The Blessing and Learning Curve of Gaining and Losing Elim (“ball of cells”)

Image from tochristifrommommy.blogspot.com.

Less than two weeks ago, I found out I was finally pregnant… I called the baby “ball of cells.”  That was my term of endearment.

My medical training made me cautious.  I know that pregnancy does not equal baby.  I know that life is fragile.  I took 3 tests to confirm before I even told Patrick because I wanted to be sure.

It didn’t change our excitement and happiness.  Talking about the future.  Planning for when to tell people. How to make work function.  What we would have to change or do.  Rejoicing.

I knew the longest besides God, of course.  I remember that first Sunday in church when it was still just our little secret thanking God for the new creation growing inside of me and wanting to tell the world and yet wanting to keep it to myself because if others knew, somehow something would go wrong.  The only other person who found out before stuff started going wrong was Patrick and I told him on Sunday night (with what I believe was a very adorable and entertaining card).

Then, we had to say goodbye to “ball of cells.”

I knew something was wrong mid-week.  I re-took a test.  The line got lighter and although this isn’t a perfect system, it wasn’t a good sign.  I told Patrick.

Usually I am the high-baseline, optimistic person.  This time it was him.  He refused to believe anything bad happened to “ball of cells.”  I didn’t want to go to the doctor.  I didn’t want to hear what I already knew inside.  Finally, I went to the doctor who instilled a bit of hope in me instead of flat out dashing our dreams.   I wanted hope.  Cautious hope, but hope nonetheless.

I went for bloodwork.  It was either going to confirm what I thought I knew or make everything better.  I hoped it would make things better.  I needed it to make things better.

Nothing is more bizarre than being congratulated on your pregnancy, being asked about your due date, where you plan to deliver and all that good stuff while sitting there with that gut feeling that your baby is dead.

I didn’t have the heart to tell them.  I didn’t want anyone to feel what I was feeling.

Also bizarre is walking around all weekend not knowing and yet knowing.  It feels surreal.  I have lovely best friends (three of them) who checked in incessantly.  I have a husband who bought me beautiful flowers, cooked me food and was all around over protective.  I don’t know what I would do without them.  I was just glad I wasn’t on call.

Sunday, we watched the Canadian men win the gold in hockey (WHOO!).  Happily, we went to church still not knowing whether we would be parents of a living baby in 8 months.  I was still having some morning sickness and weird headaches, but the acne was clearing up, the cramping was worse and I kind of felt empty.

I prayed for God’s will in my baby’s life and in our lives.  I prayed for strength.  I prayed that we would glorify him in whatever was to come.

We left church on our way to have lunch and board games with friends at our place and there was a voicemail on my phone.  It was my new doctor.  In summary:  My bloodwork was perfect except that my HCG was less than 5.

There would be no baby.

So much for that hope.

It is funny.  I have always thought pregnancy loss was a big deal.  I remember learning about it in med school and thinking how awful it was.  I remember when the first couple I knew miscarried shortly after telling everyone about their pregnancy.  I remember thinking that I didn’t know how they coped with it.

At the same time, I have always been kind of flippant about it, particularly when it comes to me and when it comes to early pregnancy.  I mean, an embryo is an organized ball of cells and odds are there is some sort of genetic flaw that is incompatible with life.  It just makes good scientific sense to clean up mistakes.

I thought calling “ball of cells” just that would make it more clear to me that it may not make it.  I thought explaining to my friends that I was waiting to make sure things were growing or dying appropriately made it all sound more clinical.

But really, there is nothing to be flippant about.

Sure, life goes on.  I know that.  It doesn’t change the hurt of the life that won’t.  Especially because I was one of the only people who really knew it.  And I didn’t even know it that well.  We only got to hang out for about 3 weeks total.  And 2 of them, I didn’t even know it was there.  And it died at some point in the last one.

I feel in some ways like I should care less.  This is technically still a chemical pregnancy (miscarriage before 6 weeks).  It felt different from what I thought might have been my last ?chemical where there was a squinter maybe positive (but in reality probably an evaporation line) and then definite negatives.  It was sad and disappointing, but really not the same as actually existing pregnant for several days when you know something is happening.  It is the difference between thinking maybe and knowing for sure.

It was literally just a ball of cells that wasn’t able to survive.  “It was God’s will” after all.  It was, I guess.  Still sucks though.  Maybe somehow they did have some sort of potential.

I am, in part, glad it happened so early.  Maybe I am less attached than I would have been if I was further along.  People have told me I should be less attached, at least.  That kind of makes me scared for this happening again later in pregnancy.  I have the utmost sympathy for women who loose babies who are more developed and for those who lose children.  At the same time, I am jealous because I was robbed of the experience of even seeing the little sucker on an ultrasound screen.

Sure, I will have more kids.  Sure, I am young.  I know most women go on to have no issues with future pregnancies and get pregnant shortly after something like this.  The statistics are on my side.  I also know I was in the wrong end of the 50% of women who have bleeding in early pregnancy.  Something has to go right.

It is a funny experience telling people you miscarried when they didn’t even know you were pregnant.  Not that we’re telling many people.  It makes them super uncomfortable.  It makes me uncomfortable too (and I often love embracing the awkward).  But, because nobody talks about, I kind of want to.  I know statistically, I am far from the only one to experience this.    I know because, like the big nerd I am, I have read everything I can on the subject.

Because “ball of cells” was so little, I have had a lot of anxiety around whether or not I would see him or her in heaven. Seems silly, right?  I mean, if you believe life begins at conception, of course “ball of cells” was alive and then died.  But, my scientific mind picturing a little cell collection had a hard time picturing my ball of cells chilling with Jesus and my Grandfather.  But, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)  Pretty cool, huh.  “Ball of cells” was a pretty little child, so I suppose he or she counts.

As a result of this, I then got thinking that we should give “ball of cells” a proper name because I am sure they don’t want to be known as “ball of cells” for all eternity.  That being said, the snarky and cold side of me didn’t want to name it because, well, that would make it more real and felt as if I was making much out of little.  Also, I could have other dead balls of cells that I don’t know of (most people probably do), so what about them (I don’t know how to answer this question)?  And, I didn’t want people to judge me (I, in the past would have).  Patrick liked the sounds of naming him or her too, so we went with it.

We named him or her Elim because I have been reading Exodus recently and about how God provided water for the Israelites in the wilderness.  Plus, it is a gender neutral name.

I’d love to say I am all better now, but to be blunt, I’m not.

I’m better in the sense that my body is no longer rejecting the remains of my child.  I’m better in the sense that I know for sure now that Elim died and is in heaven now (while his or her biochemical bits are somewhere in the sewers).

Grief is a funny thing.  And this grief is of a variety that I haven’t experienced before.  Even though I am okay with death, this doesn’t feel okay.  And that is okay too.

I’m sad.  I’m still a bit angry.  But, I feel a whole lot of peace and a whole lot of joy, which is a big testament to answered prayers and the awesomeness of God.

I know, you probably read joy and now think I am taking some sort of pills.  I’m not.

This isn’t smiling, frolicking joy.

So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. –John 16:22

It is more the I’m happy I’m okay, Patrick is okay and Elim is okay.  I’m happy Jesus came and that I’ll get to see my baby again, even though I don’t get the logistics because he or she was just a ball of cells.  I’m happy because I feel protected and loved despite the crap that has gone down.

The really cool thing is that I get something more now.  I have just a little bit of a better understanding of how much God must love us.

Sure, I’m still ticked He didn’t fix Elim and I’m not still barfy and headachey and pregnant (okay, confession… I was pretty excited when I was feeling physically well today).

The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.  -Job 1:21

But, if I can love a little ball of unborn cells that I barely know that much…  So much that I am mourning their death… That is pretty huge.

If God loves me more than that, then I can’t even begin to imagine how sad he feels when we draw away from Him, when He loses one of us.

So yes.  This sucks.  I am not alone in this.  Neither are you.  But, I am growing and learning in my relationship with God and as a physician and human from this experience in ways I definitely didn’t expect.  Funny how gifts come in bizarre packages sometimes.

Image from spiritualinspiration.tumblr.com.

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12 thoughts on “The Blessing and Learning Curve of Gaining and Losing Elim (“ball of cells”)

  1. Trisha, God bless you for writing this. Pray and believe God will bless you two with however many he wants you to have. God is awesome when it comes to giving us what we ask of him even if it takes a little longer and some hardships. Hang in there; I did. It took me 5 years before I got pregnant but when it happened it was prophetic. I have the blog post written on July 19 of the last 2 or 3 years where I re-posted it. I was 34 years old and the story had people believing I was crazy for the vision God gave me. But it happened just as I told them.

    As far as what happened here, I can’t be sure it was God’s will. The enemy is on the rampage and fears certain children being born or living due to the next “deliverers” that are about to appear on the world scene. So look to Jesus for this great blessing to come upon you. It will; I believe that. And I think it is wonderful you are so open about it. You will help many others going through the same thing.

    • Thanks for your encouragement, Naphtali.
      You’re right, God is awesome when it comes to giving us what we ask of Him. In fact, through this very trial, I have realized that the community I was missing and praying for was right under my nose in the form of our lovely small group. He provides. We just need to wait.
      You are very right about whether it is God’s will. I think God allows things to happen sometimes, but that, as you say, it is Satan who is really causing the hurt and harm in the situation.
      And as for the next great blessing. There is a huge blessing in the situation, as sad as it is. So, I’m embracing that.

  2. This is the kind of event that people get very awkward about. They are not sure what to say or if they should say anything. If it’s real to you (and it was) then it needs to be acknowledged. I am sorry you had this happen but also glad you have faith to help you through it.

  3. A tough post to write. A tough post to read. My heart goes out to you. Yes, Elim was a little being created by God and as such should be mourned. Your thoughts will turn toward Elim on your due date as well. But praise God you have the joy of knowing you will see this child someday. In the meantime I pray for your healing of heart, mind and body, and of Patrick as well, as men are so often forgotten in this ordeal.

  4. Oh no! So sorry for the loss of your little baby, who was very real and dear to you in every way a baby should be to his or her mama. Blessings to you, and please, please feel free to comment on my blog or email me if you need to vent. Even if it’s like six months from now and you feel embarrassed about still thinking about everything. I get it.

    I felt that same relief of feeling SO much better, and grateful I hadn’t been more entangled with the babies… And later found myself so jealous of the mamas with later (and full term) losses who at least got to see their babies and feel the weight of their teeny-tiny mortal bodies held against them before saying goodbye. Grief is such a funny thing, but The Lord is very familiar with it and promises that he is so close to you when your heart is most broken. Blessings, blessings, blessings to you in this time especially. I am praying that this Lenten season, where we consider the weight of the fall and the dark stain of sin, will be a special way the Holy Spirit ministers to you with reminders of the redemption for death and everything that is not as it should be — the Easter resurrection.

    For as in Adam all (even ball-of-cell babies like Elim) die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (I Corinthians 15)

    Love & Hugs!
    -Abby.

    • Awe, thanks Abby.
      I am glad I’m not alone in that strange feeling of being relieved about not being more entangled and yet strangely jealous about having no other tangible connection. Grief is a funny thing and I too am so grateful that the Lord is familiar with this.

  5. Pingback: Learning in Ultrasound: A Person is a Person… | At least we made it this far...

  6. Pingback: To Elim, On Your Estimated Due Date | At least we made it this far...

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