Wednesday, November 2, 2016

When you lose someone you love.

I sat on the exam table, a thousand thoughts swirling through my head, her words not really registering.

What are you saying?

There's really no heartbeat?

Can you check again?

That can't be right. I've been SO sick. For weeks and weeks AND weeks. I'm so close to 12 weeks, so close to coming out of the zombie-exhaustion + nausea stage. 

How could there be no heartbeat?!

Moments before, we were excitedly talking about baby no 2, scheduled to arrive at the end of April. We'd been waiting and anticipating this day for the last month. We were so excited to finally see this little baby and hear his heartbeat. We talked about Margot being a big sister, how we didn't want to find out the sex of the baby this time, wondering if their labors would be the same or different, and how we all hoped I wouldn't have to push again for 3 hours.

As we wrapped up this part of the appointment, the midwife said, "Lets get to the fun part and look at your baby." I was 11 weeks + 1 day pregnant. I laid back on the table feeling excited and a little nervous. She squirted warm goop onto my stomach and began rolling the sonogram wand around in circles. She was having trouble seeing enough of the baby to get a good measurement. The same thing happened when I was pregnant with Margot. They said it was due to my backward-tilted uterus. Baby was probably hiding again. Or so I thought.

She decided to do a transvaginal ultrasound to see if she could get the images she needed that way. After what seemed like an eternity of her looking at the monitor and not saying much, I got the feeling that something was wrong. My husband squeezed my hand and our faces searched the screen for a good sign. We were finally able to see our sweet little baby and the midwife got her measurements. At this point, we didn't know that she wasn't seeing a heartbeat or that we were supposed to be seeing tiny hands and feet moving, because who can really see much on those fuzzy screens anyways. She commented that baby was only measuring 10 weeks, not 11 weeks + 1 day. We must have calculated my due date wrong. Or so I thought. 

"We should be seeing more movement from the baby at this stage of the pregnancy," she said. Baby looked small, kind of curled up in a little ball. She said the heartbeat is usually a very visible flicker on the chest and she wasn't seeing that either. She slipped out of the room to get another midwife to take a look. Lee whispered a quick prayer when it was just the two of us.

Lord, let there be a heartbeat. Please let them find a heartbeat. 

Another midwife came in to take a look. She said the same thing, which still wasn't registering in my head. I kept thinking, so what are you saying to us? And then it hit me. My baby's heart had stopped. I stared blankly at the screen, not wanting to believe what they were telling me. The midwife called the doctor affiliated with the birth center to see if we could come in for a second ultrasound. They told her the ultrasound tech was in that day and to have us come right over. My midwife grabbed my hands, looked right at my face and said, "It's not looking good." She hugged me and said, "I'm so sorry. I want them to double check across the street, but it doesn't appear that baby has a heartbeat anymore. It looks like it happened sometime within the last few days."

They left the room. My husband put his arm around me and pulled my body to his chest. Hot tears rolled down my cheeks.  

How was this happening to us? This wasn't the news I was expecting to hear today, to hear ever. I didn't want to believe it.

I was scheduled to have a D&C two days later, but got a call from the surgery center telling me all surgeries had been canceled due to the impending Hurricane Matthew storm, and that we'd have to reschedule. Lee was leaving on a 2 week work trip to Asia the following Wednesday (one week later), so we didn't exactly have a lot of time to reschedule. After a quick consult with the doctor the following morning, we loaded our stuff into the car, and with the rest of Charleston evacuated for the approaching storm. We headed to NC to spend the weekend with my in-laws.

The next week was the hardest week of my life. Carrying a baby I knew we'd lost for an entire week felt like torture. I was heartbroken, anxious, nervous, sad, in denial. I wanted the baby out. I wanted to still be pregnant. I wanted my baby back, alive. I knew when we got pregnant again, it would never be this baby and I wanted to have THIS baby. I was full of so many emotions but felt numb at the same time. I was experiencing a missed miscarriage. Our baby's heart had stopped sometime in the 10th week but my body hadn't recognized it yet. It was still releasing pregnancy hormones and I still felt pregnant. Supposedly it can take weeks for your body to recognize a pregnancy loss, and at this point, I felt angry at my body that it hadn't yet. I was still taking my anti-nausea medicine (the only way I'd been able to function the last 2 months) and STILL felt nauseous. That night I cried myself to sleep on my husband's chest feeling so sick I thought I would throw up and so sad that it was for no reason. I had no cramping, no bleeding, no sign that anything was wrong at all. I still couldn't believe this was happening. I have never cried so much in my life as I cried that week.

The emotions seemed to come in waves. They still do. The night before my surgery was very hard and full of so many tears (more like sobs). After an extremely difficult week of wanting the whole thing to be over with, I suddenly wanted to freeze time. It felt so final. That night we were saying goodbye to this sweet little baby that had breezed through our lives for a brief 3 months. I remember thinking this is the last night I will carry him until Heaven. Even though we weren't planning to find out the sex of the baby, I wanted to know so badly then. My heart ached to hold him and knowing I wouldn't be able to just crushed me. We sat on the couch together, crying and talking and crying some more. I cried and cried until I finally fell asleep.

The thing about hard things is we never think they'll happen to us. Or at least we hope they won't happen to us. I never thought miscarriage would be a part of my story. I never imagined losing a baby I loved so much before I got the chance to meet and know and hold that baby. My mom had 8 kids and never had one. My two older sisters have 5 and 3 kids and neither have had one. I thought it would be the same for me.

I realized that day how little control we have over our lives. As much as we think we do, we don't. Life is fragile, a very precious gift. Our days are numbered and we don't get to know that number. Our babies days are numbered, and we don't get to know that number either. One minute there's a heartbeat and the next it is gone. Just like that.

Grieving is a process, or so I'm learning, and I'm still walking through it. The past month has been very sad (hard, unexpected), but I've also experienced an incredible love and comfort like never before. I know God is still good and kind and faithful. And I know Him now personally as the Comforter, my Comforter. I've always heard about that aspect of Him, but now I know it in a very real way. I know that even in the midst of hard things, painful things, He doesn't leave us alone. I've been undone by that realization this last month. He's been present and loved me through people being present and loving me. Cards sent, meals dropped off, gifts in the mail, flowers delivered, free babysitting, my sister and mom coming to visit so I wasn't physically alone while Lee was gone. Each and every act of kindness has made me feel so loved and a little less alone. It makes me cry to think about.

Loss is such a weird thing to experience. I've had grandparents and friends pass away, but I've never experienced a loss so personal, from my own body, a part of me. I've been surprised a lot the last month. I am surprised at the deep, deep love I have for this tiny baby even though we've never met. I love him a lot. I loved him before he was even growing inside of me. I waited and prayed and anticipated this pregnancy, for some reason worried we wouldn't be able to get pregnant (even though we had no trouble the first time), relieved when we did a couple months later, but never in a million years expecting the loss to come.

I am surprised at how real the loss has felt. In my head, miscarrying was different than losing a child, spouse, parent, or grandparent. The baby wasn't born yet, and I guess in my head, it didn't really count as much. I imagined it was sad, but probably not that sad. And miscarriage IS a different kind of loss, a different kind of sadness. But now I realize that the size of the baby doesn't make the loss any less painful or real. It's very real and very personal. No one else will feel the loss in the same way, which is why walking through miscarriage can feel so isolating and lonely.

I am surprised at how hard it's been to be around people since experiencing this loss. How do I begin answer the "How are you doing?" question I get asked so often. I feel good some days, great some days, and really sad some days. And sometimes I feel all three in the same day. It seems so emotionally draining to try explain what I've been through (although I feel less and less like this the more time that passes) to people who may not even understand.

I am surprised that I think about our baby all the time (like my mind is consumed with thoughts of this baby). Wondering who he was, what his personality would've been like, what he would've looked like, etc. I think I'll always think about him. He's part of Lee, part of me, a part of our family, and we can't wait to meet him one day.

I am surprised at how many people share similar stories of loss and heartbreak. Statistically, 15-20% of women will experience a miscarriage, which is approximately 1 in 6 women. Now I was one of those women, and as I shared our news, friends started opening up to me about their own miscarriages. It felt like every time I turned around I was hearing someone else's story of loss. I suddenly had this intense desire to read and know as many of these stories as possible. I spent numerous nights scouring the web, reading blogs and articles, and talking to friends. Something about it made me feel less alone in my grief. It made this process feel more normal. These people had experienced the same thing I was going through. They had found healing and were able to move on in their own time and in their own way. Their words though sad, were also helpful and hopeful. I felt like I had suddenly joined a secret club within the motherhood club.

A few weekend's ago, I was at a women's event at our church when a friend pulled me aside, gave me a big hug, and asked me how I was doing. Up until then, I thought I was doing pretty good. But suddenly, I burst into tears. I felt fragile and tender, quick to cry, deeply feeling so many emotions. On the surface, I felt ok. Physically, I was finally starting to feel ok. But deep down, I was sad. She said a few things that night about grief and miscarriage (having experienced her own) that were so freeing and comforting to hear:

You're not alone.

There's not right or wrong way to grieve. 

There's no 'normal' way to feel. Whatever you're feeling is okay.

There's no timeline for grieving. Take as long as you need. For real! There's no hurry. It's not a race.

It's ok if you want to cry. It's ok if you want to hangout and be normal. It's okay to do both!

And some people may not understand and that's ok too. 

I got in my car and couldn't stop crying.

The hardest part after the initial loss is the continued loss I experience as I keep on living. I'm grieving the baby we lost, but I'm also grieving the loss of all we expected life to look like in this season. It's hard when you anticipate your future looking a certain way, and suddenly all those changes you thought were going to take place are gone, and all is back to normal. It's the the 'would have been' moments that seem to pop up unexpectedly and often. I would have been 15 weeks pregnant this week. I would have been pregnant at Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. We would have gone on a baby-moon in January. I would have been pregnant with my friends and we would have had babies close together. We would have welcomed home our 2nd baby in the spring. Margot and this baby would have been 2 years and a few months a part. Every time someone posts a pregnancy announcement or baby bump photo, my heart aches just a little bit because I no longer am. That is the hard part now. The moving on with life, even though it's different than we imagined it would be at the present. I am constantly having to adjust my perspective.

I am so (so, so, so) grateful for our Margot James. Every time I feel sad, or my heart aches, or I miss this baby we lost, I scoop up our joyful, spunky, dolly of a girl, and hold her tight. She's such a gift and joy to us, and a daily reminder of His faithfulness.

I never would have chosen to go through this, but am grateful none-the-less to have carried this life for the 3 months I did. It's changed me forever. We love you baby. You're a part of us and we will miss you every single day until we meet.

*I say he as I write this, although we didn't know the sex of our baby. We both felt like it was a boy when we found out we were pregnant, so saying he just seems right.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Margot James

A month ago on an early Friday morning, February 6th to be exact, our lives changed forever. But let me back up a little bit.

The Monday a few days prior, I went into the birth center for a checkup since I was now 40 weeks + 3 days pregnant. They checked me saying baby was indeed coming and everything was getting ready for her arrival. I woke up Tuesday morning and told Lee I just didn't feel good. It was the first day I had felt like this. Bad. Icky. Just not normal. I tried to go about my day as I normally would.

Now that the unpacking was done, taxes sent off to our accountant, and the last of my to-do list checked off, it was time to get some meals made and into the freezer for after baby's arrival. Grocery shopping, chopping and prepping kept me busy most the afternoon. It was about 7:30 pm that things got exciting. I started having 'real' contractions, at least I hoped they were. They definitely felt different than the Braxton Hicks I'd been having for weeks now. They were coming every 4-7 minutes apart. We ate dinner, cleaned up, watched a show or two, all the while I kept having these contractions. I kept thinking, is this it? Are these the real deal? I would say something like that to Lee periodically, to which he'd reply, "yah, hmm...I donno babe." Around 11 we started getting ready for bed. They were about five minutes apart at this point. I told Lee that this might be it. Baby might finally be coming. I suggested we gather our things just in case. I text my doula to inform her of what was happening. She said it could be labor, but just to try rest if possible. Sleep. Take a bath. I didn't know how anyone could possibly sleep at a time like this, but I took her bath advice. I ran a bath, trying to stay calm, while Lee put together our birth playlist.  Haha, yes, Lee doesn't plan ahead as much as I do.

We had purchased an exercise/birth ball a week or so prior per request of my chiropractor and midwives, but it had lost some air and needed to be blown up again. Lee decided it was a good time to blow it up, but then the pump broke. So here I am, contractions every five minutes apart, in the bath, while Lee's heading off to Walmart at 2am to get another pump and put gas in the car, just in case. It makes me chuckle to think back on. A good while later he rushes back in with two replacement birth balls/pumps, just in case one of them didn't work. I was still in the same state. By about 4am, we were both exhausted from the anticipation and waiting, me from hours of contractions. We decide to try lay down and rest a bit. I think the contractions stopped around 6am, at which time we both fell asleep for a couple hours. We woke up disappointed, me especially so. I thought that was it. It made me nervous for what the real thing was going to be like because those were intense, so close together, and felt real to me. I was a little bit crushed and a lot exhausted.

Lee went into work late that Wednesday morning and I stayed in my pj's and tried to rest. I finished up a few more freezer meals to keep my mind off things. She was bound to come, eventually. At least that's what everyone kept telling me.

8pm rolled around and we were back in the same boat. Contractions had started up again, but tonight they were ten times more intense. So intense, that there was no question in my mind that this was the real deal. Baby was coming. But they were only coming 4-6 times an hour. It was nice to have more breathing time between them, but man, when one hit, I would grab Lee's hand and squeeze like my life depended on it. This went on. All night long. I text my doula again, and she said to let her know when they got closer together. We waited. I groaned and squeezed his hand, but they never got any closer. I was really exhausted by this point. They tapered off by early morning and again we slept. I awoke still having contractions, but only 2 or 3 an hour. I text my doula again and she said this could be prodromal labor, which is labor that starts and stops, sometimes for days on end.

Suddenly my life felt like the terrible movie Groundhog Day, and I was stuck in this long labor time loop. I couldn't bare the thought of going through this one more night without her actually coming. I was tired physically and emotionally. I was anxious to get to our midwife apt that afternoon. We were scheduled to do a non-stress test and check fluid levels for the baby. Lee picked me up after lunch and we decided to load up our bags just in case.

We headed off to what we thought would be a normal check up. I prayed for good news and that all those hours of contractions were indeed productive. When the midwife walked into the exam room and asked me how I was, I burst into tears. Not good. She's not coming. And these contractions won't stop, or progress. I blubbered on for a bit and she was so sweet and understanding, reassuring me that baby girl was indeed going to come, probably within days. That wasn't what I wanted to hear. Baby was active and sounded great on the non-stress test, and there was plenty of fluid surrounding her. She then checked my cervix and shockingly told us that I was 6cm dilated, 100% effaced, and that baby was coming within hours, for sure by tonight. We both looked at each other completely shocked at the news. I was so relieved. All those hours of contractions had been working. My body was preparing for baby and knowing I was already over halfway there was the best news ever.

The midwife said my body looked like it was in active labor, but my uterus wasn't contracting like it was in active labor. She said it must be resting from all the hard work it had been doing the last 20+ hours. She told us to go grab some lunch, get a quick adjustment at the chiropractor (which was a couple blocks away), and go home for a nap (since we only lived ten minutes away) until contractions picked up. We got the chiro adjustment and lunch parts done, but by that time contractions were coming every six minutes. I called her back and said we were coming in now.

We arrived a couple hours after leaving the appointment, and by then I was dilated to 8cm. We got settled into our room at the birth center and I got into the birthing tub. My husband started our relaxing labor playlist and lit my favorite candle. Our little room felt so homey, peaceful and relaxing. I spent the next 4 hours laboring in the water, working and breathing through contractions. I felt my water break shortly after I got into the tub which excited me.

Time passed more quickly than I imagined four hours taking. It's like I was there but not at the same time. Lee and my doula took turns passing me water and gatorade, and I sipped frequently. I was focused in on my breathing, breathing through the contractions as they came, each one more intense than the last. Each time one came, I squeezed Lee's hand until it was through. The warm water felt good but my low back was feeling so much pressure. The nurse came and checked baby's heart rate frequently, and every time I heard it, it made me want to meet her that much more. Three or so hours in, I was feeling tired and like things should be progressing more quickly than they were. The midwife came in and said she wanted to do a membrane sweet to make sure nothing was blocking baby from coming. They helped me out of the tub and onto the bed. This is where it got really intense.

The next three hours were full of the hardest work I've ever done in my life. Three hours of pushing with all the energy I could muster. I don't think I could have done it without the amazing team around me. My husband was my best cheerleader, right next to my face, whispering encouragement through every single contraction and push. My doula was on my other side, putting cool wash clothes on my forehead, cheering me on as well. The nurse and midwife were amazing at helping me know how to push, but I honestly felt like she was never going to come out.

Midnight came and went and still no baby. As each contraction came and went, I felt like the last bit of energy and will to push drained out of me. I was worried I wouldn't have any left to finish. I knew I had to push this baby out and soon, or I was gonna give up. I gave those last few pushes my very all, and will never forget them all cheering, saying she's coming, she's coming, she's coming! I remember my midwife saying reach your hands down and grab her. I did and pulled my perfectly fresh, new daughter onto my chest and then breathed the biggest sigh of relief. She's here! She's perfect! Lee and I kept looking at each other and then at her in awe. Our daughter was finally in our arms. I will never forget that moment. It was 12:28 am on that unforgettable Friday morning. I instantly felt the sweetest relief sweep over my exhausted, sweaty body. I did it. I had just birthed a little life into the world. It was the hardest, most amazing and rewarding thing I've ever done. I'm still in awe of the whole process and that I actually did it. It's like my whole life as a woman I doubted that I could really do it, deliver a baby naturally, and here I had gone and done just that. I was so proud and so happy that it was over.

We spent the next four hours laying on the bed, soaking up this little life and our first quiet moments as a family of three. At about 5am that morning, we loaded up a car and headed back to our new home and new life.

Miss Margot James, you've already stretched us more than we've ever been stretched, but we love you more than we ever thought possible. We are so amazed and grateful we get to be your parents baby girl.

*All photos compliments of Revival Photography.

Monday, January 12, 2015

18 days

The final count down has begun. 18 days is what my little baby bump app is telling me. 18 days until our girl could arrive. Although, it could be sooner. Any day really, or another month yet. Not knowing is the hardest part.

We moved into our house 3 weeks ago last Friday, I'm 37.5 weeks pregnant, my back has currently decided to go out, making it excruciatingly painful to walk, sit or lay down, and these are the some of the questions/comments I get on a daily basis.

Any day now, huh? You hiding a basketball in there? How's the house? Do you feel settled? Do you need help unpacking? Is the nursery set up? Do you have all your baby stuff? How do you feel? How is baby? To which I reply. . .Um. . .ok, no, I think???

We're getting there is more like it. Slowly but surely. It definitely feels more like slowly to me. Most days I question if we'll ever feel settled or like this new house is our home. I wonder if I'll ever stop sweeping up dust, or if the construction workers will ever be finished, or if the appliances are ever going to arrive so we can stop eating our meals solely from a microwave and toaster oven. Because honestly, canned soup and sandwiches get kind of old after 3, going on 4 weeks. I keep telling myself that soon we will have blinds and curtains hung up in the house, that there will be towel hooks and toilet paper holders installed, that rugs will be purchased and pictures hung, to make the echoey rooms feel more homey. But all in good time. When my baby app pops up asking me if I've packed my hospital bag yet, I just want to throw my phone and go hide and cry in my room. No, I haven't packed my hospital bag yet. I haven't even set up the nursery yet. The crib is built, stroller and carseat set up, but that's about it. The washed baby clothes and accessories are still in boxes waiting to be put away. And we're still awaiting the arrival of the the rest of the nursery furniture so we can finish. The dresser/changing table finally arrived last week, and I was looking forward to setting it up all week, only to find out they sent 2 box 2's instead of box 1 and 2. I tried not to have too big of a meltdown. Try being the key word. Not sure if I succeeded or not, you'll have to ask my husband;)

Life just feels like a whole lot of waiting and a whole lot expensive. Buying and renovating a house and having a baby within the same few months is expensive with a capital E. And I mean it. Life is this big long list of things waiting to be purchased, waiting to be finished, or waiting to arrive. And most days I feel like I'm failing at waiting, at being patient, at not getting upset or mad or crying about one or all of these things.

And then there's the people who tell you it doesn't really matter if the nursery is set up or if all the pictures are hung before baby comes. She won't even know anyways. And those are the people I especially want to punch in the face. Yes, yes, it may be true and spoken with the best of intentions, but that's the last thing an expecting mama wants to hear when she's been waiting 9.5 months to nest and get settled. Just take it from me;)

But. . .

There's good news too. Great news actually! At our 30 week apt, my midwife said baby who was head down had flipped head up, much to our disappointment. So, I spent the last 4 weeks trying not to worry, while doing every type of head stand and exercise I could find, chiropractic adjustments and praying. Lots of a lots of praying. At our 36 week last week the doc said baby was indeed head down, had dropped, and was in the perfect position. We are beyond relieved and so so thankful.

There are also sweet friends who bring take out and their new, adorably chubby baby over on Friday night to eat dinner with you and see the new house, and your online-turned real life friend who texts and says she wants to bring over a home cooked meal for you as well. And other friends from across the country who text or email that they've been thinking of you and are praying for you. And friends who offer you the use of their washer and dryer AGAIN because yours still hasn't come yet. And all those things make me want to sit down and sob (ok, maybe I've done just that), because I'm so blessed to have such a beautiful life, crazy and stressful and disorganized as it feels. Most days are a struggle to keep the right perspective. The teeter-tottering feelings that our life is a dirty mess and we're swimming in a size too big; to we know such wonderfully loving people who care about us AND we have a God who sees us right where we are and knows exactly what we need. An encouraging text, a meal, a hug, or a prayer. And it may not be all those things I think it I need. . . like a Pinterest perfect nursery, blinds hung up, or toilet paper holders installed.

Every day, these are the things that remind me I'm being stretched. Stretched to be flexible. Stretched to go with the flow. Deep down knowing we'd really be ok if baby arrived tomorrow, wether or not all the million things on our to-do list were checked off or not. And daily I'm reminded that life doesn't have to be perfect to be ok, or even good. It can be dusty, half finished, feel a little too big and slightly uncomfortable. . . and sometimes a moment comes when you realize what really matters is having people that care, love you, email, call, bring you food or coffee, plan a last pre-baby girl's night out/baby shower for you this weekend, and offer to come help mop and sweep your floors because you can't. Those are the things that really matter in the end.

I'm due in 2.5 weeks and praying feverishly she won't come a single day early, although I think I may feel differently in 2 more week. Time will tell. I'm also praying we get a few more things checked off our never ending to-do list, hoping the rocking chair and dresser arrive in time so we can set up the nursery a little bit more, and maybe a few more lights and appliances arrive to make life feel a little more comfortable. I also pray my back calms down and allows me a few more good nights of sleep before baby gets here. But alas, if not. . . this too shall pass.

In the middle of breastfeeding classes, chiropractor and doctors appointments, building closet systems and cribs, trying to successfully install a carseat, tracking all the missing appliances and fixtures to make sure everything's still going to arrive eventually, we're squeezing in all the last minute dates we can. Coffee, lunch, dinner. . . trying to breath, and smile, and understand where each other are coming from day to day. It's easier said than done. But we have 2ish weeks left with just us two, and by golly we're gonna make the most of it, crazy or calm.

Hopefully the next time you're here you'll be reading about our cute baby girl.


35 weeks

36 weeks