Missing the Echo

When Autumn was born, suddenly there were echoes of her sisters surrounding me. Close parallels, repetitions, deja vus of the last two times I gave birth, with an intensely different outcome.  Or is Autumn the echo of those experiences?

My body bleeds, shedding the remains of my uterus.  It was torture to endure the physical postpartum symptoms, for weeks, with no baby at home.  My heart was bleeding simultaneously, shredded and lying in raw pieces.  Now I look at the physical aspect of postpartum and remember with pain the last two times I had to endure this.  The last time my body went through the ritual cleansing after having released a baby. 

My body lactates, the echo of when my body purposefully produced milk and I had no babies.  Swollen and painful and frantically trying to suppress milk with sage and frozen cabbage leaves. Now I welcome the milk’s nourishment, but cannot forget those moments spent in the shower, trying to hand express milk to reduce engorgement, crying over the unfairness of lactating when I had no baby. 

There are cards received in the mail. Meals delivered.  Twice in sumpathy, once in congratulations but that’s what people do: they send cards and food. 

I set up the nursery today.  I had set up a nursery for Nelle. Same dresser.  There were clothes that I unpacked, clothes that had been gifts for Nelle. Tags still on them.  Unworn.  A reversal of when those clothes had to be packed up and put away.  That room was supposed to be Nelle’s nursery. Then Iris’s nursery. Now Autumn’s nursery.

There were stuffed animals, also gifts, that felt even more personally like they belonged to Nelle. One was a pink Ugly Doll.    Each pregnancy, I bought my baby an Ugly Doll. Theo has one. Quentin had one. Nelle had one.  There was also a stuffed dog, an early gift from someone; I can’t even remember.  Do they belong to Nelle?  Or do they belong to Autumn?  Tears stung my eyes as those items came to light after so long in storage.  It was such a strong emotional reaction to what those clothes meant and who they were for.  They were not for Autumn. They were for Nelle.  They should have been worn before now: hand-me-downs instead of tags intact.

And now there are photos.  The only photos that all three share are ultrasound photos. Now Autumn is here and I take dozens of pictures every day, trying to capture every tiny facial expression and movement of the baby in front of me.  I have already replaced the framed ultrasound photo with a newborn picture of her sleeping.  She is so much more than an echo: she is a manifestation of her sisters, giving me a face where I previously could not picture my babies.

Rebirth

And just like that, she was born. Autumn Nadine Taws. It was the moment I hardly dared to picture. 

Someone I love wrote to me earlier this week: “When your new one is safely in your arms, you will know that you have been on a hero’s journey and have touched shore.”  And what a long journey it has been.

After two losses, it agonizing to decide whether or not to continue along the path to a third child, but we did, and now she’s here, nearly two years after we were forced down a route that we could not imagine. She is my “chance” baby, taking a chance, a third chance at a third child. Baby Three.

Her middle name, Nadine, means “hope.” It was that hope that got us to this place. Holding our baby. 

Don’t Ignore Changes

 

“You can sit quietly, and if what comes up in that 10 minutes is terrifying, gripping knowing, give yourself permission to do nothing about it for awhile. But don’t pretend you don’t know it. You owe yourself at least that: not to abandon truth, not to abandon yourself. That’s the first step: Tell yourself you don’t have to do anything about it now, but don’t pretend it’s not true.” -Glennon Doyle Melton

Earlier this week, I was about to do another check of the baby’s heart. Without feeling much movement, I have been increasingly relying on my daily checks to reassure myself.  I had lathered myself up with coconut oil, then turned the knob. Nothing. The light of the device did not turn on. Out of batteries. I opened it up only to find that it takes 9-volt. I wiped off the oil and went to our battery stash, finding one 9-volt. I was a bit skeptical of its age but took it upstairs. With the new battery, the device turned on, but produced zero sound.

I waffled briefly. Could I skip my check for the day? Did I need to run out to buy more batteries? I settled that instead, I would lie quietly and try to focus on movement. It felt like a major accomplishment, to be comfortable in waiting until the next morning to get batteries.

Later that night, I felt a pang in the back of my leg and immediately thought “blood clot!” but then was able to calm myself and decide that it was likely a strain from the heels I wore to the wedding.

When I went to Target the next day to get the necessary 9-volt battery, I also took the infant car seat that Quentin used. Target is having a recycling program for old car seats right now, and the one we have is expired. In exchange, I was given a 20% off coupon toward the purchase of a new seat. I had to balance my desire not to purchase anything or prepare for this baby against my desire to save money. The coupon is good through May 31 and Target has a 90 day return policy. I have 104 days left until my due date. I figured I could wait just a bit, make the purchase, and still be able to return it if needed. In my head, nothing will be purchased in advance. I will place a large Amazon order or schedule a Target in-store pickup from the hospital, once I know things are ok. But even that thought requires planning.

Then I put a bit of body oil on my neck later that night, only to then find the warning “if pregnant, please consult a physician prior to use.” Of course. Because I cannot go even a few days without something new to worry about. So then I lay quietly in bed, waiting to feel a movement to reassure myself that the tiny bit of oil on my neck had not done harm. Of course, I felt nothing. Goddamn anterior placenta. I wrestled with trying to calm myself but finally had to drag out my heart rate monitor. If I could crawl inside a bubble, that’d be great.

Yesterday, only one day different, I felt movement at various points throughout the day, even sitting in a chair at my desk – something I hadn’t previously felt. And that night, lying in bed, I could see the movements, from the outside.  I lay quietly, watching the bumps of elbows or knees, grateful for more assurance that will make me less dependent on the heart rate monitor.

I have to start acknowledging that it is increasingly easy to envision making it to 39 weeks, and increasingly hard to ignore outward signs and plans for pregnancy.  Today was my monthly appointment with maternal fetal medicine.  While showering this morning, I pictured the birth of our baby.  And I started crying.  I still cannot think of that moment, finally getting into the end, without my face pinching up and tears flowing freely.  As I sat in my bathrobe and wet hair and attempted to get myself under control, the door flung open and Quentin’s face poked in, to say good morning.  I did not want him to see me crying, so I quickly said “privacy please” so that he would leave the bathroom.

We had to take Quentin with us to the MFM appointment.  Fever yesterday meant he was banned from day care today, and seemed to be still under the weather.  Today was another growth check, plus a fetal echocardiogram – somewhat standard in this specialized practice.  I saw quickly that all of the measurements that the ultrasound tech took were right on target, but then she spent a long, long time looking at the heart from all angles, and of course, saying nothing.  The entire ultrasound was over 30 minutes.  We then waited an additional 20 minutes for the doctor.  As nervous as I was, I was not angry.  In my head I thought “He’s running behind, because someone is probably getting bad news.  Someone needs him more than I do right now.”  Like at that 20-week appointment with Nelle and the unplanned amniocentesis that followed, making our appointment much longer.

He finally came in, and was more hurried than he normally is.  He immediately sat down and started looking at the images.  I thought “This is it – he’s going to tell us something is wrong with Baby’s heart.”  He told us that the tech couldn’t get a few angles, but the baby had shifted and he could see them just fine.  He looked some more, saying nothing.  Finally, he revealed “I’m sorry; I was concentrating on getting one last angle and just realized I haven’t said anything.  Everything looks fine.  I can’t get this one last shot, but I’m not worried.  We’ll look for it at a subsequent scan.”  He told us that weight was in the 37th percentile; likely right on target for the size of my children.  He handed us a grainy ultrasound photo.  Baby was all curled up and facing away from the monitor, so Quentin took one look at the picture and said “What IS that?”

We left, one more box checked off, feeling pretty good. Took our sick 5-year-old out to lunch and talked about the baby’s name.

We Can’t Do This Alone

 

“For thousands of years we have gathered in circle–around fires, around bodies, around altars–because we can’t do this alone.” -W. Muller

This day has been looming for the past four weeks: my mid-pregnancy ultrasound. Since my 16 week appointment, I have had a regular OBGYN appointment, a visit to the cardiologist, blood work, a 24-hour heart monitor, an echocardiogram, and visit to primary care. I’ve celebrated Quentin’s birthday, had my sister visit, done some major repair work on my car, taken the kids to taekwondo classes and gone to therapy. All of the regular events of life and I have felt like a mere shell of myself.

Earlier this week, while I was crying and crying over the thought of a negative outcome of this ultrasound, Ger said to me “Everything is going to be fine. I have a good feeling.” It turned me, just a little. Even though I was still overwhelmed by my thoughts that we were not going to get good news, I could at least tell again tell myself “It’s not my fault. There is nothing I can do.”

I came unraveled yesterday afternoon. I went to therapy in the morning and started the session with “So. Many. Things. This week. Can I just get it all out and then you take it where you want to from there?” It ended with me crying heavily, my therapist hugging me and exuding hope and optimism. But we had a similar conversation right before I found out that Iris was gone, so the takeaway was “I have no way of knowing, until that moment.”

So who was right?

Ger was. Everything was fine. Growth was normal, anatomy was normal, everything was normal.

I don’t think I slept at all last night.  This morning, I kept looking for signs.  The morning was gloomy but by the time we left for the appointment, the sun had come out so I thought “Good sign.”  Then we couldn’t find a parking spot at the hospital and were a few minutes late to the appointment, so I thought “bad sign.”

The appointment was with Maternal Fetal Medicine.  The ultrasound tech provided some narration as to what we were looking at, but I knew she would not be responsible for delivering bad news.  However, I watched every measurement she took and as soon as I saw several pop up at the correct gestational age, I felt an inkling of relief.  The doctor came in and confirmed: growth was exactly where it should be and everything else looked fine.  He did additional scanning himself, but said that he was extremely pleased.  We first saw him in March of 2016, a few weeks after losing Iris.  He was new to the group at the time, though not new to the specialty of Maternal Fetal Medicine.  He said that he has had a lot of personal happiness and satisfaction, both for himself and for us, that we have reached this point, since he has been with us since the beginning.

I will continue to be checked by MFM every four weeks.  Will have a fetal echocardiogram done, which is standard within the specialized practice.  And non-stress tests done by my regular OBGYN weekly, starting at 32 weeks.  The doctor said that he knows hope is hard, but he feels pretty confident.  He told us that a growth issue like Nelle’s we more than likely would have seen by now.  He said that growth issues are much more common in the third trimester, and at that point there is viability and a lot more they can do.  I left feeling better than I have in months; probably better than any point in this pregnancy so far.

On top of that, I had received quite a few texts and emails this week and this morning – all from family and friends, reminding me that they were thinking of us, praying for us, sending the best thoughts possible.  For once, to have good news, instead of bad news, was joyful.  These people have been with us every step of the way, reminding us of how many people are in our corner – no matter what the outcome.

Hope is still scary, but for awhile, I can breathe more easily.

In the Box

2017-03-06 In the Box

The box arrived from Amazon and I knew what it was: an at-home baby heartbeat monitor.

In the weeks leading up to losing Iris, I was out of my mind with anxiety. Likely an unhealthy level, and one that was rendering me nearly non-functional. I bought the Wusic heart rate monitor. It was delivered on February 8, 2016. I was just a few days shy of 16 weeks. I carefully dragged the monitor over my abdomen area, finding nothing. I waited an hour, tried again. Nothing. The directions said that after 16 weeks I should have “no trouble” finding a heartbeat and I figured I was close enough, so I began to panic. But the directions also assured me that not finding a heartbeat likely meant a weird angle or something. Continue reading