Post disclaimer: You may want to read this when you can settle in with a hot beverage and a box of kleenex; it's a long one.
We knew when we were ready to try to expand our family, we'd probably have to resort to the same medication that gave us Adelaide. When it worked the first time, I remember commenting to Gerard, "That was too easy." How little did I know those words would haunt me in the weeks and year to come. I wasn't high risk, so we waited till the obligatory 10 week ultrasound appointment only to find that Baby #2 had passed away around the 8 1/2 week mark. I went through several stages of grief in the short time I was on the ultrasound table: shock, denial, anger, acceptance. In speaking with our OB, knowing my history in Adelaide's recovery, she was able to get me in for surgery that afternoon. This death capped off a series of four deaths in our family from mid-September to early November. I was either highly emotional from hormonal levels balancing out or completely numb throughout the holidays and the ensuing Show Choir/Solo Contest season as THIS POST will attest.
When we felt ready to subject my body to medication again, it took 3 months of raging hormones to result in Baby #3. It felt good, meaning that I felt fairly yucky throughout this pregnancy, unlike Baby #2 when I felt hardly a symptom at all. We saw the heartbeat at 6 weeks, and at 8 weeks, medical staff talked to us as if all was a done deal. I had a sneaking suspicion that something wasn't right but the OB assured me that if I'd made it to 8 weeks, I was fine and that she'd see me at 12 weeks. I insisted that I be seen at the 10 week mark just to be sure. And, sadly, sure enough, on July 31st, 2015, no heartbeat. Cue the denial, anger, and tears again. I felt no hunger for a solid 24 hours (for those who know my eating habits, I eat every 2-3 hours, so to go 24 voluntarily is unheard of) and had to wait through the weekend before they could get me in for surgery. This Baby marked the seventh death in our family in 10 months.
A week after this surgery, Hamilton's Funeral Home hosted a memorial service for multiple families who had lost children in the womb prior to the 20 week gestational mark. Gerard and I are so thankful for the family and friends that rallied around us that day: one watched Laidy so he and I could go and fully focus on grieving, several from our Bible study attended with us, a long time friend of mine, and my Dad were also able to come. The last part of the service invited each family to come up, take a white rose and tell the group of the child you lost. I went up holding Gerard's hand whispering the whole time, "I can't do this. I can't say anything." I wouldn't have been able to maintain any semblance of composure or dignity had I been made to speak above a whisper. My heart was staunchly grounded in my throat. We each took a rose (one for each of our babies) and Gerard spoke on our behalf. This service helped us both grieve in our different ways and I'm so thankful that Hamilton's has this partnership with our hospital. It is a tremendous resource in an incredibly difficult situation. To detail how they helped us here would make this already long post a novel.
We then decided to visit with a reproductive endocrinologist and discuss our options. After several more tests on our blood, and my body, we opted to go the same route as before, but with extra medication assistance should we be successful. We found out about Baby #4's existence the week of Thanksgiving 2015. Telling my family over our first family breakfast together was rather entertaining as my Dad was giving us some announcements about not taking long showers with California being in a drought.... We decided to chime in with our own, albeit cautiously optimistic, announcement. :)
Being considered a smidge higher risk than a normal pregnancy has its perks. We've seen this peanut a whopping 5 times via ultrasound already and each one had me holding my breath, clenching my jaw with tear-filled eyes closed, praying for the tech to turn the screen towards me so we could see the flickering of its heart. It's been incredible to watch a gathering of cells at a mere 5 1/2 weeks, the size of a piece of rice, grow and develop to have a human profile.
A little backstory on God's faithfulness: While I was pregnant with Baby #2, Laidy and I planted 90 tulip and daffodil bulbs that October of 2014. When I miscarried, I dreaded seeing them come up that spring. I was actually wishing them to die, hoping I didn't plant them deeply enough to survive the winter. As spring approached and we kept finding the little green shoots throughout the planter bed, my heart groaned as I pretended to be happy about it with Laidy. "Look! Laidy, the flowers are blooming!! Aren't they pretty? What colors do you see?" A brief news story on the nightly news one evening highlighted the tulip bulbs from Holland and their history. The story ended with a quote from First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson who said something along the lines of flowers being an annual remembrance of Hope springing up anew. I quietly cut the first of the blooms and hung them to dry in our kitchen, waiting for inspiration to hit as to what to do with them. Trying to remember to have Hope in our Lord and His goodness.
I had planted those bulbs hoping they'd be blooming while I was getting ready to deliver Baby #2. Now, as they bloomed, I shifted my mindset to getting ready to have Hope for another child. All throughout the past school year, I'd prayed that somehow, we'd have Hope of some kind on Baby #2's due date and, God in His goodness, gave us promising test results on June 10, 2015. We saw our "+" a few weeks later.
When I was pregnant with Baby #3, and we'd seen the heartbeat twice, I decided to get the bulb petals out and do some art with Laidy. I started gluing them to a piece of paper and realized half way through that I'd created half of a heart. We had enough petals to complete the heart and it hung in our kitchen even as we mourned Baby #3. I did the same drying process with the white roses we had from Hamilton's memorial service and waited with the same Hope that some day, God would grant us yet another child.
Once we'd had our 5th ultrasound at 11 weeks with Baby #4, I made the second heart out of the memorial's rose petals and framed it. They now both rest on our bedroom wall under Adelaide's newborn photo and a photo of Gerard and I.
With this lengthy story now public knowledge, I don't share it for pity or to make others uncomfortable (Lord knows I've experienced discomfort as people asked about when we'd have a second child!). I share it to proclaim God's goodness as He provided blessings through the pain and sorrow: the comforting medical staff during both surgeries, the lovingkindness of the partnership between our hospital and Hamilton's funeral home, the support of friends and family and ultimately, the trustworthiness of His promises in scripture that point to His provision, protection, love and compassion to help us grieve in a healthy way, not to mention the answered prayers of Hope. I've returned again and again to the knowledge that He does not promise us children, but in fact, promises us trouble. But He also pleads with us to take heart, for He has overcome the world and all the sin and brokenness in it. If our story can be a source of encouragement to others struggling in this area or to just let some know that it's not always as easy as it may seem to "pop out a baby", I hope this post has served that purpose.
Lastly, I have prayed for the Lord to somehow redeem July 31st-the day we found out Baby #3 was no longer with us.
My due date for this precious Baby #4? July 31st. Sweet, sweet redemption.
Soli Deo Gloria.