Today is my due date. Still no sign of baby, but in honor of going the full forty I thought I’d post my series of bump photos. We took one every four weeks, which I wanted to do partly because I regretted having almost no photos of my first pregnancy. It’s kind of amazing to me how tiny my bump actually looked in the early photos, considering that I remember feeling huge when they were taken. Today I am legitimately huge, and we have finally served baby boy his eviction notice. Six days and counting, kiddo! Without further ado…
Don’t get too excited by the title — baby is still on the inside!
Tomorrow is my birthday. It’s also the anniversary of my daughter’s due date. It’s also the official “full term” 39-week mark in my pregnancy with my son. Quite the triple-whammy of extremely mixed emotions.
Last time I wrote, I said I was mostly relaxed, content to wait for a while to meet my son. Well, that equanimity has gone out the window this week, I can tell you! Two of the last three nights, I’ve woken myself up crying in the middle of the night, the first time because I had a dream about delivering my daughter last year, and the second time because I was worrying about my son being stillborn. The anxiety about wanting to KNOW that he’s arrived safely is starting to get to me, especially since I know that I’ve reached the upward slope of the U-shaped curve of stillbirth — even though the absolute odds of stillbirth are still low (about 0.5%), they’re increasing with every week that he stays inside, and will approximately double over the next two weeks. I want to be patient and wait for spontaneous labor, but I also want to induce and get him out while I know he’s still OK. A lot of my anxiety is coming from the fact that I never did settle with my doctors when we would induce if I don’t go into spontaneous labor (which I so far show no signs of doing, although obviously it’s still early). I find myself fearing that they’ll try to make me go to 42 weeks, and I just don’t want to do that.
I want to induce no later than 41w0d, which I think is backed up by good science. I would probably chill out even more if the induction date were set a few days earlier, but at least right now I feel that I will completely panic if they try to make me go later. Not only am I worried about stillbirth, but I’m also worried because my mom went more than two weeks overdue when I was born, and I went into fetal distress and almost died after her emergency C-section (it’s not clear why, but might have had to do with an aging placenta). And when I say I almost died, it’s not an exaggeration — my mom was a labor and delivery nurse at the time (now she’s an OB/GYN nurse practitioner), so she knew that what was happening was truly scary. It involved Apgar scores of 1, 2, and 2 (as my mom likes to say, it was the only standardized test I ever flunked). Apparently I was the giantess of the NICU for a few days (since the NICU is mostly full of preemies, and I was the one huge post-term baby). The very fact that my mom went late with me means that I’m more at risk for going late with my baby, and the fact that I have a history of placental abruption means that I’m at higher risk for placenta-related problems in this pregnancy. Taken together, these things mean that I want this baby OUT before something really bad has a chance to happen. Not to mention that I feel that giving birth to one dead baby is more than enough for one lifetime, thank you very much, and I’m happy to accept the risks of induction (which at this stage do not include an increased risk of C-section, it turns out) in exchange for a lower risk of stillbirth.
Phew. OK, now that I’ve got that off my chest…
I’m trying to relax and enjoy these last few weeks of pregnancy, but it’s really, really hard as my anxiety ratchets up. It’s also poignant to experience the anniversary of my daughter’s due date and my birthday in my hugely pregnant state. It makes me think about where I am in life: tomorrow, I turn 33. I would also be celebrating my daughter’s first birthday this month (probably this week) if she hadn’t died. But of course, she did, so I’m not — even though I consider myself her mother, I’m still “childless” in the eyes of the rest of the world. I’m finally on the brink of giving birth to a living baby, but he’s not actually here and safely in my arms. Yet because birthdays make me think about life in a broader sense, I can’t help thinking ahead to my next pregnancy (if there is a next one) — my husband and I have always hoped to have at least two children, and IF our son is born healthy, we plan to start trying for #2 around his first birthday, since it took us 2.5 years to get to this point with him and I have known tubal scarring that will make conceiving again tricky. That means that in all likelihood, I’ll be at least 35 by the time our second baby is born (if, indeed, we are lucky enough to get there at all). When we first started talking about kids, back before I turned 30, we said we wanted two or three, and we were going to start having them right away. We planned, and God laughed. Now, as I turn 33, my biggest hope and dream is that our baby boy will finally join our family sometime in the next two weeks… it seems like too much to hope that he might have a little sibling in the next couple of years, but I can’t help but dream about it and hope that things don’t get too much more complicated as I get older.
So, in the meantime, I wait. I will say that my birthday tomorrow is looking very exciting! First, I am planning to submit the paper I’ve been working on to the journal — it will feel so good to get that done before the baby arrives! My coauthors have been really great about doing their share of the last-minute work to make sure it’s ready for submission, and it feels like a nice, solid piece of work. I’m really quite happy with it. Tomorrow is also a big day in science because of the expected announcement of the first-ever detection of gravitational waves! This is huge news, guys — extremely likely to be awarded the Nobel Prize in physics over the next few years. I’m planning to watch the press conference live at 10:30am EST, and I invited the rest of my department to come watch it projected on the big screen in our library along with me. Assuming the rumors are true, it’s going to be a pretty spectacular scientific birthday present! Then, of course, I officially hit “full term” in my pregnancy tomorrow, which is exciting in its own way. In the afternoon, my husband and I get to go talk to lawyers to do the super-fun job of drawing up a will (we’re being responsible future parents!). And then my husband is cooking me my traditional birthday cake, the same one I’ve requested for three years running.
In the meantime, I’m trying to take a deep breath and coast through these last days (please, let it only be days!) of pregnancy. I’m still feeling fine physically, still capable of tying my shoes and walking my dog two miles a day, and more or less able to sleep at night. I mention this not to gloat, but rather because I only seem to read about how physically miserable all women are at the end of pregnancy — I’m not, and I want to make sure my own positive story is out there in case it makes anyone feel less apprehensive! My main discomfort is just that I’m slightly obsessed with poking my baby all the time to make sure he’s still kicking. Poor kid. Hopefully I’ll be able to update you soon with pictures of him on the outside!
A year. One trip around the Sun. The same stars are up when I walk the dog at night, the same snow and slush is covering the ground (finally!). Thankfully, despite being in the same physical landscape, I am not in the same emotional landscape I was in a year ago.
One week from today, I will have been pregnant for a year. That’s right, 52 weeks of pregnancy. In between the first 4.5 months of pregnancy with my daughter and these 7.5 months of pregnancy with my son were 9 months of agony, first waiting for answers to the question of why our daughter had died, then fruitlessly trying to conceive, then being told we’d need to do IVF, then apparently winning the lottery just before signing on the dotted line of the IVF consent forms. All told, between my first and second pregnancies I’ve been through 12 total months of pregnancy, plus 18 total months of trying to conceive. It’s been a long road. Not as long a road as for some of you, I know, but long for me. And there’s still a month and a half to go before we get to meet our son (I hope I hope I hope).
A year ago I was pretty close to the emotional nadir of my life. I was dealing with the still-raw reality of our daughter’s death, just starting to find out about the complications we experienced that might inhibit my fertility, wanting so hard to be pregnant again but being told by doctors to wait. Last year was a very snowy winter, and I remember taking my dog for her daily walk in the woods near our house (on snowshoes), which was the only thing I ever actually wanted to do after our daughter died. I remember days when I’d be hit with a wave of grief in the middle of the woods, and I’d sink into a snowbank and stare across the lake at the rising sun and feel so horrifically empty inside that I couldn’t bear it. Here I was, surrounded by incredible natural beauty, safe and well fed, with warm and supportive companionship from my husband, my family, my friends, and my dog, and all I could feel was grief, misery, and profound loneliness.
Now, things are so much better. Not spectacularly brilliant, with the magical shimmer that everything seemed to have during my pregnancy with my daughter, but good. I’ve got a busy little baby boy kicking me from the inside, and we’re tentatively starting to make plans for the future that involve a living baby in our family. Other than a Christmas Day bleeding scare I’ve had about as uneventful a pregnancy as I could hope for. (The bleeding was very light and was probably hemorrhoids, but since I couldn’t tell where the bleeding was coming from they brought me in to the hospital and hooked me up to the monitor for an hour to make sure everything was OK, which it was.) I’ll never “get over” my daughter’s death, but I’m more or less at peace with it these days, and hopeful about the impending arrival of my son. I feel mostly like a functional human being these days, rather than an emotional mess at all times the way I did a year ago, which is a nice change.
With 30 months of anticipating a baby under my belt, and 1.5 months left in this pregnancy, I should feel like the end is in sight. And in a way, I do. But after everything that’s happened, I still find myself in a strange place emotionally. My husband and I have made all sorts of plans: parental leave, childbirth/breastfeeding/parenting classes, learning to install a car seat, meeting with a financial planner, reading books, etc. We’ve even planned out a nursery, including picking out furniture and other items. I’ve got a folder full of bookmarks of stuff we’re planning to buy from Amazon, Ikea, Carter’s… but so far (at 32w5d) I’ve only actually bought one pack of onesies and some sheets for the hand-me-down co-sleeper. The rest of this is all in our heads. As so many of you have been so good about reminding me, babies don’t need much stuff, and there’s no law that says we have to buy the stuff now rather than after the baby arrives. We’ve got the essentials of a car seat, a place to sleep, and enough items of hand-me-down clothing to get us through the first few days. But I still struggle with the part of me that wants to just pull the trigger, set up the nursery, believe that this baby is going to arrive alive, and nest like a normal pregnant woman. The problem is that it’s still terrifying, and I still dwell on the ways that my baby might die. So I go back and forth, make more plans, but never actually do anything. I think these things are all normal to feel, given what we’ve been through, if occasionally exhausting. I miss the joyous optimism and eager anticipation of my first pregnancy, but I also appreciate the gratitude I now have for my pregnancy with my son.
So as the calendar year ends, I am grateful for this pregnancy, hopeful for the future, and happy to report that I’m in a much better place emotionally than I was at this time last year. As a (discontiguous) full year of being pregnant draws to a close, I’m (more than) ready to finally meet our living child, even as I struggle to believe that we ever will. Will 2016 finally be the year? The magic 8 ball of pregnancy statistics says “signs point to yes,” while my internal magic 8 ball says “reply hazy try again.” Only time will tell… but in the meantime, here’s to a new year, a new pregnancy, and a new outcome.
Tomorrow is a special day, because it’s the second anniversary of the day we adopted the adorable creature pictured at left.
There’s a lot we don’t know about her past, including her age (when we got her there were two different forms in her file, one of which said that she was 1 and the other that she was 2, so we figure she’s about 3.5 by now). We also know that we’re at least the third(!) home she had in the first 1-2 years of her life, which is sad and also remarkable, because she’s the sweetest, most low-key dog on the planet. After a slightly tumultuous settling-in period, she quickly became the ideal pet and we’ve never looked back.
There’s a lot I could say about our dog. I could talk about how her whole body wriggles when I get home from work every day. I could talk about how I don’t mind getting up early every morning as long as my furry alarm clock is smiling and licking my face. I could tell you about how everyone, even the vet, is amazed by her soft coat and asks what we do to keep it so silky (answer: nothing. I give her a bath when she smells, which is every few months). I could tell you about how gentle she is with little kids, how her doggie kisses are soft and somehow not the least bit drooly, how she became a celebrity when we still lived near campus (students I’d never met would greet my dog by name). I could tell you about how she can hear the sound of the cheese grater from half a mile away, and waits politely to lick the peanut butter off my knife when I make toast in the morning. I could tell you some other things too: how she likes to eat poop, how she’s somehow killed two squirrels on walks with my husband(!), how she ran away once and my husband tracked her down for FOUR HOURS until he found her covered in mud and ticks and happier than she’d ever been in her life. I could tell you all the commands she recognizes: sit, stay, come, down, off, heel, paw, and zombie (or “beg” in normal dog parlance — I taught her the “zombie” command instead because when she sits up her paws stick out in front of her and she looks like a zombie).
But given the theme of this blog, I thought I’d tell you a couple of other things too. After our daughter died, one of the only things I found comforting was snuggling with our dog — and she kindly obliged me, over and over again. When I thought I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning, I did it for her. When I lost all motivation, she still needed to be walked. Walking outside with my dog was the only part of my day that I looked forward to for many weeks after my daughter died. After the appointment when we discovered that there was no heartbeat and they gave me the medication to induce labor, my husband and my dog and I went for a walk in the woods at sunset, and I remember it as stunningly beautiful — the last time the four of us were all together.
I’ve read that after a late loss, a lot of women become afraid that they will die too. But after our daughter died, I had two strong and persistent fears: that my husband would die, and that my dog would die. On walks I kept her on a short leash to make sure she was out of traffic. I made sure she didn’t get dehydrated. I triple-checked that her electric fence was working. I didn’t want to let her out of my sight.
Our dog is incontrovertibly part of our family now. My husband was a little skeptical at first, since this is his first pet, and I was the one who really wanted her, but she eventually won him over and now he’s at least as smitten as I am. Sometimes I look at our goofy little family and laugh. We’re quite a bunch. The nerds who were late bloomers and thought they might never get married. The dog that nobody wanted. But somehow, together, we’ve made something bigger than the sum of our parts, and we’ve survived something that I could not have survived on my own.
When the time comes, our dog will be a wonderful big canine sister. Until then, she keeps me from taking life too seriously, and reminds me that family you choose can be just as real as family related by blood.
P.S. Happy belated Pi(e) Day! Have some photos from our celebration today: