Punished

Michael’s death last year was ambiguous. All we know is that sometime during my perfect labor, he stressed enough to inhale meconium, and when he was born alive and crying less than ten minutes later, he suffocated on it.

We had an autopsy. We had tests. My doctor and nurses went over the monitor strips from that night with a fine tooth comb, but no answers were to be found outside of God.

They were quick to assure me it wasn’t my fault. How can a woman who has a perfect pregnancy, an easy five-hour labor, and a less-than-ten-minute pushing phase, who did everything right, who was built to have children better than many others be at fault?

I naively thought that since the medical community had decided it wasn’t me, that I’d get another chance: another chance at the labor and delivery experience I wanted, another chance to make it end right like every birth story should

Instead, I find myself sitting here at 4am, unable to sleep because I feel cornered and tormented like a feral cat.

Let me back up a bit.

This last week (week 38)  had an auspicious beginning — my body was busy doing its’ labor and delivery prep thang, and both me and my baby were doing fantastically. Then I found myself being bullied by my then doctor, and come to find out that not only had he decided that HE was in charge of my body (and didn’t care if I hated him for it), but that he’d been lying to me. Oh sure, you can try again, when he had no intention whatsoever of letting me out of my 39 week appointment without a chemical induction or forced surgery to rip this baby out of me.

So I found a new doc, because, be damned if I’m going to be railroaded without a viable medical reason — and not just a paranoid opinion. (Why do doctors always seem to assume the worst instead of assuming the best?) And even though I feel like I’m in better hands (because the new doc is actually up front with me!), I still feel cornered and punished for past events.

What no one tells you is that when you lose a baby so late in the game, that that’s all the time you get. Your obstetrical history from that point forward is flagged, and every subsequent pregnancy is only alotted that much time in the interests of “safety.” In other words, since I went into spontaneous labor at 39 weeks with Michael — and he died — that’s all the time the docs are willing to allow me to give birth on my own, that’s all the chance they feel comfortable letting me have for any other baby I might carry to “term.”

So here I sit, 39 weeks along with a perfectly healthy-thus-far baby, currently NOT in labor, and feeling like I’ve got to pick up my blade and fight my way out of a no-win battle with enemies on every side. Every appointment gets more tense, every appointment packs on the pressure to cave to the medical status quo. I feel cornered, and trapped, and frightened, because I’ve done a crap ton of research, and neither of their presented options (induction or mandated cesarean) appeal to me for the potential risks that are over and above what it might be to just let nature take its’ course in my particular case.

I am weary. Weary of being pregnant, weary of the snarled up ball of emotions, weary of fighting every. step. of. the. way. for a favorable, gentle, healing outcome. I am ready to have this baby happen, and to start that chapter of my life… All I want is to not have to fight for it any more.

Unfortunately, I’m not driving this show boat anymore. My baby is.

And he has less than a week.

God, I hate deadlines.

Bikini

Like most girls who turn into women, I spent the greater part of my life listening and learning how to hate my body. Not how to respect it. Not how to be comfortable in it. I learned to Hate it. I learned to look in the mirror and be ashamed. I learned how to silently compare myself to others and pick out the ways I was lacking. So much so that compliments my husband so kindly gave me fell on deaf ears.

Then, one day, I found myself pregnant, and oh, what the surprise that was… :-) I was amazed, every day, by the miracle of what God made my body capable of. I began to love the parts of myself I used to loathe. I began to see beauty where none had existed. And then, we lost our baby and all those hopes and dreams with him, and my confidence — what little of it I had managed to gather — suffered the biggest blow it ever had.

I am still recovering. I am still terribly vulnerable. I’m still self-conscious and prone to moments of insecurity and anxiety. But I had an epiphany this week, and that was how I am often more critical of myself than anyone else. I realized today it all started with that first moment I was taught to despise myself.

So today? Today I did something I NEVER thought I’d ever do.

I bought a bikini.

Yeah, I’m 8 months pregnant. And, I’m pretty positive my mother will roll in her grave when she gets there (she’s probably gasping in apoplexy right now at the scandalousness of this!).

But walking out of the store with that swimsuit in my possession? Driving home and thinking of the look on my husband’s face when I told him (and showed him!) what I did for myself? Putting it on in front of the mirror, pregnant belly and ALL, and feeling satisfied. Being able to smile at myself and see that I’m okay! I’m worth it! That my body — and indeed, the all rest of me — is deserving of my appreciation, naysayers be damned.

I felt so GOOD.

bikiniAnd this little bit of rebellion is even in my favorite colors. :-)

Set Up

I have sat down to write, and then trashed the post only to restore it a day later and try editing again, about ten times.

I still have no idea what, exactly, I want to say.

This last week my husband and I came to the conclusion we really should not wait any longer to set up the “nursery.” That, if we did nothing else, at least the furniture and big things should be moved and arranged.

The house was torn apart in about fifteen minutes. The cats hid in the bathroom, and I envied their ability to escape the chaos.

The upheaval — and what it represented — conspired to make me cranky. Not only did my cluttered, disaster-area of a living room turn into The Mess From Hell (which just makes me annoyed all by itself. Not that I’m some fantastic housekeeper or anything, but there’s clutter, and then there’s CLUTTER…), but seeing the familiar wood of the crib Michael never got to use tripped the tear faucet. Big time. I blubbered my way to work that morning, shamed by previous failure, and unable to shake this fear that the end is nigh. That the proverbial shoe is going to DROP at any minute, and we’ll be right back where we started when we returned home last June to a house-full of broken dreams and unfulfilled wishes. Or worse.

Please, God, don’t make me do it again. Don’t make my husband go through that again. Please, I beg — let us all live through this, healthy and whole…

Any time I’m not actively distracting myself with some other task, the fears rise up like a tidal wave and threaten to drown me. So spooked am I, that my version of “baby planning” this time is making contingency plans.

I realize I am far too wary for my own good.

The crib looked so very wrong, so I took a deep breath and waddled up to the storage room to get the blanket.

62425_491629704235719_1538027493_nI made that fleece blanket for Michael to have and use at cooler SCA events, a play on James’ registered heraldic device (Sable, a shark and a chief invected argent).

For some reason, the crib looks better now, with that draped across the edge.

Contingency plans are in the final stages.

I don’t know what else to do.

Three Months, or, Is This All I Get?

The third trimester has arrived, and with it, a cloud of melancholy.

Three months. Roughly 11 weeks.

While other mothers-to-be are busy drafting birth plans, laughing their way through baby showers, and rapidly finalizing plans for the time after, I am stopped cold in my tracks by the realization that this is it. That there very well could be nothing more after these few short months are up (and boy is time moving fast now…).

I feel… lost. Simultaneously, I relish and eagerly await every kick and squirm of this beautiful, precious child — and am annoyed at myself for making myself so vulnerable again. Too often it feels like I can’t breathe for the vicious, negative, doubting, fearful thoughts swirling in my head. Pregnancy the second time around has become a love/hate relationship, a trial to be endured. The fact makes me angry; I had so wanted it to be 100% joyful and beautiful and carefree like the first time, and I feel bitterly cheated.

People are overly eager in their camaraderie, however, their words hold absolutely nothing but spooky terror — how is a story of a relative who lost nine full-term children to various birth complications before she got to keep one supposed to comfort me? How is a story of a family who lost children, then the mother died during birth of the one who lived supposed to make me feel better and less worried? (How dare I even go through with this, knowing my husband could be left a widower with no way to care for a baby AND run the farm on his own?) How do tales of the risks, the complications endured, the discomforts and physical trauma experienced during their pregnancy and birth (not to mention all the other things that can go wrong with a child’s development) supposed to make me feel courageous and brave? How are these stories — which highlight all the loss and none of the success — supposed to make me feel like this is even worth it in the long run?

It doesn’t. I know these “helpful Heloises” mean well, but it just makes me feel like a certifiably crazy, flipping idiot in all my irresponsible glory for even wanting to try this again.

Eleven weeks.

Is it truly the beginning of the end as I fear?

I cannot stand this not-knowing.

Impossible

It seems so impossible.

I am a mere two weeks from the third trimester, the baby is getting pretty darn big (or so it feels by the size of my belly and the strength of his kicks), and some days it feels so incredibly impossible that my husband and I will actually become parents this time around.

Everything feels so much the same; in the wee hours and the moments alone, I can’t help but worry it’s another cruel joke.

My doctor tells me they’ll be doing some extra monitoring here soon, and I wonder (a bit cynically), just what they will be looking for. Michael was a perfect example of a perfect pregnancy — he passed every test with flying colors — right up until he wasn’t. And then no one could tell us why. None of their tests and monitors showed squat.

Just like now: perfect baby, perfect pregnancy.

I feel so guilty and shamed for my inability to truly get excited, as carelessly and unadulterated as the exuberant strangers who pry into my mother-to-be status — but I feel overshadowed by the knowledge that this wonderful, amazing, beautifully precious thing can end right as it is supposed to begin. And it doesn’t help that so much of this journey is so much the same. (Periodically I find myself calling this baby by Michael’s name, and that really bothers me. I know it happens, especially when you’ve had more than one child, but psychologically I need the distinction.) I’m gritting my teeth and moving forward regardless, I am twisting my own arm into making plans because I can’t put them off any longer. And it’s all happening so fast and yet not fast enough, and I am exhausted with wanting to fliptothelastpagealready so I can see how the story ends.

I just pray it isn’t a waste of time.

I pray there is a point, and that it involves not being childless — again — at the end of September.

I pray this little fella keeps kicking and squirming and fighting as hard as he can.

Dear God, help me get through these final weeks.

Secret

I lay down in bed, feeling whale-ish as I struggle to get settled amongst the covers.

My head hits the pillow.

I sigh, comfortably.

And my hand sneaks its way across my rotund belly,

Feeling,

Gently,

For the little body growing there, as he settles down as well.

 

It’s a secret if this moment is all I get.

My fingers make a cradle from the outside.

I wish, desperately, that it were not a secret,

That there were some solace to be had,

Some bit of peace,

of mental relaxation,

of guaranteed protection from the specter of fear and death…

But this moment is beautiful.

This moment is precious.

 

I wish that I weren’t so greedy, always wanting more than just this:

These few gentle breaths of time where I am, where nothing now can take it away.

The Things I’ve Learned in a Year

They say you never know what you’re made of until you are tested. They say you never know who your true friends are until adversity strikes. They say, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

There are all kinds of sage bits of wisdom and quippy sayings about when life gets tough and our intrepid souls are forced into perseverance.

It is June, now, and in a few days a year will have gone by since J and I lost our firstborn son to what doctors call “neonatal death,” but what I like to call “God’s will.” It has been one Hell of a year, to say the least. We’ve dealt with the emotional rollercoaster, seen the sheer ugly insensitivity of people, and then turned right around and seen the amazing and beautiful love people are capable of. We made choices we never thought we’d have to make. We found friends we never thought we’d have. We’ve raged at God, then found ourselves still in church, singing His praise. We’ve lost our hope and somehow felt through the dark until we found it again, different and new.

We’ve been torn apart, seam from seam, and been put back together.

It has not been easy.

  • But I’ve learned that strength is not often seen, but felt, and it resides in everyone, even when we think it doesn’t.
  • I’ve learned that good relationships are too easy to take for granted, when they’re the most important part of life and MUST be nurtured above all else.
  • I’ve also learned that bad relationships aren’t worth wasting your time over.
  • Because we aren’t guaranteed five minutes.
  • And every breath we take is precious.

IMG_3329I’m not at the end of this story, not by a long shot. The ripples left by Michael’s all-to-brief life with us will be felt for a long, long time. And there is much I still have to figure out.

But here at the end of a year, I can see how good has come out of tragedy, rising like a phoenix. I can feel my broken heart and see the healing.

Onward and upward.