Today is the first morning I have awoken alone. Brett was next to me, deeply breathing, in his sweetness of sleep, but I awoke with an almost tangible awareness that I am physically alone for the first time in several months. My body no longer shares its space; the home I have offered is completely empty. I am no longer carrying, protecting, housing my sweet baby, and I am overcome with sorrow.
I looked at my naked body in the mirror today, and was in disbelief upon seeing how thin I am. The bump of which I was so proud has almost entirely disappeared. My profile is nearly back to where I began in November. The “shoulding” part of my brain says, “You should be happy about this! You should love that your stomach no longer protrudes! You should be thrilled that your normal bod is going to be back in action in no time.” But my true, raw, real, vulnerable self is filled with sadness, for I don’t care to be back to my thin self. I actually like knowing that clothes don’t fit, and take pride in having a little extra love to go around. I don’t mind being “Big Mama.” I find that I don’t want to return to normalcy: mind, body, spirit or otherwise.
Yesterday morning was the day that my baby and I were physically separated from one another. I awoke at 3:30 am with a crushing sadness, one that made the simple act of breathing difficult. Though I was fully aware that the little person I was carrying inside was no longer alive, it still pained me knowing that I had mere hours left to hold it, and protect it as best I could. I had been grieving the loss of this Little’s life, but something about having him or her actually removed from my body was the finality I found myself dreading. Since learning on Tuesday (the Tuesday that was merely a few days ago, but feels like months) what fate was to be ours, I've grappled with two very different internal personalities: the first “me” to show up has wanted to get down to business, rashly button things up, emotionally detach, get everything over and done with, and move on; the second, more real “me” has wanted time to stop, thus allowing me to curl up tightly and never move again, that I may savor, love and honor every last second I have with my baby. Yesterday morning, I was glad at having woken up so early, for it allowed me more time to be cognizant of my last moments with the Tiny One…my Tiny One.
Brett and I left for the hospital at 5:15 am, and for better or worse, time seemed to be in fast-forward. I’m thinking it was all for the best because the contractions I was having were becoming quite uncomfortable. I opted to undergo a D&E, so as not to have any negative association with the beautiful birth experience, so the day prior the doctor began the process of preparing my body for the surgical removal of my Tiny One. At a few minutes after 7 am, the anesthesiologist came into my room and began wheeling me away. I didn’t expect to be fully aware of leaving Brett, as I thought he would be by my side until I was asleep, but we quickly clarified with the doctor that this was our goodbye. They stopped wheeling me long enough for B and I exchange a quick kiss, and a knowing look, and off I went. I wasn’t anticipating much in the way of fear, but the transport from Brett to the operating room filled me with an almost paralyzing fear. It would make for a really awful roller coaster ride at some theme park to have the ride be performed in the lay-down position, being wheeled around innumerable corners, having the view of sterile fluorescent lighting, entering through an assortment of strange doors, catching glimpses of strangers wearing the same blue outfits, and the grand crescendo of entering an operating room with the knowledge that within lurks many sharp instruments with which much pain could be inflicted, and being wheeled beneath a suspended grouping of blindingly bright lights. I can tell you with conviction, I would never go on that ride voluntarily, thankyourverymuch. The doctor said a quick hello, and I was promptly asked to scoot over to the operating table. I found myself shivering uncontrollably, as seems to be my natural response to heightened nerves. Upon recognizing my shivering the nurse covered by body with a heated blanket, as the anesthesiologist told me that I would be drifting to sleep in no time. My last memory is thinking, “If I am to go, I am incredibly glad to go warm…”
And then I awoke to voices, and a dimness of light, in a new room. I heard my doctor, and I realized first, “I’m alive!” I opened my weighted eyes only to be met with unfamiliar surroundings, and uncontrollably shut them again. Upon realizing I was awake, my doctor promptly told me that all went well. He relayed that my cervix had dilated perfectly, and the removal went as smoothly as it possibly could. Oh, the tears, how they began running their familiar, relentless course, for it was in that moment that my second, more paralyzing realization came, “My child is gone.” It wasn't a mole, a tumor, or even a limb that was removed; it was my child. And then he told me, per my earlier request, that it was a girl. I felt tears, seemingly as big as softballs, streaming down my face, for I not so secretly longed for another girl. I so wanted Scout to have a sister, because I deem that bond and relationship incredibly sacred and special. I would have been thrilled to have a boy, of course, but had I been given the chance to choose, my pick would have been a girl. I found myself filled with despair at the realization that I would never see or hold my daughter, but at the same time filled with a thankfulness of heart, being reminded that God knows my yearnings, He knows my desires. It was with that thought that I again fell asleep.
I awoke to the nurse asking if I needed anything, to which I responded, “Just my husband.” She promised I would see him soon. She was right, for the very next moment I heard his voice, and was so grateful. We wept together, in our shared sadness, yet felt satiated in our love and gratitude for one another. We have found incredible comfort sharing in this grief together. Just as I was filled with a deep and profound love for Brett after the birth of Scout, I have found that this process of pain and grief has birthed a new level of love, connection, and commitment to one another.
I am pleased to say that not once through this process have I wondered “why?” And I have only momentarily wondered “how?” I have embraced the fact that it just…happened. I know that it was nothing I did, or Brett did, or the next-door neighbor’s dog did…it just did. I am not angry with God, nor am I angry with anyone else. We have many dear friends, including my sister-in-law, who are pregnant, and I am not jealous, nor do I wonder why it happened to my baby, and not theirs. Oh, I do not wonder this at all. I find myself longing even more strongly for the health of their babies, the happiness of their hearts. I find myself wanting, with temerity, to share in their joy, to let them know of my love.
I am heartbroken, but not irreparably so; I am downtrodden, but not destroyed. I am, at my core, filled with hope and grace, neither of which has come without the other. It is for this very reason that Brett and I have decided to name our baby girl Grace Hope. Knowing our tendency to add an “ie” or “y” to the end of names, she will most likely be called Gracie. Though we didn’t get the chance to meet our little girl, it is through her that we have learned more about the beauty of both grace and hope than we had ever learned up to this point. I really don’t believe we could have learned any other way, though I desperately wish it were possible. Alas, this is the journey required of us, so we must not only accept it, but we must humbly embrace it, and claim it as ours.
Brett and I returned home from the hospital yesterday afternoon. Almost immediately, after a brief, but perfectly timed visit from our sweet Scouty, who was being watched by Nana and Papa, I slept for a few hours. Upon waking, I walked out of our room into our quiet house to find Brett. I looked out the kitchen window and saw my sweet husband working in the garden in the front yard. Without hesitation, I walked outside and joined him. As I sat alongside him, watching him work, I realized that for the first time since Tuesday the sun was shining. Tears immediately flooded my eyes, for I was reminded that things are just as they should be: God has our sweet Grace in His arms, and the skies will not remain gray forever.