I’ll never forget that time! Though decades have passed, the memory remains palpable! It was the late 1970s. Jim and I had been married a few years, and though we had agreed to wait at least five years to start a family, I found myself yearning for motherhood. He, on the other hand, was resolute in that decision so as other friends were having babies, raising children, and enjoying family life, we waited! We both had jobs which we enjoyed, and we kept busy with friends and family. I was involved in a local women’s ministry and was mentored by some remarkable women. I’d been a Christian for many years, yet loved learning and growing in my faith. Life was good.
Once Jim and I decided it was time to start our family we had some unexpected difficulties; some detours on that path to parenthood. I got pregnant, then miscarried. I got pregnant again. I miscarried again.
My faith was strong, and the desire to have a family was strong, as well. I continued to serve on the board of that women’s ministry, and was well into my third pregnancy when – two months in a row – our guest speakers caused me to really question my faith. One woman told of her struggle with infertility and multiple miscarriages. That hit a little too close to home for me, and through tears, I remember thanking God I was past my critical first trimester. The next month, our speaker shared about surviving a plane crash in which her husband and their three children perished. I could not imagine! Both said it was their faith which enabled them to go on. Though I considered myself a strong Christian, I knew I couldn’t survive such tragedy, let alone tell my story so eloquently afterward! Perhaps later in my adult life, I thought, the amazing faith of these women would be true for me also. Certainly not now!
Excitement was building as Jim and I counted the days. I’d turned in my resignation at work, and was training my replacement. I was thankful I hadn’t gained as much weight as most, but loved that little baby bump. The nursery walls sported fresh wallpaper with colorful cartoon characters, and the crib my Grandpa made was in place.
Not long afterward, I learned my faith was stronger than I imagined. At a routine appointment, just five words from my gynecologist shook me to the core.
“Sometimes things like this happen,” he said, very non-chalantly, after trying unsuccessfully to find a heartbeat. Things like WHAT? I wondered. I was too shocked to verbalize the question. He asked the nurse to schedule a sonogram the following week, then continued his one-sided, matter-of-fact conversation with me. “You’ll probably miscarry this weekend, anyway.” Oh, such bedside manner!
I had no words. Somehow the tears were held back until I walked outside, then they came like a tidal wave, crushing the shore of my heart with sobs of disbelief.
The next week was a blur. With every muscle twinge I wondered if I was about to lose this baby, too. I cried til there were no tears left. I was numb. When the day came for the sonogram, Jim and I stopped at a drive-through for a 32-ounce soda, as I’d been told to be sure my bladder was full. We drove the thirty miles in silence – holding hands, but unable to talk.
The Emergency Room and Radiology departments shared both staff and equipment, and there had been an accident before we arrived, so my appointment was delayed. Jim and I waited, silently, in chairs made much too uncomfortable by my need to use the bathroom! “I know it’ll still be a while,” I explained sheepishly at the front desk, “but could I please give my urine specimen now? I’ve really got to go!” This was my first sonogram, and in my naivety, I hadn’t known a full bladder was necessary for the sonogram to be easily read. There was no UA needed. I waited, and waited – with a miserably-full bladder.
Lying on the cold, stainless steel table with a bladder about to burst was no less miserable, and the procedure was taking so long. I wasn’t allowed to see the screen, and the tech seemed to be struggling. He excused himself and left the room, saying he’d be back shortly. Jim, waiting patiently in the lobby, overheard his call for backup. “I’ve got a patient who is supposed to be five and a half months pregnant,” he blurted incredulously, “and I can’t even find the fetus!” It was at that moment, Jim knew, but I remained in the dark, on that cold, hard table.
Soon, there were two men in white lab coats at my side, poking and prodding on my slightly-distended abdomen; testing my control of an overly-full bladder. No words were spoken until they excused me to use the bathroom, get dressed, and go home, with instructions to call my gynecologist for results.
Jim and I drove just a few blocks before finding a pay phone outside a convenience store – remember, it was the 1970s! I called, and the news wasn’t good. I was told I was no longer pregnant; it wasn’t a viable pregnancy! How could that be? I hadn’t lost this baby. I was confused and devastated as I learned I would be scheduled for a D & C later in the week. The waiting continued, and I existed in a zombie-like state of disbelief and heartache.
Jim and I were ushered to a room with a gurney, a lovely gown, and a sterile white blanket. I was given a shot of something to make me sleepy. It didn’t! My emotions were raw, so I pretended with my eyes shut. It was easier that way. I could no longer look at my husband or the nurses. Wheeled down the hall and on to the elevator, I heard the voices of those around me – still very much awake. The elevator doors opened. Bump! A sharp right turn, then a left. We stopped. It was chilly. I opened my eyes to see the inside of the surgery room, which freaked me out. I didn’t WANT this to be happening, and I surely didn’t want to be awake for it.
Moments later, or so it seemed, I awakened with the phrase repeating in my mind…”But I WANTED this baby! But I WANTED this baby!” It seemed to be in perfect unison with the clicking of the wheels against the cold, hard tile of the hospital corridor. I knew my husband was walking alongside, but I couldn’t bear to open my eyes. I was being taken back to that stark room. It was over. During that simple medical procedure, my hopes for a healthy bundle of joy were sucked out of me just as completely as the actual cells. The results indicated a molar pregnancy which – in a layman’s terms – means the cells (my baby) mutated into a pre-cancerous, cluster-like growth. Usually such pregnancies are diagnosed very early due to rapid growth, but my case wasn’t normal, as my body was already reabsorbing those cells.
The stigma of losing not one, not two, but now three pregnancies would stay with me. And yet, another unsuccessful pregnancy followed several months later. My dream and desire to be a mom was looking less and less like reality.
Time passed. Pain subsided, though the memories never dulled. I found that I did have ample faith to carry me through – the kind of faith those women spoke of. God seems to give us the faith we need when we need it, and I so desperately needed it. God’s timing was best. It always is.
There’s more to this story – maybe for another post, sometime. The memories of this time remain vivid, but heartache has been replaced by joy. Within a couple years, we welcomed a daughter and a son, now grown, married, and with children of their own.
Our kids grew up knowing they were miracles. They knew they’d been prayed for. And, they knew they have four older siblings waiting in Heaven. At times during their childhood they’d even say, “Mom, I wish you’d had those other babies….” It seemed they, too, were missing someone they wanted, but never knew.
I so remember this time in your life. I remember the word cluster, but could not wrap my mind around what it meant, except for the inconsolable pain you were experiencing. Even though you showed me and others around us that YOU were that woman of strong faith that could not only live through it but console others in like situations. What I have always said about Elaine Is: you can plainly see God smiling through her eyes! God bless you and your writings.
Oh, Sally….what a sweet comment. It’s been a long time, huh? But may as well have been yesterday. You know that feeling, too, I’m SURE! Right? Your words have blessed me this morning. My desire is that others see God in me. Thank you for saying so.
My daughter often asks for other siblings. She almost feels cheated out of it. We will see if we can expand our family in some way. Adoption would be great.
I cannot even imagine what you went through. So glad for a happy ending with two children and now blessed with those grandbabies!
Martha, yes, we are blessed! Tough stuff but we survived hanging on to God!!!
Beautifully written Elaine, love you girlfriend <3
Thanks, Bonnie, for reading and commenting on that post! Love you, too!