Tonight I went to ballet class. Not exactly what you’d think a woman should do 13 days after giving birth to a stillborn baby, but I needed to do it. During the hardest parts of our infertility journey ballet gave me something positive to do for my body. It allowed me to feel like my body wasn’t my enemy even when it didn’t look or move like I wanted to it to. It was such a healing part of our infertility journey and this week my soul gently nudged me to go back.
I almost cried several times during that hour and a half. When I looked in the mirror and didn’t like what I saw. The body that was pregnant just 2 short weeks ago, but hadn’t looked like it should have (due to my water breaking and flattening out my stomach) for 3.5 weeks. And now, it’s not a body growing or nursing a baby. It’s just a body that has been wrecked. Carrying a soul in need of much grieving and healing.
On the way home I thought about that first ballet class I went to the last time my body seemed to be failing me. I realized it was five years ago. Five years. Five years is not a short amount of time. It’s a long time to grieve and wrestle with God, your heart, and your body.
Of course, there has been a whole lot of joy in the past 5 years. There have been many days, and weeks, and months that infertility was on the back burner for me. After bringing home each of our kids I have thanked God for our infertility. And the truth is that I still do. Without it our home wouldn’t have these two little miracle people sleeping right across the hall from us.
But it sure is hard to feel like I’m back where I started, only in a deeper kind of grief than I knew before. When we decided to do IVF this year, we both had an “open hand” mentality. I have never lost the desire to be pregnant and give birth to a baby, or to have a biological child. But I knew, so deep down that it would be ok if I didn't and knew the chances weren't entirely in our favor either. Infertility was not my best-friend, but it was no longer my enemy. It became a companion I had gotten used to. It followed me some places, like baby showers and hospitals to welcome friends’ newborns, but it left me alone while I rocked my own kids to sleep when they were sick, when I made them breakfast and took the buddy to school, or when we celebrated birthdays.
But, the moment we go the call that I was pregnant, pregnancy became a reality. I knew I needed to be prepared for loss as miscarriage is not uncommon, so I was determined to take it one day at a time and appreciate every day of pregnancy as I had it. It was a dream I had been forced to let go of for years and here it was. Such a gift. A treasure. Every ultrasound was miraculous. I loved seeing Dave’s face the first time we saw the hearbeat flicker on the screen or heard the sound of the heartbeat. But, I still felt uneasy. Until 18 weeks.
Right at 18 weeks I had some spotting and cramping. We were so worried and I cried pretty openly in the waiting room while we waited for an ultrasound as I imagined there being no heartbeat. The moment we saw that flicker again I burst into tears of relief. We then found out that our baby was a girl! This made it all feel real. We saw her wiggling around on the screen. We saw all her parts. Her spine, her heart (all 4 chambers!), her wiggly hands and feet. They measured her arm bones and leg bones and we saw those cute hands up by her head. She became real to me that day. So real. I saw her and all those beautiful parts. I was really having a baby.
I looked up girl names and ordered the few maternity clothes I had been wanting and hadn’t gotten yet. I wasn’t just appreciating every day of being pregnant because it finally seemed possible that we would be bringing home a baby.
12 days later my water broke. 12 days. I won’t even tell you what it was like at the hospital when the doctor confirmed there was no fluid around our baby. That baby we were supposed to bring home. The fear and grief we felt in those moments was so deep. My worst nightmare was happening. I knew to expect a negative pregnancy test. I even knew to expect a miscarriage. I didn’t know to expect this. This deep grief that that wiggly, happy, girl would likely be born before she had a chance to survive.
I will say there was no pleading with God in those 10 days that followed. We felt like we needed open hands as we went through IVF so, as I prayed for a miracle I knew it had to be with open hands. I know what it’s like to beg God for something and for Him to remain totally silent. I spent so much time begging God for a miracle those months following our infertility diagnosis. When we started fertility treatment. When we saw numerous natural people who told us of their 95% success rates with couples with infertility. (Spoiler alert… we were always in that 5% of unsuccessful people). I’ve pleaded with God to save the lives of other children and babies. I watched Dave beg God not to make him play the music for the funeral of one more little girl at our church. Turns out he planned the music for the fourth one in just 14 months- his own daughter’s funeral.
After years spent coming to terms with infertility as my companion and the possibility of biological kids being less of a reality, why would God get us so close only to bring the greatest grief we’ve experienced so far? I’m heartbroken. I’m angry. I’m confused. Why has God spoken to us in quiet, yet seemingly miraculous ways all while not miraculously saving our daughter when He surely could have?
Five years God. It’s been five years. I’m back at ballet, more heartbroken than ever before. Back where I started. How do you move me backward and forward at the same time?
"My God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest."