Sunday, October 18, 2009

NSF: Insufficient Faith

It's been an ongoing battle in my life. Yes, I have had way too many NSF (insufficient funds) charges in my banking career, but I am talking about the OTHER NSF - insufficient faith.

Like many believers, I have had moments of true inspiration, even moments of revelation. And like a lot of people, I have had periods of insufficient faith as well. But just like in a bank account, new infusions of account-building or faith-building experiences can take care of the insufficient status and make us whole again. Sometimes we simply need to pay more attention, go through the checks and balances, and replenish.

I remember being about 7 months pregnant with my second child, healthy, happy, mucho preggo and taking a much-needed warm bath at the end of an exhausting day with a 16 month-old. It is a memory that is seared in my soul -one of the clearest thoughts of my life. It shot through my mind and body like a lightning bolt; the words couldn't have been clearer if someone had been looking me in the eye and speaking audibly: "You will survive if your baby dies."


The thought lasted about as long as it just took me to type it, but it's effect was more lasting than paragraphs telling me the same thing might have been. It was so quick that it shook me to the core and made its undeniable mark, yet left me without any lingering fear or concern. A fleeting, yet undeniable flash of truth, a spark of eternity that didn't register at the conscious level, but touched my spirit indelibly.

Six weeks later, after three normal doctor visits with my favorite (and only) OB-GYN - Dr. C. A. Anderson - I went in for what was expected to be my last office visit before delivering my baby in early August. Dr. Anderson probed and prodded, his nurses had weighed me and taken my temperature; this was routine to me by now. I was ready to head off shopping as soon as the wonderful doc squeezed my shoulder and winked, saying, "See you in the hospital in a few days."

But shopping didn't happen that day, or for weeks to come. The doctor, about the time he should have been squeezing my shoulder, was calling for his nurse. He had spent a lot of time on my very large stomach with his stethoscope and now was asking her to schedule an amniocentesis and ultrasound. STAT.

I looked at him, knowing immediately what was going on. He had asked me how long it had been since I had felt the baby move. It had been about 24 hours - which in the last weeks of pregnancy is not normal. I had already had some concerns over the past day, concerns that I buried deep down inside of me along with the flash of truth and spark of eternity.

There was no heartbeat. He confirmed it when I asked. He was sending me to the hospital where I was supposed to deliver a healthy baby in less than two weeks, but I was not going there that day to deliver a baby. He was sending me for testing to see if the baby was alive, if possibly he had missed the heartbeat. Unfortunately, as I had been prepared for six weeks earlier, his diagnosis was correct. There was no heartbeat. The cloudy amniotic fluid  which I saw in the long needle as it was withdrawn from my huge stomach proved it. No one needed to tell me a thing that day, I had been told six weeks earlier.

Two weeks later I delivered Katrina Leanne Avarell, a perfectly formed baby girl who never took a breath. Two weeks of waiting, daily blood tests to make certain the toxicity building inside of me was not to levels that would threaten my life, hourly prayers that labor would start on its own...and finally, on the day Dr. A. had determined he would induce me, my body let go.

As difficult as it was for me to carry my baby for two weeks, knowing there was no life inside of me, I believe it was more difficult for my family and friends. They didn't know what to say. They didn't know how to react. I still looked healthy and very pregnant.

People would say things to me if I went out in public, which wasn't something I wanted to do but I did have to visit the doctor every day: "When are you due? You look like you are ready to pop! Is this your first?" etc. How could I answer them? Often I didn't, but more often rather than make them uncomfortable, I gave a quick response as if all was well and moved on quickly. Needless to say, those two weeks were mostly spent out of the public eye, in fact, I was at my parent's home in Fontana - off the mountain - to protect my privacy and also to keep me within a reasonable distance of my doctor who was in Redlands, CA.

My Dad was my strength during this time. He took me to every doctor's appointment. He was the most tender I can ever remember him being. He was a big part of why I survived. He had been wallpapering the nursery when I was at the hospital for testing. He was wallpapering when I called with the news. My Mom was there too, babysitting Karynn who was 16 months old at the time. They didn't know what to say, what to do. My Dad finished the wallpaper. My Mom cuddled Karynn. And then they drove down the mountain with Karynn to meet me at their house, where I spent the next two weeks.

You might think that this would bring a couple closer together, and there is no doubt that my children's father was as sad as I was, but I have no memory of a shared grief, no lingering emotion of two people brought closer together through a shared tragedy. As I have come to recognize more and more about most things in my past life, this was a burden that wasn't shared. But I was able to do it because of my faith in God, in myself, and in the goodness of people who genuinely cared about me and my family. I wasn't ever really alone.

My faith was stronger during that devastating time than almost any other time in my life.

Disappointment, betrayal, dishonesty, deception, and cowardly behavior, by others and by me, have been the causes for moments of insufficient faith at other times in my life, but on August 2, 1978 faith prevailed. And I survived the loss of a daughter before she was even born, just as I was told I could six weeks earlier while soaking in a bathtub and enjoying the miracle of carrying one of God's children.

I delivered Katrina while wide awake. I experienced the full spectrum of labor, but at the end there was no baby to hold. I don't know what she looked like. I was told she was dark-haired, petite and perfect. I have no doubt.

A blood clot had formed in the umbilical cord sometime in the 24 hours prior to my last doctor's appointment two weeks earlier. No reason for the blood clot was ever determined. No reason needed to be.

Dr. Anderson walked into my room on the GYN floor of the hospital a few hours after he delivered Katrina (they had been sensitive enough to not keep me on the maternity floor). I will never forget the look in his eyes. He didn't say even one word, he just squeezed my shoulder and with tears in his eyes leaned down and kissed my forehead. Then he left. But as he left I heard him say in a gruff voice to the nursing staff outside my room, "Take damn good care of my OB patient."

I shared 5 more pregnancies and delivered 4 more healthy babies with Dr. Anderson. He had also delivered Karynn in 1977. Kalen, my last, decided in her now-well-known stubborn-style to do things her way and to come early and by emergency C-section, so unfortunately Dr. A. did not deliver her. But we had many laughs together after Katrina's heart wrenching delivery as Kurt, Kollin, Kyle, Kelly and Kalen grew inside of me and then entered the world.

Katrina is buried in Redlands, CA. Her Dad dedicated the marked grave. The LDS Church is not definitive on whether Katrina's spirit ever entered her body, but any birth mother will tell you that those tiny spirits are kicking ribs long before birth. Katrina's name is in our family Bible, as we were told it should be. She is part of an eternal unit. She is one of us. She is my daughter.

Insufficient faith may have threatened my foundation at many levels through the years, but it has never touched my belief in the absolute goodness, patient tolerance and unconditional love of a heavenly Father for all of his children.

And for that, I am eternally grateful.

Familes can be Together Forever - Piano

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