Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Eternally Safe

I wrote this story last year, shortly after the events here happened, but I could never quite bring myself to hit publish on this piece. I just have too many close friends and family who have experienced miscarriages recently who might read this blog, and I didn't want to rub my miracle in their faces. But as my husband's birthday was this past weekend, which marks the one year anniversary of this worst night of my life, I've been reflecting on this experience again, and my feelings from that night. Now that I have a beautiful amazing squishy perfect baby in my arms, the potential loss of that night seems even more unimaginably painful, but I hold to my original feelings of faith. I guess I use this blog often to record some of my more personal reflections on faith and spirituality. These just are organic parts of me that I need to write about, record, and feel compelled to share. And this is one story I do feel compelled to share, so here we go. 

Content Warning: Graphic descriptions of blood loss, trigger warning for (potential) miscarriage, (potential) baby loss. Read only if your heart (and gross factor) can handle it.

My husband's birthday had been on Thursday, but we celebrated that Friday because, well, Friday is just an easier day for celebrations. I dropped all the kids off at their various schools/daycares, then ran to a doctor's appointment. I was seventeen weeks, we listened to the heartbeat, she prescribed me a new medication to help with the nausea (I'd still thrown up that morning), then met my husband for lunch at a barbecue place (and yes, I managed to keep the food down, it helps when I don't have to make it myself!). A mid-day date is a rare luxury we've only begun to enjoy this year, with him working from home and all the kids in school. We talked about how once the baby came, such luxuries would disappear again for a few more years.

That night with the kids we ate cake, watched a movie (Dad's pick, since he was the birthday boy), then got the kids put to bed. It was about 9:30, I was sitting on our bed on top of the snow white duvet, when I shifted positions and noticed the blood. A bright red spot in the middle of that snow white fluffiness. Out of place. Unexpected.

"I'm bleeding!" I announced to my husband, who examined the spot and immediately jumped into stain-prevention mode (he's the one in our relationship who cares about stains, it's his area). I ran to the bathroom, hoping against hope that this was just a minor fluke, just a little bit of spotting, nothing to worry about.

But the flow down my legs told a different story. I grabbed toilet paper and tried to staunch it, but the blood just kept coming, soaking through wad after wad after wad. My husband hovered back and forth between me and the trail of blood I'd left behind, trying to clean things up, trying to find the one thing he could control in this situation. I told him to grab a phone and do a Google search, "Bleeding at seventeen weeks pregnant: when to call a doctor!" This had never happened to me before in any previous pregnancy. I'd never so much as had a spot of blood before delivery. I knew this was not normal, and it was not good.

Then I felt it. A giant, slithery, squishy something slid it's way down my vagina and slipped into the toilet with a splash. My heart stopped. What was that? I couldn't tell through all the bloody water, but I needed to know (because the not knowing, the imagining was so much worse), so I reached my hand into the toilet and pulled it out, heart in my throat. It looked like a giant disk, rubbery, about the size of my palm. My husband used my phone to take a picture. It was a clot, we guessed. Just a blood clot, nothing more.

But it was still the moment when I had to look at my husband, hands and legs and toilet covered in blood (it looked like a crime scene), and whisper, "I think I'm losing our baby."

Everything after that was a blur. There was the phone call to my doctor's office emergency line, where we were told we needed to go to the emergency room immediately, then the phone call to my mother-in-law who immediately jumped in her car to come spend the night at our house with the kids, the phone call to my parents to ask for prayers, then my husband gave me a blessing, and we cleaned up the blood as best we could and got me dressed with a giant pad in place, and loaded into the car as soon as my mother-in-law showed up.

And through it all, through the long dark drive to the emergency room clutching my husband's hand, I imagined my future weeks and months. I imagined healing from a miscarriage. I imagined telling my children they wouldn't be getting a sibling in July (that thought nearly killed me). I imagined an empty summer with just normal activities, no babies. I couldn't imagine trying again. I couldn't imagine going through a first trimester again. I didn't know if I had it in me. I thought, "This is still our last baby, even if we lose it now," and that thought made me want to curl into a tiny ball and cry.

Perhaps it says something about the immense privilege of my life to say that this was the darkest moment of my life, the closest to heartbreak and loss I've ever come (there was the night we almost lost my father-in-law, which was also a dark, dark night, perhaps only that moment compares). I felt the weight of it hovering over me. It wasn't real yet. It wasn't medically confirmed yet. But I knew as soon as it was, the weight of the grief and sorrow would crush me. I wanted this baby so badly, I had already sacrificed so much to bring this baby into the world, and it would hurt beyond any pain I'd ever experienced to lose it.

But even in this dark, dark moment, even with this impending tragedy hanging over my head, and even with the expectation that I was facing a crushing pain that would shatter me, I found a place of stillness deep inside me. I sat in that car on that dark drive, and then sat in the bright antiseptic emergency waiting room, and I knew that no matter what, I would be okay. Because in my deepest core, I knew God was with me.

You never really know how deep your faith is until it is tested. This was a moment of test for me, but it is a moment I've also been trying to prepare myself for my whole life. The test was how will I respond when life comes crashing down and I face losing the most precious pieces of my heart? And my answer, which I had prepared myself for and then was able to find in that dark moment, my answer was to turn to God.

It wasn't until I taught a Relief Society lesson a few months after this dark night that I fully realized what I had experienced. The lesson was based on a conference talk by Sister Lisa L. Harkness, and the message was about how to find peace in the midst of anxiety and uncertainty in this life. Sister Harkness shares the story of the disciples on a boat in the Sea of Galilee one dark and stormy night. While Jesus slept, the storm raged and the disciples feared for their lives. I posed the question to the sisters in my ward, were those disciples ever in actual, real danger? Did they actually have reason to fear, or lose hope? Was all lost?

And the answer, obvious to us centuries removed and with all the hindsight in the world is, of course not. A ship containing the Son of God who had not completed His mission was never in danger of sinking. Catastrophe may have felt imminent to those disciples, but it was an illusion. There was no real danger. As long as they were with the Son of God, they would never be lost.

But I took the question further. I asked about later on, when Christ was actually killed. What must have the disciples felt then? Did they feel that the catastrophe had come? That the worst had happened? Did they feel despair, crushing defeat, immense sorrow? Yes, I'm sure they did, but the original question still stands. Was all lost?

And the answer, of course, is no. Even in that darkest night when Christ's body lay in the tomb, even in the poignant sorrow of that moment, God was there. They were safe, there was hope, for nothing can frustrate God's plan.

And that's what I knew in my own dark night. I knew that even though I would be incredibly sad to lose my baby, even though it would be heartbreaking and crushing, I knew I would be safe. I knew God still lived, and I knew God would be with me through my sorrow. I knew I would be sad, but I also knew the sadness would not destroy me, God would not let that happen. I believed in my worthiness to be comforted, as long as I remained faithful to my covenants. I wouldn't be safe from pain or sorrow in the moment, but I would be eternally safe in the love of God.

Of course, those of you who know the outcome of the story know that my faith was not completely put to the test that night. We got a miracle. We got to that moment when they held the monitor up to my belly and we heard the steady rhythm of a tiny, healthy heartbeat. My baby was alive. It was not a miscarriage. The ultrasound later confirmed baby was kicking and squirming. My placenta had simply slipped down to cover my cervix, a condition that often causes bleeding, but otherwise, was not cause  for major concern. Placenta previa (the technical name) usually self-corrects, and even if it did persist until the end, the worst it meant was that I might need a C-section. Compared to losing my baby, this was no big deal. My baby was safe. My baby was alive. The story had a happy ending that even a few minutes earlier, I didn't believe was possible.

I wonder often why we were spared in that moment, why the hanging threat of crushing grief was lifted and turned to joy, when for so many others the outcome is different (miscarriage is so common, but the commonness of it doesn't make the grief any less potent). I do not have answers to that question. I do not for a moment suppose it's because my faith made me more worthy of a miracle. I do not understand miracles yet, or why they are granted to some and not to others. I have known far more worthy and faithful people have their requests for miracles refused, so I do not know why we were granted ours. This is a subject I still wonder and think about often.

Instead, what I do know is that if sorrow had been the path I was called to walk, God would have walked it with me, even as He now walks with me in my joy. I'm so grateful I don't have to face the heartbreak of loss, but I'm also grateful to know that if I did have to face it, or when I will have to face it (as we all will at some point or another), I won't have to face it alone. I am eternally safe.

That is my faith, and it carries me through.

Rosie at birth

Rosie today.