Last night, Justin and I watched the movie “Her.” It was nominated for several awards so when it came up on our list of prospective movies, we clicked on it. While it was slightly odd and some parts of it were …um…uncomfortable, I overall enjoyed its creativity and perspective. The writing was thought provoking and the cinematography itself was beautiful.
At the end of the movie, the main characters say:
Theodore: I’ve never loved anyone the way I loved you.
Samantha: Me too. Now we know how.
“Now we know how.” Reading this, it might sound corny, but it was quite poetic. I have been turning those words around and around in my head since last night. Not only did they strike me somewhere deep inside, but today they are actually providing some comfort. You see, on Wednesday I would have been ten weeks pregnant. Instead, for the fourth time in a row, I have another empty womb.
The date was April 11th. We had just done another round of fertility treatments, putting in three of our precious frozen embryos that had resulted from our initial, one IVF round that gave us our son Jack. We had waited the ten VERY long days until our blood test and finally, on April 11th, it was here! I didn’t need to take the test to know I was pregnant though. I knew it was positive. We have had three pregnancies since Jack that have all resulted in “chemical” pregnancies or early miscarriages. I always felt pregnant with those, but never like I did with Jack. But this time, it was exactly the same. Everything about it felt similar- even the somewhat funny fact that we would have yet another December due date. I went into the doctor’s office that morning happy and confident. They drew my blood and I was confident it was filled with that wonderful HCG hormone. But what we were most interested in was the level.
In our other pregnancies, our HCG was always positive but the numbers were terrible. The first was below 5 by test day, the second was 23, and the third was 7. They want that number to be above 50 on test day, so with such a low number, we always knew an impending miscarriage was coming. So for this pregnancy, we needed that number to be high. And it was! My doctor called me personally and told me it was 118- a perfect number. We were unbelievably relieved. We had beaten whatever was causing our other problems (we thought)! Surely, this baby would grow and be in our arms by December. We took a home test for fun and sent out this picture to our families. It was a perfect day.
I continued to feel pregnant and started celebrating with close friends. My next blood test showed amazing results. It should have been around 475, but the number was up to 808! We started to wonder if there were multiples in there, but we were mostly relieved that it seemed our little bean was growing just as it should. After a few more weeks, we got down the maternity clothes out of the garage. With subsequent pregnancies, my friends have all told me that you show much sooner. I confirmed that rumor as my jeans started getting tighter. We told Jack about the baby (the numbers were high, right?). Every night, he would touch my tummy and say “Hi Baby” and give it a little kiss. We have a video of it, but I can’t even bear to include it. I probably will never watch that video again. I was still very guarded because of our history, but I was really starting to get excited and dream about this little life. What gender would it be? How would Jack react to being a big brother? And I was relieved that although it was farther than I initially wanted, three years seemed like an appropriate distance between kids. The wait had been hard, but our dream was on its way.
We had a scare over Easter weekend. I am not going to go into that whole story here because it actually ended up having absolutely nothing to do with the eventual miscarriage. Justin struggled to get through leading music for hundreds of people over 5 services at church that weekend at the thought that he was losing this baby. But on Easter morning, I found myself at the doctor looking at the screen at our sweet little baby. The sac looked good and there was the tiniest of babies inside. It was too early to see the heartbeat. We would need to wait one more week for that. But my numbers were now well above 3,000. We celebrated the rest of Easter thinking we had just witnessed a miracle- the day our baby was saved.
The next Monday we excitedly kissed Jack goodbye and headed off to our appointment. Justin had the video camera and was ready to capture all the wiggles our baby would show us. But as soon as the ultrasound started, we knew something was wrong. Quickly, the camera was shut off and slipped back into the bag. The baby looked the same size to me as the week before. The measurement confirmed it. Also, our doctor explained now that our sac was too big and probably meant chromosomal problems (even though all tests came back 100% normal in the end). We stared at the screen and saw the slowest and faintest of heartbeats. Our baby was alive- but was dying. The doctor sent us away to wait an agonizing week. She said we would look for growth and a stronger heartbeat next week, but to prepare ourselves for the worst. We already had a standing appointment with my OB (different doctor) the next day. We saw the heartbeat again and it looked stronger. This gave me hope, but I tried to remember to prepare myself for the miscarriage.
The next week our fears were confirmed. I was now almost 8 weeks. This time, the ultrasound revealed the baby did not grow. And where there once was that beautiful flicker, all was quiet and still. Peacefully gone.
The D&C, lots of tears and just plain grief and depression followed.
“Now we know how…..”
Yes, I never knew I could love like this. I never got to brush my finger against its cheek or smell those sweet baby smells. I will never tuck it in and sing silly songs before the sun sets. I will never watch its first crawl, steps, funny dance move, or hear its first laugh, tantrum, words, or dreams. I will never teach it to ride a bike or watch it marry its true love. I will never do any of this. But, yet I love like this. I cry tonight over someone I have never even experienced in the flesh and someone I still love so powerfully. I never knew I could do that. I never thought my heart was wide or big enough for that kind of love.
But on the other hand, now I know how I can lose a love like that. The truth is, I am running out of silver linings. We have lost ten babies through these four miscarriages and I am just about out of breath. My relationship with God has grown more than I can imagine. I have already started a support group, shared my testimony in public, written about our experiences for the world to read, met with people in grief and I have sincerely loved all of these moments. But something about knowing that “now I know how” to go through this is helping me this time. I have loved powerfully and I have lost. I let go when all I wanted to do was hang on. I accepted death when I wanted life.
Perhaps, “knowing how” is where I am meant to end up. I want to hope and believe God is making me into a deeper, more understanding, more SOMETHING human out of this. Maybe instead of being able to mourn with someone, I will now actually be able to look them square in the eyes and tell them they will get through this– because I did. It is the old tale of loving and then losing. Perhaps, the question is not which is better. I think the question is, “did you really learn how to love and really learn how to lose?” With those tools in our backpack for the road, I would hope we are all the better for it in a million ways we don’t really understand. I hope I am.
Now it is done. We are healing and picking up all those stubborn little pieces that pop up in all the most inappropriately places. A fun, relaxing and baby free summer is ahead for us. But because we believe life starts at conception (and we want another baby), we still have two more rounds in our future (6 more embryos). If you would have asked me if I would be able to handle this back when we started this whole journey, I would have told you I couldn’t have done it. And some days I don’t know if I can keep going. But lately I am trying to remember…
…now we know how.