Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. 

On this day every year I remember, with a bittersweet mix of grief and gratitude, the five little ones our family has been blessed with since our fourth child was born. 

One day we'll meet you in heaven, dear Jordan, Eden, Carlan, Quinn, and Ellery. Though we never properly met you, we miss you just the same. 

Three years ago, in late July, I wrote of the loss in a post entitled Losing Ellery

Well, as I sit here recovering from the grogginess--general anesthesia yesterday, dozing in and out of sleep all morning--I pause to capture a few emotions.  The nurse yesterday told me the anesthesia would be in my system for at least 24 hours, and that I shouldn't drive, cook, operate machinery, or make any important life or financial decisions during that time.  The last one made me smile.  Does getting on the computer to post emotions to the world on a blog count?!

At any rate, here they are--groggy, confused, and "under the influence"--but this is what I'm thinking about on this day.

This D&C was the first I've had performed under general anesthesia.  In some ways, it is much easier, emotionally, that way. Well, at least during the "during"...

The natural miscarriage that was our first one--at thirteen weeks--was really horrible.  There was lots of bleeding (as in "you might as well just sit on the toilet" bleeding) and excruciating pain (as in "this feels just like labor, but I don't get the joy of a baby at the end of it so it is even worse" pain).  We had been taken aback by that first miscarriage--shocked, really--because I had never had any trouble before.  The kids and we were so excited about the baby, and we were all pretty devastated when it died.  We called that baby Jordan.

The next miscarriage was my first D&C and was actually two procedures since they didn't get all the tissue out the first time.  I was awake for these procedures--and the barbaric nature of it all is in your face as you listen to the grinding motor of the suction machine, wince under the pain of the scraping and poking going on inside you, hear the sounds of the "uterine contents" that is your baby make its way into the jar attached to the machine.  It really does seem like something out of early last century; you'd think this technology would have progressed beyond blind scraping and sucking with a machine that looks like something you'd use to blow up your air mattress.  Anyway, this is different from the natural miscarriage that lasts days in your home, but still emotionally difficult as well as physically uncomfortable, and you tend to cry all the way through it, too.  Nurses and doctors who want to be compassionate but who do this all the time give you small smiles of pity, and you just want to crawl away somewhere and bawl.  But you put on a brave face and assure them you're fine, and yes, they can keep going.  We called this baby Eden.  

My third miscarriage was, mercifully, more like a very heavy period, just six weeks along, a mere two weeks past the positive pregnancy test.  By three-in-a-row, you're getting a little jaded and numb anyway, so it was nice to have this baby leave us in a little less emotional way.  By this time, I began to realize that I was dealing with the pain of the loss separate from the procedure of the miscarriage itself... it was more of a lengthy, philosophical journey of "processing" and pain and prayer and tears.  Saying goodbye to little babies you'll never meet is difficult business...this one we called Carlan.

Our fourth miscarriage ended with another D&C; that time, like this one, my body was not getting the hint that the baby had died and that all this pregnancy stuff it was growing was not needed.  The moment the machine started up--though it had been years since the last one--all the emotions of the past D&Cs returned, and I relived the loss of all our babies even as I had to listen to them "remove" this one.  It is tricky stuff, trusting God in the pain of our lives, receiving His will when it seems so out of sync with what you think you would prefer.  This fourth little life was relinquished a couple of years ago now, at a little over ten weeks along.  That child we named Quinn.

For a couple of years after this, I did not conceive.  I had begun blogging by then, and was processing a lot of the emotions of these losses onscreen.  I find it therapeutic, having to capture all the myriad of thoughts and emotions into some sort of coherent thing that I can come back to and read.  I remember my 41st birthday being particularly difficult, as I faced the reality that my advancing age may, in fact, rob us of the joy of another child born into our family.

And so now, at age 43, we say goodbye to another baby.  I've really processed the emotion of this loss over the past several weeks, and so by the time I got to surgery yesterday--this time under general anesthesia--the goodbyes of my heart had been said, the tears shed.  It was rather a perfunctory-feeling thing yesterday, since they put me under and I woke up with it all over.  No bleeding and pain, no grinding machine, no reminders of what was happening to me and to a little baby-who-would-never-be, at least on this earth.

And so I sit, a little groggy and a little sore, with a little spotting, toying with letting the tears which tickle the corners of my eyes, come... but not so sure I want to cry anymore.  I remember one particular morning, a few weeks ago, when iivo and I just sat and wept--both of us--as we read the poem I'd written as I wrestled with letting another little one go before its time.  The goodbyes were really processed then, and the nature of this miscarriage really allowed the event itself to pass without emotional fanfare.  I embrace the part of that that is a mercy and respite, and yet I mourn the part of that that maybe doesn't mark it pointedly enough.  Your departure from us, little Ellery, is just as bittersweet to us as those of your lost brothers and sisters were.  And we are sad that it is now fully completed.

We release you to the One who loves you more than we ever could have, even if we had gotten to hold you in our arms and mentor you through this world with all the love we could muster.  We look forward to meeting you one day.

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