Thirteen years ago I had an encounter with God that changed my life. I’d been a Christian since childhood, so it wasn’t a salvation experience. It involved a serious health crisis but I didn’t see a tunnel or light, so it wasn’t a classic near-death experience either. In all my obsessive reading on the topic afterward, the closest term I found to define what happened to me is ‘Spiritually Transformative Experience’ but whatever you want to call it, my life is now divided into Before and After this event.
I was three months into our fourth pregnancy. That was probably why I hadn’t even thought about the fact that it was February 9th. We had just told our nine-year-old son and six-year-old daughter the big news the day before, and they were thrilled about having a baby brother or sister. In a reversal of roles for us, I had wanted to wait to tell the kids later, when we were well past the window when most miscarriages occur, but Rob had said, “No, let’s go ahead and share the joy with them. If the sorrow does come to us again, it’s going to affect them too.”
When I found spots of blood on my sheets that morning, my first thought was, Oh please God, please, please no, the children will be devastated. We’d had our first miscarriage exactly nine years earlier, on February 9, 1996, so this particular grief was familiar to the two of us, but it would be very new to our kids. They had never lost a pet, much less a family member. Like all parents, we would rather bear any amount of pain ourselves than to have to give them news that would hurt so much. I tried not to lose hope as I prayed the universal panicked parent’s prayer. Ohhh please no, oh please oh please, God. Oh Father, please…
Later that morning my obstetrician confirmed there was no heartbeat. He gave us some time before going on. “The standard treatment after a miscarriage at this stage of pregnancy is a procedure called ‘dilation & curettage’ or what we call a D&C,” he explained. We were painfully familiar with the whole process. Mom-mode had kicked in by that time and I was already several steps ahead, doing the mental math. Rob is self-employed, which made it impossible for us to afford health insurance. Women have done this for ages without the help of surgical procedures, I decided. I can too.
We broke the news to the kids as gently as we could. Through more tears we prayed together for God to take care of our littlest family member until we could all be together again with Him one day. As is usually the case, their childlike faith handled the loss better than we adults had expected. Well, I thought, at least we have the hardest part behind us now.
After dinner that night, I was struggling. When a woman is pregnant, she’s always aware that she’s carrying her child inside of her. That constant awareness doesn’t go away when the baby dies. For all my bravado in the doctor’s office about letting nature take its course, I was beginning to feel a little freaked out that I was carrying my dead child inside of me.
I need to occupy my mind with life, I decided, so I headed downstairs to the basement. Rob and the kids had given me an early birthday present – a table, lamp, and shelves to make a scrapbooking area. Anything artistic always fully absorbed my attention and helped set my mind right. I would get lost in my happy place of stickers and scissors and markers.
I was about halfway down the stairs when a sudden rush of warmth soaked through my jeans. The doctor had told me I would probably bleed a lot, so I consciously chose not to panic. Besides, the kids were right there in the den with us, so I had to keep it together. Without saying anything to Rob, I did a u-turn and headed for the master bathroom. Peeling off my pants, I tried unsuccessfully to get onto the toilet without making a mess (because this is how moms think.) I had bought a pack those ‘overnight’ size sanitary pads just in case, so I opened one and managed to figure out all the wings and tabs. Okay, here we go. They say it’s just like a heavy, crampy period. You can do this. As soon as I stood up again, I soaked through the diaper-like pad, front to back, side-to-side.
Sitting back down on the toilet to change the pad, I was momentarily confused because it sounded just like I was peeing, but I was pretty sure I wasn’t. I was right – I wasn’t. Beginning to get a little scared, I called for Rob and just told him through the bathroom door that I had started bleeding a good bit. He wanted to call the doctor, but I told him to wait. The doctor said this would happen, I reminded myself. Just stay calm. This is a natural process. Millions of women…centuries…. Still, I didn’t open the door because I knew if Rob saw the mess it would scare him. Heck, it scared me.
I assured him through the door that I was fine for a while so Rob went to get the kids ready for bed. Mom-mode kicked in again and my mind sorted through contingency plans for various possible outcomes. Helen is next door, she’ll stay with the kids if we need her to…there’s a red towel hanging on the shower door I can put over the carpet…the doctor’s number is in my purse…an ambulance costs a crap-ton of money, so I can’t wait until it’s too late to drive ourselves….
Whether due to blood loss or anxiety, I started feeling light-headed. The stream going into the toilet wasn’t letting up at all. Okay, maybe it’s time to call the clinic’s after-hours number, just to be sure. Rob dialed the number and I opened the door just a crack to take the phone. The triage nurse asked me a standard series of questions and told me to get to the hospital, fast.
(Read the rest of the story on tomorrow’s post, entitled ‘After’)
photo credit: PBNJ Productions/Blend Images/Getty Images