Waiting for William
I knew I shouldn’t have watched tonight’s PBS special on the Mormons. It made me intensely sad and I’m having trouble controlling the tears. The story about the Mormon woman who died giving birth to her eighth baby really struck a chord with me. I, too, exhausted myself to create a body for a spirit waiting in heaven. He was a little boy and his name was William.
Married and away from home at the age of eighteen, I found myself pregnant immediately. It wasn’t planned. I was shocked but ready to take on the responsibility of motherhood. When I saw him on the ultrasound for the first time, I was overcome with emotion. There was my baby. It wasn’t clear if my baby was a boy or a girl, but I didn’t need a picture to let me know. I knew my baby was a boy and that his name was William.
At my five month check-up, there was no heartbeat. An ultrasound was ordered and it was clear that my baby was dead. I was utterly alone. My family was over two thousand miles away and my husband was in the military on a mission and wouldn’t be home for many weeks. I was told by the Navy doctor that I would have a miscarriage soon enough on my own and to go home and wait for it. So I did. I waited and waited. A month passed. No miscarriage. I was in a deep depression away from home and carting around a dead baby. I felt constantly ill. One night I awoke with a fever of one-hundred and six degrees. I knew no one to call and felt too sick to drive, so, shivering and wrapped in blankets, I knocked on my neighbor’s door and told her I thought I was dying.
She kindly drove me to Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego. I don’t remember exactly what happened after that. I know I had a terrible infection and I know they took out my baby. And I was young and stupid and thought for some reason I’d be able to see him afterward. So, after the surgery, I asked the nurse if the baby was a boy. She told me that it was, but that was no surprise to me. I asked if I could see him. She replied, “No, honey! That baby was in no shape to be viewed.” So I asked what they’d done with him and she said, “Well, we disposed of him.”. They disposed of William. They threw away my baby. I was inconsolable but it didn’t matter; there was no one to console me anyway.
After a few days in the hospital I went to my empty apartment and called my Bishop. He gave me a blessing and in it he told me my baby boy needed a perfect body and that Heavenly Father would send him to me again in due time. The comfort I received from that blessing carried me through the next four years until I would have my first successful pregnancy. I had Courtney and was thrilled. But I knew I needed to make a body for William. He’d waited so long for me to finish college. So I got pregnant right away and had a miscarriage. Then I had Madeline. Then a series of many, many miscarriages over the next four years. No pregnancy would stick. There was too much scar tissue from the earlier infection and operation so doctors scraped it out and still I didn’t get pregnant. Finally, after nearly giving up, I had a successful pregnancy and had Chloe. The doctor warned me not to have another baby. She said it was a very bad idea. But William was still waiting.
So against all medical advice, I got pregnant. I knew this was the one. It had to be. Immediately a tumor began forming in my uterus right along with my baby. It had to be removed while I was still pregnant. Unfortunately, I had what I can only describe as some sort of multi-organ breakdown at the same time. My gallbladder became infected and I got terribly sick. It had to be removed. In that operation, an artery was accidentally severed and I lost some blood. They said they gave me seven units, but I really don’t know if that’s a tremendous amount or not, but I do know I was so sick I barely remember the week I spent in the hospital with blood pressure that just would not rise. I recovered just enough after two weeks for them to remove the tumor from my uterus, operating right next to my growing baby.
When I found out I was carrying a girl, I was happy, but pained at the same time. What about William? How would I ever make a body for my baby boy who’d been waiting so long and who had been promised to me in a blessing? My doctor told me my tumor-filled uterus would likely be removed after I delivered the baby. So, I prayed and fasted and cried and prayed some more. After a few months I gave birth to my beautiful little Annie and immediately afterward, just as predicted, my uterus was removed. And my hopes for William went in the garbage right along with it.
For months I grieved my baby boy and finally came to the realization that Heavenly Father would give him to another family. What had I done wrong that my blessing did not come to pass? I always tried to be the best Mormon I could be but that wasn’t enough.
It was almost exactly a year later when I told my husband the church was a fraud. The people in the ward thought I’d lost my mind and had a hormonal imbalance. My husband thought I had postpartum depression. But it was none of those things. I just knew deep down in my heart that Joseph Smith lied and I couldn’t live a lie anymore.
Of course, now I know William was never waiting for another body at all and my Bishop had no authority to tell me he was. William was just a little dead baby in the trash. But sometimes, like tonight after watching “The Mormons” on PBS, I really miss him.