Jon and I conceived our third child just weeks after losing his mother to cancer. We hadn’t always planned on having a third, but the Lord put the idea on each of our hearts–separately–and, once we admitted it, we embraced it wholeheartedly.
With two previous pregnancies under my belt, the doctors’ appointments became “old hat” and I typically went alone to all but the first appointment and the ultrasound. On this particular morning, the nurse and I chit-chatted while she took my blood pressure and I peeked at my weight gain. I saw several familiar faces passing through–the doctors who’d delivered Rae and Lauren and a nurse who’d been there as long as I could remember. This was a comfortable, albeit a time-consuming, place for me.
I eventually made my way back to the examination room and tried to cover up with the scant stiff paper they call a “robe.” The doctor couldn’t pick up the heartbeat with the audio equipment, but I wasn’t concerned; this happened in the early stage of all my pregnancies. Inverted uterus. I knew well the hallway that led to the sonogram room. This will be even better, I thought. I’ll get to see the baby instead of just hearing him.
I pushed down the voice of fear and inwardly comforted myself with a reminder that this is my “normal,” as I awaited the cold wand to touch down on the dollop of sticky jelly. The sound of swishing came immediately and my gaze locked onto the doctor’s face as he carefully searched the screen. I detected the slightest trace of recognition, then it disappeared as quickly as it had come. “Sam, it doesn’t look good.”
My eyes leapt to the monitor where I spied the baby’s form while my ears struggled to keep pace with the flow from the doctor’s mouth: “Stopped growing….four weeks ago…nature’s way of taking care of things…”
His next words snapped my mind to attention: “Your body still thinks it’s pregnant. It hasn’t caught up to the fact that the baby is no longer alive.”
Betrayed by my own body. No spotting. No cramping. My heart staggered inside me, still reeling from the sucker punch. What was worse: I’d taken a hit when I was already down. Death – 2 Livingston – 0.
Later that day our baby was vacuumed out of me. I was supposed to have been unconscious or Jon wouldn’t have left to pick up the kids before returning for me. The only problem? I stayed awake.
It was mostly a blur. Except for the sound. The machine whirred as it fulfilled its purpose and the memory etched itself into the landscape of my mind. Such a final end for hope embodied. A future down a tube and into a plastic waste bag.
If ever God was not going to be enough, this would be the time.
I dared to ask the nurse what was probably, to her, a ridiculous question, “Could you tell the gender?”
“Oh honey. It’s just parts at this point.”
“Oh…” My thoughts trailed off as I fought back tears.
Weeks later, the full-length mirror couldn’t disguise the bulge that still remained. The audacity! I was gonna have to work to lose the weight gain that I’d rather have been adding to.
I cried. I talked to friends. I cried some more. It sucked.
It would’ve been easy to sink into a victim mentality. Wall up and shut down. The path of least resistance. I was faced with a choice: abandon the God I knew or stay the course in spite of my disappointment. The first would keep me angry and swallowing bitterness, the second would leave me desperate and seeking His face.
I dragged myself to church where a familiar song took on new meaning. The words, at first, so hard to sing, became a declaration of victory somewhere along the way. Week after week, I began to cling to a new sound: that of my own voice making a costly choice to praise. I remember thinking, to what other god could I turn? My heart knows too well. There is none like Him. And so I allowed His strength to lift me up.
Still sad that I’d been alone through the worst of it, I later found myself praying my way back to that dilation and curettage procedure. I asked Jesus to show me where he’d been. At my side? Near my face? I sensed it was neither of those. Between my legs he’d played the position of a catcher, and the Spirit, the inner lining of that bag. Plastic was never the end for that baby. It had always been the Father’s hands. And, for such a time as this, that had to be enough. In fact, He was More Than Enough.
In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39
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