Once there was a woman and a man, who had been together for a long time. They entered adulthood together and married, bought a house, had successful careers, and two adorable young boys. The couple decided that they wanted to have a third child and the woman became pregnant with their third, a girl.
But the baby girl did not flourish. The doctors found that she was not growing properly. The couple was very worried and began tests to determine what was wrong. But before a cause could be found, the baby girl’s heart stopped beating.
The couple grieved in a way that they did not know possible. But, still yearning for another child, the woman became pregnant again, right away. The second baby had no growth problems, and the couple began to relax. Then, inexplicably, the second baby girl’s hearts stopped beating. Testing after she was born showed that the second baby girl had a chromosome abnormality, but that it should not have been related to her death.
The couple agonized over the proper path. Even though both of their babies had issues – growth, and genetic – neither could be linked directly to their deaths. There were no answers, or ways to mitigate risks in another pregnancy. The couple looked at their two healthy boys and two dead girls and said “How can we choose? How do we decide if we should risk this again? How much grief can we handle?”
As the couple struggled and wrestled with the decision, the woman said to her sister “I don’t know what the right outcome will be.”
Her sister wisely replied: “The right outcome would be a healthy baby born. But if not that, another baby can grow in you, for as long as possible, knowing how much you are sacrificing. And if not that, simply another attempt at trying, resulting in two wonderful boys, and two girls who may not exist in our eyes, but in our hearts.”
The woman cried with tears of gratitude at her sister’s words. Her heart could be at peace with that.
And she saw the tiny flicker of a heartbeat on an ultrasound today.
I cannot picture one year from now. One year from now, I should have a four-month-old baby sleeping in the room next to me. Or maybe I would awake for the first breastfeeding of the day. But I cannot picture it. I am not allowing myself to think that this will end well.
It was a game of chance, of Russian Roulette. Two healthy children and two losses seemed to indicate that we have a 50/50 chance of a healthy pregnancy. We took that chance, because otherwise we would have always wondered.
I told my therapist that even hearing the words “I’m so happy for you” or “I’m praying for you” would be hard. How do I look someone in the face and say “That’s fine for you, but we are not allowing ourselves to go to a place of hope or happiness.” How can we? I dread telling the periphery people in my life, who may not know and give me a hearty “Congratulations!” I wince. How am I supposed to respond? Pretend to be happy? I don’t want congratulatory responses or promises that prayers are with me. I have to approach this in my own way, and not feel ashamed or guilty. “One day at a time” seems to be the only reaction I can muster.
I knew that I was pregnant, before the at-home test came up positive. I have now been pregnant enough in the past 18 months that I could tell. Still, when the test blinked the word “pregnant” I clapped my hand over my mouth in shock. It was 4:30 in the morning. I did not wake Ger up with the news. I wanted to give him a last hour and a half of “the way things are now” before permanently altering our course again.
Right now, I do not feel anxious or nervous. I am perfectly calm. Everything is progressing as it should, just like in my last two pregnancies. Beta HCG levels rising. Ultrasounds showing growth. I’ll be under high-risk care. The nerves will likely settle in around 16 weeks, when I lost Iris. Or, if I make if further, 21 weeks, when I lost Nelle. And anything beyond that, if I make it that far.
We have not told the kids yet, and that is my biggest fear.
Yoga was my outlet, my escape, but now I cannot do hot yoga while pregnant. I cannot go back to the studio where I did prenatal yoga either. I remember sitting in that studio, pregnant with Nelle, complaining about how I was still nauseous at nearly 20 weeks. Then she was gone, and I thought about all of those women who still got to go to prenatal yoga class. No, I cannot go back there. Writing will likely be my coping this time, writing about how I feel, even if I do not want to talk about it, out loud, with others. Talking might force me to say something that isn’t true, like “I’m doing fine.”
I have it burned into my mind that this is my final sacrifice in our attempt to have a third child. That I can try, one last time, to provide a home for a healthy baby for nine months. That’s what parents do, they sacrifice themselves out of love for their children.