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And the world kept turning

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Nugget: grew up until a little over 7 weeks.

Today, Nugget would be four.

I wonder what he would be doing (we don’t actually know Nugget was a boy–call it mother’s intuition). What kind of questions would he be asking me? What would be his favorite toy? Would he love Sesame Street? What crazy antics would I do to get his smile to light up a room?

I remember vividly the feeling of air leaving my body when we were told that Nugget was gone. And then the tunnel. I have no other words for it. Maybe an echo chamber? Other than Steven everyone else seemed so far away. Voices seemed faint. I do remember the ultrasound tech placing her hand on my knee; it was cool. She had to take pictures and do measurements.

Such an amazing creature, our Peter.

The corner room on the maternity hall was tiny. The bed tiny, but at some point, I asked Steven to crawl into it with me. That’s when I was able to sleep.

Nugget’s loss changed everything.

Some of it is good. Steven and I strengthened our relationship through the suffering. Purpose. We are also, perhaps, more appreciative of the arrival of Peter. Amazed at his existence and his growing and his learning. And his smile.

But, I still struggle with some rather intense feelings in August and in January related to our little Nugget and the what ifs.

I certainly would have like to have known him longer.

His Timing

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Our first pregnancy, Nugget

Yesterday, December 3, 2020, marked the anniversary of mine and Steven’s journey to parenthood. It was four years ago that we discovered we were pregnant for the first time, and our lives were forever changed.

I wanted to write something yesterday, but I didn’t know how to formulate my thoughts. Then, tonight, we did our Advent devotion. We use the devotional I wrote called God’s Gift. I posted it here last year. I can’t lie. It was strange to be on this side of that penning. To know, with realness, the joy that Sarah references.

I’ve talked about our journey on multiple occasions. The pain and confusion. The grief. The little moments of joy that we found through it. The desire for it to be used for something greater than ourselves. And while we were prepared for our story to have a much different ending, here we are in the midst of a parenting adventure with Peter.

And it’s His timing that has brought it about. Numerous examples exist explaining why His timing is better than anything Steven and I could have orchestrated. I was able to retire from my job and am home. Steven had accumulated enough time to have paid leave for an extended period. A promotion was a possibility–with it a change in schedule that we were able to “test drive” before a decision had to be made. And, frankly, a pandemic.

Meeting my son for the first time having to wear a mask.

I don’t know if I can explain that last one to my, or anyone else’s, satisfaction. It’s about more than Peter giving us something good to focus on in a difficult year. We are familiar with difficult years–this one was just a different difficult. The pandemic has sharpened our focus on our family unit. Honestly, I’m grateful for the unique backdrop that is Peter’s birth year. The masks, the social distancing, the learning new ways to be community. The world that we brought Peter into is markedly different than the world we left behind December 31, 2019. It’s a new opportunity, more starkly apparent than ever before. I often feel that too many people are too eager to throw out the blessings of this year because they came wrapped in disappointments, heartaches, and raindrops.

I read recently in Rachel Held Evans’ Inspired something said by Ellen Davis: “From [Job] above all others in scripture, we learn that the person in pain is a theologian of unique authority. . .qualified to speak of God in a way that others, whom we generally call more fortunate, cannot speak” (97). Job has resonated with me over the last four years already. {Peter’s life verse actually comes from Job–chapter 5, verse 9} Reading this helped illuminate what I have felt glimmering in the depths of my soul.

My relationship with God has changed over this journey. It has deepened, become more solid, become more honest. I have learned to go to Him with it all, no matter what that all is.

Peter’s dedication service where we announced his life verse: “He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.” Job 5:9 NIV

So, it is in His timing that the birth of our son came and the journey parameters change.

Messages

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Peter’s birth has given me much that I could say. I can say a lot about how incredibly weird C-sections are. I can talk about how wonderful our nurse anesthetist was. Or share how amazed our doctor was with the size of Peter’s head. Oh, and how popular Peter was in the hospital.

Meeting Peter at last!

But what really wants to be said starts several months before we were even pregnant with him.

Our journey to parenthood is not something I have been private about. You can find our experience throughout my blog. I feel strongly about lifting the stigma and silence that is associated with miscarriage. I’m not sure how else to do it except to continue to share in my small world.

I think I’ve mentioned before that shortly after our fourth loss my OB/GYN declared quite matter-of-factly that he would deliver my baby. I smiled and thanked him for his positivity, but I didn’t believe him. Not any more. His confidence wasn’t something that imbued me with the same.

Around six weeks later I woke from a dream that I actually remembered and shared with Steven. I was changing a baby boy’s diaper in what would be the nursery if we had one. He was kicking his legs, and I laughed saying, “We really need to come up with a name for you.” The baby looked at me and very clearly said, “My name is Peter.” I confirmed, “Peter?” and he said, “yes”. That was it. I woke up. The name Peter, before this, didn’t hold any real significance for me. But I knew from the moment I woke that if we did have a son, his name would be Peter.

Perhaps strongly because of this dream when we found out we were pregnant at the end of January 2020, we both said boy. We never really questioned it or wavered, despite the baby’s heart rate being above 140bpm. I think we busted every old wives’ tale, actually.

Early in our pregnancy, Steven had an encounter with a street person who shared the Gospel with him and assured him our baby would be fine. The man even gifted Steven with a cross necklace as a reminder of the encounter. I remember Steven came in from that experience with a sense of calm and peace about him. We do not doubt that he had a God moment with that gentleman.

I reminded my doctor at seven months pregnant that he had told me he was going to deliver my baby. He looked at me thoughtfully and said, “Sometimes I just get a sense like that.”

In the hospital, Steven and I were amazed that exactly the nurse I needed for the moment was the nurse I had. When Peter wasn’t getting milk from me and lost over 10% of his birth weight, the nurse who knew how to suggest formula to a tired and worried new mom was there. She took Peter and worked with him and the bottle to teach him to suck, not chomp. And she told that tired mom her tears were normal.

Feeling better after getting some food in his belly and his mama got some sleep.

The next day when the lactation consultants didn’t seem to want to accept that the decision was to not put Peter back to the breast, the next nurse knew to tell that new mom that fed is best. She reminded me that what’s best for the baby is a happy and rested mom. It would be the greatest gift I could give my son. She, her name was Kris, said, “At the end of the day, this is your child for a reason.”

I don’t know if she knew our history. How much is in my chart that she has access to is a mystery to me. But in that one moment, I felt like God was reminding me that Peter was His gift to Steven and me. That He had been waiting to give it at this exact time.

Family.

God shows up. We can miss it. But His messengers and messages are there. He prepared us, gave us a name, and reassured us. May we be wise enough as we continue this journey to recognize Him.

Pregnancy Growth

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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.

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.

Three years

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It was a Friday. Weathermen were calling for snow, a significant amount.

I like to watch snow fall.  There’s something peaceful and cleansing about it. But I missed it that year because I was in a small corner room in the hospital after just being told Nugget was gone.  Even if he wasn’t, I would’ve been in that room because he was in my Fallopian tube.  {I say he, but we don’t know about Nugget.}

It was a whirlwind of life changing information in those few hours.  One of those moments that leaves you breathless.

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My dad and stepmom gifted us this ornament for Christmas. I burst into tears when I opened it.

There are moments when I forget exactly how long it has been.  Then there are moments when I’m fully aware of every day that’s passed and every event that hasn’t happened.  But every day I know that my life is not what it would’ve been. . .I’m living an alternate reality.

At times I can share my story without choking up.  I’m always astounded at those times, like I’ve done something miraculous.  Other times, out of nowhere, I can’t get words past my throat and my face contorts in that grotesque holding back tears way.  I’m always astounded at those moments as well.

In the last three years, Steven and I haven’t had one where we didn’t lose a child. One year, it was two.

It’s exhausting.

It’s redefining of who we are.

Every single time.

 

 

 

Remember

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Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.
Saturday Steven and I participated in a remembrance walk. It was a beautiful event honoring at least 166 lost babies, four of those being ours.

I handled my emotions relatively well until the balloon release. As the balloons disappeared into the sky all I could think was how my babies disappeared quietly as well.

But they aren’t gone. They are part of our story. They offer light in that story, and rainbows, as the prisms we were gifted represent.