“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 – I 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 doppler 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 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 it though, because I was so surprised. It had never occurred to me that I might lose this baby.

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.

Waiting for Baby

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 will leave the old kidneys in.

It was our last week in the basement suite and I had just entered my sixth month when I began passing blood. Remembering our panicked trip to the ER just 2 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 couldn’t believe this is happening now. We were moving that week and I still had a lot of packing to do. This was going to be one of my busiest weeks at work. I hoped they wouldn’t keep me in the hospital 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.

This isn’t the way it was suppose to be.

The days that followed 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. It was 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 – so 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 7th unit of blood. The doctor took my husband aside and explained that the kidney was a ticking time bomb which 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 Labor and Delivery. 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!”

Where do we go from here?

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. There are times when I had 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 that 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 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.

The Bible says “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed . . . Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9,16)

Epilogue

It has been more than 5 years since I wrote this article about my firstborn son. Many people would be surprised at how much I still miss him. There have been times of struggle, of anger and hurt. Especially when our son Simon was also stillborn. Yet again, there was God himself walking beside me.

Life is so unfair and I don’t understand the “whys” of it all. But I do know that God is faithful, no matter how I feel in the moment. I am convinced that He is the answer.

Since many people have asked, yes, we have had other children. Noah has 3 little sisters here on earth. They are a blessing and a gift. I wonder if hearts that grieve do not have an even greater capacity for joy.

 

Written by Christie Hoos

Christie Hoos is a wife, mother of 4, sometimes student and writer. She married her high school sweetheart at age 19 and it’s been a crazy ride ever since. They have known the depths of grief with the births of two stillborn sons. They have known the heights of bliss with their three daughters and newly adopted son. Throw Down Syndrome and a few other disabilities in the mix and this is one busy household. In her spare time Christie blogs at SoHeresUs (okay, the “spare time” part was a joke, but the rest is true).

Her message is: life is messy, but wonderful and God is mysterious, but good. Some days it feels like we’re just holding it together with hope and a prayer. And that’s exactly where we’re supposed to be.