The morning started with Ben taking a shower and me trying to figure out what to do today. It feels like there are just so many projects I didn't have the energy for during the last few months that I really should get done now, but today I wasn't sure where to start. Should I organize the linen closet? Sort through that last tub of clothes in our bedroom? Put drawer paper in the cupboards? Wash the cupboard doors with the cleaning solution I didn't want to use while I was pregnant? Wash the bathrooms?
"This bathtub is filthy," Ben announced from the shower. "We are really going to have to give it a scrubbing - what on earth causes pink stains on porcelain, anyway?"
"Mold," I said cheerfully. Yes, I was cheerful: because Ben had rescued me from indecision. He likes things clean, but he's pretty easygoing about it; and if he'd noticed the bathtub was in need of scrubbing, that meant it was getting pretty disreputable. On closer inspection, I sort of wondered how I'd manage to overlook how bad it was getting. Shows you how much my brain's been on stand-by lately.
Ben had an early day at work, so after I saw him off I finished up the dishes, made Grandma's bed, and got busy on the bathroom.
Now, we've been married three months and in that time, I don't think I've done a really good deep cleaning in the bathroom. I've washed the floor and the toilet and the mirrors and the sinks, but usually at different times...and not like I washed them today. It was one of those projects that once I got going, I kept seeing new things to clean. Take the shower handles, for example: it's been so long since someone unscrewed them and cleaned the insides that they were absolutely full of sheets of mold and soap scum. Yuck. It was literally coming off in pieces like paper when I scrubbed it, and with something as small as a shower handle you really have to leave it a long time to get sheets of mold. Dad Turner has been sending us a lot of reading material on biofilm because of a business venture he's interested in and after all that reading, I was eyeing that mold pretty dubiously. (If you've never heard of biofilm, I would be extremely cautious Googling it. Especially after a meal. Just sayin'.)
After the sheets of mold, there was all the dust and dirt buildup in the corners and around the toilet. What exactly is the dusty stuff that always collects around the bases of toilets? Is it really just dust? Or something disgustingly more nefarious? These are questions that always occur to me when I'm cleaning and they're probably not things to be speculated on when down on my hands and knees scrubbing whatever it is. I usually comfort myself by repeating, "I'll just wash my hands when I'm done" but you have to admit, cleaning bathrooms really can feel like a hazardous job at times.
And I am truly amazed at the amount of my own hair I cleaned out of various corners. I'm used to cleaning at my family's house, but I suppose I always harbored the comfortable illusion that quite a bit of the hair I was always getting rid of belonged to my sisters instead of me. Ha. There is pretty much no one but me losing long dark hairs around here, so I have no other culprits to blame; and my goodness! I lose a lot of hair, apparently.
Two hours later, I had both bathrooms clean and was promising myself that they can't get that dirty again. After all, cleaning the house really should never tempt me to go next door and borrow some of Dad's hazmat equipment. The problem was that it just didn't seem all that dirty and I have this mistaken feeling that because there are just three of us, we aren't generating a whole lot of grime that needs scrubbing. Hopefully I'll remember today's lesson long enough to keep up with the cleaning.
Well, mostly back to normal, anyway. I'm still having occasional random moments of weepiness, but that's beginning to fade. Today I got all the laundry finished and put away (I washed a lot on Friday, then ran out of energy before folding everything and getting it hung up), cleaned the house, washed the kitchen floor, went to an insurance appointment with Ben, stopped in the local precinct so Ben could vote (I still have to vote at my old precinct and I got an absentee ballot last Thursday since I didn't know how much I was going to be ready to be up and around), and made three normal meals instead of the sort of sketchy ones I've been making over the past few weeks. I did not have a nap attack and did not have to sit down at 5:00 because I was feeling queasy. For pretty much the first time in my married life (and today is our three-month anniversary!), I feel myself. It's kind of weird.
One of the strangest things about this is feeling like nothing happened. Physically, I don't feel any different than I've felt most of my adult life. I can't tell I was carrying another little person around with me. This has actually been at the root of some of those random weepy moments, because it's as if I had a baby that just vanished without a trace. I'm not sure this would've made such an impact on me if I had other children, but it certainly made an impact this time around. A friend of mine described the weeks after a miscarriage as bringing her a lot of sudden thoughts like, "Wait, this is just wrong - I'm supposed to be pregnant right now!" and I know what she means. On the other hand, being pregnant was a whole new experience and not being pregnant is something I'm used to. I have no frame of reference for what was coming next, no memories of what it feels like to get really big and uncomfortable or have the baby move or give birth or nurse or any of those things that were "next on the agenda" a few weeks ago. So most of the time, the occurrence of thoughts like, "today would've been Week 13" only brings a sort of wistfulness because I have nothing in my brain to really tie that thought to.
Then there are other times when I am suddenly and intensely sad and Ben has assure me that all is still well. I'm glad this is fading, because it's sort of like being ambushed - you're walking along and everything's fine until suddenly wham! you're crying over practically nothing at all. Mom is often like this after a new baby is born. The family joke is that she cries over Hallmark commercials in the weeks after a new birth. I didn't expect that to be a part of this week because I guess I sort of figured this baby was so tiny and so new and my body had never had to make such big adjustments that it wouldn't have to adjust too much going back to normal. In a way, that's true; but apparently I'm still susceptible to crying at odd moments. Ben keeps getting concerned I'm going to think he's taking this all too lightly because he isn't having the same kind of difficulty and I keep telling him I'm really glad he still has that beautiful Turner smile always ready because it reminds me that all really is very well.
In other news, Grandma Lila has been officially cleared to walk and make all "transfers" (getting in and out of bed, into the bathroom, etc.) on her own since she has strengthened up a lot and is doing so well. The physical therapist will probably continue to come for a few more weeks, but then she'll mostly likely be discharged from care and will be back to where she was before she fell in November. Sort of like me: it's as if nothing ever happened. I think we're all getting more sleep these days, as Grandma doesn't have to wait for someone to come help her to the bathroom and we don't have to get up every few hours either. It's a lot quieter around here than it was for a while at night.
We're also gearing up to get drawings and plans ready for our addition as it looks like this winter was pretty much nonexistent and spring is coming early. We have to consistently have some warmer weather before we can pour the concrete footings for the addition, but that time seems to be approaching fast and we need to get our act together and get things nailed down (ha, ha) and ready to submit for permits. We have a pretty good idea what we'd like to do indoors, but we have some interesting challenges when it comes to things like designing the roof and figuring out exactly what dimensions would suit Grandma's bathroom best.
And I think maybe it's time to resume taking walks. I've missed them the past few weeks. There has been a sudden appearance of birds singing in the morning again which makes me think spring really is just around the corner and I've been inside a whole lot lately. Maybe early tomorrow Ben and I can go out and take a brisk stroll around the neighborhood.
Now that would really be getting back to normal.
...just to let everyone know we are continuing to do well here and are simply trying to catch up on things that sort of fell behind for the ten days or so I was trying to take it easy and we were sorting out what was going on with the baby. Ben has been doing a lot of work from home, which requires this computer: I will try to get a proper post in tomorrow, but for the moment I want to quickly say that we have been reading all the wonderful comments and have been very touched by all the encouragement through emails and comments and phone calls, etc. Today was probably the first day I felt completely back to normal and we did some errands that we really needed to get done. We also did a followup visit to the doctor in which he basically said I was completely healthy and everything looked fine and come back if we were expecting again and wanted to touch base.
That was certainly good to hear!
It's been a strange experience being required to rest. I'm not sure I've ever been told before to sit around with my feet up for three days and the weirdest thing about it is that I'm looking at the laundry and the kitchen and saying, "Hm. Got some things to do here!" I'm usually so busy that I go around doing lots of little things during the morning and afternoon and don't feel right sitting down and using the computer, etc., until later in the afternoon or evening. Yet here I am, sitting on the bed where I've been most of today except for bathroom trips, trips to make more raspberry leaf tea (hence the bathroom trips...), and a few minutes to make Grandma and I grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch.
I feel very normal today. It's so odd to be in the hospital one morning, then walk out under my own steam and be perfectly fine. Well, I couldn't walk too far yesterday without being out of breath and I still feel a little funny today if I move around too fast, but other than that...I'm almost back to myself. Raspberry tea, by the way, works great at helping a person rebuild their blood supply. I really seriously am feeling so much better than yesterday and I thought I was feeling pretty good then.
I hadn't really known how much carrying the baby was actually beginning to affect me until suddenly he's gone. I feel very...light. Empty. My stomach feels empty. It must really feel strange after giving birth to a full-term baby!
There were a lot of phone calls to make today, dealing with getting some supplements and settling hospital bills and keeping in touch with family. We are very happy to discover that the hospital visit yesterday is going to be all covered and so will any followup doctor's visits over the next few weeks; we weren't sure yesterday if we'd be covered or if we were going to be paying cash, and emergency room visits can be brutal on the rainy-day fund. That's a blessing that shouldn't be overlooked, that we'll be covered. It's also a blessing that we COULD pay cash if we had to, but it's very nice to not have to. The biggest thing we'll be buying will be some herbal supplements to help me heal properly, and while that would seem expensive under normal circumstances, when we look at it from the "doctor's bills" standpoint it's pretty much nothing.
Ben and I spent a while when we woke up this morning talking over things that we had discovered and been reminded of and discussed over the past week. Almost like recapping to ourselves everything that happened. It has been a very intense week, testing our marriage and characters and what we believe in. It's almost bewildering that it could almost come from nowhere the way it did, but when I look back over it...it's been a unique and amazing time. I wish we could've emerged from it with a living child, but we aren't going to look back on this and say, "That was so hard!" We'll look back and say, "Remember when Joshua was born and this or that happened?"
If you had asked me at the beginning of this pregnancy all the things I would least like to have happen, they all did. Well, I didn't end up in the hospital with an emergency C-section and a baby in NICU; but everything else - not being able to hear a heartbeat, having an ultrasound showing a dead baby, having to go to the hospital in the middle of the miscarriage, not being able to see the baby after he was born - did. And the strangest thing is that today I'm sitting here thinking, "Oh well. Not what I would've wanted...but not the worst thing in the world, either."
The worst thing would have been discovering that Ben and I do not have the strength or faith to handle such things. That would have been horrible. Losing our baby is sad. But we did not lose each other in any way. In fact, we gained each other a little more. I can't stress enough how good this is. I've wanted to be married for a long time because I saw marriage to a good man as a wonderful thing. I now know what I could only trust to be true before: marriage to a good man is a wonderful thing.
I wrote a few days ago that I'd been around for the death of babies before and one of the things I was holding onto (besides that God is good and in control) was the ability people have to continue on and find joy in all the little things of life they did before. It's true! Yesterday evening Elizabeth and Anna came over and made dinner for us, then brought everything into the bedroom so we could eat picnic style and I could keep my feet up. They even brought up the wheelchair so Grandma could have somewhere to sit and be able to eat from her little rolling table. Which she enjoyed doing, I think! That was really fun and we could sit around light-heartedly eating dinner and laughing together about various things even though we talked of serious ones too. It was life just as it always is, and that is something that makes it easier than you'd think to take a deep breath and keep going when something you didn't want to have happen does.
I was sitting here talking to Elizabeth and Anna about being at the hospital and what it's like to get an IV and what it was like to find out the baby had died and Grandma was just sitting here rocking back and forth in the wheelchair like it was a rocker and listening. She said suddenly, "Did you have any sense a few weeks ago that anything was wrong or did this surprise you?" It was an interesting question. The truthful answer is no, I had no sense at all anything was wrong. It's strange that I didn't, in a way, but I'm glad I didn't. It took my body several weeks to understand the baby wasn't growing and I'm glad I wasn't waiting around for those weeks knowing he'd died and just waiting for him to be born. I've heard of other women doing that waiting and I know we could have handled that too, but I'm glad that wasn't part of the last few weeks. We had a lot of happiness expecting Joshua during that time.
A few people have commented that situations like this are the reason people used to wait until after three months to tell people of an expected child. We actually did wait quite a bit longer than we actually knew about the baby to tell about him, not because we didn't want the trouble of telling people if anything happened but because it just seemed right to wait a bit and then we wanted to tell people personally and it was taking us a while to get to everyone. Most people we know did not actually hear about Joshua until about two weeks ago, and looking back the only thing we might've done differently is tell people a bit earlier. It's so much better to tell people about a living baby when everyone can be excited about him rather than tell and then immediately follow up with telling that the baby has died. Ah well. Things to know for the future, I guess.
That, and next time we're expecting we're just going to take that initial pregnancy test. The amount of times during the last week we had to be firm on just being pregnant at all, let alone backing up our dates...yikes! It seriously isn't that hard for a person to recognize they're pregnant - at least, it wasn't for me. But that's what you get asked a million times - I really had to tell the entire history so many times yesterday in the hospital that it just became a recitation by the fifth or sixth time. And every time we had to justify why we knew we were pregnant even though we were clearly there having a miscarriage!
At any rate, next time we'll have been married a little longer and maybe we'll be a little bolder about marching into a drugstore and buying the silly thing. So there's my advice to any newly-married couple who finds they're expecting: take your supplements (one that's actually called "Change'o'Life" formula was the one suggested to me), take your vitamins, drink your raspberry tea, and take the pregnancy test right away rather than just accepting what all the signs point to.
But far more importantly than that, focus on building a marriage firmly on God's foundation, so that when everything is shaken that can be, the things that stand fast will be the love and commitment to God and to each other. We got shaken a little this week (I don't think this was a time when "everything that can be shaken will be"), and without having that kind of foundation it could've been a very, very rough time. But it wasn't. And now here we are...healing up and getting back to normal and looking ahead to the next days and weeks happily and enjoying the time we have with each other now.
As I also said a few days ago...this is God's plan, and it is very good.
Joshua Hope Turner was born this morning approximately between 2:30 and 5:00. We don't know exactly when because we were not given a chance to see him, but both of us are very much at peace. Both with his birth and with his name. Of course, as Ben says, we'll have a surprise when we meet him someday and it turns out he is really a she; but when Ben asked me this morning if we should name the baby, I said, "Yes. And his name is Joshua Hope." So I hope Joshua really is Joshua. And that was not an intended play on words when I wrote it.
Joshua Hope literally means, "Hope in God's Salvation". It's a good name for a firstborn son, though I think we're going to save the tradition of giving Ben's middle name to a son until we have a son we can really use it with.
We've been reading everyone's comments and are very touched by all your thoughts and prayers and reminders. My goodness...we really have no idea truly how much we're loved until something like this happens!
It was quite an interesting night - the miscarriage pretty much began around midnight, so we never really had a chance to sleep. We were very relaxed about it because everything went pretty smoothly and as we had it described to us. We more or less camped out in the bathroom and talked together and monitored how things were going and hoped we would see the baby. But we didn't and after an hour or an hour and a half, things slowed down and then virtually stopped and we thought, "Wow...that's it? That wasn't so bad!"
We really hadn't known exactly what to expect.
But then about an hour later, things suddenly got strange. I've heard of hemorrhaging before and everything I'd heard seemed actually a lot more mild than what we were experiencing. Ben called Eileen the midwife right away and I described to her what was going on. It was kind of funny, but at that point I was very calm and not even in a lot of pain, so it seemed almost like overkill when Eileen said, "Get to the hospital. I mean, get in the car and go right now!"
So we did; and by the time we got to the hospital I was really glad we did. Over the next three hours there was a lot of unpleasantness. Actually, the very worst part was when they decided to do an ultrasound to see what was really going on in there...all I can say is OUCH!!!!!!!!! I have a pretty high pain tolerance - or at least, I've learned to be pretty controlled about pretty high levels of pain, but when the tech put the ultrasound probe on my stomach and pushed down I was just about ready to quit right there. It was like, "Okay, that's enough of that - let me out of here!"
As it turned out, though, in spite of the fairly violent nature of what my body was trying to do, what the folks at the hospital did was help me out by doing a lot of cleaning. I didn't end up having any drugs to stop the bleeding or a D&C, since the OBGYN felt that my body was doing it's job on it's own and by the time he did his examination (around 7:00), everything had relaxed and wound down. Ben and I were pretty exhausted since we'd then been up nearly 24 hours, so we sort of laid there together and took a nap while the OBGYN went to consult his superior to confirm his decision and then discharge papers were drawn up. My bloodwork all looked excellent and in spite of the hemorrhage, my iron count was quite high and my blood pressure was normal. They gave me IV fluids (this is all a new experience to me - I've not even been to a doctor in at least six years and I've never been to the hospital for myself since the day I came home 29 years ago as a newborn!) which actually made me feel a lot better. Ben and I walked out together with no fuss or bother around 9:00 this morning and came home and went to bed.
Ben throughout was a wonderful husband, just as he has always given every indication he is. He was the one who's alarm bells went off to call the midwife and he was the one who hustled me out the door and made arrangements (thank you, Dad Turner, for getting up at 4:00 AM to give us the keys to the minivan so I could lie down in the back on the way to the hospital!) and got me to the hospital. The midwife told me later this afternoon that when she got off the phone with me she was wishing she'd impressed on Ben the urgency of the situation because she was concerned he would try to hang around and do things like make arrangements for Grandma, etc., rather than getting me in right away. I was proud to report that he was the one rushing me out the door - as calmly as only Ben can rush. I never saw anyone who can be in emergency mode with a twinkle in his eye, but Ben can. How on Earth does he do that??!
There were also some pretty nasty moments in the hospital when Ben was holding onto me and making me look at him so I could handle what was being done. He kept saying, "Look at me, Lauren. No, don't look away. Just keep looking at me. Good. See? I'm right here with you. You're going to be fine. You're doing great. Just keep looking at me." Not sure how I would've done through those moments without him; and I think one reason the ultrasound was the worst part was because he had to wait just outside instead of being with me. He also was the consistent person with me and he was monitoring the hemmorhaging very steadily. He told me early in the morning while we were waiting for things to happen that he wasn't sure how good he was with "blood and stuff like that", but he was as steady as a rock. I am so amazed and impressed by him. This is going to sound funny considering the circumstances, but if I weren't already married to him I would marry him all over again this morning. He is a jewel of a man and I am blessed beyond measure to have him vow to me that the rest of my life will be with him.
I regret not being able to see Joshua, but I do believe what God said: that he is alive and that God has him safe. Whatever was left of him here is not our baby. I am relieved that this is all done. Even the whole process of the miscarriage was actually easier for me than the sitting and waiting, to be honest; and to know that my body did not fail but that Joshua simply did not grow is something that brings me a lot of comfort. People die when it is time, but to have to fight to keep him alive because my body was failing him would've been a whole lot more difficult for me, I think.
I also had a good conversation with a very trusted herbalist this morning and she was telling me that her oldest daughter had exactly the same thing happen to her a few years ago - got married, got pregnant right away, lost the baby around six or seven weeks. She said that her daughter's hormones hadn't learned to switch from not being pregnant to being pregnant, as if there's an adjustment that comes with being married and then expecting; so she had her take a couple of different things to balance out the body's ability to "shift modes", so to speak. Her daughter got pregnant again 6 weeks later and delivered a perfectly healthy baby; and has just delivered her third in four years, all with no complications. I was very encouraged by this, especially since every time I've had occasion to follow this friend's advice, the results have been very good. Not that we should trust these things instead of God, but I feel very comforted that this situation is not even all that unusual and there is something I can do to give myself a chance to heal and carry another child safely.
Our families are taking very good care of us over here and we are mostly just resting and feeling very blessed that we are safe and on the other side of something we were not really sure how to approach or what was going to happen. Mom Turner has Grandma comfortably ensconced next door and Elizabeth is going to bring us dinner. Nana and Papa send us some beautiful flowers that are currently decorating our kitchen table. We had leftover pad thai for lunch that Leah and Benjamin brought us for dinner last night, which is comfort food around here! Mom Tuckfield came over this afternoon and spent a lot of time talking with us and calling vitamin shops to find the recommended supplements. Jenny was texting, "I love you guys!" to us early this morning while we were still in the middle of things and that was very special. All the loving messages are almost overwhelming because they're so consistent and so kind. We are definitely very loved.
There is great peace in our house today. Actually, there was even great peace between Ben and I this morning through all the weird and painful things that were going on. I think that could only be God's gift to us as well, because otherwise it would've been pretty scary. I'm so glad we could do this together, that this kind of thing pulls us together rather than pushing us apart, that my love for Ben and Ben's love for me is greater today than it was yesterday. I don't think God meant babies to die when he created marriage and blessed marriage with children (or else he wouldn't have surveyed Creation and said "it is very good"!); but he did make the bond between a husband and wife to be a wonderful thing and today was just another time we've gotten to look at exactly how special it is.
So. Happy Birthday, Joshua!
Things are moving along over here, but we are still mostly waiting. I see many indications the baby will probably be born sometime in the next few days, which makes me a little sad, but as long as I continue to remember that all babies need to be born when it's their time, I'm okay. I think Ben is concerned about how things are going to go - he was planning a meeting and to do some work tomorrow, but he went in today to do it instead since things are fairly stable and it's better to do what you have time for today than put it off for tomorrow when you might not. He also called Mom and she came over to keep me and Grandma company since he was not happy about leaving us.
I've been doing all the things I would probably be doing if I expected to go into labor in the next few days, like getting dinners ready and taking the wash downstairs, etc. From all indications, lying around not doing anything is probably not going to help me or the baby at all, so I figure it's better to live life normally rather than sit around giving myself an opportunity to feel sorry for myself! It's not as if I'd be feeling sorry for the baby - whatever condition he's in, he's still God's baby and God has him in hand - but it's pretty easy to feel sorry for me and Ben. I keep remembering that I've been around before when babies died and while it's not a happy thing, it's not something that destroys, either. When you have peace, you have it in spite of circumstances. You feel sad, but only for a while; and there is still peace and contentment and joy and the same small things that are always part of life, like taking walks in the morning and reading together at night and watching Grandma get a little stronger walking every day and celebrating birthdays and seeing new pictures of Baby Emma. And taking the garbage out.
There's a story told in my family about the day after my sister Elaina died. Dad was talking to a friend of ours and describing how the evening before had been and how Elaina had died. He got to the end of the conversation and said, "Well, it's garbage day and I hear the truck down the street. I'd better get the garbage out."
It sounds so funny juxtaposed with what he'd been talking about but...that's life! The garbage still has to go out, dinner still has to be eaten, wash has to be done, bills have to be paid, the garden has to be weeded (and boy, does our landscaping need a good weeding! I can't wait for spring!)...and you know what? The same joy that's always been in those things is still there. That is why God is good.
Surprisingly, what's most difficult to me is the thought of how many mornings I got up thinking - as I did every morning - "the baby's another day bigger today!" It's not really something people talk about, how a mother is impacted when she discovers she has probably been carrying her baby around for weeks while he hasn't been alive. I don't even mind the thought of him not being alive so much as I do the thought that he probably hasn't been for a while. How can I carry him inside me and not even know? But then I'm comforted by the fact that if this is true, it means I'm not fighting my own system to keep the baby inside. Someday, if we don't have this baby, we will have another. It's not like we can replace him, but that joy will be there too.
A good friend wrote us a wonderful email last night reminding us of some important things, and he said, "Remember that your child is alive whether his heart is beating here or not. And I believe that just as you would if he were with you, you can now show him how much you really do believe in the things you say you believe."
And he's right.
The results of the ultrasounds (internal and external) are that our baby is measuring around 8 1/2 weeks rather than the nearly 12 he should be at. There is also no sign at all of a heartbeat.
So we continue to wait. I'm leaning on Ben pretty heavily right now and I occasionally feel like a coward, but I'm very grateful he has the strength to allow me to lean on him this way.
It is a very good thing that he is this baby's daddy.
I'm sorry to all who check in for frequent updates - this week I've been a very lax updater! I will try to make up a little for it by explaining what's been going on.
Everything started off normally enough - we finally decided to make the baby blog-and-Facebook-official on Saturday, which was fun because we've been holding onto that particular piece of news since mid-December and it was kind of relief to talk about it. Some things are harder to keep secret than others.
A lot of the more annoying pregnancy symptoms had started slackening off last week, so I was feeling a lot more energy going into this week and didn't even need a nap when we got home from church on Sunday, which has been something I've needed to do pretty regularly since the beginning of January. Ben got our living room set up so he could work from home easier - a project that ended up actually making everything feel much more decorated and cozy, actually.
Monday and Tuesday were very pleasant, easy-going days because Ben was home all the time and I did a lot of cleaning and knitting: I had a scarf I've been working on for Elizabeth since before I met Ben and I wanted to get it done in time for Elizabeth's birthday, which was on Wednesday.
Things started getting a little less normal on Wednesday when I noticed some bleeding.
Now, not to be way too TMI, but this is not something that's been normal for me in this pregnancy. I hear that a lot of women experience it, but I've only lived with one pregnant woman and the only time she ever had that symptom it was very bad. It meant she was due to miscarry within a few days. I've been with Mom through five miscarriages, two of which were fairly rough, three of which occurred around 3 to 3 1/2 months: right about the time the baby and I are approaching right now. So to see this particular little symptom terrified me.
I was a little surprised I was so very scared. I don't usually get rattled easily and have learned to stay calm through a variety of things like flu epidemics, unplanned dinner parties, kids who stop breathing (my brother), kidney stones (ouch), and days when the entire schedule gets turned around and tripled. Planning our wedding was actually very un-stressful, even though I hear a lot of brides are nearly pulling their hair out when it finally gets to the wedding day. In my family, I've often been the reassurer (not always, but often!), the one who'll rub a back or a head and present all the calm, reasonable information as to why we have nothing to worry about. I've attended a birth before and felt very relaxed through that; I've been contemplating labor and birth for this baby without anything but minor concerns. I was unworried enough about the pregnancy that I hadn't even spoken to a doctor or midwife yet because I was pretty content to wait until after 12 weeks when things had sort of settled in and it was time to start hearing the baby's heartbeat.
But that little bit of blood was one of the most frightening things I've ever seen.
It's a very unsettling thing to uncover such a weak point in my character. Not that I thought my character was so great that I had no weak points: not at all. But I had no idea how deep this one ran. I immediately had the great and terrible fear that the baby had died and I was getting ready to miscarry. Even worse, I could find no information - even though what I did find said about a quarter of women experience such a thing and of those, about half eventually miscarry - that would really help because everything said, "Call your doctor immediately." What doctor? I didn't have one yet!
Ben and I determined that we would wait through the night and call the midwife we'd been hoping to visit in the morning to see if she might have any advice or perhaps could come visit us.
But in the morning...there was no more bleeding.
Okay. Whatever that was, we thought, it must've been some fluke. But I was still unsettled enough by the whole thing that I did call the midwife and set up an appointment. I didn't really like the whole experience of having questions and not really having anyone to ask them of. At least if we touched base with someone, we'd establish some point of contact who could hopefully give some advice. We went about the day like usual and I felt pretty lighthearted because I'd been scared but then I wasn't. And I felt fine, so...it was business as usual.
That evening, the bleeding was back and it was worse this time. And I thought I'd been scared the night before. Now I REALLY was. I called Mom to talk to her and I think she realized how distressed I was feeling because she and Dad came over to talk with us. Thing is, she and Dad have no experience except that when this happens, it's time to prepare for losing the baby. Ben finally said, "Am I the only person in this room who still fully hopes for a birth in September instead of February?" and that sort of brought me a little to my senses. But only a little. I was certainly not at peace.
On Friday, we set out to try to get some answers. I followed the advice to pretty much not do anything, including climbing stairs, on the chance that something was simply irritated and was getting more so the more I did. We called the midwife back and described to her what was going on and she very kindly and generously decided to stop by with a doppler machine and see if she could pick up the baby's heartbeat and give us some peace of mind.
Of course, the downside to this was if she couldn't find a heartbeat, which she cautioned us does happen sometimes all the way to 17 weeks.
She couldn't find anything. She tried for a while, but all we heard was my heartbeat and something she said sounded to her like the baby's placenta: but the welcome little drumbeat of the baby's heart refused to show up amid all the other crackly noises that particular little machine tends to emit.
There've been two experiences in my life that stand out to me because of the memory of how my stomach dropped at the time and how heavy-hearted I felt. One was when someone tried to pick up my brother Joseph's heartbeat and failed. He had already died. The other was when I was present for an ultrasound for my brother Jonathan in which the tech and doctor on staff determined Jonathan had "very bad" problems but could give absolutely no information as to what those problems would eventually entail. I doubt I've ever prayed so hard and fervently in my life as I prayed during those times. And perhaps that's what this is all about. After all, when Jonathan was eventually born Mom and Dad named him "Jonathan Trust" because of how deeply and earnestly we had to constantly practice trusting God during the months between that ultrasound and the day he was born. But those are two experiences I also prayed fervently not to repeat. I was so interested in avoiding them that I have firmly stated I hoped never to have an ultrasound because I had no interest in finding information that was only concerning and had no concrete value to it.
I forgot something in my insistence on this point: I probably believe in God the way I do today because of experiences like those.
Because for me - with Jonathan's situation especially - the thing I had to learn the most was that God is good. He is good regardless of circumstances, regardless of what I want to happen, regardless of what angle I happen to be seeing my little bit of his great plan. I remember the Bible passage that stood out to me so starkly before Jonathan's birth was one near the end of Jonah: because at one point, Jonah the prophet went and sat outside the great city of Ninevah and waited for the destruction he had prophesied to come about...even though he already knew God wasn't going to destroy the city because the people had repented. While he was stubbornly sitting out there, God provided a very special vine that grew up over night and shaded Jonah during the heat of the day. Jonah was very happy about this vine God had provided and felt that God was very good to him.
But the next night, God provided a worm that ate the root of the vine and killed it. God had a lesson to teach Jonah: death and life were in his hands, not in the hands of the prophet; and God cared much more for the people of the city than Jonah cared about that vine, because Jonah did not create the vine and had nothing to do with the life it had. But Jonah was angry that the vine had been destroyed even though God had provided the destruction of the vine just as surely as he had provided it's growth.
The salient point to me was this: God provided the vine...and he also provided the worm.
If I believe that God is good - and I do - then both provisions were good. They were what Jonah needed. Both the vine and the worm.
So for me...God provided a baby. And then he provided some bleeding...and no heartbeat on the Doppler.
Eileen the midwife advised that if we wanted to know some further things we might consider making an appointment with a doctor and see if he could do a blood test to determine if my blood had the proper levels of hormones in it. She also suggested maybe we could get a quick ultrasound to see if the baby was the correct size and if we could see a beating heart.
We decided on the blood test, since I was still leery of ultrasounds and Ben agreed that if the blood test told us what we wanted to know, it was probably worth it. We called my mom's doctor that I've met many times and greatly respect and were very honored and pleased when he fit us right into the day and told us to come over for the test even though I've never been a patient of his.
When we came in, the nurse first drew blood; but then the doctor took us aside and started asking questions about what had prompted us to come in. When he learned we were simply trying to find out if the baby was alive, he suggested doing a "very basic" ultrasound that might immediately tell us what we wanted to know. It's interesting to me still that no matter what my reservations had been, in that moment I was barely reserved at all; and Ben said, "I'd sure sleep a lot better tonight if we saw a heartbeat."
So on Friday afternoon, we had a very quick ultrasound that showed us something amazing: our baby, whom we had only gone on faith even existed up until then. After all, we'd never even tested for him or her. We just took what evidence we had and said, "We're expecting." And there, wonder of wonders, was a fully formed little person about two or three inches long with hardening bones and arms and legs and brain and a profile and a plump little body...and no visible heartbeat. The doctor tried for a little while and we jostled the baby around trying to get him/her to turn so we could get a better look; but the baby neither moved nor would be jostled into the correct position. The good news was that the baby showed to be exactly the right size for an eleven-week baby - the size he/she is supposed to be - and the sac of water surrounding the baby was nice and full, a sign that all was well.
But we still walked out of the office with no assurance that the baby was alive.
Friday brought me both experiences I didn't want to repeat: no heartbeat on the monitor and an ultrasound that could give us no information on what was really going on with our little guy. (No, we can't see if the baby is a boy or a girl: but as I told Ben, to me all babies are boys until proven otherwise.)
To say I did not have peace about this when we got home is probably a ridiculous understatement. I had no peace about the situation whatsoever. I was scared. I don't know that I've ever been so scared. Thankfully, Ben has a much stronger and surer heart and vision than I do and he kept reminding me of the reasons that I should not be so quick to assume the worst. I remember he kept reminding me, "Don't be so afraid: I'm right here with you and we've seen nothing today that proves anything. I believe our baby is still alive. I believe everything is going to be fine. But whatever happens, do not be afraid."
Have I mentioned lately that I married a very wonderful man? He's a man who can stay calm and at peace even in the midst of something that can make me crazy. I married him so he could rub off on me and teach me that kind of peace.
I was lying down to take a nap and Ben was keeping me company and telling me about the arrangements he was making for Monday, which is the day the doctor advised us to come back so he could take another quick look and see if anything had changed with the baby. I was lying on my side facing him while he was talking about making phone calls and so on when I felt as if someone had turned a light on inside me. As if everything that had been dark a few seconds before was all lit up. And my own voice in my head said quite calmly and firmly and without any fuss, "Lauren, the baby is alive."
And I believed it.
It may have seemed like my voice, but that was not my voice. My voice doesn't say things like that. My voice would've been more likely to start suggesting ways to deal with "the worst" happening. I have friends who have gently chided me most of my life for my persistence in believing bad things are only seconds away from happening. One still reminds me that my blessing of the week used to be things like, "That our house didn't get swallowed up in an earthquake" because of this tendency. And my voice does not bring me that kind of confidence and peace. Nor does it jam my head full of Bible verses to back it up. The first one was, "This is my son who was dead but now is alive!", the words the father of the Prodigal Son says in Luke 15:24. The next was, "For I know the plans I have for you...plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope..." I had a hard time finding this one later, but it turns out it's from Jeremiah and the whole verse is very special.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans for welfareb and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart." - Jeremiah 29:11-13
There was also, "Be anxious about nothing; but in everything, with prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." I found this one today in Phillipians 4:6.
I think there were quite a few others, but my mind was a little jumbled at the time and they only come back to me in bits and pieces.
I don't know what this all means. I don't know what God has in mind for me and Ben or this baby. I don't know why the bleeding continues a little every day but the baby is still inside. I have no idea. But I know that my voice does not bring me great peace. I am slow to say "God told me..." because I have always wanted to avoid even the appearance of claiming God said something that was brought about by my own desires and imagination.
But I believe the baby is alive. And he is a special baby, a miracle baby, one who is God's baby. He was always God's baby, just like any child is only lent to their parents to raise and train. But I am much more aware of it now. He is God's, to do with as God plans best. And Ben and I have prayed together as we never have before because of him. Perhaps that is his purpose in life, however long his life is. I don't know that either.
All I know is...we're waiting. And hoping. And we will see what the future has in store.
Whatever it is, it is very good.
When I was first having serious conversations with Ben (is it really only a little over a year ago??!), he said something that had me puzzling for a while. "I believe in the first commandment," he said. Common enough statement, except that we had been discussing what we thought of having children. It seemed to me an obvious statement that he believed there was no other God besides the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; but I wasn't quite sure what that had to do with children. But Ben was pulling a very mild joke on me, one that I fell for. He was still discussing children.
Because the first commandment is actually in Genesis: "Be fruitful," God said to his creation. And the second commandment is, "...and multiply."
Ben said, "You know, those are two different commandments. Being fruitful doesn't just mean having children. It means that you're like a tree and your life has to bear good fruit. But while your life bears good fruit, you are also supposed to multiply."
In other words, he felt that it was very important for those who believed in God to exhibit the fruits the Spirit as well as to raise up Godly children. There was more to being fruitful than simply producing children: they were ONE of the fruits of a person's life, not the only one.
But we did regard having children as a very, very important fruit of a Godly marriage. Having and raising children have been subjects of discussion for us since the very beginning of our friendship. When Ben asked me to marry him, he said, "I want to have a house with you. I want to have lots of babies with you. I want to grow old with you. But to do these things, we have to get married."
About a week before our wedding, Ben asked me, "How soon realistically do you think we'd actually have a child?"
"I don't have any idea," I said. "I have friends who were open to having children right away who didn't for a few years; and others who had children right away. It usually takes a little while. Honeymoon babies are kind of rare, for instance."
Almost exactly a month later, based on all kinds of new things I had certainly never experienced before, I came to Ben and said, "Now, I know I SAID honeymoon babies are rare..."
Two months and some change later, as I'm continuing to exhibit proof of this suspicion, we're preparing to put our long discussions into practice.
For those of you who've been waiting for me to make a slip in my blogging for the past two months, this is not a slip!
If anyone missed it, we're delighted to be expecting our first child to make his or her formal appearance sometime around the middle of September.
At about nine weeks old, he or she already is nearly a completely formed little person, with arms and legs and fingers and toes and ears and eyes and a face and a heartbeat we could already hear from the outside if we had the right machine. This is a miracle we're still having a little bit of hard time believing could be happening so quickly - after all, we're just now coming up on our three-month anniversary - but one thing's for certain: we're full of joy and wonder to have been given the opportunity to fulfill God's first commandments so quickly!
As an unmarried person, bedtime was not a big deal. You're tired, you brush your teeth, you crawl into bed, you go to sleep, end of story. Getting married has reintroduced both Ben and I to something probably neither of us has done since we were kids: deliberately having a fairly set time and routine for going to bed.
It started because we were missing blessing book entries. Now, one or two missing entries is something that just happens now and again; but when you miss a whole week, that's a lot of little important events and blessings we're going to regret missing a few months down the line (and a few years even more!). The problem was, by the time we got Grandma all settled in bed and brushed our teeth and got our pajamas on and climbed into bed ourselves, we were hitting the light and going straight to sleep. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.
We also weren't sleeping very peacefully and our blessing book wasn't getting probably attended to.
About a week ago, we began deliberately starting bedtime stuff for Grandma at 9:00 (evening pill time). She is then in bed by 10, which gives us an hour before our stated goal of 11 for lights-out. For a long time, Ben had always drunk chamomile tea before bed because it was a substitute for the late-night snack that had been keeping him awake with an upset stomach; but he'd gotten out of the habit recently. I'm not too fond of chamomile, but peppermint tea has been something for a long time that I'll drink when things are really busy and I'm getting a stomachache from being busy, so it's built up some kind of trigger in my brain. When I sit quietly and drink it I feel very calm and relaxed. Weird, but true. So every evening, we turn the tea kettle on as Grandma's doing her evening routine, and after she's in bed, we take two cups of tea into our bedroom, put our pajamas on, climb into bed, and write in the blessing book. That usually only takes a little while, so then we read together or do something else fairly quiet for a little while until it gets to be 11, then we brush our teeth and turn out the lights and go to sleep.
And we have been sleeping very peacefully, even with the several wakeup calls (usually about every three hours). Between that and our walks in the morning, it suddenly feels much more peaceful and homelike around here. And that is very nice.
Wife of Benjamin and mother to two wonderful little girls who are getting bigger every day. Enjoys writing down thoughts and discussions we are having within the family and sharing them with whoever is interested in reading.
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