Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Okay

The last few weeks I've been focusing on putting myself back together.  I haven't been posting much because it's just been so messy. One minute I feel like things are looking up, and the next I find myself thinking everything is just so hard, how can I ever put this back together? I'm constantly on a roller coaster of emotions. But the facts say things are looking up.

After over three weeks of searching--and navigating the healthcare system--I finally have an appointment with a therapist. I also got a call back about the volunteer position at the hospital. Turns out they misfiled my paperwork from the interview. I go in for a drug screening tomorrow and training on Monday. I've also joined two facebook groups for women like me--one for local women who have also lost babies, and another for mothers without living children who are trying to get pregnant after loss (very specific, I know). Both have helped me realize just how not-that-crazy-after-all I am.

I feel pretty okay right now. And okay is good. I feel like I'm actually doing something to help myself get better, and I'm proud of myself for that.

Here's to feeling okay.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Bad Days

It's hard to remember what a bad day was like before Liam died. I remember crying every time I got my period, because I wanted to be pregnant so badly. That hasn't changed. But besides that, I don't remember what a bad day felt like.

What did I have to be upset about? How did a bad day even start? How often did I have bad days? What was a normal range of emotions in a given week?

I just don't remember.

Lately I can get through about 3 days at a time without breaking down. And then I have some where from 12-36 hours of feeling down before I somehow decide I'm okay again. Sometimes the lows are really low, and sometimes they're just a long, persistent sting. But it's always about the same thing. It surfaces in different ways. "I'll never be a 'real' mother." "Why does she get a baby and I don't?" "What's my purpose for being here?" But it's all the same at its core. I miss my baby.

We get in a car accident, and I think, "How could God allow an inconvenience like this when we're already dealing with so much grief? Isn't that enough? I can't deal with one more thing right now."

I have a less productive day at work, and I think, "It's been almost four months now. Hasn't that been long enough? Shouldn't you be able to get through a workday by now?"

I don't get a call back from the hospital about the volunteer position, and I think, "They probably thought you're still too emotionally volatile for a position like that. They're probably right. You can't help anyone. You're too broken from your grief."

You can't help people at the hospital.
You can't mother your dead child.
You can't get pregnant again.
You can't focus at work.
You can't even enjoy your birthday.
You can't be who you wanted to be.

You can't. That's what I'm always thinking these days.

And that's not just missing Liam. That's not what missing Liam should feel like. He isn't the core of my bad days at all. He's the reason I had good days. Missing him hurts. Missing him is feeling the absence of something wonderful. But that has nothing to do with the you-can'ts. If missing Liam isn't at the core of my bad days, what is? Shouldn't it be missing him? Isn't that the most important thing?

Is this just what it normally feels like to be sad? Is this what my bad days were like before?

I can't remember.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

William Knightley Pt. 3 - After

Written about one month after Liam was born. 

Liam was tiny and perfect. His tiny fingernails were a marvel. And as soon as I saw him I thought that he looked like he was our baby. I remember going home later and wondering if I was just imagining things because he was so tiny, and it was hard to tell, so I looked up pictures of other babies who died at Liam's age and it was immediately obvious that I wasn't imagining anything. None of those babies were ours. Liam was our baby. We made him. He had a tiny little point of a nose that looked just like Kam's, and he even seemed to have Kam's eyes, which I had always hoped he would. I thought it had to just be wishful thinking, but my mom agreed. Kam said he thought Liam had my lips, and when I look back at pictures, I think he's right. Kam also said he remembered when he first saw him he thought his arms looked kind of big, and he thought to himself, "My son is buff!" By my understanding, Liam was a little large for his gestational age, just as we were expecting, so maybe Kam had something there.



After holding Liam for as long as I could muster, I let the nurses take him to give him a bath. I was afraid I would fall asleep with him in my arms, but I didn't want to let him go. I watched the nurses as they gave Liam his bath, but their backs were turned to me, so all I saw was one moment when they were holding him face down to wash his back, and his little butt was exposed. I told Kam about that later, and I remember his eyes getting wide and excited as he said, with a hint of jealousy, "You got to see his butt?" The nurses put him in a little sleeper and gave him back to me. I could tell his face had already changed. I wish I had taken pictures of when I was first holding him, because his features were so much more defined just minutes earlier. So Kam and my mom started taking pictures on their phones, but nothing could really capture what he looked like in person. How real he was. At the same time, it was so obvious he was no longer there. I was still very tired, but I tried to hold him a little longer. Eventually, it started to sink in that he wasn't there, and the fatigue started to feel stronger. I gave him to my mom to hold, and then Kam held him before they took him to the nursery.

I slept for a little while, and by the time I woke up, I could feel my legs again. After I woke, Kam and I agreed that we didn't want to see Liam's body again in case it had deteriorated any more since we last saw him. We wanted to remember his features the way they were meant to be. A bereavement counselor went to the nursery without us and took more pictures of Liam and made hand and footprints. We were so grateful the hospital provided that for us, because we had no idea how much we would want it in the future. The counselor brought us a box with the hand prints, foot prints, and little casts of his hands and feet, as well as tiny hats and a sleeper she used in her pictures. A short time later, the hospital released us, sending us home with everything Liam touched, and a couple of extra baby blankets and hats just for good measure, including a tiny soft white blanket, that couldn't have wrapped around a baby much larger than Liam. I remember wondering how someone knew I would need a blanket as tiny as that. I still keep that blanket with me every night.


We came home around 5 pm the same day. I went straight to bed, and Kam said I fell asleep right away as he was still holding me. He said that was a relief for him to see me able to sleep so quickly. The next few days passed in a blur. My parents both stayed with us at first, and then my dad had to leave. My mom stayed a few more days and took care of our puppies for us.

I remember reading a lot of scriptures about what happens to children after they die. They were all so comforting, and every time I had a worry about where he was, and what state he was in until we got to see him, and how we would get to see him next, the answers I found were all better than I could have imagined myself. I worried about whether he was still a baby just waiting in heaven for his parents, and I found an answer that his spirit form is that of an adult, just like his spirit was in the form of an adult before he came to earth. That comforted me, knowing he wasn't helpless. But eventually, as I started asking more and more specific questions, I stopped finding answers. And that scared me. And then I found a statement that the LDS church doesn't have official doctrine on what happens to stillbirths and miscarriages, and I panicked. It was late at night, and Kam was already asleep, but I was so worried I had to wake him up. I asked him whether he knew there was no doctrine about what happens to stillborn children, and he said he did. I worried aloud that maybe Liam had never really been here. Maybe his spirit had never actually entered his body and we were imagining the whole thing. And I asked Kam how did we know he was really here? And I don't remember exactly how he said so much to me in so little words. He was so sleepy, he hardly said anything. But he wasn't worried at all. He said that we would know by the Spirit, and that we already did know. And I realized he was right.

The next day was LDS General Conference, which was a relief. Listening to uplifting talks from the comfort of my couch was exactly the type of thing I had the energy to do. I spent a lot of the first few talks wondering how I could know for sure what had happened to Liam. I wondered how the fact that Liam had never been born alive would effect his afterlife. Did that birth count, even though he wasn't alive when it happened? Or would he need to be born alive in order to satisfy some sort of law about life itself? Would he have the opportunity to be born alive later if he needed to be, or did he just miss out? And then sometime during President Uchtdorf's talk I realized how wrong my thinking was. Heavenly Father's plan for us isn't some big game with a long list of rules that you either play by or you lose. He loves each of his children and wants to be with us again, just like I want to be with Liam again. I could tell, because He had such sweet promises for all of the other children who died young. It wasn't as if Liam was any less His child because he was tiny, or because the events in his life happened backwards. I figured there were only two options. Either Liam was here, or he wasn't. If he was here, Heavenly Father was taking care of him, just like any other child who had died young, even if I didn't understand all of the details of it. And whether he was here or not, wasn't really a question. I knew what I felt when I watched Liam on that sonogram monitor and when I felt him kick inside of me. And even after he was gone, I felt him. I felt something missing from our family. When I looked at pictures of Kam and I, I knew we weren't all there. I knew we were really a family of three. There was definitely a baby there, not just a body. And Heavenly Father takes care of all of his babies.

It's still hard to realize Liam is gone. We only had him with us for such a short time. Sometimes I wish that if he had to die young, I could have at least gotten to keep him a little bit longer. Why couldn't I have held a live baby in my arms just once before he had to go? But I comfort myself by thinking that Liam never had to know anything about this fallen world. I sometimes think about those jokes people tell about twin babies in a womb wondering what life after birth will be like and realize that for Liam, it was something entirely different from what any of us has experienced. Instead of life outside the womb beginning with the pain of birth and the stress of bright lights and cold air and learning to breath for the first time, Liam's first experience outside the womb was being welcomed into paradise. And someday, when this world is ready to welcome him the same way, he'll have the opportunity to experience childhood in the cushiest and most perfect way possible. I try to think of this experience as God promising that someday I'll get to raise a baby boy in a world like that, rather than that God took my baby away. But it's not quite the right analogy, because I got more than just a promise of a little boy. I got to meet him.

I worry sometimes about what people who haven't been through this will think of me. I remember how little I understood, and how quickly I could judge a person who went through things I'd never experienced. Of course my heart ached for anyone who experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth. I knew I couldn't imagine how hard that would be. But when I heard these people talk about their miscarriages and stillborn babies as if they were real people they had known and loved and lost, I just couldn't wrap my head around it. Of course it was a terrible disappointment, but the idea of honoring your "angel baby" forever after made me uncomfortable. Maybe it's something that just hurts too much to accept unless you have to. And I wouldn't wish for anyone to have to understand that pain, so I really can't expect them to. But it's hard to know that no one else will know how real Liam was as much as Kam and I do. It's hard to imagine answering questions like "Do you have any children?" because I know that no matter what I answer, the person asking won't understand what my answer really means. I can't pretend he didn't exist, but each time I discuss him I risk seeing a look of disbelief when I call him my baby.

But I choose to share Liam's story anyway, because I want others to know there's hope through tragedy. The past couple of weeks I've spent a lot of time reading forums and blogs and articles about other women who are grieving babies lost during pregnancy, and I haven't found much comfort. In fact, some of the phrases meant to offer solace, like "new normal" and "you'll never get over it", have just left me frustrated. No, things will never go back to the way they were. And no, I will never "get over it" (because what does that even mean?). But I am happy again. Not all of the time, and even when I am happy that doesn't mean I'm not still missing Liam. But I can laugh with my husband again. And appreciate things I used to enjoy, like tulips and knitting and good food. I can play with my puppies without feeling guilty, and make jokes with friends. And I can even look at pictures of Liam with pride instead of sorrow. No, things will never go back to the way they were. I will not be pregnant with Liam again. I will not be holding him in September. And that's hard. But I also won't go back to before I was pregnant with Liam, when I was just longing to get pregnant and have a baby and wondering if it would ever happen. And I would never want to go back to that. Because this way I have a baby at all, even if I have to wait until I hold him again.

William Knightley Pt. 2 - Birth

Written about one month after Liam was born. 

Less than a week after we found out we were having a little boy, we went in for our next routine check-up. It was April Fool's Day. The doctor asked us if we were interested in screening for diseases like down-syndrome, and we said we didn't care unless it would somehow help us keep our baby healthy. The doctor said it generally wouldn't make a difference, so we declined. He asked if I'd felt any movement yet, and I said I had, but only once. He said it was still really early to be feeling movement, so not to expect anything until 18 weeks. Then he got the doppler out and started looking for the heartbeat. He spent a long time looking, and eventually said we'd get an ultrasound just to be sure. I wasn't worried, since this had happened once before, and I was kind of excited about the idea of getting to see an ultrasound again, especially since Kam hadn't watched most of the last one. We started the ultrasound, and immediately it seemed like something wasn't quite right. Liam wasn't moving, and he looked like he was in a very uncomfortable position. The doctor told us his back was in the way, so it was hard to see the heart. But eventually he showed us the heart and it was obvious it wasn't moving either. The doctor said he was going to get an ultrasound tech to confirm. After he left, I started to panic. I was so afraid of what the ultrasound tech was going to come back and say, I couldn't help but sob. I kept thinking this had to somehow be some sort of sick April Fool's Day joke. Maybe someday we'd tell our son about this and we'd all laugh about it. But then I thought of what he looked like on that ultrasound, and I knew it wasn't a joke. Kam broke down, too. I remember feeling so awkward and helpless, laying on a table with my pants undone, goo on my belly, sobbing. I couldn't hold my husband the way I wanted to. And part of me was still holding out for that ultra-sound tech, hoping she'd come in and tell us it was all a big mistake. But eventually she came in and told us the worst news we could imagine hearing. I still think back about that and feel like it wasn't meant to be us. That's the sort of thing you know happens to someone, somewhere, and you feel sad for them, but it's never supposed to be you. You're luckier than 1 in 100 people, right?

I remember sometime during my pregnancy having this random thought, "You're not going to keep this one." And I was terrified. I worried over it for a little while, but I just couldn't accept it. I thought it had to be just my own paranoia. There was no way that could be true. Eventually, probably after we made it through our first trimester, I had completely forgotten about it altogether. I figured I was in the clear.

Sometime before all of this I had read a blog about a family who lost their baby at 19 weeks, and how the mother decided to deliver her baby instead of getting a D&C. She got to hold her tiny baby and take pictures of him, and I remember thinking, "Poor girl. I would have done the same thing if I were her." When we sat down with the doctor about what our options would be, for some reason he met with us in the "Procedure Room" where I had never been before. That room felt like death. I was afraid he was going to tell me I wasn't far enough along to deliver and that I would have to have a D&C, and I would never get to hold my baby. But he told me the opposite. That because we were past 16 weeks, he didn't offer D&C's that late, and I would be induced sometime that night. My first question for him and every nurse I met after that was whether I could hold my baby, and they all answered, "Of course." The doctor said he would call us later about what time to come into the hospital to be induced, and we went home.

At home, Kam and I got in bed and cried. I later found out that while having the opportunity to deliver was a relief for me, it was an additional source of stress for Kam as he worried about me having to endure that physical pain. We spent some time praying together over Liam, and Kam offered a beautiful prayer asking that he be taken care of until we can return to him and take care of him ourselves. We each called our moms and asked them to come see us. Kam's mom drove down and was with us in about an hour. My mom found a flight for that evening and made it in just in time to go to the hospital with us. Later that night I got a call from my dad, whom I hadn't been able to reach, and he told me he was driving out to give us hugs. Kam and I agreed that we needed to name our baby boy, and that we wanted to give him the name we would have given him if he were still alive. We were sure he was still our baby and that we would get to be with him again someday. Kam had loved the name Liam, but I insisted that if we called our son Liam, his full name would have to be William, so he could sound more grown up on his resume, if he wanted to. So now Kam was suggesting William, and it wasn't difficult for me to agree. We had been considering the middle name Knightley since long before I was pregnant, and at the gender reveal party, Kam's brother pointed out how awesome William Knightley sounded together, and Kam and I were pretty sold on that combination from that point on. Later, when we got to the hospital and we began paperwork, Kam made a point of finding out whether we would have any sort of death certificate we could put Liam's full name on. Fortunately, Utah law had recently changed to require a stillbirth certificate after 16 weeks rather than 20 weeks, so we got to put his full name down on paper.

We had a couple of the leaders from our congregation at church come to our house to give us a blessing. The blessings were so strengthening, and I specifically remember mine saying that I would be blessed with the power to recognize the lies of the adversary, which I didn't understand at the time, but have come to appreciate since. One of the men shared a message with us about how when Christ comes again we will have the opportunity to raise the children we have lost, just like we would have been able to do if Liam had been born living, only after Christ comes we will have the opportunity to raise him in a perfect world, where he won't suffer pains or trials or temptations. I had known we would see Liam again, but I didn't know how. I didn't know if we'd ever have the opportunity to see him as a child, or if in heaven we would all be adults. So this was an incredible comfort to me. Kam's friend Ethan also came over with dinner around the same time, and shared with us his feelings about his older brother who had died at about the same age as Liam. He talked about feeling his brother looking out for him when he was alone, and I could imagine what he meant. I never felt as close to Liam while I was pregnant with him as I did after we knew he was gone.

We went into the hospital that night around eleven. The staff was expecting us and were all very sensitive to what we were about to go through. I never thought about it until long after we left the hospital, but we were given a very quiet room away from all the other delivering mothers. I now appreciate that I had never had to think about that myself. After giving answers to paperwork and getting poked with an IV, I was administered my first round of cytotec to induce contractions. Around 1 am, the nurse left and I planned to go to sleep, but Kam suggested I take the sleeping pill they offered me that I had refused. I figured he probably knew better than I did. I felt so numb, I could barely think. So I called the nurse right back in to administer the sleeping pill. As soon as she left that time I started to feel some cramps, but thought they were mild enough to ignore, especially with a sleeping pill. About 15 minutes later, though, I realized the pain was getting a lot stronger a lot more quickly than I was expecting. I called the nurse again, and by the time she came in I was in agony. She began to administer half of the maximum dose of narcotic through the IV, and told me it should start working pretty quickly. I was curled up in fetal position asking her how quickly, and why wasn't it working yet, when suddenly I felt a small pop in my abdomen, and the pain suddenly vanished. It was like someone had hit an off switch. The nurse was mid-sentence trying to calm my anxiety when I interrupted her with a slightly sheepish, "Oh. It's gone now."

I slept for only a couple hours, before I noticed the pain again and had to have the nurse begin another dose of narcotics. At 6 am the nurses switched, and I received my next dose of cytotec. This time I took the full dose of narcotics, and still didn't feel like I was getting much of a benefit out of it, but when nurses asked me if I was having contractions I wasn't sure what to say because I just felt like I was having cramping all over that didn't stop. At some point Kam and my mom started talking to me about whether I wanted to get an epidural, and suggested I ask the nurse what the anesthesiologist's schedule was. I did, and the nurse left to find the anesthesiologist. At one point while she was gone, I felt like I was going to puke, so I sat up really fast, and my mom grabbed a bucket from the closet for me. I ended up just burping for a long time. Kam had stepped out to find the nurse, so when he came back in he was concerned to see me leaning over a bucket, and I had a hard time explaining to him that I was fine now, and that I was only burping.

When the nurse came back she told me the anesthesiologist would be available in about 5 minutes, or in an hour after that. I was starting to feel like the narcotics weren't doing much anymore, so I asked her to have him come in the 5 minutes. By the time the anesthesiologist came in and got everything ready, I had no question about whether I was having contractions, and couldn't get the epidural soon enough. Reflecting on it now, I actually feel some comfort from knowing I got to experience contractions when I was delivering Liam. It made the whole experience feel a little more real, and I have one more memory to hold on to now. It's also just a comfort to know there's one more thing I got to do for my baby that other mothers do for their babies.

Shortly after I began to feel the effects of the epidural, the nurse left and said she would return in a little while to put in my catheter (the only reason I hadn't gotten the epidural sooner). She wanted to be sure I was completely numb before she started that. I was thankful for that, but after only about 10 minutes of her being gone, I suddenly felt like I had to pee, and I was afraid I wouldn't be able to hold it back. My mom ran into the hall to get the nurse, but returned alone. I yelled that I didn't think I could hold it back anymore, and she pulled another pink bucket out of the closet. She got that placed underneath me, and told me everything was fine, and I could go, but nothing came. I still felt the urge, and I figured I just couldn't control it and that it was still coming. The nurse came in a moment later, and as she started to walk towards the bed, I realized what I was feeling wasn't pee at all, and just a second later, I heard her say, "Oh, here comes your baby."

We knew that because Liam was so tiny, he would probably come very quickly and unexpectedly, and that I probably wouldn't have to push. We also knew the doctor probably wouldn't have time to catch him. But I was glad my mom and the nurse were there when it happened. The nurse called in another doctor who was available, and he helped deliver the placenta while my two nurses cleaned Liam up and wrapped him in a blanket. I remember delivering the placenta and Kam asking if it was intact, because we were both worried it wouldn't detach and I would need a D&C to remove the rest. The doctor said it looked like it was. I'm still strangely flattered at how concerned Kam was about me at my lowest and grossest point in my life.

It was a strange relief to be done with labor as I waited for someone to bring me my baby. The past twenty-four hours had been a nightmare and I finally felt like it was coming to an end, even though things weren't exactly getting better. I'd played through multiple scenarios of miracles in which Liam would get to live, and now it was obvious none of those were coming true. But even that was a small comfort, as I no longer had to put so much effort into wondering and hoping.

...

William Knightley Pt. 1 - Life

Written about one month after Liam was born. 

Kam and I had been trying to conceive for a few months before we finally got Liam. I remember on New Year's Eve I was due for the news, good or bad, and I was so sure I was not going to be pregnant, just like every month before. For about a week leading up to that I was thinking this might actually be the month, but on New Year's Eve I just didn't believe it anymore. We ate out at a nice restaurant. It was just before closing, so it was nearly empty. I remember I spent a lot of time talking about how we would be okay, and we would have kids somehow, even if we had to adopt. We stopped at the grocery store on the way home and bought a bunch of sweets, and Martinelli's to ring in the New Year. I suggested we watch Avengers while we waited for midnight to hit. I remember coming home and feeling a little sick, so I laid down on the couch to wait it out. I ended up not eating any of our sweets, and falling asleep during the movie. I woke up to Kam saying "Chloe, wake up... It's the new year!"

The next morning at about 7 am, I woke up and realized I wouldn't be able to go back to sleep until I knew for sure that I wasn't pregnant. I took my temperature, and it still hadn't dropped, so that didn't give me any closure. I figured I could take a test before Kam even woke up, and then I'd know for sure and I could get on with the day. And if by some odd luck it was positive, that would be awesome, because it was New Year's Day, and maybe I could surprise Kam somehow. I hadn't thought of any especially clever ways to announce pregnancy in relation to the new year, but I knew there had to be something to do with that. That was just too cool to pass up. But as soon as I saw that test, I was completely shocked. I came out of the bathroom shaking, and by that time Kam had woken up and was sitting on the stairs. I stumbled over to him with the pregnancy test and gave him a hug and started crying. He was so worried this happiness would somehow be taken away from us (but mostly from me) that he didn't start to believe that I was actually pregnant until I took another test a few hours later. I remember that I somehow found out I wasn't supposed to eat lox when pregnant and was really disappointed because I was looking forward to my traditional New Year's Day breakfast of a bagel with lox and cream cheese. And then I thought that was a really stupid thing to be disappointed about, but we still went and got bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon, because I was really craving it by that time.

I was so impatient to call my gynecologist. I was worried about not being able to reach any one because it was New Year's Day and the offices were closed. The next day I called and asked for the soonest appointment available. I had my first appointment 2 weeks later. I had tried to prepare for a urine sample, but I've always really struggled with that, and didn't drink the water soon enough for it to get through my system by the time we got to the appointment. One of the aides asked me to give my sample, and I asked if I could wait until after the appointment, and she said, "Well, we need proof of a positive pregnancy test before we can see you." So I tried, but after sitting in there, embarrassed, drinking water from the tap for probably 5-10 minutes, I finally gave up and told the aide I would just go sit in the waiting room for a little while, to which she replied, "Well, sometimes it helps if you run the water. Have you tried that? Why don't you go back and try that?" I must not have been *too* pregnant yet, because I refrained from rolling my eyes at her and went back to the bathroom and turned on the water. But I'm not an idiot, or a child. It wasn't going to work. Finally, someone knocked on the door and told me I could come out. The nurse was ready to see me. By the time I was meeting with Kam and the nurse in our room, I was crying. The nurse was very understanding and asked if I was embarrassed about not being able to give a urine sample. I said, "Yeah. I'm really upset about it. Can crying over a pee test count as my proof of pregnancy?" She laughed at that, and later asked me about my symptoms, including whether I had to go to the bathroom a lot. My response was, "Yeah, I have to pee all the time, which is why this is so frustrating!"

Two weeks later we had scheduled our 8-week ultrasound. I was so nervous we were going to get there and find out I had never really been pregnant at all. But then we were there, staring at our little peanut, and it was all a little anti-climactic. I expected to feel more like I was actually pregnant when I saw that ultrasound, but instead I was just not worried. We had been wanting to see a healthy dot, and there was a healthy dot. But then we got to hear the heartbeat, just for a second, and that was when it clicked for me that there was actually something living inside me. I really wished that ultrasound tech had let us listen to the heartbeat a little bit longer. She told us the heart rate, and I already knew that was in the healthy range, and she told us it was in the healthy range, and then I went home and googled it again just to be sure it was in the healthy range, and then I was so proud I had a baby with a healthy heartbeat, and I thought for sure his heartbeat was healthier than all the other tiny peanut babies. (Only, at this time I was pretty positive he was a she.) The baby was also measuring 5 days ahead of schedule, which I thought was really exciting, although it wasn't enough to make my doctor change our due date. Kam was so impatient to tell people we were pregnant. He was even more excited about announcing the news than I was. We had agreed that if we heard the heartbeat at 10 weeks we would tell everyone, because at that point the risk of miscarriage was less than 1%, and we figured we were luckier than 1 in 100 people, and even if we weren't, we wouldn't want to suffer through a miscarriage that late all by ourselves anyway. But Kam misunderstood what I had said about the statistics and said as we were walking out, "So, now that we've heard the heartbeat, we can announce it, right?" But I still wanted to wait a little longer.


Two weeks later we had another appointment. At this appointment we were supposed to hear the baby's heartbeat on the doppler for the first time. When the doctor got out the doppler and started looking, she was unable to find a heartbeat. Kam warned her that I would be really upset if we couldn't find the heartbeat that day. I remember realizing that Kam was right, and that he was aware of just how upset I would be before that had even occurred to me. The doctor spent a little extra time looking but eventually gave up and told us she wasn't worried because we had a healthy 8-week ultrasound, and that I was probably just too early, and to come back in a week. I was a wreck. I spent the rest of the day crying and worrying. The next day I decided I still felt fine, there were no signs of trouble, and that I was going to keep thinking positive until I knew otherwise, because if we did get bad news, nothing would prepare me for that anyway. A few days later was Valentine's Day, and I woke up and randomly asked Kam if he'd be ok with us announcing our pregnancy. He said he didn't mind, but he thought I wanted to wait to hear the heartbeat. I had been feeling sick, so I said, "I'm obviously still pregnant, so we might as well announce it. I'm not worried." Just a few days later, we went back to the doctor and Kam got my phone out to record the sound the doppler made. The doctor warned, "You might want to wait a second to start recording, so we have time to find it first." Then she set the doppler on my stomach and we heard the heartbeat right away, and she mumbled, "Nevermind."

video

Just two weeks later I had another appointment because I had switched doctors. My new doctor wanted to do his own ultrasound, but we didn't know that until the day before the appointment, so we got really excited about seeing our baby again. We realized at this point we might even be able to tell whether we were having a boy or a girl. When the ultrasound came around, we found out the baby was measuring 8 days ahead of schedule. I was excited about this because his original due date had been September 9, and I was hoping to hit Kam's birthday, September 3, instead. Later, the doctor would decide not to change his due date anyway, which made me worry I was just going to have a big baby instead of an early baby. The ultrasound tech was wrapping up when I asked whether he could tell what we were having. He spent extra time looking for us, but he couldn't be sure. He was really disappointed, but sent us away with a guess that he was "70% sure" we were having a boy. We were okay with that, because we hadn't been expecting to find out anyway. We set an appointment for an early gender check ultrasound at 16 weeks. I had been so sure we were having a girl until that ultrasound tech started me doubting, that I hadn't cared about the gender check at all until that point. Those next three weeks seemed to take forever.



Finally, the day for our gender-check ultrasound came, and we had decided to wait to discover the gender until a gender reveal party that evening. This was a huge source of stress for me, because I was so impatient already. When we got to the clinic and told the ultrasound tech that we wanted for her not to tell us because we wanted to find out at a party that evening, I made some sort of snide comment about how that wasn't what I wanted at all, but that was what we were going to do. This was the first ultrasound where Liam was obviously moving around. It was the first time I really felt a connection to this baby, and I remember as I was watching that ultrasound thinking for the first time that maybe this really wasn't a girl, and I was looking at a baby boy. And as I watched him wiggle around I thought that was really more likely. And then I had this weird thought, that this wasn't the sweet, silent, sleeping baby girl I was imagining. This was a rambunctious bouncing baby boy, who was mocking me, because he just wanted to play around in there, and all the while he was making me sick! And he was probably the one making me eat so many tomatoes, too. But I just adored him. I loved watching him squirm around. Kam was hesitant to watch the ultrasound because he was afraid he would accidentally see whether we were having a boy or a girl, and I kept arguing with him telling him he should watch because it was so great. He did get to see him moving around. I remember the two of us telling our family at the gender reveal party that night how he stretched all the way out, and then pulled his feet back into a little ball, and we said it with all the enthusiasm of proud new parents, and I'm sure everyone was nodding along thinking, "Yeah, stretching is a pretty normal developmental milestone at this point." But of course our Liam did it cuter than any other baby.

And then we found out we were having a boy. And I was still shocked even though I knew as I was watching that ultrasound that we probably would be. And I admit I was a little disappointed as thoughts of tutus and Kam on daddy-daughter dates got put on hold. Because for a little while you've got all of the possibilities set in front of you. You've got dreams of little boys and little girls, and eventually you have to be realistic about the fact you're going to only get one of those, at least this time around. So I started trying to focus on all of the ways I was excited about having a little boy. And I texted Kam as I rode the train home from work about spiking his hair, and "Dad and Son" matching outfits. There was this "Gun" and "Son of a gun" t-shirt pair Kam really liked. And man, it did not take long to get excited. Soon I was imagining this Kam mini-me walking around, and I had wanted that for so long! And Kam was so excited. He told me how great it was going to be to know the family name would live on. And I remember watching the episode of friends where Ross finds out he's having a baby boy, and Kam teared up a little bit. One of those nights we were watching friends and internally celebrating Ross's baby boy and our baby boy, I felt Liam kick for the first time. Two little pokes. And it only took me a second to realize what it was. I wanted so badly to feel it again, I was afraid to get up and move. In bed that night I lay still hoping I'd feel it, but when it didn't happen I figured it would come again sometime in the next few days. I was not even 17 weeks yet, I knew it was early to start feeling any movement.

...

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A Strange Validation

You know that feeling when you wake up from a good dream and try to explain it to someone else, but as you try to explain it you realize it doesn't actually make any sense, so it's hard to say why it made you so happy? I had one of those today, only it happened in real life. And I'm going to try to explain it anyway.

I was chatting with a coworker who was telling me his wife is expecting and that there's a large gap between this baby and the next youngest kid. And I asked what the gap was between his oldest and this baby, and he said about twelve years. So I mentioned that the gap between myself and my youngest brother is 13 years. Surprised, he asked me where I fell, and when I said I am the oldest, he cut me off and said something along the lines of,

"Oh, that's right. I remember you told me that! Yeah, you've been a mom for like forever! Cause you were the oldest and you had all those brothers and sisters-- You were a mom from since like, when you were born!"

Which obviously makes no logical sense. I am still wondering what that sounded like in his head. But at the same time... I don't think he has any idea how much that means to me.

I don't often tell acquaintances how much I want to be a mom. Especially not at work. And I honestly don't remember ever having a conversation with this guy about how many siblings I have. And I don't think this particular coworker even knows about Liam. So I have no idea how he nailed such a poignant topic for me. But I have always wanted to be a mom. And I've felt, for a long time that it's my calling, as cliché as that sounds. And recently, I often feel that it's unattainable, that I am not living up to my potential, and that I'm not fulfilling my calling in life--because I don't have any children here with me.

But somehow, even though I can't understand it, someone thinks it makes sense to say I've been a mom since I was born. (And someone I respect, for the record. Most of the stuff this guy says does make sense.) I wish I knew what that is supposed to mean, but even still, it makes my heart happy. It feels right on some level. And that's comforting. Maybe even if I don't understand it yet, there's more to being a mom than I give myself credit for.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Might

Today I might be pregnant.

It's actually a nice feeling, in a lot of ways. In a few short days I will either be pregnant or not pregnant (and realistically, probably the latter), but today I might be pregnant.

My very first two week wait ever, I thought a lot about Schroedinger's cat, and whether by that logic I was both pregnant and not pregnant at the same time. I liked the sound of the first part of the theory.

It's so easy to worry at this time of the month. But every once in a while I manage to take a deep breath and ask myself why I want so desperately to know the answer. If it's good, there will be no reason I should have worried. And if it's bad... why am I so desperate to start despairing about that early? So every once in a while I take a quiet minute to think, "I might be pregnant."

Which is a miracle, really, because most of the time trying not to worry is like trying not to think of a white elephant.

But I think it's important, probably. To take advantage of "mights." Because when I do become pregnant again I can either worry for nine months, or celebrate that I might have a baby.

Honestly, we're all living through mights all of the time. Every day you wake up might be the day you win the metaphorical lottery. If you think back on a day you were inextricably happy, did you wake up that morning knowing you would be? Maybe. Some days it's more obvious. I think of standing in the airport on the first day of my honeymoon, and yes, when I woke up that morning I figured I'd probably have a pretty good day. But what about the morning of my first date with Kam? I thought that might be a good day. And the first month after Kam and I started dating, I thought this might turn into something. Every good thing starts with a might.

Of course bad things might, too. But in a way, even that is a good thing. Because they only might, not definitely will. Not until they've come. When we decided to start trying for kids, there were a lot of bad mights. I told Kam all the time, "We might not get pregnant right away." What I was honestly thinking was, "We might never get pregnant." But we tried anyway, because we only might not get pregnant. And we didn't, for four months... until we did. And even then, in the back of my mind I knew we might not get to keep this baby. But we also might, and that was enough reason for us to move forward. That was enough reason to have tried in the first place. And that is a small victory over the fact that we ended up drawing the short straw out of 160 others that would have allowed our baby to live. The outcome doesn't change the fact that we acted. We believed he would live, because we believe in our son. That's what you do for your kids. You believe in them, and you give them everything you can, and you hope against all hope, and you hold on to them no matter what happens. That's all you can do. Every day. Because anything might happen. It's better than not acting. Not facing any might at all.

Today I might be pregnant. So I'd better enjoy it. Because tomorrow I might find out I'm not pregnant, and if that's the case, I'll be glad I enjoyed today, while I was still feeling hopeful. I'll be glad I spent the day making memories I can reflect on to cheer me up from the disappointment. I'll be glad I spent some time with Kam, being happy, because there need to be moments of that, too, in our lives.

Today I might be pregnant. So I'd better enjoy it. Because later I might find out I am pregnant, and if that's the case, I'll be glad I didn't waste time worrying over something that didn't happen. I'll be glad I started making happy memories of this pregnancy already, because I just can't know how much time I have to do that. I'll be glad I was already celebrating the possibility of another baby in our future, instead of obsessing over what could go wrong.

Today I might be pregnant. And I'm content with that.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Probably

Today has been hard. I only have to wait 5 more days to find out if I'm pregnant this month, but I already feel like I'm probably not. And up until now I've been pretty okay with that. But then last night I realized there are precious few months between now and Liam's due date, and I always assumed I'd be pregnant again on Liam's due date, and that would soften the blow a little bit, knowing that there's hope of holding another baby in our future. But last night I realized that might not happen.

And between that and other inadequacies I've been feeling, I let my worrying spiral out of control. I started to believe I would never bear another child. That happens to women sometimes. There's no reason it should happen to them and not to me. What if that's what God wants me for? Would I be able to stand that?

I don't know. And I really hope I never have to find out. And I'm not completely convinced I won't. But I've decided there's no point in worrying over something I can't know yet.

Here's what I do know:

Probably, I am not pregnant this month. Healthy couples only have about a 20-25% chance of conceiving in any given month.

Probably, I won't conceive before Liam's due date. Between recovering from Liam's birth, having a second miscarriage, and knowing Liam took five tries in the first place, my chance of success in just two more cycles is slim.

Probably, I will get pregnant again. I've done it twice now.

Probably, my next pregnancy will result in a healthy, living baby. After two miscarriages, statistically there's a 65% chance my next pregnancy will be carried to term.

Probably, I will have more than one living baby.

Probably, if I keep trying to have the five babies I had planned, I will have another miscarriage eventually.

Probably, I am meant to contribute to the world by just doing what I'm doing. Probably, I have made a small positive effect on most of the people in my circle, and probably I won't know about most of the results of my actions. Probably, I will never be especially well-known, and I will never have an earth shattering impact. That's how most people live their lives. Probably, there's nothing more to my life than that, and God isn't saving some especially difficult path for me. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe He is. But I don't have any way of knowing yet, and probably, He's not.

I used to hate statistics after Liam died. Statistics said Liam had passed the first trimester threshold, and that meant there was more than a 99% chance of him coming home with us safe and sound. I remember Kam and I discussing when we would announce our pregnancy and I said we've got to be luckier than 1 in 100 people. But we turned out not to be.

It's left me wondering whether that makes me special. But not in a good way. Special in a "God almost never does what He did to you, so you really have no idea what He's going to do to you next," way.

But statistics don't say that probably nothing bad will happen to you. Bad things definitely happen sometimes. Negative pregnancy tests happen sometimes. Getting turned down for the job happens sometimes. Spilling mustard on your shirt happens sometimes. And probably, almost definitely, a real statistical tragedy occurs in every single person's life at some time. You just don't know which tragedy it's going to be, because each of those statistics is so small. But probably, almost definitely, it won't be all of them.

So until I'm proven otherwise, I'm going to try to believe I'm not an exception to the statistic, every time.