Worries

You’re so close to being here now, that I’ve started to worry. I worry that I’ll feel so empty and lonely without you with me every second of every day. I worry I won’t love you on the outside like I do now with you inside. I worry I won’t be a good mother, much less a good mother for you. I worry I’ll mess you up on deep fundamental levels. But maybe worrying means I’m already on the road to being a good mom? I want to give you everything and hold your hand while you grow and discover the world, all the while knowing doing a good job means you’ll let go of my hand eventually and not need me to guide you anymore.

At 37 weeks pregnant, I spend a lot of time thinking about family and legacy now. Of all the people who were there to watch me grow who are watching you from the other side now. I hold your brother and sisters’ toys and clothes and remember them, knowing they’ve watched over you this entire time. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to give you a living sibling and whether or not you’d get along with them. In many ways, I hear the whisperings of those who are gone and you all at once. The past and the future both connected within me.

I can’t wait to meet you on the outside, my sweet boy.

Keep your birth opinions to yourself

Every time I tell someone I want to give birth vaginally without medication, I’m met with laughter or “you’ll change your mind once you’re in it”. Let me tell you why that’s disgustingly disrespectful and needs to stop.

I was in labor with my first child for three days. He was dead inside of me and, finally giving up on its crusade to bring him back, my body decided it was time to birth him. My D&C wasn’t scheduled until Monday and I started having contractions Friday night. I paced our house in alternating fits of crying, wailing, and stony silence. I would feel like I needed to squat to work him down, that’s when I knew what was happening. I wanted so badly to give birth to our baby at home, to hold him just once. But I was denied even that. My water broke as I was changing into my hospital gown Monday afternoon. They don’t tell you it’s not just clear fluid, it’s also tinged with blood. I remember lying in the hospital bed, my rabbi praying over my child and I while he cried with me, and feeling the contractions getting stronger. My body wanted my child to be born even if he would be sleeping. He was ultimately delivered via D&C, I was given no other option. The same for my second, our first daughter, though I never went into labor with her. Our third was so early that, when she was delivered, it was just like a heavy period.

I know it will be painful, I’ve felt labor before and I’m not a fool. When you laugh at my wishes and desires, you are laughing at a mother who has felt more loss and death than most people ever do. Three children, all born without breathing. I want to feel that pain, the pain that comes with a living child making their way into the world. That will be the experience I was denied three times.

Yes, it will hurt.

Yes, it will go far differently than I can imagine.

Yes, it will take every bit of strength I have in my being.

But it will be worth it hear myself son cry as he’s placed on my chest.

So, before you criticize and tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about, understand the pain of not being able to have that experience at all.

Preparations and meditations

This morning I got up early. Your daddy came to bed and the sound of his voice woke you up, making you jump and kick inside of me. I had to pee, yet again, so I got up. I took my fasting blood sugar, made decaf coffee, washed my face, and put some makeup on for the meetings my day holds. All with you.

You have new blankets and nursery accessories that needed to be laundered and put away, so I started on that too. The novelty of being able to take tags off and actually start putting things away may never go away. I still can’t quite believe that I get to keep you. I welcome every ache and pain because they mean you’re still alive, still racing to finally be held in my arms.

Sometimes I look at my rounding belly and get sad thinking about it no longer holding you. Despite the gestational diabetes, the round ligament pain, the back aches, and everything else I would do this 1,000 times over for you. Your movements are conversations and I hang on to every word. Every day I wake up, I love you even more and it takes my breath away. How can a love this all encompassing continue to grow? It defies all odds because, just when I think I can’t love you more, I do.

We will have hard days. Days you cry and not even I can comfort you. Days you say you hate me. Days I dissolve into tears because I think I’m a terrible mother. But we will also have great days. Days you grab my face and tell me you love me. Days you fall asleep in my arms and I let you stay there because all is right with the world with you near. Days you go off into the world but hug me one more time, letting me know I am your anchor and you will never truly be gone.

Maybe one day you’ll read these words and catch of a glimpse of your mother’s soul. My love for you is unconditional.

Early morning musings

You’re awake and moving in me. I’m awake because my hips and back ache, the bed is not my friend these days. Athena has her head pressed up against my belly where you are and it’s very sweet, she knows you’re there.

I can’t believe you’re here, alive, and mine. Your kicks are conversations and I never get tired of them. You love when I go for walks, you have the best naps then. I love when you wake up for the day around 7:30am, your kicks strong and back to back telling me you’re ready for us to eat.

My love for you feels like the ocean: still mostly unexplored but vast and deep.

Intentions

I worry a lot about being a good mom to you. I want you to have memories of me playing in the floor with you, of me reading to you, and of family holidays. I want you to always know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I love you and I would never choose anyone over you. I want you to know our relationship is solid and I will always be here for you. No matter what. Because I’m your mom and that’s what moms are supposed to do. I want you to grow up and go your own way, but always know I’m right behind you cheering you on. I never want you to be abandoned or like my love is conditional.

You are all of my hopes and dreams realized. I would fight the world for you, sweet one. I cannot wait to meet you earth-side and start being the mother I want to be for you.

Every pregnancy is different…and why that freaks me out

Any medical professional or mother of multiples will tell you that every pregnancy is different because every baby is different. But for those of us who have suffered recurrent loss, that can cause a lot of anxiety. Prior to this pregnancy, the furthest I’ve ever been along was with Sayre. I started having massive food aversions in week 7 with him and they got progressively worse until I felt nauseous all of the time by our ill-fated 12 week appointment. I also felt him move for the first time during week 10. I was so tired all of the time it would make me nauseous and my sense of smell was INSANE. I also craved pepperoni pizza, cheese bagels with cream cheese, fries, and lemonade. I was starving constantly!

Aurora, I craved sweets. Cookies mainly, and I would an entire sleeve of them washed down with ice cold milk. I hate milk. I also had heartburn for the first time ever with her. But that was pretty much it and I didn’t have any symptoms with Miri except some breast tenderness.

This baby, on the other hand, is so different that it’s wild. My breasts go back and further between being so sensitive the showers hurts and feeling normal, I’m not hungry all the time but I do have to eat constantly to keep the nausea away, I wake up in the middle of the night soaked with sweat because I overheat constantly now, my food aversions change every day, and I crave frozen clementines regularly. I also had the spotting/discharge early on but stopped cramping during g week 5. With Sayre, I cramped basically all the way through the pregnancy. I am experiencing round ligament pain now, but it feels different than cramping.

I’m always comparing them, though I know it does no good. I don’t feel as bad as I did with Sayre and that scares me. But, he also died so maybe that’s a good thing? It’s a never ending analysis of symptoms.

Pregnancy after recurrent loss

We conceived our fourth baby after two cycles of IUI (inter-uterine insemination aka turkey baster method). My tests were very dark and got darker each day, so I felt fairly confident that it wasn’t another chemical pregnancy. But I held my breath until I heard our first beta blood test results…75 at 4 weeks 3 days. Then 431 at 5 weeks, and 27,032 at 6 weeks 4 days! But we still had the ultrasound to get through at 8 weeks.

To say I am terrified of ultrasounds and the Doppler would be an understatement. Traditionally, both have meant nothing but heartache for me. I didn’t sleep the night before our ultrasound this time around and had a huge panic attack around 6am. I was so sure it was all ending that day that I refused to eat anything in case I needed another D&C. Once we got in the room, I warned the ultrasound tech about my history and that I would probably cry. She began the ultrasound and I refused to look at the screen ahead, only looking at my husband while he held my hand. When she said “There’s baby…and there’s their heart fluttering away!” I jerked my head to look so fast I’m surprised I didn’t get whiplash. There was our perfectly formed baby with a strong heartbeat just fluttering away. She let us listen multiple times and record it, I still listen to it on days I’m the most worried.

Since that day when our baby measured right on track with a perfect heartbeat, I’ve been placed on routine checkups. We go back at 12 weeks where they’ll listen for the heartbeat with the Doppler over my belly and do routine bloodwork. That was the appointment we found out Sayre had died. His death was the moat traumatic for me, it being my first baby and first loss and at 12 weeks after a great heartbeat and uneventful pregnancy. I’m absolutely terrified it will happen again.

We got a home Doppler when I was pregnant with Aurora, but never got the chance to use it. I know the midwives and doctors hate home dopplers because they’re not as accurate and can be very difficult to get a heartbeat on until very far along in the pregnancy. But I’ve been using mine since late in week 8 and I’ve always been able to find the baby’s heartbeat, it just takes me awhile sometimes. Now that I’m 10 weeks along we can find it easier, but the little one moves all the time and it’s a game of chase now! The Doppler has also helped me get used to that experience and normalize it for me. Being able to find baby helps comfort me, but it also helps me get used to that again and not have the last time be when they told me Sayre was dead.

So, what does pregnancy after recurrent loss look like? I check the toilet paper for blood after every time I go to the bathroom. Even has pains can make me panic that I’m cramping. I worry that I’m not symptomatic enough constantly. I worry every day that my baby has died because we don’t know for sure when Sayre died, the doctors refused to measure him or run tests. I worry that any little thing I do will hurt the baby. It’s a never ending game of “what if” in my head all day every day. I think it’s scares me more that we don’t know exactly why Sayre died. I don’t know if it’s something wrong with me or he had something that caused him to die young, like Aurora with her trisomy 16. I’ve been checked for all of the big things and I don’t have anything wrong with me. My MTHFR gene mutation is heterozygous and doesn’t have clotting factor issues, my PCOS shouldn’t factor in since I’m progesterone supplements with this pregnancy, and my thyroid tested completely normal. But there’s always that voice in the back of my head that tells me everything could end tomorrow.

We decided to announce the day we heard our baby’s heartbeat. I wanted to celebrate this baby and enjoy being pregnant. I deserve to be doted on and to be a normal happy pregnant woman after everything I’ve been through. My chances of miscarrying again after 3 losses was 40%. That went down to just 2% after hearing the heartbeat at 8 weeks. Hearing the heartbeat at 10 weeks lowers it to 1%. Granted, I’m the 1% of women who experience recurrent miscarriage and I’ve been in the 2% after hearing a heartbeat at 8 weeks before. However, I choose to think I’ve been the exception so many times now that I have to be the rule finally. My experience is relatively rare, probably why my story scares a lot of women. But ~80% of women with my history go on to have healthy living children. And I like those odds.

Whatever it takes

After a year of messed up periods following the loss of our third pregnancy, I finally decided I wanted answers. Thanks to quarantine, I was able to go to the midwife on my lunch hour and figure out why the hell my body wasn’t working right. At the beginning of self-isolation, I began walking every day because I was out of shape and wanted my body to get stronger. I wasn’t focusing on diet at all, but I did decided I wanted to start running again. I set the goal of running of a 5k for my 30th birthday at Disney World, so I started training. When I went to the midwife I was pleased I’d managed to already lose some weight and was feeling better. My wonderful midwife, Dee, wanted to run a battery of tests to check for PCOS again, my vitamin D levels since I’d been taking the prescribed vitamin D for a few months, as well as thyroid issues.

She called me with the results two days later…I was officially diagnosed with PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome). My male androgens were all within the normal ranges, no sign of insulin resistance (yay!), thyroid was great (Double yay! Though I’ll continue to be monitored closely for this due to a family history.), and my vitamin D was the best it’s ever been. However, my AMH was sky high while my LH was low and my cholesterol was high. The AMH shows ovarian reserve, or how many eggs you have left in the bank. Women with PCOS have very high AMH typically and low levels of LH (the hormone that causes you to ovulate). High cholesterol is also a little known symptom of PCOS, a lot of women with the disease also struggle with cholesterol no matter what they eat or do. And my low vitamin D? Also a symptom of PCOS.

Dee wanted me to come in for an ultrasound to check my ovaries for cysts (eggs that prepared for ovulation but never released) so they could officially put PCOS on my record and move forward. I went the next week and I did indeed have ovarian cysts chilling out in there. I was diagnosed with “hidden” PCOS, meaning the form I have is relatively mild compared to others. I don’t have the excess facial or body hair, I do have some slight scalp hair thinning but not bad, I can lose weight pretty well if I exercise and watch what I eat, I don’t have insulin resistance, and my male hormone levels are normal. I also had managed to get pregnant naturally three times with no interventions. Our next step was a referral to a reproductive endocrinologist (RE).

My husband and I sat and talked about my diagnosis and what it meant for our fertility journey. We agreed that we would do whatever it takes, a line Captain America says in one of the Marvel movies. That became our mantra and, every time we hit another roadblock or new issue, we’d say “whatever it takes”. So, off I went to meet with the RE. He was on top of it and came in with a plan for us to jump straight into IUI cycles (Inter-Uterine Insemination…think high-tech turkey baster) with medication. The plan was I would wait for my period to come, call their office on the first day or first business day afterward, take Clomid (an ovulation inducing drug) days 3-7 of my cycle, come in for an ultrasound to check for follicle growth cycle days 10-12, do an HcG trigger shot 36 hours before the IUI was scheduled to take place, then show up the day of where my husband would do his part then I’d get into the stirrups and be inseminated. Sounds easy, right?

Wrong. My period wouldn’t show, so I had to take progesterone for 10 days to jumpstart it and it showed on day 9. Then we could finally begin! The Clomid wasn’t mad, I was a little moodier than usual but I didn’t have the crazy side-effects some people have. Then came the injection. I don’t like needles. I won’t watch them stick me to take blood and I hate shots but do them because I have to. Because of my control issues, I was not about to let anyone give the injection to me other than a registered nurse. Those are in short supply at my house, however, so that only left me. The ultrasound had revealed two follicles, one on each ovary, and had to do my shot between 4 and 8pm on a Wednesday. My husband was at work and I was insanely nervous. I called my best friend, iced the injection sight (my upper thigh) for 30 minutes, then put on “Wait for It” from Hamilton and prepared my supplies. I washed my hands thoroughly, swabbed the area with alcohol and let it dry fully without blowing on it, and prepared the injection by flicking it then squeezing the air bubbles out. I was ready. With my best friend on FaceTime to make sure I didn’t die, I waited for the chorus of the song and went for it. The needle was all the way in and…I didn’t feel it at all. I quickly injected and pulled the needle back out. Done. It was done. I was shaking but I felt like such a badass! I recapped the needle, labeled it with #1 and the date, then put it into my sharps container (a mason jar with a lid). Our IUI was 36 hours later and it wasn’t bad at all. Felt like a pap smear and was over very quickly. I was a little crampy afterward, so we laid in bed with movies and had pizza for lunch.

IUI didn’t work. I got my period exactly 2 weeks after our procedure and I was gutted. But I had to keep moving forward, so I called the RE’s office and prepared to start the entire process over again. Our RE had said I would definitely get pregnant with my history and once my PCOS was being managed, but he did say it could take up to 3 cycles. This time, I only had one follicle on my right ovary when I went in for my ultrasound. It was a bigger follicle than either of the two the cycle before, but I only had one. I was a little disappointed by kept telling myself it only takes one. I had named my ovaries during the first cycle and Rory (right ovary) got a “good job!” while Lory (left ovary) got a “you’ll get ’em next time”. That made the RE chuckle and I’m still proud of that to this day. The day of the IUI, my husband had the best sperm count ever: 146 million AFTER WASH!!!!! The morning was a total cluster. They hadn’t told us we weren’t in the same office as our first IUI, so we had to race across town to the hospital office which pushed everything back almost an hour. When we finally got into the room for my part, the intern who was doing the procedure couldn’t get the catheter through my cervix and kept jabbing it for a few minutes. This felt about as pleasant as you would expect. Finally, the RE told her to stop and did it himself. He jammed the catheter through my cervix, injected, then was out in under a minute. I yipped and told him as he was leaving “no offense, but I really hope we don’t have to see you again”. No worries, he didn’t take offense because that was not the first time a woman has said that to him. I cried as soon as the door closed because it had hurt. My husband was shocked because I had been so tough up until this part, but he had also known something was up when I kept grimacing and breathing through the pain. We went home to do our ritual of movies in bed and pizza and I truly thought we’d be back again the next month.

Almost two weeks later, I was starting to feel a little weird. My breasts were so tender the shower and sudden movements hurt, my dreams were insanely vivid, my nose was stuffy, and I was getting tired really easily. I was determined I would not take a test until exactly 2 weeks after the IUI, but the symptoms were too strong to ignore so I decided to take one right before my husband had to go to work and not tell him if it was negative. It was 3 days before my period was due which I knew was a little early to test. I peed in my testing cup (y’all know you’ve been in the trying to conceive/infertility game too long when you have a dedicated testing cup for urine) and dipped a First Response Early Results test in. As soon as I sat it on the counter something weird happened…I saw the test line pop up almost before the control line. There were two lines. Two. Lines. I had a positive pregnancy test!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I ran out of the bathroom and yelled for my husband who came running. I showed him the test and we both started crying. We’d done it; I was pregnant again after a year of nothing. I immediately called the midwife for a blood test and the RE’s office to let them know. Our first blood draw was 75 and our second four days later was 431. The pregnancy was viable!! They scheduled us for our first ultrasound on September 21st when I’d be 8 weeks and 3 days along. The day of the ultrasound, I didn’t sleep the night before and I had a big panic attack around 6am because I was sure it was all ending that day. Our first two losses were missed miscarriages where there were no signs of miscarriage, but an ultrasound revealed no heartbeat (12 weeks for Sayre and 8 weeks for Aurora).

We went into the ultrasound room at my midwife’s office and I refused to look at the screen, I was so afraid it was going to be bad news. Then the ultrasound tech said “There’s baby! And there’s baby’s heart fluttering away!” My head has never jerked to look at anything so fast before in my life. There was our baby in profile with a little light flickering away. Our baby was alive and had a heartbeat. We both cried, yet again. The tech was wonderful and kept playing the heartbeat for us so we could record it. Coming in at 170 beats per minute and measuring at exactly 8 weeks 3 days, our baby was textbook perfect. I’d had some brown spotting at 6 weeks and on and off the week leading up to the ultrasound, but they couldn’t find anything wrong with the baby that would be causing that. Probably old blood from having my cervix jabbed repeatedly during the IUI just now working its way out.

And now here I am, almost 9 weeks pregnant with a baby with a strong beating heart. I feel nauseous on and off throughout the day, really tired, have insanely vivid dreams, food aversions are becoming a thing, and I crave ramen noodles. Now we just have to get through our 12 week appointment. But I’m trying to focus on every day as it comes, way easier said than done for me. For now, my baby is alive and we’re okay.

My darlings

My darling babies,

I miss you so much that it takes my breath away. I see you everywhere I go and I wonder so many things about you. What would your laugh have sounded like? Would you like car rides or hate them? What would your first word have been? I’ll never know any of those things…and it breaks my heart.

I’ve gotten better at carrying the weight of my grief, but some days like today, I miss you so strongly that it seems I’ll never be happy again. I would give anything to have you here with me. I would gladly give my life so that you could live. A mother is never supposed to outlive her children. And I’ve outlived all three of you.

Do you hear my words? Do you feel my love and sadness? I have your birth flowers tattooed on my body, something to touch when I long to hold you in my arms. Sometimes I feel like I died with you and they just forgot to bury me. Other times, I think my body is your monument. The only home you ever knew was me, and I have to stay alive so a small piece of each of you will too.

There will never be a day that I don’t miss you. I love you more than I can ever say, you are my greatest what ifs. Oh, my sweet babies, I can’t wait to hold you finally. I’ll be there soon enough, I have some more living to do first. For the four of us. You will always live as long as I draw breath on this earth.

Dear baby

Dear Baby,

I don’t know if you’ll ever exist, but I want you to know I love you. I love you even now, before the spark of life has flames into you. I love you before you breathe your first breaths in this world. I love you, and will love you, no matter who you may be. I will love you no matter who you love. I love you no matter what you do. You will know that my love is not fragile or conditional, my love for you is eternal.

You will know that I fought heaven and hell and moved mountains just to bring you into the light. You will know you are my heart’s desire. I have loved you. I love you. I will love you. There is not a moment in my life that I have not loved you; you are my past, present, and future. My heart aches to hear your cries and to know you. Please, come and meet your mother. I am waiting for you, no matter who you are, and I cannot wait to proudly call you my child.