I’m moving almost as fast as cold honey now, and I think I’m ready to go back to my women’s group that meets faithfully every Tuesday night. This will be my first public appearance since coming home from the hospital, and I can’t think of a safer place to be. Driving is out of the question for me, so thankfully Lisa or Justine will pick me up. We take driving for granted every day, and to be mentally incapable of driving indicates to me how messed up I really am right now. And my mental state keeps overshadowing the fact that I have a physical recovery to make, too. This just may take forever. I’m not even sure if full recovery is possible.
I joined this women’s group a little over a year ago, and we’ve been there for each other through job losses and gains, scary test results, relationship issues, health problems – life. It’s a close group where we can share anything and pray about everything. One thing we prayed for last summer was pregnancy. Two of us were ready for children (so we thought), and we prayed every week until unbelievably, Adrienne and I got pregnant at the same time. She was ahead of me by about a week. Then our discussions became dominated by all the nuances of pregnancy. We were both first timers, and every little change was fascinating. She had a terrible time with nausea and could barely eat or gain weight. It still makes me giggle when I envision her gagging up and down every aisle at the grocery store, bless her heart. Meanwhile, my pregnancy was a breeze, for the most part.
Early in my pregnancy, when my doctor was listening to the baby’s heartbeat, I saw her gulp as we heard it slow way down, and then speed back up. She reassured me it was no big deal, but would have me go to a non-stress test towards the end of the pregnancy, just to make sure. This scared me for a while, but I prayed about it, and shelved it. I’m just not one to panic. Everything went perfectly well in the following months, and the time finally arrived for the non-stress test. I had to go by myself because Richard was travelling for work, but I have been guilty of fierce independence, so I did what needed to be done. The nurse showed me to one of about six beds all surrounded by curtains. They hooked me up to various monitors so they could listen to the baby’s heartbeat, and do a thorough ultrasound to check everything out. It was a strange room, dim and quiet except for the whispers of all the people trying not to be heard through their curtains, and the loud swooshing sounds of all those little hearts. My tests all looked great except for one thing. There was some sort of bubble-like membrane which they didn’t recognize. They sent me to a different floor with a more sensitive machine to take a more detailed look. I called Richard from the elevator, and explained what was happening. My independence waned and I really wished he was with me. He absolutely hated being far away and helpless, but he would be back soon. They eventually determined it to be a cyst on the umbilical cord. These are apparently very rare and have no history of causing any problems during a birth, but we had to meet with a neonatal specialist because it was the biggest one they have ever seen, and it was located close to the insertion point in the baby’s belly. I felt reassured that everything would be fine.
Even though these cysts have never caused a problem, they deemed it best to induce me early to avoid natural labor, so they could monitor me and the baby carefully, and control the birth. So when I got to thirty-six weeks, they did an amnio to see if her lungs were developed enough for delivery. Thirty-seven weeks is considered full term, so she wouldn’t be considered premature. Nothing to worry about. Her lungs looked great according to the amnio, so it was time to go to the hospital. We were not ready. All this happened too quickly and we thought we had at least another month since first babies are usually late. But we are not doctors, and their reasoning sounded logical, so we scampered to the hospital nervously excited. Richard was not as excited as I was about the early induction, but I thought that was easy for him to say since he was not the pregnant one. I was at that stage I had heard of when you are more than ready to get that baby out of there.
The induction was done very slowly to mimic natural labor, and we know how this part of the story ends. Neither the cyst nor the early induction appear to have anything to do with the massive internal clotting, but we won’t have our official conference with the medical team for quite a while. It takes about three months to get all the test results back from the autopsy. I don’t understand why it would take so long, and I don’t at all want to understand anything about the autopsy, but it’s an awfully long time to wait for an answer.
Of course in the meantime, we review every detail of the birth in our heads over and over and over. Richard really wishes he’d insisted on waiting. He was never comfortable with the early induction, and wondered if he could have prevented this or if he was partially to blame. But what if he’d insisted on waiting and things still turned out the same? Then he’d really feel like it was his fault. We were at one of the best hospitals in the Bay Area. If we had been anywhere else, and things started to go awry, we were already at the place where we would’ve been flown by helicopter.
The what-if game is dangerous. And it’s pointless. Things happened the way they did, and they cannot be undone. The babies who are supposed to be here are here. I’ve heard a lot of crazy stories about babies who come into the world just fine under extreme circumstances. A woman gave birth in a tree in Africa during a flood, a homeless woman gave birth to a baby on a street corner, an unwanted newborn was tossed out a window in South America, babies have even survived attempted abortions. All those babies are here despite the odds. Trinity had everything going for her, but she isn’t here. It doesn’t make sense, but there must be a reason. If she was supposed to be here, she would be.
My Grandma Lois, who lost an 18 month old to pneumonia, gently said to me, “You know Stacy. No matter how long or short somebody’s life is, it’s exactly as long as it’s supposed to be.” That’s simple, but profound. I think I agree.
So here we are at women’s group, where we’ve been journeying together through our pregnancies, and now only one of us is pregnant. More unavoidable pain. This is a good chance for me to practice what I’ve just learned about facing it all head on. I will not hide from my friend, and she doesn’t hide from me. We will walk through this together, and share an indescribable bond forever.
We all talk for a while, mostly about my loss. But it is not just my loss. These women were with me every week of my pregnancy, and they feel it, too. I don't know it yet, but they'll be with me every week for years to come. Some of the group members will come and go, but the strength and support will endure. I won't realize until I'm able to look back on these days how vital this group will be to me.
I bring up that I am struggling with prayer and faith. What about asking anything in Jesus’ name and it will be given to you, as the Bible says in John 14:14. How am I supposed to believe that now? Older, plain-spoken Dorothy states, “Sometimes the answer is ‘No’”. She may as well have punched me in the stomach. It’s not like I was asking for something trivial or frivolous. I was asking for the life of my child! How could the answer to that be “No”? Wow. That’s harsh. But I’m not mad at her. Straightforwardness is one of things I love about her, and I know she doesn't intend to be insensitive.
I don’t like what Dorothy said, but it’s sticking with me. As hard as it was to hear, I think she’s right. I try to reconcile this for days, and eventually come to the conclusion that when the answer is “No”, God must have a VERY good reason. Even though it may be totally incomprehensible to me, if I believe that He’s in charge, and that there is a reason for everything, He must have very good reasons for letting very bad things happen. I don't think God causes bad things to happen, but He obviously doesn't prevent them, even though He could. I may never know why, and I have to get used to that idea. But as long as I believe that there IS a good reason, then I think I can live without knowing what that reason is.
I would find out much later that when Richard was in the NICU and saw Trinity’s condition worsening, he had actually prayed for God to go ahead and take her if she was going to be in such a state that she would have no quality of life. I admire his bravery and unselfishness. So when God says “No” to us, perhaps He’s saying “Yes” to someone else, who might be thinking more clearly. It hadn’t occurred to me at all that she might be in for some real difficulties if she’d made it. But ultimately, Father knows best. My core beliefs are challenged greatly, but I am comforted by the thought that when God allows terrible things to happen, He must have terribly good reasons. And even though He might say “No”, I will pray again one day.