Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Gift of the Six Carnations

It was Friday morning and the contractions were growing stronger. I glanced at the clock on the night stand. The bold white numbers glared at me—1:30 a.m. I tried in vain to deny the contractions, to pretend I was dreaming, but the betraying sensations only intensified. I turned on the light and lay back on my pillow. Oh God, this can’t be happening again. Please don’t let me lose this baby, too. Please help me to relax. Maybe these contractions will go away.

The contractions were still strong at 4:30 a.m., so I called my friend, Sylvia, for a ride to the hospital since my husband, Chuck, was out-of-town on business. She arrived in fifteen minutes and met me at the door where I was taping up a message for Chuck. As I closed the storm door and walked down our sidewalk, I glanced back at the house, grieving that Chuck would have to discover the news in such a cold, impersonal way. As Sylvia and I took our seats in the car and hooked our belts, I murmured, “I never imagined that I would lose another baby.”

At 11:55 a.m., with a gentle push, I delivered our fragile baby girl.

"She's still breathing," the female obstetrician calmly stated from the end of the bed.

"Is she in any pain?" I managed to ask, looking up at the ceiling.

"No," replied the doctor. "She will simply fall asleep. Do you want to hold her?"
"Yes," I mumbled.
Through tear-filled eyes, I watched as the doctor carefully wrapped my baby girl in a blanket. Here was another woman, not a doctor, identifying with my need to mother my child in her last moments. As she handed me the bundle, she commented almost to herself rather than to me, “I wish I had a magic wand I could wave and everything would be okay. But I don’t. I’m so sorry.”

I held the tiny package for a minute. She was gone and I knew it. I felt detached. Somehow holding her seemed meaningless, almost morbid. As if reading my thoughts, a nurse promptly entered the room. I handed my precious package to her and she carried it out the door. A few seconds later my friend, Sylvia, opened the door and approached my bedside. She took my hand and said nothing. On the threshold of grief, words are empty. My friend knew that, having lost her mother to cancer years earlier. After awhile, Sylvia left to rejoin her husband and two children, and I can only suppose, to regain her equilibrium. She had walked through this ordeal with me. A true friend.

Only the night before, Sylvia had stood at my front door grinning from ear-to-ear with burgers, fries, and six pink carnations. Sticking the flowers in a vase, I had stepped back to admire the arrangement. Odd that five of the carnations were in full bloom—four of them grouped together, the fifth one off by itself, while the sixth carnation was a bud. I had commented to Sylvia how the flowers reminded me of my family--four here on earth together, one already in heaven, and one more yet to bloom.
The orderlies arrived and wheeled me down the hall to another room where I would stay for the night. Riding past the squalling babies in the nursery made my loss more intense. As we approached my room, I turned my head as the orderlies maneuvered the gurney inside the door. I couldn't help noticing the sign on my neighbor's door - It's a Girl! I covered my face and sobbed.
I was alone. As far as I knew, no one else but Sylvia and Terri, who was babysitting my other two girls, knew about the day's events. In a way, I was ready to be alone, although I anxiously longed for Chuck to burst through the door and hold me and share in our joint loss. I rested, ate, rested some more, and called the house several times with no answer. By now, the time was 9:30 p.m. At last, Chuck bolted through my door, and with what seemed like one desperate leap, landed by my bedside. Without any words, he grabbed me and held me for some time. We hugged so hard. We cried and talked, and then Chuck left to pick up Rachel and Michelle at the sitter's.
Morning dawned. I thought it never would, but it did. To my great relief, Chuck finally arrived at the hospital to take me home. I knew the next few weeks were going to be difficult, but one truth I had learned from our previous miscarriage was that God was with me and He would never leave me nor forsake me.
Arriving home, I climbed the stairs to our bedroom and surveyed the room. Was it only yesterday that I had left for the hospital? I mused. It seemed like an eternity ago. I glanced at the vase of carnations on the nightstand. One solitary bud was now in full bloom. My heart leaped as I considered the sweet picture the flower represented of my little girl in full blossom in her heavenly home. Though I was not home to see the bud open, I imagined that at noon on Friday, April 18, 1986, the petals burst forth in celebration of my baby's entrance into heaven to enjoy her heavenly Father forever and ever.

Our little girl born too soon for our liking, was born at just the right time according to God's timetable. He must have yearned for another star to shine in the heavenlies. Thus little sister joined big brother. I could imagine their happy faces as they met and climbed onto Jesus' lap to view His compassionate face.

Rachel and Michelle bounded into the room, breaking my moment of reflection. Happy giggles seized the room while four chubby arms enveloped my waist in one generous squeeze. Two of my carnations were filling the empty places with their sweetness.

(Adapted from When Mourning Comes, Living Through Loss, © 2002 Eileen Rife. Used by permission).

In my novel, Chosen Ones, my character, Yvonne, loses a baby to miscarriage. Her experience is based on my own. 

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