“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, give it to no one...” (C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves 823).
That one word on the digital pregnancy test stood out like neon letters on a billboard. We were surprised but not shocked, excited but not overjoyed. Not yet, anyway. My husband, David, and I had only been married for one year, and we had only recently talked seriously about starting our family. We were going to begin “trying” over the next few months, unsure whether we could even conceive in the first place.
Because we use NFP, we found out early on that we were expecting. I had been charting for almost five years at this point, so I had a feeling we were pregnant. We were on a family vacation, and I was more tired than normal. I was experiencing frequent headaches, and I just felt different. The first test was inconclusive (don’t buy the cheap ones), and the next test was negative. Although I was disappointed, I resigned myself to that reality. The next test was positive — and it changed everything.
Joy planted itself firmly in my heart as soon as I saw that one telling word. I carefully picked out my prenatal vitamins, made a mental list of everything I couldn’t eat, and started to prepare. I felt lighter than air, effervescent even, and I loved carrying our joyful secret. After our first doctor’s appointment at eight weeks, we bought gifts for our parents to announce the news. We bought my parents a “Made in Nevada” onesie and David’s parents a “Little Cubs Fan” bib. They were just as overjoyed as we were, and the number of people sharing our joyful secret grew. We started making plans to tell my siblings, aunts, and uncles, and we looked forward to the ultrasound at our next appointment.
“[F]or the greater the love, the greater the grief, and the stronger the faith, the more savagely will Satan storm its fortress” (C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed 678).
At 10 weeks pregnant, I experienced some bleeding and was advised to go to the ER because we hadn’t had an ultrasound yet. David was on a work retreat and rushed home, meeting me at the hospital. We hadn’t had any problems up to this point, and I had been lulled into a false sense of security that nothing would go wrong.
After an ultrasound, the doctor told us he couldn’t find our baby. There were three possibilities: I had a blighted ovum and would eventually miscarry; our pregnancy was ectopic, and I might need surgery; or our baby might be fine after all. Hanging onto the sliver of hope provided by the third possibility, we went home and mustered up the energy to go to Mass.
Despite David’s optimism and hope, I dreaded the loss of our baby. I started sweating profusely during the Eucharistic prayer and knew something was wrong. After we asked our close friend and priest to bless me and the baby, the miscarriage started. We gradually began to realize we weren’t going to bring home our baby home in March.
The next morning, I thought the miscarriage was over. While I was still cramping off and on, the bleeding had stopped. We tried to occupy ourselves by hanging up the pictures and crucifixes we hadn’t hung up since moving into our house. We wandered around Barnes & Noble, as we do every once in a while. Without any warning, I was in excruciating pain and began bleeding uncontrollably. We drove home as fast as we could and tried to stop the bleeding. I started to feel weak and lightheaded, and we both knew we had to get to the hospital as soon as possible.
At this point, we weren’t sure whether I was miscarrying or our pregnancy had been ectopic and my fallopian tube was now ruptured. We were terrified. David half-carried me into the ER waiting room and then into the bathroom as I prayed for the bleeding to stop. It was all I could do to climb into a waiting room recliner, cry, and pray the contractions would stop.
As soon as we were escorted to a room, it was over. The doctors confirmed we had lost our baby and tried to console us. Instead of grief, I felt relief that I had survived and was no longer in pain. Then, I felt guilt because I felt relief. Then, more relief. The physical pain had finally ended after three excruciating days. But the emotional pain was just beginning to set in.
“Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection: the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief but live each day thinking about living each day in grief” (C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed 660).
We drove home that night grateful that I was in good health but knowing that we were missing the most recent addition to our family. Sorrow crashed into me like waves on rocks and brought me to my knees over and over again. It hit me hardest when I least expected it — like when I looked into our backyard while doing the dishes and realized I would never see him play there, when I wandered into his nursery knowing I would never hear his little cry from that room, or when I picked up the “Made in Nevada” onesie he would never wear.
Grief is a strange and inconsistent emotion. At the same time you want to withdraw from others, you feel drawn closer to them. Grief erects tall walls and then demolishes them in seconds. It makes you want to insulate yourself from the pain of others and simultaneously run into it head-first. Your heart hardens a little when you meet someone who has never experienced your pain; it softens when you meet someone who has and you recognize a fellow traveler on this lonely road.
Grief is a strange and inconsistent emotion.
“If a mother is mourning not for what she has lost but for what her dead child has lost, it is a comfort to believe that the child has not lost the end for which it is created” (C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed 667).
Becoming parents changed us. Losing our child changed us, too. Our hearts were opened to this baby, only to be broken. Others have shared their painful miscarriage stories with us, and empathy for others has flowed through our brokenness. While the grief is crushing at times, losing our child brought David and I closer. The week after we lost him, we barely spent a minute apart. We cried together, smiled together, and laughed together, realizing the immense joy of being together and the incredible gift that our marriage is. Joy is truly magnified in sorrow.
I still have many unanswered questions. Why our first child? Why so early into our marriage? Will we ever have the family we have always dreamed of?
I don’t have the answers to these questions. The two things I do know are that my son is in the arms of our Creator, and he is interceding for us.
The two things I do know are that my son is in the arms of our Creator, and he is interceding for us.
Rest in peace, sweet Lawrence. Thank you for the joy and the honor of being your parents. We love you, and we can’t wait to meet you in Heaven.