Heartbreak.

Part one, here.

Dr. Holmes talked us through our options, professionally and with great care. He got emotional with us and shared in our grief. He'd tread our path himself.

Alejandra clasped our hands and prayed silently over each of us, individually. She hugged us and wiped tears from her eyes as she left our room.

I was grateful there was no one else in the waiting room that day. I don't think I could've faced a room full of pregnant women with healthy, alive babies in their wombs. Not that day.

 Then came all the hard parts, starting with telling the boys that the baby in mommy's belly had gone to heaven. Jake, my sweet, sweet boy, reacted in denial: "No, Mom, go lay down. I want you to be sick again!"

Oh, how that cut me to my core, to hear the pain in his little four-year-old voice.

Thanks to my particular insurance plan, I could not get immediate approval for a D&C. I spent those next few days doing the following:
-grieving our loss
-feeling immense anxiety over possibly delivering the fetus at home
-feeling twinges of anxiety that there had been some mistake and my baby wasn't dead and they were going to kill it in surgery
-battling what turned out to be a bladder infection, which explained the random gushes of fluid
-allowing my body to still believe it was pregnant, fearful that my slightly distended abdomen and continued nausea would betray me to the un-knowing public (reason number 5,854 why you should never, ever ask a woman if she's pregnant unless you're 100% sure she actually is)

Our loving and caring congregation members continued bringing us meals, and with each one came a new opportunity to say, "Thank you for the food, but actually, we lost the baby," which felt like a strange choice of words because I didn't lose my baby. I knew exactly where it was.

It just wasn't alive. 
 
The boys spent the weekend with their grandparents in Flagstaff, which gave TJ and I a chance to process, to lean on one another. Also we saw Beauty and the Beast, which might always make me cry, but I don't mind. It will help me remember.

My D&C finally came, and with it a sense of closure. I came out of anesthesia momentarily confused, and then reality came trickling in and brought fresh, silent tears. The blankets draped across my lower half were warm and heavy, comforting. TJ was brought in and he held my hand and stroked my forehead and we spoke softly with my nurse about losing babies and also hope.

I can actually talk about the details without breaking down. I can discuss what happened with a sort of detached familiarity. The hard parts come quickly and quietly, a catch in my throat, and suddenly I can't breathe. Warm tears prick when something reminds me of "when I was pregnant." I used to only think of my pregnancies and their happy endings: two beautiful, energetic boys, full to the brim of light, life, and laughter. And now I have a third, and it just ended. No reward. No outcome.

A friend told me to think about my baby, to remember and allow myself to be sad. It feels odd sometimes, because I knew so little about my baby, and at first I felt timid, unsure how much grief was appropriate for something I only knew for about 5 weeks. I don't think there really is such a thing as an appropriate amount of grief for a loss, though there are certainly losses that are more devastating than others. Loss is loss.

So here I am, two months later. I've learned just how many women silently bear this burden. Chances are, even if you don't know she's lost a baby, you know someone who has. I distinctly recall moments in my life before, hearing of friends and family who had miscarried and I would always say or think, "I'm so sorry, I can't even imagine you're going through. That must be so hard."

Well, now, to some extent, I know...and I think that is sometimes why we experience hard things: to be able to say to one another, "I know your pain. I've walked your path. Lean on me and I'll help carry you in your sorrow." After all, that is what our Savior does for us. That is the other lesson in Hard Things: to learn how to turn to Him, trust in His infinite love, mercy, grace, and hope, and let Him carry us. As Isaiah says, "Surely he hath born our griefs, and carried our sorrows."

And yet, as the Psalmist wrote: "weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."

I believe that families are forever, and because of that I believe that someday we will get to hold our baby and raise our baby. I am so grateful for the hope this brings me! I'm grateful to be able to share this belief with my children, so that they too may find joy and hope. And even though this has been one of the hardest things I have ever gone through, I know that it has changed me and made me a little bit more into the woman God needs me to be so that through me, others might feel of His love. I'm so grateful for the love and compassion I've been shown, for the service I've been given, and for the sisterhood I've felt from the women who've lifted me and carried me through this. I'm grateful for the way it brought TJ and I closer to one another, for the way he picked up my slack and fulfilled more than his share when I could not.


So even though this Mother's Day brings some sadness, I can honestly say that it has also brought joy. I am so grateful for motherhood and all that it has taught me, for the refining and shaping and soul-wrenching heartbreak it brings. As they say, though, God loves broken things.

"And by His kind and ready hand,
His own sweet life is woven through
Our broken lives, until they stand
A New Creation—'all things new.'"
-George Blair

Heartbeat.

Today is Mother's Day, and it also happens to be an anniversary of sorts. Except, this is the kind you never ask for, never plan for, and you don't celebrate. You see, today marks two months since discovering that the teeny, tiny heart beating inside of me was no longer beating. Today marks two  months since losing our baby.

We found out the morning of February 7th. TJ was overjoyed, my initial reaction was a mix of happiness and anxiety. I wanted another baby but I wasn't quite prepared for it to happen so quickly. Regardless, I was pregnant, about 6 weeks so.

Almost exactly a week later, I threw up. A normal occurrence for most pregnant women, but not so with me. I had thrown up maybe once during each of my previous two pregnancies. I had experienced some strong food aversions, gag reflex, and mild nausea with each of the boys. This time was different. I was so sick for about 2-3 days, when I finally got a handle on it and was able to get out of the house. Googling had taught me to eat frequent, bland snacks to keep the nausea at bay and to stay hydrated. I began carrying peppermints and saltines in my purse. We didn't tell anyone because it was so early and we wanted to wait, but I wasn't sure how long I could keep it to myself with how gross I felt and how poorly I could keep up with the boys. I couldn't even stand to walk through the kitchen, because my hyper-sensitive nose picked up smells that caused gagging.

About two weeks later, I had a relapse with the throwing up. After being confined to the bed/couch for the evening before, I told my mom and sister, who I had called upon to shuttle Jake to preschool. I was 9 weeks along at this point. They were excited and smugly pronounced that it must be a girl since I was so sick. Again, after a day or two I got a handle on the nausea. By March 5th, we had told all of our immediate family.
(I took this "to remember how sick I felt" and wishing it would stop.)

The next day was my first prenatal appointment. TJ and I went together, knowing we would get a glimpse of our baby on ultrasound since it was too early to hear a heartbeat with the doppler. During the routine testing, the doctor found that my pH level was more acidic than it should be, which could later cause early labor. I would be put on an antibiotic later in the pregnancy, but it wasn't going to cause miscarriage now. After my other tests, we did get to see the little peanut-shaped embryo and blinking heartbeat and "perfect" yolk sack. Dr. Holmes loves to put funny little sayings on ultrasound pictures, and he printed off two for us to take home. We left the appointment excited for the next one in four weeks.

I actually did go in for that appointment four weeks later, but for a post-operation check-up instead of a routine prenatal appointment.

Two days after that first visit, on International Women's Day, I started cramping while grocery shopping. I thought I would rest and it would go away. And it seemed to, a little. I thought it was fine because there wasn't any blood. Later that night, however, I found a little blood when I went to the bathroom. I texted my mom, and then I called TJ's mom who I knew had experienced miscarriage. She told me to lay down on my side, use heat for the cramping, and take some Tylenol. I passed a couple more small blood clots during the night, and prayed for my baby. The next morning, I called my doctor's office as soon as they opened and they squeezed me in, in between other patients that morning.

The nurse, Alejandra, gave me a hug and tried to give me reassurance that everything was fine. She told me that she had a similar experience and her baby was fine and that I should think positively. When the doctor came in and put the ultrasound wand on my belly, we all breathed a collective sigh of relief at that little, blinking heartbeat. The peanut-shaped embryo was still there, along with the perfect yolk sack still attached. This time, Dr. Holmes took lots of pictures, including two adhesions on the uterine wall, which explained the bleeding. He put me on bed rest for the next 2+ weeks. After I'd gone 2 weeks without bleeding, I could ease off the bed rest.

I left that day feeling so relieved. I called to tell TJ the good news, and we told our families. We gave gratitude to God for this miracle. TJ's mom insisted that we let our Relief Society (church women's organization) president know so that meals could be brought in. I was as obedient as I could be, though it was hard to feel so helpless and useless. I tried to remind myself that the baby was most important, but it was difficult to allow others to carry so much of my burdens for me. I was so humbled by all who reached out and silently picked up my slack. I remember feeling simultaneously grateful and discouraged. It was difficult to stay down when I didn't feel completely horrible.

After five days of bed rest, I was sleeping when I woke up and a gush of fluid left my body. I immediately rushed to the bathroom, fearing that my water had broken. I shakily woke TJ and told him what had happened. Then the cramps started again. Google tentatively confirmed what I feared, and after 30 minutes of contemplation, I called the on-call service for my doctor at 1:00am. A groggy Dr. Holmes returned my call and told me to time the contractions for a while and call him in a few hours.

I timed the contractions for almost an hour, then finallyfell asleep. In the morning, I called the doctor, who told me he was supposed to leave for a vacation that day, but had decided not to go due to a number of circumstances. His office was technically closed, but he told me to meet him there after he ran a couple of errands. As I drove to his office, the floodgates opened and I let the tears flow and sobs escape. TJ met me at the office, and together we walked in, with Dr. Holmes right behind us. He strode in to a very surprised staff and rushed us into the ultrasound room. Alejandra, in jeans and a t-shirt, quickly got me ready.

When the picture popped up, there was our peanut-shaped embryo, floating in all of the necessary amniotic fluid, with the perfect yolk sack still attached to the uterine wall. Everything still looked perfect and as it should...except for the glaringly absent blink of the heartbeat.

Dr. Holmes shook the probe, pressing harder on my abdomen, "Come on, come on," he muttered.

March 14th, no heartbeat.