(WARNING: This is a long blog!)
She was supposed to be our “rainbow baby” – the joy after the storm.
When we found out we were pregnant again, 4 months after losing our baby Gale, I was excited. The likelihood of miscarrying again, back to back, was very low. My doctor had me come in within a couple of days of my initial call to check my HGC levels to make sure the pregnancy was strong. I registered “low”, but passable and was put on progesterone supplements. A couple of days later, my HGC levels were checked again and were soaring.
At 8 weeks, we loaded up the whole crew and waited to see the newest member of our family up on the “big screen”. After waiting through a “full work-up” OB appointment for me, the kids running through halls and the staff being kind enough to put up with all the noise, we finally got to see the baby. Her heart was beating like a champ, the kids were thrilled to discover they were going to have a new sibling (“Please, not another girl, Mom,” said our 5 year old, only son), and I felt confident that we’d be celebrating another birthday around Thanksgiving. My doctor scheduled me for another ultrasound at 11 weeks “just to be sure of things”.
As the weeks passed, there was nothing to indicate anything to worry about. I had usual nausea & tiredness. My belly seemed to pop out early (i guess a 5th pregnancy will do that to you!), so i quickly switched to maternity clothing. Everything seemed perfectly run of the mill when my next appointment rolled around, so I thought nothing of picking up my son from preschool and taking him with me because i thought he’d enjoy seeing his baby again.
While we sat in the waiting room, my little artist child drew a family picture, complete with a baby in heaven (“There’s Gale!”) and a tiny one in my tummy. For some reason, it was a really long wait that day. And, I had some anxiety about the ultrasound that I couldn’t explain. The night before, my sister had asked me if I was excited about it and I had responded, “I’ll be excited when I see a healthy baby.” I guess there was something inside me that knew things were slightly amiss.
My doctor had out the doppler, to listen to the heartbeat, but couldn’t find it. She said wasn’t trying very hard and since i was only 11 weeks along, I probably just needed the ultrasound equipment to pick it up. If she had any concerns at that moment, she hid it well because I didn’t notice that she was agitated or concerned.
Though the ultrasound tech was trying hard to pick up the heartbeat, I immediately knew from how my baby looked on the monitor that she was no longer living. Not only had my mother, a former crisis pregnancy center ultrasound tech herself, once described to me how a baby that is not living looks in ultrasound (like a bug, with legs and arms sticking out, instead of curled up), but also I could see right away that she wasn’t moving or wiggling, like i knew she should’ve been at her size.
The rest of the appointment was a blur of crying, hugging, praying with my doctor, making plans for a D&C (a very personal choice, but being a little past 11 weeks, too many potential complications plus having no idea when i might miscarry while trying to parent 3 small kids at home made the decision easy for me), and asking a lot of questions while trying to answer my son’s.
And, it was in these moments and the days to follow that being “pro-life” really took on a new meaning for me.
I had read a blog after my first miscarriage that said, “Tell everyone, EVERYONE, EV.ER.Y.ONE. that you want to take your baby home after your D&C.” I wasn’t sure how many people that might mean when i initially read that blog. As it turns out, it’s many.
I started immediately with my own doctor, telling her that I wanted her to be as careful as possible removing our baby so that we could take her home and bury her.
But, it she wasn’t the only person I talked to.
I told the lady who called to tell me they had scheduled the surgery that I wanted my baby to come home with us. I told the registration person from the hospital. I told the SECOND registration person who called me to make a note of it. I told my doctor again the morning of, when they did another ultrasound to double check the loss of life. I told the nurse who was assigned to me while I was in my hospital room. I told the anesthesiologist. I told the director of the hospital operating room who came to talk to me about it. I literally told anyone who had anything to do with my surgery that my BABY, my CHILD was coming home with me so we could bury her.
The phrases “products of conception” and “fetal materials” were often thrown back to me or used in reference to our baby. But, I made a conscientious effort to reference “our baby, our child, our daughter.” I wanted them all to know that there was NOTHING about that member of our family that was a “product” or “materials”. She was a life that was created specifically by God and valued, cherished, loved, and wanted so badly by us.
Needless to say, the day of my D&C was quite difficult. While I waited for my surgery, i just cried and cried and told my baby I was sorry that this was how it had to go, even though I already knew she was in the arms of Jesus, safe and happy. And, I offered up all my sorrow that day for the mothers out there who choose death over life through abortion. I knew my baby was no longer living and I knew what a D&C entails, but I felt such relief after it all ended as I knew I was no longer carrying a lifeless baby within my body (a great physical AND mental burden in and of itself).
We were lucky to bring our daughter who we named Seraphina Joy (our Fiery Angel of Joy!) home with us from the hospital that day. The following weekend, my husband built her a beautiful little coffin that our children happily painted a rainbow of colors. We were able to bury her in our backyard with a sweet little stone to mark her grave, something my son loves as he proudly shows people “the graveyard in our backyard!” When we buried her, we all cried again and thanked God for her little life, but that moment was a huge point of healing for me. It closed the book on her short little life and allowed me to begin to move on.
I found out later that my witness to life didn’t end with me telling everyone that we wanted her to come home after the D&C. My incredibly wonderful doctor told me that she really had to go to bat for us to have that desire fulfilled. Their practice had just moved to a brand new hospital and we were THE FIRST PEOPLE to ask for our miscarried baby to come home with us. There was no protocol in place and there was red tape that our doctor had to work through. But, she didn’t give up the fight because she is also a person of faith who values life and respects her patients. We unknowingly, by virtue of our dedication to being pro-life, set the wheels in motion for future patients who might be requesting the same thing as we did.
This is what my 2nd miscarriage taught me – what “being pro-life” really means. It doesn’t just mean holding a sign or marching with 1,000s of others, though that is very important. For me, it meant standing up for the dignity of my child to doctors, nurses, and the secular medical world. It meant calling her by name and letting those medical professionals see that I was unwavering in the discussion of my CHILD, her LIFE.
Yes, this miscarriage was harder than my first one for a number of different reasons. But, I am so thankful for Seraphina’s short life. I live in the hope and pray that God was able to use her and us as champions for the pro-life movement and that our witness to life will make a difference for another family at that hospital in the future.
(NOTE: We buried Seraphina in our backyard because there is nowhere local that does burials for miscarried or very small babies. We discussed this matter with a close priest friend, as we did not have the funds to afford a full funeral service and plot for our daughter. He advised us to choose a quiet place on our property that we knew would not be disturbed at any point by digging or landscaping of any sort.)