Monday, April 25, 2011
Easter Sunday with my daughter, without my son.
What can I say about Easter? It was my daughter’s first Easter, my daughter who is my only living child. I had been shopping for weeks in preparation for this holiday, buying cards, baskets, toys, trinkets, etc. Different colored grass for the baskets and plastic eggs of every color. A few days before the holiday, I did my own little photo shoot with my baby, dressing her up like a bunny, then a flower, then a butterfly. On Easter Sunday, I dressed her up for church from head to toe. Everything was perfect from her purple headband to her white patent leather shoes. People in the pews were turning around during the sermon and admiring my little girl. “She’s just absolutely stunning” I heard someone say in the pew behind us. The woman in front of us poked her husband’s arm and urged him to turn around and look at how beautiful our daughter’s dress was. She had two dresses, one from each grandma, and did a “costume change” midday. Our adored little baby girl, Evelyn. So loved, so wanted, so cherished. It was all bittersweet. Would it always be this way now for the rest of our lives? Through almost every step, I kept thinking, Elias should be here, too. He should be getting baskets. He should have had a photo shoot. He should be wearing a little Easter suit, dressed perfectly from head to toe. People should be gawking over our gorgeous little man and what a perfect pair our twins are. Instead, I stood in church on Easter Sunday with my daughter in my arms and my son in my heart. Our precious little baby boy, Elias. So loved, so wanted, so cherished. Easter Sunday was the first time I had attended church in a very long time – maybe a year, even - and I wasn’t sure how I would feel about being there. I kept thinking about the enormity of all that had happened in that church. That church was where I had attended several funerals for beloved family members. That church was where my parents were married over thirty-five years ago. That church was where my husband and I were married almost four years ago, where we took vows to stay together, for better or worse. We had no idea what that truly meant or the challenges that lay ahead for us. I had no inkling, no hunch, no foresight of the sheer agony that awaited us - the anguish that was to come from my simple humble wish to build a family of my own. If I could go back in time to my wedding day, and tell our former selves what was to come, would we both still say “I do”? The chain of events to follow those two words would be heartbreaking. Would we have willingly put ourselves in a position to have our hearts shattered so thoroughly and abruptly? Would we have called off the wedding, assuming it was a sign that we shouldn’t be together? I didn’t attend church during my pregnancy. I was incredibly sick and threw up almost daily through week twenty-one. That in and of itself was mental torture, as I scoured the pregnancy books that spoke on multiple pregnancies, and each one recommended eating an inhuman amount of food intake that I couldn’t pull off to begin with, and add to that the vomiting, and I was way under what was recommended. Yes, even with the anti-nausea medication. So every day I felt horrible that I couldn’t eat enough for my babies, even though my OB assured me they were getting all the nourishment they needed, and that I should stop berating myself for vomiting due to the increased hcg levels of a twin pregnancy. She told me I was doing a great job; still, I felt like a failure. As soon as the vomiting subsided, I was back to work full-time, as summer had ended, and I was too exhausted to do anything on weekends but rest up on the couch and scour the baby name blogs, pregnancy sites, and moms of multiples forums. Then it was soon bedrest for me after my preterm labor, and I was forbidden to go anywhere but to my once a week OB visit. So, in a nutshell, no church visits. I missed church. I missed it very much. I ached for it. I thanked the Lord from my house, because I was unable to attend church, and I prayed every single night, without fail, for the safe arrival of my precious twins. I felt this intense connection, and as I mentioned before, I had never felt closer to God than I did during my pregnancy, even though I physically did not attend church services during my pregnancy. Yesterday, Easter Sunday, we went to our pew, and stood next to the rest of our family. I felt like a fraud, standing there in the house of the Lord, when I wasn’t sure what I believed anymore. A few moments later, a woman sat in front of us with an infant carrier in her arms. She set it down. The baby was all in yellow, so we couldn’t tell the gender. From the conversation of the parents, I knew it was a boy, just four weeks old. Brand new. A precious little boy, a bundle of joy, a gift from God. I immediately imagined the woman having just given birth and all the joy she must have been surrounded with, all the balloons and congratulations that I never saw nor heard after my c-section. The couple in front of us opened their hymnbooks and sang their praises to the Lord, while I stood there, trying to hide my tears from my parents, thinking about my boy Elias. How I ached to hold him in my arms. How I ached to raise my voice and sing amongst the other believers without feeling like a total fake. How my heart was just broken, feeling so utterly abandoned and betrayed by the Lord. I sang maybe two lines from the first song, but the tears came, and I couldn’t bring myself to sit there and mark the pages of the hymnbook in preparation for singing, like I used to. It became clear to me that I was far too angry and broken to sing this Easter. I stared at the stained glass images of Jesus and asked in my mind, “WHY?! Why didn’t you provide us with a miracle that would have saved our son?! He was perfectly healthy and ready to be born, how could you do this to us?!” Then I asked myself why I was bothering to even ask Him these questions? He didn’t answer my prayers before, so why did I think he would answer these questions? How stupid was I to think that praying could actually help? Hadn’t I prayed that I would have no bleeding during my pregnancy, as bleeding would be terrifying and remind me of my miscarriage? Yet I still bled. For two terrifying weeks. Two terrifying weeks, where I had to endure not only the ensuing panic but judgment from others who said I was simply “not moving on from the past”, and “don’t worry, your babies will be fine”. I had to deal with an ER doctor that told me I wasn’t miscarrying this time – that if I was miscarrying, there would be cramps first, then blood, and the fact that I had no cramps meant that it would be okay – followed by a different doctor who came in and handed me a packet of discharge papers that read “threatened miscarriage”. I said, “I was just told this isn’t a miscarriage”, and he replied, “Oh you could lose these babies any day, and there’s nothing you can do, you aren’t out of the woods because you aren’t twelve weeks along yet.” I thought this torment would be the worst of what I would have to go through, and I thanked the Lord for keeping my babies healthy through the two weeks of bleeding. Their heartbeats were strong, and they were there to stay. Even through the weeks of threatened labor, bedrest, home uterine monitoring, daily phone calls to the nurse to document my contractions (per OB's request). Instead of questioning why God had put me through all of that, I thanked Him for seeing me through and keeping my babies alive. I thought, when I bring two babies home from the hospital, I will forget ALL of this and just be grateful that they are here. I will let go of all my questioning of "Did I do enough for them?" and finally let the guilt subside over whether I ate all the right foods, rested enough, prayed enough. I continued to pray. Pray that that would be my last ER visit, which it wasn’t. Pray that my cervix wouldn’t shorten prematurely, which it did. Pray that I wouldn’t go into preterm labor, which I did. Pray that nothing horrible would happen to my babies, but it did. One died, and it had nothing to do with any of the things I had been worried about. So the questions remain, the guilt is stuck, the mental torment is unending. Did this happen simply because I did not pray for it to NOT happen?! I never prayed, “Please Lord, don’t let one of my babies suddenly be dead at a routine thirty seven week ultrasound.” I have to say no, it wouldn't have mattered, since none of my previous prayers had been granted. Still, I never even entertained the idea that I might lose one – not this way. Earlier I had worried about vanishing twin syndrome, but this? The stillbirth of one? Does that even happen?!?! How could this happen?! After all we had ALL been through, all the hospital visits, OB visits, ultrasounds, research, planning, caution, bedrest, monitoring, HOW?! Was it wrong for me to attend church service on Easter Sunday after all this? I don’t know. I don’t know what’s right or wrong anymore. I don’t know what’s up or what’s down. The world suddenly lacks any semblance of order, of cause and effect, of rationality or logic. The world is a place where cautious, well-educated, financially stable, loving people lose babies for no good reason, while careless people who are indifferent to having children and are ignorant about prenatal care seem to be blessed with healthy babies in abundance. You don’t believe me? Just watch the show “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant”. You will wonder how someone like me doesn’t jump off of a bridge or end up in the loony bin. I wonder how someone like me doesn’t jump off of a bridge or end up in the loony bin. Why, after all this, do I feel like I still enjoyed my daughter’s first Easter? Even without my son here? Even without my faith intact? Am I feigning this joy, putting on this show for her sake? It’s horrible that I don’t even KNOW if I ever experience true happiness, even when I FEEL like I AM. All the things I mentioned earlier that I did with my daughter – the shopping, the preparing for the holiday, the photos, putting her baskets together for her first Easter – was it all a sham? Was it all just a huge distraction from my grief, a way for me to “pretend” happiness? I guess I must still believe in God. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be so angry at Him. I don't know how, or why, but I must. Therefore, I must be an Idiot.