I believe that the purest joy can be buried within great tragedy – and sometimes, that that bleak wrapper helps joy shine that much brighter.
Last summer, my husband Jamie and I were slightly surprised to find ourselves pregnant. After a series of difficult conceptions for many of our friends, we somehow assumed it would take us months to conceive. So the news that it took a mere six weeks filled us with a lot of surprise and frankly, more than a little consternation.
After the initial shock, we became excited. Our first trimester passed without incident. We bought baby books and talked about how our lives would change. We argued over names and picked out cribs. We discussed and came to terms with our fear of becoming parents. In short, we behaved as many do during their first pregnancy.
Around 16 weeks, however, our doctors suddenly got very serious. They asked us to come in more often. They whispered over ultrasounds. They took a lot of blood. They started talking about “outcomes,” and they had us see a lot of different specialists. By 22 weeks, I had been diagnosed with two auto-immune disorders, pre-eclampsia and various other issues. On December 21st, three days before my 30th birthday, I was admitted into the hospital for a stillbirth delivery of our little girl.
But here’s where the joy comes in. I wasn’t sure I wanted to see her. If anything, I was predisposed not to. I thought it would be easier. But in the hours before the delivery, I talked with Jamie who was planning to see her. I spoke with our amazing nurse Carrie at Brigham & Women’s, who volunteered for births like ours. She gave me insight as to why I might want to spend some time with our little girl. She wasn’t judgmental or pushy. She simply talked to me, and in talking with her and Jamie, I realized I would never get this moment back. And that no matter how hard it was, this might be our only child.
And surprisingly, it wasn’t hard. It was beautiful. We got to see our daughter – with her little button nose and Jamie’s cute chin. We laughed over her big floppy feet. We marveled at how tiny she was. Of course there were tears. But strangely, they were tears shed with smiles on our faces.
And in the end, I realized that despite everything, I am happy. Because my pregnancy experience, and yes, even its outcome, helped me to appreciate my life in a way I never had before. I am lucky. I have a husband who loves me. A family who supports me. An employer who let me take time off. Health insurance. An amazing hospital less than a mile away. Fantastic doctors and nurses. And I have a perfect memory of one half-hour that was more sweet than it was bitter, a half-hour that still brings a smile to my face even while it brings tears to my eyes.
Finding Joy Amidst Tragedy,” Copyright © 2008 by Lorita Vannah. Part of the This I Believe Essay Collection found at www.thisibelieve.org, Copyright © 2005-2009, This I Believe, Inc. Reprinted with permission.
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