My story of Grace: Part 2. The Perfect Pregnancy
*****I wrote this about nine months after we lost Grace, when I was miscarrying a baby once again. It's pretty cool to see how God has redeemed our story now -- four healthy living babies later!*****
"I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him... My heart rejoices in the Lord." - 1 Samuel 1:27 & 2:1
From day one, I was blessed with the perfect pregnancy. I got an enormous thrill watching as the lines on those pregnancy tests to which I’d become so addicted got darker and darker each day. I often carried around the latest one in my purse so I could look at it whenever I wanted to smile. Of course, after we got to see an ultrasound of our baby and watch its heartbeat on the monitor for the first time at just six weeks into the pregnancy, I pretty much had a constant smile on my face from then on.
I never got any morning sickness, or tiredness, or mood swings, or problems. For the first 12 weeks, I honestly prayed to get nausea, just to have some sign that I was really pregnant! Because of the lack of physical symptoms, we were certain we were having a boy, and picked out a boy name and bedding!
Even without symptoms, though, I felt an incredible bond with this baby. I would take long walks outside and pray for it while holding my hand on my belly. At nine weeks, I rented a Doppler, and would listen to the baby’s heartbeat every couple of days, just to reassure me that it was healthy. And I would cry every single time, praising God. That heartbeat was the best sound I had ever heard. I’m sure it can only be topped by the sound of one’s own healthy, living newborn’s cry— a sound I’d gladly give my right arm to hear.
My belly grew quicker than most—it was pretty obvious even to strangers that I was pregnant at three months. On Mother’s Day I walked into the Sunday school at my church where I volunteered, and one of the four-year-olds came up to me and put her hand on my belly and asked, "Are you having a baby?" I was SHOCKED! I thought it must be some sixth sense kids have, but later that week, a cashier at Whole Foods asked me if I was pregnant too (the same woman later asked me in my third trimester if I was having twins, so clearly she thought I was extra-large the entire time).
Besides my rapidly expanding abdomen, my first physical sign of pregnancy was a rambunctious flutter of kicks at only 16 weeks. They felt like little q-tips poking me from the inside—it was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. I fell completely in love with this little one so utterly dependent on me.
I researched everything about how to have a healthy pregnancy and went all-in. Instead of buying pretty maternity clothes, we put our funds into making a more healthy life for our growing baby—we had come so far that we were determined to do this right. I ate 100% organic food, free-range meat, wild-caught seafood. I quit coffee cold-turkey as soon as I found out I was pregnant, and didn’t have even one caffeinated coffee my entire pregnancy. (And if you know me, you know that is a MAJOR sacrifice.) I used only natural cleaners, detergents, and even beauty products. Any possible risk of chemical contact was cut out— I never pumped gas in the car (VOCs), we threw away any plastic we could, and switched from a vinyl shower curtain to a cloth one. We planned for baby’s life outside the womb to be clean too —organic cloth diapers, organic crib mattress, and organic bassinet. We wanted our baby to start out life with a clean slate.
One Saturday morning, at only 17 weeks, I was surprised to wake up to a rock-hard belly. Poking it, I realized it was doing this at regular intervals every few minutes: hard, soft, hard, soft. Freaked out, I did what any mother would do—went online and searched my symptoms. And of course, I saw only the worst stories, and suddenly feared I was having pre-term labor. We called my doctor for instructions. She informed us that we were probably going to lose the baby (!!!), and that I would have to wait it out. She told us not go to the ER because there would be nothing they could do to save a baby at such an early stage!
Horrible thoughts went through my mind—what if I can’t ever carry a baby to term? What if this is the only time I get to experience the joy of pregnancy? What if something is wrong with me? How on earth will I go on without this baby? I turned pale, became dizzy, and began to shake uncontrollably.
Jeff knew that such a mental state wasn’t good for me, so we sped to the ER—despite the doctor’s advice. Upon hearing about the emergency, my mom dropped everything and drove all the way from her house to the hospital, and while we were waiting, she put her hand on my belly and felt the baby give a firm kick! God was reassuring us that the baby was healthy in there, although probably a little annoyed at the contracting uterus tightening around her.
Three hours of worry later, we found that nothing at all was wrong! What I’d been having were “practice” (Braxton Hicks) contractions, which are totally normal. Just for reassurance, we were offered an ultrasound, and it was then that we were surprised to learn our little baby was a beautifully healthy girl.
I praised God with every part of my being, and didn’t stop. I’ve never been happier in my entire life as I was when I was pregnant with Grace. Life was PERFECT.
When we first saw her, she was kicking and punching in there, and then she leaned back, put her hands behind her head and crossed her legs like she was relaxing in a hammock. Not only did we get to see that she was healthy (10 fingers, 10 toes, everything in place and working) but we got to see her big personality. :)
Who Grace Was
Grace developed a distinctive personality from early on. We had felt led to pray – since before conception – that she would become a leader, and would bring God praise.
And from the way Grace acted in the womb, it seemed that she was already headed towards becoming that leader-type personality! Her kicks were strong, right from the beginning. When she moved, it was decisive, never sluggish. Sometimes she’d push so hard that I could distinctly make out a hand (right at my hip bone), or foot (in my side) and butt (way up near my ribs). She’d just hold it there, sometimes for a whole 30 seconds, as if she was testing the strength of her muscles. The last three months, she would kick so forcefully while I was working, that I would be forced to relax my abs and lean back in my desk chair to give her some room to play. It seemed like she was already bossing me around. We prepared ourselves for a headstrong child!
And she loved music. Every day, I played her worship songs, and her body moved miraculously to the rhythm. She loved songs loud, with strong beats, and with powerful crescendos! She would have a dance party and I would sing along! She really liked “Agnus Dei” by Darlene Zschech, “Hosanna” by Hillsong United, and “Your Name” by Phillips, Craig and Dean, all which, interestingly, sung praise directly to God. Her life was full of praise, cheer, excitement!
Her name, Grace Evangeline, was a direct reference to what God had laid on our hearts about her purpose. The word “grace” itself means to give something to someone without the intent to receive anything in return. Jesus himself offered all of humanity the ultimate gift of grace – he sacrificed his own life for our sins – so that we could live eternally with Him. The gratefulness we felt to God, and for Him blessing us with this precious daughter, led us to name her “Grace.” She was to reflect Him, and His forgiving, unending love! And she was to spread that exciting story of grace, thus the name “Evangeline,” which means “bearer of good news.”
We didn’t know at the time how soon she would live up to her name, or how her purpose would be fulfilled without ever having cried life’s first cry.
Just think, for nine months of pregnancy, every minute you’re alive is about the baby. Eating, breathing, sleeping, living – it was all for Grace. The idea of doing something solely for myself had become some distant memory. Budget? It was overhauled to include baby furniture, baby clothes, and extra food. To-do list? It was cleared for things like “buy breast pump, paint nursery, register at the hospital.” Spare time? It was filled with birthing classes, doctors visits, researching cloth diapers and vaccinations and baby sleep theories.
In August, we moved into a bigger rental townhouse just for Grace. And I gave up my beloved VW Beetle and bought a bigger SUV, with room for a car seat, just for Grace.
And it was heavenly. I loved having someone physically around all the time to communicate with. Working from home, I never felt lonely – Grace was always with me! Food I ate or movements I made or noises around me all got responses from Grace. I felt like she was giving me her opinion on things. I took videos of my belly as she shimmied and kicked and hiccuped in there. We were already the best of friends – I couldn’t wait to be her best friend throughout her childhood, as my mom was with me.
In late pregnancy, everything happened as it should: my hip bones softened as they were supposed to, I passed my glucose test with flying colors, I never got any stretch marks, I slept a solid nine hours of sleep every night, I took outside walks daily, and Grace’s heart would beat clear and strong every time we Dopplered it. Grace’s size always measured ahead—our little overachiever! I loved being huge and pregnant, it was something I’d waited my whole life to experience. While some people hate being told they look big when pregnant, I was thrilled to hear it!
Me & God
With every passing day, I had this increasing peace. Nothing could bother me (except maybe that one pregnancy side effect of being hot all the time), not even the debates about the upcoming elections, which would have made non-pregnant me get a little argumentative. Part of it, I’m sure, was the nicely balanced hormone levels. But mostly, it was that I had been blessed with everything I could possibly want. I was living my dream life. I remembered the desperation I had felt just one year before, and realized that God had finally delivered me. I was living out his grand plan for me: I was the mother of Grace Evangeline Young.
The whole pregnancy, God had walked alongside me. I’d felt his undeniable presence and purpose every second of my day. From the beginning to the very end of my pregnancy, He had guided me to read through the Old Testament, to learn about His character. As I read, I had cheered on Moses, Joshua, Elijah, and David, and learned more about God than I had in my entire lifetime. I wondered why I had never before realized how exciting the first half of the Bible was! God was working amazing miracles back then, and I marveled at how He was creating a current-day miracle inside me!
Weirdly, by the end of October, I had made it to the book of Job, the gut-wrenching story in which God allows Satan to kill all of Job’s children and steal his worldly possessions in one fell swoop. I felt so uneasy about reading that book during pregnancy, and I tried to speed-read through multiple chapters a day, hoping to finish it without dwelling too much on its sadness. I wanted to be reading Psalms by the time Grace was born, praising and rejoicing! But as God would have it, I only made it to the chapter right before God begins to speak to Job, the day before November 3.
As I reached the finish line of the pregnancy, we readied the house for Grace’s arrival. We had our three baby showers, had the nursery painted, furniture ordered, and hospital bags packed. When I visited the doctors, I learned that Grace was head-down, ready to go at any time! I was giddy when Jeff installed the baby’s carseat in the car and set up the bassinet in our room – it was all real now; this was really happening!
I was so blissfully unaware.