Monday, April 4, 2011

Hello and Goodbye

We found out that I was pregnant on a Friday. It had been the most beautiful day of the year to date, and we'd celebrated by taking Nate to dinner at an outdoor cafe. I'd had a glass of wine, and was feeling sufficiently satisfied about it that I'd resolved to have another after I put Nate to bed.

As I rocked him in the fading light, though, I realized that it was theoretically possible that I could be pregnant. I say theoretically, because when you've been married for five-and-a-half years without ever doing anything to avoid pregnancy--have, in fact, actively pursued it for most of those years--and have only once seen two lines on a pregnancy test . . . well, you start to doubt that sex actually causes babies.

But I had two home pregnancy tests left from a three-pack I'd bought in a fit of wishful thinking last fall, and in the grand tradition of Better Safe than Sorry, I took one before indulging in glass number two. And I squinted in confusion at the second test window as a faint pink line appeared. I carried the test downstairs and presented it to an equally flabbergasted David, and we proceeded to examine the white plastic stick under every bright light in the house.

The digital test I took the next morning in the Target bathroom, too impatient to even leave the store, was far more definitive. Pregnant, it declared boldly. And somehow I began to feel equally bold. Ha!, I thought. Maybe all of those people were right, the ones who tell stories of women they know who try for years to get pregnant the first time, and then end up with two under two, or four under five, and hey, maybe we really would be able to have a big family after all.

I started looking at double strollers. We took measurements in our smallest bedroom to see whether we should use it as the nursery and retain our upstairs guest room. We laughingly lamented the difficulties of life with multiple children: How in the world will I grocery shop with two, honey? The cart only has one seat! Or, whispered during Mass while wrestling with an exceedingly active eighteen month old, How will we ever handle it when the next one gets here?

And it was all laughingly, of course, because this is exactly what we'd prayed for. To think that the Christmas novena had borne fruit in such short order, and not once, but twice.

And it did. I don't want to diminish that.

* * * * *
". . . the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." Job 1:21 RSV
* * * * *
When I started spotting a tiny bit last Wednesday, so lightly that I wondered whether it was in my imagination, I tried not to think anything of it. Common, I told myself, Completely normal. I called my doctor's office, only because we were flying to Georgia the next morning for my sister's wedding.

"The doctor says she can refer you for a sonogram this afternoon if you're really concerned," the nurse relayed, her emphasis clearly trying to nudge me away from accepting the offer. I told her I was afraid, at not even six weeks by my calculations, that we might not see a heartbeat on ultrasound because it was simply too early. Think of all the worrying that would cause, I said, and then everything would probably turn out to be perfectly fine. No, better to wait for the appointment I'd already had scheduled for today. The nurse actually sounded relieved, it seemed, at my thinking, and I congratulated myself for being so sensible.

But when the spotting started again Friday afternoon, I knew--I knew--that I would miscarry. I'd known I was pregnant for two weeks by then, but I hadn't started to have any of the symptoms that I'd had with Nate. No ravenous hunger, followed by frustrating food aversions. No nausea. No overwhelming fatigue. No breast tenderness. And even though I'd tried to tell myself it was just too early, I think somehow I'd known all along.

That didn't make it any easier, though, when the spotting turned to bleeding in the middle of my sister's rehearsal dinner. It didn't stop the sobs from wracking my body or the tears from staining David's shirt later that night or the next morning when the cramping began. It didn't assuage my guilt when I made my husband tell my parents that they'd lost a grandchild, on a day when their only thought should have been happiness at gaining a son. It didn't make it a simple thing to stand in front of the wedding guests atop a lakeside dock on a glorious spring day, beside the beautiful bride in flowing white, and read Saint Paul's words about love: how it always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. It didn't make me feel less ashamed to leave my own sister's wedding reception when I knew that the cramping wouldn't let me make polite conversation through dinner.

There'd been too much blood--far, far too much blood--for me to hold out hope that I was wrong as we drove the many miles out for my appointment today, and as the kind doctor examined me, she told us what we already knew. This never-ending bleeding, yes, this is what an early miscarriage looks like. Early enough that it should resolve itself with no need for outside help, so there's that, at least.

* * * * *
I can say it certain now: All is grace.
I see through the woods of the world: God is always good and I am always loved.
God is always good and I am always loved.
Everything is eucharisteo.
eucharisteo is how Jesus, at the Last Supper, showed us how to transfigure all things--take the pain that is given, give thanks for it, and transform it into a joy that fulfills all emptiness. I have glimpsed it: This, the hard eucharisteo. The hard discipline to lean into the ugly and whisper thanks to transfigure it into beauty. The hard discipline to give thanks for all things at all times because He is all good. The hard discipline to number the griefs as grace because as the surgeon would cut open my son's finger to heal him, so God chooses to cut into my ungrateful heart to make me whole.
All is grace only because all can transfigure.

Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, pages 100-01

* * * * *
A good friend sent me a message in reply to my news: "I know it can't feel like it today, but God is still in control and loves you very much." She was right, and she was wrong. God is in control, and He does love me, but, strangely, today isn't a day in which my heart doubts it. I know there are those who rail at God when tragedies strike, and were worse fortune to befall me, I can't swear that I wouldn't be among them. It is grace, all grace, that instead today I feel strangely lifted up, keenly aware that He has me in the palm of His hand. I feel swept along in some current headed I know not where, but I trust that I'll arrive safely wherever it is that He intends to take me.

We went to Mass last night at a different parish, having taken an early flight home and having missed the morning services. I've always found this other parish sort of ugly. It's spare, modern, with glaring white walls and pews set at odd angles surrounding the altar. But what it does have is a massive, larger-than-life crucifix set high, Christ's suffering so big and bold that one can't ignore it. All through Mass and sitting for many minutes afterward I lifted my eyes to look upon our Lord's agony and felt, somehow, grateful to share His suffering in some small, so small way.

"Things will get more . . . intense . . . until the baby's remains pass," the on-call doctor told me this weekend. The baby. I am grateful to have doctors who share my view that life, no matter how fleeting, is a precious gift. A baby came into my life and left too soon, and still I'm feeling such a peace through the sadness. Is that this tiny person's gift to me? I can't say for sure. For now, though, I will try to look for the gift in the sorrow.

It's not the Lenten journey I anticipated. But I know, I know, the joy of Easter will still come.