Saturday, February 27, 2010
Ellie has been trying to invert her stomach for about ten hours now. She woke excited to go to Point Reyes beach with some friends of ours, but very soon was moaning and holding her belly. Since then, her total consumption of sustenance by mouth has been 4 sips of Sprite, a popsicle and a mouthful of electrolyte water. Each stayed down approximately 4 minutes. The family barf bowl is putting in overtime.
In my attempts to help her as she struggles, I have found myself leaning on my doula training a lot today. I am in awe of her automatic responses to her body cues. As she heaves I reach for her back and she pulls my hand away. I see her go though waves of grief at the loss of her trip, and over the surges of pain she feels, and I tell her it’s going to be ok. She stares at me blankly, and I want to feel so sorry for her (and I do), but I let my twisted brow relax to reflect peace to her, so she believes she will be alright. She says “I hate today!” feeling so out of control, and I say I know, like I do when a mama in labor bellows “This really hurts!” She wants me here. Not to touch her. She doesn’t want talk or books or distraction. She just needs mama.
A few weeks ago as I filled out the kids re-enrollment forms for school, I came across the fill-in I hate.
“What am I supposed to put here?” I complained aloud. SAHM? No one really respects that. It gets a token “motherhood is the hardest job in the world” remark, but in all sincerity, there is not a word that I could write that explains what I have spent today - and every day- doing. Any one word I could think to write seemed to belittle the true experience of motherhood.
“Put doula, or freelance artist, or property manager” Guy suggested helpfully. Yes, I do those things, but not full time. It’s not my big job. It’s not who I am.
Finally, I put pen to paper:
Friday, February 26, 2010
February 26th. Today was my due date for the baby we lost in August. Is it irony that the baby I carry now is due in August, the very same week?
We buried each of the babies in little wooden boxes in the pot of a small mandarin tree. My midwife had suggested that we choose a tree that would give fruit and feed us for years to come. Strangely, the fruit has never been edible.
There is still a little fear in me that we could lose this one, and knowing there is no room left in the pot.
Though I realized I have reached a turning point. In the past few days I noticed I have begun to worry about postpartum depression (I have had it with 3 out of 4 babies so far). This must mean that I am thinking about the end. A good end.
And today I am thinking of another end that wasn’t so good. I can do both. It takes away a little of the hurt, still having hope for August.
(Hello to Edgewood MD! Thanks for reading. Stop by and say hi!)
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Guy and little Ellie, 2005
Today our midwife, Claudette, came for our prenatal. Because of a time mix up, Guy was almost not able to make it, but he managed the 40 minute drive home to be with me at the home visit, then jumped in the car to go all the way back to work (his third trip of the day) for a one o’clock meeting. On his way back, he called to tell me something. When signing off, I said, “Thanks for coming all the way home for the appointment.” His support has always meant so much to me.
“I wanted to be there.” He replied.
It washed over me that he is more than a supportive husband and father. This is his life. It isn’t just happening to me (selfish female way of thinking, I know, but that’s where I have been way too often). His family. His wife. His baby on the way.
Guy is the type of man who gets irked when he hears other men say they are “babysitting” their kids. “It’s not babysitting. It’s called parenting!” he says.
I get to have another child with this cool guy. Lucky me.
(there I go making it about me again!)
P.S. Baby was great, measuring 18 weeks at only 16 weeks gestation and with a gogeous, spectacular heartbeat. The kid has talent already.
P.S. I have been tickled to see on my map a few folks who check into my blog everyday (and you aren't even related to me!). So I think I will say hello to one each day.
Hello Osseo, MN! Thank you for reading! Come say hi!
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
~Ellie decided to teach Tessa math. She held Tess on her lap as they went over the numbers. “What is that?” “Thwee” “Very good, Tessa! And 9+15 is 3!” (We’re gonna have to work on that.)
~Ethan set up a movie for the girls, un-asked, (of course he was trying to distract them from bugging he and Adam as they played, but I’ll take it) and suffered through the 10 minutes of movie-choosing hell that always accompanies such a task. "Shwek, no Staw-belly Sortcake! No, um, TINKLE BELL!"
~Tess sat on my lap for the movie, and at one point asked, “Mama, could you see good?” not wishing to block my view.
~Adam told me that he and Ethan made a pact not to play video games during the week days, so they could spend more time together playing on the trampoline and bikes. It was meant to be a secret.
~I wandered out of the kitchen apparently not looking great as I cringed from the fifth hour of my nightly killer headache. “Are you okay, Mama?” Adam asked with concern.
~Tessa washed my growing belly while I took a bath, "vewy gentwy", she tells me; “like when da baby is borned.”
Compassion. Affection. Empathy. Consideration. Gentility. Integrity. Generosity. All in one day.
They may not grow up to be serial killers, after all.
Monday, February 22, 2010
I was feeling really guilty a while back. Guilty, because I don’t think I pray too good. It is this belief I have, like the belief that I am lazy and that I talk too much. Things that are somewhat true, even if sometimes I pull off hiding them.
I was feeling really guilty a while back. Guilty, because I don’t think I pray too good. It is this belief I have, like the belief that I am lazy and that I talk too much. Things that are somewhat true, even if sometimes I pull off hiding them.
It really came to me a night not long ago during one of my insomnia-prayers. It started out nice 'n strong with my usual, less-than-formal-but-not-at-all-disrespectful greeting. “Hi, Father,…”. I began with all of my thanking, which I am pretty good at. I can find lots to feel thankful for. It usually starts close to heart and home and then radiates out in a lovely spiral of gratitude, growing ever larger. But the longer I go (and when I have an insomnia-prayer, baby, I go for the long haul), the more distractions pop up in my minefield of a brain. I find myself having been led down some primrose path, pondering conversations, concepts, needs, desires, and to-do lists. It is not until I have utterly digressed that I catch myself with an “Oh, gosh, Father. I am sooo sorry. I totally don’t know how I got on to silk worms” that I redirect myself for a while, but in no time I have found myself in some back alley, well off the main street of my original supplication.
I go ahead and apologize again, then give myself a good old fashioned mind-lashing. “Shame on you! Getting distracted in a prayer! You are talking to the Almighty here, stop goofing off and wasting His time!”
Well, being as lately I have been praying for a good hour each time I find myself waiting for sleep to show up, these misadventures in prayer have been coming a lot more frequently. During a recent replay of this routine,
Instead of my usual apologies and self-castigations, I just told God, “I have this problem. I tangent. I do it when I talk on the phone and when I write, and You know, of course, that I do it when I pray. I think you probably don’t mind it as much as I do, so I am going to try to ignore that it bothers me and just keep praying.”
I had this funny feeling come over me like, “Finally, she’s figured it out! Now we can move on.”
Now, I’m not saying God talked to me (not that he wouldn’t if He needed to, and wouldn't it be lovely if He needed to?), just that it became clear; all of the judgment was my own. God knows me and always has. I don’t have to apologize for praying like I pray. My prayers are my macaroni art; appreciated more for the effort than the eloquence.
I had a little epiphany then, a sort of lights-on moment. My tangents are what take me where I need to get to in my prayers. My walkabouts in the outback of my head uncover things that I need to work on and pray about that aren’t sitting in the front yard of my simpler prayers. God knows me, for heaven’s sake, all puns intended. He gave me the brain that I have, and He knows better than me the good that I stumble upon in my meandering that I would not arrive at otherwise.
Now how was that for a tangent?
Friday, February 19, 2010
There is a path near the school by a large park where I used to walk with my friend. At a certain point, and for no apparent reason, the path divides, splitting off on two parallel pathways separated by about 8 feet of grass and an occasional tree. It seems there would never be a reason to use the second path.
One of my dearest, most favorite friends in the world is expecting. More than expectation, as that would imply time to wait… there is immanence.
I am to help her give birth again, as was my privilege 3 years ago this very week. But this time is different. Back then I had really been there for her….. This time I have not been. I regret it, all the while acknowledging I could not have done it any other way.
My due date for the baby I lost last summer was to be this month, the 26th or so, a week after this dear friend. We had been excited to walk together, talk together, plan and grow and wait together. But then the worst happened when it had seemed all was going so well, and soon she was walking a path apart from my own.
At first I told myself that, like the three times before, I would be strong. After all, I had actually spent the due date of the first baby we lost in the hospital helping a mama to bring her baby into the world. I had felt safe to plan that birth around my grief, knowing that mama would never go two weeks over due. Ah, subtle irony. Even at that, when she went into labor two days before my unrealized due date, I had still felt safe. 36 hours later I faded back to a cold wall and pinched my stinging eyes as I watched a new mama hold her precious baby.
But somehow this time has been different. No matter how hard I tried to be brave, I couldn’t abide to be in the presence of a new baby-- at church a woman had thrust her baby into my arms so that she could go to the restroom, and I began to shake and feel sick. I felt ashamed, but it was a reaction I could not control, even though I obviously love babies. I ached, physically ached, my whole insides all twisted up, when I was in the vicinity of a pregnant woman. I talked to myself -- lectured, judged, scolded, soothed, reminded, consoled. I prayed and threw myself into the situations that most made me struggle, to no avail. The hurt remained, fading only faintly as months passed.
During the months while my dear friend blossomed and grew round, Guy and I began the frustration of testing to see why my body lost babies. We learned about all the things that weren’t wrong, but never learned about anything that was. I felt broken and confused. Why had we felt that God wanted us to have another baby?
It had all gotten too heavy, and I couldn’t carry the burden of it and carry anything else as well. My arms were full. I mean, empty.
So I didn’t take care of my friend. I all but abandoned her. She began to show, glow, grow… all from afar. I could see her over there, on that other path, through the trees, but I couldn’t be with her. And I stopped walking with her through the park.
After a few months I had begun to move toward her again, to step closer without so much pain, to be in her presence and be able to see her, lovely her--and not just her belly-- when the little stick I peed on said, “Holy crap, here you go again.”
I believed that I could be at her birth “not-pregnant”-- I had said that I would-- but what about pregnant? Would my body take it? No, that wasn’t my real worry. (Dig deeper, and find it. There it is…) My true fear; what if I lose this one too, so close to her birth. I don’t know if I can go to a birth with a heart so raw.
There was nothing I could do. No choice to make. I just had to ride it out. I am not proud of myself. I waited for my circumstances to dictate my actions, something I have avoided whenever possible in my life. But I’m too tired to fight anymore, and what little strength there is left is held in reserve. Regret is exhausting, and I can’t spare the expense.
My friend had her baby two days ago, almost a week early and just days after I wrote this. She knew I would not be able to come because of the recent complications I have been having, and had been so understanding. She would miss me, she had said. We wondered aloud if I might not still be able to make it if I began feeling well and she went over due like last time. But she didn’t.
Yesterday she told me that when the hardest part of labor came, she felt like calling out, “I want my Laine!” I was touched and crushed all at once.
My heart aches for what I cannot change. I want to believe that if I were supposed to have been there, God would have made a way, but I still feel like I abandoned her all over again.
I need to work on forgiving myself , and I am okay with that. Like so many other things that this journey is teaching me, I am learning that I don't have to feel badly about feeling badly.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
This post has been long and difficult to get through, but I am so glad that I have written it out… gotten it out of my head and onto paper so that I can clear my mind of the recent past and begin looking forward. And maybe it is perfect that I write this today. Yesterday I had a little scare (which at the time was huge) as I had a tinge of color on the tissue. My mind saw blood. (At this point most reading this will think that it was a silly over reaction, and those few women who have walked this path with me will know exactly what that means to think you see blood).
My heart went insane. Being friends with many midwives is such a blessing, because it provided the means to hear the baby’s heartbeat right away… strong and steady, like every time before.
Thank you, baby.
I need to calm myself the heck down. I need to have a place to go where I find peace, and it can’t be outside of myself.
Everything is ok, it really is, and I need to give faith a place to stay, instead of treating it like a nervous bird that is ready to escape.
While I ponder how to catch that bird and make a nest for it, you can read the last portion of the post called Hope (click here if you need to read the first part of that post).
It was nearly an impossible to transport my heart from the place of grieving it had been in for two months (which in reality was just a continuation of two years of hurt over all of the lost babies) to a place of joy, but then I realized there was this tiny twinkle of a feeling that had been there all along. It was the feeling that propelled me all those times to try again to get pregnant. It was the feeling that had come to me in the car ride to the hospital, and that had compelled me to love the being inside me with the tiny heartbeat, for whatever time I would get to have, when I believed the baby was in my fallopian tube. I guess it was that hope that I had had in small measure all along.
We shared our news with our close friends with joy, all the while knowing that it might be temporary. “Cautious optimism”, we called it. I smothered my kids in smiles and appreciation when we got home. They might be getting a little brother or sister after all.
We felt like celebrating, so we took the kids out to eat, even though they were unaware of all that had transpired over the past two days. When we got to the restaurant and got out of the van, Guy called for my attention and pointed up. There, hanging above us, were holiday banners not yet taken down from Christmas.
“Hope” they said. We smiled. We had used the word so often, and still do, in connection with this, our last pregnancy.
I don’t want to start my sentences with “if” any more. “If everything works out”, “If the baby makes it”. I don’t want to avoid talking about the future because I am afraid the future I am planning for is not the one I will get to have.
So now, as an act of faith, we talk about the name.
We have talked about “Hope” for a girl. Of course. But there is yet more to be learned from this experience. Certainly, it is not over, as this week has proved. Yesterday, when I was panicking that I thought I’d seen blood, Guy asked me if I wanted my scriptures to read for comfort. He turned to Hebrews 11:1 and left them on my lap. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” I read again.
Only this time I read the whole chapter. It turns out the chapter is not actually about hope. It is about faith. It recounts the many miracles that were made manifest through faith. I smiled when I found Sara, tucked in amongst the prophets; “Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.” I’m guessing she was in the over 40 crowd. Way to go Sara.
Here is how I read verse one, now. “Faith is the evidence (baby) of things hoped for (pregnancy) but not seen" (oh, how I wish I could see, right now, the tiny form inside!).
And here is a new “If” that I think I can use without fear;
If this baby is a girl, maybe we will name her Faith.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
I know I have promised to finish the previous post, but I have had a little scare today that is setting me back emotionally and so I need a break from writing about it all. Maybe tomorrow.
Instead, here is something I wrote Monday that is of no dire consequence.
Ellie put on daddy’s baseball hat today. It fell down over her face, and she exclaimed, “This hat smells like daddy!” “How do you know?” Adam asked her in that you’re-crazy-voice. She thrust it at him and he buried his face in the dome of the cap. I waited for a reaction, something along the lines of “ewww”, as I imagined the sweaty smell it might have.
He pulled it away and affirmed simply, “Yup, smells like daddy.” My kids have the uncanny ability of picking up a stray jacket found in our car and with a sniff telling me who it belongs to. “Mom, Linus left his jacket.” “No, that must be Nathaniel’s, he was in here yesterday.” “Nope, smells like Linus.” Sure ‘nuf, it was.
Now I was curious, what were they smelling? “Let me...” I said reaching for the cap. I cautiously sniffed at a little distance. Having Adam’s smell-seal-of-approval wasn’t worth much, the kid rarely showers.
I couldn’t really smell anything.
Again, more deeply I inhaled, but only caught a faint something. I drove my face in and breathed deeply. I felt comfort. I sensed peacefulness. But I didn’t SMELL anything for a while. I lingered, and in a moment I caught a hint of his skin, and then hair gel. There was a faint spice, maybe shampoo, and the linen smell of cloth.
I wonder if to them it really smelled like daddy, or it just felt like him, and they didn’t know the difference.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
No real contractions yesterday (hurray!), just a few spells of tightening that tried to rile me but were unsuccessful. I wish I could feel the baby move so that it could tell me it is okay, but I will have to just keep hoping that all is well till my next prenatal.
Below is the continuation of the post called "Hope". Click here to read the beginning of this story if you missed it, before trying to read this post.
I sat stunned, trying to make sense of it. No baby? No placenta, even? Nothing? I saw the screen myself. It looked like it had on all of the fertility visits, a long solid line indicating the cavity of the uterus was empty, the two walls of the interior touching one another like a flat balloon.
She began talking about a chemical pregnancy like she was teaching a science class, in an isn’t-this-so-interesting voice. All the while there was a strange upbeat smile on her face. The sounds of her voice began to blur together into echo-y tones. I caught words here and there, “tubal pregnancy”, “blood test”, “follow up”, and soon stopped even trying to pay attention. I just kept looking at her long white teeth and wondering why she kept smiling. I stopped her and said, “Then give me the cytotec so I can be done with this.”
Her voice came in more clearly as she denied my request. Something about making sure we had all the information and not being hasty. “So I’ll order up that test. You should hear back in two days.” said Dr. Teeth, and she suddenly walked out the door. She never came back. No goodbye, no I’m sorry for your loss, no nothing.
I got dressed robotically. Guy wrapped his arms around me and led me out to the noisy medical offices corridor. We walked and my eyes blurred. I saw faces pass me and locked on to each one that looked empty or sad, trying to see my reflection, wondering what had brought them to this horrible place today. I walked right out the doors and found myself outside.
“Honey,” Guy said, “we’re supposed to get the blood test.”
“Why?” I said faintly. “What’s the point? There's no baby.”
He held me and looked into my face with moist eyes. “Because I don’t want to lose you, too, if there is something wrong.”
I turned around and walked, and he guided me back to the lab. I sat with tears quietly pouring down my cheeks while the woman drew my blood, never looking at me. “You’re done” she said, and walked away.
By the time we reached the car, the familiarity of the space inside helped me pull myself together. I knew this had been likely. The hope of a real, live, healthy baby had been a long shot. I had to pull myself together for the kids, who did not know anything about the pregnancy, such as it was.
We took an hour to rest before getting the kids. They were none the wiser. And honestly, since I had been grieving for 8 weeks already, I slid right back into that space, and it, too, was familiar. So familiar that I could hide it well.
We went to dinner that night because it was, after all, our anniversary. We talked of new phases in life. Tessa would start school in a year, and I could begin painting intensively. We avoided talk about what the next few days would bring, and we knew the routine so well that there would have been little to discuss. I lay in bed that night pondering if there would be anything at all to bury when it all finally happened. And if there was something to bury, how would we fit it into the pot of the tree where all of the other babies were buried?
The next morning the phone rang, and a nurse practitioner we were supposed to have seen on the 6th spoke with some intensity. “Your HCG levels are extremely high. We would not expect to see this in a chemical pregnancy. I have made an appointment for you at the hospital in an hour. We need to rule out a tubal pregnancy right away.”
When I told Guy about it I was almost annoyed. What next? Did it have to go like this? We made calls to have someone watch the kids, with the understanding that it may be overnight if I were to wind up in surgery that afternoon.
We left for the hospital. As we drove, an amazing sensation washed over me. I felt abounding peace. I thought for a moment and decided that it must be from all the people who were, in those moments, praying for us. I felt thankful and even strengthened. I thought of telling Guy that everything was going to be ok, but instead I said, “We’re going to get through this.” I began hoping that the baby was somehow in the neck of the fallopian tube, so close to the uterus that it might be saved, or that perhaps they could tuck my tube into my uterus and open the side to allow the baby to occupy the womb. I had even heard of women with babies growing in their abdomen that had gone almost to term and had survived. What a strange time to begin feeling hopeful.
When we sat in the waiting room, I watched two little girls playing and found myself able to smile at them. When our turn came, the ultrasound tech came out and called me back. When Guy walked up with me, she tried to stop him. “Just her,” she said.
“I want him with me.” I said.
“I’m just going to take my pictures and I am not going to be able to tell you anything. He can come back when the doctor comes to talk to you.”
“No.” I said firmly. “I need him there. This is about our baby, and he has every right to be with me.”
“Well,” she said in annoyance, “He’ll just be sitting there. I can’t tell you or show you anything.”
“Fine.” I said. She dropped her arm in exasperation, and sighed like an annoyed teenager.
We began, and she made no attempts to even let me see the screen as she slid the ultrasound wand across my belly. I talked to her, telling her that we knew my uterus was empty and that she would be looking for the baby somewhere else. “If you see it, dead or alive, please, please let us see it. It will be our only chance to see our baby.”
She repeated her script about not being allowed to say anything and that the doctor would talk to us. She clicked and scanned and I searched Guy’s face for information on what he might be able to see. He looked grim and gave me no response. I begged her, explaining that we had lost so many, and that for us this would be hello and goodbye.
Then she suddenly turned the screen to me. Pointing, she said softly and carefully, “Do you see that? Do you see...that?” A little form was on the screen, and below her finger, a rapid flicker. The heart.
“Oh! Hi baby!” I said through instant tears, and I heard a sob well up in Guy’s chest. My heart was thrilled and broken. We finally had a heartbeat. After all the losses, a beautiful little flickering heartbeat.
She pulled the screen back and instructed me to empty my bladder while she went to talk to the doctor. She would come back in a moment to do the internal ultrasound. I went, and while in the bathroom I smiled. “I’m pregnant,” I thought. “with a live baby.” I tried to experience a whole pregnancy’s worth of joy in a few moments, not knowing how long it would be before they hurried us into surgery.
When I came out I smiled at Guy. He looked tragically sad. “We have a heart beat.” I said. “The baby is alive.”
“And now we have to kill it,” he said through angry tears. I felt so strangely strong. “Yes, but for right now, for this moment, I have a live baby inside me, and I want to enjoy it for as long as it lasts.” But then I cried too. Of course I did.
The tech came back in and began the internal scan. Now I was more insistent about getting a picture, and finding out what I could. “Please, I know you aren’t supposed to tell us anything, but whatever you are able to let us see would be such a blessing to us. Since we will never be able to raise this baby, this will be our only way to know it.” She said something about the doctor, and I said, “Can you even tell us, is it in my abdomen or fallopian tube?”
She looked baffled. “It’s in your uterus. That’s what I was showing you.”
“What?!” I nearly screamed. “You mean, it’s alive, I mean, it’s gonna make it? I mean, maybe, we’ll get to have this baby?!” Guy’s voice raised in excitement with mine and the tech began to nervously shush us.
Our baby was alive. Our baby was fine. We were reeling.
She explained to us that my uterus was very tipped, and that with the internal wand she could barely find the baby. “I can see why she missed it.” She said in defense of Dr. Teeth. I didn't care about her. I had a baby inside of me. And it was alive.
I don’t remember much of the rest. We cried happy tears for the first time in months, maybe years. We walked out into the sunshine and it covered us. We smiled and smiled, nervous to even speak of it. For weeks we had hoped and now we were being told our hope might become a little life that would join our family in a few months.
I guess I will have to add a third installment to this post. Writing it kind of takes a lot out of me as you can imagine, but I am glad to finally tell it. Check here to read the rest of our experience.
Monday, February 15, 2010
Bedrest continues. And as I work on finishing the story I began yesterday (it's pretty long, actually), I thought I would lighten the mood with a short post.
Indeed, I missed the Valentine’s dance Saturday night. And then yesterday, Valentine’s Day, I missed church (for which I was glad, as apparently there is a nice little rumor floating that I have lost the baby -I HAVE NOT!). Then we forfeited a lovely dinner invitation as well so that I could rest.
Our most amazing friends came and took ALL FOUR of our children anyhow, and left us a lovely dinner to share. I wandered out to the couch (that’s my flight pattern now; bed, couch, bed, couch with a whole lot of toilet layovers in between). We exchanged our traditional five-dollar-limit gifts. I had secured mine the day before all this uterine action started; a terrific score at the thrift store. Guy cheated. He spent six.
Guy dragged the piano bench over to the couch, opened a bottle of sparkling cider, and we shared dinner by candlelight. Norah Jones crooned to us softly, and my sweetie danced with me for a few moments --well, you know, the “hug-sway”, not waltzing or anything. Now, don’t scold! Call it a leg-stretch. You don’t want me to get bedsores do you?
We talked for a long time about the book I’m reading, his work, the baby, the future…
I love him so immeasurably. Really, this gentle, wonderful man has held me up through so much, even with such a heavy load on his own back. He works full time, is a full time student finishing up his administrative credential, he is the executive secretary to the bishop at church, he takes his children on dates, is loyal and loving to his wife, cooks, takes over what I am unable to do right now (which is everything) and still makes time for stories and snuggles for little ones. I love him. How could I not love him?
And for better or for better, I'll never forget this Valentine’s day.
(I'll go finish writing the previous post now.)
Sunday, February 14, 2010
(Note: Out of respect to my friends at Lost and Found, many of whom have suffered many losses and heartbreaks, please know that this post deals with both pregnancy and multiple miscarriages. Please feel free to visit me with a comment)
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
I suppose it’s time to tell the story. I have time, if you do. I am in bed, after all, and heck, I might as well, since I can’t go tonight to the church Valentine’s dance that I planned and organized (that’s me, pouting a little. I mean, who doesn’t want to dance cheek to cheek with their sweetie the whole night to a playlist they made themselves? Exactly.) .
I waited to tell this, because it has been so uncertain. And still is, but I have decided to come at all of this from a place of profound and undying hope. It has taken me a while to get here, and “here” is only part of the way.
After our first miscarriage 8 years ago, we had accepted the fact that a loss was a likely event for anyone having several children, statistically speaking, and this was our “one in four”. It was devastating, but I never thought “why me?”.
Why not? One in four, right?
We had two more healthy children, and felt blessed and complete. Guy said four was perfect for going to Dinseyland- no one rides alone. Then when our baby girl was 6 months old, I began having feelings that there was this child, this other child, waiting for me. I kept this in my heart for some time, and finally began to talk to my husband about it casually. He said he felt quite content with four children, and so I left it alone for a while, but soon, it was all I could think about. In the past I had needed at least two years between children to even begin thinking about trying again, but here I was with a babe on my hip, and feeling a weight on my spirit I can’t explain. Guy began to seriously question his own heart and eventually came to the place where he was also wanting to welcome a little soul.
We surprised ourselves by achieving a pregnancy immediately, and then 2 months later on our 13th anniversary, I began to bleed. We did all we could to save it, but the loss was inevitable, and 2 days later on New Year’s Eve we had the miscarriage. We waited to heal a few months, and then tried again. After several months of trying we were blessed with that little pink line and embarked timidly on another pregnancy. Eight weeks later my dad fell and broke his hip, became lost in dementia and I took up vigil at the hospital and then at the nursing home. While there, I began to bleed. It took 10 days for that one to be over.
It was a year of trying after that, but finally there it was, our little pink line, and my symptoms were strong. Dad was now living with us, and I grew too sick to care for him anymore. My sis came and got him and for one week we rested. Then I thought I saw faint blood. An ultrasound proved the worst, and I asked for the medicine to make it go fast. I couldn’t do this for 10 days again. It did, go fast, I mean. By the next day, I was no longer pregnant.
“I don’t want to do this anymore.” Guy said. I agreed. But in a few days we were talking to the fertility clinic and getting tests-- (I thought)-- just to find out some answers to the aching “why?” in us. But in my heart, though I didn’t want it to, a flicker of hope remained. The nurse-practitioner we met with was kind and tender as she went over our test results, telling us that the tests showed no problems. “You are 40” she reminded me. “Only for four days!” I said a bit frazzled having just had the birthday that pushed me out of the “maybe” age group into the “not likely” one. How had the shelf life on my eggs suddenly expired? Just three years ago I had a healthy baby!
“Clomid.” she recommended. My ovaries were a little slow on the draw, which explained the huge gaps between our kiddos, and this would help.
We had gone in thinking we just wanted closure, we came out with a little baggie of pills.
They worked, but then the struggle began again in earnest. From the moment I saw that terrifying little pink line three months ago, I began to mourn the immanent loss. It was “the fetus” and “the pregnancy”. We told no one, and only spoke of it to each other vaguely if at all. When we did, the word “if” began every sentence, and no statements were permitted to venture any further into the future than the next week. “If we make it through this week, maybe we can still go to the snow. If it happens this week, you still take the kids…” I kept a vigil looking for blood. Guy stood by the bathroom door often to wait for the tears. Sometimes if a child began crying softly down the hall while I was in the bathroom, he came running thinking it was me.
At 8 weeks we were to go in to check for a heartbeat. “How about the 24th?” asked the nurse on the phone. “Day before Christmas? I don’t want to find out its dead the day before Christmas.” “The 28th?” “Day before our anniversary, we already lost one on that day.” “Nurse Kathy is out for a week after that, how about the 6th?” It was the closest date she had. I took it, disturbed to have to wait that long.
On the 27th I began feeling crampy. It persisted through the next day, and by our anniversary I didn’t care what day it was, I had to know if this was it. I called. They plugged me in with “some doctor”. We went.
There was a strange little part of me on the way to the office that was being defiant of my plans to be stoic about losing this one. I felt, I don’t know, slightly hopeful. I let the feeling stay, like you do pigeons around your picnic table.
By the time we got in for our appointment, my blood pressure was 153/102 and my pulse was 137. I can’t remember a time in my life when I have been more terrified. “Are you nervous?” asked a nurse as though it was a silly thing. “We have lost four babies. We are here to look for a heartbeat” was all my trembling voice could force out. “Well let’s get you in there” she said, a new weight in her voice.
We sat for an eternity in a small purple and yellow room. I had far too much time to memorize the place; a screaming red bio-hazard sticker, pap-smear pamphlets in a rack, my paper gown, the ultrasound screen with my name misspelled on it that would soon be the mechanism to determine my fate. I felt ambivalent toward the threatening beast, not wanting to hate it yet in case it would let me have the news I was hoping for both faintly and earnestly in waves. There was a startling knock.
A tall blond doctor came in smiling and introduced herself. I got the impression the nurse had spoken with her about my nerves because she moved quickly through a few questions and then said, “Well, I know you are anxious to know, so let’s do this.” I lay back as she placed the internal ultrasound wand, with Guy right there by my head, as he had been all the times before.
She looked. She moved the wand. She looked. She was taking too long, we knew from past experience. I looked at Guy and shook my head.
She spoke, turning the screen to us in a way that seemed anything but grave, and with a pleasant expression, very matter-of-factly said,
“Well, your uterus appears to be empty.”
Click here to read the continuation.
Friday, February 12, 2010
I have to tread lightly here. Talking about this too much makes me emotional and that makes my body react.
I started contracting two nights ago.
Science fair projects were all over the floor for three of our kids, (and Tessa, wanting to join in... so make that four project boards). Laundry, of course, where is has been for weeks, unfolded and everywhere. Ellie’s birthday was to be had the next day and nothing done for it. Adam, sweet Addy-boy tried to work on his project alone and scalded his little hand pouring boiling water.
Then poor Ethan found that his baby chicks died in the incubator inside their eggs. He sat beside me and cried, and bam… I started contracting.
The midwives came the next day to counsel and leave herbs, but most importantly, to listen for baby.
And thunka-thunka, there it was. Hallelujah. Thank you, thank you thank you, baby. Thank you, God. But then for the next 24 hours, I still contracted.
So today, I prayed.
This was my prayer. Out loud. Rather loud.
Father, please please please let me keep this baby. I love it. I want to birth it into my hands. I want to bring it to my breast and nurse it. I want to sleep beside it. I want to see it learn to crawl, walk, run. I want to take it to kindergarten, see it graduate high school, college, get married, and then I want to hold this baby’s babies. Please.
More than that of course, as much repetition and pleading were involved.
Then I talked to my uterus:
You have two jobs. That’s it, two; feed and shelter. End of story. I don’t give you permission to do anything but that. So cut it out.
Then I talked to my baby. That is between me and baby.
Then I talked to me. I told me not to be scared. The only job I have right now is that of mother. And a mother protects her children, even from her own fear. This isn’t happening just to me. This is happening to the baby, too, and if I feel the stress, so does baby.
I told myself, and I listened.
Then I wiped my tears, and praised my uterus for listening. (Good job, uterus). Like you do with a toddler when they listen for like, six seconds, but you want to affirm that they are on the right track, so you praise them for every tiny effort.
Good job, uterus.
Then I realized I had been feeling very threatened and disconnected from this organ, this cozy nest, really, that has grown my beautiful children in it. Angry at it, even. So I cut that out. I think now we have an agreement.
I haven’t had a contraction since our little talk this afternoon.
I am going to have this baby in August.
For now, I am on bedrest.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
They came out of the closet… my maternity clothes. A few items I had thrown in the back after the last miscarriage, grabbed out of desperation. I held my breath and put them on. “Too soon”, I thought. Then the next day, I eased myself into them again -- to go to the school and the market -- under a bulky sweater. I got caught.
My daughter’s teachers saw my bump.
Last night I wore a fitting top and some cute jeans that made me look 24, not 14 weeks along, but it was just out to eat with friends who know our secret. I gave my husband a look at my profile. “I look pregnant.” I said with some concern in my voice. “You are pregnant.” He said. It felt like a lie.
Today I put on a very showy shirt, one that is so very “You are pregnant”, and tried to get the courage to go tell our neighbors, who have been so supportive. I helped them birth their last baby 2 months ago - me pregnant and scared to even breathe, terrified to be around birth, but determined not to let fear dictate what good I would or would not do. I chickened out about telling them. Maybe tomorrow.
Tomorrow I plan to make my belly-debut at church. I intend to wear my red maternity sweater with the skirt that hugs up under my belly. It will be like a big road sign, with a gawky red arrow that points straight at my paunch. “Warning: bumps ahead”.
I think. Maybe. I want to chicken out. The way I wanted to chicken out moments before telling the kids about the maybe-baby. But that was over a week ago, and I am still pregnant. But then, the last time we thought we were ok, we were wrong. I lost the baby just days after telling friends. But then, we never had a heartbeat with the other babies. But then, we had never checked. But then, we have lasted longer this time than with the others. But then,…
There are no road maps for this one.
Warning: bumps ahead. Proceed with caution
(And to our neighbors Shallon and Morri, just so you know, we have come over 3 times since I wrote this post on Saturday to tell you but have missed you each time! So if you read this before we try again tomorrow, I am sorry!)