Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Four years

Four years ago today I started the day in a drug induced haze, a stupor.  My senses were dulled and heightened all at once.  I couldn’t will myself awake to speak or to open my eyes, but my hearing was impeccable, enhanced even.  Hushed conversations in the hallway outside my room sounded like shouting.  The hurried footsteps echoed in my head.

I was in a hospital room.  The same one I entered about twenty-four hours earlier to deliver a baby that had died.  The drugs were supposed to make me get some sleep, and they did, but fitfully, teetering on that edge between waking and sleeping with the unwelcome side effect of hallucinations thrown in for bonus. 

The sheer horror of the prospect filled my mind for hours when I first realized what I would have to do.  As if the trauma of being told you have a baby inside of you whose heart is no longer beating was not enough, a few hours later, after we had gotten home to let the tragedy sink in,  the doctor called to talk to me about next steps.  “Ashley, you’re going to have to come back in to the hospital to deliver your baby.  We can do it in the next several days, you can choose when.  I want you to think about this while you decide:  I want you to seriously consider holding your baby and saying goodbye to him.  Think about it.  Pray about it.”  As I hung up the phone with probably one of the kindest men to ever don a white coat, I told Jeff what he said.  “He said that we need to think about holding him and naming him.  He actually encouraged us to do that.  Seriously?” 

I had never known anyone closely who had a late term miscarriage or a stillbirth, so this was all new to me.  The only frame of reference I had was an ER episode where Carter and his finance have a stillborn baby.  I remember the anguish of watching that unfold; the agony of the women delivering a baby who didn’t cry.  And if memory served me right, Carter’s fiancé wouldn’t hold the baby.  She stared at a quiet crib in the corner of her darkened hospital room, but she wouldn’t hold him. 

While my mind was certainly not at its optimal functioning level in those days, I had enough sense to know I would never get one moment of this experience back.  If I decided not to hold our baby, then I would never get to change my mind once we left that hospital.  So we did it.  It wasn’t easy, but honestly after going through labor for twenty-six hours, it felt natural.  It felt right in a really wrong situation. 

And later that day, I went home.  You hear this phrase over and over when you have a miscarriage or stillbirth; Empty Arms.  That trip in the wheelchair from the hospital room to the car was that phrase exemplified.  I knew the looks you got when you had a little pink bundle in your arms and a smile on your face as the nurse wheeled you out.  I did not know the looks you get and the feeling of just wanting to close your eyes and just get out of there when they wheel you down with a teddy bear in your arms where a swaddled baby should be.  I don’t really recall much of what happened over the next couple of days other than looking for a place to bury our baby.  That and feeling like every person I encountered who was going on with their lives was  living in ignorant denial of the fragileness of our lives and the miracle that any of us actually make it to birth. 

Those days passed and with the help of my loving family, and most especially the light that came in the form of a little two year old girl who didn’t understand what happened and expected her life of laughter and joy and walks and playgrounds to continue.  So I followed her lead and slowly waded back into life with the rest of the world, with all of the people who could actually watch TV at night and chitchat about weather and car tires. 

And it went on from there.  

Nothing major happened to break me out of my sadness, I just slowly grieved differently, less publicly, more quietly, more in the inner places.  

Four years ago my lens was shifted with a jolt.  Reality, religion, truth, faith, trust, dependence, and love shifted mightily in the earthquake of losing a baby.  

None of those things have returned to their original place in me, but I trust that I am better for it today. 

That the place of my wounding has been and will continue to be the place of healing for me – and others too I pray.  Genesis 50:20.  

That through the storm, I had to decide whether I would white knuckle myself to the familiar, jump ship and give up, or get out and walk.  Matthew 14:28-31

Even today, I’m still learning and processing and trying to figure it all out.  And where I stand now is a place where I can say I am thankful for what this atrocity brought to me – that new lens.  One that is not nearly so sure of itself, but much more confident in my uncertainty.  One that doesn’t assume I have any idea about someone else’s story – their motives, their heart, their hurts.  One that is more likely to press in and ask, even when it is uncomfortable.  I am not yet to the point – nor do I know if I will ever be as I walk this earth – where I have fully accepted losing our baby boy, but today I believe I am four years further down a road that I trust will take me where He is leading.   


pwalton said...

My heart has and continues to ache for your loss - and the fact that knowing you are not alone does not remove that loss or pain. Although we suffer on this earth, we have a comfort that those who do not know Him can not experience. In that fact, we can rest and praise Him who is altogether worthy.


I don't know the right words to say. only, my heart goes out to you, and I pray God bless and keep you, and fill you with His peace that passes understanding *hugs*

Anne Roberts said...

Ashley, you write beautifully. Thank you for sharing your story. You are in my thoughts and prayers today.

Christie said...

Ashley, I can identify with so much of what you are saying, then again I think I cannot. I think I've felt and learned some of the same things because of what I am going through, but never had to experience loss on this level. However, thanks for telling your story. I think it put some of my feelings into words (beautifully written). I'm just trusting in the Lord and I know most of all that He wants our hearts. I was listening to a song yesterday that said "our greatest disappointments is His mercy in disguise" and I know that this is so true for me because this has completely broken me and changed me so much. Thank you for writing!

drewwalton said...

Ashley, I love you so much and I hope you know that your children and Jeff are so lucky to have you and your quiet strength. Your experience of losing Joshua is one that I have tried to not think too much about, because it makes me so sad, and I'm sorry that it's something that you have to carry quietly with you. I can't imagine the anguish you live with everyday, thinking about him, but I'm glad that you can continue to remember him and your story as his mother. You are an amazing woman, sister, wife, and mother, and your three beautiful girls are so lucky to have you as their guiding light.

Ashley said...

All of yours words are such gifts to me. Thanks to each of you for your kindness and tenderness. I am truly so blessed and am thankful for your thoughts and prayers and love.