Friday, November 22, 2013

Of Loss and the Love God

I was a very blessed mama in that I hadn't experienced the pain of miscarriage with any of my 9 pregnancies.  I always knew that it was a very common occurrence, and that it could happen with any pregnancy.  Honestly, I think I thought it would happen almost every time, especially as I have gotten older.  In April 2013, I found out I was expecting our 10th baby.  I was so excited, as the older I get, the more I feel the reality that my childbearing years are quickly drawing to a close.  I am acutely aware that I may never carry another child in my womb again. So I was thrilled to see a positive pregnancy test that day in April.  I honestly wasn't too worried about losing the baby to miscarriage this time.  I was busy with my bustling household of growing children, homeschooling, helping with the animals on our farm, and spending time with my husband.

Things seemed to be going well for the first trimester.  I went in for a pregnancy confirmation with my OB at 9 weeks, and I even got to see our little one's heart beating away, very strong.  I was at peace.

Shortly after the 9-week visit with my OB, I did actually begin to feel that something wasn't right.  I felt like my belly wasn't growing as quickly as it should be at that stage for my 10th pregnancy.  I have a Doppler fetal heart rate monitor, with which I had been able to hear Hezekiah's heartbeat at 10 weeks.  So, at around 10 weeks, I decided to try and find baby #10's heartbeat.  I was aware that it was kind of early to be able to hear the heartbeat, but I tried anyway, remembering that I had found it with a little patience during the same time in my pregnancy with Hezi.  This time, I tried for a really long time, and all I heard was static or my own heartbeat.  I mentioned it to Todd, and he reassured me that it was really early and I shouldn't worry.  I waited a week and tried again, thinking that surely this time I would hear it, since I was a whole week further along.  After searching longer and harder this time, I was discouraged by the sounds of static and again just my own heartbeat.  I began to feel that something was definitely wrong.  By this time, the children knew that I was expecting, and they were beginning to tell people.  They all get so excited about a new baby in the family.

Right around 11 weeks, we had a field day at our house for a homeschool group in which we have been involved for years.  While we were introducing families to new members of the group, Enoch excitedly announced that we not only had the 9 children present but were going to have #10 in December.  I had a strange feeling about announcing the pregnancy to so many people.  I just had that gut feeling that something was wrong.

That weekend I kept trying to find the heartbeat to just reassure myself that all was ok.  I never found it.  On Sunday, June 2nd, while we were at church, I started to spot just a tiny bit.  I felt so sick and shaky.  I had never spotted with any of my previous 9 pregnancies.  I just knew in my heart that the baby had passed away.  We decided to head right to the hospital.  Someone from our church took our kids home for us after the service, which was a blessing.

I kept trying to think positive thoughts, like spotting is pretty common in pregnancy, and I wasn't really bleeding.  Maybe it was nothing serious, and we would find out the baby was just fine.  Deep inside, though, I knew our baby was dead.  A couple hours later, I was told that everything seemed to be fine, and we could go home and follow up with my OB the next day.  I insisted upon having an ultrasound while we were there.  They wheeled me back, and I had a very detached ultrasound tech coldly measure a bunch of things, all the while telling me nothing.  I could see what I knew was the form of our baby, still and lifeless, no familiar little heart beating as I had seen so many other times in ultrasound rooms.  The tech wasn't supposed to say anything, but I wished she could tell me everything was fine.  I knew for sure then that it wasn't all fine, but we still had to wait for the doctor to come tell us.  To me, the doctor was cold and unfeeling, not even saying he was sorry for our loss.  I cried on Todd's shoulder, and we waited to be released.  The nurse who discharged me was the only sympathetic person in that whole experience at the hospital.  She was very sweet, and looked at us saying, "You're still young!  You can have more babies in the future!"  Todd and I kind of chuckled and thought, "You have no idea!" Still, our loss was very real to us.  A child would now be missing for our family, and I felt that ache I know so many women have felt--women I have known and tried to comfort when I knew really nothing of what they were feeling.  Now I did know.  Even though it was our 10th child, it was still very difficult for me.  We went home to wait for the miscarriage to happen.  I had had what they call a "missed miscarriage."  My baby had died around 9 weeks (must have been right after I had seen the ultrasound) but my body was holding onto the baby.  We decided against having a D&C, hoping everything would happen naturally.  I also really wanted to have something to bury, as odd as that might sound.  This was my baby, a little sibling of my children, and I didn't want him or her to just be thrown away in a hospital.

As I waited to miscarry our baby, I wondered what I had done wrong.  Had it been dragging our new dairy goat to the shed every morning and struggling to get her on the stand?  Was it the running I had been continuing to do even after I found out I was expecting?  Maybe I hadn't eaten the right things.  Maybe I didn't get enough sleep. Had something I'd done or not done killed my baby?  Those feelings of guilt were unlike anything I had ever felt before.  I cried a lot, but I was ok a lot, too.  It was definitely an emotional roller coaster.

We had planned a trip that week to go to Dallas to see my niece graduate from high school.  I had bought a cheesy shirt that said, "Baby on board" to wear so we could announce the pregnancy to the family when we arrived in Dallas.  The shirt arrived in the mail the day after I started spotting.  I dreaded going to Dallas and having the miscarriage happen there.  I just wanted to stay home.

We left that Tuesday for Dallas, and I still hadn't started to even have any cramping.  During this time, also, Todd's beloved grandmother was nearing the end of her life in Pittsburgh, PA.  We heard upon arriving that she had stopped eating and was no longer conscious.  Everything seemed so sad.  Getting there and being around family, however, was just what I needed.  Everyone was so wonderfully supportive and loving.  Todd's sister, who had experienced a miscarriage with her second baby (who was due just a month after our first child), was such an encouragement and comfort to me.  I was so glad to be there surrounded by our wonderful, loving family. Instead of the dread I had previously felt, I was relieved and blessed to be there.

All day Tuesday passed, as well as all day Wednesday. I didn't even have the slightest cramp.  As sad as I was for our loss, I began to just hope and pray that my body would begin to work to get the baby out so I could move on with my life.  I knew I could be waiting for a while.  The doctors had said it was ok to wait for my body to take care of things, but I really didn't want it to go on and on.

Early Thursday morning, June 6th, I began severe cramping and heavy bleeding.  I desperately wanted to find the baby as the miscarriage progressed, so as morbid as it sounds, I searched for it.  I was bleeding so heavily I wasn't sure I would be able to find the baby.  I began to panic in the middle of that night as I seemed to be bleeding quite a bit.  We thought about going to the hospital, but waited to see what  would happen.  Todd's mother came in around 6 am to tell us that his grandma had passed away around the same time I had started bleeding that morning.  It was devastating, but I could imagine in my mind sweet Grandma Beighey holding our little one on her lap in heaven.  What a comforting picture that was to me.

All that day, I felt like I was in labor, with contractions coming every few minutes, back pain, and leg pain.  I was able to rest and lie down, even sleep as most of the day went by.  The graduation was Thursday evening, however, and I began to think I wasn't going be able to be there.  That would have been a huge disappointment to me.  Miraculously, just about an hour before we were supposed to be ready to leave the cramping let up a lot, and I felt ok enough to get up, bathe and get ready to go.  I was so thankful to The Lord that I hadn't had to miss out on this special event.  I could really see the hand of God in everything.  I was sad but thankful and blessing The Lord through it all.

My bleeding started to really lessen by Friday. I was disappointed that I hadn't gotten to see the baby, but I had accepted that perhaps God didn't want me to.  Maybe it would have been too upsetting.  I was glad to be able to begin to move on a little.

We returned home Saturday, and the worst of the cramping and bleeding was over.  Looking back, it was such a blessing to have had the miscarriage happen in Dallas where I had lots of support and help.  Todd had to fly to Pittsburgh very early Sunday morning for his grandmother's funeral.  I thought about how awful it would have been if I had had the miscarriage while he was gone.

Todd came back Tuesday evening.  The miscarriage seemed to be pretty much over.  Two days later was Todd's birthday.  That morning, right after he left for work, the baby passed out of my body.  Since I had mostly stopped bleeding, it was unmistakable. I was floored by the goodness of The Lord in granting me this desire to have my baby to bury properly and be remembered.  We had a little funeral that evening.  Though it was Todd's birthday, and really not the most uplifting thing to do on his birthday, it was such a blessing to be able to gather the children, read scripture and pray together. We buried our baby on our property and we plan to plant a tree over the place where he or she is buried. Doing this, we were able to give everyone some closure.  We named our baby Shai Jordan Erdner.  Shai means "gift."  I don't think all of the children really felt the loss until we held our little funeral for their baby brother or sister that they would never meet this side of heaven.  We all cried together, and some of the children cried quite a bit.  Poor little Enoch cried for probably 2 hours after the funeral.

A couple of weeks later, I went to a movie and dessert with Nina and a friend and her mom as a reward for the girls timing a lot during the speech and debate regional competition in May.  While we were eating our dessert, we began talking about the miscarriage, and my friend mentioned a book she had read entitled Heaven is for Real.  She said I should read it because it would encourage me.  There was mention of a miscarried baby being seen in heaven by a little boy who was given a vision of heaven (his older sister, miscarried before he was conceived).  Nina looked at me and said, "I wonder if the baby would have looked like you, Mom."  Then she cried for about 10 minutes.  A little girl missing the sibling she wouldn't get to know on earth.  I cried with her.

I kind of forgot about the book until August, when Todd and I got to visit some dear friends as we traveled to Oregon for a few days.  As I shared with my friend about our miscarriage, she ran and got a book and said, "You have to read this!"  It was the same book my other friend had mentioned to me.  I began reading that evening and finished it on the plane ride home.  It was an amazing book.  I loved reading about the sister of the little boy who had been miscarried before he was conceived.  She introduced herself to the boy and said she had no name because her parents hadn't given her one since she was miscarried early in the pregnancy.  I was so happy we had chosen a name for our baby.

Just a few days later, I found out I was pregnant again!  I was so surprised and incredibly humbled and blessed.  I had not expected that The Lord would bless us with another baby so soon after our loss.  I have to admit that these first few months of pregnancy it has been extremely difficult not to worry.  I really am not a worrier, but I couldn't help but worry about everything.  I wasn't feeling too sick, was something wrong?  Was my belly growing fast enough?  Would I find the heartbeat this time width my Doppler?  What if I couldn't?

This time, I tried to find the heartbeat right at about 9 weeks, which is extremely early.  I searched for a while, and just when I was thinking it was just too early, there it was! Thank you, Lord!  Very faint, but most definitely the baby's little rapid heart beat.  I checked again several days later and couldn't find it.  I worried and cried and begged The Lord to spare this baby.  When I tried again later that night, I easily found it.  I felt like my baby had been resurrected!  It was a strange experience, and I don't really know what happened, but I know God has given us a gift that He can freely choose to take away at any time, even later in the pregnancy, as I've seen happen before to several women I know.  After that day of panic, I have resolved to just lay this baby at the Lord's feet, fully trusting Him for the outcome. He is so good.

I am just about 18 weeks pregnant, with this 11th baby, and I am feeling wonderful.  The children are so excited. It is such a blessing and an honor to be carrying another little one.  I am older, and these childbearing years are soon fleeting away, but I am trusting fully in His plan for me and my family.  I can't wait to see what He has in store for us.  I have seen such LOVE in the midst of the LOSS that we experienced this past summer.  I have a very real and loving God who has made Himself so very present and so very gentle and caring with me at such a time of pain and grieving.  How blessed I am to know Him!  And I know with full confidence that I will see our precious missing baby #10, baby Shai Jordan, someday when I get to heaven!  How wonderful will that be!

"The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD."  Job 1:21

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