This will be, by far, the hardest blog I have yet to put on paper. I must share it, must purge it from my soul, allow myself to feel the grief. After seven years it is still so raw, so fresh, buried just beneath the surface. Each loss has scarred me, I wear them with honor……these scars on my heart are all that I have left of them. I will not forget them, for that would be far more tragic than not sharing the memory of their brief existence.
After the eight week mark after miscarriage number 2……we were given the green light to try again. We decided not to actively try, we would just let it happen if it was meant to be. I was mentally, emotionally, and physically spent from the grief of two losses and I was afraid. I prayed without ceasing…….this was only a coincidence and the next pregnancy would be normal! I prayed the outcome would be at the end of nine months a beautiful baby to hold. A baby to ease the pain of the losses I had endured. I was in no hurry this time, just trying to come to terms with the second loss of a dream, a hope, a baby.
I had become the crazy pregnancy test lady. The same person that at 21 had never contemplated I could be pregnant, now I was obsessed. Only now they were terrifying, pregnancy meant once again losing a piece of me. I had ten on hand at all times……I tucked them away. Preferred to simply give my soul and body rest for a short time. However, that was not to be……
Merely, three months after my second loss…….I found myself once again, digging out my stash of tests. I unwrapped one, anxiety, fear, excitement, anticipation roared within me. I ripped the package, yanking the contents out, I followed the instructions that I now knew by heart…….and I didn’t even lay the test down before seeing those 2 scary, beautiful pink lines staring back at me. I held that test in my hands, begging it to not disappear, to stay with me, to let me be a mother, to let me hold a baby instead of a test this time. I sat in the restroom, crying tears, bitter that I could not even enjoy this moment due to the fear that gripped me, it gnawed at me, clawed at my heart, it almost begged me to fall victim to hope…..I had told myself that I wouldn’t allow myself to become attached to this baby. I couldn’t take the hurt if these two pretty pink lines shared the same fate as the last two. Yet, there I was staring at this test, and I could not stop myself. I was totally and utterly lost in this baby. I thought that by sheer determination I would carry this child and see it born. Against my own will, I loved this child. Stopping myself from doing so, would be as impossible as trying to staying alive without breathing. The love engulfed me, how could two little lines on a plastic test hold my whole existence, my sanity, my need, and my greatest desire in it? “I need this, God! Give me this baby! Please don’t take it from me!” I pleaded to the heavens. I collected myself, stood on shaky legs, managed to call my sister. I needed her voice to guide me back to a place where I could face this terrifying excitement.
I heard her voice transcend through the air as I pressed the phone to my ear, “Hey beautiful.” “Sissy, I am pregnant again!” I didn’t even recognize my own voice, it sounded weak, it shook like the leaves of the last remaining leaves on a tree before the winter breeze swept them away. I could feel my pulse in my neck, willing it to pump life to this tiny being that I was carrying. Then her voice reeled me back to earth, “REALLY????? Oh my gosh, I am so excited! I cannot wait. When do you go to the doctor? How far do you think you are?” That is one of the many things I love about my sister, her optimism was contagious, and I found myself just being an expectant mother, not a pregnant woman expecting her baby to die. She didn’t voice negativity, she didn’t give voice to all the fears raging in my mind…..and that is exactly what I needed! My sister, my savior in this nightmare I had conjured up……her voice chased that all away. For that, there are no words for my gratitude and my love for her had cured me. We chatted about names, appointments, gender, nurseries, baby clothes and all the things a mother to be should be able to discuss…a conversation that I had been robbed of. She quieted my fears, she gave me the hope. That hope, that glimmer of hope, was like throwing a life raft to me as I was drowning in my own uncertainty.
I hung up the phone and drove to Wal-Mart to grab a few things for dinner, feeling suddenly lightened, my burden lifted. I strolled through the grocery aisle but couldn’t stop the urge, this pull that kept dragging me to the baby section. I decided I would allow myself this luxury. I lingered there touching the tiny garments, and I was drawn to the pink clothing. Scotty and I wanted a girl. I told myself I would love either gender, as it wouldn’t matter if I could only get this baby here. Deep in my heart, as certain as one could be about anything; I knew. This baby, this one tucked softly beneath my heart, this child was a girl. My heart fluttered, and jumped and I smiled from the tips of my toes all the way up to find it’s way to my lips. If I could’ve looked in the mirror, I am sure I would’ve seen someone I wouldn’t recognize. My pale blue eyes were surely dancing with light and laughter…..and hope! I touched a tiny pair of butterfly shoes, they were so tiny, I thought there surely were no feet small enough to adore them. They were soft, fuzzy, and impulsively I lovingly picked them up, allowing my fingers to linger on the soft material. I thought of how they would warm my daughter’s feet, how they would feel against her brand new skin. I bought them, they were a symbol, these shoes. A symbol of the hopelessly, hopeful me.
I came home to share my secret with Scotty. I cooked supper while he showered, I made our plate, and the centerpiece of our table were those tiny pink and purple butterfly shoes. He came to the table, he saw the precious shoes sitting there, and his eyes searched mine. He was gaging me for a reaction, he knew what I had been through, he was concerned how much more I could possibly endure. Oh no, he was going to voice the things I was not ready to hear, he was going to reason with me that we had to at least acknowledge what we might be faced with. I didn’t allow him to, I crossed the room, clung to him like an anchor to keep my dream from floating away with his words. “It is going to be a girl, and her name will be Braelyn!” I said. I felt my eyes soften and sharpen at the same time, challenging him to give me this moment, to not rob me of this one small treasure, and I knew if he didn’t I would surely crash from the clouds from which I had been dreaming. His hazel eyes, searched mine, and in them he found what I needed him to find…..I needed this moment. I watched as his eyes turned into to orbs of love, flickering in their depths, love leapt from every fleck of gold and danced in the green irises that stared back at me! “It better be a girl,” he said as his lips slid into a slow smile….I loved his smile, it was always genuine and rare, and each time he shared one with me I felt like I was receiving a gift. We both lost ourselves in the moment, allowed it to fill us up, the happiness over running until our giddy laughter echoed through the room, bouncing from the walls and falling into my ears like the sweetest music I had ever heard!
My doctor appointment went well, they saw the baby but since the tech was swamped we didn’t get to hear the heartbeat but there was a tiny little dot, nestled inside that circle. Joy abounded in my heart…and spontaneity sent me pulling into the nearest lowes. I picked up paint, then made my way to walmart for some colorful acrylic paints. I was going to paint this baby a mural on her wall. Without hesitation, I went to the soon to be nursery, I wanted something beautiful to surround her. I wanted to cover it with all things soft and lovely. I pulled the soft, fuzzy shoes out for inspiration. Slowly, with precision I began sketching butterflies across the wall, kissing them with the paintbrush to add delicacy to their wings. I stood back and admired my work. Just like my writing, my art comes from a source of emotion and I felt the joy leap from my brush onto the walls. Something was missing….what was it? My journey to get here, to getting her here, it needed to be symbolized.
The greatest joy comes from the deepest pain, just as my losses had made this pregnancy all the more poignant. I stared at the butterflies, and then it occurred to me. Beautiful butterflies only get their wings after they transform. After they go through being a caterpillar, they earn their wings. Me and this baby had earned our wings, but I had to signify the importance of the journey. I painted a brightly colored caterpillar, it was climbing up, over and around her door facing. It’s face was smiling as if it had faced adversity and came out more vibrant on the other side…exactly how I felt! Then with painstaking accuracy I wrote her name, Braelyn upon her walls with tender, elegant strokes…..she was real, she had a name!
I was due for another checkup in less than a month. I was closing in on eleven weeks, not much longer before I was out of the first trimester. Every mother who has lost a baby waits on bated breath for that first trimester to pass, so that the chance of loss decreases. I recognized it was nearing, and allowed myself to just enjoy every second of pregnancy. My once flat stomach was already swelling to expand for the life growing there. I hadn’t gained any weight, but my tummy was rounding and I found it so beautiful. I had already bought my first pair of maternity pants and wore them like a soldier wears a well earned metal. I spoke to her, telling her about my days, telling her about her daddy and how she would woo him, about an aunt that would dote on her, and a nanny who would surely swoon in her presence. I told her we only had to make it to March 15th, her due date and my mother’s birthday. I couldn’t have picked a more fitting day for her to be born, on the same day as the mother I loved so much. The irony that on the day my mother was born, she would be born, and I would be born as a mother. I relished in knowing I was never alone, I spoke softer, angered slower, forgave more quickly……she had already changed me. What a lovely soul she must be to change me from the inside out! I loved her with a love that words could not describe. I slept with her shoes beside my bed, a reminder that soon her small feet would fill them, and the thought warmed me as I fell into sleep each night.
I got up the morning of my doctor’s appointment, showered and slipped on my beloved maternity pants. I applied my makeup, but the glow from my spirit shone through. My stepson was over and I was awaiting his grandpa to pick him up. I tousled his curly locks, wondering if my baby would share her brothers curls. He was playing a video game, and looked up with a smile before continuing on. I went to grab a bottle of water from the fridge and was doubled over with a pain unlike any I have ever felt. I grabbed the phone screaming for my mother to get to my house….the pain was coming in waves, every few minutes they ripped my insides literally bringing me to my knees. I couldn’t even think, the agony was blinding. I told him that his poppa would be here soon, and to not wait for me. I halfway remember calling my father in law to pick up my stepson. I didn’t want to scare him, my sweet boy, I had to put on a brave face. It wasn’t until I shut the door behind me did I allow the pain to cease me…..I slid to the floor, and crawled to the bathtub. I got in the tub letting the hot water wash over me and tried to breathe through the pain. I was so thankful for that pain, it kept my mind from thinking about what this meant. I don’t know how long I laid there, weak, broken, defeated and convulsing as the pain shattered me over and over.
Then my mom was there, and Faith who had grown to be like a sister to me. I was naked, exposed, but my mind didn’t register it. I vaguely remember being dressed, as silent agonizing moans escaped my lips as the pain raked through every bone in my body, ravishing every muscle with it’s viciousness. I was sitting on the side of the tub, and I heard voices that sounded far away. Faith, a nurse by occupation, her voice sounded foreign, and scared, “Ruth, she has lost a lot of blood….we got to get her to the hospital now.” It was only then I allowed my eyes to look into the bathtub, and was bewildered that I was still alive. They helped me to the car, I was weak, the contractions were violent and intense. The thirty minute drive seemed like eternity, I clung to the pain allowing it to mute my thoughts.
I tuned everything out, I was taken back to the Emergency Room, examined and then sent upstairs to the ob’s office. My sister, Mary Ann, my safe haven, my strength during weakness was there with me as I walked into this office. Only then did I allow myself to recall the words the doctor had told me, “hemorrhaging” “we don’t see a heartbeat” “you need to discuss the next step with your physician” and then the tears came. This pain was by far worse than the physical pain. All around me sat pregnant women, bellies rounded, smiles on their faces, and others with newborn babies surely there for their follow up after birth….something I wouldn’t be getting. I watched as one lady lifted her fussy daughter, I caught a glimpse of a shock of brown hair, adorned with a beautiful bow, a frilly little dress, and upon her feet……MY daughter’s shoes. I felt so robbed, I felt like my sanity was leaking out of me, and how dare them send me to this place. Forced to watch something so beautiful as a mother comforting her child, and knowing that at that moment my baby was dead. Her baby was feeding from her breast, while my heart was being ripped from mine.
Some infinite amount of time passed before I finally was released from the hell of that office and ushered back into the room where the doctor awaited. “I recommend a D&C,” she said with all her medical, scientific words.
“A D&C???? You want to dilate my cervix and rip the baby out?” I asked, swallowing the desire to spit in her face. I wasn’t angry at her, I was insane with grief. She was just doing her job, but I was going through a slow, twisted death. I listened as she voiced the reasons that it should be performed, “loss of blood” “the baby was stuck against my uterus which means it would not be expelled and was causing excessive contractions” “need to do it as soon as possible”…..I smiled to myself a sadistic smile, even in death, my daughter was trying to stay with me. “Fine, schedule me for the morning, for this procedure.” I spat, hatred filling my heart.
“April, we should act now, waiting is dangerous, if you hemorrage again…..” she began, and I could see her concern, trying to explain to me without adding to my misery.
I waved my hand at her, “I am aware of the risk. I am aware my baby is dead. I am aware I am not going to be a mother. But I am not ready to do it. I am not ready to be “unpregnant.” I am not ready to let her go, you can take that from me in the morning…I have lost enough today!” She silenced, nodded a sad nod, and scheduled me for 5 am the next morning.
It wasn’t until the ride home, that I realized I hadn’t told Scotty…..I hadn’t given him the chance to be there, I didn’t want him to see the wreck that was now his wife. When I walked inside our home, he was watching tv, laughing at whatever was on the screen. One look at me and he was on his feet, he sought to hug me but I pulled away, “She is gone! Mom will take me in the morning for surgery.” My voice was defeated, hard, flat, emotionless and I didn’t recognize it as my own. I knew I was being selfish, shutting him out, but I couldn’t share this, it would break me in two. I couldn’t feel his anguish on top of mine, nor could I give him my burden. I had to hold onto every ounce of the pain, it was all I had left. I resigned myself to the nursery and cried ugly, bitter, hate filled tears. I crumbled into the floor, glaring at the caterpillar for it’s false hope of a butterfly. I touched my stomach, “We have tonight, one more night.”
The next morning I checked in for my “procedure” feeling as if I was attending my own funeral, a funeral for my heart. They wheeled me back, sobs echoed through the room until they silenced me with sedative, and I welcomed it……the sweet oblivion. I awoke too soon, and with a scary realization, I had almost hoped I wouldn’t wake. What awaited me now? An empty nursery, an endless nightmare, a pair of butterfly shoes that would never grace her feet.
For nights on end I slept in the nursery which was once a guest room. Scotty was attentive, checking on me, but I was lost in a place that even he couldn’t pull me from. The morning peaked through the window and glared upon the caterpillar, and the butterflies that I had painted. I grabbed some interior paint, and viciously covered them each detailed piece of art. Angry strokes of my paint brush, blotting them out just like my baby had been blotted from existence. I cried, and screamed, then cried some more.
It wouldn’t be until many years later, when the maddening grief had subsided would I see with different eyes. I would realize that my caterpillar hadn’t turned to a butterfly, she had gained her wings though, her angel wings had lifted her to the heavens and carried her away from me.