“So, what brings you in here today?” the ultrasound tech asked, even though she already knew. She had a paper on a clipboard that told her everything.
I looked at the woman. She wore her silver hair in a chic haircut and looked at me over purple-rimmed glasses. It took me a minute to form the words. “I think I’ve had a miscarriage,” I answered, willing myself not to cry. I was not going to cry, not yet.
“What makes you think that? Roll up your shirt a little.”
I did not want to talk about it. I did not want to go into the details with this woman who was about to tell me my baby was dead.
But she gave me a grandmotherly look that said, “Spill it, Kid,” and I found myself compelled to tell her all the same.
The blood had started suddenly and came in a great gush. I felt it as soon as I stood up, and I knew. The giggles from the children, the clanking of the silverware against the plates, and the smell of dinner all faded in an instant. “Oh no!” I had said to my husband who was still sitting at the dinner table with the children.
I ran from the room, leaving him there while the green beans burned on the stove.
“What’s wrong?” he called, but I couldn’t answer.
I was in the bathroom. The blood filled the toilet. I was only eight weeks pregnant. Maybe nine. I hadn’t even been in to see a doctor yet.
My husband knocked gently on the door. “Are you alright?” He looked in. When I saw his face, the tears came.
But I couldn’t say it. I tried to speak but there were no words. I’m losing the baby.
“Get in bed and put your feet up,” the on-call doctor said when I finally managed to control my shaking voice long enough to talk on the phone.
“Will that really help?”
He paused. I could tell he was trying to think of the right way to say it. “There’s really no way to stop a miscarriage,” he said.
I was quiet.
“You need to get in for an ultrasound as soon as possible to make sure the fetus has fully aborted. Then we can schedule a D&C, if necessary.”
“This is not a fetus,” I said. The words came out hotter than I expected. “This is my baby.”
The phone was silent. “I’m sorry,” the doctor said. He sounded young, but not so young that he hadn’t already begun to reduce miscarriages to nothing more than the ordinary process of a woman’s body aborting flesh that couldn’t be sustained.
Still, he tried to soften his voice when he told me to watch for the body of my baby to pass. “Don’t flush it,” he cautioned.
Flush it? Flush my baby? Sorrow welled up in me. I choked into the receiver. But the doctor didn’t hear. He was busy with his instructions about bleeding and fevers and cramps. “Whatever you do, don’t wait to get that ultrasound,” he said.
But waiting was all I could do. The ultrasounds were booked out and I couldn’t get an appointment the next day. I couldn’t get an appointment the day after that because it was Saturday. That meant I had to wait through Sunday too. “The earliest I can get you in is Tuesday,” the receptionist said. “Do you want to come in at 8 or 10?”
Four weary days and four long nights stood between me and the final answer, the confirmation that this pregnancy was over, that somehow, my body had not been able to protect this life. It was altogether too much time to think, too much time to wait, too much time to suspend grief.
I deserve this, I thought. I deserve it. Five years earlier, I had not wanted the child I had been given. I had railed against God for making me a mother when I did not want it. I had thought then that He should take that life from me and spare another. Perhaps this was the life He was taking. Perhaps it was time to give me what I had wanted, to give me what I deserved.
“So, you didn’t do anything unusual to cause the bleeding?” the ultrasound tech’s voice interrupted my thoughts.
“No,” I said. “I was just making dinner, like always.”
The woman had listened to every word while she smeared goo all over my stomach. “Well,” she said thoughtfully, “sometimes bleeding happens, but Baby is still fine.”
I turned away and tears came to my eyes. Don’t give me a hope you can’t make good on, I thought. Don’t let me think there might be a chance, not now. I had spent the last four days numbing my heart, and she had the nerve to try to wake it back up.
“I’m just going to take a look,” she said as she pressed the wand onto my skin. “I won’t turn the screen on just yet.” Her voice was a whisper, sad and loving.
Jeff grabbed my hand. I felt cold. My toes were numb.
“This must be a hard job,” I reasoned out loud, partly to take my mind off the reality of what was happening, and partly because I suddenly had compassion on this woman who had to tell mothers their babies would be waiting for them in heaven.
“Some days it is very hard,” she agreed. I could see the light of the computer monitor reflecting in her purple rimmed glasses. She seemed to smile. “This is not one of those days.”
She flipped a switch and the screen above my head lit up before I could even process what she had said. Without even intending to look, I saw it: a black and white image of two tiny babies on the screen over my head.
“You have twins,” she said, the smile spilling over into her voice.
My body shook and my hands flew to my face. I couldn’t stop the tears. I heard Jeff laugh, but my mind could not comprehend it. It couldn’t be true. It couldn’t be!
“Are they…alive?” I could hardly say the word, could hardly ask the question.
The words were soft and preposterous, beautiful like snow on a cloudless day.
“Look at your babies, Mamma,” she said.
I opened my eyes again. There they were, two little babies kicking their lima bean feet inside my womb. Safe. Perfect. Two.
It was unfathomable and ridiculous and wonderful all at the same time. There on the screen was everything I didn’t deserve. I was the mother who hadn’t wanted children. I was the mother who had wished for a miscarriage not that many years before. I was the mother who had to learn how to love her baby.
I was the sinner.
I was the prodigal.
I was the woman at the well, fully expecting the punishment for the guilt I carried.
But God was not throwing any stones, and God was not giving me what I deserved.
Here I was, on the cutting side of grace. No fire from heaven or torrent of hell could have proclaimed my unworthiness more than the sight of those two babies on that screen. I knew I did not deserve them.
And yet He loved me. And yet He poured out His lavish and frightening favor upon me. And yet He heard my cry and said to me, “It is forgiven.”
Oh, but I couldn’t let it be forgiven. I couldn’t let go of what I had done. I couldn’t let go of what I had thought and how I had felt and how I had fought His hand and the child in my womb. I could not let myself have that kind of atonement. Justice I could stomach, but not mercy.
But on that day, mercy found me. On that day, mercy paid double for the life I had not wanted. It redeemed a motherhood I thought I had ruined and restored in me the hope that God could indeed work through someone so undeserving.
“Are these your first? I mean, first and second?” she asked.
“No!” I laughed. “These are four and five!”
The woman on the other side of the monitor laughed. “Well then, you are blessed!”
On this beautiful day, nearly five years from the day I saw the face of God on an ultrasound screen, I am thankful for mercy, for the lavish love of a redemptive God, and for the beautiful truth that today, and forever, I do not get what I deserve.