We were so thrilled. Our baby would be due in April. Having already had two lovely little girls that made our lives, our marriage, our home, so much richer, we were truly overjoyed when we discovered back in August that I was pregnant.
We'd had a very full summer--complete with a 34-day road trip that began all the way west in Portland, OR, and took us as far north as Toronto, CA, as far east as the Jersey shore, and as far south as Houston, TX. There was a brief pause to the chaos when we got back to Portland. But we still had so many people to see and connect with, so we kept going. There was no time to schedule an appointment to check on the baby's progress but at six weeks along I was already experiencing my normal full-on nausea and revulsion towards anything with onion and garlic. This was a good sign. I had a miscarriage almost four years ago and with that pregnancy I never did feel sick or even very tired at all. Nevertheless, we still determined that as soon as we got back to Quito we would schedule an appointment with my doctor. After all, I would be ten weeks by the time we got back and we would definitely be able to hear the heartbeat! Easily one of my most favorite experience in life—hearing a new little heart pounding away!
We got back on a Wednesday and that following Monday we went in for our first doctor appointment. That morning I woke up so excited, almost like a little child waking up on Christmas morning! I was the first patient so we went in right away and after the routine check, I was ushered into the sonogram room. So clean and organized, so high tech and professional, I felt very at ease. The ultrasound technician went ahead and did the initial check, measuring the baby from the head to the bottom. We could see the shapes of the little hands and feet, the curve of the spine—my heart was soaring!
So when the technician asked for my doctor not long after his first initial check I quickly assumed he wanted my doctor there to share his findings with me. My doctor carefully looked over the monitor and the scans, they discussed a few things in Spanish and after a few minutes, he walked over to the other side of me, put one hand on my knee, looked at my bright, expectant face and said, "I'm very sorry Rea, there is no heartbeat."
My smile remained plastered on my face and I must have blinked a couple of times, not completely hearing what he said. He patiently repeated, "I'm sorry. There is no heartbeat. Come in to my office and we can talk."
I felt all the joy and life inside of me drain out so quickly. The rapid shift in my reality was dizzying. I mechanically got up and walked myself to the changing room. The world felt like it had stopped spinning. I felt frozen as I watched my limbs dress the rest of my body. Then came the tears, so many, many tears. I couldn't look at Phil. It felt like everything was happening so quickly, a beautiful picture torn apart in the blink of an eye, the tender and hopeful expectancy I felt moments ago was instantly replaced by such a suffocating darkness, my heart and mind couldn't keep up with it all.
Phil and I both sat down with my doctor and he explained that in his profession he sees one miscarriage out of every five pregnancies. He shared how he and his wife experienced a very similar miscarriage to mine, one where the baby looked perfectly normal and one where there were no prior signs indicating any abnormality with the pregnancy. He quickly went on to say that there was nothing I could've done or not done to prevent this. He shared how his wife blamed herself too, and he explained that it is difficult to determine the real cause of a miscarriage but that in most cases it is due to a chromosome abnormality.
My doctor was so kind and patient and took the time to comfort me and put me at ease as much as he could. Phil had been quietly listening the whole time, but right before we left he asked my doctor how accurate that sonogram was? Is there a margin of error and if so, what was it? Unfortunately for us, we were at the best hospital in Quito, and my doctor is probably the best OBGYN in the country, and the ultrasound machine that they use is the most current and high-tech that there is out there. He shook his head apologetically and said, there is no error, our baby did not make it.
The sky was that weird fluorescent white, no blue, just all clouds and that ugly white. But even with all that white, darkness had come. And that blinding darkness was all I could see.
The next step was to take prescribed medication to help my body expel the dead tissue, placenta, and baby. I hadn't been spotting at all so there was no way of knowing how long this could take. My doctor (and I highly recommend him) advised me to allow my body to expel the placenta naturally rather than having a D&C. I think he may have suggested this for me because he knew I preferred the natural route whenever possible.
The next day, he left for a two-week long trip to the U.S. The medication did little except unleash its unpleasant side effects on me (fever, chills, nausea). By Wednesday we were back in to see the doctor filling in for my doctor. She went ahead and did another sonogram and again thoroughly checked for any blood circulation, pumping heart, and heartbeat. None of which showed up. It was somewhat of a strange relief seeing it the second time. Sure enough, there was little change in my uterus and everything was still intact. I was given a second dose of the medication, which again gave me the unpleasant side effects, but resulted in very little bleeding and expelling of anything. I wrote my doctor an update. I think he could sense my frustration and impatience. He advised me to wait at least another week. And to be patient. I wanted to scream, "How dare you tell me to be PATIENT! My baby is dead inside me, I have taken two doses of your prescribed medication, both times coming down with chills, a fever, diarrhea, and throwing up, and now you are telling me to be patient?!!"
I know he meant well. And he really is the best doctor I have ever had. So, I wrote back a kind message and told him I would continue to wait.
So here we are. Six days after receiving that heart-wrenching news. Still waiting.
I have since discovered that my type of miscarriage is appropriately called a Silent Miscarriage or a Missed Miscarriage. It is when the baby stops developing and dies but the body doesn't recognize it and so the placenta continues as if the pregnancy is perfectly normal.
After almost two more weeks, my doctor had returned from his trip and I was very ready for the D&C. One thing that complicated the situation further, however, is that our health insurance was not going to cover the cost! I remember feeling so frustrated that a financial constraint had to be a factor in all of this! But God’s goodness and mercy revealed itself to us in the form of friends who came forward offering to pay for the entire cost of the procedure!
I don't understand a lot of things, and most of the time I live very accepting of that fact. My heart felt so broken but I also felt stable, held-together by a deep peace. God allowed for my baby to enter into His presence before I could cradle that precious little body in my arms. God is sovereign and I am not. And in my brokenness I felt no pride, just complete and utter brokenness. Humbled by this brokenness.
I accepted the death of my child and I cried on my knees as I craved for the Father's comforting presence. And He answered me. He gave me peace. The kind that is so palpable but so unfathomable. I know not where exactly it is coming from, is it from without or within, or both? It is so strong that there is no mistaking it. Despite my shattered heart, my shattered dreams, and my shattered plans, I could sense Jesus right there with me. Holding the pieces of me together. God is whole, in Him everything holds together, and finds their purpose. And while I felt wholly broken at that moment, I also knew with complete certainty that this was not the end, one day I will see my baby. One day we shall all enter into the presence of our Maker.
We named the baby Shalom. There wasn't a more perfect name. Shalom. Even the sound of it is so soothing, healing.
I love you, baby Shalom.