The faint sound of sleigh bells and Andy Williams’ voice crooning, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” filled the small room. I lay on my back and stared up at the speckled ceiling tiles, my heart fighting off the crumbly ache that comes with bad news. I wished that they’d just turn the music off.
It felt far from the most wonderful time. In fact, it was quickly chalking up to be one of my least favourite days of this year.
The ultrasound technician had called me into the room a few minutes earlier. Shivering, I wrapped the blue cotton gown tight against my waist; my everyday clothes lay heaped in the changing room. I was here for a nine week ultrasound and the chance to finally see the newest babe growing inside of me.
“Is this your first pregnancy?” The technician asked as she directed me to lie down.
I shook my head, “This is my third.”
The ultrasound goop squished icy against my exposed belly. “It might be cold,” the tech warned before continuing, “Two children at home, then?”
Another tiny shake of my head. “Just one.”
“One loss then.” She said it as fact not a question, and I simply nodded. There was no need to correct her. I didn’t want to think about the fact that both of my previous pregnancies had ended with loss. Today was not a day for broken tears. Today was a day to focus on the life of this new baby.
“Have you had any bleeding or spotting?” She asked with a sideways glance, and seemed surprised when I answered in the negative. It was clear then that something was wrong. Worse yet was the following silence as she continually navigated and re-navigated around my stomach.
“I just can’t see the baby. We’ll have to try something else.”
My stomach sank as the rest of the ultrasound followed similarly in suit. The technician kept repeating the same words over and over again, “I can’t find the baby. Maybe you’re just really early?” But even I could tell she didn’t quite believe it: the pregnancy test dates just didn’t add up.
She left to discuss things with her doctor while I sat on the table and cried.
Five months ago, I was seated in this same clinic as another technician confirmed the emptiness of my womb. I had already miscarried; the ultrasound was simply formality. While I left the clinic feeling hollow and achy, I had been given a sense of closure and finality.
This time around the ultrasound appeared just as empty but was filled with questions rather than closure. A tiny sac with no baby, no heartbeat, and no answers. “Your doctor will call you in two days,” the technician said as she pointed me back towards the changing area.
I walked alone into the lobby where my family was patiently waiting, my son playing with a collection of trucks and toy elevators. Confusion spread across my husband’s face at the sight of me fighting back barely contained tears. “You’re done?”
He had expected to be called in to the ultrasound room too. He had taken time off work to see grainy images of a strawberry-sized baby, and to leave the clinic with its first indistinguishable photos. But apparently they don’t call family members into the room when you’re having a traumatic ultrasound. That experience must be reserved for happy, healthy pregnancies.
I hurried my worried husband and chatty toddler back out to the car. The rain pelted against our faces and disguised my tears. The toddler fussed as we strapped him into his car seat; he wanted to splash in puddles but mama just wanted to sit in the car and think.
What exactly was going on?
The weekend was excruciatingly long. My mind ran through each possible scenario: any number of probable and improbable outcomes flashing constantly throughout my thoughts. I waited anxiously for a phone call from my doctor. I blindly hoped he would tell me that the ultrasound was wrong and prayed that he had answers to ease my fears.
But his answers were just as incomplete as mine.
Tuesday morning, I sat in his office as he outlined possible reasons why our ultrasound looked the way it did. Either I’d lost the baby and my body simply hadn’t recognized it yet, or we were still very early along. The doctor stressed that due to the date of my first positive pregnancy test and the subsequent hormone levels, the latter was very unlikely.
He shook his head as he handed over another ultrasound requisition and some more paperwork for blood work, “Don’t get your hopes up.” He said. “I know this is hard. You’ve been here before but you need to start preparing yourself for the worst.”
And so I settled down for a long two week wait. I spent the early part of December wrapping gifts and trying hard not to think about what Christmas might look like this year. With frequent trips for blood work, I awoke each day wondering if it would signal the end of another pregnancy. Surrounded by jingle bells, winter snow, and chilled eggnog drinks, I waited on another miscarriage.
I waited to say another good-bye.
And when that farewell moment arrived, it felt too soon. I wasn’t ready to hand back another child or to feel the ache of an empty womb. But as I sat in the hospital and watched Christmas ornaments sway gently under emergency-room signs, I couldn’t help but think about another babe.
A babe who was born for grieving mothers with empty wombs and broken hearts.
A baby who came to earth to relieve a broken world from the pain of death and devastating good-byes.
And of a Father who loved us so much that He gave His Son to us, to die a horrific death so that we may know God.
I think about that baby and know that there is a God who understands our grief. A God who has chosen to walk alongside us in the midst of pain, whispering of His goodness. A God who has not abandoned us but who has come to earth, fully God and fully man, born as a tiny baby in a manger.
And while Christmas feels a little bitter-sweet this year, there is joy in the midst of hurt. For with Christmas comes the promise of life. And that truly does make it one of the most wonderful times of the year.