What I Gave Up for Lent…Every Lent

(warning:  mildly graphic)

With everything in me, I knew I was pregnant.  My body screamed it to me.  I was late, my breasts ached, I was nauseous.  Pregnant.

The urine test said “no.”  The first one I had taken with Chris was negative, too.  I’d had an ectopic pregnancy six months ago, so they ordered a blood test, to be safe.  There was HCG.  Yep.  The one next week didn’t go up as much as it should’ve, but it was up.  Same with the next week.  In the ultrasound, the baby was clearly in the uterus, but it was too small to make out a heartbeat.  “It’s early.”  The doctor said.  “We’ll try next week.”  That was Monday.

The bleeding started Wednesday afternoon…it was light.  Rest.  Maybe that’s what I needed.  We’d already lost one baby.  After that, innocence is lost.  Until you see that heartbeat, anything can happen.  No heartbeat… Rest.  I’ll rest.  Chris and I will stay home from church.

Ash Wednesday.

Jeff left to go prepare for the service. He was a fresh-faced young pastor.  He kissed me and then kissed Christopher before he walked out the door.

It wasn’t long after that the contractions started and the bleeding increased.  I tried calling the doctor.  Got the answering service.

I was upset.  Upset with a toddler…that always works out well. A toddler who isn’t weaned and wants to nurse.  Nursing while in labor intensifies contractions.  Did you know that?  I’d read it before.  By the way, if you’re curious, it’s true.

I could already hear the inner critic – maybe my doctor when she called, or her nurse, or a faceless someone, maybe you.  “What are you doing?  You could make it worse!  You might make yourself miscarry if you breastfeed him.”  Even in the midst of all of this, a young mother is surrounded with critics in her head and without.

What was the other option?  On top of this hell, I could spend the next several hours pushing my 1 year old son away from me while he screamed and I bawled, or I could give him what he needed.   I was alone.  I was miscarrying.  It wasn’t going to stop. There was one thing I had control over.  I could comfort my son.  Nursing him wouldn’t have stopped it, I told myself.  It certainly made it more intense.  I could feel my uterus clench into a fist as he latched on.  But holding him was real.  A comfort. It was right.

The doctor called back.  I told her I was having contractions and bleeding is getting worse.  She said to just let it all play out, since I wasn’t hemorrhaging.  There is nothing that could be done.  She also wasn’t surprised.  The heartbeat wasn’t there.    God, I wanted Jeff.

Most of the evening I spent wailing on the toilet, nursing my upset toddler, feeling my body dilate and push.  I didn’t think I would labor this early.  I didn’t think it would happen this quickly.  Honestly, I was beyond thinking anything besides “Please God, no.”

Eventually, I laid down on the bed and Chris fell asleep.  I left the room and laid on my side on the couch.  I willed the contractions to stop, every breath a conscious effort designed to calm my body.  It seemed to work, or more likely, the work was done.

By the time Jeff got home all there was to do is hold me while I cried.  For all I know, Jessica might never have been alive, but either way, she was gone.

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