Time is a River

Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire. -Jorge Luis Borges

I remember so distinctly those first few hours in my hospital room after Quentin was born. One minute, I was feeling constant movement of a baby inside of me, and then he was born and that feeling gone. I have been feeling this baby move for months. Much as I tried to keep myself detached, thinking that distance would help if something were to happen, it became unavoidable as a steady stream of movement captured my attention throughout the day. In those early days of movement, I had to place my hand on my abdomen to feel it, since the anterior placenta made it tricky. It became easier. I could see the movement from the outside. A constant reminder. It doesn’t mean that I loved Nelle or Iris any less, but the time I had with them was shorter. The bond here has had more time to develop into something tangible.  Continue reading

Going Alone

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So many of my appointments are solo visits.  I waver back and forth between wanting Ger there, and thinking “I should be able to do this alone. If this were a normal pregnancy, I would be able to go alone.”  In the back of my mind, I still have an inkling of blame, where I feel like this is my cross to bear: my body that failed, therefore I need to take on all of the burden of the pregnancy, and not make it harder for him.

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Crazy That Way

My obsession over every little detail regarding this pregnancy culminates when I have to go to my doctor appointments.  Today was no different with my regular OBGYN visit.  With Theo, I was the regular amount of first-time-mom nervous.  With Quentin, the appointments were boring and the definition of routine.  I hate what this pregnancy has done to me: making me question everything and become unhinged by everything.  That’s normally not me and it is an uncomfortable place.  I sometimes ask the same questions at every single appointment, just because I want to make sure that I’m not missing anything.  I worry that I will somehow miss a “sign” of something being wrong, and suffer guilt and blame if tragedy strikes us again.

My appointment today was with my favorite doctor in the practice.  The drive in and the short wait are always a fighting game of “hold it together… as long as possible.”  The doppler was moved over my uterus, and the heartbeat was going in and out, to which the nurse said “Active baby, keeps moving around!” (of course I had a brief moment of panic, even though I knew the reason that the heartbeat kept vanishing)  Then she asked me the seemingly innocuous “Is this your first?  How many children do you have?”  I wanted to scream at her “Didn’t you look at my chart before I came in here?”  Instead, lying on my back and staring at the ceiling, I said “I have two at home… and we lost two.”  And started to cry.  She was immediately apologetic for making me upset.  Wanted to know if we had a name picked out, to which I told her that we did, but are keeping it a secret because all we want is a healthy baby.  But that conversation did it for me, and I went through multiple tissues waiting for the doctor to come in.

The doctor pulled up a chair close to me and asked how I was doing, to which I confessed my ongoing fear and stress every day.  He tried to soothe, saying he knows how difficult this is for me.  He said “You took a leap of faith in getting pregnant again.  I can see on your necklace the word ‘dream’ and I want you to remember that dream that you have.”  Even through my tears, I was astounded at his attention to this detail; my necklace did indeed say “Dream.”  Before we got into the medical stuff, he said “I want you to take five minutes a day and be joyful about this pregnancy.  And I know that’s hard because you were robbed of that joy before.  But we’re not going to let that happen again.”  He tried to assure me in every way possible that everything has pointed to the fact that this pregnancy is normal.  He did a uterus growth measurement and it was exactly on target.  Talked through my c-section date change (moving up a week) and the medication switch I will eventually need to make when it gets closer, along with talking through my daily kick-count checks, and my ongoing elevated white blood count.  I told him I was worried about the impact of stress on the baby, but he assured me, as every doctor has before, that my stress only causes me harm and will not harm the baby at all.

As he helped me up from the exam table, he said “Even though you are not happy yet, I’m happy for you.”

Shortly after I arrived home, my Causebox was delivered.  The artwork this quarter contained the word “RELAX” and it also included a journal with a bookmark that said “She believed she could, so she did.”  All words that I needed to hear today.

The Current Normal

“Give me silence, water, hope
Give me struggle, iron, volcanoes.” ― Pablo Neruda

My pregnancies with Theo and Quentin were the definition of normal, save for the c-sections at the end. Morning sickness. Aches. Weight gain. I ate what I was supposed to eat and took walks for exercise. I grumbled about my discomfort. All normal, boring prenatal appointments.

I had a small breath of relief after my 24-week appointment with Maternal Fetal Medicine. For a minute, the pregnancy felt “normal” even though I had just left the office of a highly-specialized doctor. I came home, felt movement, and talked to Ger about the baby’s name. I asked him if he felt better after the appointment and he said “a little.” I felt the same… just “a little.”

It has been better as I feel regular movement now, but there are still evenings when I find myself gasping for breath. My mind becomes filled with horrible thoughts of a sudden stop of a heartbeat. Of not feeling movement and being scared, of using my heart rate monitor and being terrified, and then racing to the hospital to confirm my biggest fear – that the baby was gone. I still don’t know. I still cannot be fully reassured. I tried to tell myself that this pregnancy is like my first two, not the last two, but I don’t know that.

The autopsies showed Fetal thrombotic vasculopathy: clotting, on the fetal side. Of unknown cause. Ger and I were tested for blood clotting disorders; I’ve been put on blood thinners – though that shouldn’t matter since the clotting was not maternal – but nothing definitive. There is so little information about FTV: it is not well understood. Articles are scholarly and dense, and an online forum with posts from other moms are scary, talking of late-term losses. But on lists of issues, I’m being watched for. Growth restriction. Blood flow. Fetal cardiac problems. Fetal movement and heart rate starting with my non-stress tests.

Finally I read something that calmed me a bit. Interuterine demise before delivery of at least 3 days can cause FTV on the placenta, due to decreased blood flow. My OBGYN had said that to me after Nelle’s autopsy came back: the clotting could have occurred Post-Demise. We have no way of knowing what day they were gone. I clung to that idea for a moment; that the FTV was a result, not a cause. Anything to calm my nerves for a minute. Telling myself over and over that I have had two healthy children with no complications.

I had my 28-week appointment with MFM today and woke up around 2:00 a.m. with a sharp pain in my side.  I felt movement, so I decided not to panic.  When it hadn’t subsided by the time morning rolled around, I was certain that I would leave immediately and go to the hospital before heading to MFM.  But, I calmed myself enough to do kick counts.  Got to 10 within the normal timeframe, took a breath, and knew that I could wait for my 9:00 appointment.  By the time a few more hours had passed, the pain was completely gone.

I brought up how much the FTV scares me.  I asked about the chances of something (a blood clot) happening suddenly.  He acknowledged that is a concern, but said that he would expect to see issues like growth restriction that would be an indicator that something is wrong, and so far we haven’t seen that.  Every growth measurement has been perfect.  Nelle had the growth restriction, but Iris did not – so this was only partly comforting.  I asked about decreased fetal movement, as I had read about this in some medical articles as well, and he said yes, this could also be an indication.  I have a good baseline for myself with kick counts every day, so he said any variation we could look into.  He asked if I would prefer to come back in three weeks instead of four, and I agreed that it would make me feel better.  He also told me that we could start non-stress tests at 30 weeks instead of 32 if needed.

I then talked to him about my c-section date.  I am scheduled at 39 weeks, 2 days.  I let him know that I went into labor with Theo 6 days before my due date and Quentin 9 days before my due date – so I have never made it to 39 weeks, 2 days before.  I told him that date is giving me a significant amount of anxiety.  Between the two live births and my high risk status, he said that he would recommend the c-section at 38 weeks instead of 39.  He will put that in his notes to my regular OBGYN, and then my regular OB will need to put in the order for the change.  That appointment isn’t for another two weeks, but I feel better about 38 versus 39 weeks.  That means fewer than 10 weeks to go.

Though these appointments have been a normal part of the pregnancy, and will be occurring with increased frequency, I still found myself with my heart racing during the minutes between when the ultrasound tech left and when the doctor came in.  The tech had been typing into the computer and I thought “what did she see? what is she not telling me?”  Even though I had watched every measurement flash across the screen and now have become so familiar with the images that I could tell when she was measuring head, belly, bones.  She tried to get an image of the face, but Baby Three kept putting up hands and wiggling around in protest.

Countdown has been reduced by seven days.

Back to Myself

I have always hated pregnancy. I know women who gush over the forty weeks as a “magical” time. Not me. It was forty weeks of suffering, but then at the end, I was handed a baby for my troubles. Until I wasn’t.

I’m counting down days, even though there are still so many (76).  It has been over two years and I’m tired and want my life back. I want myself back. The holding pattern of waiting for each day to pass in the gestational period has been torturous.  I have never in my life maneuvered through the hours so slowly.

I want to eat without needing to Google if the fish is pregnancy safe or if the cheese is pasteurized.  I haven’t been taking care of my diet, substituting the need to just get through the day and eating whatever sounds good. I fear that my lack of focus on nutrition, compared with my previous pregnancies, will have a negative impact on my baby.  I want to have a glass of wine with dinner. 

I want to use a beauty product or take a medication without needing to check the ingredients. I had to switch to a “pregnancy-safe” face cream since my regular cream contains myrrh.  Myrrh is not safe for pregnancy – who knew?  I could use some sleeping pills on the worst nights. I had to restock some supplies and calculated how many days are left (76) when buying more prenatal vitamins, alcohol prep pads for my nightly injections, and band-aids for the aftermath of those injections. 

I miss hot yoga.  So much. 

My shoes, my clothes. Constantly changing shape and a wardrobe that hardly feels mine. Some items falling apart after repeated wear through so many pregnancies, yet I refuse to buy more.  The changing shape now causes me to be out of breath with something simple like going up and down the stairs.  I want my own body back.  

I want to go through my days without feeling exposed.  There is no hiding pregnancy in the third trimester so I am constantly on display.  “How are you feeling?  Do you know what you’re having? Is this your first?”  There are still people at work who don’t know I’m pregnant, as I’m able to stay hidden behind working from home. But soon I will need to prepare for an upcoming leave and at that point be forced to put myself out there.  Which will likely prompt the question “Why didn’t she tell us sooner?”

I want to be done with injections, and kick counts, and checking every appointment off on the list I’ve created. I want to be done with staring at the baby toys and gear around the house, wondering if I’ll actually get to use them. 

Keeping up with the house is hard.  I’m so tired. Keeping up with the kids is harder. I looked at Theo the other day, standing so tall in his 7.5 years, and realized how little attention I’ve paid to him lately. He is always talking and perceiving and I have barely heard him. I’m just going through the motions and now he is almost done with first grade.  I felt so guilty for letting those moments pass me by. 

It hit me today, again, as I struggled to pull on my shoes, unable to bend in a necessary way. So tired.  So desperate to move forward.