The lessons taught by the near loss of an unborn baby

By Dave Andrusko

As long as I have been involved (since the 1970s!), I never, ever cease to be amazed by how many ways there are to learn about, to appreciate the beauty of, unborn life. Or, better put, why the little ones (if we give them half a chance) tug in such a profound way on our hearts and make such an enormous difference in our lives.

Many of the most pro-life stories I have ever heard have nothing directly to do with giving the littlest Americans a fair shake– extending a loving, welcoming hand rather than the razor-sharp edge of curettage. Rather they teach us the incredible impact of unborn baby (not a “pregnancy”) when the baby is lost–or almost lost.

Enter a radio program which originally was recorded April 11, 2013, on The Moth. I first heard the broadcast this weekend. The Moth (“The Art and Craft of Storytelling”) describes itself as presenting stories told live and without notes.

Rebecca’s 9 minute, 18 second long talk mesmerizes the listener from the first sentence. Let me offer a lengthy overview; you can listen for yourself (and I hope you do).

She and her husband were the parents of a 5-month-old daughter. Even though their daughter had just started to sleep through the night, Rebecca was exhausted and work on her dissertation had stalled (“ground to a halt”).

She and her husband had entered that stage where after first agreeing on all the big decisions, they now fought over everything and nothing. Rebecca felt like she was being “kicked while I was down” and thoughts of “escaping” entered her mind.

Then came the night they were fighting over “something really stupid” and she burst out that she was leaving. She collapses in tears; she knows perfectly well she could not, she tells us, because she was “trapped by my love for my amazing little daughter.”

She goes to bed “really sad and angry,” no longer convinced they had ever been ready to “start a family.”

The very next morning Rebecca learns she is pregnant. She was “pretty devastated.”

Then the roller coaster ride begins in earnest. Over the next two weeks she ponders her “dismal set of options,” and asks herself, “How could I bring another child into this unhappy, unprepared family?”

No sooner does she have a day in which she’s “feeling pretty normal” when sudden something “really un-normal start to happen to me” at the coffee shop.

She rushes to the bathroom and finds her legs covered in blood. Rebecca tells us she’s not grasping the magnitude of what has just happened. She comes out and tells the cashier, “I’m really sorry, but I think I just had a miscarriage in your bathroom. Can I use your phone?” She calls her husband and they rush to the birth center.

Then this amazing moment of insight. Rebecca says she begins to think to herself, “Isn’t this what you wanted? Hadn’t you kind of secretly been hoping for this to happen. If so, why does it feel so sad and awful?”

The midwife tells her that, having lost that much blood, “the baby’s gone.” They had an ultrasound already scheduled for that afternoon, and two hours later she is on the table. Rebecca tells her audience she had steeled herself. Then…

“As the image swims into view on the screen in front of me, I’m looking at it– really hesitate to say anything but I just have to– and I say to the technician, ‘I think I see something moving.’

“And she says, ‘Yes, that’s the baby’s heartbeat, looks like the baby’s okay.’”

A feeling of joy just washes over her and husband is crying. “I was just so surprised at the unexpected results and also at my unexpected reaction to it.”

But with that kind of bleeding, of course, everything was not okay. So the next Monday they go downtown to the hospital for a special ultrasound. The doctor checks to see if the baby is still is okay. And yes, she is.

To celebrate, they walk a few blocks and have some Dim Sum. It becomes a ritual–every Monday for seven months–and suddenly they discover they were having fun. They were “starting to enjoy each other’s company again and starting to feel better.”

Rebecca ends almost abruptly, to warm applause.

“By the time our daughter Charley was born healthy seven months later, I knew that it had taken her one gigantic, really scary and shocking event and then seven months of Dim Sum dates– engineered from inside the womb–to ensure that she was born into the happy and healthy family that she deserved.

“And she was.”

I’m not going to put pro-life words into Rebecca’s mouth. I don’t need to. The message that she brings to her audience is life-affirming in every sense of the word.

She contemplated, however abstractly, whether she could handle another baby when she and her husband were so angry with each other. She works her way through the ordeal only to have what she is sure is a miscarriage. The magnitude of what the loss of that baby would have been is not brought home, it seems, until Charley unexpectedly survives her first crisis.

The title of the talk is “Coming to term.”

I love it.