Mornings

After I pour the half and half into my reheated cup of coffee, I pass by the pack n play to make sure he’s breathing before I sit back down at the computer.

The dog, my beloved fluffy companion, is curled on the couch by the window, awaiting some attention which has been seriously lacking the past few months.

It is still very cold outside and snowed a bit yesterday. I’m wearing a heavy open fronted sweater over one of the two borrowed maternity shirts I wear almost every day. They gained favour by opening down the front enough to make feeding easy.

The baby wakes and reaches for the stars hanging over him in the play crib. He’s grown quite adept at aiming for them.

I think about the first time I saw him. I’d been looking at my husband as he held my hand. With a sense of confusion at the voices telling me to turn my head the other way, I did so, and there was this messy muddy baby covered in goo. I’d forgotten what the purpose of this stage of the crucible was. We’d been at the hospital so long that I’d forgotten why we’d gone there. I didn’t expect anything out of the experience except another step in the journey that had taken up nearly all of the three days following Christmas. After forty-three and half hours of contractions, the later of which were at an intensity that was literally off the chart, three hours of unsuccessful pushing, and the final decision that if he wasn’t able to come out on his own we’d have to go in and get him, it was hard for me to remember there was a bright side to it all. When the surgery was done, I’d go to the recovery room, then Nic and I would go home, just the two of us. Business as usual. I had completely forgotten that we had a very good chance of going home with somebody else. I’d forgotten we were there to get our baby. But there he was. Messy but alive.

A minute later they brought him, cleaned up and wrapped in a blanket, to my husband while they stitched me up. At one point they laid him down next to my head. I couldn’t hold him yet. But I remember his eyes. The deepest, darkest blue I’d ever seen. With lashes thick and dark. And so, so beautiful.

Then they took him to the nursery and, after they were done closing the rift in my abdomen, wheeled me back upstairs to my room in the maternity ward.

At around 8:00pm they brought him to me. I’ll never forget that vision: Tiny angel in a Christmas Tree hat, swaddled tightly over a little kimono shirt and a Huggies diaper bearing Winnie the Pooh. His face glowed when he heard me speak to him. And then he was in my arms.

I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t even stand. I was full of medications and anesthetics and completely worn out. My dream of keeping him in the room with me every night was dashed. He could have stayed, but I knew that as exhausted and delirious as I was it wouldn’t have been safe. So after he nursed for the first time and I held him for a while, he went away and I tried to sleep. I kept waking up. It was horrid being alone, in the darkness. Falling asleep after all those hours of pointless labor should have been easy. I kept waking. Occasionally a nurse would come in to check my vitals. Finally at around 1:30 or 2:00 in the morning he came back. It was like in His Dark Materials when Pan had been too far away – that pang in my heart, almost painful, finally eased.

At some point, during one of his midnight visits to me, he was placed in my arms, the nurse left, and instead of feeding, he laid his head on top of my bosom and went so happily to sleep. One time I heard him crying all the way up the hall. Once he was in the room I called to him, and his face split into radiance and he stopped crying immediately. He knew me. He knew me!

 

***

A shower and a few diaper changes later, I sit eating two left over slices of pepperoni pizza and thinking about my postpartum body. The baby cries and I give him his lunch as well.

I gained about 55 lbs during our pregnancy, 20 more than the outer limit of what I was *supposed to* gain. I think of my friends who had at this point already lost more than they’d gained. I still have 19 lbs to go. I try to remember that some of those women were horribly sick their entire pregnancies and I was fortunate enough to have a relatively easy one. I try to remember that every body is different just as every pregnancy is different. I think of my cousins and friends who had easy, short labors, those who have two or three kids, and I wonder why I didn’t get to experience that. Two pregnancies, only one baby to show for it. A three week bleed with a ten hour laborious miscarriage at 11 weeks. A 43.5 hour labor, three hours of pushing, and still I needed a c-section to get my baby out. I think about this and remember: afterwards we were both safe; we were both healthy and, most importantly, Alive.

I look at this little milk-sotted face, sleeping against my breast, (he smiles in his sleep, his eyes slightly open), and I know that while I could never do it again, it was in some way All Worth It. I get jealous of friends who got healthy pregnancies on the first try. I think of those ten months of trying before we had a successful healthy low-risk pregnancy. The tests and exams and poking and prodding and fruitless perfect lab results leading to more questions and fewer answers. I remember the tears, the frustration, the agony, the guilt, the wondering – why couldn’t I succeed in this? And then I look again at this little face. He wrinkles it in his sleep and I wonder if in his dreams he remembers his harrowing journey to reach us. I kiss the wrinkles away and tell him it’s okay and that I’m right here.

Will I ever forget our trials? Probably not. I know with all my heart I could not be looking at This face if it had worked out any other way. I start to lower him into the pack n play to nap and he grasps at me. We sit back down together, his little head resting on Mommy’s Magical Dinner Pillows ™, these ridiculous breasts that finally have a purpose.

He turned two months on Sunday. My little sugar pea. Our sweet and perfect son. My whole magnificent world.

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Our little miracle. photo by Jenny Rader, brilliant and devoted nurse

 

 

Miracle.

And sometimes, just sometimes, after hardship and heartache, you get a miracle.

Expected January 2016

Expected January 2016

In Preparation

I am not six months pregnant.

I’m kind of caught between I wish I were and I’m glad I’m not.

It has been just over four months since I lost my pregnancy, and almost five since I found out that the loss was inevitable.

I am dealing really well with the reality of the situation, although I have moments that make the loss very fresh and real and bring forth unwanted sadness, tears, and anger.

It’s really hard sometimes to envision a world in which I could actually be a mother. As if in that first pregnancy loss all hope of any future child was also dashed. This is ridiculous, of course . . . Perhaps. But it is a real and sometimes crushing fear. And sometimes I wonder, do I even want to be a mother now? Has that desire been taken away with the hopes of that first baby, leaving only jealousy for those who get that chance behind? It’s a hard thing, you know, trying to become something you once wanted to be so very badly after a loss so viciously final.

All the same, I am planning ahead for when we decide it’s ok to try again. In case we do.

As we were packing up and relocating our belongings into a box mountain in the dining room, in preparation for the move to our new house, I took from its coffin the primary What to Expect book and flipped through the section on what to do Before you are expecting.

In preparation for the pregnancy that may or may not ever come, I have decided to treat my body as if I were already pregnant.

As I’ve mentioned before, I was not in my best health six months ago. I was overweight, didn’t eat right, never exercised. So now, I am on my way to a healthier me. I feel more like myself than I have in ages, and I’ve still got a little ways to go. I’ve changed my eating habits and my exercise habits, and the results are rawther fab. I’ve lost 14 of the 20 pounds too many I had worn. We are moving to our own house away from the noxious fumes of our landlady’s second hand smoke. I quit drinking. And I’m taking prenatal vitamins.

I have a certainty now that once I actually get pregnant again, I’ll be able to gain a healthier amount of weight from a good base point. In the mean time, I’m going to wear my size 4s with pride until there is a happy reason to go back to yoga pants for anything but work, and eat all the sushi I can get my chopsticks around.

A Curious Queary, or The Bloody Truth

I had a horrible headache today. So, like, a light migraine. Which sounds so tame compared to how it actually feels.

When asked about it by a male client, I informed him it was likely hormone related.

He asked if that meant good news….I asked for clarification, but of course he meant, “are you pregnant?”

I said, no, I have my period. To which he replied, “I didn’t need to know that.”

 

This makes my brain hurt, which isn’t helpful on top of the finally waning migraine. As my thoughts sort themselves out, this one comes to the forefront:

 

How is it your business if I’m making a human inside my womb, but too much information if I am not?

 

Get your priorities straight. You should not pry into my personal life and then get offended when I offer the truth freely. We have, in this culture, a messed up sense of ownership of personal information that relates to a much bigger issue of women’s health and the ownership our society feels in discussing, controlling, and silencing it.

Just as we need to open up the discussion on miscarriage and pregnancy and child loss, we need to find a better way to speak openly about all women’s health issues that face us on a daily basis, until we are at a place culturally where we as a people can take complete ownership of our own bodies without fear and without shame.

 

Hollowed

It has been a while since I posted. But I have something really important to say, so I’m going to say it here, and hope that it reaches a lot of people, because it’s something we don’t talk about, and that makes us not want to talk about it, even when what we really need is to talk about it, so that it’s not so fucking scary and we maybe don’t feel so goddamned alone.

A friend just posted the following link on FB and I have to say, I think it’s really well said.

Why Miscarriage Matters When You Are Pro-Life

The entire post made me think a lot about pregnancy and the various outcomes. And I think I’m finally able to say my part.

Perhaps I ought not have to say this, but I also feel I should, so that you understand I am not in any way preaching, but rather sharing something that I experienced, in hopes that more people understand. The other author was able to present her viewpoint with grace and without judgement, and I hope I can do the same.

I am Non-Theistic.

I am Pro-Choice.

I believe that choice is each woman’s right. But I must be clear that this belief does not stop me from being extremely envious of those of you who had the choice to make. To those unfamiliar with what being Pro-Choice actually means, the following might seem less Pro when compared to how eloquently the other author explained the Pro-Life side of things. I assure you, just because I would have kept my baby does not mean that I think anyone should be forced to carry to term when they do not wish to.

The following gets a little rambly. But that’s how my brain is these days.

I had a miscarriage and it hurt and continues to hurt like Hell, physically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally.

My baby, our baby, never even had a chance.

We had a pregnancy condition known as Blighted Ovum. I say ‘known’ but the truth is that not very many people know this is even a possibility. We didn’t, and most people we have told haven’t heard of it either.

I am still shocked, stunned, and brokenhearted.

A blighted ovum occurs when the genetic material is somehow messed up. This seems to be the problem causing a huge number of miscarriages. Everyone we talked to simply stated that ‘it’s most likely a problem with the chromosomes’ but no one has ever explained what that means. No doctor, midwife, nurse, article, or blog entry has ever explained why, when the egg and sperm were able to create a pregnancy at all that they could be so . . . . dysfunctional. And that hurts, too. Not knowing hurts. Not understanding hurts.

So what happens when the chromosomes are all effed up? When the gestational sac forms, the fetus simply doesn’t. The material simply does not come together. It does not form. And you are left looking at an ultrasound of a black empty space in your womb where your baby should be.

And then you go home and you cry harder than you have ever cried. And you shake. And you nearly hyperventilate. And you scare the shit out of your dog, and probably all your neighbors. And you figure they probably think you are being murdered, because how can anyone still be alive after wailing so loud for so long and crying until there can’t possibly be anything left to cry out.

And you are left to shakily write an email to your far-flung family members telling them the news that you cannot possibly say out loud during a phone call which you will never ever get through because you’d have to speak with words that someone might be able to understand. Words that in your mind equate to, “Sorry, I’m a big fat liar.” or perhaps, “Just Kidding! LOL.” But in truth, they are words that crush your soul. And you have your husband hit the send button because you can’t bear to do so – to make it real.

And you have to put away the toys you and your husband stealthily bought at Christmastime, and the irreplaceable and probably handmade present sent from your sister wrapped up with a little note “For ???” (the place holder ‘name’ you had given your little Zygote when you first told everyone you were expecting with an adorable family portrait of the two of you pointing to your hidden belly with your dog in the background looking jealous), and the books on pregnancy, and the prenatal workout dvds, and the prenatal vitamins, and the nausea suckers, and the positive HPT, and your hopes and your dreams.

And you have to go on. And you have to find the strength to either tell everyone what you can’t bear to say aloud or suffer in silence pretending everything is all right because you cannot explain it again, you can’t say it out loud.

And you have to wait. You have to wait for that babyless mass in your uterus to decide it knows it no longer belongs there. You have to wait, knowing you are going to miscarry.

You can choose to abort. But then, the doctor could have been wrong. And even though all your symptoms of pregnancy have stopped, you still hold on to that fragment of hope, that tiny little mustard seed of faith, that you might just might have been less far along and maybe your baby will show up soon. Maybe it’s still going to happen.

But then one day you start to bleed, just a little at a time, and for a week you bleed, and you wonder when you’ll stop. Because the midwives and nurses told you that you would probably just experience a heavier than normal period.

[Boy were they fucking wrong.]

And then a week after you started bleeding you wake up at 2:45 in the morning with cramps that feel like a knife is stuck in your SI joint. And you go to the bathroom, and get back in bed, and climb right back out again because you can’t find a position that is comfortable, and then you spend the next 8 or 9 hours basically in labor, mostly sitting on the toilet because the waves of tissue extracting themselves from your uterus just keep on coming. And you crouch, sobbing on the floor between contractions. And you have to, in the middle of all this, call your clients to cancel their appointments for that day and they want to know when they can rebook and you want to say, “I DON’T FUCKING KNOW HOW ABOUT WHEN I AM NOT VOMITING MY LOWER INTESTINES OUT OF MY VAGINA,” but you calmly try to find your pocket calendar and reschedule on a day you hope that you will be able to stand upright again.

And then your pelvis hurts so much that you can barely walk, and your thighs hurt in a bruised sort of way like they’ve been beaten because of how long you sat on the toilet, and you give up your ideas of a perfect natural birth someday, and go to the pharmacy and pick up your narcotics to try to dull the pain of what just happened to you.

And then, slowly, you start to make a list of things you can do now that you are no longer pregnant. It’s a list to try and find some happiness. Ours includes travel, and weight loss (I was 20 lbs overweight when we conceived and I plan to be way healthier before we try again, for my own sake, if for no other reason), and drinking every bottle of my favourite wine that I can get my hands on.

And there is so much fear. Will it happen again? Statistically, probably not. Will something else go wrong? Possibly. There is no way of telling. I did everything right during this pregnancy. No alcohol. Balanced diet. Exercise.

It didn’t matter. There was nothing we could have done differently to prevent it. Nothing.

That doesn’t make it easier.

I have struggled with depression and anger and guilt. I do every day. Every day.

I’m not going to get over it. I am hoping I can get through it.

I hope you never have to experience this first hand. I hope to whatever power is out there that you never have to experience this first hand. It sucks. OK? It sucks. And I am not okay and I won’t suddenly be okay. So please don’t expect me to be.

Know that I am extremely grateful to my amazing husband who has been my stability, my shoulder, my co-mourner, my heart and my light through all of this.

There are a lot of articles on things you should never say to someone in my position and I recommend you look them up real quick before you respond to this or anyone else’s story.

FYI, I don’t take sympathy well. It makes me queasy, to be honest. And advice can go jump off a bridge. Seriously. So, just don’t.

But now you all know a fraction of what I’ve been experiencing for the past two months.

And why when I say I am pro-choice, I mean it with as much of my heart as I can muster.

And yes, it still makes me choke that I did not get that choice.

But everyone deserves your respect and your sympathy, whatever your views have been on abortion and miscarriages. Please just try to spare a little love for every single being, whether they ever made it or not, for whatever reason.

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