Thursday, January 28, 2010

I keep waiting for some clarity or closure to come to me with this so I can write a decent post, but nothing's coming yet. So I figure perhaps I'm being called just to post raw, without any nice revelations to share.

Little Acorn was not a miscarriage. After a week of bleeding my hormone levels were still registering pregnant, but they weren't doubling every few days like they would in a normal, healthy pregnancy. They did an ultrasound and confirmed an ectopic pregnancy in my right fallopian tube.

They'd suspected it for a while, since just about the only thing that would cause those sustained, low, puttering hormone levels was a pregnancy that had implanted outside the uterus, but I wanted firm proof before doing anything about it. For three days I prayed for a miracle, received the Anointing of the Sick, and called in every friend and family member to pray for me. Then I went in for my ultrasound and they told me my uterus was empty. It didn't even have enough lining to support life. The doctor said there was "nothing going on in there." I asked to see the ultrasound, and they showed me the white ring and dark blotches around it and said that was her.

I say "her" not because we have any idea of her gender, but because I felt the name Elizabeth so strongly in my heart while carrying her. I started bleeding on the feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, and I prayed for her intercession and promised to name the baby after her. I love the name, and with it comes a sense of the baby as a girl. So that's what I'm going with.

They gave me two shots, one in each hip, which didn't hurt as much as they said it would. I collected my kids and went home. I cried, of course, and felt deep sadness. I explained it to my kids, and my six-year-old showed remarkable understanding. My three-year-old thought the shots were to make the baby get well, since that's what I tell her vaccinations are for. She took a while to get it, but hasn't shown any reaction, for which I'm grateful.

I, on the other hand, have only felt worse and worse as the days go by. For the first week or so I had nightmares about finding Elizabeth, tiny, tiny, tiny, on the floor of the bathroom and putting her in a safe place in the cupboard. I had one where I gave birth and she opened her eyes. She was smaller than my palm and looked nothing like a baby, but I was just so elated that she was still alive and I could take care of her. I put her up against my heart, but then the next time I looked down, she had died.

I feel so much worse than when I thought I was miscarrying. I don't know if that's because of the circumstances of this situation -- where I had to actually let the doctors harm her rather than simply waiting on the will of God. Or perhaps it's because even while miscarrying, there was still such strong hope in me that the baby would somehow make it (hope supported by the many people who told me stories of how they or their mother or their sister or their friend had bleeding early on and still had a healthy baby.) Then when I had the shots, I felt everything just got taken away from me so quickly and came to such an abrupt and horrible end. I know a big part of it is the hormones and their dastardly fluctuations. Part of it is guilt, too. I feel like I didn't fight for her hard enough, though I know there's nothing I could have done.

But mostly it's just that I feel so terrible that she had to die. I pray, and all that comes to me is, "I'm so, so sorry, Elizabeth."

And part of me can't help but wonder...was it God's will that we both die? It's not always a certainty that the mother dies when an ectopic pregnancy ruptures the tube, but it's very dangerous and can cause infertility if it's not fatal. Have I thwarted God's will for me? Did He intend this to end my fertility or bring my soul to Him? I know in my mind that the Church encourages the use of medicine and does not ascribe to the idea that the only healing possible must come from God. But I wonder...and my heart is troubled.

I think of the poor. If I were a mother in Sudan or rural Bangladesh, or under a fundamentalist regime where women have limited access to doctors, I might not have known about the ectopic pregnancy until it was too late for both of us. In another age or place, they might not have been able to do anything about it. Should I count myself fortunate to live in America, with conscientious doctors and good insurance coverage?

I don't feel fortunate. I feel awful.

I miss Elizabeth.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Trust and Obedience

I had a great post planned about trusting in God and the intercession of the Saints. It was awesome. I'd been very stressed about an upcoming wedding where I'd have to make a speech, and decided I needed supernatural assistance. So I said a novena to St. Dymphna and immediately experienced an increase in confidence that God would take care of things and the speech would go well. When it went better than well, I was all prepared to sit down and crow about the power of God and how praying to the Saints really works. A success story! What a great post!

Then my life took a surprising turn. I found out I was pregnant. And just as quickly, found out I was miscarrying. Yesterday morning I had a dizzy spell while driving my daughter to preschool and had to pull over and get out of the car. It triggered a massive panic attack which led the kind stranger who found me hunched over on his porch to call an ambulance to take me to the ER. It all turned out to be nothing, just some cramps and nausea associated with the miscarriage. Everything was fine.

So much for trusting in God and overcoming my anxieties. Why is it that whenever I'm confronted with a situation that's out of my control, I completely lose it? I spent a large part of yesterday beating myself up for not being able to handle that dizzy spell. I had a long list of "if onlys." If only I'd lain on the sidewalk until it passed...if only I'd called my husband instead of the ambulance...if only I'd waited five minutes to leave the house, or left 10 minutes earlier...if only I'd had my cell phone with me...

What bothered me most about it was that it was the panic attack which sent me to the ER, not the miscarriage. As sad as I am to be saying goodbye to my Little Acorn, healthwise, there's really no problem. My bleeding is light, and aside from that one big cramp while driving, I've hardly had any pain at all. If only I weren't such an Nervous Nellie...Why can't I just trust in God?

Finally last night, while meditating on the fifth Joyful mystery, God hit me over the head with the sanity stick. Jesus is lost in Jerusalem, the Son of God entrusted to Mary and Joseph is missing, and they are FRANTIC while they search for him. Doesn't Joseph say, "Son, why have you done this to us? Can't you see how worried your mother and I have been?" Jesus gently chides them. "Why were you worried? Didn't you know I must be about my Father's business?" And God asks me, "Do you think Mary's emotional response to losing her son means that she doesn't trust Me?"

Mary, who said yes to a plan that must have seemed wildly impossible, surely trusted God. She must have known that God, who sent an angel to warn them of Herod's soldiers and kept them safe on the trip to Egypt, would not let any harm come to His son until He had fulfilled His mission. She must have known, even before Jesus reminded her, that He not only had the power to take care of Himself, but also to guide and save others. Yet she was worried and upset, searching for Jesus everywhere.

It's okay for me to be anxious and experience panic attacks. They are the natural, human response to stressful situations. Their presence is not an indictment of my ability to trust God. What matters is not how I feel about a given situation, but what I do. If I allow my panic and anxiousness to keep me from doing the Lord's work, then I am not trusting God. But if I go ahead along the path He's made clear to me, even if I am nervous and frightened and stressed, as long as I keep on doing what I'm meant to do, He will take care of things.

Picture credit.