ordinary saints

“It was a boy,” April says.
The woman cries in Jackson’s arms, as they mourn the knowledge that their unborn child has been detected with an incurable disease.

Before I can exhale, I start to sob. I bite my lip, but my body is shaking.
Why do I watch Grey’s Anatomy? It always makes me cry.

I hear April’s words again. “It was a boy.”

Inside my head, I hear my obstetrician’s question. “Do you want to know if it was a girl or a boy?”

It’s a week after the operation conducted to clear my uterus of the baby whose heartbeat I excitedly saw on the ultrasound just weeks before.

“No,” I shake my head.

My doctor explains, “We did the genetic testing to see if there was a chromosomal problem. We didn’t find anything. You know, sometimes these things just happen.”

Sometimes these things just happen. That’s what the doctors said. About miscarrying the twins. About the ectopic pregnancy earlier that year. About this pregnancy. Sometimes these things just happen

She continues, “So we know the sex, if you want to know.”

I continue shaking my head. “No. That would be too hard.”

It’s not true. Knowing the sex would not make it any harder. I would have loved a boy, a new experience and a chance to use one of those names we brainstormed during the latter months of the second pregnancy. Or another girl. We have all the clothes already. It doesn’t matter. The minute the pregnancy test showed positive, the baby was real. Once we saw the heartbeat, the baby was even more real. Really mine. Really ours. Girl or boy, it was my baby.

I want my baby back. I want my babies back. I want my babies back. I want them back.

The intake form at the doctor’s office made it real. Four pregnancies; one birth. It sounded as bad as if felt. I checked the boxes for miscarried and ectopic pregnancies.

I cry for an hour after the scene from Grey’s Anatomy. I text a friend who calls immediately. I recount the scene from Greys. She asks if I’m okay. I can’t find the words. I close my eyes. I stutter. I cannot move. I try to talk, but I stumble over the choked up feeling in my throat.
There is just one concrete feeling: I WANT MY BABIES BACK!

I change the topic. I ramble on about something random. I cannot speak.

The grief freezes my vocal chords. It creates tensions in my shoulders. It comes in small spurts and I lose days of productivity. I fear its onslaught. Could I rise from the bed? Could I cook for my family? Could I drive to work? I push it back to some depth inside. I cannot release the dam. My life would fall apart.

Life and loss are handmaidens.

Annie Hardison-Moody notes this when she writes about the birth of her daughter. While she labors to bring forth her child’s life, she hears that another woman has lost her baby. In the same hospital, just doors away. This is the focus of her blog post, but I notice the part about her own pregnancy. Her first child; her eighth pregnancy. Seven miscarriages. Seven.

I imagine that her grief is twice mine. I cannot imagine her grief.

How does she move? Think? Write? Try again and again?

Seven. Seven.

She must want her babies back too.

“Loss was always at the edge of any joy I felt,” she writes.
That’s how I felt before the heartbeat. Fear and hope taunted each other.
I thought the heartbeat was the green light. The sign that I could exhale.
Seven, I repeat in my head. Seven.

saint in stained glass

Saints

Saints emerge from experiences of loss. In the earlier days of Christianity, the saints were martyrs. They died for their faith. Their faith withstood the threat of death.

Annie is the saint I honor these days. She astounds me. That she tried and hoped bespeaks great faith. Then she bears witness to life in the midst of death. She testifies. She honors loss while celebrating life. This is as holy as it gets.

I try. I honestly rejoice with the mama-friends I made in my “mommy and me” classes; the friends who had baby two while I was losing babies two and three. I dig deeper into bedtime tickles with my toddler daughter. I nestle my nose in her hair when she falls asleep in my arms. I know there is life here in the midst of wordless grief.

I email Annie. I tell her that she amazes me. I recount my losses. I tell her that I cannot move or think. She tells me that my work helped her wrap her mind around loss and faith. She tells me that she cried a lot. She still does. This is holy too.

 

 

Book Monica A. Coleman to speak at your event.

Monica speaks with heart and vulnerability as she discusses some of the most challenging issues of our day. She speaks out on issues that churches and society often keep silent: mental health, sexual and domestic violence and religious diversity. In the pulpit, she offers a refreshing view of how scripture leads us to community and social action. In academic lectures, she blends her knowledge of religion, cultural studies and literature with social issues to offer new visions of faith. In every setting, she shows audiences how our faith can free us to be more and more of who and how God calls us to be.

Read More

Book Monica A. Coleman to speak at your event.

Monica speaks with heart and vulnerability as she discusses some of the most challenging issues of our day. She speaks out on issues that churches and society often keep silent: mental health, sexual and domestic violence and religious diversity. In the pulpit, she offers a refreshing view of how scripture leads us to community and social action. In academic lectures, she blends her knowledge of religion, cultural studies and literature with social issues to offer new visions of faith. In every setting, she shows audiences how our faith can free us to be more and more of who and how God calls us to be.

Read More