WARNING - This post contains some of my memories of a very traumatic and personal day in my life. I have chosen to do this as a way for me to remember and shed light on a dark day that my husband and I comemorate in our own way every year. It is an experience I am sure we share with many others. But it is not pleasant.
At about 3:30 am on Ash Wednesday morning of 2001, I woke up in our bed and discovered two heart-rending facts at once. I was pregnant, and I was having a miscarriage.
Waking up in a pool of blood on a cold February morning, my cries of fear waking up my husband.
Crying in the bathroom as my insides twist and blood clots work their way out.
The quiet unbelieving ride to the hospital, mercifully short.
Trying to explain to the hospital staff at the door what we need when we don't really understand what is happening and don't know what to do.
Trying to explain extremely personal symptoms and an emotional series of events in a detached way over and over again to the parade of complete strangers coming into the room who all want to examine me, which makes it hurt even worse.
Listening to people talk about me when I am right there in the room, but not helping me as I continued to bleed and twist in pain.
Holding my husband's hand so tight, trying not to cry, trying to listen and stay calm.
Not knowing what to say when the doctor finally comes and is incredulous and patronizing that I hadn't figured out earlier in the night that I was having a miscarriage.
Growing weaker and weaker from loss of blood, from waves of pain that just won't stop.
Being taken to the ultrasound to see inside. Weeping to see what is left of the brief life of my baby, as the technician, who is angry about having to come in early, looks very uncomfortable and hustles us out of the room.
Agreeing with the doctor that surgery is the best option at this point, agreeing with anything that will make it all go away.
Crying and talking with my husband.
Calling my parents to tell them, not knowing how to tell them, wishing so badly my mother was here to hold me.
Crying and talking with my husband.
Being wheeled into a room to wait for surgery. Afraid and alone. Unable to pray. Unable to move. Unable to stand the truth of what is happening. My mind and heart are so choked I find I cannot speak a word or think clearly.
Henrietta, a hospital volunteer and member of my congregation comes in. She comes to my side and looks at me with eyes filled with compassion. She takes my hand, and asks if I would like her to pray with me. I nod yes. She prays in that dark room, and gives my heart its words, gives my empty dry mouth its prayer. She is my angel, my gift of the Holy Spirit, my promise of life in the valley of the shadow of death. She apologizes for the poorness of her prayer, concerned that her laywoman's prayer is a poor offering for her pastor. I try to reassure her that she has spoken with God's own voice, but words have left me. I can only smile and cry as she pats my hand.
They wheel me into the cold surgery room. I am so afraid. Tears run out of my eyes and past my ears as they give me the anesthetic. The surgery team says little as they prepare, so the main sound I hear is my voice, which has come back as a whisper. I can hear my dry cracked voice whispering "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want..." Then there is only sleep.
Recovery was a long slow process. Physical recovery for me. Emotional and spiritual for both my husband and me. My congregation members were gentle with us, and loved us well. My mother-in-law, who had had a miscarriage before she had my husband, was so helpful. She came and took care of us and showed us a depth of sensitivity and gentleness and caring that we had never seen before. My parents, my brothers, and friends were supportive and saddened and bewildered by our experience. We felt loved, yet battered and fragile for a long while.
Miscarriage affects people in different ways. For some, it's sad, but just a bump in the road. We found it quite traumatizing I think because we had been trying for so long to get pregnant, and because I ended up losing a lot more blood than usual and had to be hospitalized. When I did get pregnant again, it was a fearful time, especially for the first three months, while the spectre of miscarriage loomed over our shoulders.
Seven years later, my husband brings me flowers and chocolate on Ash Wednesday, and gives me a big hug, a kiss, and a deep look. I cry a little when I'm alone as I look at the flowers and offer up a prayer of thanks for my beautiful daughter who is 4. Some day we may tell her about her big sister Grace who almost was.
I am grateful for so much. At the time, I wondered if I would ever know joy again. I have known so much joy and so much sorrow in the seven years since that day. Each year as I remember, something new has been added to the wisdom and experience I bring to this time of remembrance and meditation. It's a complicated mix, life is. Nonetheless, I am grateful.