By Tilly Dillehay
I found out I was pregnant on a Friday. I’d crept home from work in the afternoon between projects, because some kind of instinctual suspicion hit me and I realized I needn’t wait until the next day to take a test.
It was a big day at work for me—the culmination of months of fundraising for Relay for Life. I was on the committee and heading up our Relay team as well, and the day of the event itself had finally come. So I was in and out of the local park all afternoon, setting up camp and helping the committee to blow up balloons.
During a lull in activity, I decided to just run home and rest a bit before a long evening—and, if there was time, take one of those tests. I’d taken many of these over the ten months that we’d been trying. Very familiar with the missing positive line.
I set the test going, walked around the apartment, loaded a few dishes into the dishwasher, poured myself a drink… and walked back in as nonchalantly as possible.
The line was there.
I jumped, covered my mouth, leapt into the air, cried aloud, and crouched to the ground in gratefulness. My palms itched with joy; a flood of indigestible plans and calculations and dreams overwhelmed me. February? Was it February, the due date?
In a haze, I left the apartment, and the sunshine was different. I drove back to the campsite, and continued with my work quietly, but felt oddly separate from the goings on around me. As I talked to the others, took instruction, gave instruction, taped and arranged and sweated and smiled, I felt a glow of secret promise. It was encapsulated in my very person. There was life in me, and no one knew it but I.
Even that—being the only one who knew—was somehow precious for those first few hours.
My husband was at work, and I knew that I’d be working late into the night at this event. Soon, the desire to tell him began to overtake my other sensations; the joy was not complete until he knew. He was a father, you see—and he didn’t know it.
I wondered if he’d be home in time from work, that I could slip home again and meet him there. The event would kick off at 6:00, and there was no question of my not being there. But if there were a few moments—twenty, even—of time…
He sent a text a few minutes later, telling me that he was off and on his way home. I picked up my keys and ran to my car.
When I walked into the cool apartment, he was taking off his work boots.
“Hello,” he said in surprise. “I didn’t think you’d be coming back.”
“Yes,” I said, suddenly shy. “Well, I wanted to tell you something.”
Then I thought that this was the kind of thing I wanted to remember for a while—what his face looked like when I told him—so I asked him to sit down and pushed a coffee table off to the side in a rush, nearly upsetting the hot mug he’d just set there.
We sat opposite each other on the couch, and I smiled, and he knew already, and I said it:
He looked for a moment like he might cry, and then like he might laugh, and then his mouth dropped open wordlessly for a few more seconds and he exhaled once. Then we were suddenly laughing, gathering each other into messy embraces, and he was asking questions.
When did you find out? Oh, goodness, oh my goodness. When will it come? Oh my. Praise God. Oh, wow. When should we tell our parents? Oh, honey.
Then, my time was up and I had to go. That night, late, we cuddled up in bed and laughed together with glee. The baby was affectionately dubbed Gabriel—a name we’d jokingly called our eventual offspring for over a year.
The next few days were simply marvelous. That Sunday, we’d had a visit planned with my family. All of them, sisters and husbands and parents, were going to be together in the same house, and it was too perfect an opportunity. We were already supposed to be celebrating Father’s Day.
Over lunch, with everyone at the table, we all gave my dad a card. Then I gave him a present, casually saying “this is from Justin and me,” though Papa heard it and no one else did.
He opened the box, and I had the delight of watching his face as he pulled out a baby’s garment. Across the front I’d lettered in fabric paint, “I love my Grandpapa.”
The next moment, the whole table erupted in one prolonged scream.
“Who is it? Who is it?” A few people yelled. There are four young, married daughters in the family right now.
“It’s me! It’s me!” I yelled back.
And tears. And Laughter. Family pictures, with everyone gathered round pointing at my stomach. A phone call to a brother, who is away in the Navy.
We went home in a happy haze, planning to have the same glorious unveiling with Justin’s family on the following Sunday. We talked houses, and names, and genders, and dreams. We thanked God profusely, together and apart.
On Tuesday morning, the bleeding started.
At the first moment of discovery, I simply gasped and began to beg God aloud. “No,” I said. “No, no, no, no. Please, no.”
God, no. It took ten months to see that life can be made through our two bodies. Don’t take the life away. Not now, not later. Give it a chance, God. Please. I wrote out a prayer of pleading that morning before going to work, and wept my protest. But I finished the prayer with a psalm of praise.
I called Justin from the parking lot and broke the news, told him that I didn’t know for sure but it seemed bad. A few hours into work, I completed the things I needed to do for a looming deadline. The cramping worsened. I burst into tears in front of my employer and went home.
There I stayed for three days.
The doctors said that it wasn’t certain, and that I couldn’t give up hope until it was time to do a blood test. They said I needed to stay in bed just in case. But I knew, somehow. I didn’t feel the same.
Justin came home Tuesday night after work and crept into the bed with me, where we whispered our disbelief and cried together. The next day, Justin stayed home from work, and we had a very quiet and sweet day. We were tender with one another, and gentle, and found ourselves bound tightly to one another in a new way. There was no word of bitterness against God between us, and I am not aware of sinning against God in my prayers during this time or afterwards.
Indeed, the sweet memory of these few days of closeness between myself and my husband have moved me to conclude that of the two options—never having become pregnant, or losing a pregnancy—I would have chosen the experience of those few weeks.
I wanted to go back to work by the third day, but Justin laid down a husbandly mandate, to stick to the plan and stay in bed. My sister came and spent the day with me, which I deeply appreciated.
I told Justin that I didn’t want to go overdo our mourning in some dramatic way. It was a five-week pregnancy, and we knew about it for four days. No graves, no little services, even between ourselves.
But the next week, I did something I’ve never done before. I bought seeds: Sweet Basil, Parsley, and—for some reason—Snapdragon, a flower that boasted “hardy and easy growing.” I purchased some little seed starter cups and starter soil. At home, I read the directions and took everything to the back patio to plant them. I started six little cups—two for each kind of seed. I took them inside to tray and watered them carefully with my hands.
Every morning and evening, I’ve sprayed a little water on them and covered them back over. They’re supposed to stay moist, apparently, and they’re supposed to be kept covered until they sprout.
Yesterday, I opened them up and gasped. “Justin!” I called. “My plants!”
In five of the six cups, tiny little sprouts could be seen poking over the surface of the soil. How miraculous. Life had occurred again—life that God always seems to be creating and sustaining. Life that he ends in his own time, but that is intended to glorify him for as long as existence is gifted to it.
The next morning found me on my stomach, watching the little plants at eye level and smelling them, reasoning that a little carbon-dioxide breath from me wouldn’t do them any harm. It was a healing thing, to see that I could still be involved in the budding of a seed, the fertility of the soil, the productivity of God’s natural world.
If we buy a house, as we plan to do in the next few months, I’ll take these little shoots with me. I’ll put them in the back yard.
They’ll remind me that I worship a God of life—a God who gives life and takes it away but never disrespects it; a God who gives perfect gifts in his good time; a God who is merciful and sweet to us if we but kneel down in the soil to see his mercy.