“Every pregnancy is different,” people kept reminding me. “It must be a boy, who has the disposition of his father, all laid-back and calm, not fiery like his mother,” Ryan and I joked. Call it a mother’s intuition, but I knew there was something incredibly different about my second pregnancy than my first.
Little did I know when I wrote an article in early September 2011 for LifeNews that the major difference in my two pregnancies was that the first resulted in a live birth, and the second would tragically end by a miscarriage at 11 weeks.
What first started out as a mildly complicated pregnancy, when I was diagnosed with a ruptured ovarian cyst that I feared may result in miscarriage, quickly eased into a pregnancy absent of many of the uncomfortable symptoms that I experienced during my pregnancy with Olivia. No heartburn-hooray! No morning sickness-great! But as the 79 days of my pregnancy progressed, my contentment and joy with my pregnancy and the presence of our second child developing in the womb took a terrible turn. Although it’s fairly common for women to experience spotting and bleeding during pregnancy, I couldn’t shake the fear that there was nothing normal about what was happening to me. As I traveled across the U.S. for speaking engagements throughout September and October of 2011, I maintained frequent contact with my OB-GYN’s office, who was not overly concerned about my symptoms. When my symptoms increased to include abdominal pain and cramping in late October, however, the nurse inquired if I would feel better if I had an ultrasound to confirm that all, was indeed, okay.
As the day of the ultrasound grew near, Ryan and I began to contemplate all of the “what-if’s” of the pregnancy and our child’s life. Maybe there was truly something wrong? Maybe there was something physically wrong with me? I had done my research over the course of the preceding weeks. It could be something as simple as a chorionic hematoma, a clot that formed between the placenta and the baby. Bed rest until the blood clot passed might be ordered, which was more than fine with me. I hate to sit still for any length of time, but I would do whatever it took to protect our child’s life. Maybe there was something wrong with our baby? We were prepared to learn whatever the diagnosis and give our child all of the love and care necessary. Maybe there had truly been a miscarriage, and our child was no longer alive? It crossed both of our minds, and we let the concerns and fears cross our lips, but Ryan and I held onto the hope that our ultrasound appointment would calm our fears and allow us the opportunity to come face to face with our second child for the first time.
The nagging fears came back full force as I described my weeks of symptoms and concerns to the ultrasound technician, and she began to perform the ultrasound. As Ryan and I watched as
the images were projected onto the large, black television screen on the wall, the tears began to flow from my eyes. There was no baby. Picture after picture was taken of the womb. We saw the gestational sac. The empty gestational sac. There was no baby. And despite the ultrasound technician’s professionalism and compassion, encouraging us to wait for the results to be read by the radiologist before forming any conclusions, I knew. Our child was gone. I didn’t need a radiologist to tell me what my body, and truly God, had been telling me for weeks. I had prepared myself for this moment, but yet, when it came, the pain was more than I could bear.
As Ryan and I waited for what seemed like hours in the dark quiet of the exam room, for the results of the radiologist’s assessment to come back, I crumpled into a heap in my husband’s lap and began the drawn out process of mourning for our child. Little could my husband have known when we celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary just two days beforehand, that he would soon be trying to console and support his wife who had now become yet another statistic, in addition to an abortion survivor—one of the 1 in 4 women whose pregnancies end in miscarriage.
Although it is often easy for those with even the strongest of faith to question God during times of difficulty, I knew that God was sitting right there in the exam room with Ryan and I that fateful day in October, holding our hands, as we learned the painful truth of our child’s passing. Not only did I feel Him there, but I saw Him, and I felt Him moving every day of our child’s life, opening my eyes and widening my heart for what was to come. It’s hard for me to be brief in describing God’s presence during these experiences, but I will highlight the most poignant moments.
When I was not quite 9 weeks pregnant, God came to me in a dream. I was in Indiana that night, having spoken at an event there that evening before heading off from there to Virginia for an event later that week. In the dream, I experienced all of the symptoms of the miscarriage that I later went on to have, which, non-coincidentally, started four days after I had the dream. In the dream, I remember crying out, “I don’t know why this is happening!” As I cried out, God was sitting there with me, holding my hand, and He calmly stated, “You don’t know yet, but I do. Don’t be afraid.” I remember waking up in a cold sweat that night, scared to death of what it might mean, but remembering, too, that I had nightmares about miscarriage during my pregnancy with Olivia. As I tried to interpret the meaning of the dream in the following days, I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that this was no ordinary nightmare that I had experienced. It was God, Himself, with a very clear message.
When the miscarriage symptoms started four days later, I was fearful, but not surprised. The dream had prepared me for what was to come. But what, exactly, was coming? As the days passed and my symptoms remained constant and later intensified, I didn’t know the painful truth, that our child had ceased developing and I was miscarrying, but the Lord knew, and He was right there by my side. In fact, not only did He walk with me, but He brought others into my life who would be of great support to our family in our time of loss.
On October 22nd, I was blessed to speak at a benefit for the Paul Stefan Foundation, which is located in Locust Grove, Virginia. As the foundation’s website (www.paulstefanhome.org) states, they are a “pro-life home, for those involved in a crisis pregnancy, that came into existence through the intercession of St. Andrew and Our Lady of Guadalupe.” The foundation is named after Paul Stefan James who was born and died on December 13, 2005. He was carried to term and delivered despite his mother having been advised to secure an abortion. I was honored to meet Paul Stefan James’ parent’s, Randy and Evelyn, and as I spoke that evening at the gala, the words that kept coming from my lips were about God’s will, answering His call for our lives, whatever that call is, and the beauty that unfolds in this world when we simply say yes to Him. It’s not out of the ordinary for the Holy Spirit to move me in one direction or another when I speak, but that night, I was so emotionally connected to those particular words, to Randy and Evelyn’s loss, and to the amazing good that was now being done for women and children in need through their son’s life, that I was overcome.
I could feel deep down in my soul that God was opening my eyes and widening my heart that night to something that I couldn’t yet understand, and as I became acquainted with the women at my table that evening—including a perinatal hospice nurse who had cared for Paul Stefan James and a young woman who had created a foundation that supports those who have experienced loss, LLOST (The Loss of Loved Ones Through Sudden Tragedy), http://www.llost.org/, after losing her brother through a tragic accident, I knew that none of this was an accident. None of the experiences, none of the acquaintances I was making were happenchance. God was widening His circle of support for me and preparing me for the inevitable.