Sorry not sorry

After Birdy was born, there were a whole host of things I felt guilty about. This was before we realized she was dealing with colic and I was dealing with PPD/PPA, but at the time, it was just so. much. guilt. I felt awful that as much as I loved her I just wanted her to stop crying. That I wanted to be able to put her down. That I craved sleep above almost all else. That I missed the relationship I used to have with Hubs, because I just couldn’t give him the same attention that I gave Birdy. That I was mentally and emotionally exhausted from being super-vigilant all the time because I was so worried something would happen and we would still lose her (ahem, PPA). That I couldn’t do it all, that I needed help, that I was already failing at being her mother (thanks, PPD). And on and on and on.

It seemed like, and still seems like, the only things I didn’t feel guilty about, didn’t feel the need to apologize for, were the things society at large kind of passively aggressively tells new mothers they should feel bad about.

Namely, for me, the big two of how I gave birth and how I provided nourishment.

I decided very early on in my pregnancy that I wouldn’t be breastfeeding. It’s my body, it’s my choice, and I shouldn’t have to defend it, but I did have my reasons and had they asked I would have had no problem laying it out for them. I’m about to get all kinds of personal, so brace yourself: my nipples have always been extremely sensitive. I mean to the extent that often during our adulting I have to declare them off limits to Hubs, and that an accidental graze can be painful. So I knew that breastfeeding would be an awful experience for me. I knew I would dread it. And I also knew that Birdy would be able to feel my dread and I didn’t want feeding her to be a negative experience for either one of us — that wouldn’t allow for a lovely bonding experience at all. I know all the benefits of breast milk for an infant, but I also know that many infants have been formula fed due to choice or circumstance and turned out just fine. Like me. So I did my research and found a formula that I thought would be best for Birdy as far as nutrients, development, digestion, etc. and that’s what I went with. But oh lordy the looks I got when I said “no” to the question of are-you-breastfeeding in the hospital. It was a lot. Multiple times a day. Even in my haze I wanted to ask, “Isn’t this on my chart? Shouldn’t somebody have written down that I said no a bajillion times already?” A part of me thought that maybe they believed if enough people continued to question me I’d break down and do what they wanted.

But I didn’t, and Birdy is doing very well in her development. Sorry, not sorry.

Birdy was breech most of the pregnancy, but flipped about a month before she was born. After the Spectacular Failure of the induction (more detailed post on that to come), the medical team wanted me to wait two weeks and then try another induction. I refused and asked for other options, knowing the hospital was very proud of their low C-section rate and didn’t really want to go that route if they didn’t have to, and also knowing that that’s what they were going to damn well give me. The thing was, even though they said Birdy was doing just fine to sit tight and wait it out another two weeks, even though they were the medical professionals, they weren’t me or Birdy and they didn’t experience the induction the way we did. No matter what their tests said, I knew the induction was rough on her, and knew it was rough on me, and I wasn’t doing that to us again. I know a C-section is major surgery, I understand it comes with risks, but at that point I truly felt it was the safest way to get Birdy delivered. I was terrified that we would wait too long and we’d lose her before she could be born. I didn’t want her birth to turn into an emergency situation where we ended up having to get an emergency C-section anyway, I much preferred we prepare for it ahead of time. I felt like people were acting as though “C-section” was a dirty word, something that if it had to be uttered aloud, needed to be whispered or mumbled (which is exactly how the doctor presented me with the option after I nixed induction number two).

As it turns out, the doctor who did my C-section (different one from earlier) said during the procedure that it was probably a good thing I’d gone that route. So, sorry, not sorry.

New mamas (and in general, anyone at all, really), it’s okay to trust your gut and stick to your guns. As a neighbor said to me when I was very carefully trying to recount all this, “they may know the medicine, but you know your body”.

Dear Body

Dear Body, I’m sorry.

Dear Body, thank you.

When Charlie died, I blamed you. I blamed you for not doing the one thing that was supposed to be the most natural thing you could do. I blamed you for not sending me the signals that something was wrong. I thought you were defective, that you wouldn’t ever be able to do anything right. When we started trying again, I went ahead and blamed you ahead of time in case we were unsuccessful.

When I did get pregnant again, I didn’t trust you. I held my breath for months, convinced you would fail me again, fail the new baby. When we learned the level of amniotic fluid was lower than optimal, I thought of all the ways that could be detrimental to the baby, and I blamed you for not being able to regulate the fluid. After I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, I was so angry that you’d become insulin-resistant, and further placed the baby at risk. When the placenta showed signs of being three weeks more aged than it was supposed to, I laid yet another strike against you.

I spent most of the last trimester feeling like I was in limbo, so worried that you wouldn’t be able to sustain her until birth. I was so grateful when they finally induced me — but when the induction failed, it was another in a long list of things that was your fault. Why couldn’t you just get things right?

Body, I’m so sorry. For blaming you again and again, for being so angry, for the times I felt like I hated you. I was so filled with fear that I couldn’t see all the gifts you were giving me.

When Charlie died, there was nothing you could have done to change it. But you tried. You didn’t send me signals that anything as wrong because you were trying so hard to make it not so. You were trying to keep Charlie safe and warm inside for as long as you could.

When we started to try again you got ready right away, and almost immediately Birdy came into existence. While I worried about you failing, you persevered every day to help Birdy grow. You battled the low fluid, the gestational diabetes, the placental lakes, the aging placenta, and my fear — and you did it all while keeping Birdy safe.

Oh, Body, you must have been so tired. And then the induction happened and I willed you to let her go so I could have her outside. The process further exhausted us all but you wouldn’t give up on her. And though I was devastated, your stubbornness meant she got more time to develop those lungs and prepare for the wild world.

Even with my lack of faith in you, you never failed me — never failed us. You have worked so hard this year. Even in my anxious moments, please know I marveled at how you carried her life.

Body, thank you. Thank you for more than I know how to say.

You look different now, you feel different. The stretch marks, the saggy skin, the scar that will come; these are all reminders of what you accomplished for me. Once again you are working hard, this time to help me recover.

I’m sorry I doubted you. Thank you for your strength. Body, you are a warrior.

Bringing Birdy Home

It’s hard to believe I haven’t really been on here since January, but at the same time, not that hard to believe at all.

Though the past couple months have been chock-full of stuff to write about, the most monumental and literally life changing is that Birdy was born!

I tried my best to fight for what was best for her all the way up until she took her first breath of air, and thankfully she is doing well. But let me tell you, mom-guilt is real and (at least for me) kicked in before she was even technically born.

Right now, we’re getting into some semblance of a routine as a new family of three, and Hubs and I are learning how to operate on less than optimal sleep (which I know is par for the course). So often I look at Birdy and still can’t believe she’s here, that she’s real, that we made a tiny human, that not too long ago she lived inside of me. I get that it’s biology, I understand how it scientifically happens — but that doesn’t change that to me she is some kind of miraculous.

While I’m on maternity leave, in addition to spending much needed time with her, I’d like to pick back up my writing on here. My idea is that over the next couple months I’ll write some new posts that chronicle the last couple months of pregnancy with her, her entry into the world, new mama-dom, and throw in some book recommendations, etc. as well. We’ll see how far I get on this, because obviously Birdy-time is my priority; but as I’ve been told by multiple sources it’s still important to take care of myself as well, and I think this could be part of how I do that.

(From the unfinished drafts archive) — I am 1 in 4

(I started this post back in October, because it was pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. I never quite finished it, but it’s real for how I felt at the time (and some days still do) so I thought I’d share it with you):

I am 1 in 4. I never wanted to be. I never thought I would be. I never got a choice. I never got a reason. And I never will. But I’m stuck in the flippin’ club no matter what.

I constantly struggle with whether to speak or keep letting others just swim along. I started this blog because I didn’t feel like I could be honest about everything I was going through on Facebook. I still don’t feel like I can be on that platform.

But 6 months and a second pregnancy later, the ignorance of people when it comes to miscarriage still angers me.

My dear acquaintance, it’s so good to know you…

…for strength of your hand, that is loving, and giving; and Happy New Year, with love overflowing, with joy in our hearts for a blessed new year… — Regina Spektor

Happy 2019, blogosphere! I know I’ve been MIA for essentially two months, and I’ll get to that. But first, I just want to shout out into the void that having this space where I can share (often unfiltered) with all of you, some of you, or none of you, has been so important to my psychological well-being as I weathered the shit-storm that 2018 wrought upon my heart.

Yesterday, for the first time in quite awhile, I got out Charlie’s memory box. As the year came to a close, I felt like I needed to revisit it. As you all know, there is never a moment when Charlie isn’t in my heart, but it was important to me to go through the tangible reminders. And lordy-be as soon as I opened that box the emotions overwhelmed me and the crying started; but strangely, I kind of appreciated that — y’know? I went through the sonograms, pregnancy announcement and congrats cards, the lone onesie and the baby boots, and then the condolence cards and gifts. One pendant stood out to me, just like it had when I received it; it says, “I carry you in my heart”. It’s from an ee cummings poem that I’ve always liked, though until Charlie it held different meaning for me. When I read those words again yesterday, they just seemed extra poignant. Because I do — I carry Charlie in my heart. As much as I wanted to, for reasons I’ll never quite know, I couldn’t carry him in my body. So, my heart is where he’ll stay.

It’s kind of odd, because the closer we get to bringing our Birdy baby into the world, the more I think about how she wouldn’t be here if not for Charlie. I struggle with that sometimes, because if I had been given a choice, if any maybe-mama like me had had an actual choice — how the hell would we have decided which child we lost? Every now and then I ponder if that’s why the choice wasn’t ours to make.

And then I think too, about how we’ll tell Birdy about Charlie someday. I wonder how you go about that, because Hubs and I decided pretty immediately that Charlie isn’t a secret we would be keeping from any other children we may have. I keep coming back to this: “Before you, there was another child. He helped to give us you.” I mean, hopefully by the time we share this story with her I’ll have something better prepared, but that’s where I’m at right now.

Speaking of Birdy, here’s her update: With the fear hanging over our heads about what the low amniotic fluid levels might mean for her and the pregnancy, we were referred to a maternal fetal specialist, who did manage to take the edge of the worry — a bit. A week before Christmas, at a follow-up appointment with them, we got the good news that the levels had reached the “average” range, and were no longer considered low! At the same time, we learned that I had failed the glucose test spectacularly and now had gestational diabetes. Trading one worry for another.

Holy crap, can I tell you how awful I felt? Emotionally, not physically. I was shocked when they told me about the GD because I hadn’t felt “off” in any way, had barely gained five pounds the entire pregnancy, and never experienced the swelling everyone kept saying would come at the end of the second trimester. Oh, but emotionally, I was an absolute mess. I felt immensely guilty, even though I hadn’t done anything wrong — I felt like I couldn’t do anything right no matter how hard I tried, like my body was letting me down once again, like there were a mass litany of things that were just wrong with me and I couldn’t do anything about it.

I went to a class to gain more information and learn how to control the GD with a very strict diet (oh my God, there are carbs in EVERYTHING — no longer are fruits and veggies just considered “healthy”, now you can’t have them before X-time and then only if you eat X kind, etc.). The grocery store became a minefield that could easily start a meltdown on my end because I was trying so hard to follow all of the rules to control the GD but I was so overwhelmed! But I just kept telling myself that if I followed the rules, my blood sugar levels would be fine and everything else would be fine. I mean, that’s the way things are supposed to work! Except it wasn’t because no matter what I did my morning fasting and ketone levels where high. So then they put me on medicine to help those stabilize (which they are and I’m grateful for) but it just felt like one more damn thing I’d failed at.

[I know I’m complaining; I know others have it so much worse; but that doesn’t mean this isn’t still hard for me.]

Here comes the sun though — The doctors said despite all of this, Birdy is doing fine. She’s right where she should be growth and development-wise. As she’s growing and getting stronger, I’ve finally been able to feel her move around, which is such a blessing because it lets me know she still kicking in there (get it?). Last night, Hubs even got to feel her move, which was so great, because she’s been a bit contrary about that every time we’ve tried before!

So, that’s what I’m trying to focus on the most — she is okay, and that’s the most important thing. As Hubs reminded my tear-stained self yesterday when I was flipping 2018 the bird, it was a really difficult year of loss and grief and storm weathering — but 2018 also gave us two-thirds of Birdy. And there’s no arguing with the blessing of that!

Happy New Year, and better times ahead for us all!

Placental lakes are not a vacation destination

Have you ever heard of these? I certainly had not, until this week. Because apparently, I have them. Yippee for me. Want to know what they are? Pools of blood in the placenta. Lovely.

Guess what else? I have low amniotic fluid and in almost a month it doesn’t seem like Birdy has changed positions.

She’s growing, thank goodness, for now — but these new developments are pretty effing concerning and I’m kind of pissed at the universe. Come on! Couldn’t you just have tossed me a gimme for this pregnancy? Couldn’t you have let us get through it with the anxiety we already possessed and not piled on more? COME ON!

So I’m off work for two days while I continuously guzzle fluid and rest to see if that makes a positive difference in the fluid level. Because with the way this school year is, there is no way I could meet that criteria and still go to work. We go in for another ultrasound shortly to see if it’s made any difference.

The placental lakes, it seems, are there to stay — nothing to be done.

Just slightly unnerving.

I’ll be busy trying to avoid the internet rabbit hole of information that will terrify me.

The uphill of the downhill

Based on a bunch of reading from blogs and baby-focused websites, plus doses from “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” (the book, not the movie), I’ve gleaned that the second trimester is supposed to be the easy one. The downhill stroll before the third trimester rolls around.

But my downhill is still pretty uphill, and not because of a ton of un-fun symptoms. I mean, I have some. But none that are debilitating. To be honest, this pregnancy has been pretty “easy” overall, physically at least. And while I appreciate that part, the whole pregnancy has been very difficult because of the emotional aspect. Not even the heightened emotions bit, just the ever-present fear of losing this baby, too.

I know, because of Charlie, that no matter what I do or how I try to “steel” myself for a potential loss, I will still lose my ever-loving mind to grief if it happens again. But a part of me still braces for it, because as much as I want to believe Birdy will end up happy and healthy in the world come March — and as much as I try and even sometimes convince myself that that will absolutely happen — there’s still a part of me that can’t trust that.

And I’m so jealous. I am. Of all the people who don’t have to think about that while they’re pregnant. I’m happy for them, but I’m jealous of them. I want the bliss. I yearn for it. And I have big, big hope. But I don’t get the bliss that comes from ignorance. That comes from knowing about other people’s stories of loss, but not having them really touch me. Not that blissfully pregnant people are bad people — they aren’t! That’s not what I’m saying! I just — well you get it, right?

Another thing that’s been rolling around in my head lately, is that I still kind of feel like I’m not quite allowed to be excited about Birdy out loud. At least not with people who aren’t my nearest and dearest. Most people don’t ask about the pregnancy. My bosses didn’t even acknowledge they got the email I sent them informing them I would be gone for maternity leave around early March (I finally asked one of them three weeks later, just to be sure they got the email and knew they would have to find a long-term sub — they did). And again, it’s not that anyone’s doing anything wrong. I suppose I just realized that I still feel the weight of stigma from miscarriage — whether it’s truly there or not. As though because I couldn’t get Charlie safely into the world, no one should really bring up Birdy until she’s actually here.

So, clearly, I’m still kind of grappling with some guilt. Ha. Likely that won’t ever completely go away. Logic versus feeling.

But she is here. Every day. And for as long as that lasts, maybe I should let myself celebrate her whenever I damn want. Or, at the very least, not think I should be keeping my head down about the pregnancy.

I’m aware I’m kind of talking in circles. Well, writing. But at least I’m expressing!

Hummingbird baby

We’ve already chosen a name for March baby, but I think you can grasp that we’d like to keep that a little closer to home than the whole internet :-). However, we now know March baby is a little girl, so I’d like to call her something on here that leans more towards a name. As such, on here, I’ll call her Birdy. Short for hummingbird, because they’ve kind of been my spirit animal since we lost Charlie. My touch stone, in a way. They’ve been my symbol for hope for something beautiful coming after our loss.

I keep in mind that quote, the one I referenced in my “About Me” section. The one that starts like this: “Legends say that hummingbirds float free of time, carrying our hopes for love, joy and celebration…”

I have hummingbird wall stickers in our now-nursery. I put them there before we know Birdy existed. Before I had faith in hope again. I have a hummingbird pendant I wear to most doctor’s appointments. And so, here baby girl will be Birdy.

She is stubborn. We knew she would be. Hubs and I both are, so there’s no getting around that one! But she showed it at the ultrasound! Or maybe she just showed being shy. She would not cooperate much with the technician. Though we (and the tech) saw all the “big” things — namely that she was a healthy growth, organs seemed on target, there were bones growing, and that she was a she — we never got a clear look at her face, and the tech didn’t get as many exact bone measurements as she wanted. So, we’ve got another ultrasound in a little over a week, which I’m glad for because we’ll be able to check in on her again.

There are time I think I might feel her moving, but it’s pretty faint and I’m never totally sure. However, we also learned from the ultrasound that the placenta is in front of her, which is why I might not feel movement as soon or as clearly as others who are as far along as I am. The placenta could also be playing a part in why it seems more difficult for the doppler to pick up her heartbeat right away (which was a relief to have an explanation for).

We bought a glider (on sale!) for her nursery, and we ordered a crib as well. Decided one that could be converted into a full-sized bed eventually would be worth the cost and would pay for itself over the next twenty years. And we’ve ordered some prints for her walls. I’ve always been a nester, always wanted the space where I lived to feel right, to feel like a home. So feeling that way about my daughter’s room (!!!) really isn’t something different. And I’m fully aware that she won’t care what’s on the walls or what her bed looks like. Not for awhile, anyway. But it’s important to me. I want it to be a safe, calm, completely lovely space for her.

We really haven’t bought any clothing, but have been reading that so many people get you clothes for the baby shower regardless of what you need…so maybe we should hold off until after that? We’re dipping our toe into figuring out childcare, too. Holy guacamole. Hubs calls it a second mortgage. I’d love it if we could find an in-home family daycare, but so far it seems kind of difficult to get a read on those in our area. I know we’ve got time, but I’m hoping these next months will go pretty fast, and we want to be prepared.

My best friend from North Carolina is planning on coming up over her spring break to meet Birdy, and one of my cousins is so excited about planning the baby shower. My mom is making her a Christmas stocking, buying fabric and sketching patterns, even though she won’t need it just yet. And my dad — my play-it-super-close-to-the-vest dad — asked if he could pick out her Christmas dresses when she’s little, like he did for me and for my sister. My brother is planning on flying up in the spring, too.

And hubs talks to Birdy in my belly. He says, “I hope you hear when I make your mom laugh, because I try to do that a lot.” And he sends me pictures for treehouse ideas. And I’m so grateful he’s her dad.

She’s so loved, so rooted for, already.

Little girl in the world

March baby is a girl! About a week before we found out, Hubs told me he thought that would be the case. I really didn’t have a strong feeling either way, but you know in the only dream I had about our baby beforehand she was a girl. I’ve had another since we found out, a weird dream, but nice in that she had her Daddy’s eyes.

I’m happy and relieved to have a pronoun to use. I’m happy we’re taking steps to move forward with our nursery. I’m happy with getting to tell our nearest and dearest that we’re having a little girl (though I would have been equally as happy with a little boy — my only goal was and is a healthy baby). I’m happy figuring out what to name her.

But, in a way, as happy and relieved as I am, especially knowing that right now she’s all right, I am still completely terrified. Maybe even more so than I was before, even though I know that doesn’t make much sense. We made it this far, 21+ weeks, but there is still so far to go. And I spiral pretty easily of late, because there is so much I still cannot protect her from, and that puts my fear and terror on overload.

Last weekend I had a complete panic attack because I started thinking about how easy it would be for a deer to run across the road at night, and we might hit it, and my seat belt would tighten up and it could crush her. And the same this could happen if we braked suddenly for that hypothetical deer but the car behind us didn’t and so they hit us. Or someone wasn’t paying attention when they merged and the same thing could happen that way. See how quickly the spiral happens?

Beyond that, what if I can’t drink enough water even though Lord knows I am trying and my amniotic fluid dries up and she suffocates? What if my body fails me again and thinks she’s supposed to come out way too early and I go into pre-term labor — there’s no way she could survive outside my body yet. What if the umbilical cord gets wrapped around her neck? What if she gets stuck in the birth canal?

I’m aware that in these moments I am fully on the crazy train, but given that any one of these things could actually happen (in some way), is it being crazy or just that I’m hyper aware of how easily things could go wrong after Charlie?

If I’m honest, I’ve thought about how returning to counseling would possibly be beneficial; but at the same time the pragmatic side of me knows my school schedule doesn’t mesh with my previous counselor’s office schedule, and the whiny side of me doesn’t relish the thought of having to find another one.

I still haven’t been writing much lately, on here or even privately. So I think for now I’ll try to get back into the habit of doing that, to see if it helps.

And I’ll keep writing letters to the baby, and talking to her, and trying to ground myself in what’s going right.

Kids say the darndest

A couple of weeks ago I stumbled into a conversation with a group of my middle school kids. Out of the blue, one of them says: “My mom said I was an accident. Ha!”

I was quietly startled, but asked if he understood what that meant (all the while trying to figure out how to soften the statement). He said no, but that it sounded funny so he just laughed. I asked him if he wanted to understand and he said “yeah”.

I did my best, tried to be school-appropriate but also honest, and just told him that it meant his parents weren’t actively trying to have a baby when they got him. I further said that many babies are often unplanned, but that I was sure his parents were glad he was here.

The first student nodded and then asked another if they were an accident. This student rolled right with it and said, quite clearly, “No. I was a miracle baby.” She further explained, “If my brothers and sisters had lived, I wouldn’t be here.”

I about choked. Because that’s kind of exactly where I am. I still grieve Charlie. But it Charlie had lived, March baby wouldn’t be growing right now. And I caught on the word they had chosen to describe her: miracle. And I was grateful for this set of parents that I’ve never met.

Then a third student chimed in, “Oh, yeah. That happened to my parents, too. Before my sister. He’d be, um, like probably ten by now. If he lived.” So nonchalant. Just stating something that was.

Y’all, it was so surreal. An accident. A miracle. A non-categorical that was familiar with both. It was kind of amazing.

It made me kind of hopeful for this next generation that’s coming. That miscarriages, miracles, accidents; none of it will have to be in the shadows. If at twelve and thirteen, this isn’t a “big deal” for them to talk about, maybe one day it won’t be a big deal for anyone.