I remember everything about that day. I was so excited! It was the day of our 20 week ultrasound—the gender ultrasound. I woke up early so I could look nice for the big day, putting extra time into my hair and make-up. I remember saving my favorite maternity shirt for that day. It felt like the whole world was on hold, waiting to find out: “boy” or “girl”.
In the waiting room my husband Oakland and I talked about the prospect of having a boy or a girl and the amazing way it would change our family. Since I was little, I had known I was going to have 6 kids, and I really wanted all boys. We weren’t too far off from that goal. We had two healthy boys already, ages 1 and 3.
When the nurse called our name, I practically jumped out of my chair and skipped down the hall to the ultrasound room. We had done this before; this gender ultrasound would be a breeze. Not to mention, we had had one of those lucky “office” ultrasounds three weeks earlier and everything looked great. Today was all about hearing those words, “boy” or “girl”.
There I was, laying on the ultrasound table in the warm, soothing room with the jelly on my tummy, for those words as the technician did her thing and took measurements. We waited for what seemed like forever, trying to be polite when I just wanted to shout, “so is it a boy or a girl!?” So, when I just couldn't take it any more the words popped out of my mouth, and I jokingly said, “There’s a heartbeat, isn’t there?”
A mere second of silence passed, but I could feel it. The room became cold and dark...could feel it. I looked up at the technician and that’s when I saw the tears streaming down her face...and then she shook her head no.
I delivered baby Walt in the hospital that night, something I still am not sure how I had the power to do. I didn’t want to see him. I knew Oakland would be willing to look at him for me...I wanted someone that would remember him, so that was the plan. Oakland would see him, and I would hide my eyes. You can’t ever un-see something, and I was wise enough to know that. I didn’t think I could handle the pain of seeing him, but never having him.
It took hours to deliver. Terrible, lonely, heart wrenching hours. In the last few minutes before I delivered, the coaxing from the nurse and the doctor finally wore on me and I changed my mind to see this baby. Oh...it was so precious...and wonderful...and absolutely heart breaking. You’ve never felt more sad for anything in your life. He was so perfectly little. His little umbilical cord was the size of a straw. His whole hand was the size of Oakland’s thumbnail. His tummy stuck out like baby tummies do. And he fit into Oakland's hand as if it were cradle. February 3, Matthew Walt Morrison, 4 ounces, was "born." Or the way Oakland put it: “A quarter pound.”
Little Ace is much harder to remember. I tucked him away. I'm not sure why. As strange as this may sound, it’s like the Hollywood wore off. I was numb. I couldn’t force myself to remember every last detail again. I was now faced with going through a second stillbirth. We didn’t want family to come, we didn’t want to see the Chaplain, we just wanted to sit in the dark room and wait for my body to acknowledge the medicine to deliver. This time it was real. It wasn't a once in a lifetime tragedy, it was beginning to become my life.
During my 15-week pregnancy with Ace, I remember thinking, “there is no way this can happen to me twice." Twice. Not just in a statistical way, but in a pain ridden, spiritual way, as in God could never invoke this much pain on me, twice. My mind twisted and turned and anguished and grieved. I asked God “why” so many times in screams, in tears. Every morning I woke up, it was living the pain all over again.
No one knows how to memorialize a still birth baby, not even a mother. There are so many things I would have done differently, but instead, I grieved alone. Pregnancy loss is the silent grief.
It went on to happen 3 more times. By the time I looked back, in five years I had had three stillbirths and two miscarriages. Each time, the doctors telling me, ”things just didn’t match up. Sometimes these things happen”, and when I asked them the ultimate question, “When can I try again” they would say, “wait a few months and then give it a try."
My husband followed me to doctors all over the country, and no one ever found out what was wrong with me. Why I had two perfectly healthy boys and then without any warning - tragedy after tragedy.
My boys (moms like us call them our “earthly children”) were all grown up now, ages 6 and 7. I had been robbed of their childhood grieving for the loss of my heavenly children one after another. I was sad, I was angry, I blamed myself, I blamed God. Then one miraculous day, my son’s teacher asked me why I was going all the way to St. Louis to see a doctor. She offered to pray with me that day and it changed my life. It was that spiritual epiphany that happens only in movies, and by the end of her amazing prayer, right there after hours, in her public school classroom... I let go. I let go of all the hurt, pain, and anger. I let go of being mad a God, and I was free. So in November 2013, we gave up. I was finally free and ready to accept that I would not have my dream family of six children.
We now started learning how to be a family of four. I began to make up for all the lost time I had spent grieving. We went on vacations, had cookouts, and just enjoyed sitting on our front porch swing and watching our two little boys play like bear cubs in the front yard. In February, we even got to go to Disney World.
It was a typical school morning, bustling around the house, running late, trying to get that one sip of coffee before you set your mug down and can't find it again. I took a sip of my coffee and thought “that was weird, my coffee tastes terrible today.” After I dropped the boys off at school and headed to work in the silence of my car, something stopped me. “Wait, my coffee was bad?... That doesn’t seem right…. That only happens to me when I'm pregnant…. Oh my gosh!....No, it can’t be...could it be?...No, it can’t be...Well, technically it could be.”
It could be. It was. I was pregnant again. You would think a person in my shoes would get excited about this, but I just couldn’t help it. I was. I was so excited and so, so scared.
I feel like I spent my whole 36 week pregnancy in prayer. Family prayed, friends prayed, friends of friends prayed, strangers prayed. Many night my two boys would pray prayers asking for God to "please let this baby live", "please don't take this baby to heaven with you". I would venture to say this baby started his life out with more prayers than some people get in a lifetime. On October 9, 2014 Whit Noah Morrison came into this world, perfectly. My sweet baby boy. My earthly baby!
When I think about what advice to give to others some of the things that pop into my mind are get a second opinion, and a third, and a fourth. Go to doctors known for their expertise in fertility or pregnancy loss. It's a long road of time and money. Your OBGYN might be great, but the sooner you begin seeing specialists the better. Don't be afraid of homeopathic alternatives. During my pregnancy with Whit, I went to a homeopathic nurse. She is a huge reason I think Whit is here today. God placed her in our lives my fifth week of pregnancy and I saw her every week for the entire pregnancy. Grieve! Grieve like you mean it. Don't hide it. Don't let our society make you feel like losing a baby in the womb is not a real death. Google "how to grieve a miscarriage" and do what the list says. Name your baby, plant a tree for your baby, go to a support group, write a letter to your baby, get a necklace made with your baby's name engraved on it even if you don't plan to wear it all the time. These things feel a little silly at first, but they are incredibly healing. Lastly, don't give up!
What I love most about this experience is I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I ABSOLUTELY LOVE GOD. I think a lot of people can say that they love God, but I can say it after being faced with a hard time. A really hard time. A time some people would turn away from God forever. A time plagued with loss, grief, hopelessness, sadness, despair, and the loss of five children and I can still say that I absolutely love God -- that is very affirming to me.
I pray every day that each person in my family gets to live a long, healthy, and happy life and I get to enjoy every minute of it here with them on earth, but when I do get to heaven, I will get to be the momma I have always pictured in my mind, living eternal life in a big, big house with lots and lots of kids.