Sunday, January 1, 2017

Losing and Finding Hope (The Miracle of Mary)

Hope can be a scary thing; a vulnerability or an opportunity to open your heart to a potential devastation.  But hope, nonetheless to me will always be my default.  I believe I was raised to expect that eventually things do work out the right way. Now, the right way that eventually happens vs the right way we expect when we initially hope can be two extremely different things!  I look back at different points in my life and if I were to visit the "me of then" vs now I would see that they didn't work out how I hoped at that time but they did work out in a way that I wouldn't change.

When Tom and I were newlyweds, we wanted nothing more than to be parents. Married at 25 we wanted kids immediately.  At about age 27 we were told by an expert that we were never going to have kids naturally.  We decided on adoption because to us the important factor was being parents, not being pregnant.  We started the slow and confusing process of adoption; social workers, paper work, and wondering literally where in the world our son or daughter was or might be.  We sold our condo and bought a house knowing that it would be important to have a house for a social worker to visit and approve of.  We filed paperwork and tried to be patient.  This would take years they told us. Then, suddenly we got the unexpected news that I was somehow miraculously pregnant! We were thrilled. But the social worker said we had to cancel the adoption process which was surprisingly hard for me to do. We hadn't been matched with a child yet so we had to stop the process in light of the pregnancy.  I felt like I was letting go of the child I started conjuring in my mind.  But we stopped the process, said so long to the money invested, and re-adjusted our mind set to the baby on the way.  We felt so lucky to be pregnant, against the odds.  Proud to prove the experts wrong. Those few weeks were joyous and exciting but it didn't turn out how we expected.   On December 23rd of that year, I miscarried.  The baby of our dreams was no longer with us.  I no longer had a baby inside and no longer had an adoption in process.  I was lost because suddenly I didn't have hope.  I just felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me and didn't know what to feel except for sadness.  We mourned the loss of the baby and more so the loss of hope because we felt this was a once in a life time chance we had been given.  But then, through time, quiet moments, love from family, support of friends and reflection, we began to hope again little by little.  We began to hope more.  Hope that maybe if we were successful once, we could be successful again.
Back to the doctors we went. Medication, charts, calculations, and hope. Month after month.  And then one day...the little stick had a plus sign!  We did it.  We were pregnant again.  My grandma had just passed away the month before and we asked her to send us a baby from heaven and here it was.  I knew this was our gift from her and I knew it was going to be ok.  Hope exploded in my heart.

Pushing 30 years old, 5 years of trying and it was finally going to work out. I was confident and calm that this pregnancy would be perfect.  But nothing is ever truly perfect, right?  Imagine my shock when  I rushed to the ER bleeding, hemorrhaging.  A physical exam was done, tests were taken  and I was told I had lost the baby.  This time I wasn't sad.  I wasn't angry. I wasn't terrified.  I was nothing. Because my mind could not accept that this baby, the gift, would be taken from me.  I spent weeks trying to figure out how to mourn, how to cry, how to start the grieving process.  Honestly, I don't even remember much because I just stopped feeling because I could not accept it.  Frozen. How could I ever find hope again?
Nearly two months went by and emotionally I was still on vacation but physically I just wasn't feeling well so I called my doctor and talked to the nurse about my symptoms. She had an odd tone in her voice and said she wanted to have me do some tests. I agreed to a blood test.  I thought I had an infection related to the miscarriage.  She called me the next day to say that my test had high HCG levels.  I asked her what that meant and she said it is a sign of pregnancy.  I told her it was wrong, we hadn't tried for a baby, there must be something wrong with my body. I had heard of miscarriages that weren't complete and left tissue behind in the uterus and I thought this was what was happening. She insisted I have an exam.
Tom took me to the ultrasound and I was so upset when the tech happily asked me how far along I was because I had to tell her I miscarried.  I thought she was so insensitive.  We headed in to the ultrasound and the tech hooked up the machine, inserted the ultrasound wand and gasped as something gray and blobby flashed onto the screen.  She yanked the wand fiercely out of me, causing me to flinch.  I said "what's going on?!"  I really thought there was some kind of mass inside of me. She said "There's a baby in there!  A BIG baby!"  It was like she was speaking another language because her words made no sense. Finally I started stacking her words in order and comprehending them.  "A baby? Is it? Is it like, alive?" I asked in confused voice.  And she gave me a weird look and said "It's moving all over. And it's big. Too big for me to do an ultrasound like that safely. Sorry to have yanked like that but I have to do an ultrasound on your belly."  I looked at Tom because I was so confused.  I truly couldn't understand what was happening.  He was crying.  The kind of tears I hadn't seen in a long time.  Tears of joy and tears of hope.  And I was still just trying to understand what was happening.  I didn't understand his tears.  I wasn't pregnant, I thought.  I lost the baby, I thought.  The tech was just confused, I thought.
It probably only took 5 minutes for her to set up the machine but I truly felt like it took 20 minutes, like she was stuck in slow motion.  I wanted to know what was inside of me, what was wrong because I couldn't, I wouldn't dare hope that there was actually a baby.  She finally applied a big glob of gel to by abdomen and pressed the paddle down and the screen came to light with different shades of grey.  "There's the baby!" she said " You definitely have a baby in there!" Grin grin goes the tech's face.  More tears from Tom as he stares in wonder at the screen and squeezes my hand.  All I can think is wait - wait for her to tell you what's wrong.  Wait for the bad news.  Wait.  But the tech happily continues to point at the screen.  A head, an arm, look, a foot.  She says "How far along were you when you were told you lost your baby?"  10 weeks I tell her.  "How long ago was that?" She asks.  I estimate about 7-8 weeks ago.   She explains "this baby is measuring near 20 weeks. You didn't miscarry this baby. Maybe a twin. Maybe a complication.  But this baby is healthy. You did not lose this baby."
I was half way through the pregnancy that I thought I had lost. It turns out that the E.R. doctor got it wrong and the tests that would prove it were lost and not delivered to my OBGYN so we didn't know the truth for 7 weeks when my nurse was smart enough to order the blood test and ultrasound.  And in that moment, gel drying on my tummy, lights dimmed, and the sound of a baby's hearbeat echoing through the room, every bit of hope I thought I lost came rushing right back into me, into my smiles, into my tears, into my iron grip on Tom's hand.  Hope wasn't gone, I'd been hiding it right behind my heart.   This is the story of Mary. The story of hope.

Never lose hope. Don't be afraid to hope again. Sometimes you might need to put hope on hold for a while, stick it on the shelf for a bit to let the other feeling take their turn but never lose it forever.  In our darkest moments, whether they be personal, political, familial, social, we have to remember that with time and patience, it will work out.  Hope will get us there.  Time and hope.

1 comment: