July 25, 2011

Just four weeks

I stared at the home pregnancy test in disbelief. Was that a second line? It was so faint I could barely see it. But…it was there. A phrase echoed in my mind – “a line is a line is a line.” I was pregnant! We had experienced two losses in the last year, and now I was one week out from my 40th birthday and one month out from family reunions on both sides of our family. The timing couldn’t be more perfect. I called my doctor and arranged for a blood test that day.

The call came that evening. My hcg level was eight.

Excuse me? Eight?

My heart sank. The nurse gently told me that they didn’t consider it a positive test, and that I would probably start bleeding in the next couple of days. If not, I could come back for another blood test in a week. Yes, I could try again right away. Maybe next time don’t test so early.

I clung to my husband and sobbed, but at the same time, my mind whirred. Was I pregnant or not? Why would I have any hcg if I wasn’t? Should I feel grief for my baby’s death, or just disappointment at another failed cycle?

When I voiced my confusion on the Hannah’s Prayer forums, this response was especially encouraging:

I have been in prayer with you and for you today. And for that baby inside of you!! And Kristi, medical jargon be thrown out the window - you have hcg in your system…Honey, you're pregnant. No matter whether your doctor's lab registers it as such or not. God has created life once again through the love you share with your husband. Period.

Yes, this was a baby. Life. I believed it, enough to grieve the death of my child when I started bleeding two days later. But giving myself permission to grieve did not make it easier to share this loss with others. When I told people how far along I was, just four weeks, I saw the confusion in their eyes and the unasked questions. So, wasn’t that just your period? Why did you test so early? Are you sure you were pregnant?

I’ve heard that the number of pregnancy losses seems to have escalated in recent years partly because of early home pregnancy testing that can now tell us that we are pregnant before we even miss a period. If we didn’t test so early, we’d never know…and we’d never grieve.

But not knowing does not mean that a baby did not exist. A “chemical pregnancy” is not a medical condition masquerading as a pregnancy. It just means it’s undetectable except by testing for the chemicals in our bodies. Maybe some see my grief as “unnecessary” in the sense that if I hadn’t tested, I wouldn’t have known. But since I did know, it was necessary, and real, and precious.

We named our baby Jordan Gabriel, and we think of him as a boy. My life is richer for having carried him even for the short time he was with us. He reminded me that not only is a line a line, but a life is a life, and a loss is a loss, whether a yet-to-be transferred embryo in IVF, an embryo in the first trimester, or a full-term baby. Receiving permission from my friends, and giving myself permission, to grieve the loss of this very young child was an important step in healing and in experiencing Jesus’ promise, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they will be comforted.”
Kristi and her husband are Yankees transplanted in South Carolina, where they met in seminary over ten years ago. Their ministry, Naomi's Circle, is an outreach to parents who have lost babies during pregnancy or shortly after birth. In her "free" time, she enjoys reading, handbells, and writing.

Author's Blog: This Side of Heaven