“And this is what happens when you jump on the bed! If you would’ve just listened and gone to bed, you would not have gotten hurt!”
As I held a towel to her chin, I couldn’t force the calming words that most with a maternal instinct would naturally say. No, I decided I couldn’t pass up on the chance of creating a Pavlov’s dogs-type connection-jumping on the bed=blood gushing from your chin.
Thankfully, my six-year-old daughter provided comfort while I frantically figured out how to get my youngest to the ER. While she wiped the blood from her sister’s legs, cleaned the bright spots out of the carpet, I grabbed band-aids and made phone calls figuring out which grandparents could provide the best help. I can’t really remember what my son was doing-I think screaming.
It’s a well-known law of the universe that when a husband travels out-of-town, a child will get sick or injured or a car will break down. Typically these events will happen early in the morning on the way to work or school or late at night when everyone is trying to sleep.
When the four of us finally got in the minivan, it was about 10 p.m. My nerves were shot. They were already a little shaky, having just sold our home and moved the five of us into an apartment a few weeks prior. Now, seeing the blood pool beneath the band-aid covering the hole in her chin and listening to my daughter cry hysterically for an entire car ride, I was done.
I was jittery and shaky and could concentrate just well enough on driving to head in the right direction while managing a few “I just wish you kids would listen!” as I changed lanes. I blame this state of mind for my not noticing the needle on the temperature gauge soaring and thinking the sudden jerks of the van the result of a tail-gating pickup truck nudging me along.
When the van kept spasmodically jerking forward after I turned into the hospital, I no longer blamed the pickup truck that abandoned me before the turn. I tried to filter out the screams from my youngest as I deciphered which arrows would take me to doctors who performed stitches. I followed the path that led to the gate entering the ER parking lot, and as I stopped and reached out the window to take my ticket, my van stopped-for good.
Yes, my minivan died right there blocking the entrance to the ER. It let out one last exhale- a brilliant puff of smoke-for good measure while I looked on in utter disbelief. Just like a movie.
That night (or early morning as we didn’t leave the ER until 2:30 a.m.) marked the beginning of what I affectionately refer to as “My Job Season.” At first, I would jokingly (and cautiously) make the Job reference. After all, Job suffered from boils and thieves and his children dying one after another. I suffered from the ‘one after another,’ but 10 stitches, a van dying, stomach viruses, and dropping an iPhone in a puddle all in the course of one week were still not on the same level.
Until one day, it started to feel on the same level.
We had entered a challenging season-an adventure-as we told the kids. We were building a new home and moving to a new area, so the kids would start a new school. Matt and I each had new positions at work. Everything felt fresh and open.
We sold our home quickly at the end of April, a blessing, but a challenge as the home we were building wouldn’t be ready for another couple of months. Two months seemed too long to live with a relative, especially since we still had about a month of the school year left, but not many places provide two-month leases.
We found one for a hefty price, but, hey, we had a place to live. And with little motivation to unpack what we brought with us, we made this apartment our pitstop on the way to our new life.
The kids had their beds, Matt and I had our mattress, and a few random pieces of furniture would suffice for the next two months. In the meantime, we daydreamed about our new rooms and how we would decorate. One night in particular, I pulled out my iPad and surprised Matt with my vision for the guest bedroom upstairs-a room decorated with soft colors and bookshelves and a crib in the center.
We were having a baby.
Immediately, our minds jumped to the future. Would we have a boy or a girl (of course a boy. A boy would bring balance to the force)? What names did we like? How would we tell the kids? Our family?
Telling the family was easy. With the new house, all we’d have to do was give them a tour, and they’d see a crib set up in the spare bedroom. They squeal with delight. We’d all hug.
I couldn’t wait to tell the kids. Their constant requests for a baby would be granted. They’d squeal with delight. We’d all hug.
Matt’s parents found out when we had to leave a birthday party early. I was cramping and spotting and felt the truth was better than leaving without a good reason. My parents found out when the repeated blood tests leaving my arms looking like I was a drug user showed I could miscarry at any moment-or have an ectopic pregnancy-they weren’t sure yet. I asked for prayers and prepared my plan for if I had to suddenly go to the hospital.
Our kids never knew.
After a couple of weeks of uncertainty and praying for a miracle, the doctor said with confidence that it was a blighted ovum. The baby either died early on or never formed, but my body continued to think it was pregnant. I would need a D&C to stop the pregnancy.
In the hospital waiting room, Matt and I took a call from our real estate agent discussing our next steps. In addition to the house not appraising, the builders had left the backyard as a 30 foot drop off from the edge of the house, and we did not think the cliff was safe or appealing. They did not care what we thought.
I remember crying in the car that I didn’t want to think about the house-I wanted to grieve the baby-but we had to. It was Tuesday, and we were supposed to close on Thursday.
We didn’t close that Thursday, and our lease was up five days later. We didn’t have a home.
At this point, I remember not-so-cautiously allowing myself to compare what was happening to Job. In the span of a month, my daughter got 10 stitches, my girls caught a stomach bug, my car died, and I dropped my phone in the only puddle around. When those things happened, I would laugh and say “I’m not sure I can handle much more this week, but, God, you have my attention,” and I would thank Him and acknowledge that my situation could always be worse, my family was healthy; my van and phone were just things.
And then in that same month I found out I lost my baby. I tried to thank God for my other children, but I was sad and angry. “God, what am I doing wrong? What do you want?” I remember thinking. I thought, perhaps, God was just allowing Satan to test me like Job, trying to see if I would denounce Him, and then I was scared.
I lost my baby, and I don’t have a home. What more is going to happen?
During this time, I wanted to search for meaning. So many things happening in such a short period of time, progressively getting worse-there had to be something I was to learn. I wish I could give a profound theological answer, but, honestly, I’m not sure.
I did learn that people are not comfortable with grief. Most people are well-meaning, from the anesthesiologist who tried to make us feel better by sharing that he had a mentally-challenged son (and then shared that ‘two out of three is not bad’ referring to his own children) to the doctors and friends who shared that one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage (it was my turn statistically) to the Christians who shared the handy phrase that “God has a plan.”
I was not upset when people shared this fact, just a little weary of hearing it. Yes, I knew that God had a plan-it was only this knowledge that gave me the strength to not throw my hands up in total despair-but I was heartbroken. I wanted His plan to include this baby in my family, and, at the moment, knowing that He had a plan without the baby didn’t bring me much comfort.
It still doesn’t. Knowing that God is good and loving and was grieving with me gave me comfort. Knowing that His plan for us originally didn’t include death brought me comfort.
Reflecting on Jesus walking to Lazarus’s tomb and weeping because He saw the hurt and anguish that all of us would taste as a result of sin brought me comfort. He knew that death sucks, He knew how we would grieve each time we lost a loved one, and He knew the loss and emptiness Matt and I felt when we stared at that empty sac on the ultrasound. That is why He wept, and that is why I felt comfort-not because of this nebulous sounding plan that I couldn’t hold onto in the moment.
As I was wheeled down to the operating room, I found it bizarre that I had to climb onto the table. I’m not sure why-I was conscious and able-but it felt strange to hop onto a table where the thing I didn’t want to happen was about to happen. One of the nurses began to explain that the medicine might burn as it goes in the IV, and I don’t really remember anything else she said.
I remember that I started crying. I knew that there wasn’t a baby and that I needed to have the remains of the pregnancy removed, but this surgery carried a finality with it. There was no longer hope.
As I cried, I looked over at the nurses standing next to the operating bed on which I was lying and apologized. One said, “I know, I know” or “It’s okay”-I can’t remember exactly, but the other nurse, I will never forget. She reached over and placed one hand firmly on my left leg and one on my arm and looked straight in my eyes. She said nothing with her mouth, but her eyes told that she understood my sorrow and was grieving with me. Losing a baby is sad, and no words can make it better.
After the surgery, I woke up and felt strangely comfortable. I’ve joked before that I enjoy a little light anesthesia for the chance to nap. The nurse covered me in warm-to-the-touch blankets, and I remembered thinking that I didn’t want to leave. After all, the apartment wasn’t my home, and a home is where a person should go to grieve. I didn’t want to lie down on our mattress and look at the half unpacked bins and dust. I just wanted to go back to sleep.
Of course, I had to leave the hospital that day, and after a two-month stay at my sister’s (God bless her and her husband, and thank Him that we left and everyone is still alive), my family finally moved into a beautiful home that feels like it was made just for us.
That first morning I woke up at 6:30 a.m. and saw the pink in the sky from a sun on the rise, and I felt such a warmth from knowing this was my home. My home. Such a beautiful word.
I look back on “My Job Season,” and I still don’t know why we built a house for seven months to have us walk away the week we were to close. I don’t know why we experienced the joy of knowing a new life was growing inside me only to learn a few weeks later that we would never meet that baby (this side of heaven). I may never know.
God doesn’t promise us that we will get an explanation of all the trials that we endure. He promises us that He will never leave us in the midst of those trials. And while I can say I would never want to revisit those months again, I will also admit that they gave me a stronger desire for The Lord. This world is not my home-the sin, the suffering, the pain-they are temporary. Yes, there is tremendous beauty here, even in the midst of death and suffering, all glimpses of a loving Father, but they cannot even compare to what is waiting on the other side.
So while I make my new home and thank God for His blessings, I humbly acknowledge the fact that more trials will come. And I know that I’m holding onto hands that won’t let go of me when they do.
* While our kids do know that I went to the hospital, we chose not to give them the details. If you know our family, please respect our decision to not tell our children about the pregnancy. We will reveal those details at a later date and time of our choosing. Thank you.