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.

Words of Comfort — Miscarriage

I wrote this post six years ago on my other blog, The Rebellious Pastor’s Wife.  I have participated in several discussions lately regarding miscarriage, and I thought I would repost.

Words of Comfort

I meant to write this a couple of weeks ago, but there hasn’t been time, so I apologize that this is an unusual writing for Easter, but in some ways it still fits.

Between my son and my daughter, are three children who are in Heaven.

There was Mara – we don’t know if she was a girl, but we had a boy in our arms, for some reason, it was easier to consider her a girl — whether because we wanted one, or because it was too painful to relate it to the idea of losing Chris. Mara means bitterness. Naomi had chosen it for herself when her own name, meaning “pleasant” could no longer apply to a woman who has lost her husband and two sons, and all she had.

We were in in the emergency room until 3 a.m. the night before my husband’s ordination, and the process of losing her took weeks. It was probably an ectopic pregnancy that “resolved itself,” they never could find the embryo…just an empty sac in my uterus, and a blip near my ovary. The HCG slowly went up for several weeks, and then slowly started going down.

Then came Jessica. We lost her at six weeks, on Ash Wednesday. It hadn’t been a week since we’d found out about her existence. I cried through the contractions while holding and nursing my one year old while my husband was at church conducting the service. There had been a little spotting, enough for me to stay home that evening, but nothing to indicate that miscarriage was imminent. By the time he came home, everything was done, and my toddler was sleeping calmly. I haven’t been to church on Ash Wednesday since.

Noah we lost at 19 weeks. The midwife couldn’t find his heartbeat, but we didn’t believe anything could be wrong until we saw the face of the ultrasound technician who wouldn’t let us see the screen. After all, we’d made it past the “dangerous time.” But she just sent us back out again and told us that our doctor would be calling. The doctor wanted to send me to an abortionist to get a D&E, because they were expert at the procedure that most OBs never have to perform. I wouldn’t let a murderer chop up and suck out my baby. My doctor then checked me into the hospital, induced labor, and continually checked on me through the night. We held him in our hands, wept over him, had him cremated, and gave him a memorial service with my inlaws in attendance. God bless them.

The congregation didn’t know about the first miscarriage. We didn’t know them well enough to let them know what was going on. I cannot begin to express the pain of enduring the other two losses in the public eye, putting on a brave face while people assured me “it was God’s will” or “you could always have another,” or worse “At least you have Chris.” Those are statements made to people who do not realize that the children lost were real. They stabbed my heart.

There were two words that brought me comfort. Words directly from the Bible…words that usually only seem to draw attention for their smallness…the shortest verse in the Bible. “Jesus wept.”

Jesus wept outside of Lazarus’s tomb, knowing full well that He would be raising him from the dead in just a few moments….knowing alsol that he would soon conquer death. Jesus wept because it was NOT His will that any of us should ever have to face death. Jesus knew so completely the eternal horror we would face because of our sinfulness. We often glibly dismiss what to him was so tragic that He Himself took on flesh and endured our punishment and conquered it so that we would not be utterly consumed by it.

A few weeks ago, these words rang in my ears again because they were the gospel text, and hearing them brought to mind that it was near that time again. Nine years ago, these words brought comfort to my heart because Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead was the gospel reading near the week that would’ve been Noah’s due date. As far as I am concerned, it is one of the richest texts in the Bible (and it blows me away that it isn’t even in the One Year Series)– showing Thomas’s loyalty to His Lord, allowing the much maligned Martha to be the one to run to her Lord and utter the clearest confession of faith in the resurrection of the dead that is in the Bible…..and to show so clearly how tragic death is…that death even brings the Lord of Life to tears.

It was not God’s will that my children died. I will see them again in Heaven, but to know that Christ wept with me over their deaths even though He is victorious over death brought so much more comfort than “it was God’s will.” That didn’t ring true. God never made man to die — He didn’t want us to know what evil was. He wanted us to eat from the Tree of Life. Satan and man conspired to bring to bring death and evil into the world. It was not God’s will that Adam and Eve should die, or that Lazarus should’ve died (twice), or that as we age our bodies should break down and turn on us, or that the babies that He creates to live should die before even taking a breath…His tears show that, as does His own death and resurrection.

He is risen, He is risen indeed, and because He rose from the dead, I know that I shall rise also, and I know with confidence that my children are safe with Him. My heart misses them and will always grieve that I was not allowed to hold them, know them, be with them….. because that is what we grieve when we lose those precious to us. We don’t lose that grief even when we have the comfort of their salvation. But they are at the feast that I was at today at the communion rail and someday I shall look upon them and know them….because He is risen.

Happy Birthday, Noah

On October 1st, my son turned sixteen.  Not Chris, he will be eighteen in two weeks.

Noah Tyler Horn.  Noah was born dead after his heart stopped beating somewhere around his 16th or 17th week of pregnancy.  Since I refused to go to an abortionist for a D&E, my doctor induced, and after a peaceful labor, I delivered him.  In the quiet hospital room we held him and said goodbye before we were able to say hello.

It blows my mind that I should have two teenage boys (not to mention the two other children that I miscarried early on in the pregnancies, too early to know if each was a boy or a girl).  We should be teaching him to drive, he should be sitting here doing homework, watching movies, and playing Nintendo with Chris and Maggie.  There should be another boy with a deep voice towering over me, teasing his sister, eating us out of house and home.  It would be a very different house.

With Jeff’s surgery it didn’t occur to me that his birthday had passed until a week later, but sixteen is such a tangible age. It doesn’t hurt, exactly, I can’t say exactly what it feels like.  I guess it just is.  But it’s real.