The contractions began at 15 weeks.
Arrived like a rainstorm in a cloudless sky.
The pool repairman and I were sitting at my kitchen counter completing paperwork.
My two kiddos snuggled on the couch watching Saturday morning cartoons.
“When are you due?” he asked.
July 4th” I said.
I failed to mention that I had just felt a contraction.
I soon let him out the door and went to wash the syrup covered breakfast dishes. Then it happened again.
Another contraction.
I started timing. Every 10 minutes.
45 minutes passed and they showed no signs of stopping.
I thought about the two possible reasons:  
1). My body was preparing for a miscarriage. At 15 weeks, I knew there was nothing I could do to prevent loss. If I went to the ER they would ask if I was bleeding (no) or cramping (no). They would send me home without offering an ultrasound. I would leave knowing nothing.
2). My “irritable uterus” was acting up. With my previous pregnancy I started contracting at 30 weeks. I was confined to my bed until 36 weeks with a few side-trips to the hospital to see if I was in pre-term labor. I delivered a healthy baby girl at 38 weeks.
I scoured the Internet with the terms “irritable uterus” and “15 weeks.”  
Very little information emerged. My mind whirled. Could contractions really begin so early?
I stopped and prayed and made the conscious decision to not grieve before I had a reason to grieve. My past losses would not define my present state of being. I refused to cry away the weekend.
Our plan for the evening was to take our son to the Monster Truck Jam. Little Man was insanely excited to cash in his Christmas present tickets. I wanted to see, firsthand, the excitement on his face of an event we’d been anticipating for a month.
I would not allow the fear of miscarriage to steal this joy, too.
I called my husband and told him very matter of factly, “ I know one of two things is occurring. Either I’m miscarrying our baby or my uterus is already irritable. If I am about to have a miscarriage, I want to have one last fun evening with little man before this happens.”
Perry sensed the urgency in my voice. He didn’t argue and we went about our evening as planned.
We beamed watching our little guy cheer on the big trucks.
Soon the contractions ended.
Sweet peace. Perhaps it was fluke.
The next morning I awoke. As soon as my feet hit the floor the first contraction erupted.
I decided to face reality.
The on-call physician asked,  “Are you bleeding? Are you cramping?”  
 My voice quivered as I said, “No, but contractions started yesterday.”
“Spend the day resting and call your doctor tomorrow. If you start bleeding go to the ER. All we can do now is pray,” she gently stated.
I sat on the couch the rest of the day in a stupor. My husband lit the fireplace, cooked dinner, and dotted on me. I watched television after television show while my children played underfoot.
Outside I acted as if all was well, but internally was struggling.
I couldn’t even rub my belly.
Fear had tried to overtake my soul several times already in this pregnancy. When it reared its ferocious head I would grasp my belly and whisper to my loved baby,  “You are wonderfully and fearfully made. I don’t know whether you will be born into Heaven or onto Earth, but I choose to love and celebrate you now.”  
This mantra helped me walk through the valley of fear.
But now, I felt stifled. What if the babe in my womb had already perished? Was I talking to a child whose soul was already in Heaven?
So we waited. For the ultrasound. For the knowledge of life or death.
Our instinct is to protect our hearts, isn’t it? To realize that the outcome might not be what we wish and dream; to hope for the best, but expect the worst.
I crawled into bed that evening not knowing whether I would be grieving or rejoicing upon viewing the ultrasound.
But either way, I prayed for peace.
Driving to the appointment my contractions came on more forcibly and frequently.
Still I stayed strong; refusing to mourn until necessary.
As I walked into the darkened ultrasound room my mind was a buzz.
How would I tell my five-year old that his brother had perished? We hadn’t even chosen a name! Would I have the courage to try for another baby?
In a few beats I would know if death or life existed within me.
Then the image appeared.
My uterine wall was squeezing a tiny baby—who at 15 weeks already possessed fingers and toes. The contractions were visible.
But the most glorious site was in front of my eyes—the tiny beating heart.
This little one was still living in my body!
I cried the entire drive home. Tears of joy and relief.
It’s unnerving—the contractions still come and go.
I shall not lie, it’s such a big lesson in trust. A lesson in strength.
I’m now 20 weeks & every day pray for peace.
Nursery preparations are underway. I’ve already started hanging my little one’s pajamas in the closet.
I’ve taken the advice of the physician and spend my days with decreased activity. The contractions haven’t been as frequent.
I’ll gladly accept rest as a way to possible protect my child.
It’s hard isn’t it? Pregnancy after a loss.
Each day we face the task of celebrating the little life within us and choosing love and hope over fear.
(Sarah’s third child, Beckham, was born this summer. A full-term baby who is now a happy two-month old. If you need help with miscarriage or stillbirth please consider joining the Loved Baby Christian Pregnancy Loss Support & Encouragement  <>  group.)  

Photo credit: Frank de Kleine via Visual hunt / CC BY

Sarah Philpott

Sarah Philpott Ph.D lives in the south east on a sprawling cattle farm where she raises her two mischievous children (with one on the way!) and is farm wife to her high school sweetheart. A former teacher, she now spends this season of her life cleaning peanut butter & jelly off the counter, dreaming of traveling the world, hosting “get-togethers” for her family & friends, and chasing her kids around the farm. Sarah is represented by The Blythe Daniel Literary Agency. You can visit with Sarah at her blog where she writes about cultivating a life of down-home simplicity. She also has a passion for helping women cope with pregnancy loss.