I never could have guessed just how much a single word could impact my life. The reading on the digital test couldn’t be right. And yet, it was equally impossible that three early response digital pregnancy tests could be wrong. My heart was in my throat and my head was spinning. I was engaged, not married, and my fiancé and I had succumbed to temptation, and that temptation resulted in pregnancy.
With sweaty, shaking hands I called my fiancé to tell him the news. After a long pause he responded.
“This is a blessing.” If one word could have a great impact, four could surely carry a greater weight. I immediately felt better about the situation.
The next few weeks were spent preparing; we moved up our wedding date with the approval of our priest, informed our parents, and we had our first prenatal visit. My fiancé had taken away much of the nervousness of being pregnant out of wedlock, and I was starting to experience some mild pregnancy symptoms. I was starting to grow accustomed to the idea of being an expectant mother.
But I still had mixed feelings. On the one hand, I was excited and couldn’t wait to meet my child. Yet on the other hand, I was wracked with embarrassment and guilt. I knew an out-of-wedlock pregnancy would deeply embarrass my family, and I was not looking forward to the reaction of extended family and friends. Very few were made aware of our “situation,” mostly at my request, and these individuals were mainly our bridal party and a few very close friends. I alternated between crying out of joy for becoming a mother, and out of fear, trepidation, and embarrassment over the nature of the child’s conception. I was only starting to come to terms with it when I was around 9 weeks pregnant.
That week, I was visiting my fiancé who lived a state away. I was taking care of him while he was dealing with a pulled calf muscle that was causing him significant pain. He was nearly healed, and we were going to attend a marriage prep class the upcoming weekend. Our wedding was only about a month away.
Then I noticed something while using the restroom in the middle of the night…blood. I was awake all night worried about what it might mean, but did not want to overreact. Fortunately, we had chosen to have my OBGYN for my pregnancy be a pro-life physician in the town my fiancé lived in, since I was to move there after our wedding. I called him in the morning and went to the hospital where he was doing rounds as the head of the OB Triage unit. My fiancé sat down in the chair next to me and held my hand as the OB applied the ultrasound probe. We saw our baby on the screen. Our child was so much bigger than at the first appointment! It was amazing how much a baby could develop in those three short weeks. But something was wrong…terribly wrong. There was no heartbeat.
The rest of the visit with the doctor was a blur. There was talk of doing a D&C in a few days if the child did not pass on his or her own. There were quiet, sympathetic looks; considerate and kind words. But none of it registered. They had to be wrong. The machine just missed the heartbeat; I was sure of it.
But the bleeding grew more significant, and the contractions began. I was glad for the intense physical pain; it distracted from my emotional struggle. I was kicking myself. God had taken this baby away from me because I had not been positive enough about his or her presence. He was taking away the blessing he gave us because I hadn’t appreciated it. If only I hadn’t been so negative!
A day passed, as did my little one from my body. Not knowing the gender, but with my fiancé suspecting it was a girl, we named her Olivia Elyse. We buried her.
The first two months of marriage were made difficult by my depression over having both miscarried and not being pregnant immediately. Two cycles went by without a positive test. We were about to move cross-country and I finally decided to hand it over to God. I wanted a baby terribly, but I needed to start to let go. We said goodbye to friends and family, trekked across the country, and were waiting for our things to make it to our new apartment…a delay that caused us to spend a few nights on an air-mattress and eat takeout. And then I took “the test.”
We were elated; excited. We couldn’t wait! My nerves were a mess. I couldn’t bear for “it” to happen again. I couldn’t lose another baby. But we didn’t lose this baby.
Our baby girl was born nine months later, on the exact day that my first child left my womb.
I cannot explain the kind of simultaneous dread and anticipation that giving birth on the death date of a previous child brings. I know I will never forget that first baby, but I truly believe it was God’s gift to me to heal my heart by bringing my beautiful, healthy girl to me on the year anniversary of her big sister’s death. Now at nearly five months old, my daughter is the light of our life, and we simply cannot wait to make her a big sister sometime in the future. It has been well over a year now since I lost Olivia, but I no longer feel that incredibly sad ache in my heart. There are moments that I am sad and miss her, but sharing her story helps to give her life a purpose. To celebrate life from conception and to share how her life, though incredibly short, mattered and changed the course of our little family’s history.
St. Olivia, pray for us!