The factory is silent. Its assembly line stands motionless. Somewhere off in the darkness, a buzzer sounds. One by one, lights begin to flicker and illuminate on long-unmanned diagnostic panels, giving a sense of enormity and complexity and scale to the machinery. The low hum of power supplies warming up comes next, followed by the higher and louder whine of turbines and electric motors. A whistle sounds, and one by one, employees begin to file in and take their places at the controls. Purposed for a single task, whose time has now come, the factory slowly comes to life...
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Hummingbirds and Rainbows
It is a bittersweet day for me today...
Those of you who have been faithfully following this blog from its inception (or back-reading) know that we got our first positive pregnancy test, after about a year and a half of "trying," on June 16th, 2008. Had that baby survived, today would have been the expected due date of our first child.
There was so much promise, so much hope and anxiety and excitement over that first positive test. As the days went on and my pregnancy symptoms strengthened, Craig and I started making plans for our future, and sharing the exciting news with our close friends and family. Though I was a little afraid, I felt a sense of redemption in my heart, and deep down I knew being a mother was what I was supposed to do with my life now. I knew everything would change for me over the next nine months, but with my amazing husband at my side, the never-ending support of our families, and the heartfelt encouragement of our friends, we would learn to adjust together, and everything would be all right in the end.
Around the time I got the positive test, I was spending a lot of time in our backyard. One day I was back there tending to the rose bushes, and I heard a great buzzing noise around my head. I freaked at first because I thought it had to be some kind of giant insect and...well, ugh. But when I heard it again, I saw it was actually a hummingbird who was tending to our giant, lilac-colored, Rose of Sharon blooms. The plant is a relative of the hibiscus, so I could see why they would be so attractive to our little nectar-sipping friends, as we have at least three of the large shrubs in our backyard.
Encouraged, I immediately went out and bought a hummingbird feeder. Soon there were three to five of the winged Valkyries out there, and I added more feeders because they were fiercely fighting with one another over territory. By the end of the summer there had to be close to 10 of them and I could identify several "regulars" at the window feeders by sight.
In the spring last year, Craig's beloved grandma, Betty, passed away. I had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with this sweet, kind woman only once, a couple of years before, when we went to his grandparents' home in Arkansas for the Fourth of July. She welcomed me into the family right away, and I felt so comfortable around her in her home. Betty loved hummingbirds, and her house was adorned with hummingbird pictures and figurines, and she even had a window in her kitchen where she hung hummingbird sun-catchers and crystals. When the hummingbirds appeared in our yard at the same time as our baby news went public, we felt somehow like it was the spirit of Craig's Grandma Betty coming to visit and keep watch over our little family.
Hummingbirds, like babies in utero, have rapid heartbeats. They are remarkably small, and somewhat fragile, but resilient and persistent in pursuit of their livelihood. The stories of hummingbird survival against great odds are many, and in all these things I also saw the parallels to the tiny life inside me.
But hummingbirds' lives are swift and fleeting, with many living only their first year. (Even those that do survive live no more than a few.) Unfortunately this fate was shared with our first child.
When we heard the words, "There is no heartbeat...I'm so sorry," were understandably in shock. And when the news had more time to sink in, we were devastated. Days were spent in tears, wondering why, and how. How could this have happened when there was so much promise, so many wonderful positives, so much hope, so much love for this unborn child? This tiny, innocent being, this fragile light, did not deserve to have its potential extinguished so soon. It had done nothing to deserve its fate and despite our best efforts to keep the baby safe and growing, we had failed. I indeed felt like a miserable failure. Here I had been personally entrusted to take care of this little one, to guard this beautiful soul and nurture it to fruition, and our baby didn't even make it past the first few critical months. Logic could not console me, and it didn't matter that others had been through this, or felt like I did, and that it was likely genetic mischance that had decided this baby's fate. I had failed.
The days started getting cooler, and the hours of sunlight started to fade. I had found comfort in the daily visits of my little feathered friends, but they started migrating away, and I began seeing fewer of them each day. I knew soon they would all be gone. But like this too, the pain began to subside, and the time started to heal my wounds. Craig and I began to feel like we could honestly live up to what we resolved in our minds: to try again. And soon after the last of the hummingbirds disappeared in October, we received our second positive pregnancy test, and with it the chance to start all over again.
Just recently I learned that, in the grief and support circles, they say that the child conceived after a loss by miscarriage, still birth or infant death is known as a "rainbow baby." As God's promise to Noah after the storm, a pact made to renew the life on Earth, the restoration of faith to "be fruitful and multiply", and a covenant to preserve human life, the rainbow appeared in the sky as a symbol of hope and rebirth. These babies conceived after the most tragic of losses are like those rainbows.
The child I carry now is our rainbow baby. She is our hope and our promise, a symbol of our faith to put things in the hands of God, who knows infinitely better than we do what we need to survive and be strong. My rainbow baby is kicking away at me softly as I write this, reminding me every so often that she is here, and I gently rub my stomach to comfort her, and let her know as much as I can and as often as I can that I will always love her and be with her no matter what.
So as the rainbows will always be symbols to me of this sweet little baby girl, the hummingbirds will always remind me of that child that was ours for such a short time. I loved my "hummingbird baby" no less than the one I nurture now, and I will always remember the joy and the sorrow and the healing and lessons in faith I learned from one so small.