I typically don’t waste a lot of time thinking about what might have been. The past is in the past and I tend to believe that the things that have happened, both good and bad, have taught me a lot about myself, about life, and about how things should be. I take what I need from those lessons and I don’t dwell a lot on the coulda, shoulda, woulda.
But, when you lose a pregnancy, you can’t help but think about the should-have-beens.
I should be feeling my baby move all over the place.
I should have been preparing the nursery by now.
My belly should be watermelon-sized and I should have a hospital bag packed.
I should have planted more in our garden this year, but since I was anticipating being pregnant this summer, I didn’t.
I shouldn’t be dreading August 20…but I am.
That’s the day (give or take a few) that we would have welcomed our little boy into the world. Evelyn would have become a big sister. Instead, he was born 24 weeks early. The baby things have been sold, the nursery is a storage room for the time being, and I’m still hanging on to the weight that I gained in the first trimester….a constant reminder, like my body won’t let go of what it already lost.
How does anybody cope with a due date after a pregnancy loss? I don’t know. I’m not even sure how to write this. I am still getting through it. In a way, I will be glad when it passes. It feels a bit like the last mountain to climb before I can work my way back to normalcy. It also feels like losing him all over again. So far, it’s just been best for me to let the feelings come, experience them, acknowledge them, honor them. They are what I have of my son….the should-have-beens.
I am grateful that Michael’s vacation time will coincide with the date and several weeks ago, I suggested we take a long trip. Yep, I’m running away from it….away from all the things that remind me of what should have been. I guess I didn’t have my head on straight when we planned the return trip because on August 20, the day I should have been holding my son, I will be sitting in a car for 12 hours, with nothing but time to think about it. Maybe that’s a good thing. I don’t know. I guess we all just muddle through this life and try to figure it out as we go. At least that’s the way I do it.
I’m hoping not to live in the should-have-been for too much longer. “Should have been” suggests that the world owes us something. It does not. We are not owed or guaranteed a single thing. I think about this when I try to figure out how we might honor our son each year. I don’t know how we will do it, but I do know when I’d like to do it and it won’t be on August 20. In the time that it’s taken me to write this, I have realized that I do have more of my son than the should-have-beens. I have what actually was. I still gave birth to him. I still got to hold him. Not many women who have miscarried get to say that. Sure, there have been times when the memory of those moments with him made this loss much more painful than my previous miscarriages. But, I’d much rather honor him on the day he was born rather than the day he should have been.
That seems like a huge step, right? Accepting what was instead of wishing for what should have been? I’ll keep working on it. One day at a time.
It’s been about a month since we lost our son and I can’t say that I am an expert on recovering from miscarriage, but I am at least feeling better and finding ways to move forward. This kind of loss is so personal and I think everyone handles it differently, but I wanted to share some things that have helped me so far because I know that overwhelming feeling that comes in waves…”How am I going to get through this?”
The first week was the hardest, but fortunately, Michael was home with me and we were able to just grieve together and to allow ourselves to feel whatever we were feeling. We had a few “normal” moments, but for the most part, we struggled. After about a week, I wrote about my experience and posted it here. That was very cathartic for me and I feel like a weight lifted after that. We are very fortunate to have a lot of amazing people around us (and far away) who showered us with phone calls, flowers, gifts, food, prayers and love. It was so comforting to be able to lean on the people we love. For me, it has also been helpful to seek out others who have been in the same situation. I joined a facebook group and some online forums that are specifically for parents who have experienced loss. There is something very healing about being able to share your experience with someone who knows your pain and it’s even more healing to be able to offer encouragement to others as they are going through their darkest hours.
One of the biggest realizations I had during both of my miscarriages was just how precious my daughter is to me. When I found out I was pregnant with her, it felt like a miracle. I had tried for so long and had been through so much before she came along. It almost seemed selfish to hope or ask for another child, but we always thought we would have another one and really wanted Evelyn to have a sibling. We were very intentional, right from the beginning, about the items we purchased (everything gender neutral) and the way we set up the nursery. We had always anticipated that there would be one more. But, after two losses, back to back, we are just not sure if we will continue to try to expand our family. We aren’t ready to take any permanent measures of prevention, but we are definitely planning to take time to heal from this loss and weigh the pros and cons of trying again…or not. As much as I wanted another child, I have always felt that if I only ever had Evelyn, that would be enough for me. I don’t want the weight of this loss to impact my relationship with her, so I am doing my best to maintain life as usual. April has been full of Easter preparations and trying to enjoy the warmer weather. I’m taking pictures again…I know that sounds weird, but I used to take so many pictures of Evelyn and over the past 6 months, I had just kind of stopped. For me, that’s a sure sign that something is wrong. I decided it’s time to take pictures again, to experience life as it happens and to really appreciate all that I have.
Keeping the faith has been a priority for me. I have been down some very difficult roads before and I recognize that these are the times to draw close to God and grow in Him. The first week after we lost our baby was hard. Really hard. On a cerebral level, I knew all the things that people say to be true. It happened for a reason. God had a plan and would use the situation for good. But, I was mad at Him. I needed to be mad at Him for a period of time. Despite my anger with God, I didn’t run away from Him. I went to church on Sunday, two days after I got out of the hospital. I started reading some devotionals that centered around grief and loss. I prayed…constantly. I talked to God and told Him about every fear, every regret, every pain. I asked Him why, over and over. I still do from time to time. I know that God can use this situation for good in my life and that He can use my experience to help other people. I don’t know what that will look like just yet, but I pray about it every day.
There was never any doubt that we would have to find a way to honor our baby. He was real to us, our child, not just a fetus…whatever that means. We got to see him and hold him. We dreamed about who he would be and how he would complete our family. I had just begun to feel movement in my belly and we took pictures of him when he was born. We had named him and talked to our daughter about all the cool things she would do with her little brother. The hospital staff who worked with us were incredible and they gave us a box which contained all kinds of keepsakes, a tiny blanket and hat, poems, a necklace and other items. We added our ultrasound photos, pictures that we took, the little outfit I bought when I found out we were having a boy and, eventually, we will add the tiny urn that holds his ashes.
I am also planning to dedicate a little section of our garden to the angels we have lost. Some friends of mine put together a gift basket for us and it contained some seeds and a decorative stone, so I am excited to get started on that as the weather warms up. I also ordered this adorable necklace, as a way to represent our family of angels, both here on earth and in heaven.
Several months ago, when we were caught in the throes of an endless winter, we reserved a little cabin for a weekend getaway in the woods. Our weekend is coming up soon and it has been nice to have something to look forward to. It will be nice to get away from our familiar surroundings, go hiking, enjoy the outdoors, sit by the fire at night, play games, and cut ourselves off from our cell phones and Netflix. We’ve also been thinking a lot about some day trips that we can take with Evelyn this summer and possibly a getaway for just Michael and me around the time of our anniversary. It’s helpful to be able to think about the future in a positive way instead of always dwelling on what could have been.
I know that there will still be difficult days ahead and that healing happens moment to moment. So, I think one of the most important things to do, if you are faced with loss, is to just give yourself time. Don’t expect to feel better tomorrow, or next week, or next month, but know that you will feel better, in your own time. As I have talked with friends who have been through miscarriage, we have been able to say that we are better, stronger people for having known and lost our angels. If you are going through this now, take heart. We will never forget, but slowly, it does get easier.
***Please, if you are currently pregnant or have suffered a pregnancy loss, please be aware that this post may contain painful triggers or graphic details that may be upsetting or distressful. Please feel free to skip this post. My intention is to remember this time and to grieve in my own way so that I can begin to heal and move forward. I also think it is important to share stories of loss, so that others who are traveling the same road can feel less alone. It is not my intention to upset my readers or to cause anyone pain or distress. Much love, Carrie***
Since my miscarriage in October, a darkness has taken up residency here. I had hoped that my most recent pregnancy would bring some light to my world (and to this blog) once again.
My second trimester started with an ultrasound around 13 weeks. Everything looked normal, although the baby wasn’t very active and the ultrasound technician wasn’t able to get the measurements he needed to complete the screening for chromosomal abnormalities. So instead, they offered me a blood test that would screen for the same issues and would give me the added bonus of knowing the baby’s gender well before my 20 week ultrasound. Once we had that ultrasound in hand and had heard the heartbeat once more, I felt comfortable sharing our good news with the world at large (aka, my facebook community). This was the week before Valentine’s Day.
In the week to follow, I had my blood drawn for the test, and about 1 week later, I received a phone call from my OB’s office. They called to share the good news that the baby was at low risk for chromosomal abnormalities and the surprising news that we were expecting a BOY! I was completely taken aback because I was pretty convinced that we were having another girl, but I was happy just the same and I knew that Michael would be elated. I ran out to the store that day to buy a cute little boy outfit and some bibs, wrapped them up, and gave them to him as a way of sharing the good news. We were so very excited and even though Evelyn was in denial for a few days (she was convinced that she wanted a sister), she came around to the idea that she would have a little brother. Michael had told me in our early days of dating that if he ever had a son, the baby would be named after his father and his oldest brother, who shared the same name and who had both passed on years before. So, we already knew what we would call him and Evelyn was excited to help us decide what his nickname would be. She started telling everyone about the baby in mom’s belly named Robbie. So, shortly thereafter, I shared the good news once again.
By this time, I was about 15 weeks pregnant and was finally starting to feel better after months of being sick. But then I got sick once more with the 24 hour stomach bug. Finally, on a Thursday, I woke up in the wee hours of the morning, starting to feel better again. I put my hand to my belly and was overcome by the “feeling” of not being pregnant anymore. At the moment, I brushed it off as just a silly paranoid feeling, but now looking back, I believe that was the moment my baby boy’s heart stopped beating. I was exactly 16 weeks pregnant. I guess it was that moment in the middle of the night that prompted me to pull out the fetal heart monitor that my friend gave me to use. I never had one with Evelyn and I had only used it a few times to hear his little heartbeat for a few seconds at a time. But this time I couldn’t find his heartbeat at all. I tried again a little later and still couldn’t find it. I started to worry, but convinced myself that it was just a fluke and that my anterior placenta was probably blocking me from hearing him. I tried again several times the following day and still couldn’t find anything. I was really starting to worry now and Michael suggested that I try to move my next doctor appointment up a little bit, so that I could have some reassurance. So I was able to schedule my appointment for Tuesday instead of Wednesday and I just did my best to convince myself that everything was fine while I waited to see the doctor.
First thing on Tuesday morning, I went in to see the midwife. I told her about my worries and she tried herself to find the heartbeat, but couldn’t find it either. At this point, I kept telling myself that everything would turn out ok on the ultrasound. She walked us to the ultrasound room and the technician put the wand on my belly. Michael was trying to wrangle Evelyn, so he didn’t see most of what transpired. But I knew right away that something wasn’t right. When we had gone for our ultrasound at 8 weeks, the technician assured us instantly that the baby was there with a nice heartbeat. This time, he didn’t say anything. I knew. I couldn’t see the baby moving on the screen and after a few seconds, I saw him look at the midwife and shake his head. She frowned and looked at me whispering, “I’m so sorry.” I couldn’t believe this was happening. Part of me already knew that he was gone, but the rest of me didn’t want to believe it. I got Michael’s attention and gave him the same head shake that told him the bad news. I think we both wanted to just break down, but we had to keep it together for Evelyn.
Next, I met with the OB and he explained the next steps. I could either have a D&E, which he said was not advised at this stage in the pregnancy, or I would have to be induced to deliver the baby. There really didn’t seem like another choice. The idea of waiting for a miscarriage to happen on it’s own seemed unthinkable and dangerous. He told us to think about it, not to wait too long, and to call to schedule the induction when we were ready.
We actually tried to entertain ourselves for the rest of the day by taking Evelyn to visit her aunt, going out to lunch, and riding the carousel at the mall. We didn’t have it in us to be cheerful around our daughter and the thought of going home just meant that we would probably break down. I was scared. I didn’t want to schedule this induction…ever. But Michael had to go back to work in two days and suggested we schedule it for the next day so that he could be there with me. I called later that day and we set it up for the following morning. I tried to do some internet research to find out what this process would be like, but it was difficult to find any two stories that were similar. I had no idea what to expect and lots of scary possibilities floating around in my head. But the one thing that echoed through every account that I read was the importance of seeing and holding the baby and taking pictures, for closure and to aid the healing process. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep very well that night.
At 7:30 the next morning we arrived at the hospital to start the process of delivering our baby. My plan is to write a separate post about the medical aspects of this whole process, for those who are interested. But I think for now it’s sufficient to say that the induction didn’t go as planned. A process that was supposed to take 12-24 hours ended up taking 48 hours because the medication that they used for induction didn’t work on me.
During my stay in the hospital, I joked with the nurses, visited with family, and tried to be strong. But in the moments that I was all alone, I cried for what I was about to lose…what I had already lost…the baby boy I would never rock, sing to, or nurse to sleep…the little brother that Evelyn would never see, never tattle on, and never teach to dance, as she once asked to do.
The waiting seemed endless. My body just would not cooperate. Michael and I spent time crying and laughing as we talked about all the people who were already holding Robbie in heaven and what each of them would teach him.
As I waited to deliver my baby, my fears vacillated between being scared to endure any pain and being afraid to actually see the baby when he came out. I wanted to get it over with, but I was afraid of what I would endure and see. I felt stuck, trapped. At the end of the second day, I still had not made any progress with the medication. The doctor started offering other options that were scary to me, but I started to feel like I didn’t have a choice. If nothing else worked, I would have to have a D&E, and that meant I would never get to see and hold my baby. I cried, prayed, and gave myself permission to let go. I begged my body to let go of my son, so that I could say my goodbyes.
I agreed to try a different method to induce labor. The doctor inserted a balloon device around my cervix and and I settled in for my second night. For the first time since I entered the hospital, I was relieved to finally feel pain. I slept through the cramping and woke every three hours when the nurses came to deliver my medication. Finally, around 4:30 am, I woke up to a severe cramp and then felt a “pop.” Finally, some movement, but no baby yet. I started to feel a lot more pain and requested some pain relief around 5am. I think that the pain meds allowed my muscles to relax enough to just let everything go. Finally, at 8:20am, I sat up in bed and felt my baby enter the world.
I was afraid to look, but had to confirm that the baby had arrived before I called the nurse. I peeked under the blankets that covered my legs and saw his little body lying there. I called the nurse and she and the OB came into the room. As he examined our baby, the OB showed us how the umbilical cord was wrapped tightly around his neck and there was also a knot in the cord. It was a relief to know that there was nobody to blame for his death. While I was waiting to deliver, I wrestled with the idea that I might have done something to harm my baby. Maybe it was something I ate, maybe it was the medication I took when I had the flu, maybe it was that one time I scooped the cat litter or drank those few sips of wine. It is comforting to know that I had done nothing to cause this. At the same time, it seems so unfair that there was nothing wrong with our little boy. He was perfect. He died from a freak accident, in the place where he should have been safer than he would ever be on this earth.
The nurse wrapped him in a blanket and put a tiny hat on his head. Then they left us so that we could have some time alone with our son. We looked at him for a long time and cried. We didn’t really exchange any words. There was nothing to say. Our beautiful, perfectly formed little boy was dead. It felt strange to do it, but I took a few pictures. I’m glad that I did, even if it’s hard to look at them now. This was my one chance to hold my little boy’s hand…and his tiny hand looks just like Evelyn’s.
Because I had reached 16 weeks, we were told that we would have to take care of making arrangements for the baby’s body. I was glad for this because I knew that it would be hard to just let him go and leave him at the hospital. We live about a block away from a funeral home and when I called them to ask about our options, I was told that they would provide cremation free of charge. It was such a blessing to discover that there would be no financial burden attached to the loss of our son. Today we chose a heart shaped locket to contain his ashes and I feel so at peace about the fact that he will be at home with us. I can’t even express how grateful I am that this part of the ordeal was so simple and handled with such compassion.
I have no idea where we go from here. It’s been one week since we learned that our baby no longer had a heartbeat, but the wound is still so fresh and I don’t think that I will be ok for very long time. I know that I have to be strong and keep going for Evelyn and for my marriage. I know that Michael is grieving too and we have just been very gentle with one another over the past week. As much as I would never wish this on anyone, it’s a comfort that I don’t have to go through it alone and I know that he understands my hurt because he is feeling it too. I know that God has a plan in all of this. I know that my son is in a better place, but it’s going to be a long time before I can even begin to understand why this happened…and maybe I will never understand it at all. But just like any child would, my son has profoundly changed me already.
When I was pregnant with Evelyn, I posted about each of my trimesters and figured I’d try to do the same this time around.
I broke all of my own TTC rules with this pregnancy. I tested way too soon, I peed on a stick every day for at least a week to watch the lines get darker, I kept on taking my temperature, even after all the positive tests. I wanted to be sure.
Pregnancy after a miscarriage is hard, but in some ways it’s also easier. My first pregnancy, before I had ever miscarried, was pretty blissful. Even though the unfortunate possibilities would occasionally swim around in the back of my head, I didn’t give in to them. That won’t happen to me. That only happens to other people. At the same time, I had to push the negative thoughts out of my head because I had convinced myself that I would never be able to survive a loss. The heartbreak would be too much for me to take after 6 long years of trying.
Now that I have experienced that loss, I have worried about every little thing and for some time I didn’t really allow myself to “believe” that I was actually pregnant. At the same time, I know if I have another loss, I will survive it. I made it through the last one and I can do it again, if that’s what I need to do. The fear of the unknown is gone to a certain extent, so that’s what makes it just a tiny bit easier. But still, every day that passes is another day for something to go wrong.
So, I was a little unnerved that I had virtually no pregnancy symptoms during the first trimester. I kept waiting for the nausea to hit me. I waited to be repulsed by certain smells and by even the thought of certain foods. I wondered when I would be hit with crippling fatigue. But, week 7 came, then week 8, then week 9…and still nothing. I was worried. I didn’t feel pregnant. Maybe it was all wrong. Maybe I was imagining it.
When I went in for my first doctor appointment, I expressed my concern over my lack of symptoms, so they arranged for me to have an ultrasound 2 days later. As soon as the tech put the wand on my belly, I could see our little peanut moving around! He told us right away that the baby was there and there was a heartbeat (178, I’m thinking girl!?) and I cried just a little as a huge surge of relief washed over me.
Despite the fact that my pregnancy symptoms have been almost non-existent, that doesn’t mean that I have had it easy. Once I had my ultrasound and was able to relax just a bit, then I got sick. One morning, I woke up with a strange rash on my back that turned out to be shingles. Fortunately, I got off pretty easy. I stressed myself out a ton, reading about shingles online and expecting to be in bed and in pain for weeks. But in the end, the rash didn’t really spread, and it only got a little itchy. But, by the time that was clearing itself up, then I came down with the flu…and I’m not talking a little cold…I’m talking monster flu. I honestly can’t remember the last time I felt so utterly sick and miserable. I spent about 3 days on the couch, unable to do much except for cough, sneeze and gag. I couldn’t even really sleep it was so bad.
I went in for my NT Scan around 12 weeks and was able to have another ultrasound. The baby was being shy and the tech could not get the measurements he needed to be able to complete the screening, so they offered me a Panorama test, which is a blood test that will check for chromosomal abnormalities and I’ll also get to find out the gender! The baby’s heart rate was 176, so I am still thinking girl. 🙂 They offered me a bunch of other tests as well, since I am considered to be high risk this time because of my age. *eye roll* I probably won’t do any of them unless some concerns arise. I also passed my first test for gestational diabetes, which was a big relief since I had to manage that with Evelyn.
One thing that is really different this time around is that I have been completely ravenous all the time. No food aversions for me…and my body wants carbs! Ugh…I’ve already gained more weight than I would like to mention and I’m a little worried that I am going to gain a lot more. My belly is popping out a lot sooner this time. At 13 weeks, I look like I did at 20 weeks with Evelyn! I wish I could say it’s all baby. Yikes!
This pregnancy has been so different from my first in so many other ways. It’s been a lot harder to sit and daydream about the little one since I am chasing after Evelyn all the time. My symptoms have been a lot milder too, so in general, I just haven’t been “feeling” pregnant. I found out that I was pregnant very early, so the time seems to be dragging on and on. At the same time, the weeks are flying by. I’m really looking forward to the second trimester, feeling movement, and beginning to prepare the nursery. And I’m hoping things will begin to calm down, so that I can just try to enjoy it for a bit, since this will very likely be my last baby. Having any more is at the top of my Murtaugh List. I’m just too old for this sh*t.
It’s been quite some time since I have posted here, and I don’t have any particular reason for staying away. I guess I just needed a break. A lot of changes over the past year have left me in a strange state. I don’t know if it’s depression or exhaustion or just indifference. You know all those big life changes that cause the most stress? Even the good ones…getting married, moving, having a baby…can take a toll. It seems I always experience big life changes in large lump sums. Never one at a time.
This year, I left my job to become a stay at home mom. It was strange at first, especially after 20 years of working. 20 years. Is that even possible? I still don’t feel like I have figured out how to be at home, but I can at least say that I have gotten used to it and it’s mostly been a great experience. I am very grateful to be able to be home with Evelyn, but at times I wonder what on earth I am doing. I sometimes feel like it was a frivolous, impulsive decision, even though we planned for it. I guess for someone who has worked so hard and been in the workplace for so long, being at home feels almost irresponsible for me. I am by no means saying that stay at home moms are frivolous or irresponsible. Being at home is hard work and taking care of children and raising them to be decent human beings is a complicated and worthy undertaking. It’s just still strange for me. I often joke that I’m going through a mid-life crisis. I probably am.
My miscarriage in October made the latter part of the year a bit of a blur. This kind of loss is weird. It’s not like a break-up, when you have someone at whom you can direct your anger and hurt. It’s nobody’s fault, so you have to just sort of move on and get past it. I don’t know how to grieve this way.
Then, only 6 weeks or so after my miscarriage, I got this…
…and I wasn’t sure how to feel about it. Of course I was happy, but also scared and worried and a bit in disbelief. The holidays came and went, I announced the pregnancy to my family and a handful of friends, but I couldn’t help but think about the fact that if the first baby had stayed, we would have been finding out the gender by then. I totally distracted myself with online shopping during the month before Christmas, buying gifts for Evelyn’s birthday and for Christmas itself. I didn’t allow myself to become too attached to this new little being and I felt like this cloud was hanging over us. I didn’t take pictures or videos, which is completely unheard of for me. For the first time since Evelyn was born, I just didn’t feel excited about much of anything. This is a pretty depressing pregnancy announcement, isn’t it?
I’m still trying to work my way out of that funk and it’s been hard because I have also been physically unwell. I am planning to write soon about my first trimester, but to make a long story short, I have been in physical pain for months (back, sciatic) and have had multiple illnesses over the past few months (shingles, influenza). It’s been a rough year so far, but I am trying to move forward. I will be starting physical therapy sessions next week and I have slowly recovered from the other sickness that has had me down.
I am looking forward to Spring and to many happy occasions that my family will be celebrating this year…graduations, a wedding, our baby. I’m working on my spiritual growth, which is something that I have neglected for far too long. I hope to be posting here more often again and I am finally starting to feel attached to the new little alien in our lives. Evelyn is insisting that it’s a girl and we should be able to find out for sure in a few weeks…and it’s nice to finally see a light at the end of this dark tunnel I have been walking through.
Most of the people in my life didn’t even know I was pregnant. Even those closest to me had only just learned the news when our baby left us.
Over the past year, I had seen so many friends miscarry that I thought somehow that I could be “safe” if I just waited to tell everyone. But, safe from what? Safe from the loss? Safe from having to deliver bad news? Nobody wants to have to say those words, but healing doesn’t happen in secret. It doesn’t happen in darkness.
We had just begun to tell our closest family the news when the bleeding started. I spent the second half of that day with my family in a complete fog…that day that was supposed to be so happy…that day we had decided weeks before that we would share the great news of a new baby on the way. I dragged myself home to lie down, but sleep didn’t come. I tossed and turned and in between tears and fervent prayers, I squinted at the blue light of my phone, looking for hope and answers on the internet. I found myself straddling a fine line between hope and surrender, not wanting to allow either one to completely overtake me. Michael was at work and I was home alone and mainly I was scared that I would lose our baby all alone in the dark.
I spent another half a day in a fog of sadness, trying desperately to keep my daughter from seeing my tears and from feeling my despair. When the baby finally left me, it came as a relief. Though not the resolution I wanted, it was at least a release from the unknown and the fear.
I was ten weeks pregnant and had six glorious weeks of planning and dreaming about who this new little person might be. I swooned at the idea of Evelyn becoming a big sister and couldn’t wait for her to be able to feel little baby kicks in my tummy. It’s amazing how quickly a mama (and daddy) brain can wrap itself around the idea of new baby. The connection is almost instantaneous. The love hits you like ton of bricks.
I wasn’t prepared for this. I was so certain about this baby right from the start. I knew I was pregnant long before the test told me so.
In the days leading up to my miscarriage, we had just started to tell Evelyn about the baby in mommy’s belly and she was certain that it was a boy baby. I like to think that maybe she knew something that the rest of us couldn’t have known. She proudly sported her ‘Big Sister’ T-shirt and announced the news to my parents. It feels so unfair that she won’t ever get to play with him and boss him around.
We had started to plan for the nursery and I bought a few teeny tiny cloth diapers from a friend. We even had the names all ready to go. This baby was real to us, even though we hadn’t yet seen him on a screen or heard a little heartbeat.
My thoughts and words here are starting to ramble as I try to make sense of something that can’t be explained away. I know I am only at the beginning of the grieving process, and I can’t fully articulate everything that I am thinking and feeling. But, I feel like talking about this loss is a way of remembering my baby. As Michael and I stopped for food after our long ER visit, I noticed the the other diners happily chatting away, waitresses cleaning tables and everyone just going about their business as the reality of our loss weighed heavily on our weary hearts. It was a great reminder to me that you really never know what other people are going through, what tragedy may have just fallen upon them.
While I have no regrets about waiting to tell people about my pregnancy, it scares me to think that I could just go about my business and most people would never even know what happened. They wouldn’t ever know that my baby existed. But, he did exist and he was loved and cherished and dreamed about and prayed for. For a time, however brief, he was ours.
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If you’re starting to think about trying to get pregnant or you’ve been trying for a few months, there are some things you can do to help the process and to learn more in general about your body and how it works. Unfortunately, for many people, getting pregnant isn’t as simple as just “doing it.” When you think about the odds and what has to happen in order for conception to occur, it’s a miracle any of us were even born. But, you can increase your chances and maybe even help things along with a few simple tools.
When I first started trying to conceive (TTC) back in 2005, I enlisted the help of an online forum and learned a lot from the ladies there. Here’s a list of some of the items I used most and that are commonly used by women who are TTC.
Taking Charge of Your Fertility
I’m just gonna start this list off with a bold statement. Every woman should own this book. Every single one. Buy this book and then save it for your future daughter. Whether you are trying to get pregnant or not, it’s full of information about how the female body works. It teaches you how recognize signs of ovulation using 3 key indicators. This is also great if you are trying to prevent pregnancy without the use of hormonal contraceptives. It’s also just pretty cool to realize what’s going on in your body…or maybe I’m just a total nerd. Also, you’ll learn in depth how to use the rest of the items on this list. Are you getting the point? Buy this book.
Basal Digital Thermometer
By taking your temperature every day at the same time, as soon as you wake, and before getting out of bed, you can track your body’s shift in temperature after ovulation. A basal thermometer differs from a regular thermometer in that it can detect more subtle fluctuations in temperature, but I suppose a regular digital thermometer could work just as well, as long as you stick with the same thermometer throughout your cycle. Unfortunately, you can’t really predict your ovulation day with the temperatures, but you can tell when you’ve ovulated after the fact and over the course of a few months, you will be able to detect patterns in your cycles (unless you’re wildly irregular like me).
Ovulation Predictor Kit
I only tried to use OPKs for a brief period of time, but they are pretty popular with many women who are TTC. These look like a pregnancy test, but they detect leuteinizing hormone in you urine. This hormone surges about 24 hours before ovulation, so by peeing on a stick every day starting around day 10 of your cycle, you can see the surge and know when to do the deed.
I love this site. I started using it way back when I started TTC in 2005 and it’s like an old friend (no pun intended). I briefly tried other sites and apps, but quickly went back to Fertility Friend. I have years worth of data saved there. It’s a free service that offers paid premium options. They will occasionally treat your to a few days of premium service so you can try it out. The software helps you to keep track of your cycles, daily temps, OPKS and other fertility signs. It estimates your ovulation date, based on the information you enter and helps you to predict your next ovulation day. It’s also a great resource for learning how to temp, chart, and use OPKs.
When you are TTC, you will probably want to have some home pregnancy tests on hand. Just a word of warning here…testing too early can be problematic and having easy access to pregnancy tests can be stressful. After many months of trying and testing with no positive results, I decided it would be better to just wait for Aunt Flo to show up. Having tests on hand was too tempting and seeing the blank white space staring back at me was too disappointing month after month.
Try not to panic if it doesn’t happen right away. TTC can quickly get the best of otherwise sane and rational people (like me). Be kind to yourself and your partner and read this. Give it some time before seeking medical intervention…about a year if you’re healthy and under 35 and about 6 months if you are over 35.
Trying to get pregnant can be an emotional ride and it’s not always as easy as it seems like it should be. It took me 6 years to get pregnant with my first and we’ve been trying for #2 for about 10 months now. I go through phases of hardcore “trying” and other phases of just letting it go and hoping for the best. After 2 chemical pregnancies, I am trying to just relax right now.
How long have you been TTC? What tools do you use to help things along?
It all started when I went for my 38 week appointment with the midwife and after looking at my chart, she informed me that the OB wanted to induce me at 39 weeks. Why? Because of my GD and for no other reason. It doesn’t matter that my blood sugar was fine and my ultrasounds and non stress tests had been great. Apparently, it’s protocol to induce at 39 weeks. I don’t like being treated like a “case” or a number. If the doctor had some reason to induce that’s specific to me or my baby, then I would consider it. But to just say, “You have GD. You need to be induced,” I don’t accept that.
The midwife checked me and I was not dilated or effaced at all, which means my cervix was not ready for labor. From what I have read (and heard from others’ experience), induction without any dilation or signs of the cervix being ripe just means long hours of hard labor that tend to end in a c-section. That was NOT a part of my plan. I wanted to wait for the baby to be ready to come on her own. Initially, I refused the induction and scheduled a biophysical profile (to check the well-being of the baby) and a meeting with the OB to discuss my options. Michael and I planned to meet with him, put off the induction until at least my due date, and then pray that she came on her own before then.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go well with the biophysical profile. My amniotic fluid levels had greatly increased in a week’s time, from a 22 (mildly high) to a 31 (OMG high) and the baby showed very little movement during the ultrasound. We only scored a 4 out of 8 and our doctor was concerned. He wanted me to go to the hospital for monitoring at the very least and induction that day. I was still reluctant to do it, but I was also worried about the baby and I didn’t want to take any chances, so we went over to the hospital and were admitted around 3:30pm on Monday.
I felt defeated and I cried a lot that first night. I knew I wasn’t ready and I knew the baby wasn’t ready, but I was still worried that something might be wrong. At the same time, I knew I was in for a long ordeal and I gave myself permission to make myself as comfortable as possible. The midwife and nurse gave me a few choices on how to get started and in the end we decided to start pitocin at a very low rate and then gradually increase it to try and get my cervix to be more favorable. Over the first few hours I started to feel some mild contractions, but nothing that was more than slightly uncomfortable. For me the worst part was having the IV and all the wires hooked up to me. I was stuck in the bed and couldn’t move without having to rearrange everything. Every position was uncomfortable and the whole thing made me feel very claustrophobic. Add to that the fact that I was scared out of my mind and had no idea what to expect and you can imagine how much anxiety I was experiencing. There were definitely a few moments when I felt like I was going crazy. I think the midwife and nurse were sensing my distress and suggested that we turn off the pitocin for the night and resume it in the morning, so that I could get a good night’s rest, since they knew we were in for a long ride.
Tuesday is quite a blur, so I will do my best to recall the events. In the morning, the nurse started my pitocin again and we just waited for it to do it’s thing. I tried to rest as much as possible, but I was still so anxious about the whole thing. As they increased the pitocin, I started to feel some contractions, but they were just mildly uncomfortable. The nurse was concerned that my contractions weren’t happening as regularly as they should and the baby’s heart rate and movements were not very variable. They started to worry about her reaction to the pitocin. I remember at one point they asked me to put on an O2 mask and that just about pushed me over the edge. Having that mask stuck to my face only added to my stress, but apparently the baby liked it and she started to show improvement. Things went on like this for awhile, monitoring the baby and just waiting. At one point, the midwife checked my cervix and, though I was only 1 cm dilated, she tried to break my water. It was excruciating and she was unable to break it, so I had to look forward to the OB coming in to try it again. Fortunately, that happened a little bit later and I was a little further dilated, so he was able to break it with a little less pain for me. Because I had polyhydramnios, there was a TON of fluid and there was meconium in the fluid because the baby had a bowel movement. I was scared to death, but the doctor and midwife didn’t seem concerned. They said it was very light. Still, I was worried that the baby was in distress, and I know the midwife and nurses were worried too. I think at one point I came very close to having a c-section and my mom told me later that one of the nurses said she couldn’t believe I was still there when she returned for her next shift. She had been certain that I would be going in for a c-section. The baby’s heart rate and activity were still not as variable as they wanted to see, so we made the decision to have a monitor placed in her scalp. The nurse and midwife told me that it would give a more accurate reading of her heart rate. Once that was in place (another painful experience for me) she seemed to be doing a lot better and I had yet another wire to contend with.
Once my water was broken and they increased the pitocin, my contractions started to get more and more painful. I tried my best to really focus on letting go and not fighting the pain, but eventually they got strong enough that it was very hard to know how to do that. At that point, I wasn’t quite ready to get the epidural, but I was getting close and the nurse told me it might be a good idea to get it then, so I agreed and she called the anesthesiologist. Once the epidural was in, I couldn’t feel a thing and I was able to rest and sleep much better than I had before. I think this was around 9:30 or 10:00pm and we had nothing left to do but wait for the pitocin to do its work and dilate my cervix.
On Wednesday morning, they checked my cervix and I was dilated further, but I can’t remember how far. Eventually, I got to a 9 and then almost completely dilated, except for a small lip. The nurse, Michael, and my mom moved me into different positions to try to get the lip to disappear. They even had me on hands and knees, despite the epidural and the fact that I couldn’t feel my legs. Finally, it was time to start pushing. It was frustrating for me at first, because I couldn’t feel much and I couldn’t tell if my pushes were being productive at all, but I had to fight off that feeling and just tell myself I could do it. Eventually, I did something right and everyone started cheering me on and telling me to push that way again. My contractions were still really irregular and kind of far apart, so we chatted and joked around in between each one and I would have to tell everyone when it was time to start pushing again. I remember, at one point, the nurse telling my mom and Michael to come and look at the baby’s head and all the hair. Hearing Michael’s excitement over seeing her head and her hair brought happy tears to my eyes for the first time. I knew we were getting closer. I didn’t look at the clock at all for most of the time I was in the hospital. That’s why the the details and sequence of events are a bit fuzzy for me, but I knew that if I was watching the clock, I would be discouraged too easily. After pushing for awhile, the midwife was still having trouble getting the baby’s head out. She told me that she would need to do an episiotomy and I was just ready to meet my baby, so I told her to go ahead (fortunately I didn’t feel a thing). I pushed a few more times and after 2 hours of pushing, Evelyn Joy finally made her way into the world. Her cord was wrapped around her neck, but the midwife quickly slipped it off and Evelyn cried right away. They put her on my chest, but I couldn’t see her face because her back was toward me. I was able to hold her for a few seconds and when I felt her warm, slimy little body in my hands, the rest of the world seemed to blur and fade away. They rushed Michael to cut the cord so that she could be checked by a pediatrician and his team. The midwife delivered the placenta and the OB came in to stitch me up, but I don’t remember much about that because I was too busy trying to catch a glimpse of my little girl. When they put her on the scale her weight came up at 6 lbs, 13 oz. I was surprised because we were expecting a much bigger baby. I felt so relieved when they unhooked all the monitors and brought her back to me to breastfeed. She latched on like a champ and I finally got to look into her eyes and see her sweet face for the first time.
The nurse offered me something to drink and I sucked down a Coke like it was my job. I hadn’t really eaten anything since I’d been admitted and wasn’t really allowed to drink anything either once they had determined I might need a c-section. I think it was the best Coke I’ve ever had. After about an hour, a nurse brought Evelyn to my room and we got to spend some time getting to know each other. There aren’t any words to describe the connection between a new mom and her baby, someone who you know so intimately and yet seems like a little stranger at the same time. Love 🙂
Entering into the third trimester seemed to turn on a switch of discomfort and overall grumpiness. It started out pretty crappy with the results of my glucose tolerance test coming back high…no make that a little high and only on one of the three blood draws they took. Apparently the doctor wasn’t concerned about it because he made no marks on my chart, but the nurse decided to refer me to a diabetes center anyway. I had to meet with a diabetes nurse who counseled me about what to eat and how to test my blood sugar 4 times daily. I was given the task of reporting to her weekly with my numbers. At first, I was very annoyed and upset with the whole thing, since I have tried so hard to take care of myself and eat healthy through my pregnancy, but I guess I would rather be safe than sorry and I will do what I have to do to make sure that we are both healthy. One thing I couldn’t compromise on though is adding a lot of carbs back into my diet. Yes, they want me, a person with GD, to eat MORE carbs than I am already eating. I allowed it to be an excuse for me to eat some previously avoided foods for about 5 minutes until I discovered that adding those carbs back in really made my blood sugar rise. So, now I am trying my best to keep things under control and eating fairly primal once again.
30 weeks and still feeling pretty good 🙂
On October 6, I had a doctor’s appointment and the midwife told me that because I have gestational diabetes, I have to have weekly sonograms and non-stress tests. I had the first of these on October 21 and the sonographer was able to tell us that the baby is indeed still a girl and she has some hair growing on her head. She was head-down and covering her face with her hands, so we had a hard time seeing her profile. She seems to be measuring right on track, weighing in at 4 pounds, 7 ounces. That seems a little big to me, but he said she’s in the average range, so hopefully that means I won’t be delivering a 9-10 pound baby. The non-stress test wasn’t too bad. I had to go to the hospital and they put me in a bed, strapped a monitor onto my belly, and monitored her movements and heartbeat for about 20 minutes. I could have easily fallen asleep on the bed while I waited, but someone was giving birth just down the hall and let’s just say that the sounds had me a little unnerved for the rest of the day.
Then came a strange turn of events. Michael and I spent a week in Philadelphia, house and dog-sitting for his brother. We spent the first 3-4 days doing a lot of sightseeing and walking. Lots and lots of walking. I was exhausted. I could barely make it a block or two without having to stop to catch my breath and take a break. On top of that, almost as soon as I started moving, I also started contracting. I think during at least one of these days I had a non-stop contraction for the entire time we were out and about. I became very discouraged that I was feeling so bad so soon. I expected my last month to be pretty miserable, but I was never expecting to feel so miserable so early on.
It’s a good thing we were able to find lots of benches in Philly. I had to stop for frequent rests.
Resting the bump.
On Thursday of that week, we decided to drive to the mall in Cherry Hill, New Jersey and have a leisurely day of shopping. My body had other plans. As soon as I walked into the first store, I felt a gush of fluid and after going to the bathroom, discovered that it was blood. So, Michael and I made our way to the nearest emergency room and I was admitted. As soon as they got me into a bed and started checking my vitals, I began to feel dizzy and sick, like I was going to pass out. Sure enough, within a few minutes, I had blacked out and vomited. At that point, they hooked me up to an IV and started doing all kinds of tests. I had bloodwork, a sonogram, and a non-stress test, but nothing seemed to show any problems and there was no more bleeding the rest of the day. After a long, long day in the ER, we finally got to head home around 9pm with no real answers as to why I had been bleeding.
We took it easy on Friday and basically just rested at the house. Since my tests had been good, my doctor didn’t make me come home right away. One interesting piece of information they had given me at the hospital was that I had abnormally high levels of amniotic fluid, but I had no idea what that meant.
We finally made it home and back to reality. My first day back to work was on Halloween and it was pretty miserable. I had more bleeding and had to make another trip to the hospital. They ran me through the same battery of tests and still were unable to find anything wrong with the baby. My doctor told me I would need to be off of work until I could get into his office to see him, so I managed to get an appointment for the next day. He also commented on my high levels of amniotic fluid and said that it was probably related to the gestational diabetes and could mean an early delivery. He recommended…no, insisted…that I drink a gallon of water a day and continue to come in for weekly sonograms and non-stress tests. Fortunately, he didn’t put me on bedrest. While I would have liked to be off work until the baby’s arrival, I really didn’t want to use up all my sick time before the baby was even born.
The weeks that followed have been full of ups and downs, days of feeling fairly decent and days of feeling completely miserable. I started seeing a chiropractor for some back pain I was having and all the water drinking did help with my Braxton Hicks contractions a little bit.
Although the third tri has been hard, there have been some good things happening too. My mom, grandma, sister Chelsea, and friend Holly threw me a great baby shower and I got a lot of beautiful things for the baby. They helped me get the nursery painted, Michael put the crib together, and I got all the baby’s clothes and diapers washed and prepped to go. Then the girls I supervise at work threw me a little baby shower during one of our staff meetings. It’s so nice to work around a group of supportive women who really care and understand. We picked up a few last minute items that hadn’t been purchased or given to us and have been busying ourselves with the last minute details like packing my hospital bag, getting the car seat ready, and putting the finishing touches on the nursery.
Baby is very active and likes to kick, punch, and roll all over the place, but at least she’s pretty calm at night…I hope that means she is going to be a good sleeper! Michael has been my hero in every way, picking up the slack at home and taking care of things that I just can’t do anymore. Even though I tease him about it, he’s always looking out for me, making sure I am drinking enough water and putting up with my whining when I’m having aches and pains. I seriously could not imagine doing this alone. He’s been so amazing. I couldn’t ask for more.
So, I’ve finally come up on 37 weeks, which means the baby is technically full-term and could come any day now. My weekly appointments, tests, and ultrasounds continue and I’m trying to get things caught up at work so that I can just forget about all of it while I’m on maternity leave. I really think the baby is going to take her time. I had my first cervix check today and she is head-down and ready to go, but I am not dilated or effaced yet. All that’s left to do is wait….
I am a perfectionist. As a result of my condition, I am also a control freak. I have a tendency to do most things for myself because I want them done a certain way, and when things aren’t going well for me, I tend to try to figure out what I’ve done wrong and how I can fix it. I put a lot of pressure on myself and sometimes the pressure mounts and peaks and explodes in an emotional meltdown, which usually results in crying. Not a pretty sight.
I haven’t really used this blog as a forum to talk about my spiritual beliefs or to reflect on morality or religion. I haven’t avoided it exactly, I’ve just tried to keep things light and fun and not too serious. But every once in awhile something happens, I shift into a reflective mood, and I have to sort it all out. Something like that happened in the past few weeks and I have been trying to make sense of it. Three weeks ago I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. You may be thinking that’s not a big deal, that many women go through it and it’s easily managed…and you would be right. But for a perfectionist like me, who’s had a “perfect” pregnancy thus far, it came to me as a huge failure on my part. After all, I changed my diet, I got pregnant, I kept myself healthy and it’s been smooth sailing.
Back in April, when I saw those 2 blue lines on that pregnancy test, I got down on my knees, thanked God for His blessing, for this beautiful gift, and cried my eyes out. Praised Him and sobbed. And it’s been pretty much all about me ever since then. I got myself healthy and I had the power to keep myself that way. I wouldn’t suffer from the ailments that other pregnant women complain about because I had it all under control. Then, despite all my best efforts, despite my diet, despite any knowledge I thought I might have had, those test results came back and I was branded with this diagnosis, gestational diabetes. Suddenly, I wasn’t in control anymore. I had a nurse telling me what to eat and that I had to test my blood everyday and report back to her with the numbers, so that she could monitor me. For me, this felt like a huge insult to my ability to take care of myself and to know what’s best for me and my baby. Then I went to the doctor and they told me that because of the diabetes, I would need to have an ultrasound and a non-stress test every week for the duration of my pregnancy. Again, I felt like somehow I had done something wrong and that I was being punished for it. “We have to watch her. She’s a bad mom and she can’t take care of herself.” You might say I have some serious issues with pride.
You would think that I would have learned this lesson by now….that I am not in control. The journey to have a baby has been a long one and for a long time I tried to be in control of it too. I took my temperature daily to find out when I was ovulating, I tried ovulation strips, I obsessed about things happening with my body that most women don’t even notice. I was sure that if I did everything right, I would eventually get pregnant. And all the while, I heard a little voice in my ear telling me to let it go, hand it over, it wasn’t my situation to control. Sometimes I was able to do that…for a little while. But my need to be in control always took over and I ended up right back where I started. Eventually, the rug was pulled out from under me and my chance of ever becoming a parent was snatched away from me when I went through a painful divorce. I was forced to my knees and forced to give the situation over to God. My only option was total surrender.
Now I find myself in this place where I truly never thought I’d be. In fact, just a few weeks prior to taking that test, Michael and I had a serious talk about foster care and adopting. But God had other plans for us. And I’m still learning lessons the hard way. Still stumbling along on this journey and making mistakes. I’m sure I will make many more. And I wonder how many more times I will have to be humbled to realize that I cannot be perfect and that anything good or perfect that comes from me is not my doing alone. Our little girl is not my perfection. She is His perfection.
Once again, I have to let go. Let go of control. Let go of perfect. And put in all in the hands of the One who made any of this possible.