Theophilus Wells Novak
Born on December 15th, 2016
into the arms of Jesus
I felt very protected from miscarriage. I had felt baby loss, but not of my very own. I did fear it, though. For whatever reason, God, in his sovereignty and still-goodness and all knowingness, has made this part of mine, Eric’s, and our family’s journey. He knows why when I don’t. He knows my hurts and confusing thoughts before I feel or think them. He hems me in behind and before. He has always been with me and known me, even in times of intense pain when no one else was there. He loves us. He loves our babies, and ultimately, they are for his glory and purpose. I trust him. The fact that he has entrusted me with them is a testament to his goodness. He gives and restores NEW LIFE, and that is good news!
In late 2014/early 2015, I started having vivid, descriptively detailed and personal dreams about having another baby. In the dreams, Jesus was talking to me, telling me we would have a son. He said that baby could be our “blueberry muffin” like Evie is our “Wilde berry muffin.” He told me this cute idea for a baby announcement using an Anthropologie muffin pan. I prayed and prayed for another baby. I couldn’t shake the idea of having a son until we finally got pregnant in October.
In early November, we took a late anniversary trip to Chicago. It was my first time to my husband’s home state, and many things that happened were astoundingly providential. Once, we walked out on the pier on Lake Michigan. I have no idea why, but we took some pregnant style pictures “just in case,” and snapped a picture of a yellow number 4 we saw. Just in case. Afterward, we went to a family friend’s house, and she prayed for us as we were about to leave. “I don’t know if you’re pregnant or not…” she said during the prayer. I was about to burst. We got out to the car, and I was like, “Eric?! Did you hear what she said?! Do you think? Maybe? It has to be!”
The next day, we wound up in the hospital with Evie there in Chicago. It was a completely trying time with a lot of signs of God’s sovereignty and goodness. The day before we left the hospital, I walked to the in-hospital Walgreens and bought a pregnancy test. Huffed and brushed it off when I thought it was negative. Took a second look, and there were two (long awaited) sweet, little pink lines!
I had taken some new measures for my health the month before, in October, and I felt better than ever. This pregnancy was so joyful and such an immense gift to me, in the same and different ways than before. I loved it. I felt mentally, physically, and spiritually stronger. I managed to eat healthy food (albeit food aversions), and avoided morning sickness for the most part. I was just so happy and thankful to be pregnant.
We have always been drawn to vintage classic and out of the box names, and had Theodore or Theophilus seriously in mind for this baby. It just felt right. ‘Wells’ was another name we were thinking about, but were unsure of at the time. Both pregnancies, I’ve gotten a very deep sense over and over of who each baby is, just by carrying them. Theodore means “God’s gift” and Theophilus means “(be)loved by God or loving God.” The name Wells is typically a surname, and we couldn’t find much on it. It had such a nice ring to it, though.
After we lost him, we wondered if we should even name him. I had such hopes to call a live baby by that special name we picked out. Naming him seemed like one more step into the pit of loss. Ultimately, I came back to what Jesus had done and the truth behind pregnancy with little Theo. He was and is a gift to me that I carry in my heart. This has been part of Jesus’ good plan for our lives, not to be forgotten. He still loves me, and loves my baby very much. We concluded in a pile on our bed staring out at the dark sky with Christmas lights: Theophilus Wells. I knew then that Wells should be after “It is Well with My Soul.”
It was a beautiful, warm Saturday when I started noticing some slight complications. I was in my white lacy pants folding laundry on our new couch. All of a sudden, I felt something a little off, so I went to the bathroom to double check (as you do after you’ve had children). I was curious, but not assuming or overly concerned. When I got to the bathroom, I had almost bled through my pants.
It was still at a spotting/light-ish point, so I waited a little while to see if it would stop. It didn’t, and I notified my midwife and contacted my health coach. My midwife, Eric, and I decided to hold off on an ultrasound for a day or so. They would be closed the next day, Sunday, anyway, and we wanted to see if my bleeding would stop. I went to the health food store and got some False Unicorn Root to take, recommended by my health coach and confirmed by my midwife. “Do you have anything that could help prevent possible miscarriage?” was the shakiest, most dreadful question I’ve ever had to ask. I got their last bottle of False Unicorn Root, which would help my body do whatever it needed to do either way – carry or miscarry. I was at peace with that. Ultimately, I knew Jesus knew best. I prayed and hoped so hard and desperately for this baby to stay.
The next day, Sunday, we decided to schedule an ultrasound for Monday. My symptoms of cramping and bleeding continued. Grandma came over to watch Evie, and Eric and I went to the hospital. It felt like a baby was about to arrive. The wait in that hospital waiting room was pained as much as the hardest contractions. Eric and I were pretty quiet and kept to ourselves more, which is unusual for us. I had no idea what to do or what to say.
We both expected one of two things: either we would see our baby with a beating heart, or our baby who had gone to be with Jesus. Part of me was excited, because this was my first ultrasound. A nurse took us back to the ultrasound room, we met the ultrasound tech, and there was the all too familiar crinkly paper and no pants situation. The gel was warm, and the swoosh of the ultrasound came on. She swiped around, because what we all saw was kind of confusing. I had a blighted ovum.
Basically, a blighted ovum is a gestational sac with a baby that doesn’t develop past the beginning stages. The gestational sac grows at the normal pace, week by week, until your body recognizes that something is amiss. For this reason, neither the ultrasound tech nor my midwife acknowledged that I was pregnant with a baby. I was told it was an empty sac, and I would miscarry. No big deal. Sorry about your luck. Try better next time. For once, I didn’t research my health condition (a blighted ovum). I went with what the doctors told me, and took great comfort in “at least I’m not miscarrying an actual baby.”
Monday at noon, I announced what was happening on my social media. Many kind friends came out of the woodwork to pray for us and share their stories of baby loss. One particular friend knew specifically about what I was experiencing with the blighted ovum situation. She was the first to tell me that I actually was carrying a baby, not just an empty sac. The weight of this news spun me around. I felt grief for the first time. (Thank you, Jessica. I’m so thankful for you.)
Around that same time, noon, I began labor. Some of the typical signs weren’t there, like water breaking, so I didn’t classify the contractions as official labor. I cleaned the house. I played with Evie. I put her down for her afternoon nap. I have this specific picture in my head of running down our hallway after her, and suddenly noticing that I couldn’t keep up anymore. I think that’s actually what happened. It was around 2 or 3pm, I think. I laid in bed while she played at my side. I think I ate something for dinner, but I’m not sure. I just tried to keep eating and drinking, which I was able to do better than at Evie’s birth.
Around 6 or 7pm, I got in our bathtub. The contractions were hard and close together. I was frustrated I had no one there to help me. Waves of complete grief would overtake me. Evie was so concerned, and helped me so much – at almost 17 months old. I knew I needed to change my perspective. I showed her how to be my doula and splash water on me. I called her my “diaper doula,” after the Novak family made up word “diaperdoo.” I explained how, when she splashed the water, the sound was relaxing and the warm water helped mama. She stood at the edge of the tub for so long, there for me.
At around 8 or 9pm, the contractions lulled and I was able to put nurse her to sleep, just like every other night. This in and of itself was a complete mercy. She nurses to sleep at every nap and bedtime, and can’t go to sleep well without it (yet). I’m so thankful that we got to do this. She slept peacefully for the rest of the night.
After we put her to bed, my contractions resumed on the same level – intense and close together. I got back in the tub, and Eric helped me labor there. We took pictures. I got overwhelmed with grief and contractions. Having to reassign the tears a different time slot was the biggest mental game I had to play with myself – bigger than the contractions alone.
A little after 11pm, I decided to get out of the tub. I don’t think I knew what would be most comfortable at that point – bed or the tub or walking around. Since miscarriage birth isn’t like normal birth, I didn’t have a normal size baby to gauge how “done” I was. I definitely had those end of labor contractions, though. We ended up getting in bed to snuggle and try to work through the contractions with no end in sight. Eric pulled up this video, and it felt like ocean waves to me, like calm in a storm.
Eric held me in his left arm through the whole video, and my contractions stopped when it ended. All of a sudden, I felt some sort of weird sensation, and got out of bed. Theophilus Wells, wrapped in the whole sac, was born there at 11:30pm.