More Pregnant Than I’ve Ever Been Before

As I write this, I’m 18w3d pregnant, which officially makes me More Pregnant Than I’ve Ever Been Before.

The last 1.5 weeks have not been easy.  I felt OK emotionally leading up to the anniversary of the day we found out our daughter had died (September 11), but then was thrown for a loop by a repeat of some symptoms that had occurred at exactly the same gestational stage in our first pregnancy, just a few days before our daughter died.  I won’t go into details, but think GI bug.  They had told us the first time around that it was unlikely to be related, and I was tested for a bunch of different food-borne pathogens that can cause pregnancy loss and everything came back negative… but it was still just incredibly disconcerting to spend the anniversary of our daughter’s death having the same symptoms at the same gestational stage that I’d had the year before, and which preceded her death by less than a week.  And by “disconcerting” I mean that it completely freaked out my husband and me.

I put in a teary phone call to MFM that day and wound up talking to a nurse who spoke to me like I was four years old: “You know, even though they’re in the same part of your body, your digestive system and your reproductive system aren’t actually connected…” and “You may not be aware of this, but one in five pregnancies doesn’t make it to term, and sometimes lightning strikes.  That’s probably just what happened to you in your first pregnancy: bad luck!”  Neither of which was helpful to me to hear at the time (also, I wish people would stop quoting the one-in-five statistic at women who’ve experienced second trimester losses — for us, the odds are about 1%, and half the time the problem is a non-chromosomal issue that makes future pregnancies more risky!).  I thought I was getting better over the weekend, but when Monday brought a renewal of my GI symptoms I put in another panicked call to my local OB’s office and had a teary visit with the one doctor in the practice I’d never met before who checked me over (including making sure my cervix was closed) and then proceeded to bemusedly tell me I was probably fine and that I should really be trying to enjoy this pregnancy because you don’t get that many pregnancies in your life and it’s a wonderful and beautiful and miraculous thing.  Which also was not something that was helpful to hear at that moment, even if I appreciate the sentiment (did she think it just hadn’t occurred to me before that I should try to enjoy this pregnancy?).

Anyway, fortunately I had just received a package in the mail the week before, containing a home handheld Doppler from a friend who had gone through infertility not too long ago.  I had thought I wouldn’t use it, but being able to regularly check that our baby was still alive for the few days after my freak-out in which I was constantly convinced that he was dead really saved my sanity last week.  Now I’m finally feeling like I’m past whatever disrupted my GI system, the baby has survived, and I’ve made it past the emotionally difficult anniversaries.  Things are finally looking a little brighter.

I also had the experience this week of going back to visit the institution where I had earned my PhD to give a prize colloquium.  It was the first time it was clear from other people’s reactions that I was visibly and obviously pregnant — perhaps because people there knew me well enough to know that I don’t normally have a giant belly, so they were more comfortable than total strangers about commenting on the fact that I was pregnant.  Many people commented immediately, as soon as they saw me.  With others, when it came up in conversation that I was pregnant (I’d mention that I was going to be on leave next semester), their surprise made it clear that they hadn’t noticed at all.  It was funny — I’d have thought that the younger faculty with young kids at home would be the most attuned, and the older men the least attuned, but it absolutely didn’t work out that way.  The old male scientists were often the first to notice and immediately comment!  Maybe the ones with young kids are just too sleep-deprived to notice who’s pregnant and who’s not?

One experience that showed me that I’ve gained some equilibrium talking about our experiences with pregnancy loss was an awkward moment at the dinner after my colloquium.  One of the nearly-retired male faculty asked me, “Wait, is this your first?  For some reason I thought you had another…” and I was able to easily answer, “Well, that’s actually a complicated question.  Last year I was pregnant, but the baby died at almost exactly this stage in the pregnancy.”  I didn’t tear up at all — I was able to just be matter of fact about it.  I didn’t feel that I could have answered any other way, especially since three of the eight people at the table (my PhD advisor and two of my closest collaborators) knew what had happened, so I just figured I’d put it all out there.  I was sitting next to a senior woman who’d been a fantastic mentor to me during grad school, and she proceeded to tell me that in the process of having her three boys (the eldest of whom just went off to college this year), she had three miscarriages along the way.  So we talked about it on our own for a while, and then the conversation moved on, and that was that.  Not long ago, I wouldn’t have been able to have that conversation, but even on the day that I hit the same gestational stage that our daughter had died, I was OK with it.

And now… I’m just trying to look forward to experiencing new parts of pregnancy.  From here on out it’s uncharted waters for me, and while that’s a bit scary, I’m primarily thankful that I’ve made it this far and I’m looking forward to the parts of pregnancy that I never got to experience the first time (my friends who have had normal, full-term uncomplicated pregnancies think I’m nuts and tell me it’ll be miserable, but I don’t care!).  I already feel my son moving inside me more strongly than I felt my daughter, and I’m looking forward to feeling more distinct kicks and hiccups as he grows.  I’m starting to love my growing belly again, and am actually looking forward to seeing it get bigger and bigger over the next few months.

I’m even feeling that maybe I’ll be able to start thinking about decorating the nursery and accumulating a few basic baby items sometime soon.  I’m not putting any pressure on myself to do that — I know that if it doesn’t get done before the baby arrives that’s OK (infants don’t need much, after all) — but if I can bring myself to do it I think it’d be nice to have that normal nesting part of pregnancy, and might help me start to feel closer to my son.  The room we’ve left empty in our house since we moved in last June has been a source of complicated feelings for me over the past year and a half, and part of me really wants to start to fill it and make it look like the home for our baby that we’ve always imagined it would be.  After everything we’ve been through, I hold tightly to the thought that no matter what happens in this pregnancy we WILL be parents one way or another (probably through adoption if our son doesn’t make it), and creating that space would for me be an act of hope for our developing role as parents as much as it would be an act of love for this particular baby-to-be.  I think maybe I can be OK with that.

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10 thoughts on “More Pregnant Than I’ve Ever Been Before

  1. My Perfect Breakdown

    Congratulations on making it this far and for being able to talk about everything with such grace. You really are an amazingly inspirational women.
    I hope things continue to go smoothly so that you can experience many happy firsts. As for the room and baby stuff, remember you have time and just do what you are able to when you are able to. Don’t push yourself too hard, just let it come on its own. Maybe start with a very special item that might signify this big step.

    Reply
    1. lyra211 Post author

      Coming from you, that means a lot — you’re just about the most amazingly inspirational woman out there!

      We still haven’t managed to motivate ourselves to make a space for the baby yet, but when we do, I’m sure we’ll take your advice about starting small with something special. I love the spaces that you’ve been slowly building in your house for your little one, and I hope we’ll be able to muster half your creativity and design skills!

      Reply
  2. Jennifer

    Congrats on being this far! I can only imagine the fear that you experienced as your symptoms mimicked those of last time. I’m also very sorry you were given the responses that you were from MFM and the OB Doctor. I know all you wanted was reassurance that everything was okay. And I’m so glad it is! How are you feeling about the year anniversary? (Sorry I never know what to call it). I know for me it was comforting knowing that we were no longer in the “year of firsts” anymore but yet the day itself was very difficult and filled with emotions both good and bad. I am also very happy to hear you felt comfortable answering the question “is this your first.” I haven’t gotten that just yet as I still don’t think anyone would know I was pregnant at 21 weeks but I know it will come (if I can make it that far) and you’ve given me some hope that I will be able to answer in the same way. I’m glad to hear that things are going well!

    Reply
    1. lyra211 Post author

      Oh, gosh, yes, that anniversary… it was really hard, but I agree with you that it’s really comforting to be leaving the “year of firsts.” I’m actually finding it even more comforting to be entering the period of “firsts” in this pregnancy — our first normal anatomy scan, the first time my husband has been able to feel the baby more — you know, the things that we almost but didn’t quite get to in our first pregnancy.

      Wow, it’s great that you haven’t had to deal with the pregnancy questions yet even though you’re a couple weeks ahead of me! It’s amazing how there was just this one particular week when strangers just all of a sudden started commenting on the fact that I was pregnant. So I’m getting lots of practice now, but it’s still hard. It depends so much on the situation. My old professor, of whom I’m quite fond, was easier to give an honest answer to than I think it would be for a stranger in a grocery store. Every situation is different, and I find myself giving different answers depending on who’s asking — when one of my students asked me this week if it was my first I said yes, even though some of the other students definitely know it’s not. It’s always going to be complicated, so don’t feel bad when it inevitably is for you too once people start asking!

      Reply
  3. hopingforatakehome

    Congratulations on this milestone! And I would have absolutely freaked out to get the same symptoms as before your previous loss. I’m so sorry you had to go through that scare! But glad it all turned out fine. So lovely to hear that you have been feeling your little one. That must be very comforting. I don’t think I’ve felt anything yet at this point, but I know it’s still early for a first-timer. I’m looking forward to my appointment this week and hoping they can do a quick in-office ultrasound to give me some peace of mind. In spite of very understandable worries, you sound like you’re in a good place. xx

    Reply
    1. lyra211 Post author

      Thank you — it was very scary, but we’re past the scare now, thankfully! I was so glad to hear that your ultrasound this week went well, and I’m looking forward to hearing about your baby’s first flutters when you finally get to feel them — there’s nothing quite like it. 🙂

      Reply
  4. Wifey

    I am glad you are over that hurdle and taking tiny steps toward believing that he will make it all the way. I’m so sorry it was such a tough time with the similar symptoms. I don’t know how you stay sane sometimes! Always thinking about and praying for you and your little guy.

    Reply
    1. lyra211 Post author

      Thanks so much — it was indeed terrifying, and I’m pretty sure that “sane” is not the first word I’d use to describe myself during the first half of this pregnancy, especially last week. 🙂 I’m so excited that things are going so well with your squirrtles, and that they’re growing and healthy and that you’re looking forward to the big gender reveal! Can’t wait to hear all about it!

      Reply

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