Sweet Basil’s would-be estimated delivery date is quickly approaching, and so I remember.
Basil changed my life.
Carrying on with the “herb garden” theme for naming our pre-born babies, we affectionately dubbed baby, “Basil.” For some reason, it might just be my favorite of the names we’ve used so far.
I found out I was pregnant on Mother’s Day 2012. Perfect, right? I thought so, too, and viewed it as a happy sign from God that all would be well with the little bean.
More happy “coincidences” gave me confidence that this would be our next take-home baby. Poppy would finally have a little sibling to love and grow up with. Chris and I would get to enjoy newborn snuggles and the joy of meeting a new little human once again.
One of those “coincidences” was my would-be due date – the end of January. Two years apart exactly! And, can I just say how much I loved being nine months pregnant in the winter? And, ridiculous but true, I already had the perfect first birthday planned for sweet Basil. It’s a theme I found just a little too late for Poppy’s first birthday – Winter One-derland! My pun-hating husband would just have to deal. It is that cute.
Needless to say, it was mere days (hours?!) before I was yet again all in with this little blessing.
I wonder if all women behave the way I do upon learning of a new miracle growing inside of them. I would imagine so. But, sometimes I wonder if this is a personality trait that makes losing my babies that much harder for me. Then I remember that it’s not meant to be easy. I don’t want to think of losing my sweet babies as easy. It isn’t. By no stretch of the imagination do I think miscarriage should be viewed casually. After all, we’re speaking about eternal souls.
But I digress.
The early days passed similarly to how I remember them going with Poppy. Similar symptoms and all. Even though the fear of a second loss was real, I think I genuinely believed deep down our hard days had passed.
Sadly, so many women experience miscarriage at least once in their lifetime. Overwhelmingly, most women carry healthy babies to term the next go around. I was relieved — we had gone through the fire and come out alive. We “passed the test” and would now be home free.
Man do I have a lot to learn sometimes.
We had so much fun with this pregnancy. In hindsight, God blessed us with the ability to genuinely celebrate this little life despite lingering fears or life’s complications. We purchased a sweet little pair of gray shoes from Target that we excitedly used to put together a little photo project (Thank you Pinterest). We printed the photos and mailed them off to family and friends. We even attempted to mail them in waves so that everyone would receive them on the same day – local or far away.
We were visiting friends the day their photo arrived. Because we were itching to tell them the news, we made up some (mostly true) story of our days living in Denver and how memorable our walks were each night to check the mail. They thought we were nuts but gave us the mailbox key and sent us on our way. We all laughed moments later once the secret was revealed.
Just a few days after receiving all the wonderful and exciting congratulatory calls, texts, and notes, the spotting started.
I was 6 weeks 6 days and, while nervous, reassured myself that I had spotted with Poppy in my 6th and 7th weeks. All would be okay.
Because we had moved from Denver, I was seeing a new doctor. I had been in once for them to say, “hey! You’re right! You really ARE pregnant!” They also mentioned that they’d like me to call if I spotted so they could check things out. At the time, that was reassuring because not doing anything when losing Pepper felt… too passive.
After 24 hours or so of spotting, I made the call and got the appointment. I was to go to the lab for some blood draws and then proceed to get an ultrasound. Strangely, even though I was nervous, I was also excited. I truly thought all was well and this would be a chance to put my mind at ease. I also remembered reading that once the baby’s heartbeat was seen on ultrasound, the odds of miscarriage decreased. I would imagine that’s the case because so many babies die before they reach week 6 or so, generally about the earliest a woman will get an ultrasound.
Chris was in rotation number two for his final year of pharmacy school and was 3.5 hours away. It just wasn’t possible for him to be there. My mom had a conflict that day, too. So, my dear cousin offered to accompany me to help with Poppy. I didn’t want to leave her home, “just in case” I needed her hugs when it was all said and done.
Poppy hated the lab draws, but thankfully I remembered that from the first appointment I had, so my cousin was able to distract her a bit. We then got called back for my ultrasound.
Last minute, I remembered I had intended to show my cousin how to use the video camera on my iPhone to capture that little beating heart for Chris. I was trying to quickly show her how, and it went downhill quickly from there.
“Um, what are you doing?” The tech asked curtly. When I started to explain, he cut me off and said, “that’s not a good idea.” The nurse jumped in and pointed out that a sign on the front door of the clinic prohibits photography anyway. Sheepishly, we started to put my phone away when the tech pushed, “you’re here because you’re spotting right? So what makes you think this will be good news?”
Cue internal waterworks, fury, and silent prayers. Turns out I saw firsthand the truth in our blog verse, “He works all things for the good of those… Yadda yadda.” If it hadn’t been for that doctor’s insensitive and borderline harassing words, I wouldn’t have braced for the worst and cried out to The Lord for his strength to make it through the rest of the appointment. So there, rude tech. God used your ill-spoken words for my benefit. Good wins again.
My not-at-all-pregnant-looking 7 week 1 day belly was bared and the ultrasound started. I don’t remember how long it took before he spoke, but I think I knew instantly. There was no fluttering light heartbeat or dancing gummy bear images that I had seen with Poppy. Something was wrong.
I had always imagined that a missed miscarriage would be the worst “kind” to experience. To think all was well, go in for a routine appointment and find that baby was gone, and your body wasn’t yet ready to let go. While that still may be the worst experience, what I experienced that day was a whole new version of horrific.
A blighted ovum occurs when fertilization happens and hormones surge and symptoms develop, but baby dies before or shortly after implantation. A placenta and gestational sac continue to develop for a time, keeping the hormones up and symptoms flying. But, there was only a baby for the shortest time.
Experiencing a blighted ovum made me feel cheated. Like even the celebratory moments and days, the photo announcement, the symptoms were all a lie. Most of this pregnancy, I had been day dreaming about a baby that God had already gathered into His almighty arms.
I left the ultrasound feeling battered. The nurse and tech had certainly not redeemed themselves through the rest of our time together, and then no one at the front knew what to do with me. Follow-up appointments? More lab work? Any guidance for what to expect? No one could give me any information at all. Thankfully, one careful nurse found me in the waiting room and gave me an action plan.
I left bewildered, devastated, and shocked. Not only did I not know how to process my emotions but I certainly didn’t know how to process them in my cousin’s presence. She was wonderful. I just missed Chris with every ounce of me.
Thankfully Poppy fell asleep on our drive home and after my cousin left, I had the freedom to break down. It was definitely one of those wrestling matches with The Lord. Though I had technically been in this place before with Pepper, everything was so different this time. I wrestled and cried and cried and wrestled.
Frankly, that process continued for a long time — a very long time. In many ways, I’m still that girl, sitting on the couch trying to make sense of this path God has us on. This path that no one would ever choose but that I have to believe – know with my deepest being – is God’s best for me, even if I never understand.
The actual miscarriage process thankfully started the next day at 7 weeks 2 days. Often, women diagnosed with a blighted ovum must have surgery to complete the miscarriage because the body just never catches on. Some information I read even suggested that it wasn’t safe to diagnose a blighted ovum before 9-10 weeks in case the ultrasound imaging was just inaccurately presenting the status of the womb. I couldn’t imagined waiting it out, praying my body would enable me to avoid surgery.
So, as utterly painful as my natural miscarriage was, I see it as a blessing from God. I’m thankful that my body seems to take care of me in this way, at least.
There’s so much more to say about our sweet Basil; but mostly, I just can’t wait to meet this eternal soul that God allowed me to usher into heaven. In the moments when it all feels too hard–when I am not sure I can bear to walk this path any further, I have to remember that God is using Chris and me. He is populating heaven through our obedience and our desire to love and serve Him.
I am unworthy.