Red stands out against white.
It shouts like an accusing stain of fear when you see it on the toilet paper, when you're pregnant. Newly pregnant. For four weeks Scott and I had celebrated with friends the impending third addition to our little family. The morning before I went to buy the pregnancy test, Scott rolled over in bed and said, "Good morning, Preggo! How's little Rose?"
"Whatever," I mumbled. That comment completely came out of left field. Surely I would start any day now - the tidal wave of emotions I'd been feeling lately were just hormones, a signal that it was almost 'that time of the month'. It's normal to cry at Elmo, right?
Hours later, I came incredulous and filled with joy out of the Walgreen's women's bathroom, with a little pink stick in my hand. I found Scott lingering in the toy aisle with Sophie and Alexander.
"Well?" he turned to me.
"It's positive!" I couldn't wipe the silly grin off my face. The rushing thrill of 'here we go again!', the feeling of cresting the precipice of a new roller coaster ride came sweeping over us. We were ecstatic. A love immediately flooded our hearts for this little child. The love was more immediate and real than what we had experienced with either of our previous children. This little one would be special. We already had her name - Rose, the name God had placed on my husband's heart like a promise that morning. Our little flower.
Four weeks later, I discovered the red stain on the toilet paper. After a long phone conversation with the OB nurse, I was consoled that first trimester bleeding was common, as long as it wasn't accompanied by cramps, or heavy flow, the baby was OK. Etc. Etc. And so on. Scott and I prayed together. My siblings and I prayed together. I called my parents overseas and they prayed for me and Rose. I was overwhelmed by a peace flooding my soul. It was the undercurrent of my entire day, carrying me along, soothing my anxious heart, lapping reassurance and rest around me.
I went to bed that night so surrounded in God's presence that I fell asleep the minute my head hit the pillow. I had expected to dream nightmares, but I slept peacefully, soundly and securely curled up in my Father's palm. I knew that wherever we went together, He would take care of me.
At 4:30 that morning I woke up to wetness between my legs. I lay for a quiet second in my bed, asking myself if I wanted to discover what I thought I might discover if I turned the light on, or if I wanted to sleep a few more hours in unknowing oblivion. I decided I wanted to know. For sure. "Whatever Your will is, Lord, let it be resolved tonight. Don't make me wait, please, not knowing," had been my prayer before I went to sleep hours earlier.
In the bathroom, I felt something pass from me. I picked it up, and held it delicately in my hand. What had been Rose lay there in my palm, red and alien. I sat numbly on the bathroom floor for several minutes, staring at the redness in my hand, saying goodbye to my daughter, letting the reality sink in. This was knowing. For sure. There was no doubt. You don't just pass something like this and go on being pregnant. Please, Lord Jesus, take care of her. She was Yours before, and she is really Yours now, running unhindered with You in fields of glory. I watched little rivulets of blood drop between my fingers. Red staining the white. It was messy. Ugly. An ugly, messy splotch against the pristine sterility of the porcelain bathroom and my pale skin.
When I finally crawled back into bed next to Scott, I still hadn't cried. I didn't think I would.
"Wow, I sure am taking this well," I thought detachedly.
My husband woke up and asked, "Are you OK, sweetheart?" The love in his voice opened the floodgates in my heart, and I began to sob.
"I ... we ... we lost the baby," I managed to choke out.
"Oh, honey, come here," and he enveloped me in his arms. The sorrow came then. The tears were ready and abundant. I cried as the inner me crumpled into a little, rumbled, tender heap onto the dark floor of my heart. My body was just a shaking shell, and I held the hand that had held my baby close to my heart as my husband held me close to his. We cried together there in the darkness before dawn. We mourned our little Rose, for whom God had already given us such a love. My heart had already pictured how she would be (gentle, loving, sweet, delicate), and how she would fit into our family. How she would enrich and widen the circle of love. The waves of sorrow washed over us in the warm darkness, and our Father held us in His arms as we clutched each other, His tears mingling with ours.
The next morning, I wanted to be with my family. I wanted my babies close, and I did not want to be in the house. We packed up kids and adults, and drove out to the White Sands National Monument, about 20 minutes outside of town. The stark, barren whiteness provided a blank space for me to rest a little from the garment of sorrow that had draped itself over my soul. I watched, detached, outside of the action as my family played and explored around me.
Still, even in the blankness, I felt the river of my Father's presence flowing around me. "It's OK, dear daughter," His words whispered to my heart. "I Am here."
Driving home, my sister put on some acapella African CD. The warm tropical voices washed over my soul, crisp and deep and rhythmic. I settled into the music, and another gentle wave of grief began to come over me. It rose like an ocean swell, higher and higher, until it had lifted me off my feet and covered my head. Silent tears began to run out of my eyes as I cried from the crumpled place in my heart. The inner me wore a red dress. Because life is messy. But even so ...
When peace like a river attendeth my way
And sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
"Even so, it is well with my soul."