Charla Ink Slingers Loss Respect Life

Old and Pregnant

old-and-pregnantI have known so many women who have experienced pregnancy loss and miscarriage. I never in a million years thought I would be one of them.  I had three children, three uneventful pregnancies, and I had reached the age of 44.  It was highly unlikely that I would get pregnant again.  I was past that time, despite still having regular cycles and no symptoms of menopause whatsoever.  Besides, we had gone nine years without getting pregnant.  We certainly had not been “trying,” but we always said we would accept whatever God gave us, so quite unlikely another child was in the cards for us.

I was at a conference out of town and was preoccupied and very busy with learning about the latest in Advanced Placement and just enjoying a little time to myself.  In the evenings, I finally got to spend some “in real life” time with my friends, Donna, Martina, Tina and others.

Any day now, I told myself. I sat by the hotel pool reading (quite a luxury for this wife and mom of three) semi-worrying that I would have to run to the ladies room at any moment.  But nothing;  I was asymptomatic– no cramps, no real moodiness, no adolescent break out. I told myself, not possible, any day now; I am just late, right? Though I was ordinarily like clockwork. I spent a final  evening with these wonderful ladies and almost asked for a ride to the drugstore to get a test, you know, “just in case”. Nah– not possible for this old lady; I’d wait until I got home to check for sure.  

However, something just kept nagging at me, so after walking to Mass that Sunday, the day I was headed home, I begrudgingly took a detour to the drugstore near my hotel.  I finished packing and took the test– just to make sure I had nothing to worry about.

Lo and behold! It was glaringly positive!

I was incredulous.  Not possible.  No way.  What??? Am I looking at this stick correctly???

I wish I could say I was elated.  I wish I could say this unexpected news overjoyed me.  I wish I could say this is what I wanted. Alas, I could say none of those things.

I can’t even describe what was going through my mind at that moment.  I am ashamed to say, I screamed at God, “What are You thinking!? How on earth is this a good idea?! Why are You doing this to me?!” I just can’t be pregnant!

All I could repeatedly tell myself is “I can’t do this!” “I can’t do this!”“I can’t do this!”“I can’t do this!”

I started doing the math in my head.  I would be almost sixty two when this baby graduates from high school.  I am just too old.

I told God to take this baby; I was not a good enough mom; I was too old and too tired for nursing, diapers, sleepless nights.  I was not to be trusted to give this baby the perfect, young, energetic mom he deserved. Oh why did I say this out loud for God to hear me?

“I can’t do this!” “I can’t do this!”“I can’t do this!”“I can’t do this!”

But I would have to do this.  I would have to trust God’s will, but I was not quite ready to do that.

After this melt down, I calmed down and got ready to leave. I went through all this by myself in a hotel room. No one to talk to, no one was around.

I got to the airport and called my mom. She is the only one I wanted to talk to at that moment.  I did not want to tell my husband on the phone, so I called my mom and told her.  I started to cry hysterically yet again, and my sweet mom says, “Why are you crying? This is wonderful. You’re having a baby!” To which I replied, “Mom, but I am SO OLD!” She kinda laughed and said “Oh yeah. That’s right. Well, that is okay.  It’ll be just fine! You should be happy.”  At that moment, I felt if I had been listening earlier, these were the exact same words that God was saying to me.  Thank you Lord for repeating Yourself loud and clear through my mother’s words.

I arrived back home and as my husband picked me up, I handed him the test stick. He reacted quite the way I did, but with less hysterics. He was worried about all the same things I was worried about. Talking to my mom gave me some clarity and I attempted to instill some of it into my dear husband. Eventually, that is what happened.

Everything fell in place and we started to make the beginning preparations: find a doctor, take the vitamins, pick out names… My husband and I actually agreed upon a boy’s and a girl’s name pretty quickly. My sons were elated, especially the younger, and my sister and her family were ecstatic. We chose to wait to tell the nine year old until things were further along, but sadly, it wouldn’t get much further along than a few more weeks.  

We were heading out to the lake cabin with the family one weekend when the end began. At about nine weeks, I woke up and started spotting. I tried to keep up hope, but I knew two things in my heart: one, that it was baby boy, and two, that he was gone.

His name is Liam Phillip.

I cried and cried and cried. Not the hysterical cry from when I was overwhelmed with the pregnancy news, but a low constant sob that still hasn’t quite stopped. I cried for my beautiful boy, who I just knew would look like my oldest son, who I knew I would never meet, never hold, never nurse. I cried in regret for the words I spoke to myself and God, not trusting Him or myself.  I cried that my kids would never meet their brother.

Blood tests confirmed what I already knew and I saw each result, spaced days apart,dwindle down to nothing. I returned to work after summer break, keeping this pain at bay, until not just one, but two, coworkers announced their news: One was about to be a new mom, and she shared my due date; the other’s wife was due days before that. Her baby was born later, but his was born on my due date.

It has been six months since my baby should have been born, and many emotions are at play for me. I am still in mourning to be honest. I am mourning not only my baby boy, but I am mourning my fertility.  We do not dare “try again.”  I could not bear to try to replace him with another.  As this one wasn’t planned to begin with, I reacted horribly, and besides, what if I lost the next baby, and the next, and the next…? No, I can not go through that again. The doctor said it probably happened because these things just happen. There is nothing wrong with me medically, except that my eggs are pretty old.  Yes, there is something sad about probably not being able to bear anymore children. Every month is filled with dread, regret, yet relief.  This is one of those areas that I have to truly put my trust in God.

I am starting to talk about him little by little.  Many friends did not know I had a miscarriage, so they do not know quite what to say.  Here is what not to say to a 44 year old woman who has lost a baby: “It’s best anyway.  There was probably something wrong with it.” “You did not want to have a baby this late in life anyway!” “You are lucky to have kids already.” “You already have three perfect kids. Why tempt fate? It could have been abnormal.”  While all these things could be true, I am a mother through and through. No one can tell me I am better off without my baby.

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Not Every Woman is as Strong as I Am

…one of many myths about pro-life women…

We’ve been called hypocrites, religious zealots, heartless, and ignorant all because we believe that life begins at conception.  While there is no shortage of scientific theories that will attempt to make abortion and embryonic research more palatable by suggesting that each life begins at a different stage of development and that there are many nuances, etc., the fact is that life begins at conception.   This thinking is not uniquely religious.

We have been told, “Not all women are as strong as you are.”   We don’t think we are all that strong.  In fact, we know we are weak.  We have also been told that we have never been put in a position of being forced to have a baby so we cannot understand.   In reality, what you will find among the throngs of pro-life women are countless stories about high risk pregnancy, complicated childbirth, infertility, miscarriage, fetal diagnosis, teen pregnancy,  and abortion regrets.   All of us have struggled with the fear and uncertainty that besets the facts of our biology.   So, while no one has ever “forced” us to have a baby,  we have all been in the position where our choices were limited because of our religious convictions and our scientific understanding of when life begins.

Here is my story.

I didn’t start my family until I was in my 30’s.  It wasn’t long into my adventure in baby making that I became known as AMA, aka Advanced Maternal Age.  This happens when a woman turns 35 and has the audacity to want to have a child.  All risks are suddenly on the table.  You are given blood test results that tell you your odds of having a sickly baby or developing multiple pregnancy complications.  You are treated to long faces and somber tones.  I remember I got a call one Friday afternoon just as all medical offices were going to close.  It went something like this: “Hi, we got your test results and the numbers are high risk for such and such.  We have scheduled a consultation with a genetic counselor who will talk to you about amniocentesis and your options first thing Monday morning.  We have also contacted the high risk maternal fetal office and you have an appointment for a full scan on Tuesday.”  I don’t remember what I did that weekend.

When Monday rolled around, I decided to cancel the genetic counseling because I did not see the point in an amniocentesis when I was going to have this baby no matter what.   I felt strong for some reason.  I found strength I never knew I had.  It wasn’t mine.  When I went for my regularly scheduled ultrasounds to look for “markers,” I developed the habit of telling doctors and nurses and technicians that I take my babies “as is” so don’t talk to me like we are at a funeral.  I began to look forward to the ultrasounds so I could get a peak at my baby.  I was no longer afraid of what they would find.   As it turned out, all my kids were healthy and the tests and anxiety they caused were the only complications I faced.

I had my last two babies in my 40’s.  And, I had the same experience with the phone calls, the recommendations, the high risk numbers, the long faces, the somber tones, etc.  At that time, I did some reading about being pregnant in your 40’s.  I discovered that babies conceived by women in their 40’s are babies at high risk for abortion.  More than 25% of all pregnancies of women in their 40’s ends in abortion.  And this statistic reveals a sharp increase among women in my generation over previous generations.

Discouraged, I decided to consult my communion of saints and I met Gianna.  Saint Gianna Beretta Molla.  I had never heard of her but before I read her story, I totally grabbed her name for my soon-to-be-born baby.  Then, I was humbled and reduced to tears by her story.   She was a forty year old mother of three children and a pediatrician who was offered the choice of an abortion or a hysterectomy to save her life.  The hysterectomy was an option that would have been acceptable in the eyes of the Catholic Church.  The procedure would have taken care of the tumor that she had, but, it would have resulted in the unintended consequence of the loss of her daughter.  Talk about Sophie’s choice!  She could not do that.  She gave birth to her baby and died shortly after of peritonitis.

I pray to God that I never have to face that choice.  I know I am not that strong.  I may not be done with the baby making business, either.  Time will tell.  But, I hope and pray that if ever I am put in a life or death situation, I will always err on the side of choosing life.  Because every woman is just strong enough.

Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. ~2 Corinthinas 12:10