I've been back to work for two weeks now, and life feels to be falling back into some sort of routine again. I actually enjoy waking up in the morning and making my way into the office. I thought I would want more time at home - but I'm finding that there is a good balance of being around people again and having some down time to just work at home in peace. To an outsider I look like any other employee of the company - I go to work with my coffee mug, check emails, sit in on some conference calls, meet with clients and go home. I've even caught myself believing that I'm just a normal employee back at my normal job living a normal life. And then I have days like Monday.
While the rest of the work world was going about their emails and conference calls I was just leaving therapy to go pick up my daughter's autopsy report. If that's not a snap back to one's reality, I don't know what is.
For three months I had been preparing myself for that day. For three months I have been convincing myself that this happened days before I delivered, as some of the doctors had mentioned in passing at one point. Like any other grieving parent that hadn't slept, I took those comments and I held on to them - I told myself that must have been what happened. I told myself that because this had happened days prior - that someday, should I become pregnant again, we'd be able to see this distress or "catch it" before it got this bad and save our next baby.
You see, there will be no normal pregnancy for me again. God willing, if I'm able to have another baby, I know that those 40 weeks will be filled with anxiety and uncertainty. There will be no naivete with another pregnancy - once infant death has rocked your world, there is no rest. I now live with the reality that I am not exempt from another loss just because I suffered one already. There will be no rest until I have a healthy crying baby in my arms. That's my reality - that is something my husband and I have to mentally and emotionally prepare for. But, knowing that any other pregnancy I may have will be monitored more closely than this one had been, I found comfort believing that we'd be able to "catch" this if it had indeed happened leading up to Olive's birth.
What I learned on Monday is that I had a perfectly healthy baby. A baby with organs that were healthy and the right size for her. A baby whose body was structurally perfect, a perfectly plump and healthy baby. What I learned on Monday is that there were two sections of the umbilical cord that had bruising and looked as though they had been compromised "shortly before birth". Two spots where blood flow and oxygen were cut off from my perfectly healthy baby. Two spots that, at some point during my labor, began the slow process of killing my child.
What I read, sitting in my car in front of Children's Hospital, was this:
Cord that was attached to my placenta, which was attached to my uterus, which is a part of my body, which was her lifeline....failed.
My body failed.
This reality hit me like a ton of bricks. I couldn't help it - how did I not know this happened? What kind of mother can't tell that her baby is in distress? I replayed that day in my head over and over again. Was it a position I labored in? Should I have listened to my midwife and walked more instead of sitting all scrunched up in a chair or on the toilet? If I had walked more maybe the lip of my cervix wouldn't have been stuck on her head. I should have done those lunges they told me to do. Who doesn't listen to their midwife? Me.
That night I went to church. I didn't want to go anywhere, but I knew I couldn't stay at home. If I stayed at home that night I would beat myself up and I needed mercy. I needed grace. I needed truth. I knew it wasn't my fault, I did - but I didn't have an answer to my own question. If it wasn't my fault what really happened?
I was a blubbering mess in church, but I left there feeling a little better. I still didn't have many answers, but I felt a little better - until I got home. When I returned home I found my husband standing in the kitchen reading the report. What would he say when he realized I failed her? Failed us?
Instead of telling me that he never wanted to have babies with me again (which is what I felt like he should say to me because the doubt started to creep back into my head and clearly I can't be trusted to birth a baby) he told me he was happy there was nothing wrong with me. He told me that he was so relieved that there was nothing genetic that we have to worry about. He told me that he believed in me and in my body - and that yes, we will be cautious and anxious and worrisome when we/if we become pregnant again - he told me that this was not my fault.
We went to bed that night like any other Monday night, like the "normal" couple we still are, taking the last 20 minutes of our day to read before calling it a night. I opened my devotion book to the next page - which was focusing on God revealing himself to us through the Holy Spirit.
His Spirit searches out everything and shows us even God's deep secrets. No one can know what anyone else is really thinking except that person alone, and no one can know God's thoughts except God's own Spirit. And God has actually given us his spirit (not the world's spirit) so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us. 1 Corinthians 2:10-12 NLT
"Significant suffering leaves us with significant questions. Before the hurt invaded our lives, perhaps we were content for our understanding of God's sovereignty and his way of working in the world to be fuzzy. But now the issues are not theoretical. They're very real, and we want real answers. We want the truth, not just clichés or religious-sounding pat answers. This is when we need the Holy Spirit like no other time, when we're facing an uncertain future and trying to make sense of it all."
It hit me.
If I say I trust in God and remind myself daily, Dear Lord, help me to believe and trust your perfect will in your perfect way, then I need to believe this was bigger than an accident, this wasn't just the odds being against us. If this was just the odds then what was the point? If this was an accident then God wasn't in control, and since I believe he has been in control this whole time, then there had to be more. I do not believe I will EVER know the real reason this happened, but I do believe this happened for a reason. I believe every life has a reason and a purpose. Some of us get 75 years for that purpose, some 36 hours. Olive is not the first person on this earth to die and she won't be the last. There was a plan for her life, and I had a role. My job was to create her, grow her and birth her. My job was to bring her into this world for the 36 hours she had to make her mark. My body did it's job.
Is that the perfect answer? No - not for my human mind, anyway - and it's certainly not as easy to believe, trust and live God's truth - but I'm a work in progress. Her 36 hours somehow fit into God's perfect will in HIS perfect way. I know the only way I can continue to move forward is with and through Him.
"Questions about the suffering in the world send so many on a search for truth. They study world religions, travel to sacred places, seek out secular saviors. But the truth - God's wisdom and an understanding of the big picture - is not something that can be discovered with our minds. It is something that can be revealed to us only by the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit does not reveal the truth to those who are on a mere intellectual exercise without their hearts or wills engaged. God reveals himself to those who earnestly seek him. As he dwells within us and as he illumines our understanding of his Word, he helps us understand the "wonderful things God has freely given us."
I pray God continues to open my heart and mind to his truth.
*Direct quotes from "The One Year Book of Hope" by Nancy Guthrie