The view from six months later
I haven’t been able to update this blog in six months. Not because I’ve been physically unable to, but because I’ve been too afraid to actually put into words what has been going on with me.
The crazy thing is, what’s going on has been good – as of today, I am 6 and 1/2 months pregnant. We actually found out I was pregnant only a few weeks after my last post, and after all the drama of the kidney stones (and another kidney infection which resulted in 2 more trips to the ER in September), it seemed beyond possible that the pregnancy would last. In fact, when I found out I was pregnant, I pretty much assumed I was headed for another miscarriage. It just did not seem likely that an embryo would survive what my body had been going through while it was forming and implanting in my uterus.
I continued to feel that way for…pretty much the entire first trimester. It is difficult to overstate just how petrified I was that entire time – which lasted until pretty much the week before Thanksgiving. Every twinge, every ache in my body left me wondering if this was it, this was the start of another pregnancy loss. I sincerely did not believe my body would be able to sustain the pregnancy, but there was nothing I could do but wait for time to pass, so I went into survival mode. When I can’t change something but I still feel very worried about it, I distract myself and only talk about it rarely, when I feel up to it. I definitely couldn’t write about it in any public way- writing feels deeper and more exposed than I was willing to be. I pretty much kept myself going by either working really hard, watching a LOT of movies and television, occasionally stopping to talk to our therapist, a few friends or my husband, and every now and then just breaking down in a really big, panicked crying session.
We switched OBs to someone who was more loss-friendly – since the last practice was a total nightmare from start to finish – but I still think the new OB thought I was a total lunatic. I asked for every blood test imaginable, to rule out any genetic factors that could cause recurrent miscarriage (which my last OB refused to do, despite my having a family history of one condition that could be a marker of recurrent miscarriage) and I insisted on a consultation with a really good maternal-fetal medicine specialist (who took my concerns very seriously, at last). After my 3rd trip to the ER during the first trimester, my OB started to realize I wasn’t just making things up and he was a little more accommodating about testing me early for things and keeping an eye on my kidney function. And somehow…I made it. We actually got to the point of genetic testing for the fetus – in fact, we actually got to the point where we could call it a fetus – and the next thing I knew, they were telling me that this fetus looked like a boy, and this boy had a very low chance of any genetic abnormalities.
I wish I could say that magically my anxieties cleared up and I had an easy time of it from that point forward, but that’s just not possible. I think I have a bit of healing to do from the last 1-2 years of loss and grief, and I still have a long way to go to get this baby safely into the world, so instead of feeling magically better, instead I’ve just…..gradually achieved a plateau of calm. I realized at a certain point that I had to will myself to calm down and take it easier, if not for me than for the baby, and so I deliberately avoided anything that would make me too upset. I watched the news a lot less frequently (which was hard to do with all the election coverage), I decided to avoid people or situations that would upset me, and I got very conservative in terms of my behavior. I went to bed at 9 p.m. and almost never went anywhere in my free time. It felt like I was hunkering down in my safe space, to just keep myself on an even keel.
2012 in particular was a year in which I learned just what my support system consisted of, and that was very hard for me in many ways. I was surprised to find that people I thought would be there for me were just not capable or willing to do that when I really needed them, and I’m still hurting from that realization, but by the end of the year, I started to rebuild and move on. New people, people I would never have expected, have turned out to be true friends and I’ve learned a lot from them about what really matters. My relationship with J has grown and expanded in a way I could never have anticipated, and I feel like our marriage has become something truly remarkable. We mostly keep that away from the outside world, as a very private thing between us, and he is also an extremely quiet, introverted person, so I think most people don’t realize just how hard this last year has been for him as well. We have put such solid effort into working on our relationship, because it was vital for both of us that we survive all of this intact and still happy together. One of the real achievements of this last year has been that the work we’ve been doing has really paid off. We both felt so lucky to even find each other in the first place, and I think that sense of really valuing what we have has carried us through. So, between the people who’ve really stepped us to help and support us and the deeper love and appreciation we’ve found together, I feel like I’ve been able to let go of a lot of the past and build something better. There are still moments when I feel enraged and hurt, but they’re so much fewer now, and I remind myself every time they happen that the best way to recover is to focus on where I’m going, not where I’ve been.
And with all luck, the baby…a little boy…will be here in April. I’m still not sure I really believe it yet, that this is actually happening. Infertility knocked me over like a tidal wave, and deep down, I think I was convinced we’d either have to do IVF or adopt, both options entailing a very long, hard road for us. That we could conceive a child ourselves – naturally, with no hormones or intervention of any kind – and that I could carry that baby all the way to term was something I just didn’t believe was possible. I still have a lot of trouble accepting that it will work out – I feel like I’m always preparing myself for the worst and rarely allowing myself to think of the best outcomes, as they still seem unlikely to me. Right now, I’m just trying to be very open, open to the chaos and the uncertainty that is going to take over my life. I don’t know what being a new parent is going to be like – I know it will re-make my life completely, but I don’t know what that means or how that will work – so the best I can do is just be open to the huge unknown that is coming. That unknown could be very rough – the delivery itself could be very rough or the baby could have some issues that are quite serious and require a lot of follow-up care – or it could be much easier and drama-free. Regardless, I am very happy to be in this place – I’d rather be facing the unknown of a life as a parent than the bleakness of never knowing if I would have this chance.
Lately we talk the most about the surprise we’re really looking forward to – finding out who our son is. We want to be as open to whoever he truly is as we can, and not impose on him our ideas of who we think he should be. I read recently in a book about parenting that it is important to love your children for who they are, rather than what they do or achieve. People tend to get very swept up in their children’s activities or their achievements, and forget that the real value, the real treasure in the parent-child relationship is getting to know these extraordinary people. Maybe I feel very excited about this because of the loss of our previous pregnancy – I will never get to know who that child would have become, so the fact that I might get to know this second child is an incredible thing to me. When I think about that last baby, I thank him/her for teaching me that – that child taught me not only that I could actually get pregnant, but that what was precious to me was the chance to get to know my children, however they came to me. And what has this second baby taught me? Well, one wonderful thing he’s done is kick like a little demon since he hit 16 weeks – which has been an enormous comfort. I know he’s still alive in there every time he kicks, and I feel gratitude and relief every time it happens. I smile and mentally thank him for reminding me that he’s still in there. I’m sure he will do a thousand other things that surprise and teach me as well. And I do like that infertility and pregnancy loss have taught me this approach to parenthood – rather than seeing it as my right and my due, I see what a huge privilege and an honor it is, and how important it is not to take it for granted.
So, that’s where I am, six months later. That’s the start of 2013 so far.