I had never felt so alone. For a couple of weeks in 2017, I believed the lie that I was.
I was 39, and three months pregnant. I had been anticipating the moment I could tell people; plenty of people had asked, drawn to my happiness over marrying Chris a few months earlier, to my openness about wanting a child, to my bump, made round early by fibroids growing along with our baby. So when we were at the ultrasound that would let us know our baby was safe, I could feel energy buzzing in my body. This was it.
When I saw the baby’s little arms and legs waving about, the heartbeat strong, I was thrilled. But the room was eerily silent. The ultrasound tech didn’t say anything as she measured my baby. Chris also was silent. Somber. He wouldn’t look at me.
As soon as the tech left the room, I confronted him, angry he wasn’t excited. At first, he wouldn’t say anything. Then, finally, he said something was off. He wouldn’t say more.
Was this how my pregnancy would go?
I was fuming when I got home, angry he wasn’t excited. I was talking to a friend when my doctor called; I felt a jolt of foreboding in my gut. I called her back.
She confirmed what Chris intuitively knew in that room; our baby had too much fluid on the back of the spine. We wouldn’t know the cause until we did genetic testing, and the likelihood of me carrying the baby to term was almost nonexistent. If the baby made it, they would have major developmental challenges. The other caveat was me; my large fibroids already put me at risk. I would move over to a doctor who handles high-risk pregnancies.
“But you ARE a doctor who handles high-risk pregnancies,” I thought. I had chosen her the year before because she specializes in fibroids, a respected doctor at Seattle’s major trauma center who I wanted to help me get through a difficult pregnancy. Now, she was telling me my pregnancy was complicated beyond her scope of skill.
That afternoon, as we waited at the hospital to talk to a genetic counselor, as Chris held me, my body sagging against him, unsure of what was next, we named our baby Hector. We later learned it was a girl, and her name became Hectorina.
Testing showed she had a chromosal abnormality; our baby most likely had Down syndrome.
We were faced with an intense decision — do we keep our baby or terminate?
I had never felt so helpless, so alone. Keeping our baby or ending her life, neither felt right. I was on the verge of despair. I called my sister every day, crying. At night, I sobbed in Chris’ arms. I felt so sad for my Hectorina. She didn’t ask for this. She didn’t know. She was in my womb, waving her arms about, trying to live.
For one week, I kept working, mentoring yoga teachers and girding myself to hold it together for our two-hour meetings or for teaching a yoga class. My normal ways of coping didn’t work — being at the yoga studio meant people asked me questions I didn’t want to answer, even simple ones like, “How are you?” Meditation didn’t calm me down. Olympic lifting was hard with my belly, and I felt betrayed by my body and the fibroids that complicated everything. I wanted to be with Chris, who was doing his normal job and trying to make sure I didn’t fall apart every day. For the first time, I couldn’t talk about what was happening in my life; I lied and said I was OK whenever people asked. It was too much to share, the level of hurt all-consuming. I had to counsel myself, tell myself that feeling the hurt in my bones translated to me being human, the ordinary walking an extraordinary choice.
Then, I got a call from my doctor. She told me terminating also was risky because of my fibroids. If we decided to terminate, we needed to do it sooner than later. I felt like God was testing me, and I couldn’t understand why. How could I make a decision to end this life?
Chris knew the answer. He knew we couldn’t keep her. He held me and gently reminded me, over and over, that I also knew the same answer. “Your body knows,” he said to me. The words I always said to him were being reflected back at me. I needed to listen. All the work I had ever done to trust myself was required, right then.
I did know. Whenever I am in something deep, when I don’t know what to do, I ask myself yes/no answers. When I asked myself if it was time, my body said yes. Even so, I struggled to make the call.
Then I remembered what my teacher Susanne Conrad told me. I had talked to her right after the ultrasound; she did some energy work to help clear me so I could be myself, so I could make clear choices in a complex situation. She told me her teacher always said miscarriages were souls who hadn’t completed their time on the planet and needed a physical body to finish what they had left to do, a notion I found reassuring. Susanne also advised I try talking to Hectorina, and see what she had to say.
I already knew my Hectorina was spunky, tenacious, and funny as shit. But I was nervous to talk to her. What if she didn’t say anything back? What if it was just empty space, and me, still alone? I had no choice except to trust. So I took a moment. I paused. I asked Hectorina what I needed to know.
She spoke up right away, clear in her baby voice. She told me she was here to teach me and Chris two things.
Number 1: Family first. Stop putting work over family. Family is your priority.
Number 2: I’m here to save you from your fibroids. I am here to make sure you live.
My sweet, tender girl. Then, she told me she was ready to go. She had served her purpose. She was good with our choice.
I called my doctor.
I was grateful to learn after I woke up from surgery that Hectorina had already passed a few days before, done with her duties on Earth. My fibroids complicated the procedure, and I was hospitalized overnight. I felt empty after, dull. The day I got home, I was in the shower, and, nervous, asked Hectorina if she was there. She said, “Hi, Mama.” My girl was with me.
Six weeks later, I went back to the hospital to get my fibroids removed. I took nearly a month off work to heal, relying on my closest community to help nurture me back to health with food, support, love. My mom flew in for both of my surgeries; my sister came up for the termination. I had never needed them so much.
Every day, I talked to Hectorina. She told me she was OK, she told me good job, she told me to keep trusting my doctors. I told her every day that I loved her.
“I know, Mama,” she says, always cheerful and spunky. “I love you, too.”
I still talk to her today. We had to wait almost a year after the surgery to try to get pregnant again. Whenever we have struggled with the idea of having a baby — Chris had lingering trauma from the ultrasound and the experience of worrying about losing me, and I had to work through the idea that I waited too long, that I am too old to have a baby, that my body can’t handle a pregnancy — Hectorina is there to talk me through it. She tells me she can’t wait to meet her sibling. When I worry, she tells me confidently in her little voice that her younger sibling is coming. She’s not worried.
Some days, I wish getting pregnant again was simpler than it has been. I also am good with the path we are on. We are working with a fertility doctor, and Hectorina has been there with us through every step. I know my vision is essential. I visualize a healthy pregnancy, a healthy child, and I talk to my future child, too, Hectorina’s little sib. I have given up knowing how the path will go, and stay with faith that the outcome is on its way. I am grateful to Hectorina every day for guiding me, for saving me, for being the wisest soul I know. From her, I learned in a way I never understood before that I am never alone.
Neither are you. None of us are. Being alone is an illusion. There is wisdom and guidance the universe, and it is available at any time, even the absolute worst, shittiest moments of your life. I am proof. Don’t believe the lie. You are not alone.