A Posture of Surrender: A Story of Pregnancy, Miscarriage, and Finding Gifts in Grief
I met Breanne a year ago while planning for a conference called Choose Joy. Foreshadowing much? She carpooled with my friend, Kristi, and me from San Diego to Palm Springs for a steering committee retreat. In true girls-who-get-each-other fashion, we pretty much gabbed all things intimate life stories on the three-hour car rides there and back (Ok, there. I maaay have slept the whole way home.). When I first started the #heysunshinemovement last May, I immediately thought of Breanne. But she wasn’t ready, something I can’t help but respect. And then a couple of weeks ago, out of the blue, I got an email from her. An email filled with beautiful journal ramblings and words radiating truth. Humble recipient here.
She was ready.
So, we met at a coffee shop, sans kids, on a rainy Sunday. Yes, it was as mocha and cinnamon roll perfect as it sounds. I have the obligatory food photo to prove it. And, she told me her story again.
Just about eight months ago, Breanne found out she was expecting. Now, in most cases, a positive pregnancy test, taken by a momma who eagerly wants to fill an empty nursery, emits shrieks and nervous excitement and an expectant conversation with her husband who desires the same.
But, that’s most cases.
And God kind of does His best work in the non-most cases, right?
In this case, a positive pregnancy test meant having unbearable flashbacks and drowning feelings. It meant launching a new, beautiful plan and prepared hearts into turmoil, allowing room for hesitation, fear, and questions. It meant, that on an early summer morning Breanne took that positive pregnancy test and threw it on the bed where her husband lay with a, “See, we don’t need a divorce, and you don’t need to check me into a mental hospital. It will all be okay in a few months when my hormones are back to normal.”
Not the most typical reaction.
Breanne and her husband, Kevin, met at a Padres game. They followed that up with a little beach volleyball, a wedding, and some insane travel (think booking a trip to Turkey one empty wine bottle into a random night – my. kind. of. people.). In the spring of 2012, after eight years of marriage, they decided to trade their current adventures in for a new one. They were ready to start a family.
As would become pattern, Breanne quickly found herself pregnant. She and Kevin were thrilled, as people are in most cases. But, not too far in, the couple discovered that the pregnancy was ectopic. Ectopic pregnancies occur when a fertilized egg attaches itself in a place other than inside the uterus. Usually, the egg attaches itself to the fallopian tube, as it did Breanne’s situation. In her advanced case, in fact, it was likely she would lose her tube altogether. Stunned, Breanne and Kevin’s adventure felt over before it even started. Breanne was treated with Methotrexate, and afterwards found that her tube was surprisingly still intact. Hope.
In September of the same year, they surrendered their hearts and tried again. And, Breanne was quickly expecting. She and Kevin had trepidations, but anxious to build their family, they made room for the excitement. Unfortunately, that pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. Early miscarriage often means walking the road of grief alone because no one else knows the dreams that were nurtured, no matter for how long. Breanne started to wonder why she became pregnant so easily, if it only ended in heartache. She questioned why God was allowing such pain. But, she and Kevin weren’t giving up. They fought with the best weapon they had, faith. Little did they know, the next pregnancy would require even more.
In November of 2012, Breanne was pregnant again, and she went to the doctor very early on, as was now custom. After having her hCG numbers checked, she was told that this pregnancy would also end in miscarriage. Soon. Utterly defeated, Breanne prepared herself for another devastating experience and more lonely grief. But, more than two months later, she hadn’t yet miscarried. Breanne was still carrying a baby. For the very first time, she and Kevin heard a heartbeat on an ultrasound. Cautiously optimistic, they couldn’t believe they were living what felt like glorious redemption. They got to experience a second ultrasound with their little one, that heartbeat salve to the hurting places. Then, about a week later, at home and in the middle of the night, something went wrong. Breanne started bleeding and feeling intense pain. She was frightened and couldn’t wrap her head around what was happening. They had just heard a heartbeat!? Horrifying hours later, Breanne was standing in the bathroom, holding their son in the palm of her hands.
The obstetrician had advised them to get tested to determine if there was anything identifiable taking place, which meant Breanne and Kevin had to preserve their sweet baby boy and bring him to the office the next morning. In shaking tears, Breanne tells me she’ll never forget that moment. The moment of walking in to the doctor’s office, filled with pregnant women, with a plastic lunch bag that held her baby. A moment that now defines every single time Breanne walks into an office, with intentional awareness, because she never knows what stories are checking in next to hers.
It was after that piercing experience that Breanne and Kevin started talking about adoption and foster care. She says she knew, and voiced, right away that foster care wasn’t for her. She absolutely could not do it. She didn’t think she had the capacity to unabashedly love and let go. So, they explored adoption. Amid their research and decisions, in March of 2013, Breanne became pregnant again. She and Kevin continued to pursue adoption. Because, history. But, this time felt completely different. Breanne was sick, which she hadn’t been with any of the other pregnancies. She laughs as she tells me how she got so amped about nausea! He numbers were good. So, sickness? Was a gift.
Crosby Alexander was born on December 11th, 2013, after a long labor that ended in a c-section. The first thing Breanne heard the doctor say was, “Look at the size of those feet!”, and she couldn’t wait to see the little boy who had been kicking inside of her. When they finally met?
Just after Crosby turned one, Breanne and Kevin started talking siblings. She quickly became pregnant but had a miscarriage at six weeks. It was a new experience, miscarrying as a mom. The hormones and emotions threatened more than just her personal solidity. She struggled with not letting her frustration and sadness seep into her parenting. But, she surrendered to the experience and persisted. And, I hear Crosby’s certainly no worse for the wear. 😉
After so many different pregnancies, one wouldn’t fathom that there was much left uncharted for Breanne and Kevin to confront on this crazy journey.
But one would be wrong.
In the summer of 2015, Breanne was expecting for the 6th time. Her hCG numbers were good and she was sick, both phenomenal signs. But, one visit to the doctor presented yet another new, agonizing medical term. This pregnancy was a blighted ovum, which meant that the fertilized egg had correctly implanted itself in the uterus, but it didn’t develop an embryo. Breanne and Kevin were presented with two options: pharmaceutical or surgical. She figured she’d done it before, the grief was comfortable enough, so Breanne chose pharmaceutical. She would be expelling the tissue on her own. She took medication, waited, and went in for an ultrasound. What they found, wasn’t a most case scenario. The placenta had grown back. So, Breanne took the medication again. And the placenta grew back. Again. The relentless, punishing part about this whole months-long process was that Breanne’s body continued to “think” she was pregnant, but she wasn’t. People asked when she was due, but she wasn’t. Other expecting moms at the playground complained about pregnancy, but she wasn’t. Her reality meant being hormonally wild and short with her husband and toddler and looking pregnant, but it definitively didn’t mean another baby. Breanne reversed her earlier decision and chose to have a D and C (dilation and curretage). The punishment slowly diminished.
When they felt ready, Breanne and Kevin revisited adoption and foster care. And, this time, Breanne surprised herself. Because the thing she thought she vehemently could not do before, she now felt like she could. Through the lens of her compounding experiences, she saw things differently. She did know what it meant to love a child and let go. She knew what it meant to be all in and receive nothing tangible in return. She knew loss. And she was still standing. Breanne felt refined, equipped, and positive she could face foster care, whatever the outcome. Surrender.
So, the couple went to orientation. They went to training. They completed their homestudy. They told friends and family. They got their license. They experienced another early miscarriage. They felt more confirmation. They painted their spare room a gender-neutral green. They prayed. They opened their hands and hearts and waited…
And then, Breanne started feeling moody and mean, off and frustrated. She thought it was the impending change, she thought it was their kitchen renovation, she thought it was their two-year-old. But, it was none of those things. Breanne was expecting.
Enter the pregnancy-test-slinging.
Usually she would visit her doctor early in the process, but at this point Breanne didn’t want to, she couldn’t. She and Kevin had a good plan, one they were passionate about, and she thought she would just take care of the miscarriage when it happened. She knew what to do. She could handle this grief. They waited for placement.
But, they didn’t get any calls. Odd if you know foster care AT ALL. Impatient, Breanne finally inquired and discovered that the agency had lost their license. It took some time to get it all sorted out, and seeing as how they didn’t yet have a placement, Breanne and Kevin decided to take a needed trip to Kauai. While on vacation, they got calls nearly every day. But, these calls were for immediate placement of a child, and that wasn’t an option seeing as they were 2,600 miles away on an island in the Pacific. They didn’t understand what was happening.
After they returned from Hawaii, at 19 weeks, Breanne couldn’t deny it any more. She went to the doctor. The ultrasound showed a healthy baby. She and Kevin were in total disbelief when they had to make the call to put their foster license on hold. It took some time, as important things do, but together they slowly processed away their will to make space for His.
Breanne, Kevin, and Crosby are now only six weeks away from meeting their newest, miraculous family member. Breanne is, of course, choosing joy in every moment. Taking it all in. When I ask her about the new baby, about the unrealized foster child, she speaks the conviction and truth of a woman tested and certain.
“I know, as last year when we started the foster journey, that I need to have open arms and an open heart. A posture of surrender. Surrendering to God’s will for our family and His timing. It’s only in keeping our arms wide open that we can receive gifts from Him, anyway. And this nursery I prepared last year for fostering? That will now become the bedroom for this baby boy in my belly? It will forever be a room open and available for other gifts from God in the future. And I am so very grateful for His gifts to come.”
Insert sigh. (The kind that only freedom in His will can bring.)
If you ask me, I think Breanne was ready to tell her story at the most perfect time.