Thank all of you for your kind words. I’m not sure what happened to the link. It worked before, and blogs are supposed to be viewable by the unregistered. Unfortunately, ENWorld can be a bit wonky. How bothersome. Here’s the entire text, split into two posts since it’s too long for one:
“Even sometimes there is happiness in the midst of sorrow;
and indeed sorrow is everywhere.” – Fyodor Dostoevsky
On September 21, 2005, we discovered my third child had died. Yesterday, September 21, 2009, we discovered my fourth child also had died. Both pregnancies ended with miscarriages.
My third child, posthumously named Nicholas, was completely unexpected. We didn’t know my wife Katrina was pregnant until she had miscarried. Katrina couldn’t have been more than eight weeks along. I remember her tears. Katrina felt the loss more acutely. My wife hurt, and that hurt me, but the miscarriage itself – the death of my third child – left a curious blank in my mind. I am conscious that I fathered Nicholas and that he died. I regret his passing, and I would have done anything to have things be otherwise, but there’s still that curious blank.
That blank bothers me. I almost envy my wife her pain over Nicholas’s death because I know her pain is born out of that depth of wifely love that has the power to shame a husband into being a better man. The fact that I am a better man today than when Katrina and I married in 1993 demonstrates this love’s reality; the fact that I am still confronted by my unworthiness of this love demonstrates it’s depth. I thank God for Katrina’s love. It is the heart of the sacramental reality of our marriage through which God’s grace works in my life.
About two months ago, we found out Katrina was pregnant again. We confirmed the pregnancy with her general practitioner. Katrina insisted that we not tell anyone other than family until after the first trimester, but my definition of family is a bit more expansive than hers. I pretty much told everyone. I told my friends. I told former co-workers. I told strangers at the grocery store. Almost immediately, I had become committed to the idea of welcoming a new child into our home. Why not share the good news?
The good news afforded opportunities for good humor which helped take the sting out of the fact that I was unemployed at the time. Katrina’s general practitioner referred her to an ob/gyn. After her first appointment with him, our son and daughter, Christopher and Adrienne, were bit by the enthusiasm bug as well. They pestered Katrina endlessly with questions. We had to look up educational videos about fetal development on the Internet. Most of all, they wanted to know, “Is it a boy or a girl?” and “What are you going to name it?”
For a girl, I was intent on Bethany Marie, to which Adrienne objected. I was less settled on a boy’s name, although I did lean toward Benjamin John. Of course, it was too early in the pregnancy to tell the baby’s gender, so I called our unborn child Widget. The nickname stuck. Widget became a regular part of our conversation around the house. Widget was a part of our family.
Then, two Saturdays ago, Katrina woke me about midnight to tell me she had some spotting, and from that point it seemed as if nothing went right. We called the ob/gyn’s answering service for advice, and they referred us to the on-call doctor. The on-call doctor’s answering service said they weren’t on-call and refused to help. We called Katrina’s ob/gyn’s answering service again. They took down the relevant information and said they’d call back. Thirty minutes later we were still waiting. I told Katrina to get dressed, called my mother to come over, and then took Katrina to the emergency room. We stood in line there, and by the time we were being checked in, the on-call doctor called us.
Since we were at the ER, we stayed to be seen. Everything seemed to happen at a glacial pace. Eventually, a doctor came in and did an ultrasound with a portable unit. He said he saw neither a heartbeat nor movement, and ordered Katrina to be taken for a more accurate ultrasound. Minutes passed. A thoroughly unprofessional nurse showed up with a wheelchair to take Katrina away. She said I could not accompany Katrina, but that I was to take her clothes and purse to the waiting room. Against my instincts, I bit my tongue and complied.
Katrina’s treatment by this nurse would be sufficient for me to terminate her employment if she worked for me. She wouldn’t let Katrina see the ultrasound images. She left her sitting in another waiting room dressed in a paper hospital gown. When Katrina asked where I was, the nurse told her she didn’t know, but that someone would find me. Like I said, I’d have fired this nurse. Compassion may not be medically relevant, but it also doesn’t cost anything, and it is unconscionable to leave a pregnant women worried about the life of her unborn child sitting alone and half naked in a cold room through which strangers pass.
About 4:00 a.m., a different nurse found me half-asleep in the ER waiting room, and he took me to Katrina. Shortly after she was dressed, the doctor we had seen earlier led us into a small office and informed us that we had experienced “fetal demise”. How I hate euphemisms. They exist to mask the full truth of a thing. We weren’t experiencing fetal demise. We had just been told that our unborn child was dead.
We got home about five in the morning. We told my mother what the ER doctor had said. Tears were shed. Mom prayed with Katrina. A few hours later the kids were up and wondering why we weren’t getting ready for Mass. I told them the bad news. Christopher lumbered away to brood in the living room. Adrienne cried in her bedroom. Both children sought to make sense of Widget’s death by placing blame on others: the doctors, God, et cetera. I did my best to explain that no one was to blame, that about one of four babies die before they are born.
Continued next post.
– Mark L. Chance.