Twelve hours passed between the mid-day visit to the doctor’s office confirming that Rafael was no longer alive inside my womb and the beginning of full-on labor. That time was both sacred and a total scramble of consciousness and memory. I had several realizations during those hours that I have come to see as “Truths” (for me) in the months since Rafa’s death. I now live with the lessons that came to me during that precious time as guiding principles. One of them has to do with the mystery and miracle of life itself.
After the doctor’s office, I asked my midwife to drop Yeyo and I off at my parents’ hotel. My mom and dad had come to Oaxaca from Salt Lake City for the birth. Once we had delivered the devastating news, we sat stunned on the uncomfortable couches in their condo-style hotel room. I think it was then that my wise husband said, “We have to remember that this little baby was a miracle. His very existence has no medical explanation.” Followed by: “And why he died is a mystery. It’s something we will never understand.”
His coming was a miracle and his departure, a mystery. This phrase became a kind of mantra for our close friends and family in the difficult days to come. Any time I start to tumble into a pit of despair or feel like I am a victim of this tragic event, I remember that Rafael was a miracle. When I tap into the miracle that is all of life, I connect to a source of energy and awe which keep me moving forward, day by day, moment by moment.
Let me share just a brief synopsis of “the riveting story of how I found out I was pregnant.” I’ll preface it with this curious detail: the results of the procedure that indicated my fallopian tubes were blocked, also showed that I had uterine polyps. I had these removed in early 2017. I was told that I needed to get an IUD to regulate my hormones and the overgrowth of my uterine lining because some of these cells might eventually become cancerous. I had hemmed and hawed about getting the IUD and basically just never got around to it. It seemed like a cruel joke: I was being told I was both infertile and would now also have to use invasive birth control.
Following the ceremony in the mountains and finally grieving the baby-that-never-was, my cycle went completely haywire. I was getting my period about every 10 – 14 days. I was traveling a lot and just chalked it up to time zone and altitude madness. On November 2nd (during the Mexican celebration of el Día de los Muertos) I flew to Boston for a workshop. I spent the month visiting old friends and new, traipsing all over the East Coast. I kept expecting to get my period. My boobs were sore, I had minor cramps and was pretty bitchy for the first week of my trip. The days passed, the symptoms waned, but I never bled.
At the end of the month when I got back to my best friend’s place in Boston, I was beat. There were still many people to see and things to do, but I had neither the energy nor desire to leave the couch. As the week progressed, I started to lose interest in wine and then one morning I found I didn’t even want coffee (GASP!). The day after Thanksgiving I woke up before everybody else, feeling crappy. I made my way groggily to the CVS in my pajamas and bought a pregnancy test. I basically just thought I would discard this far-fetched possibility and start trying to figure out what was wrong with me.
I’m so thankful that I was with my BFF when I came out of the bathroom that morning. I was in shock. I couldn’t say anything. I just held out the pee stick with the two little lines on it. She looked at the stick and then at me and then back to the stick. I said: “What do I do?” (Fortunately, she has two grown children and has been through all of this before.) She told me that I needed to tell Yeyo first. He was facilitating a big shot meeting that day though and I didn’t want to bother him in the middle of that. I had to wait for almost twelve hours to get hold of him.
When I finally saw his face on the computer screen I asked him if he had his phone with him. I then texted him a photo of the pregnancy test and those two little blue lines. He stood up with such excitement, crying out, pacing back and forth, tears streaming down his face. I’ve never seen Yeyo so happy. The day after I returned home, we went to see my doctor. She was flabbergasted. Yeyo puffed out his chest just a little when she admitted that she had no way of scientifically explaining how this had happened. That day, November 28th 2018 (our 2nd wedding anniversary) we heard Rafa’s heartbeat for the first time. I cried.
When I think about the miracle that was Rafael’s short life, I sometimes wish that I’d relished pregnancy more. It was such a blessing, why didn’t I slow down a bit? Make shorter to-do lists? Go on fewer work trips? I acknowledge that I was worried about money and thought I needed to work as much as I could before the birth. But what I’ve learned from Rafa’s passing through this plane is that we just never know what is going to happen. We assume that if a woman is pregnant, she will have a baby. But I won’t assume this again for myself. It’s an invitation to fully live each moment as the miracle it is. And so now, in this time of grieving and sometimes despair, I continue to invite myself to also live these days fully. Are they not also brimming with life? Are they not also miracles?
We decided early on not to share anything on social media about my pregnancy. Interestingly, when we got these beautiful photos taken by Maria M. Caire a few weeks before Rafa’s death, we posted them online accompanied by the words: “Life is a mysterious miracle. Deeply grateful for this blessing.” Who knew how true they would prove to be. I am still so grateful.