The anguish in my husband’s cry pierced through my own grief. Immediately, a scripture came to mind. “The song of the righteous is a prayer unto me.” I realized not all songs are happy, lilting ones. Think of Gustav Mahler’s Funeral March in his First Symphony. Glen’s cry had a musical quality to it. And it was as poignant as a prayer. I knew God heard him. I realized he was singing the same song as me, and we both knew the words. We hurt in unison as I labored through my first miscarriage. This would have been our 6th child. Yes, we have five children, and while not all of them are neurologically typical, they are all healthy, and they represent five uneventful and healthy pregnancies. This miscarriage humbled us. We have been so blessed for the past seventeen years. Glen’s cry was a prayer, a song, an elegy of pain and grief and agony.
He came home from work when I called him and told him it was time. I grabbed him as soon as he came in the door; he didn’t have a chance to drop his laptop bag, and he held me tightly with one arm while steadying his heavy bag so it wouldn’t crash into me. It was a short desperate sobbing hug, and then I ran upstairs for another bout of cramping so more pieces of me could wash away.
When I started bleeding in the early morning, I tried to face the possibility of a miscarriage with dignity. I told Glen, “I don’t think we’re going to keep this one.” My voice didn’t crack. I wasn’t crying or emotional. I thought, maybe a miscarriage won’t be that big of a deal to me. We’ll just have to try again. I climbed back into bed. I felt for Glen’s face in the dark, to pat my favorite part of his cheek. It was wet with tears. And then I began to cry as well. We hugged and prayed and then he went to work. He would be optimistic for both of us.
A few hours later, the nurse midwife was also cautiously optimistic. In the absence of cramping, unexplained bleeding wasn’t necessarily a precursor to losing the baby. My heart was lightened. I called Glen. I made pancakes for the kids. And the bleeding persisted, accompanied by small clots. My hope faded, and not long after, the cramping ensued in earnest. Immediately my thoughts flew to the Savior in the Garden of Gethsemane. He had sung this song before. He composed it.
Throughout the day I had the phone to my ear. I called my sisters, my friend, my parents. I called Glen. The tempo of the bleeding increased. I called the nurse midwife. She was compassionate but forthright. I called Glen again and told him he should come home. I thought all miscarriages ended up in the hospital; I wanted to be prepared. I wanted my companion.
The golden summer sun shone in streaks through the blinds. Dust motes floated aimlessly. The sounds of birds and lawnmowers hummed through the walls. I sat losing my baby, my world, while the rest of the world moved inevitably forward. Again, I fled to thoughts of the Savior. I relied on the knowledge that He knew this piece intimately. He was accompanying me.
Then I realized what the cadence of my cramps was: the steady beat of unrelenting labor. It was almost unbearable. My own body was expelling our 6th child against my will. While the pain in and of itself wasn’t especially bad, I’ve experienced worse from unrelated health problems, knowing that the strains were bringing us closer to loss made it insufferable. The Savior’s words came to my mind. “I have descended below them all.” He was hurting with me. We were in agony together.
Glen made it home. Our oldest child kept vigil with me all day, and then watched the younger kids so Glen could come upstairs with me. That’s when I heard him cry like I’ve never heard before. We sobbed together, clinging to each other, holding each other. Occasionally the little kids’ musical laughter would reverberate through the walls. We couldn’t help but laugh too. Our children make us happy. And we were happy to welcome another one. Our laughs dissolved into weeping again. More trips to the bathroom. At one point, I felt the swell of pain, and I yearned for Glen to come to me. I didn’t have to say anything. He came. He rubbed my back. We cried together. And the little kids needed him, so I told him to go. The pain’s progression peaked.
I passed the fetus. It was a birth pain. A death pain. How cruel, how shocking, that my body felt relief when it was done. I recognize now that it is the same sense of wellbeing that accompanies a mother upon childbirth-a physiological decrescendo, if you will.
I held it in my hands. I marveled at the structure, the umbilicus, the insufficient placenta, the unrecognizable form of an extremely short life. Afraid that my husband wouldn’t understand my primal need to hold our baby, I replaced it on the bed of tissue. I called for him to come to me. I asked him if he wanted to say good-bye. He asked me if I thought he should. I just shrugged. Is there sheet music to this song? He came and said goodbye.
I returned to our bedroom, and there knelt Glen, in fervent prayer to Heavenly Father. I don’t know what he prayed. I haven’t asked him. But I knelt beside him and prayed as well. I thanked God the Father for the gift of His son. I thanked him for the Atonement, the hope that it gives us of eternal life and eternal joy. I cried. Glen and I held each other again.
I told him shyly that I had held the baby and asked him if I was weird. He said, “No!” fervently. “Don’t you think it’s natural?” I loved him all the more in that moment when he looked me in the eye with all the love in his heart.
We are at the Coda, the final measure of the movement. We lived it together with the Savior Jesus Christ providing consonance. This requiem changed us, as all music does in some way. We will continue to cry; it is a sad song. And God the Father will continue to hear; our cries are essentially music, bittersweet notes rendered into a song of the heart: prayer.