Sunday, March 23, 2014

Learning to trust the Good Shepherd


The one word that women of child-bearing age fear most. Especially if they've had one before. It wasn't until just recently that I learned the power of that fear.

On February 8, Michael and I lost a child that I had been carrying for about 8 weeks. It was actually much earlier than that, but that's part of the story, so I'll get to that later.

It was early morning when I took the pregnancy test two days after Christmas and found out about our little miracle. I say miracle because I had been certain that getting pregnant in December was going to be just about impossible. I had been having cramps, but no other symptoms. I was certain my period was going to be late because I had had a very bad cold for two weeks, on top of stress from work. It was on a whim then, that I took the pregnancy test, the morning we were going to visit Michael's parents for Christmas. I was stunned and unsure that what I was seeing was real, so I took it to Michael for second opinion, and he confirmed that I wasn't seeing things.

I set up an 8 week doctor's appointment on our way to visit his parents. The whole visit was completely surreal because we had this wonderful secret. We had decided that we were going to tell our families at the 8 week mark, and then everybody else at 12 weeks.

The weeks leading up to the January 20th appointment were exciting, full of certain pregnancy symptoms and disappointment when I found out that I couldn't eat soft cheese, sushi, or alcohol. I set about tracking the growth of the baby, according to when I'd last had my period. It was exciting, different, and totally welcome.

However, when we got to the doctor, things went down hill. The ultrasound revealed that the baby was exactly 5 weeks in length instead of 8 weeks. The doctor didn't seem too worried, as if women came in all the time and they had to re-examine when they were due. There was a tiny heart beat there in the middle of the sack, flickering away. It was beautiful. The doctor said the heart had probably only started beating about a day or two before. 

I cried that night, worried inexplicably that I was going to miscarry. I had watched some documentaries that detailed the frequency of miscarriage. I'd heard about how sometimes babies at this point who seem smaller than they should might have simply slowed down because they were about to miscarry. I was scared. Michael held me as I cried, and slowly I gave my fears to God. I had had to give my fears to God a lot before the appointment, but on seeing the tiny life inside of me that was smaller than I thought, all my fears came back, as if the sonogram had validated them. Eventually when I stopped crying, I figured that if nothing was wrong, I would just continue as if nothing were wrong. The doctor hadn't thought so. I reset my calendar back three weeks.

Jan. 20 was a Monday, and the day before my sister's birthday. I had thought it would be a good idea to tell my family after the doctor's appointment, but Michael held me back, mentioning that maybe we should wait until 8 weeks. The real 8 weeks. I reluctantly let him lead on that. He's my husband, so I honored his wishes in that. That Saturday I started spotting. Not a lot, but enough to get me nervous. Sunday I passed a clot the size of a pinhead and freaked out. When I called the doctor, she scheduled an ultrasound for me the next day, Monday. I went in after work and while the ultrasound showed that the sack and baby had doubled, reading about 5 weeks and 6 days, the technician couldn't pick up a heart beat. The doctor's assistant who saw me told me that that might be the fault of the machinery. But to just allay my fears, she offered to get blood work drawn for me, and have it drawn again in another two days. That or come in another week for an ultrasound again. Since I don't like needles, I opted for the ultrasound.

Through out the next week, I continued spotting, some times more heavily than others, but always kinda brownish. The longer I spotted the more agitated I got, even though I knew that in pregnancy there were a lot of things that could make me bleed. Every day it seemed I had to give my fears to God. I prayed for the life of my baby. Michael prayed for the life of my baby. It was an uncomfortable time, full of fears.

The next ultrasound seemed to confirm the worst. Even I could tell that there had been no growth and there was again no heart beat. The technician left for a little while to get a confirmation on the pictures she was seeing. That gave me time to compose myself and pray a lot. The doctor who met with me told me I had what they called a "missed miscarriage" where the body hasn't quite got the message that the baby has stopped growing. She said I could wait and see what happened, or I could take a drug that would induce miscarriage, or I could have surgery that would suck all the "fetal tissue" out. Such sterile language, "fetal tissue". I opted to wait until Wednesday, as she could call the drug in for me if I chose that road.

I cried on the way home. I cried when I got home. Michael cried with me. It felt like all our hopes and dreams for the future had been ripped up and thrown away in the span of 20 minutes. We basically held each other and cried. We prayed, and cried some more.

Nothing happened by Wednesday, so I called the doctor and asked for the drugs. She called them in and I had two doses by Friday evening. The first dose didn't take. Saturday evening, Feb. 8, I took the second dose, and that time it took and everything passed. I cried. It was hard to go to church the next morning, but we did because Michael had praise team. It was still surreal to me that the child I had harbored for several weeks was now gone.

It's now been about 6 weeks since the induced miscarriage. I told my family. I had another ultrasound to make sure everything passed, and I was clear to heal and try again. We named the baby Alexandra. Every week it's been a struggle to go to anything church related because not only do I have no distractions, but I'm in the presence of the Creator, who for some reason decided to stop creating within me. There are days when I feel like everything is going to be okay, when I can teach normally, when I can make dinner normally, when I can read Facebook normally, but then there are other days when it feels like everything is crashing down around me.

I feel decades older. Sometimes I wish it was all just a bad dream. I've stopped talking as much in certain company. I have a hard time reading Facebook, or hearing about all my friends who are having babies, especially the ones who I thought "oh! Our children are going to be born about the same time!" I can't get away from pregnancy references, pregnant women, or babies, especially when I want to. Michael, even though he too is grieving, has had to care for me in my brokenness. He has had to quickly learn patience as I seem fine one day, only to cry through most of the next. My heart seems at times like it's been ripped in two. Other times it seems like half of it is missing or a thousand knives have been stabbed through it.

I've had a lot of questions for God and about God. It has been good to see Him at work through my parents, my family, my friends, and the people in my church, comforting me and holding on to me. I know people are praying for me. At least two people ask me at church every week if I'm doing alright. I went on a women's retreat recently, and while I spent most of the time crying during talks and singing, it was a turning point.

Since Feb. 3, when I found out I'd miscarried, I've clung to the fact that I know God is good. That and He is sovereign. I know that because He is sovereign, this was part of his plan for me. I know that because He is good, this terribly painful part of His plan will turn into good for me. I still don't see how taking my child was good, but I can see His goodness in sustaining me for the past month. And now since the women's conference on Psalm 23, I have been able to see God as loving me. I had forgotten that, or been in doubt of it. It is hard to equate a God who loves me with a God who would let me suffer, but I know He loves me. I know He loves me if only because He let His own Son die (die!) for me. He knows the pain I'm going through because He too has lost a child. He cares for me, even when I don't see it. And right now, I'm still struggling to see it. I will catch glimpses of it at times, but other times I still feel like I'm in the dark.

This miscarriage thing seems like a weird club. Before I miscarried, I was only aware that my mom and my best friend's mom had miscarried. Now that I have miscarried, there are so many women around me who have come out of the woodwork, having had one or five miscarriages. Each one is different, but no less profound or sad. What comforts me and tears me up at the same times is that I am a parent, Michael is a parent, and yet our child is with God. My grandpa who died towards the end of February has met Alexandra first.

This has been a huge process, a grieving, a learning process. Thank you to all of you who have already walked with me some of the way. Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for your sympathy. Thank you for your thoughts. Thank you to my husband for his steady servant heart, his patience, and his love for me. I'm not done grieving yet. In fact, today has been a fairly hard day. But at the same time, I can say that this week has been better then last week. 

As a side note: if you needed this, I'm praying for you. If you know someone who needs this, please share this with them. Take your cares, your grief, to God and He, like the good shepherd that He is, will care for you. He loves you, just as He loves me.

More later,

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