There it was, clear as day: a big, fat plus sign on the pregnancy test. 11 days late, not wanting to get my hopes up, but unable to wait any longer. It came as such a shock: no luck trying in October and then the decision to wait until the new year, when finances were better, after all the parties and the drinking, when our insurance plan was much more conducive to starting a pregnancy.
I was ecstatic.
Then the plans started. Buying a tiny stocking with the word “baby” stitched on the outside to place on the mantel next to ours. Sharing the news with our families at Christmas. Double strollers, side-by-side nurseries, a family of four by next Christmas. We were over the moon. Weeks passed, slowly ticking down to the day we’d get to share the excitement with our families. Torturously unhurried, the anticipation nearly boiling over, as we struggled to keep our secret.
Packages came: a big brother shirt for Chase, a photo calendar for my mom on which we’d circle the due date. It was all falling into place.
We were positively giddy.
Then, the Saturday morning before Christmas, baking cookies with Chase, a rush of warmth between my legs. I excuse myself and walk hurriedly to the bathroom. Red. Dizzying amounts of red.
I yell for my husband from the top of the stairs, “Call the doctor.” We play phone tag, describe the symptoms. “Tell her I’ve had a miscarriage before,” I remind him, as if he’s forgotten, as if either of us can think about anything else.
The offices are closed, she says, you’ll have to wait until Monday for an ultrasound. Unless you want to try the emergency room. Okay, thank you. He hangs up.
“Our insurance won’t cover an ER visit,” my husband says calmly. “It will cost us at least $3,000.”
“How can you ask me to wait two whole days to find out if my baby is still alive?” I scream at him, my anger misplaced. “It’s up to you,” he says, with sincerity. We’ll do whatever you need to do.”
“I know where you stand,” I say bitterly, “we’ll just wait until Monday to find out our baby is already gone.”
Two long days. Mindless TV shows loop continuously. We cry; sometimes I yell. The bleeding continues. I count off all the things we’ve lost, memories that will never be made, wonder if Chase will be our only. I mourn for that first Christmas magic he’ll never get, the excitement we can’t fake as we open gifts and struggle to keep our voices high and light. The Christmas lights stay off, the house dark except for the TV.
Time passes slowly, torturously unhurried. Two losses in as many years.
We are absolutely devastated.
Monday finally comes. I want to see you in my office, the doctor says. We pack up Chase and get in the car. It feels like we’re driving to a funeral.
Lay back on the table with your knees up, the ultrasound tech instructs. She angles the screen away from me; I angle my face away from hers—I don’t want to see the look on it when she reads the proof in black and white. She points the screen back to me. I brace myself, white-knuckle grip Adam’s hand.
“See that little flicker?” she asks. That’s the baby’s heartbeat. 164, nice and strong.”
I can’t believe it. My eyes well up, Adam squeezes my hand, Chase squirms in his arms. It’s so improbable, I wonder if she made a mistake. But no, there it is, that little flicker, the best sight I’ve even seen.
Then, immediate guilt. I gave up. I don’t deserve this baby.
There is a 4-centimeter bleed in your uterus, the doctor explains. Some women have much bigger bleeds and go on to have perfectly healthy babies. Some miscarry. It’s all a waiting game. I wish I could tell you something more definitive.
I smile, because that flicker is the only definitive thing I need to know today. Our baby is still alive. So there’s always hope.
Christmas is all about believing in things you can’t see. The fictitious: Santa Claus, reindeer, elves and the North Pole. The real: God, the baby Jesus, Bethlehem and the manger. It’s about trusting when you have scarcely little proof, about choosing to believe despite the doubts in your mind.
This Christmas, I choose to believe. I believe that I will still get my side-by-side nurseries and double stroller, that we will be a family of four next Christmas. I believe I will get the chance to look down at my swollen belly in the summer heat, that Chase will get the chance to be a big brother. I believe that the bleed will get smaller, the baby will get bigger and everything will turn out just fine. I believe because it’s the only thing I can do.
For now, we will be happy. No cautious, just optimistic. Because, when a real, live Christmas miracle lands in your lap, there is simply no room for doubt.
Our miracle baby, Samuel Irving Mowry, was born on August, 2, 2015. I thank God for him every single day.