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Not long ago my dad asked me if pregnancy was everything I thought it would be. . .or something along those lines.

I hesitated to answer him because my first thought was “well, I could have done without the anxiety.” So, my simple answer was yes, overall, and I’ve enjoyed experience. And I have. . .there’s no way to convey the wonder of feeling life inside of you, even as you look forward to having your feet return to normal.

But the exchange did cause me to reflect on the last nine months.

The summer of 2019, when people would ask if I left my job to have children, I would explain that we chose a new lifestyle regardless of our parent status future. I’ve mentioned before that we were actually far into the process of accepting that children weren’t part of our future. To find out we were pregnant in January 2020 was both exciting and terrifying.

Anxiety can rob one of joy if you let it. My anxiety, while it came from honest and heartbreaking experience, threatened to do just that. I’m aware that even had I been capable of avoiding the impact of four pregnancy losses, I very likely would have had other fears and concerns with which to struggle.

For much of the first trimester, very few people knew we were pregnant. It was a conscious decision, one we agonized over. On one hand, we’re excited. On the other, what if we lose this one. On one hand, we want support. On the other, we want to protect ourselves and others. Slowly, the circle widened. . .some on purpose, some by accident.

First trimester was largely Steven and I wrapping our heads around making it one week further than before. And then making it another week more than that. While anxiety and fear were still there, hope began to shine stronger. I began to appreciate all the physical signs, perhaps a bit more gratefully than I would have otherwise.

Grasshopper’s anatomy scan, 19 weeks 4 days.

We had to address my anxiety on several occasions throughout the pregnancy. In the beginning, it was closely tied to the losses. That actually may have been the easiest to deal with. I simply quit looking things up. Turns out I don’t need to know about all things pregnant. I just need to experience them. And if it’s something that really had me concerned, I called my provider. Some people are quite the opposite. However, once I accepted that A) knowing wasn’t going to change the outcome, B) women have been giving birth without Google and WebMD for centuries, and C) I really do trust my medical team, things got way easier.

The anxiety that has been more difficult to conquer has been of the emotional, relationship kind. I am naturally an introvert. I am naturally independent. Pregnancy, in my experience, causes those core traits to be jeopardized by the expectations of others. I struggled finding balance for what I needed and what I felt people around me wanted. It caused stress for me because I also like for people to be pleased. I didn’t know who I was supposed to be. Interestingly, pregnancy inspired in me a desire to be even more introverted. I wanted to guard myself in my own house. I feared it came across as selfish, which wasn’t my intention, only my emotional response to what I was experiencing. I also struggled with people wanting to be “involved.” I couldn’t really figure out how or what they wanted to be involved in though I did understand their desire came from a place of excitement. I appreciated when people asked how I was doing, and I was happy to share, but I was unlikely to just offer information, even to my family.

This was the stress and anxiety that proved the most difficult to handle for our pregnancy. Because while pregnancy is very personal, it is far from private. Navigating this part of the experience is what came as the biggest surprise to me. . .not the physical changes. Suddenly, it felt as if our core personalities and tendencies were being challenged and requested to change.

So, yes, I could have done without the anxiety. But in the end, perhaps these trials have shown us both things about who we are as individuals and as a couple. We worked through all of this together. Coming up with plans, examining root causes, and practicing communication skills. Maybe, in the end, this part of the experience will greatly benefit us as parents as we navigate the definite anxieties that will come bringing up Grasshopper.

Grasshopper 37 weeks. . .weighing in at over 10 pounds.

Overall, pregnancy has been a blessing. Not necessarily easy 100% of the time. But a period of our lives that I will be able to look back on and say that was an amazing 40 weeks (or the current 37 weeks and 3 days. . .that would be fine with me). Steven and I grew in so many ways (not just our waistlines. . .yes, his too!). It helped shape us and prepare us to continue through this journey, anxiety and all, together.

Growing Grasshopper

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My last post, about a month ago, focused on the emotions associated with pregnancy after loss.  I was struggling with the juxtaposition of excitement and fear.  I was envious of women who do not have that conflict in their pregnancies.  I think what I was trying to get across in that post that women who are “PALs” (pregnancy after loss) have some struggles to which those around them should be sensitive.  We’re happy and excited.  But we’re also keenly aware of the fragility of pregnancy at any stage. I don’t know if I conveyed that or not.

I would like to let any of my faithful readers know that even as I wrote that, I was working with my health care team to address my anxieties and issues in a healthy and beneficial way.  To that end, I’m doing much better now.  That is not to say that anxiety is eradicated, but I’m managing it well.

And Grasshopper is growing (as am I)! We had our anatomy scan this past Friday.  Steven is still not allowed in the appointments with me (we’re hoping that will change by July) and I was slightly apprehensive.  However, the first thing the technician did was confirm Grasshopper’s strong heartbeat and then we moved from his (I’m just picking a pronoun. . .) head to his toes.

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Grasshopper gets ready to hide his face.

All of the anatomy was accounted for and located in the appropriate places.  The tiny little kidneys were both getting blood.  The belly didn’t look so tiny, though I’m sure it’s perspective.  My favorite was a little video of the arm coming up to the face.  It’s as if he’s waving and saying, “Hi, Mama!” I was also amused that every time she turned on the 3D scanner, he would waste little time getting his hands and arms up around his face.  My doctor has declared everything “beautiful” and predicted a big baby in our future. . .Grasshopper measured 2 weeks further along than I actually am.  No, the due date isn’t wrong. Both sides of the family just grow ’em big.  (I was a whopping 12lbs 9oz. . .but that’s a story for later). When Steven saw the pictures (he was waiting in the parking lot) he said, “I think he has your nose.” But he also says that Grasshopper looks like Gollum, so I’m not entirely sure how to take that.

It is at this point that I feel true excitement.  I felt a lot of weight lift after this appointment.  This is not to say that I think I’m free and clear now.  Because I’m not…reality is all to real to me.  But I have noticed the difference in the way I share information. . .my own tone and excitement.  I spent the day with my best friend after that appointment, and I got sick of me talking about it.  I can’t imagine what she was feeling.  But she is full of grace, so she just let me gush.

Our lives have been so completely changed by each pregnancy and this one is no different. How blessed we are.

 

ROY G B. .

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I have wanted to write something for several weeks.  Twelve weeks to be exact.

But I don’t know how to say all the things I want to say. Maybe because I’m not sure how to feel all the things I’m feeling.

When we lost our third baby, I had the thought that I was building a rainbow, because, you see, a baby after pregnancy loss is called a rainbow baby.  I’m not entirely sure I like that. I get it.  I understand the reference.  But it’s a lot of pressure in a weird way. And, sadly, I don’t really know how to verbalize that any better.

I also struggle with the idea that I’m a mother.  Even though when people ask if we have any children I always respond with “we have four in Heaven” I’m not sure that it completely qualifies me as a mother.  I like the idea of it.  I did cradle four lives within me for an ever brief time.  And I love all four of them. But. . .I didn’t do anything of my own volition. What happened within me was without my direction, my power, my consent. Does that truly mean I mothered? Equally confounding to me is the fact that when I get to Heaven I will recognize all four of those lives individually because I do know them as their mother. It’s a truly exhausting circle I find myself in.

But, if you’ve looked at the title, and you’ve read that paragraph about rainbow babies, you’re starting to have some questions.  I have five letters up there.

Yes. We are expecting again.  We are 16 weeks in our fifth pregnancy.  So far, everything is going well. The baby is in the right place. The baby has a strong and appropriate heart beat. At the six week ultrasound baby measured larger than expected.  We left that ultrasound somewhat in a daze as, out of the six we’ve had, it’s the first one where we haven’t been given some kind of cautionary statement.  At my last appointment, the baby (we call it Grasshopper) had to be chased down to get a good heart reading and the doctor declared my baby pouch was just beginning (maybe we should have called it Roo).  I have experienced the wonderful exhaustion of creating a human and the short-lived, yet apparent, strange cravings.  For the first couple of weeks, I wanted grapefruit.  I don’t even like grapefruit.

So, Grasshopper is doing well. And most days, I am too.  I embrace all the weirdness of pregnancy. . .I try to embrace being “Pregnant Season” rather than just Season.

I have said that surviving pregnancy loss is the hardest thing I’ve done.  But now I may have to amend it.  Being pregnant after pregnancy loss may be the hardest thing I’m doing.

I knew that PTSD can be an impact of pregnancy loss.  I’ve even discussed with professionals how that may manifest itself.  It seems that it may be showing up in me with education.  My OB wants me to view and participate in some online education about pregnancy.  I’m trying.  But we’re finding that instead of focusing on the things that are good, my brain is getting super focused on all the information about what can go wrong.  The lesson suggests certain things you should call your doctor about immediately, and suddenly, I’m worried that I may have that symptom. My anxiety peaks immensely when I do these programs.  The only one that hasn’t caused a peak is the one on breastfeeding.  We’ve also noticed that about 2 or 3 days out from an appointment, my anxiety starts to peak.  I fear that “the other shoe is going to drop” at this appointment.  Add in the factor that during our current pandemic, Steven isn’t allowed in my appointment with me, and I’m through the roof.  Because what if something has gone wrong, and I find out all by myself in that room?

We laugh a little.  Usually it’s Steven who jumps to the worst case scenario. Our roles have reversed during the last 12 weeks.  It’s him who is reassuring me and helping me see some logic. I feel Grasshopper moving, not all the time, but occasionally (though I started to question that after one of the education lessons because it said women don’t feel their babies until 20 weeks). There will be some lower abdomen pain because the uterus is growing. . .it’s not because I’m having contractions.  I don’t have any bleeding or other unusual discharge.  Everything is fine.

He must be exhausted.

I know I am.

This is hard.  I don’t want to shortchange Grasshopper or myself or Steven in this experience. I want to enjoy this pregnancy, even the not so glorious parts of it. And most of all, when Grasshopper gets here, I want to be able to tell him/her {we’re not finding out} that while it was hard at times, I was glad to do it. I don’t want my child to think I suffered, any more so than any other pregnant lady, to bring him/her into the world.  I don’t want Grasshopper to ever feel that any of my struggles were his/her fault. Grasshopper didn’t ask for this.

Truthfully, I didn’t either.