Monday, August 10, 2009


9:30 a.m.-ish, from The One-Year Chronological Bible, New Living Translation:
O LORD, You alone can heal me; You alone can save. My praises are for You alone! . . . LORD, do not desert me now! You alone are my hope in the day of disaster. . . give me peace . . . . (Jeremiah 17:14, 17, 18)

11:00 a.m.-ish, from a morning conversation with Betsy:
Me: I prayed for triplets.

Bets: Did you really?

Me: Yes, I did. I wanted more than one child, but I only wanted to be pregnant once. Getting pregnant was hard. The pregnancy was hard. My delivery was the easiest part of the whole pregnancy. I had a c-section with a spinal block. I highly recommend it.

2:00 p.m.-ish, cleaning the lunch dishes:
Cami: Mom! I think I see a hummingbird in the backyard!

Me: Really?

Cami: Yes! Come see!

Me (kneeling on the couch beside her, looking out the window): Where?

Cami: It went under the umbrella. I think it likes my bike. (Pause while we wait for the bird to emerge.) I think it's a female ruby-throated hummingbird. (Flash of brilliant emerald, flitter and zoom.)

Me: Oh! There she is! (We watch as the beauty lights on the tree branch.) Cami, you were right. It is a female ruby-throated hummingbird.

(We watch in silence while Ruby inspects the red underground-line marker flags in our neighbors' yard, then moves out of sight.)

Me: You know Jesus just kissed you on the cheek, right?

Cami (smiling): Yeah. I have been wanting to see one in our yard all summer.

4:30 p.m.-ish, rushing out the door to pick up Michael:
I call out through the house, "Cami, time to go get Daddy!"

Up she comes from the basement carrying her babydoll in the miniature made-for-a-babydoll carrier. "Jessie's going to be my little sister until I meet my other sisters in heaven."

I don't really register what she's saying until "You know, Mom? When I think of heaven, I think of Fidg, PawPaw--not your dad, but, you know--PawPaw, and Buddy all up there together, running around and chasing fireflies."

Now I'm really listening. She's been grieving Buddy and processing our grief-filled summer, and I don't want to miss one word. Besides, even in my rush to beat Michael to the slug lot so he doesn't have to wait in the upper-90s-degree heat, I hear the Holy Spirit whisper, "Slow down. Listen to her. This is important. Don't miss it."

Now she says, "You know, Mom? I think we should name all those babies, even though they never came down to earth."

"Really?" I am caught, breathless, rooted to the floor where I stand, one foot on the landing, one on the step.

"Yes. We should name them." She slips her 9-year-old feet into her bright pink Crocs. "Mom, I think I know why God kept my brothers and sisters in heaven." She directs the next comments to herself, talking out loud. "Let's see, how many are there in all? Six? Yeah, six." She looks at me with those precious eyes. "See, I'll bet He thought that six would be too many children for you to take care of all at once. I think He put all their personalities in me so you could still enjoy all your children, but it wouldn't be so hard to take care of them." She's wearing a little grin, like she thinks this is the most delightful idea God has ever had.

I can't breathe. I can't blink. I can't speak or I will sob. In the same instant, I am touched and rent in two.

"Are you crying?" I don't want to upset her, but I literally can't move or speak. "Mommy?"

I swallow hard. "Let's go get your Daddy."

"Okay." She picks up her doll in its carrier. "Let's go, Jessie."

I walk out the door trying to focus through my tears without letting them fall, trying to compose myself without falling apart.

5:30 p.m.-ish, in the car after telling Michael what Cami said, before I run into the grocery store:
Michael: It's good, right?

Me: Yes. (Maybe swallowing will help the tears recede faster.) It just surprises me how deeply I feel it.

Michael: What?

Me (clearing my throat): It just surprises me how deeply I'm feeling it.

10:00 p.m.-ish, standing at the washer while Michael's at his desk (both located in the basement laundry room):
Me: What do you think about what Cami said?

Michael: About what?

Me: About naming the babies. (I don't really want to know what he thinks. I'm just so raw, and the sting of the grief is disconcerting. Then, almost yelling at him,) Do you think those embryos were babies?

Michael: I think the embryos were potential babies, yes. I believe they were the beginnings of life that, for whatever reason, God chose to not let develop.

2:07 a.m. Tuesday, trying to finish this blog post:
Or something along those lines. His words--his trying-to-comfort-me words--fade out as my thoughts scream louder: Did I kill my babies, LORD? I rethink what happened. There were six viable embryos. Dr. Soltes implanted four.

Me (to Michael): Cami was one of four.

Michael: Right.

Me: So the other three with her died.

Michael: Yes.

I turn back to the washer, start the water, load some clothes, and then the sobbing starts.

I wasn't even thinking about this when I woke up this morning.

It hasn't ever bothered me like this before. I've searched my heart from time to time, examined the morality of it, the "what if"s that accompany in vitro fertilization and embryonic cryo-storage.

We paid those storage fees for five years. Then I had my hysterectomy. No uterus, no way to ever carry those last two embryos to term. We signed the papers to donate the embryos, and I've often thought, "It's like I'm giving up my children for adoption." That always twinges a little.

Except tonight, the thought surfaces: They implanted the four "best" ones, the four that were most likely to survive and grow in my womb. I remembered the nurse saying that most embryos kept in cryo-storage for five years or more aren't viable after they're thawed for implantation.

Oh, the grief that is here in my heart over this, this old place we walked, the morality we came to terms with ten years ago. The fertility drugs made me so sick. I remember one day leaving my temp job in the city early and trying to make it home on the El (in Chicago). I had to get off the train less than halfway home because I felt so nauseous. My aunt came to pick me up; I was throwing up in the bushes and couldn't get back on the train.

When the accuser of the brethren starts to nag at me about the morality of IVF and manipulating eggs and sperm to make life spark, when he tries to play the "You were trying to play God" card, I think of the end result. I think of Cami and know: God ordained her life, her existence. Tonight, He did the work in my heart that releases me from thinking I controlled which embryos had a chance at life.

Later this evening, there were a few minutes where I literally felt His peace falling over me. With shudders and goosebumps on my arms, I felt the release happen. I felt Him release me from this burden, this shame of being an inadequate woman, the disappointment at being unable to do the very thing for which my body was created, the questionably-moral role that science played in Cami's conception. Michael wasn't even in the room when his daughter was conceived. It was all very hospital-procedure like.

Well, that's not totally true. I remember the hour I spent with my feet elevated at a 45-degree incline, the Mozart music playing in the dimly-lit room, the way I kept drifting to the edge of sleep then waking with a start, the warmth of the blanket enveloping me in its heaviness, the almost compulsive need to scream for Michael so he would make them take off the restraints and let me get up and run into the light.

I remember praying. That whole hour. Would that I had had a journal and a cool-writing pen.

I need to tell this story, don't I? I need to tell the story of my infertility to treatment to shots every day to laying on my side for hours, to losing my job for abundant absences to being approached by Washington State authorities with the question, "As the closest blood relative, would you want to adopt your young nephew who isn't born yet, but soon will be? We will take him into protective custody directly from the hospital nursery.

For this night (early morning), I will revel in the release from this bondage, and I will sleep.

And tomorrow, Michael and Cami and I will name the rest of our children.


Brittany Allen said...

wow. I'm at a loss for words.
I'm praying. Love you guys!

Jay Campbell said...

I was just wondering about something I never considered until I read your blog today - have Cami's brothers and sisters met my other grandchild Mohammed? We have a lot of surprises waiting in Heaven, don't you think?
Love you, POP