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.
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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