This week, we said good-bye to our infant son David. We didn’t even have a chance to say hello. A few days earlier, at 16 weeks pregnant, I had noticed some abnormal discharge with light spotting. I’ve had spotting in several prior pregnancies and everything had turned out fine, so I wasn’t alarmed at first. That was Friday. By Sunday, I started thinking about how I was feeling. My belly felt heavy, lifeless. I went in to see the doctor first thing Monday morning and my fears were confirmed: there was no heartbeat. As the doctor ran her doppler across my tummy, I knew. Back and forth, up down. I couldn’t hold back the tears.
“Let me just go get my ultrasound machine,” she said.
“We’ve never not heard the heartbeat on the doppler,” I replied.
She smiled and said, “Let’s just check out the ultrasound.”
There was Baby, but there was no heartbeat.
At 42, I had known the risk was high. How many times had I done an online search for “pregnant at 42”? Always the same information … low chance of getting pregnant, high risk of miscarriage, high risk of Baby born with chromosomal abnormalities.
And it had been harder this time to get pregnant. There had been a couple of months of throwing caution to the wind with no pregnancy, and then came the barn dance. Jim and Tami sure know how to throw a party. The food, the music, the friends, the dancing … it had been so long since Joe and I had danced. It was just all just so romantic. And yes, there was the memory of the difficult last pregnancy, of smothering post-partum hormones, all of that. But that night, I guess we kind of forgot.
The positive pregnancy test a couple weeks later was both exciting and sobering. I had to prepare myself mentally for a solid two months of misery. The last few pregnancies had been like clockwork: week 8 to week 16 would be non-stop nausea and vomiting. I texted Joe, who was shocked and then immediately giddy. Joe loves babies more than anything else in the world. He’s said several times, “If only I could figure out a way to get paid for holding babies, life would be perfect.”
The kids were happy, and they immediately got busy picking out names. Nevaeh, our 13-year-old, made everybody take a poll, and then she rated the names in order of popularity. But for Joe and I, the names were settled fairly quickly. David Elias for a boy; Genevieve Joella for a girl. I thought it was a girl. Our living children are Boy/Girl/Girl/Girl/Boy/Boy/Boy … wouldn’t a girl just round it out nicely? My little boys, three of them born in three years, are live-wires. They are busy, they are loud, they are constant. Maybe a quiet little girl would be easier?
My two months of illness were completely predictable. I’m sure I wore a permanent dent on the couch. School days consisted of me sitting down all morning while the kids brought me their work. I had babysitters coming daily to watch my little guys. Laundry took all day and all my strength. I fought back depression. One night, I cried to Joe in bed.
“This isn’t the only thing I wanted to do with my life! I’ve been sick and pregnant and fat and nursing for 15 years. I’m sick of it!”
But then, as surely as the sun rises each morning, the nausea eased up. It had felt like an eternity, but then I realized the earth had gone on spinning and somehow my children had survived. I could look out my window at the mountain view and smile again. When I realized I was at the end of my trial, I bawled.
“God, You got me through this again. I’m so sorry for doubting You! Thank You!”
That was Monday night, one week before the doctor’s appointment. Tuesday morning, I vomited again, but the nausea wasn’t constant anymore. Thursday, I declared to my family, “That’s it, I’m done being sick! Even if I feel sick now, I’m not listening to it. I’m done.”
The next day, I noticed the discharge. Three days later, after my morning doctor’s appointment, I was induced, and after a few hours, David Elias was born in the Penrose St. Francis Hospital. He was small, less than five inches long, but perfect, beautiful.
My first thought was all about me, ‘Why did I have to go through all that, only to lose the baby?’ But then I realized we hadn’t lost anything because our baby was safely in the arms of Jesus.
I keep thinking about that Trouble game where you have to pop a number and go around the board hoping nobody knocks you out, and then when you’re “Home”, you’re safe. These little guys don’t have to go through the trials and temptations of life, they go straight “Home”. David’s life was not in vain because he will live forever. Joe and I were stewards of his life while we had him, even though he never took a breath. We conceived him and carried him, sacrificed our own comfort for him, and all along only God knew. He had numbered David’s days, and they were all in utero.
“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart.” Jeremiah 1:5a
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name, you are Mine.” Isaiah 43:1b
Next week, we will bury our son’s body. The day after I came home from the hospital, Joe went to the cemetery and bought an infant plot with a mountain view. We grieve, we mourn, and yet we will echo the words of the psalmist in Psalm 121:
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip – He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you – the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm – He will watch over your life; The Lord will watch over your coming and going, both now and forevermore.”