(Author’s note: It is with Katie’s approval that I share this story with you, my closest readers.)
Last week Katie was three months pregnant for the seventh time.
This week she’s not.
It didn’t sneak up on us, but I’m not sure how you prepare for something like that. Katie knew something was wrong for a few weeks, and was grappling with the possibility of a miscarriage long before I considered it. And even though she told me when her concern started, I dismissed it. I didn’t discount that something might be wrong, or insist that it wasn’t a miscarriage. But I held on to the thought, or maybe hope, that it was something else. Something less definite. I don’t think I realized how much of that day for Katie was spent processing what was most likely happening or what could be happening or what she hoped wasn’t happening. As the husband, without the constant reminder that life is growing within me, I operated on the daily assumption that when Katie wasn’t telling me something, it meant that everything was fine; and when she did tell me something, I could take a moment to wish and hope it away.
I prayed often for Katie. More than morning and night. But I remember the palpable moment I realized that my prayers and supplications were subconsciously, or maybe intuitively, always for Katie, and not necessarily the baby. And I think that’s when I started to slowly, but not out loud, accept what was already impressing upon me in small waves.
This baby was not coming.
A few days later Katie asked me for a priesthood blessing. (For anybody reading who may not be familiar with a priesthood blessing, it is an ordinance in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints where a worthy man who has been ordained and set apart to an office in the Priesthood has the authority to anoint and bless an individual who asks in faith for such a blessing. See James 5:14-15, in the New Testament. In its purest form and intent, personal and spiritual revelation is received for the individual asking for the blessing.)
I had a close friend come over and help me minister to Katie. I love Katie more powerfully than I ever thought I could love anybody. And it hurt to feel her concern about this pregnancy. As I put my hands on her head to give her a blessing, I could feel how known and loved she was to her Father in Heaven. I felt impressed to promise her that this experience would draw her closer to Him. That whether a baby came or not at this time, she would be at peace in her heart and mind and in her soul.
The next morning Katie seemed remarkably calm. Not carefree, but peaceful. She said she knew this pregnancy would not develop into a child for us to raise. And she felt calm and comforted by the blessing. I could see that she was blessed with understanding and insight. I felt reassured by her confidence. I felt bonded to Katie. I thought I was fine and in step with her. I thought I was okay.
I jumped in my car to head off to work and was a few miles down the highway when I found myself not okay. With Katie feeling centered and confident, I found myself finally processing my own reaction to the reality that a child I was anxious to meet would not be arriving. I felt swallowed up in sadness. I wasn’t angry or resentful. I didn’t feel cheated or that life was unfair. I just felt sad. And I felt sad for a while.
We had an appointment with our midwife for an ultrasound. As we drove to the office, our conversation included speculations from one side of the spectrum to the other. From “Maybe I was never pregnant?” to “What if we’re completely off and everything is okay?” But when the ultrasound showed what we had already suspected, that a miscarriage was imminent, we weren’t startled. That sadness briefly stung my heart again, and I studied Katie’s face, searching for any detectable sorrow. I thought I could see it, but it was buried under a brave, accepting face, so I didn’t say a word to her. I felt like speaking would have pulled the foundational block out from under her pyramid of strength, and her calm exterior might have given way. And that just seemed unnecessary. So I simply squeezed her hand.
We drove home, somewhat oddly comforted in knowing for certain where we were at, physically. We didn’t say anything to anybody else, as we hadn’t told anybody yet, not even our parents. The next couple of days were just watching and waiting, but brought us closer. I felt conscious of Katie and what was going on inside her.
At the end of that week, my parents were set to arrive at our house for the weekend, and literally, as I heard my kids squealing that Grandma and Grandpa were here, Katie found me and told me that it had just happened. She cried a light, heartfelt sigh of relief, finally feeling that she had turned a page and felt closure from a long, uncertain experience. I hugged her so close I wasn’t sure if my hug was sustaining her or vice versa. She assured me she was okay, but I could see she was physically and emotionally tired.
I walked outside and met my parents at the car. I hugged them, helped grab their stuff, and then told them a little about what the last week had been like. I wanted to let them know so they could be sensitive to Katie.
My dad and I were taking my boys camping for the night, and Katie and my mom and the girls had planned to do a Girls’ Night at home. As Katie went into the kitchen to start their special dinner, my mom pulled Katie in to her and said, “Don’t you worry about dinner. We’re going out. Let’s take it easy tonight.” I watched Katie melt into my mom’s embrace, crying. It was more than the promise that she wouldn’t have to cook dinner. It was being understood, being cared for. It was the profound link between women, between mothers. It was an answer to prayer and the fulfillment of a blessing. My mom had had a miscarriage between my two youngest brothers and so understood much more deeply than I, though I wanted to. And Katie felt that. I will always be grateful that my mom was there; that she is exactly who she is, with the instincts that she has, and the love she’s had for Katie since day one.
As I thought about that moment I realized how many people I know and love who have had miscarriages. But for how common they are, rarely are they discussed. I imagine it’s because the event may be common, but the experience is personal. It was for us. It seems like a very private grieving; mourning the loss of possibilities, of plans. It often happens before others even know it is a possibility and so is rarely shared until long after comforting arms are needed. Yet, we’re grateful for the comfort and understanding that did come at the right time in the right quiet way; to be surrounded by people who love and support our little family, and who come running to our side when they are needed most.
(Author's Postscript: I've left the Comments button on. I know I don't usually do that...I suppose I just felt like this was a topic on which people might have something to say. And I thought I'd offer a place to say it. If anyone feels so inclined.)