Pain lanced around my body from the small of my back to meet near my navel like a thin steel belt. I could not breathe. “So, this is labor pain. They’re NOT like menstrual cramps at all.” I thought. Sun brightened the world along the canal. I watched my husband’s back receding into the distance as he rode his bike away from me, too far for my voice to carry. Besides with this pain I couldn ‘t catch my breath.
When I was 47 years old we decided to try in vitro fertilzation. My husband had had radiation and had recovered from prostate cancer. We looked online for a sperm bank and pored over the characteristics of donors. We tried several times, each occasioned the arrival of FedEx with a CO2 smoking tank with in that contained a tiny vial of precious sperm.
After several attempts at home we ended up at a fertility clinic. Because my own body had been through much chemical disruption during my 30s, we chose donor eggs as well. Then began the routine of Lupron shots to knock out my own monthly cycle. Followed by the daily injections of progesterone and estrogen tablets to create a new lining. Progress of the lining’s thickening was closely monitored at the doctor’s clinic with a wand of an ultrasound.
Finally the day came when the eggs and sperm were united in the lab. The doctor phoned me that afternoon to let me know we had four really healthy exuberant embryos. Of all the mistakes I’d made in my life and all the paths not taken, the one I regretted most was not having children. That had been the only thing I remained consistent about my whole life. I wanted a houseful of kids, screen doors slapping in summer, the thud of barefeet on the grass, shouts of laughter and bad dreams rocked away.
The previous year my favorite cat had died unexpectedly. In trying to cope with the grief,
I decided to try at long last for a baby. I hoped that my cat’s spirit was wherever souls go in the afterlife, that she would help. In due course with the treatment room’s lights dimmed, my husband held one of my hands, my other guided the ultrasound so I could see. Enya sang “Wild Child” over the stereo speakers, two of the embryos were planted in a particularly rich area of my uterine lining. I assured the doctor I would be religious in following all instruction. Not long after we got home, I was overcome with the most delicious lassitude. I could barely rouse myself from the wonderful drowsiness. The next day a pregnancy test came back positive. I was reacting to human growth hormone. The babies were already affecting me. We were ecstatic. Unfortunately, the one detail that bothered me had not been researched by any medical staff. I have a heart rhythm disorder and take medication for it. Nobody thought it would have any impact on a pregnancy. But, it did. Two days later there I stood, faint, on the canal, birds singing all around me, butterflies flitting through heavy milkweed heads and a trickle of blood slowly dripping out of me.
The doctor confirmed the pregnancy was over. I had experienced so much loss in my life. The idea, at my age, of the carelessness causing the loss was unbearable. I was pregnant for 2 days. Talk about a roller coaster of emotion. I wanted to die. My husband and I held each other in our bed that night. The windchimes softly tinkled in the breeze from the fan as we cried ourselves to sleep, arms wrapped tightly around each other. It was our only chance, and we both knew it.
I’ve long believed that souls’ energies can communicate with us from wherever it is they go after they leave their earthly bodies. I ‘ve believed there are several kinds of events that happen during sleep. I think during a certain stage of sleep we are paralyzed and our resistance to things outside of our ken is lowest. I think that that is when spirits speak to us if they can. Regular dreams that process the daily flotsam of life and others I call ’sendings’ which feel different than dreams though both may contain some of the same elements.
I found myself seated in a comfortable place. The light was rosy and dim and most of what I could see was lost in shadows. It was a safe and good place. I was not allowed to turn around to look behind me. I just knew this. A voice which was female and projected the most indescribable marvelous other-ness spoke to me. I did not hear Her in the conventional way. She told me, “I know your heart is broken for the loss of your children. I have delayed their souls’ passing due to the dangerous depths of your grief. I would like you to meet them. You may only have a moment together and then they must go on. You must promise me that you will choose to live as well.” It wasn’t really words, I just understood I was going to hold my babies in my arms. Suddenly, a tiny boy lay against my chest. He was translucent but his hair was dark and tufted. He faded quickly. It was understood he had been the smaller of the twins. Then he was gone. A larger infant now rested against my heart. She was pink with damp dark hair. I pushed my finger into her small fist. She gripped it. In that moment she opened her bleary baby eyes. I can’t describe my feelings in words at that moment. No sooner had her eyes opened than the Voice said “She must go now.” As I watched, the baby faded to translucency in my arms and disappeared. “Thank you!” I called out. I woke up.
I told my husband of all of this. I don’t know if it was an angel who spoke to me or if it was God. If it was God, I managed to think some people would be quite upset to learn God was female…I had absolute conviction that for whatever reason–sometimes you just accept a gift and don’t ask questions–Spirit had noticed my agony and despair and granted me that one brief union with my children. I felt so comforted.
In truth, life is very short though we humans think otherwise. It had to be enough, the brief look into my daughter’s eyes. I keep my word. I choose to live as they continued on their spiritual journey. The truth of the matter is all we ever get is a brief glimpse. We named her “Willow” for that tree has first leaves after winter, bends easily, and if it breaks in a storm, roots where it touches the earth. All qualities a human can only benefit from. We named him, too, another tree name, which I can’t recall at this writing.
I will always remember that Voice and my gratitude that Someone noticed my pain, granted me a tiny fraction of what I’d wished for. It was enough.