This isn’t the post I intended for today, but as the saying goes, if you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans for tomorrow. First, I would like to ask for prayers for a dear friend, Jessica at Shower of Roses, who is experiencing a miscarriage. My heart is breaking for her, because I know too well the pain she is going through.
There are times that I think I have forgotten my miscarriages, but then it only take a split second of a triggered memory and it all comes flooding back. I have never really forgotten, they are all scars on my heart, I suppose it is more that it becomes normal. There are moments that are seared into my memory, like the change in the technician’s face when she couldn’t find a heartbeat or my doctor holding my hand as the anesthesiologist put me under for the D & C. I couldn’t have an epidural, because of other health issues, and when it came down to it, I didn’t want to see or hear anything. I didn’t want those memories. But, I suppose, what has stayed with me most is that we were unable to bury our daughter. Our Church was willing to perform a small funeral and help us find a place to bury her, I had generous friends of friends who offered to pay any expense incurred, I had signed papers for the baby’s remains to be released to us and the nurses and my doctor were all aware and in agreement. Somewhere down the line though, someone didn’t follow through.
I spent weeks calling here and calling there. Every time I got a reply that gave me hope, I would return the phone call or call the person I was told to only to hit another road block. My first two miscarriages were quick and early. I was heartbroken, I mourned the tiny souls I never got to meet, the pregnancy I never got to experience, but they never developed past a couple of days. It was as if they were gone before they started. Honestly, if I had not been charting it is doubtful that I would have even known about the first one and might have completely dismissed the second. Those children did exist, and I know that they are resting with Jesus and that the babies I never got to cuddle will one day spend an eternity with me. However, my third miscarriage was so much harder.
We weren’t expecting to be expecting. It was a surprise and a shock. I didn’t know what to think, I was caught completely off guard. My husband was overjoyed, and I was too but there was a darkness that I just couldn’t shake and I bemoaned the fact that I felt I had such a hard time getting excited about this new life. I think now that that uneasiness was God preparing me for all the hurt that was to come.
We went through Easter and other family gathering, not telling anyone. My husband wanted to, but I still had an uneasy feeling in my gut. I wanted to wait a bit long, I don’t really know what I was waiting for. I wish now that I had told everyone, that she had been real to everyone else before she was gone. I planned on sharing the news after my routine ultrasound. I was all prepared with scripts in my head of calling the older kids in and letting them see our newest blessing. As soon as the ultrasound started, I knew something was wrong. She was there, perfectly there with a little face, and tiny hand and feet, but she was absolutely still. My other two it had taken forever for them to stay still long enough to measure the heartbeat–the heartbeat, there was no heartbeat. No flutter, no blinks, nothing! The technician tried over and over, but I knew it wasn’t there. She didn’t say it, but I saw it on her face and the monitor. She finished up and said my doctor would call me, no pictures were printed out, no due date announced. I left empty handed and brokenhearted. I wish I had asked her to take some pictures with the ultrasound but I was in too much shock to think that far ahead.
Ashley, we named her Ashley. I originally picked the name before we knew she was a girl. Ashley had always been a favorite boy’s name for me but one I knew I couldn’t use with it’s popularity as a girl’s name, and for some reason we both thought we were having a boy. I sometimes wish I had picked a saint’s name, a more significant name, a name that fit with the other children’s names. However, her name fit her in the end. I think I spoke to every department of the hospital in the weeks that followed my D & C. No one could help and only a few seemed to care. I was told that Ashley wasn’t old enough to be issued a birth certificate and without a birth certificate I could not get a death certificate, which meant I had no rights to the remains nor burial. At the lowest point, the hospital actually tried to convince me that I had only thought I was pregnant, but it didn’t really happen, the “fetus” never developed past a cell or two, my uterus had been empty. I told them that was impossible, I had positive pregnancy test, ultrasound pictures, blood work to prove my baby did exist. They said my pregnancy symptoms were just bad PMS! I saw her, I said over and over…I saw her!
My doctor fought all the way up to the state to get me right to get my baby’s remains released. She was thwarted all the way. She was willing to keep fighting but I was tired, and my father had unexpected passed away just two and a half weeks after my miscarriage, leaving me to help care for my disabled mother with brain-cancer. There was too much going on, I didn’t have any more fight in me. I begged forgiveness from God and my baby, I pray that they understood. A week later, I got a call that the baby’s remains had been released to a funeral home for cremation. I questions which one, when, how can I pick up the cremated remains. I was told the name but I would not be able to get Ashley’s ashes because she would be cremated with “other surgical remains” and then buried with whatever casket they buried next. Surgical remains? Did they really cremate and bury tumors and tonsils and kidneys and gallstones?
Then I figured it out, she was being cremated with babies who had been surgically terminated. It broke my heart even more. You see, Ashley had Turner’s Syndrome. I hesitate to tell anyone that because I usually get a response along the lines of, “well, at least that took care of itself.” The Turner’s is not why I lost her, I had a double infection that caused the miscarriage. She was healthy and growing and despite having Turner’s had measured exactly to date. The vast majority of babies diagnosed with Turner’s are aborted. Why God? Why? I wanted my baby, I was willing to love her no matter what. She was perfect to me, why take her? The answers to those questions, I will never know this side of Heaven. My husband and I accept God’s perfect timing. We have no way of knowing what God spared her or us from. Ashley is a thread, albeit a short one, in His great tapestry and each of those threads has a purpose.
I suppose I am writing this post as much for me as for others who have experienced a miscarriage. Miscarriage is such a taboo subject in our culture. Once we started debating when a person becomes a person and at what point pain can be felt or viability starts, it all became very rudimentary. We stopped looking at the emotional wonder of pregnancy and reduced it down to statistics and measurements. Women who have lost a baby, have experienced a real loss, they need time and permission to mourn. It does not matter if the loss occurred at 7 week or 27 or 37, it was still a child that was loved and lost. I still miss Ashley everyday, I think about her regularly and notice the space that is empty as we stand together at Mass or take a family picture. Her due date was November 19, the feast of St Elizabeth of Hungry who is the patron saint of loss of children. I celebrate quietly each year lighting a novena candle and baking Hungarian bread. Even if no one else remembers, I will never forget.