will travel just as fast as the news of our joy.

So I wait. I wait with raw nerves and a heavy heart. I wait with expectation. The phone calls will come, the hugs in the library between shelves, offers of help after church services. I’m praying that the Lord grants me just one thing in this process. Let them still see Your glory, Lord. Let no one turn their face and dismiss the miracle that You gave us, if even for a few short weeks. Let no one see Your hand as harsh or as one that has dealt suffering. Let them see the gift You so graciously gave us, if only for a little while.

"This is what it is to be loved/

And to know that the promise was/

When everything fell we'd be held. "