My heart has always longed for children. Growing up I was always around kids; babysitting on the weekends, volunteering at church, working nanny positions, and dreaming of someday raising my own family. I was open to having my own children or adopting but I was certain from a young age that motherhood was part of my calling. I had a rough few years before meeting my husband. My oldest sister passed away at the very young age of 22 and I (17 at the time) did not take it well, I became really bitter and lonely and spent a couple years running away from God. I never doubted his existence or his sovereignty but after being told so many times that “God just needed another angel” or “as Christians we don’t mourn like those who have no hope” I felt like my grief was failure. My anger had given the enemy a foothold and I really felt that it wasn’t supposed to hurt this much, like that meant I didn’t really trust God, and it made me feel like God was cold and distant and unmoved by my emotions. So to numb the sting of loneliness I found myself in a few back to back unhealthy relationships, trying to fill a hole in my heart and make my dreams come true myself. I dated guys who would identify as Christians but I was not treated well and they certainly did not point me back to Jesus. Now, just to be fair, I was expecting teenagers to be able to carry the weight of my confused, grieving soul and I was conflicted about my entire identity as a child of God. I had plenty of my own problems and it wouldn’t be fair to pretend I was a total victim. It was in the midst of this time, however, that I hit my rock bottom and really admitted to myself that I both needed and desired God. I had tried to kind of force my way back to a relationship before that time but hadn’t been willing to admit my own brokenness but as soon as I did I felt the fullness of God’s presence in a way I had never experienced before and He assured me that He had felt my suffering and it was real and valid, that He cared. There was so much healing in that moment and my walk with God was natural again and so much deeper than before but I was still uncertain about dating. I remember praying “God I have always believed that you gave me a heart for children. I expected that meant I would raise my own but if that is not the plan, please let me know. I will care for orphans, I will teach, I will mother. But, Lord, if I am meant to marry please show me if it is safe because I am done choosing myself.”
Enter Ted. It was April 19th 2013 and I was attending the Young Adults Group at Church on the Rock for the very first time. I had been church shopping for a while just for a fresh start for myself and really loved the atmosphere at COTR and figured that meeting some more peers would be a great way to plug in. I was struck by Ted’s handsomeness and goofy sense of humor immediately. I really wasn’t out to look for a relationship but throughout that entire evening I just felt a sense of peace about him. I prayed a lot after our first and second encounters and really believed God was telling me that this was a genuinely good guy. Ted had experienced his own family tragedy, rededication to the Lord and relationship hurt in the years prior to us meeting so we were both very bold about our dreams from the start. It was clear that we both were dedicated to God and having a family and our relationship took off, we spent months of healing, laughing, adventuring and getting to know each other and were married on February 1st 2014.
We had agreed to wait a year before trying for a family but just 6 months in I let Ted know I was ready whenever he said the word. It was in November, just shy of the 1 year mark that he said he was ready to try for a family to. He said it kind of on a whim when our friends and family were getting pregnant around us so I wanted to make sure he was serious and we sat down for a conversation. He said he really was ready but then we talked a little about the fact that it might take a while. I had a family member dealing with infertility at the time and I have always had super irregular schedules but we agreed that we would be happy getting pregnant in a month and happy spending another year or two just the two of us. So we were very casual about it and, much to our surprise, learned just a couple months later that I was pregnant. We were ecstatic but as time wore on I got a little nervous about the pregnancy, labor and the whole 1st year. I have always been a toddler and preschooler person but have never been super into other people’s babies so I had no idea how I would do with a newborn. But on October 19th 2015 after a completely complication free pregnancy and a relatively easy labor I brought Theodore Swanson II (Teddy Jr.) into the world. He was so perfect and I was absolutely smitten. I loved watching him learn and, much to the surprise of my hyperactive self, truly enjoyed holding him for hours on end. I think that it part of the reason we started trying for baby number 2 when Teddy Jr. was only 5 months old. I was so eager to experience a pregnancy knowing how much I had loved the whole process. Also Ted and I had both grown up with siblings extremely close in age so that was the family we assumed we would have. The first 6 months of trying didn’t bug me at all, I knew I was still breastfeeding and waking up at night so it could take a while and I was enjoying the flexibility of just one child. Then 7 months rolled around, something about being greater than the half year mark made me feel really antsy. I was disappointed but not at all concerned, I started casually attempting to wean Teddy and figured it should happen soon. 8 months passed uneventfully and then on December 18th 2016 I finally got a positive pregnancy test! It was very light and I only had the one test so I made a note to get more and test again in a couple days when the line should be darker. I told Ted that night but warned him it might just be an evaporation line but got so excited anyway. The next day, however, I started my period and was crushed. I am still not certain if it was a chemical pregnancy ( where the egg is fertilized but never attaches) or an evaporation line and part of me is still grieving the life I may have lost. I don’t know if I have 1 or 2 babies waiting for me in heaven and look forward to finding out someday. We started trying again immediately and on January 27th I got 3 positive tests! I wrapped them all up in a gift for Ted to see when he got home and we called all our family the next morning. We all joked that my body was just waiting for another October birthday ( Ted, myself and Teddy Jr. are all October babies) and the months of disappointment faded as I felt my hormones changing. I was pretty casual about telling anyone and we even announced publicly before my first ultrasound because I knew I couldn’t keep my mouth shut anyway and I was very confident after my first pregnancy. At 7 weeks I encountered lots of women who had miscarried right around 6-8 weeks and my hearts ached for them but I still felt pretty safe. Then on February 16th I felt my first cramps, it was like a menstrual cramp, not any of the growing pains I had experienced with Teddy but I figured it was psychosomatic since I was so aware of miscarriages around that point. I took it easy but shut my mind to the possibility of anything happening then just 3 days later I started experiencing more cramps and made some phone calls. The consensus was my uterus was just growing faster the second time around and nothing can be done that early anyway so I went on modified bed rest, drank lots of water and waited for our ultrasound. Only a couple small cramps occurred during the week of waiting and on Feb 27th we headed in to look at our baby. I went to the midwifery where my son was born and they were all so excited to welcome us back. Ted and I went back to the ultrasound room and he sat by me feet to get a better view of the overhead screen and the midwife started trying to find baby on my belly but I have a tilted uterus and it was making it difficult for her to find anything. She said she would have to switch to a transvaginal and that baby was probably smaller than we thought. That kind of warned me because that meant I would have gotten a positive pregnancy test before 3 weeks gestation but I didn’t want to assume the worst so I pushed those thoughts aside and stared at the screen. She found our little baby pretty quickly and my heart swelled looking at it, she measured baby at 7 weeks 4 days which was 11 days behind what I thought but my body is weird that way so I was still somewhat hopeful. Then she started trying to find a heartbeat, I know there isn’t much to hear this early but I was listening intently anyway and staring at the heart rate monitor for any sign of life. She tried a couple times and my heart sank, the clock in the room was deafening because there wasn’t any other noise and I wanted to call out for Ted to hold my hand but couldn’t bear to be the one to say something wasn’t right. She tried several more times to find a heartbeat before she stopped and told us “It doesn’t look good. I’m sorry I know this isn’t how you wanted this visit to go”. She stepped out to allow me to get dressed and us to process a little together. When she came back we began to discuss options, she said bloodwork at this stage wouldn’t prove anything because I would still have HCG in my system even if baby was gone. We were given the choices of passing naturally, taking a pill to induce labor or a DnC. I didn’t have peace about choosing to get rid of our baby because the reality of losing it wasn’t real yet. We went home in tears and were greeted with hugs by my mom and Teddy at our house and cried together a little more before calling family. My mother in law flew up the next day to grieve with us and family stopped in and out with flowers, food and distractions. After several days with nothing happening I began to get my hopes up again. I had heard several stories of women who had been told the same thing but went back a few weeks later to hear a perfectly healthy heartbeat. I decided to schedule another ultrasound 2 weeks out and we waited and hoped. It took me a few days to pray for a miracle not because I doubted God could but because I felt like it was wrong of me to ask this baby to give up having heaven for a first home. But my heart changed a little because I realized God had this sweet child in his hands no matter what and he already knew my heart’s desire. So I just started letting it pour out of me. I prayed for God’s will, I prayed to meet my baby on this earth, I prayed for peace and I prayed that we could name our child no matter the outcome. I was praying to know it if was a boy or a girl and God just kept putting male pronouns on my heart and then I was praying that wherever this child went he would know how truly loved and wanted he was. It was then that a favorite song of mine from high school got stuck in my head “5 Years’ Time” by Noah and the Whale, the ending of the song is “...and wherever you go, there’ll be love, love, love.” It fit my prayer so perfectly and I looked up what the name Noah meant and saw it meant Comfort and Rest, the perfect name for the cry of our hearts. I ran it by Ted and we agreed that we would bury this baby as Noah and if we had a healthy baby boy we would still use that name. As the time grew closer we decided to reach out publicly for prayer and I am so glad we did. The burden of restlessness and anxiety that was taken from me during that time was spectacular. We had so much support and so many people praying for our little miracle baby. Finally the day arrived, March 13th. I kept myself busy all day so that I wouldn’t just be counting down the hours until 4 pm. I would be lying if I said that I hadn’t convinced myself that we were going to hear a heartbeat and that in a few short minutes this nightmare would be over. Unfortunately that was not our story. Baby was located quickly this time and there was no growth, I knew what was coming next and squeezed Ted’s hand tight. The tech then proceeded to show me in a few different ways that there was no heartbeat and where the gestational sac was uneven and starting to break. She hugged me and told me she just wanted me to know how seriously she took this but that I was in the process of losing my baby. It hit me so hard that his soul had been gone for weeks and I had been carrying his lifeless body around this whole time. I had been expecting that after a confirmation ultrasound I would want to take medication to induce labor so that I could move on but I just couldn’t do it. I felt like I was rushing to get rid of this baby just so we could try again and “replace” him. I wanted to honor any time we had in whatever way I could get it. However I only had another week or so to pass the baby naturally so I started doing longer walks and workouts to get labor started. That was really hard emotionally because I was rushing to start a labor that would end with me staring down at my lifeless child. I had a towel in my car and a bowl in the bathroom in case I lost him unexpectedly. That hurt so much. I was supposed to be planning how to introduce a second baby into our home, looking for a bigger car, shopping for clothes, etc. I was not supposed to be planning on saying goodbye so early. Every day that passed without spotting made me a little crazy and I just kept wanting to believe that none of this was true but St Patrick’s Day morning I got my first taste of closure. I was in the middle of a workout and I felt a surge of something so I went to the bathroom and sure enough, there was some blood. It was so strange because a part of me was so relieved and another was just beginning to fully grief. I spotted on and off all day but it was mostly just my water leaking. I called my mom to go pick out a plant with me so we would have a place to bury his body since there was still so much snow on the ground. We picked out a beautiful Peace Lily and she hung out with me until Ted got home and we just waited but it wasn’t until the next day at 3 pm that I finally delivered Noah’s body into the world. Despite all the cramps leading up to labor the actual passing of the body took me by surprise and I had to fish him out of the toilet not quite believing it was him and hating that it happened that way. This was, of course, the 1 hour all day that Ted was out of the house for an appointment so I texted him and he came home to see the body as soon as he was able. We kept him safe and away until we put Teddy to bed and then we said a prayer over Noah’s body and buried him as we repotted the lilies. It was emotional and surreal and heartbreaking and relieving and intimate and awful and a little bit of everything else. We savored the moment for a while and went to bed. I was surprised that I still wasn’t bleeding that much and still felt like I was waiting for that big take the breath out of me grief sensation.
We felt sad but able to face the world the next morning so we headed to church and planned on joining my family for brunch afterwards. I spent most of the service with Teddy in the nursery since he wouldn’t let me leave and I was cherishing the snuggles anyway but while we were there I felt my bleeding pick up. As soon as we got home I called my midwife and explained how much blood there was and what was going on. She said that for the day after it didn’t seem excessive but to go to the ER if it increased or I felt feverish or dizzy or had a pulse over 100. I had called my sister Rebecca (a Labor and Delivery Nurse) while I was waiting for the midwives to finish charting a delivery and she said the OB at the hospital gave her the same rules. She came to sit with us and checked my pulse, it was fine but she brought Teddy with her to give us an easy day and we just relaxed and monitored my body for a while. I attempted to take a nap but had too much pain in my stomach to sleep so I decided to soak in the tub and see if that helped. After the bath and a rinse in the shower I felt a little better and sat on our couch to journal a little but then the blood flow picked up and I started seeing stars. I was just about to tell Ted we might have to go in when all of a sudden I passed a huge clot and lost so much blood I felt like I couldn’t even stand. Ted had to carry me to the bathroom and help me with new clothes before bringing me back to the couch so I could call my sister and ask if she could keep Teddy Jr. until we were through at the ER. She was very agreeable and Ted and I took off immediately, I placed a towel on my seat and we were at the hospital soon. We only waited a few minutes before being called back and they took blood to look for chromosomal defects and told me they would try a pelvic exam before rushing me off to surgery. I was so relieved by that because I assumed going in would mean an automatic DnC and was nervous about surgery and the potential for complications with future pregnancies. Luckily the tissue could be removed during the exam and we didn’t have to go back for surgery, it was still the most invasive hospital visit of my life but I’m thankful it wasn’t worse. After the exam we waited around for several hours so they could run the labs, take an ultrasound to ensure all the big clots were gone and monitor for any increased bleeding. I was finally deemed healthy and sent home with the instructions to drink lots of fluids, not pick up anything too heavy and come back if a similar incident occurred.
I’m writing this now more than a month after Noah’s soul went to be with Jesus and a week after delivering his body and I finally feel free to explore all my emotions. Recovery has been hard because I haven’t really been allowed to pick up Teddy and it feels like that is just another one of my babies that I am waiting to hold. I’ve struggled with guilt on so many levels; trying to think of anything I could have done differently that would have spared this baby’s life. I have even felt a whisper in my ear now and then that if I had handled my experience grieving my sister better that this wouldn’t have happened, like I was getting a second chance to do it right. I know that isn’t how God operates though. I’m not sure why this baby is gone but it isn’t punishment. I have been forgiven and God has this sweet baby in His hands and sees all my tears. I have been able to find solace in the same phrases that bugged me before because I realized that I am allowed to grieve but I do get to look forward to heaven with the anticipation of reunion. I have felt hope about a new life someday and a fear of trying again. I have felt so much love poured out on us and have so much appreciation for everyone who has loved on my family of 4 during this time. I have felt empty knowing that my stomach doesn’t contain the life it once did and my arms aren’t going to be holding a new baby this year. I have felt gratitude for the validation of our loss, meals delivered, prayers said and the hope of heaven. I have felt a little bit of everything and know so much more is coming but now that the waiting is over I do find myself moving forward. Not moving past it or moving on, this will always be a part of me and sweet Noah will always be my baby but I am slowly moving forward. Moving towards the grieving process, moving towards hope and healing, moving towards new life and towards the beautiful promise of reunion. I thank the Lord for holding my sweet baby and know He can tell him how deeply his mommy and daddy love him until we get to tell him ourselves.