Sunday, August 30, 2009

Nineteen months

Dear boy,

Once again I've missed a month. When you turned eighteen months old, we were temporarily without a permanent mailing address, and in the craziness of the move, your 1.5-year-mark slipped by. But here we are! You're 19 months old! And we have a new house!

I'm exhausted. Which is pretty much a direct result of the last two exclamations above. But it's a GOOD tired.

My favorite thing that's happened over the last month is your ability to tell stories. Every day when he comes home from work, your daddy sits you on his lap and asks, "What did you do today?" You usually answer with some order of your favorite nouns. "Car! Dad? Trucks! Bubbles! Elmo! Dad? Golf! Big ball!" The "Dad?" interjections are just to make sure he's still listening, I suppose, but you needn't worry, son -- your dad and I hang on your every word. Of which you know over 200 by now. (I counted them up before we went to your 18-month checkup in case your pediatrician asked me how many you knew, but he only asked if you knew at least seven. SEVEN. I just stared at him, and he smiled and said, "I'll just put down 'yes,' how's that?")

You've also been enjoying more weekend outings with your dad lately. Your most frequent destination continues to be Lowe's, or maybe Home Depot. The last time you went, your dad sat you on the lawnmowers, which you and Elmo seemed to enjoy immensely.

You've also been lucky enough to spend lots of time with your extended family this last month or two. You see your maternal grandfather every Sunday, your maternal grandmother and youngest uncle (J) come to visit you at our new house several times a week, you see your OTHER maternal uncle (D) as often as his busy teaching schedule permits, and your paternal grandparents have come to town several times over the last few months to assist us with the move process. Here you are having a chuckle with your uncle D, whom you've dubbed "DD".

You probably won't remember the details of this move from your first home to the one we're in now, but we moved out of our old home on July 26. Because our new house wasn't ready to move into yet, we crashed at your Uncle S and Aunt N's place for three weeks. They shared their lovely townhome with us, which afforded you oodles of time to play with your cousin S, who is about four months younger than you are. Here she is looking a-perfectly-dorable with her twin pigtails.

Speaking of hair, this month we leveraged your Uncle S's barbering skills and requested that he help us trim your shaggy mane. The resulting cut was one of my favorite looks on you, ever. The ultra-short sides and back showcased your silky fluff up-top, and you sported your faux-hawk just as well as any of Angelina Jolie's children ever did.

What else can I tell you about this month? You simply are a joy to be around, ESPECIALLY now that you've gotten so very articulate and chatty. The other day we drove by a tiny private airfield near our new neighborhood, and you spent the rest of the afternoon telling me about the "baby airplanes" you'd spotted near the hangar. "What did you see, son?" I'll ask you. You answer, "Ay-main. Baby! Sky. Vrrrrrrr. Clouds! Mom? SKY! Ay-main! More?" Because you always want more. More to talk about. More to see. More to experience and touch and learn.

That's the essence of the last month, son. And as much as YOU want more, I can tell you honestly that your dad and I want more, too. More of YOU. More time with you. More chances to try to soak up the light that shines from your bright eyes, more opportunities to sit you on our laps and hold you there as if we can slow down your meteoric growth and development for just a few minutes, just to hold our baby a little longer. Your dangling legs remind us every day (as well as the fact that though you're still only in the 10th percentile for weight for kids your age, you're in the 90th for height) that you are shooting rapidly upwards, out of your clothes and shoes and baby ways.

I love you so, so, so very much.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Things I wish I didn't know

I thought that once the physical ordeal of the miscarriage was over, the healing could just begin and move forward at a steady pace. But there was so much I didn't realize.

When you're really ready for a baby and you find out you're pregnant, it seems like that child springs into being immediately, and the forty weeks of pregnancy are just a formality you have to get through. Almost instantly, you're looking ahead, and thinking things like, "I'll be about four months pregnant when we take that trip in September." And, "When my uncle gets married in November, I'll be showing -- I should think about getting something to wear." Or, "Wow, I'll be huge when boy turns two in January. Better plan a low-key party!" You think about what room in the new house you should turn into a nursery. You wonder whether it's time to get boy moved into a big-boy bed, so you can use the crib for the baby. You look up baby names on the Internet, and you say them aloud to see how they sound with your last name.

When you lose a baby, even early in a pregnancy, you lose every single moment of the rest of the dreams you created. There are moments when I actually almost forget that it happened, moments when I still automatically think about getting out my maternity clothes, moments when I wonder how long I can keep boy on my lap as my belly grows. And every time reality comes back to me, it's like I've gone through the loss all over again.

I go hours, days, without hurting. And then something brings it all back. I looked at my calendar yesterday and I saw that I'd written, "Last ultrasound" on the day we learned about the miscarriage. I didn't know what else to write -- I wanted to mark the day somehow, because ... well, BECAUSE. It was a child we lost. It doesn't matter to me that it was tiny, that it was really more of a collection of tissues that were destined to become a recognizable person. There was a tiny beating heart there, and at some point, it stopped. And you don't just let a thing like that go by without wanting to remember that that little heart had been beating for a time.

"Last ultrasound."

I wish I didn't know that this kind of grief is the sort you have to feel in pieces. You can't just feel it all at once for a week and be done. That shouldn't surprise me. But somehow it did.

Thursday, August 06, 2009


All my troubles seemed so far away
Now it seems as though they're here to stay ...
Suddenly ...
There's a shadow hanging over me
Oh, yesterday came suddenly ...

It was the quickest OB/GYN doctor's office visit I'd ever had. Before yesterday, I'd have thought that was a good thing.

A week ago, I went to the doctor because I'd taken a couple of home pregnancy tests that were positive. (Wait, what did she just say?! Why didn't she tell us? That's good news, right? Yes, it was very good news. We were thrilled.) I was glad to finally go because it had been two weeks since I'd taken the tests, and although everything seemed to be going smoothly, I just wasn't feeling ... much of anything. No nausea, no cramping, not even much fatigue -- none of the things I remembered feeling early on in my pregnancy with boy. I knew that all pregnancies are different, but I still felt like I should be feeling SOMETHING. So I'd scheduled a confirmation visit with my doctor for yesterday, but last week I just needed to know that everything was alright. Luckily, my doctor's nurse-practitioner worked me into her schedule, and did a quick ultrasound, and it was an enormous relief to see a tiny flickering heartbeat on the monitor. We discovered to my surprise that I wasn't as far along as I'd thought -- the baby was measured at just six weeks' development, as opposed to the eight weeks' development I'd thought had passed. Still, I was so happy just to see the movement on that screen. When the nurse-practitioner left the room, I shed a few tears of gratitude and headed across the hall to do some routine bloodwork. That was last Tuesday.

Thursday afternoon, I received a call from the doctor's office. My bloodwork had returned from the lab and showed that my progesterone levels, which should be around a 25, were only at a 12. The nurse explained that progesterone was the hormone that maintained a pregnancy, so the doctor had prescribed a progesterone supplement that I was to take twice a day. It sounded like a pretty common pregnancy situation, and so I wasn't terribly worried until the nurse said, "Make sure you take these, ok? We want to do everything we can to maintain this pregnancy."

Uh-oh. Enter ANXIETY.

I filled the prescription within two hours of talking to that nurse, and took the first pill with dinner. It's been years since I experienced a buzz, but this hormone pill gave me the closest thing to one I'll ever have again. Within an hour of taking it, I was dizzy and light-headed, and when I turned my head from side to side, the world took a second or two to catch up to me. And my veins felt like there was lead running through them. My God, I thought -- TWICE a DAY? With a toddler to keep up with? This is going to be rough. But I took them. I took them every day. I would have taken six of them at a time if it would have helped.

That brings us to yesterday, the appointment I'd made three weeks ago and that my nurse-practitioner and I had agreed to keep, even though I'd just been seen. Yesterday.

My appointment was for 1:30 p.m. I left boy with my mom and my brother J, and headed to my appointment. Almost before my rear end had even hit the waiting room seat, one of the nurses was calling my name to be seen. Wow, I thought. That was fast. By 1:35 I'd left the obligatory urine sample, been weighed, and had changed into the paper sheet that's supposed to help you keep your privacy but really only makes you feel like an idiot. ("Hi, doctor! I'd get up to shake your hand, except I'm naked under this thing. Which you can plainly see because it's basically transparent. Thanks for the filmy scrap to hold over my dignity!")

The nurse-practitioner was immediately in the room to fire up the ultrasound machine. As she started the procedure, I noticed that the screen was turned away from me. And that didn't feel right. She was also very, very quiet, and there were long pauses between the light notes of her conversation with me. And every pause felt like six lifetimes.

She finally opened her mouth and said, "I don't see a dramatic difference from last week." I was willing so hard for the news to be good that I actually thought that what she'd said was a good thing at first. "Oh, good," I breathed. And then she put her hand on my foot. "No," she said gently. "I'm saying I don't see a change."

I don't remember if I said, "Oh," or if I just lay there silently. What I do remember is that I simultaneously knew that I'd already known this was coming, and that I could. Not. Believe. It. Was she saying that it was over? That ... I wasn't pregnant any more? She couldn't be.

I pulled my shattered mind together and managed to say very calmly, "There's no heartbeat?" She squeezed my foot again, and said, "I don't see one." And then she said, "I'm sorry," and that's when I started to cry. I lay on the table with my knees in the air and I cried pools of tears silently onto the paper beneath me.

She stepped out and called in my doctor, who was heartbreakingly kind and supportive. He looked carefully at the screen and I could FEEL him willing there to be some movement, some little sign that would give us all hope, even though I knew there would be none. And as he looked and looked and finally confirmed that there was nothing to show that the tiny baby was alive anymore, I cried. I didn't want to be that woman, but I was. I cried and I shook with the knowledge that I wasn't going to have this baby. And I fell apart all over again when I realized that, oh my God, I had to tell my husband all of this.

I'd heard people say it before. "We lost a baby." And I knew what it meant. It meant a miscarriage. It meant that someone who had been pregnant was no longer so. It meant that through no fault of her own, a woman's body had decided that things were not going well, and stopped the amazing chain of events that leads to the birth of a healthy baby. But now I know why it's those words that people use. It's because you feel like it's your fault, even when you know it's not. You feel like you did something to ... lose. Even though this child had no recognizable features, no fingers and toes to count, no tiny arms to wave around, the sense of LOSS is staggering. And I know that my doctor is right, that this happens to 1 in every 3 pregnancies, that it's so very common. And it does nothing to take away my pain and my husband's grief, and the sadness of our family.

I asked the doctor what to expect, and he told me that when miscarriages happen this early on in a pregnancy, he prefers to let a woman's body take care of things naturally. Which meant I'd have to wait for the process to complete itself the way it inevitably would. He explained gently that the process could take three or four weeks to begin, and that since I still had pregnancy hormones in my system, that I'd continue to feel pregnant during that time. I think that was the hardest thing to hear -- that I'd still be ravenously hungry and slightly queasy and occasionally bone-tired, but that I wasn't going to have the payoff anymore of a little baby to cuddle and love at the end of the road. He said he was sorry, but that this wouldn't affect my chances of getting or staying pregnant again, that I'd have as many children as I wanted to, that there was time and that he'd be here for all of it. And then he patted me kindly and left. It wasn't even 1:45.

One of the drawbacks of seeing this particular amazing doctor is that his offices are deep within a building in a medical center that is a maze of high rises. As a result, there is ZERO cell reception in his offices. I sat in that room and I prayed for the miracle of just one little bar on my cell phone so that I could tell my husband what had happened before I had to walk out into the world where there was no baby in my near future. I didn't want to have to walk out, make my payment, catch an elevator, pay for my parking and wait for my car to pull up before I could talk to him. But of course there was no signal. So of course I did all of those things, and in the lobby of the building when I was able to talk to him, I sobbed out the news as people around me stared and probably thought I was crazy. He left work immediately and we pulled ourselves together to call our family and let them know what had transpired. And we thanked our lucky stars that we'd managed to keep from telling everyone we knew, so that there were fewer times we had to say the awful, hateful, how-can-they-even-be-true words.

That was yesterday.

The thing is, I had known from the beginning that something wasn't right. I'd told several people -- my mother, my sister-in-law, a close girlfriend -- that something was very different this time around, that I was worried, that I was scared. Now I know that that feeling was intuition, and I'm glad it was trustworthy, even if it sucked.

Because it did. And it does. And while today is a little better because I'm not in shock anymore, the fact that our baby is gone is never far from my mind.

And yet.

Even through the darkest parts of yesterday, we knew that there was a purpose to this. I don't know and never will know what it is or was. But I trust that it's there, and that's enough for the time being. God has never, ever let me down. If He needed me to start a pregnancy that I couldn't carry all the way, if He needed to lift from me the trial of caring for a child who would have found this life painful, then I can thank Him and know that He did for me what I would not have been strong enough to do myself -- He showed great mercy in sending me yesterday so early on in this pregnancy. I know that. Yesterday, it helped a little bit. Today, it helps a little more. Tomorrow, maybe a touch more. So I'll just keep hanging on. Because He's taking me somewhere, and I don't want to miss the trip.

If any of you would like to say a little prayer, though, to smooth our journey, I would so very much be grateful to you.