Heartbeats

The whoosh whoosh whoosh sound of the baby’s heartbeat never gets old.

That’s what my six-months-pregnant friend posted as her status on Facebook a few weeks ago.

Even this has its opposite, its counterpart.

Silence.

Silence doesn’t start out that way, though. It starts out as a flu bug I can’t shake, and days I come home from work and sleep for fourteen hours without Nathan being able to wake me, and strange sensations in my body. It starts with a general fatigue feeling, extra tearfulness when I am happy, and a foreboding sense of nausea. It starts with throwing up in the night, slow mornings, a distaste for all things food, and a desperate need for oatmeal cookies.

It’s not until you realize that it’s been six weeks of the mysterious flu bug, that no one else is catching it, and that the only thing that helps is some cheese and crackers before bed and left on the nightstand for first thing in the morning. It’s not until you, the girl who only drinks water, start begging for ginger ale. It’s not until you realize staying awake depends on really long walks, but that the walks are becoming very slow and easy with not much desire to run.

It’s not until you look back on the calendar to check your monthly cycle records and realize the last time started on the wrong day and only lasted two days and never did really count.

You try to count back, and think, and you realize that you and your husband are really bad at math.

That’s when you remember the silence.

That’s when the silence of an ultrasound sends a panic through your bones, so that a moment that should be celebratory almost becomes a moment of resignation.

There is still faith, though.

Even silence can’t take away faith.

So I think to myself, and say to myself, as pragmatically as possible,

I am pregnant again.
I know I will likely miscarry in a month or so.
But for this short time,
it is the miracle of our family,
and the blessings of the temple.
And for this short time,
the child is with me,
in this moment,
no matter the work day
or DHS
or medical drama.
For this moment,
it is of the divine
and a togetherness
in mortality –
and even if only for a moment,
that moment is sacred.
But also,
because of the temple,
I know this is bigger
than just this moment.

And so I sit there, in silence, waiting.

There are days to wait, knowing the end could come at any moment.

There are days to wait, knowing this may be the only time we have together.

There are days to wait, to tell no one, to wait and see what happens, how far we get, how long we have together.

Days pass into weeks.  More weeks pass.  I make it to the magic 12 week mark.

I finally tell Nathan because he is worried that my flu isn’t going away and realizing something is wrong.

We cry.

We cry because we know that for us, the news of a pregnancy is also the news of letting go of a child we never get to meet.

We talk about it, and he makes a joke about saving up money for my next crown.

(Every pregnancy has cost me a tooth.)

We have mixed feelings. We are confused about how a couple who they say can’t carry children full term could be so very fertile. We are excited to know another spirit has come for a body, and we count our children who have come and gone, the foster kids and the miscarriages, and we are in awe that we could be married not yet two years and already the parents of more than twenty. We are anxious about another miscarriage, and the dangers it entails, and the grief that will ensue. We wonder at the last year of one foster baby after another, if the purpose in that was to fill us up with diaper experience to ease the pain of not having our own gross monsters or if it was in preparation for those we would finally hold as our own.

We only know silence.

It’s so familiar now, that silence that comes with grief.  It isn’t heavy on me anymore, because it is so very settled into me already, a part of who I am.  It is an unlikely companion, even a friend, and has taught me to appreciate mortal moments of togetherness without taking them for granted.  Mortality is finished so very quickly, and always feels like too quickly.

Even with a healthy pregnancy, there are those early days when you suspect and feel things and notice changes, but when it is still too early to take a test.  For us, it’s a matter of waiting for the positive test, getting the blood test, watching the hCG levels rise, level off, and then start to fall.  There is nothing we can do, like how some people can do special treatments or only need a shot or take more of this vitamin or that.  We can only wait, and we wait in silence.

There is nothing the doctors can do, either. It’s not a blood type issue. It’s not about just getting a shot and that makes everything okay. It’s about his stuff and my stuff and being cancer free and loving all our children, foster or biological, and no matter what side of the veil any of us are on. It’s just waiting to for that: to know which side of the veil is now.

Every twinge startles us, and every cramp makes us jump.

I hurt and ache and am as sick as anything and only want to sleep, but need to work and want to love the kids we have, the kids that are not mine, the kids that I already hold in my arms.

The days are a blur, with me working and sleeping and walking and sleeping and sometimes eating but always sleeping. Nathan surprises me with extra chores finished, being sure the kids help, and bringing me fancy cheeses when my gluten free crackers need protein.

We wait, in this loud silence, for days and days and days and week after week.

When we pass the magic first trimester mark, we go ahead and tell his parents.  It breaks my heart because I know they so want grandchildren, and I know it breaks all of our hearts, and it is heavy for all of us.  But we need the kids to know, and the grandparents to know, in case something happens while Nathan is away or at the symphony or something where I would need the kids to help me get a hold of him or his parents for help.  We have to be prepared, because it will be sudden, and it could be dangerous.

We tell his parents by having Five whisper the news to Nathan’s mom.

It’s very tender and sweet, a special moment, excepting it is the first time in his life that Five actually whispers.  So he has to go back and say it again, and this time he points at me and shouts, “Mama is growing a baby!”  No one really smiles, and no one really celebrates, because we know.  I want to apologize, except I don’t, because it is still a baby.

We are honest with the kids, reminding them that we have not carried a baby full term, and that we are likely to miscarry again.  We explain that it will be painful, and sad, and that I might be down for the count for a few days.  We practice how to call Nathan, how to call the grandparents, and have our safety plan ready just in case.

I go to work, but my job is sitting there, and listening, and I keep it simple as I can.  The doctor says to keep my routine normal, and so I walk and work and read my Hebrew.  We just keep waiting.

The passing of days, of hours, of weeks, feels like my own heartbeat thumping in my chest.

I rejoice each time I am sick, crying tears of gratitude every time I throw up, because it means my baby is still alive, just for one more day.

I reach for Nathan in my sleep, feeling his strength comfort me, somehow making me safe enough to rest as never before.

I whisper to the child, and talk, and sing, and teach all I can in this little time we have together. I pray. I cry. I stay calm, peaceful, and happy.

But it is a deafening silence as we wait.

The good thing, though, about such a sacred silence is how much you can hear. I close my eyes and see the child. I listen and learn and fall in love with my child and who my child may someday become.

But this is mortality, and we are waiting in silence.

Silence has been my home.

We are waiting on the miscarriage to begin, or, by some miracle, to have hCG levels that go up and stay up.

They do not.

It’s like watching a roller coaster as it climbs up and up and up, and then slows to a steady crawl at the very top, almost stopping, and then the numbers start to plummet.

Then we know.

And I cry.

But not like before, because this is just a grief, not the year of grief like last year right after my father died and then my mother was killed and then several miscarriages in a row.  Somehow it is easier this time, maybe because this one came all by herself, taking her time, letting us get to know her a little before scampering back to where she came from so recently.

Maybe because we are in a better place, understand more, and have our spiritual beliefs to which we cling.

There is heartache, yes, of course, but we know this is not the end of the story.

This is our Easter miracle, our Mother’s Day comfort, knowing that there is more yet to come, and that ALL of our family will be together again, that there will be a resurrection, that there will be a Millennium, which is only the beginning of a greater eternity, and that there will be family.

We committed, at the very beginning of our marriage, to fostering the “lost” children on this earth, and now we are learning that we are to be foster parents even to our own children.  It is a higher level of consecration, a great stewardship, a specific assignment which we willingly accepted and understand more of each day.  We are humbled by the greeting of these most valiant souls that come and go so quickly, and welcome them for the time we are permitted to love them in mortality, even though it stings because our perception of mortal time feels far too short.  But the time coming to us?  More than what time can be measured.  We have D&C 138 and Moroni 8 and a hundred prophet quotes that teach us all the comfort we need.

President Brigham Young said he believed that “when the mother feels life come to her infant it is the spirit entering the body.” (Journal of Discourses, 17:143.)

Elder Joseph Fielding Smith wrote that “I will express my personal opinion that we should have hope that these little ones will receive a resurrection and then belong to us.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:280.)

Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, quoting President Brigham Young, also wrote that “‘they are all right,’ … and nothing in the way of sealings or ordinances need be done for them [because as if born into the covenant to parents who are already sealed in the temple.” (Bruce R. McConkie, comp., Doctrines of Salvation, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1955, 2:281.)

The message “The Origin of Man” issued by the First Presidency in 1909 stated: “The body of man enters upon its career as a tiny germ embryo, which becomes an infant, quickened at a certain stage by the spirit whose tabernacle it is, and the child, after being born, develops into a man.” (James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1970, 4:205.)

Elder Bruce R. McConkie, referring to “The Origin of Man,” expressed his opinion that the message “appears to bear out the concept that the eternal spirit enters the body prior to a normal birth, and therefore that stillborn children [and miscarried children] will be resurrected.” (Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966, p. 768.)

Some have also said that a living soul does not exist until a three parts are in place: a body, a spirit, and the breath of life.

It’s okay that we don’t know all the details exactly, or the timing of when a something becomes a someone.

What we know (besides that we are really bad at math) is that there will be a resurrection, and that our temple sealing does hold us all together, and that some of these little spirits we have been able to see and greet and meet and even still hear from time to time.

Also, that my mother WINS AGAIN by getting to play grandmother all by herself for as long as she wants right now, without me interrupting with rules and boundaries and taking them back home once in a while.  Now I see why her timing was so exactly right, and why her mortal time was finished before all these miscarriages we have had.  Nice, mom.  Classy. Way to grandparent from the other side of the veil.

For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:14-16)

For all old things shall pass away, and all things shall become new, even the heaven and the earth, and all the fulness thereof, both men and beasts, the fowls of the air, and the fishes of the sea; And not one hair, neither mote, shall be lost, for it is the workmanship of mine hand. (D&C 29:24-25)

The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame. (Alma 40:23)


Our turn will come, and we will join them there.

But not today.

For today, we are separated, but only temporally and temporarily, after a 14 week visit.

The miscarriage began at the end of the day yesterday.  I felt it begin and talked to the doctor who wanted to be sure if I needed surgery or not.  It continued into the night, happened in the night, and I did not need to have surgery yet.  We know to watch, we are careful of fevers, and so far all is well considering, though very unpleasant.  Exhaustion and pain and heartbreak, but we are okay. I will go in for follow-up and we will see again if I need surgery or not, and it will just be.  It just is.

She was, and still is.

When Joseph Smith reflected on children he and Emma lost so early, he wrote that “the Lord would take some of his most righteous spirits in their infancy (or before) to spare them the burden of mortality” (HC vol. 2, pg. 159) and that (Ibid. pg. 153):

 

As Concerning the resurrection I will merely say that … Children will be enthroned in the presence of God & the Lamb with bodies of the same stature that were on earth.

In the King Follet funeral sermon, Joseph Smith also said that (Journal, 7 June 1844, vol 2, pg. 159):

Mothers have their children in Eternity… But as it falls so it will rise…
It will be in its precise form as it fell in its mothers arms.

Brigham Young also taught this, stating (Journal History, 31 January 1861):

My doctrine or belief is that we shall find all children and people at the resurrection of the same stature as when they died.

However, Joseph F. Smith pointed out the babies would not stay babies forever, after the resurrection, and that the babies would grow up and progress just as the rest of us do (1918) Improvement Era 21:567-574):

I did not believe, never did believe that he was correctly reported or that those who died in infancy would remain as little children after the resurrection. Never had it entered my soul as a possibility that such could be the case;
[All of us continue to grow and progress, and even those babies can be married, once they are grown, in holy temples during the Millennium].

In this discussion, the 1896 affidavits of Joseph and M. Isabella Horne stated that they were taught the parents would receive them and that mothers will raise their deceased children in the Millennium (9):

The idea that I got from what he said was that the children would grow and develop in the Millennium, and that the mothers would have the pleasure of training and caring for them, which they had been deprived of in this life.

Wilford Woodruff wrote (HC vol. 2, pg 159, spelling corrected to modern spelling):

In the early ages of the world A righteous man & a man of God & intelligence had a better chance to do good to be received & believed than at the present day. But in these days such a man is much opposed & persecuted by most of the inhabitants of the earth & he has much sorrow to pass through. Hence the Lord takes many away even in infancy that they may escape the envy of man, the sorrows & evils of this present world & they were too pure & to lovely to live on Earth. Therefore if rightly considered we have, instead of mourning we have reason to rejoice, as they are delivered from evil & we shall soon have them again.

We shall soon have her, and all of our children, again.

That’s what we know to be true.

But for now, there is silence, and my heart does not want to beat.

I hurt.  There is emptiness.  There is that silence that is so very loud.  It’s a loud that makes me tired.

Nathan hurts, too.  He is sad with me, but not angry at me.  He keeps reminding me it is not my fault, and that I did nothing wrong.  He thanks me, even, for being a veil for him, by which he could meet his children these brief moments we had together.  He holds me, and we are silent together, for a long time, listening to the sounds of only our own heartbeats.

We stay there until dawn begins, and babies start to wake, babies that do not belong to us.

He rescues me from the toddler who gleefully pounces on me each morning, and pulls her aside so that I can love on her and tickle her without her hurting me.  Then he takes her away to play and get her ready, while I rest and cry.

Five comes in then, just as my tears begin to fall.  I tell him the baby stopped growing and is already gone from us, and that I am sad because I miss her but that I am okay and happy to see him.  He climbs up onto the bed, brushes my hair away from my face, and pats me on the head and says, “Don’t worry, Mama, it will be okay.  We had Easter resurrection, and that means we all get our bodies back.  We will see her again another day. I know it is true.”

I cry then, for sure, happy for my little almost-son who is sweet to me and has a little testimony of the resurrection.

When Nathan comes in again to make sure I am okay, and brings me breakfast he urges me to eat, he takes Five out with him to go to school, and Five calls out over his shoulder, “Don’t worry about it, mom!  Those caseworkers bring us babies all the time!”

And he makes me laugh and cry all at once.

He hasn’t yet read how to ease the pain of miscarriage or 10 things you should never say after a miscarriage, that boy.

I hear him, running with the toddler, across the living room floor.

The whoosh whoosh whoosh sound of their footprints never gets old.

 

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About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Comments

Heartbeats — 5 Comments

  1. Oh Emily,
    I am so very sorry for your loss and sadness. Tears for you and Nathan and Marianna…
    Beautifully written and so tender! And what a boy is that 5! Sweetest thing I ever heard.
    Becky

      • But that amazing testimony you have instilled in such a short time! What a blessing to help him counteract all that chair throwing stuff built up in him in the past.