by Christie Hoos
"We can't find a heartbeat. I'm sorry, your baby is gone."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing—there obviously had been some crazy mistake. At first I thought they must be in the wrong room. I felt sorry for that poor woman next door—wouldn't want to be in her shoes right now. Or maybe it was the ultrasound. These machines malfunction all the time.
I could still feel my baby moving and we had listened to the heartbeat just that morning. Why did this stubborn doctor keep insisting that my child was dead? I was angry that he was upsetting my husband, who was already so worried. I had to make him understand. "Check it again! Check it again!" I screamed.
The nurse wheeled the machine over to the bed and squirted the cold jelly on my swollen belly. When we heard a faint thump-thump-thump I was so relieved—but the nurse shook her head. It was my own pulse we were hearing, not the rapid swishing sound I had come to love. There was only silence.
It finally hit me—my precious baby was dead. All the hopes and dreams that I had for him were gone in that instant. I have no words to describe the pain, the utter despair I felt then. I had always told myself that bad things happen to good people and someday I would be put to the test. I guess I didn't really believe me, though, because I was so surprised. It had never occurred to me that I might lose this baby.
"I hope they don't keep me here long"
He was our first child. After four years of wise and slightly less-than-patient waiting on both our parts we were ready to build a family. When we saw that pink line on the test stick we danced around our basement apartment like a couple of idiots. We wrapped up one pink bootie and one blue bootie and sent them to each of our parents.
Then began the wait—it seemed interminable. Everyone kept saying how the time would fly by—but to me it slowed to a crawl. Before long I had far more maternity clothes than regular outfits. We even began to pack for our move into a new house.
I gave no more than a passing thought to the concerns my husband had about my defective left kidney. After all it hadn't worked most of my life and the doctors assured us that it was not a problem. Even when my blood pressure climbed we were told to relax. My right kidney function was excellent and I was being closely monitored. This defective kidney was little more than a nuisance—in fact we learned that even in a kidney transplant doctors would leave the old kidneys in.
I had just entered my sixth month when I began passing blood. Remembering our panicked trip to the emergency room just two weeks earlier with severe abdominal pains, I was embarrassed to return. I had felt so silly to be sent home with what was probably indigestion, but this seemed to be an awful lot of blood.
"Here we go again! I can't believe this is happening now—we are moving this week and I still have a lot of packing to do. This is going to be one of my busiest weeks at work. I hope they don't keep me here long."
I was admitted that evening and started on a course of antibiotics for what was most likely a kidney infection. The next day each doctor who examined me had a new theory. Perhaps it was kidney stones. Or maybe it was a clot wash—rare, but not unheard of.
After a few hours of agony in the night and a small blood transfusion I began to feel much better. In fact the doctors began to talk about sending me home. We called all our friends and family with the good news. That morning I listened to my baby's heartbeat for the last time.
The days that follow are a blur—pain, my mom's voice on the phone, a nurse holding my hand, our pastor praying for us, the pain when I cried, my husband's worried face . . . I still "felt" the baby move—most likely bladder spasms or the very common "phantom kicks" often associated with in-utero death.
A CAT scan revealed what the doctors had no way of knowing: My kidney was bleeding profusely. It was not draining properly. While everything appeared to be clearing up, in fact the blood was pooling in my kidney. As it filled up it began to expand, putting pressure on all my organs and my womb.
I was scheduled for surgery immediately. Before being wheeled away I received my seventh unit of blood. The doctor took my husband aside and explained that the kidney was a ticking time bomb that could rupture at any time—it was already approximately the size of a basketball.
I wasn't afraid, in fact I didn't really think much of it—I just wanted it all to be over. Less than a week after surgery I was wheeled up to the Labor and Delivery area. The next morning at 9:10 a.m., I gave birth to my son Noah William Hoos—1 lb. 6 oz. and perfectly formed. It was the most bittersweet moment as I held his tiny body close to mine.
"I love you so much, my precious boy! I can't wait to meet you someday! I am so sorry this happened!"
It has been three months now and his due date is only a few days away. I find it difficult to explain what I am going through. Grief, for me, comes in waves. It appears unexpectedly and sweeps through my soul. I may have a smile on my face; I may say that I am fine; I may even convince myself that it is true, but just around the corner lurks another wave of sadness.
I am tossed like the ocean—pounding waves and crashing surf, yet only a few miles below the surface the deep waters are still and calm. Beneath the turmoil I have an abiding peace. It is what the Bible calls "a peace that passes understanding." It doesn't make any human sense to feel this peace right now—but I do. I know that everything will be okay. I know that I am not alone.
As a child I made the decision to trust Jesus Christ with my whole life. I did not understand everything about Him and I still do not, but I knew that He loved me and I believed that only He could take care of me. It was not very eloquent, but I meant every word when I prayed:
"Dear Jesus, I want to go to heaven when I die. I know that I do lots of bad things and I am not good enough on my own. Please forgive me. Come into my heart and stay with me always. Thank you for dying in my place. Amen."
Because of this simple prayer, said so many years ago, not only do I have a peace that could only come from God, but also I have hope. I know that one day I will see my baby boy again and what is even more amazing—one day I will see God face to face. I do not need to worry about my future, because it does not depend on what I do. Jesus has earned my place in heaven—all I had to do was ask.
So when you ask me how I am doing I will say that I am fine. I am intensely sad but—though it makes no human sense—I am hopeful and I am at peace.
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