We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.
As the days diminish, now down to thirteen, it is a constant back-and-forth between “everything will be fine” and “something terrible will happen.” I spent Friday and part of Saturday in good spirits, mentally thinking ahead to the checklist of things that we need to do once the baby is born, things that I refuse to do in advance. By Saturday afternoon, I was hit with “Something will go wrong. Something has been missed. Or what if there is an unrelated complication?” I was back to a place of not being able to picture bringing this baby home. That it will continue to be just four of us. That all of the expanded space I have allowed in my heart will remain empty.
It seems fitting that two weeks before my c-section date that I would have a Sharing HOPE meeting. Those women understand that fear. I read an article where Dr. Jessica Zucker, a psychologist, was quoted saying: “Pregnancy after loss: you’re basically returning to the very place of your trauma. You’re meant to be there for 9 months every single day.”
I could not have summed it up more perfectly: 9 months of reliving trauma, every day. It was an apprehension I was prepared to face, but underestimated the toll it would take on my person. Pregnancy alone is stressful. Pregnancy after loss is almost unbearable. Now boiled down to two more weeks.
I had a dream the other night, where I was cradling my baby in my arms. But the baby had not yet been born: I was cradling my own womb. The exterior layer of my skin was beginning to melt away and I said “No, no baby. Stay there until you are ready.” A complete contradiction to how I feel when awake and want nothing more for it to be over. But in my dream, I saw the outline of the baby’s face through my skin – the physical outline of the eyes and nose, mirroring the structure of my two oldest children, so familiar.
Sharing HOPE was last night, my last meeting before my c-section date. The question came up before the group: what sorts of things do you do to control your anxiety? I write. I’ve been planning all of the details around when my family is here to help after the baby is born – where the kids need to be each day and when. Those details are one thing I can control when everything else feels beyond my control. I did not mention doing kick counts multiple times per day, but anytime I feel anxious about movement, I’ll sit and wait for the ten kicks. Including at 3:30 am, like last night.
I thought back to my first SHARE meeting, a year after losing Nelle, eight months after losing Iris. It was so hard and I didn’t go back until pregnant and attended Sharing HOPE. Now I find I need these women – pregnant or trying to become pregnant after loss. They understand. I know their stories: their babies’ names, gestational age of the losses. From leaving that first meeting thinking I could never go back to now seeing the date on my calendar and knowing it is something I need… a reminder that I keep evolving. Expanding. Giving to and taking from the support of the group.
This morning I had my non-stress test and exam and was a mess. I woke up nauseous; more, I think, due to anxiety than actual baby-pressing-on-stomach. My appointment was a bit earlier than previous visits and I hit bad traffic and was ten minutes late. And my non-stress test was long. I kept wondering why it was taking so long for the doctor to review the results, convincing myself that something was wrong, but everything was fine. Then I had been instructed to bring in my heparin, to which I am switching, so that I could be instructed on how to administer it properly. I had been so distraught when I left the house that I forgot it. Texted Ger, asked him to bring it to my appointment after he dropped off the kids. I sat in an exam room and could clearly hear the heart tones of another baby coming from the room next to me, along with the happy voices of a couple and a toddler. I just assumed and projected they were happy, and an easy, stress-free pregnancy, so unlike mine.
The doctor asked what they could do to alleviate my anxiety – more appointments to listen to the heartbeat? No, I didn’t think that would help, since I do kick counts and have a heart rate monitor at home. I already have my final two appointments next week, last appointment being a final check with Maternal Fetal Medicine. Nothing can help at this point except a successful delivery. Thirteen days. Each passing day feels like a huge step, while at the same time moving so slowly.