I This blog post has been seven years in the making. I've started it and deleted it more times than I can count. It is deeply personal and more emotional than I am typically comfortable sharing. Especially because the emotions dealt with in this post are strong and at times overwhelming and confusing. But, it finally feels like it's time.
The following post deals with infant loss. If that is a difficult subject for you, or you have experienced it yourself, I am truly sorry for your loss. I know you have heard those words a thousand times, so often that they seem hollow. Or maybe your loss was long enough ago that you think your sweet babe has been forgotten and your pain is no longer visible. But, friend, I hope if you are reading this, you can take some comfort from knowing that, even just for a second, someone is seeing you right now. Someone is mourning alongside of you for your baby and praying that you may find peace and comfort, even amid all the pain.
February 2012 my husband, Caleb, and I got a big surprise when we found out we were pregnant with our first child. It was, regretfully, a surprise I was not particularly excited about. I had been working in day care full time for about three years (and part time two years before that). And while I loved my job and adored the children I cared for, it was a lot of work. It was physically exhausting chasing around small children all day, but it was especially emotionally exhausting for me when these children that I cared about got hurt or sick on my watch. I figured if it was that hard taking care of other people's children, that I loved, that when I had my own children, that I would love more, it would be that much harder. So, I had decided I didn't really want kids. At least not before I was, like, thirty (for reference, I was 24 in 2012). I had also recently decided to go back to school full time to finish my bachelor's degree (I started right out of high school, then took a couple years off after we got married.) I had been in classes about a month and was so excited to be learning again. That's when I got the "flu" that just wouldn't go away, and about two weeks later a light bulb came on and I was like ooohhhhh.... I bet that's what it is. One pregnancy test later, it was confirmed. And I was a hot mess.
Looking back on it now, Caleb should be sainted. Because I did not handle the news well. I felt broken. I felt like my life was over. I had dreams and plans. But just like that, they were a sand castle built a little to close to the rising tide. They were gone. I was angry. I was scared. And I felt so guilty for feeling so angry about something that I knew other women out there were praying so hard for. Were hurting so badly over the fact that they couldn't conceive, even though they were trying, while I was over here with my super-fertile uterus holding a baby that was not planned.
It hurts even now, to admit those feelings. To admit that for any amount of time, that that baby had anything but love from me breaks my heart. It is something that I still, to this day experience a ton of guilt over.
Fortunately, my feelings did eventually change. I'm not sure if it was the first time I felt him move or seeing his tiny face on the sonogram, but eventually, I became more and more excited to welcome him into our family. When I was little, I always used to think that when I had kids, I wanted to have a boy first, and then a girl. Probably because I always wished I had an older brother when I was growing up. So, it started to feel like even though I may have had to give up on some academic and general life dreams, I was still getting what I wanted. A different kind of dream.
My pregnancy was pretty textbook. I had morning sickness, but it very kindly left as soon as my second trimester began. I wasn't very tired. I had no health concerns for either me or the baby, and I was able to pretty much carry on the way I always had, except towards the end when I got big enough that I couldn't reach my shoes very well. He moved around like he was supposed to, although perhaps a little to well when I was trying to go to sleep and he was busy learning karate or whatever it was he was doing in there. Everything went really, really well. Until the day it didn't.
I was at home cleaning and getting ready for the Baby. I was 32 weeks along and we had just gone to our childbirth class the week before and finally picked out a name we could both agree on and things just seemed to be coming together. I had noticed around noon or so that I hadn't felt the baby move much. Which was pretty unusual, though not completely unheard of when I was up and moving around like I had been. I don't remember in what order I contacted which people. but at one point I talked to a nurse at my OB's office and my best friend who had had a baby earlier in the year, as well as perused baby message boards and they all reassured me it was probably nothing, but drink some juice, lay down on your side and he should move around, but if he doesn't come in and get checked out.
So, I drank the juice. And I waited. And I waited. And I prayed. And I waited some more. Nothing happened. So, I gathered up my things and went in to the OB. I remember letting Caleb know and telling him that he didn't need to come because it probably was nothing and I didn't want him to miss time at work if he didn't need to.
As I drove into the hospital, I had a Christian music radio station on. I couldn't tell you what songs played on the way there, except for one. The song changed about a minute before I pulled in to the hospital and I can still tell you exactly which song it was ("That's What Faith Can Do" by Kutless) and as I listened to the lyrics I was just overcome with the knowledge that we had lost the baby and that it was going to be a difficult, but not impossible time, as well as this overwhelming peace. It sounds a little weird and it wasn't like a peace like I was okay with what was happening, or happy, but rather it was knowing that my faith would see me through to the other side. It was the knowledge of knowing I wasn't going to be going through it alone.
I walked in to my OB's office and I waited. Eventually, my name was called and Caleb ended up walking in around the same time. We went back and confirmed what I already knew. There was no heartbeat. We had lost the baby.
My memories about what exactly came next are a little hazy. I don't remember if we went home that night or if they admitted us to deliver immediately. We were at some point admitted and they did all the things they typically do when they induce labor, IVs, pitocin, all that fun stuff. I remember being sad, but also very calm. There was also part of me that was praying for, and fairly certain I would receive, a miracle. That I would deliver and somehow, he would take a breath and we would get to take him home.
Things progressed very slowly and we ended up staying over night in the hospital. Caleb was amazing and supportive and did everything he could to ease any of my pain and keep me in good spirits. Those are some of my best memories from this whole experience. We had been good friends, best friends, before we got married, but his constancy and steadiness, his love and good humor anchored me in ways that I had never experienced before in our relationship, and we came out stronger because of it.
The next day, I did end up delivering. They told us that he had had a cord accident, and that it wasn't something that could have been predicted or avoided. We were given time alone with our son, Caedmon Daniel, to hold him, to process, to grieve. It was then that I had to come to terms with our reality. Our son was dead. There hadn't been any miraculous healing and we would be going home with broken hearts and empty arms. It is the hardest truth I have ever had to face.
In the days and weeks to come, I struggled. I was missing my baby. I was hurt. I was confused. I was angry. I was angry at me being anything less than excited about having a baby. I felt guilty. Like somehow, all my horrible thoughts and feelings caused this. Like it was my fault. I had been reassured by the doctor that it was nothing that I had done, that it was nothing I could have controlled. But it did nothing to help the feeling that if I had just done more, if I had just been a better mom, if I had just gone in a couple hours earlier, things would have been completely different. I was angry at God for not saving him. And then I felt guilty for being angry at God. But I was confused and couldn't understand why when I asked for and fully believed in a miracle, I didn't receive one.
It was a lot of feelings. And I'm sure there's more feelings than I even mentioned above. And as I mentioned, I still deal with some of these emotions to this day. And though we have since had two beautiful children, my heart still hurts frequently and I think about him often. And I still ask God why and deal with those emotions of feeling betrayed and let down by him.
Last month, I was having a particularly rough day. And I was talking to God silently as the kids and I were driving around running errands. And I remember asking him when he would repay the years the locust had eaten, when he would turn losing Caedmon into something good. And I had in a CD that my kids are totally obsessed with (okay, we're all a little obsessed with it) called Diamonds by the band Hawk Nelson. The last song on the album is titled "Only You" and it came on as I was having this conversation with God. And it immediately humbled and convicted me.
"only You can fill my heart the way You do
Only You can take what's worn and make it new
So I'll take all these broken dreams and petty things
Replace them with something that's true
I'll take 'em replace them with You"
-Hawk Nelson, Only You
I realized that God had already kept his promise to me. I had been waiting for him to take losing Cade and turn it in to something good, something beautiful, completely unaware that He's already done exactly that- I learned to lean on Him and rely on Him through my pain in a way that I would never have experienced had I not gone through that experience. I learned that He is constant and faithful.
Later that day, I came across this blog post about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego by Mary Catherine Craige on the Blessed is She website. I have no idea how I found it and almost couldn't find it again to credit it just now, but it was what I needed to hear. Because I realize now, that my miracle might not ever be God moving a mountain for me, or providing a heavenly solution to my problem. Rather, my miracle is the knowledge that in the fire my God is walking along right beside me. He will never leave me to face the fire alone.
I know that the heartache will always be there and that I will never stop feeling like a part of me is missing, but I am able to look back now and see the good that came from it. My relationship with my husband, my wonderful kids, the lessons that I learned. And I can look forward with the knowledge that no matter what trials I face in the future, my God is there.