Reflective Meandering

Thoughts on faith, people, politics, travel, and transition.

God’s Grace in Our Suffering

The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

I think the hardest part of experiencing the death of a loved one is that everyone else’s world doesn’t stop. When I lost a friend a couple of years ago, I remember feeling shocked and disappointed that everyone who lived around him wasn’t mourning with me. He was a great man, and a great witness for Christ. This world lost so much when it lost him. I feel similarly now. Not that my baby had done great things for the Lord, but that his potential was endless.

My husband and I went out to pick up lunch and I stayed in the car. We were at a shopping center and I watched people buzz around me, going into shops and restaurants, their lives unchanged by the loss we’re experiencing. It makes sense. I’m sure they’ve experienced losses I couldn’t sympathize or empathize with as well. It’s still overwhelming though, that something so world-changing for me doesn’t even begin to affect the people in the car next to me.

To say we are devastated is an understatement. But, the Lord’s ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts higher than our thoughts. I cannot comprehend His works right now, but I know that they are good.

The Lord is not surprised by our loss. Not a sparrow falls without the Father’s knowledge. I wish knowing that was a salve to my wounds, but right now it’s merely a reminder of His power and sovereignty. Right now, we focus on reminding ourselves of who God is, and how He has shown us grace, even through our suffering.

The timing of my water breaking was a blessing. I was with my husband, we were together, able to go to the hospital together, hand-in-hand. I can’t imagine having to begin this process from work or by myself.

We feel fortunate to have had our baby with us long enough to see him wiggle all over the sonogram for us, but not so long that we would’ve had an even more difficult miscarriage in our second trimester. Things could’ve been much worse, particularly if this occurred during the babymoon we were planning to take. In fact, it’s a blessing we hadn’t yet finalized those babymoon plans.

It was so gracious of the Lord to allow our baby to arrive in this world whole. Our perinatologist told us to expect to see white “tissue” mixed in blood and that would be the baby. But, we had seen his head and his hands and his legs and his feet via sonogram, and I think it would’ve been so much harder had we not delivered our little guy intact. Not only that, but we had the blessing of having the doctor tell us that our baby boy was beautiful. I will always treasure those words.

The timing of our delivering our little guy was also a blessing. It just so happened that when we left the hospital it was too late for us to go to our pharmacy, that we just so happened to think of a pharmacy close by, that just so happened to have a single stall bathroom at the front of the store, and that just so happened to be less than a mile from the hospital for an easy jaunt back after then bleeding began. None of these circumstances just so happened, and we are so thankful we didn’t get all the way home (25 minutes away from the hospital) and have the bleeding start.

It was also such a blessing that the hubs was back at the hospital when I fainted, so that I didn’t hit the floor, and before I went down to surgery so that we could exchange I love yous.

Before this situation developed, I was incredibly disappointed with the perinatology practice I was referred to. They rotate you through the doctors so that you’re comfortable with all of them for labor, and I hadn’t hit it off with any of the doctors at the practice, which works closely with the high risk floor of the hospital I went to. That said, there’s one doctor that I didn’t see at the practice that happened to be working at the hospital that night. She saw me at each stage of our miscarriage’s progression. She provided condolences for the loss of our son, she said my baby is beautiful. She seemed informed and intelligent, but also compassionate, and she made me feel comforted and validated, which was not something the other doctors at the practice provided. She was such a blessing to me.

There are so many ways in which we could see God’s grace in our suffering. I suppose the greatest evidence of that grace is, as one of my friends put it, our “son is where we all long to be.” He has achieved his eternal glory, and made my longing for heaven that much stronger. May we all live lives worthy of saying, as Paul did, “I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”

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Our Baby Entered the Arms of Jesus

I bought my first two maternity outfits on Monday and wore the professional one for the first time to work Thursday. Thursday night, on my first day in my maternity wear, my water broke. I was admitted to the hospital because of the high risk of infection in the first 24 hrs after the water breaks. We had gone straight to the hospital from our friends’ house so we didn’t have any of the necessities.

After tucking me into our hospital room, the hubs went home to grab a change of clothes and some other things. He came straight back and didn’t leave my side, sleeping on that awful couch that even the nurse complained was uncomfortable.

Just before we left the hospital Friday morning, the perinatologist did a sonogram. Our baby’s heart was still beating at 165bpm, even though there was no amniotic fluid around him. The perinatologist said he was surprised the baby was still alive, but he doesn’t know us, he didn’t know our baby would be a fighter. He recommended we go ahead and have a surgical procedure to end the baby’s life and remove him from my womb. I told the perinatologist we would not take our baby’s life. He said that the baby cannot survive without the amniotic fluid, he would not develop, it was only a matter of time, that if we were closer to 18 weeks there may be something they could do, but at this stage, there was nothing. My husband stepped in to defend my wishes and work out the particulars. I was exhausted and had had it with my perinatology group’s unwillingness to recognize the humanity of my little one. I couldn’t even look the doctor in the face anymore.

We went back to the hospital room and agreed to come back to the hospital after we miscarried, after the baby had died a natural death and my body had delivered my little one, as things should be. If we didn’t miscarry by Monday, we would go back to the hospital for another sonogram. If the baby had passed away at that point, we would have a D&C then. We left the hospital Friday morning at around 10am.

Friday was such a long day I hardly remember the timeline. At some point we grabbed Taco Bell and took it home to eat, but my glucose numbers had gone crazy and I had to wait hours for them to come down. In the meantime I prepared a couple of outfits for our inevitable return to the hospital and took a shower. My glucose had dropped by the time I was done, the hubs had been carefully watching my levels drop from my continuous glucose monitor app and finally announced that I needed to eat. He heated my lunch and I scarfed it down. The hubs entertained me with a few rounds of connect four and the Ellen game on his iPad when my pump began to alarm because it was out of insulin. I went down stairs to change it and a few steps into the process, I suddenly had to pee. I went to use the bathroom and felt something abnormal come out. I asked my husband to check if it was the baby. It was. I did nothing.

The hubs retrieved our little one from the toilet and put him in a cup to take him to the hospital for genetic testing. I’ve never been a fan of seeing the dead at viewings. I like to remember people full of life. Knowing this, the hubs asked me not to look at our baby’s body, but told me he didn’t want me to regret that either, so it was up to me. We wept some more and I agreed that it was probably best for me not to see. But, the hubs saw, he held our little one in the palm of his hand. Our baby had come out whole, and I don’t even think the hubs understands the strength that it took to do what he did. I’m not sure what I would’ve done without him.

We called the hospital and the doctor said to come in for an evaluation, but that everything would take about 20 minutes. We went in and took our baby with us, the hubs dutifully carrying him every step of the way. The doctor confirmed that our baby was a boy and said he was beautiful.

Not having passed the placenta yet, the doctor gave me a prescription for medication that would help and sent us on our way. Our pharmacy closes at 9 so we decided to try one close to the hospital. I got out of the car and took a few steps toward the pharmacy and it felt like my water broke again. I went straight to the bathroom thinking I was passing the placenta and wouldn’t need the medication. I felt relieved-the medication would make me cramp and very uncomfortable.

When I pulled my pants down I was shocked. There was so much blood and it wasn’t slowing down. The hubs bought me new panties and some pads and I let him in the single stall bathroom to help me. Again, he was amazing. I just continued to bleed. He went back to buy me leggings because my pants were also soiled with blood. Then, he came back to help me change, politely redirecting another woman in line for the bathroom and a pharmacy employee in the process. We called the hospital to let them know we were coming back.

I felt faint on my way out of the store and he held me up. He got me into our car. He ran two red lights getting me back to the hospital and he helped me back into triage at the Women’s Hospital. I wouldn’t have been able to manage any step of the way in that process without him. He was amazing and I was awestruck at the blessing God had provided me in this amazing man, who stepped up every step of the way.

The doctor did another sonogram and informed me my placenta was still inside. I tried to explain how much I bled but it had slowed a bit and I’m not sure she really understood. She gave me a medication to help me contract and expel the placenta, since we didn’t actually make it to the pharmacist, and she checked us back into the hospital for another overnight stay.

They put what they called a hat into the toilet so they could evaluate how much blood I passed. The hubs got me settled and went home for the change of clothes we’d packed, but didn’t think we would need. By that time it was after midnight.

When he got back to the hospital, I asked him to help me in the bathroom. Every time I went I got light-headed and when I told the nurse that before going into the bathroom the last time, I came out to an empty room. I didn’t go back to the bathroom until the hubs returned, and I’m so glad I waited because I passed out sitting on the toilet, right after pulling the string for help. Had the hubs not been there I would’ve ended up falling on the floor. When I woke up the nurse and charge nurse were there helping and shortly after that the doctor came in. I had lost too much blood to continue waiting for me to pass the placenta on my own, so the doctor booked an operating room, and they wheeled me down on a stretcher. I told the hubs I loved him and asked the nurse to check on him while I was in surgery. I transferred myself to the OR table, remember them stretching my arms out on both sides and thinking about Christ, and then I was out. The next thing I saw was the ceiling of the recovery room. Then I saw the hubs, my super hero.

We weren’t in recovery long before they took me back to my room, and the hubs and I finally got some sleep. I think we slept from around 4:30am until 9:30 or so. The doctor came in around 10 and said that even if I had passed the placenta I likely would’ve needed a D&C anyways because of the uterine bleed. She said the bleed is what ultimately caused my water to break. I feel like my body failed us, all three of us.

We were told at one point we might have to stay another night because my iron count was low, and just after we both showered, we were told we’d get to go home. We had one set of visitors during all of this, a couple from our church. It was precious to have them come out of their way to offer us company and love. They’ve also said they’ll be bringing us dinner.

We are blessed by many people who’ve offered condolences and told us to let them know what we needed, but this couple was there, committing to bring what they know we need. The hubs and I both hope to grow to be like them as our friends and fellow believers face difficult situations.

At any rate, we left the hospital with that couple, and we are on the road to recovery. Physically, everything is downhill from here. But, we still have to work through how and where we will bury our little one’s body, as the doctor said he will be disposed of as medical waste if we don’t figure it out ourselves. And, we have to work through the emotional turmoil of a hope deferred.

The last few days were so busy that I mostly feel numb right now. I know the loss I’ve not completely dealt with yet will hit me like a ton of bricks when I least expect it. When I drive by a park or walk by the room in our house that was meant to be our baby boy’s nursery, I know the grief will buckle me. In those moments, may I remember to lean on Christ and the man that helped carry me through this painful situation instead of pushing both of them away.

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A Peace that Passes Understanding

Sometimes, I have no idea how people cope with difficult situations without the intervening work of the Holy Spirit. The hubs and I are pregnant (YAY!), but baby #2 has also brought a few scares. In fact, I found out I was pregnant because I thought that I was having another miscarriage and decided to get to the bottom of things by scheduling an endocrinology and ob/gyn appointment.

My endo did a test to see if I had pregnancy hormone (betahcg) present because I planned to go to the ob/gyn two days later, and she wanted me to be informed. The morning of my ob appointment, a Thursday, I found out that Tuesday my betahcg was 9. I had been pregnant. I was bummed with what I thought had confirmed not only a pregnancy, but also another loss, but I went to my appointment purposed in moving forward. When the ob came in, rather than discuss what was causing our miscarriages, my ob told me the urine sample I’d just given confirmed I was still pregnant, and sent me along to get another betahcg lab. A few days later I found out my betahcg that Thursday was 34. It’s only expected to double every 48-72 hours at that early stage (around 3.5 weeks), but it had almost quadrupled. A week later, the betahcg was 610. I was shocked.

At round 6.5 weeks we thought we lost baby #2 again when I passed several large blood clots. Shortly after I passed the clots, my husband found out his grandfather died, he was 92 and had lived a long God-honoring life. After attempting to navigate the logistics of when the funeral would be, and whether we’d be able to attend, we went to the ER for confirmation of our other bad news.

Ironically, we were actually scheduled for our first sonogram and appointment at our perinatologist that morning, but it was cancelled and the clinic was closed because of a snowstorm. That Tuesday night when we went to the ER, at 6.5 weeks, the sonogram tech confirmed that our baby was still alive inside me. He said its heart was beating at 145bpm, and despite the bleed, the baby seemed healthy. My husband held my hand as I wept. Just like I wept the Thursday the ob told me we were pregnant. At 7.5 weeks we had our first visit to the perinatologist and saw our little one for the first time. 169bpm that day.

The following Monday, at just over 8 weeks, I began to have light bleeding, which tapered off that night and then came back Wednesday, just two days later. I called the perinatologist’s office and she said to come in for another sonogram.

The sono tech was the same tech from the week before. My 8.5 weeks sonograms showed a uterine bleed above baby #2. She re-examined my 7.5 weeks sonograms to confirm she hadn’t missed anything else. I talked with the doctor and he said no vigorous activity. He seemed positive about my situation and when I asked if it was normal he was quick to say it is not, but that there is a good chance everything will be fine. He told me to come back in two weeks for our 10 week sonogram, or to make an emergency appointment if the bleeding became very heavy before then.

Last week, we went in at around 10.5 weeks. Baby #2 is doing well. Heart rate was 165bpm. The hubs and I actually saw the baby moving – what a wiggle worm – and it was amazing! We even got a sonogram of baby #2 waving to us. We used it for our announcement on social media.

Unfortunately, we were also told at our 10.5 week appointment that there is a large clot in my cervix (presumably from the uterine bleed) that is even bigger than baby #2 at this stage. The doctor said that my cervix is dilated to around .5 cm, and that I may experience cramping as my body attempts to get rid of the clot. This means, because of these pesky bleeds, miscarriage is still a possibility, even though we’re almost into our second trimester.

I was in a bit of a shock as we left the doctor last week, trying to wrap my head around how everything was progressing, from the baby to the blood clot. I felt a little anxious, while the hubs was a picture of calm. In the drive between the perinatologist’s office and my work, a calm came over me, too. Perhaps it was the realization that the God who raised Jesus from the dead (happy Easter!) is also sovereign over my womb. Perhaps it was the recitation of the same verse that gave us comfort in the loss of baby Avery – the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Whatever it was, I have no doubt that the Holy Spirit has given me a peace that passes understanding during this time of uncertainty with baby #2. It’s been a peace that has allowed me to hope and plan for baby #2’s future, despite the realist within me that has always planned for the worst and hoped for the best.

Truly, I’ve no idea how people cope with difficult and trying situations like this without the Father, without the Son, and without the Holy Spirit guiding, guarding hearts, and providing a peace that passes understanding in the times when it’s so desperately needed. On this resurrection Sunday, I remember Avery and am reminded that because Christ conquered death, eventually, the hubs and I will spend an eternity with our first baby, the hubs’s grandfather, mother, and so many other loved ones who have passed on before us.

In the meantime, I take comfort in the fact that the God who raised his son from the dead, and conquered death once and for all, also has the power to sustain the life within me. I take comfort in the fact in that God has promised He will never leave me nor forsake me.

He provides a peace that passes understanding, and at 11 weeks and 1 day, we rejoice that He is also the giver of life.

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