Eternal Rest...

I know I want to write about this, I just don't know how.  I've been thinking about it for weeks now.  Waiting, for weeks because I wasn't sure how I would be feeling when everything actually happened.  I processed things when I first learned that our baby was measuring smaller than anticipated and that we couldn't find a heartbeat.  A week later, I processed things when an ultrasound confirmed that we had indeed lost a pregnancy.  I continued to process things as I waited another week for something to happen.  I'm not sure what I was anticipating because  I hadn't really asked anyone, or read about anything and there were some communication challenges between my doctor's office and myself.  Once I learned what I might be able to expect, I was floored that I didn't realize any of this before.  I realize now that my writing has also provided much healing.

"I Knew You"

It dawned on me that I never ever realized what actually happens when a woman miscarries a baby.  I've been pregnant seven times before and I've labored seven times and delivered seven children and recovered consciously every time, and still it didn't even occur to me that there was more to a miscarriage than a little spotting or just one day sitting on the toilet and realizing before you flush that a little tiny under-developed baby had made it's way out of your body.  I had no idea the emotions that went along with all of it.  I don't really know what I thought.  I was sad for a mother whose pregnancy didn't go full term, but somehow the best way I can describe what I must have thought is that it was like making a gourmet cake that didn't bake right in the oven and couldn't be served at the elegant dinner party that you were hosting and now you would have to start all over again and hope that it all turned out just right the next time.  That is really lame, I know, but it's the best that I can come up with.  I didn't anticipate the level(s) of grief that would overwhelm me.  I didn't anticipate the physical pain.  I'm sure there is still more ahead of me that I don't have a clue about. 

Three and a half weeks after that first ultrasound,  I  spent my entire day, beginning at 3 am in about a 10 foot span of my house...between my bed and the toilet.  I got up and realized that I was bleeding pretty heavily and was relieved that things were progressing toward closure of these past long weeks.  I was told by many others that when things finally happened that I would feel like I was bleeding to death.  That was pretty accurate.  I would have been very alarmed if I wouldnt have known.  With that much blood loss comes the inability to function without feeling like passing out, so I pretty much laid in my bed...occasionally on the floor if I couldn't make it back.  I was nauseous, cramping a little, sweating, freezing, and scared out of my mind that I was not going to know when I passed the baby and that I was going to feel like this for days and days.  I was informed that this process could last anywhere from a couple of hours to several days.

At this point, I had accepted what has happened.  I would have been 13 weeks and 1 day that day...for me, I would have definitively looked pregnant. I would have magically had more energy.  I would have been able to feel that firm little round ball of a uterus in my belly and been reminded everytime I passed a mirror that I was a little closer to meeting someone new.  I would have known that it was only a matter of weeks before I could feel that little person swimming around in there.  Instead, I was lying on the floor, soaking wet with sweat and depleted of what must have been another gallon of blood from my body, getting ready to expel the little being inside of me that had already died seven weeks ago.  I thought to myself in the moment, "I don't ever want to feel like this again...the pain is too hurts too much."  That thought was regarding a miscarriage, but at that very moment, was also regarding a pregnancy...the physical pain of labor and delivery and recovery. 

I was momentarily angry that I likely wouldn't be able to find something that was a recognizable baby since the human body does such an efficient job of breaking down non-viable tissue.  Throughout this process, I mourned the loss of a pregnancy, but also the loss of a birth, of a baptism, of a first birthday, of another plate on the dinner table.  Of monthly baby pictures and nursing and dusting off baby gear.  Of that smell that only newborns have, of the little noises made while sleeping, of the way a new born lays on top of you and curls up and only takes up your chest.  Of labor pains that I could handle because I knew the end result was a prize like no other.  I mourned not knowing what she would look like or how her siblings would proudly show her off and cuddle with her.  While I knew that I would never need to protect her, I was crushed that I would never get to.

It's funny how I could feel like there could be no one in the world who could understand how I felt, the loss that I felt, the deep pain in my heart, when in all reality there are so very many that do.  I felt more like something rare and unusual was happening to me.  I realize that every woman...every mother probably handles this particular misfortune differently.  Some could very likely look at how I'm handling it and think "get over it already".  I know I hadn't had much time to even get used to the idea of being pregnant or connect with the little person growing in me, but it only takes a moment to become engrossed in the idea of falling in love with another child.

On Sunday, November 13th, our eighth child was "born at rest".  We expected her on May 18th.  I was entirely relieved to recover the "tissue" that was without a doubt our baby.  While I was able to see the head and eyes and lips and spine, it was difficult to depict details that would have been obvious to anyone but me...I don't know if that is because I am a mom or because of my background experience with anatomy.  That image will hopefully stay with me a lifetime, although it was not one I felt comfortable sharing with the kids. 

Again...many things that before this I had never given any thought to...what in the world happens to all those little miscarried babies?We decided we would name this child.  There was no way at this age that we could determine the baby's gender, but we really did anticipate a girl, and quite honestly, another girl helps tip the balance a little.  :) 

We gave her the name Annelise Maria..."Graced with God's Bounty and Wished for Child".  (I must add that the German origin of Maria means bitter, so despite our German heritage, we opted for the Hebrew version of "wished for child".)   We had decided that we wanted to have a burial...that we wanted our little one to be laid to rest in a cemetery.  We had several respectful options, but we wanted to have something that provided a tangible reminder of this little life that was returned to God. 

Our wonderful parish priest offered and encouraged a memorial service for her.  While I'm sure that some may think such a thing is unusual or even unnecessary, this was something that provided such comfort and some closure for us.

It was a beautiful little service with only Monsignor and our family.  Our dear friend Kristi, having experienced all of this herself, offered to be there to take pictures for us to have.  I hadn't thought of that, but I am so glad she did. 

Her family provided a little burial cradle for us when they first learned of our sad news.  Annelise is just feet away from their Joseph, and the children of another family of friends.  Eventually, we want to be able to put a marker over her space, but until then we'll remember where we stood when we return to visit.  I am at peace with all of least the part where I know that our baby is in Heaven.  I am scared of what lies ahead...I don't want the pain of another loss and I don't know how to weigh that with the joy of another child.  I know that sounds absurd, but it's real.  I do still recognize that God will not give me more than I can handle. 

Before I even continue, I really must note just how enveloped in love and prayers my family has been in the last month.  Every word of sympathy and compassion and encouragement, every prayer, every kind gesture has not gone unnoticed.  Every prayer, every meal, every phone call, every hug.  the friend that had her whole bible study praying for us. The "girls' night out pedicure...the flowers, the cards.  I feel blessed to be part of a community that can provide such a witness to the beauty of life.  To all of you, thank you. 

Eternal rest, granted to her oh Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon her.  May her soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.