The day began as any other….I said brief prayers on my drive into work, routinely going through my list as I thanked God for my family, my animals, and for Noah and Ali, the babies I was carrying inside. My neighbor, Miss Jean, had just asked the week before if I thought I would love these babies as much as I loved my cats. (As a young veterinarian, animals were the heart of my life.) I was allowing myself to get excited about their arrival..I had passed the 8 week mark, and then the 12 week one; I had felt the magical flurries at 17 weeks that left me a bit weak in the knees but smiling as I bent down to listen to a new patient’s heart. My world was rosy and just as I had planned. I had an undergraduate degree from a prestigious university; I had married and graduated from veterinary school; I was enjoying the challenges and status of finally being a doctor. The next step was obvious; I would have children…and also a nanny and a career; my life would be complete.
life can be fragile, love is eternal.
That day in our clinic, a dog was going through a spontaneous abortion (a miscarriage, in human terms); this was a bit unusual, as the majority of my patients were solidly in the spayed or neutered category. However, I had studied the medical causes of canine abortion in veterinary school and mentally ran through the list of differentials while I completed my examination, my own babies fluttering inside me. My sister in law was pregnant with her third child, a boy who was due in a month’s time, and we were excited to have these cousins arriving so close together.
Dinner that night was simple, as I had some more research to do on the dog; there was also a stray cat at the clinic with ascites of unknown origin. I had an evening of study ahead. A sharp pain broke my concentration. Could Braxton Hicks contractions that I’d read about start this early at 22 weeks? Maybe I was just dehydrated…I had worked straight through the day without taking breaks. I poured a large glass of water and moved myself and my books onto the couch. Another pain came soon after, followed by a small amount of blood…all within the scope of normal, I assured myself. Just to be on the safe side, I asked my husband to call the hospital, and they suggested we come in. After IV fluids, the pains stopped, the babies seemed fine, and we drove home.
By daybreak, there was more blood and I felt stronger contractions. My obstetrician arranged to meet us back at the hospital. The gushing began on the drive there. At least I was headed for help. I knew that if I could just get to the hospital, all would fine. Modern medicine could fix anything, right? I said a few brief prayers but still put all of my faith into whatever solution would be medically available. I was put on strict bed rest in the hospital, as my official diagnosis was “premature rupture of membranes.” Ali had lost her special sac, and I needed to stay horizontal to keep her safely inside of me. No worries, I thought! I will do exactly as the doctors tell me,
and all will be fine. I even had one of my techs haul in my two volume set of Ettinger’s Textbook of Internal Veterinary Medicine. If I had to stay in the hospital, at least I could use the time to study!
However, no amount of research, study, or discussion with my physician could have prepared me for what was about to happen. You see, the sacredness of those twin hearts beating inside had still been an abstraction. Of course I knew I would love my children, but until I held my beautiful, perfect, but lifeless son and daughter, I had not truly known how sacred, how miraculous, how utterly fragile a life is. Stroking the tiniest of fingers, kissing one blonde head and then one brown, knowing these were the only moments I would ever have caressing this son and this daughter, the enormous tide of love I felt for them paralleled an equally giant wave of sadness and despair. Noah and Ali would never wear the newborn diapers I had bought for them the week before. They would never play with their cousins; they would not be celebrating their first Christmas in two months’ time. There would be no blue and pink ribbons on my hospital door on the maternity ward. Instead, the very kind nurses dressed them in the smallest of outfits, took their footprints and pictures, and then quietly carried them away. I was moved upstairs, to the gynecology ward, away from all of the other new mothers. A client, who was also a pastor, came by, and with the best of intentions, told me I could always have more. There were no more flutters inside my belly; there had been three of us living inside this body of mine; I felt utterly alone. The physical part of my body knew it had delivered two babies. My milk came in strong…robust and ready to feed two babies who would never nurse. The emotional side of me oscillated between sobbing uncontrollably and smashing dishes on the floor in anger. The spiritual side cried out to God in despair. Why? I had done everything right! Wasn’t I guaranteed the right outcome?
Here’s the deal (as I have come to know it): As humans, we plan, prepare, make lists, and check off boxes; we use our collective brainpower to manipulate all sorts of variables in our lives and environment. There is a lot we CAN control, for good and for bad. However, we also have to remember, and believe with faith, that God has a plan for each of us, a plan even greater than anything we could possibly imagine. We have to believe that we matter, that each life is called and precious in His eyes. Yes, Noah and Ali lived their lives in the tiniest fraction of time. Yes, it was heartbreaking to lose them. But they were loved, and loved dearly. God didn’t cause me to
lose them; but He did use their birth and their death to gently remind me that while life can be fragile, love is eternal.
This is Lauren’s story. We know many women have experienced the grief of stillbirth, and each story is precious and unique. Leave us a comment if you’d like to respond to Lauren or share your own story.
Read the first post in our pregnancy loss story here, where Jonalyn shares her experience with loss.