A few weeks back I had the great fortune of attending a dear friend’s birthday party, at which there was pianist playing the birthday honoree’s favorite songs. The pianist is a member of a band called Shel, comprised of a quartet of sisters who pen and perform original works that are equal parts beauty, spirit and sorrow. As Hannah closed her set that night, she played a song she wrote while watching birds flutter out her window called First Flight:
All at once, I saw you and I meeting for the first time in Heaven. Just seconds prior I was talking about something inconsequential with a friend, but once this song started I was fully transported to this moment, or at least how I picture this moment to go – anticipation, crescendo, exuberance, questioning, sharing, reminiscing, joy – it was just amazing. A song about birds brought me to you! I sat in that small living room, closed my eyes, and let the sound envelop me while this scene played out in my mind. What a gift! A gift of waiting in hope for this day to come.
Waiting in hope is a concept that has been top of mind recently as we are living these final days of 2014. In the waning days of 2013 I distinctly remember your father and I projecting how great the upcoming year was going to be, because that is what you do at the close of any year. You enter it with the hope, even expectation, that in it will store great things. On this New Year’s Eve I am so much more cautious, which is a little sad if I am being honest. Of course I have to believe 2015 will be better, but in saying “better” it casts you in the “worse” category. Sweet Flicker, what happened to you was simply terrible. It was tragic and confusing and surreal. But those 27 weeks I spent with you in 2014 I would not trade for anything, except of course for your health. So know that you did not make 2014 terrible. But losing you did. Remove that stupid empty verb and it would just be you.
To wait in hope for what will come in 2015 brings me back to that fateful day in April when we learned of your prognosis. Late that night after I put my head back on my shoulders, I wrote this email to family and friends titled A Reflection on Waiting:
April 15, 2014
Much has been made of our modern inability to be patient. How our on-demand, binge-viewing, overnight-shipped selves just can’t wait for anything. Generation Instant Gratification. Generation [give] Me [now].
People often laugh when DP and I share our courting story. We met in August, began dating in March, were engaged by January and married by June. Why wait? We knew we wanted our lives to be one, so let’s get busy livin’, as they say.
Today I’ve been meditating on the process of waiting, and how it has profoundly impacted our lives in the nearly six years since we’ve been married:
We waited for a few years before we decided that we wanted to start a family. We both had young careers to develop, wanted to enjoy our early marriage, loved to travel, and felt like we needed to establish our lives in Boston as a family of two. And we did all of those things. This wait was one of empowerment, of self-destined planning where we felt in control.
Then, we continued to wait. But this was of a different form. The wait of infertility. The opposite of empowerment. Month after month after month after year after year we waited for a positive pregnancy test; one that would never come.
We waited through several failed fertility treatments, each one more difficult and invasive than the last.
We waited as my body prepared itself for IVF, injecting it with hormones and vitamins daily until it was ready for the procedure.
After the procedure, we waited three seemingly endless days until we learned that we had two healthy embryos; one which we would implant and one which we would preserve.
We did “The Two Week Wait” – what people in IVF circles call the 14 days between implantation and a scheduled blood pregnancy test where you are nearly paralyzed with the nagging question – did it work?
Celebration! Worth the wait! We were pregnant, due in October right around DP’s birthday. We got to meet the person who we would come to call “Flicker,” a namesake after the flicker of it’s tiny heartbeat on the 4-week ultrasound. The 40-week wait for a healthy baby, one filled with reading and nesting and shopping and showers, seemed like the best kind of wait.
But caution, they tell you, to really wait to celebrate until you get to that magic number – 12 weeks – where the risk of complications and miscarriage drastically dips and it’s “safe” to share your happy news with family, friends and co-workers.
Thursday, April 10 – 12 weeks! No apparent complications. Not even any morning sickness. We had made it! But just to make it official, let’s wait to make our big announcement until we see the doctor tomorrow, hear Flicker’s heartbeat and see the ultrasound. Such peace we felt. I booked a celebration dinner for Friday at our favorite local restaurant, and we made a list of all of the people we were going to call on the weekend to share our happy news.
Now, friends, let us tell you about a new kind of wait. A wait that we can neither process nor explain fully in this raw state. Yesterday we were told by the head of neonatal medicine at Beth Israel, in no uncertain terms, that our baby is not going to live to full term. Less than 1% chance. And only because doctors cannot say 0%. It could be days. It could be weeks. It could be months. But this baby, we were told, will not make it. That means DP and I are now waiting for our baby to die.
We sit here paralyzed in fear, dread and deep sadness as we plan how we are going to navigate daily life with this insufferable burden of wait. Truly I tell you all that we don’t know how we are going to make it through this, as right now we feel completely defeated. The thought of carrying our baby for possibly several months, looking each day at my growing belly, potentially feeling it move inside me, is a form of high torture. But the alternative – termination – we just can’t. We heard the heartbeat – strong. We saw the brain – developing. What if Flicker is a miracle? What if the doctors are wrong, and that Flicker is the <1%? What if?
This wait is beyond comprehension. It’s not fair. It’s not how this is supposed to be. But it’s our current reality.
We are sorry to come to you with this heavy news, but as the friends who we love we want to prepare your hearts for likely more sad news to come. We also come today to ask you for prayers:
- That tiny Flicker is not suffering
- For a miracle – make Flicker strong and viable so we do not have to suffer
These next two are very difficult, so again I apologize:
- That if Flicker is suffering and is not going to live, that the end come quickly and not extend the suffering
- That the results from the placenta biopsy we took yesterday come back indicating a non-chromosomal condition; one that cannot impact the embryo we preserved for future pregnancy.
We love you all, and will be leaning on you as we work through a potentially heartbreaking end to what was already a very long and painful journey. We will be parents. We will have a family. We might just have to continue to wait.
Kari & DP
As I think back to that day, the type of waiting that I wrote about was not the same breed that meets me today. That was not waiting in hope. That was waiting in fear and sadness and grief. The wait that I feel today, on this Dec. 31st, is truly one of hope! I have written before about the mystery of resilience and the gratefulness I have for my optimistic disposition. Thank God for that! So let’s move forward from the sorrow of 2014, keep hold of the joy that it brought, and usher in new experiences in 2015, whatever they may be. Happy New Year, sweet Flicker!