Tag Archives: second-trimester pregnancy loss

Slow-Motion Miscarriage

I really wanted medical management of my miscarriage, i.e., to take medication to speed it along.  I wound up not having that option, since my indicators last week were not great, but also not totally inconsistent with a healthy pregnancy.  Since my doctors weren’t sure, they didn’t want to intervene with medication or surgery (a decision I certainly understand and agree with), which meant that I wound up undergoing a slow-motion miscarriage as, over the course of the week, I slowly went from spotting to bleeding to passing tissue and knew that it was over.  An ultrasound this morning confirmed that my body passed the tissue on its own (even though I am still bleeding), so I have officially miscarried.  Gravida 3, para 1.

The strange thing about going through a slow-motion miscarriage is that you can’t just curl up at home with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and wait for it to pass.  I mean, I guess you could (perks of the flexibility of an academic job?), but mine has gone on for at least a week, and that would require more pints of Ben & Jerry’s than I am really comfortable consuming.  So, as a result, I wound up doing a lot of things that I never imagined I might do while having a miscarriage:

  • Having a miscarriage during research meetings with my students and postdoc
  • Having a miscarriage while talking with my department chair
  • Having a miscarriage while writing an invited major review article on recent advances in my field
  • Having a miscarriage while sitting on the grass and listening to a student folk music concert with my toddler
  • Having a miscarriage at my department’s end-of-year party
  • Having a miscarriage while baking cookies and playing board games with my old college roommate, visiting from New York City
  • Having a miscarriage during an ice cream fundraiser for my son’s daycare

I mean, on the one hand, if you have to have a slow-motion miscarriage, many of these things are quite pleasant ways to pass an otherwise depressing time.  On the other hand, I’ve felt weirdly disconnected from my life this week, and it’s bizarre to be engaged in some other activity and then have the intrusive thought “wow, isn’t it weird that I’m doing this while having a miscarriage?”  It also feels strange, and somehow dishonest, to interact with other people when they have no idea that you’re having a miscarriage during the interaction — but not quite enough that I really felt like telling them about it (I did tell the two close friends who happened to call this week, and my visiting college roommate).

It’s also frustrating because my son seems to be old enough now that people feel comfortable asking me if we’re planning to have another baby.  Twice this week alone, I got the question, and not from people that I’m particularly close to.  I wanted to yell at them that I was having a miscarriage, and they really shouldn’t ask questions about people’s reproductive plans (or at least point them to this amusing flow chart).  Instead, I just gave my stock answer of “we’ll see!”

One thing I found both disturbing and reassuring this week was a recent study on 2nd and 3rd trimester loss that was published in 2016.  I wasn’t aware of it until this week, since it wasn’t published yet when I was scouring the literature after we lost our daughter in September 2014.  I thought it was such a great study that I emailed the author to thank her for doing the work, particularly since there seems to be so little research on 2nd trimester loss.  You can read the full article here, but these are the two main takeaways for me:

  • Second and third trimester pregnancy losses are strongly correlated, indicating similar etiologies.  Once you have had a 2nd or 3rd trimester loss (including before 20 weeks), you are about an order of magnitude more likely than a typical woman to have another one.  The overall probability is about 4%, with recurrence more likely if the cause of your first loss was placental or maternal, and less likely if the cause was fetal or unexplained.  (This was the disturbing part — my first loss was placental/maternal, which puts me in the higher risk category of ~8% recurrence.  I sort of knew that already, but this was the first time I’d seen the probabilities broken down in that way.)
  • First trimester miscarriage is not correlated with 2nd or 3rd trimester loss, including recurrent 2nd or 3rd trimester loss.  Roughly a quarter of previous pregnancies ended in first-trimester loss for all the women in the study, regardless of the number of previous 2nd or 3rd trimester losses, which is not significantly higher than the general population.  (This was the reassuring part — it makes it more likely that my current miscarriage was just run-of-the-mill bad luck.)

So, anyway, here I am, just waiting again.  Waiting for the bleeding to taper off, waiting for my cycles to reestablish themselves, waiting to see if we can get pregnant on our own again.  The OBGYN had me make a follow-up appointment for August, mostly as a chance to check in and come up with a plan if necessary.  She half-suggested that I could go for an infertility evaluation at the local big state hospital system if I wanted, but since I’m already being followed by an RE at the other major hospital system in the state I figured it wasn’t necessary, at least not yet.  As I discussed with her, while it’s great that we spontaneously conceived (and so quickly!), it does make it hard to know how long to wait before going back to the RE again.  I did put in a note through the electronic messaging system to my RE to update her about this pregnancy and ask if she had any suggestions moving forward, and her one suggestion was: stop breastfeeding.  I’m not quite ready to do that yet, and it seems pointless to go back to her before I am.  So I guess the plan is to wait a few months, see what my cycles are up to, and then reevaluate.  I think I’m OK with that plan for now.

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Half a Year

Working in academia means that the year has a distinct rhythm.  Last week the students moved into their dorms again, a fresh batch of misty-eyed parents unloaded minivans full of stuff and left their precious children to their own devices, and this week I got up in front of a classroom for the first time since last December, before my son was born.  As the start-of-school milestone passes yet again, it makes me think back on our journey, and how our quest for a living child has ticked against the start of classes during my time on the tenure track.

Three years ago we were just starting to realize that getting pregnant might not be easy for us.

Two years ago I was four and a half months pregnant and deliriously happy; I had no idea that on September 11 we’d find out that our daughter had died.

Last year I was four months pregnant and completely freaked out but hopeful.  The other faculty knew, but I waited to tell the students until it was obvious.  I was juggling an academic schedule with frequent prenatal visits and trying not to lose my mind as the anniversary of our daughter’s death approached.

This year I have a six-month-old bundle of snuggles and love.  He has ten fingers, ten toes, blue eyes and blond hair like his daddy, two teeth(!), and an intense desire to crawl.  He’s now been in full-time daycare for one week, and I miss my little sidekick, but he’s doing great.  He just started drinking from a sippy cup (after adamantly refusing a bottle his entire life), which means I have a little more freedom and my baby is a little more grown up.  We’ve survived his first two illnesses (the first a week-long epic fever followed by ear infection followed by full-body rash from antibiotics, the second a plague that swept our household and left me delirious with my first fever in a decade and left our poor little guy a drippy-nosed, coughing mess for a couple of weeks).  Completely disordered sleep suddenly seems to have resolved this week into once-a-night wakeups (knock on wood!).  He sits, he laughs, he explores his world.  Our baby is growing up.

And still, I teach.  I love being back in the classroom, talking about physics, prompting discussion, fielding my students’ intense questions about our place in the cosmos and how it all fits together.  My first class of freshman majors are graduating this year, and the amount of growing they’ve done since I first welcomed them into a college classroom is staggering.  In a seminar I’m teaching this fall (packed to capacity), during introductions the first day several students mentioned that they’re taking the class because I brought them into the field with my introductory course, and even though they ultimately chose majors in other subjects they wanted to keep taking classes in my subject because they loved my class so much.

Brown-nosers, the lot of them. 🙂

I’m in a very happy place now, but the start of the school year reminds me that it’s been a long time in the making.  Seeing the students arrive on campus also reminds me that my hopes for my son involve him leaving me to join a similar tree-lined, ivy-covered campus about 18 years from now.  As he started full-day daycare last week I sobbed to my husband, “Today it’s daycare, tomorrow it’s kindergarten, the next day it’ll be college and we’ll never see him again!”  Possibly an exaggeration, but the feeling of time passing is inescapable.  I love his emerging personality and his increasing independence, just as much as I love having my tiny baby to snuggle and hold and nurse while he lets me.

Not My First Mother’s Day

I’m sure that anyone reading my blog is highly attuned to the fact that Mother’s Day is this Sunday.  Already, well-meaning people have started gushing about how this is my first Mother’s Day as a mother.

It’s not.

This Mother’s Day is very bittersweet.  My feelings are still quite fresh from last Mother’s Day, which was 8 long months after our daughter’s death and just a few weeks before we found out that I was pregnant with Soren.  My feelings are also still fresh from two Mother’s Days ago, when we were just about to start infertility treatment, again just a few weeks before we found out that I was pregnant with our daughter.  Those two painful Mother’s Days are very much in my mind as I also reflect on the joy that it has been to be Soren’s mother for the last 2.5 months — finally, mother to the living child that I dreamed of for so long.

This Mother’s Day, I send love and strength to the invisible mothers.  The mothers who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death.  The women who are mothers in their hearts as they toil through infertility tests and treatment.  I also send love and strength to the women who lost their own mothers far too soon, especially the women who will never experience the loving sandwich of having a living mother while also being a mother to a living child.  It’s a beautiful and wonderful time of life, and something that I will never, ever take for granted.

While this isn’t my first Mother’s Day, it’s by far my best Mother’s Day.  I am surrounded by love, and my love surrounds my newborn son.

Early Days

IMG_0237We are so lucky.

Our son, Soren, is now three weeks old.  It simultaneously feels as if he’s been here forever, and also that he is this amazing and magical new creature of a human who can’t possibly be with us on this earth for real and forever.

I don’t want to minimize the very real difficulties of labor and delivery and life with a newborn, but so far (knocking crazily on wood as I say this) the start of his life feels charmed — it’s all gone as smoothly as I think it possibly could have.  The contrast with our first pregnancy is jarring, but having had that experience where everything went wrong has paved the way for me to appreciate how very right everything has gone so far this time around.

I hope I’ll find time to write up my birth story on the blog eventually, but the short version is that a membrane sweep sent me into labor the day before I was scheduled to be induced, and Soren was born the next day.  Since my water had broken and since I was positive for Group B Strep, they did have to augment my labor with Pitocin, but everything progressed smoothly despite the intervention.  Eventually I opted for an epidural, which is a decision I was immediately happy with, and after an hour and a half of pushing and some quick suctioning to get rid of his meconium-laced fluid, Soren was in my arms (while I sobbed tears of joy and relief).  I had two second-degree tears, which were stitched up quickly, and I was up and walking around only a few hours later.  Soren’s heart rate never faltered, he was born alert and latched on to my breast like it was the most natural thing in the world (and he’s hardly been off since!).  My milk was a bit slow coming in, but a few days later he was pooping and peeing like crazy and he’s been gaining almost a pound a week since then.

Amazingly, the recovery from this full-term delivery has been easier than the recovery from the delivery of my daughter at 4.5 months.  Two days after delivering my daughter I tried to go walking with my husband and our dog, and I was so dizzy that I had to sit by the side of the road until he could come pick me up in the car.  Two days after delivering our son, we all went for a long walk and it felt so good to stretch my legs.  I couldn’t believe it at first, but then I realized that last time around I didn’t know it yet, but I was dealing with both hemorrhaging from a retained placenta and a raging infection, not to mention the emotional impact of the loss of our daughter, whereas this time around everything was healthy and normal.  I didn’t even worry about whether or not I was healing normally, because I already knew what abnormal healing felt like.  This just felt a thousand times better.  And let me tell you, engorgement is SO much easier to deal with, both physically and emotionally, when you have an adorable baby to feed.  It wasn’t as painful and didn’t last as long, and I LOVE knowing that I am providing nourishment for my son — it made the (milder) soreness totally worthwhile.  Knowing how amazing I felt compared to the first time around — again, both physically and emotionally — just sent me into an emotional high those first few days after his birth.  Having a supportive husband and mom around helped too.  We decided that having three adults to care for one newborn was just about the right ratio!

And I know that putting this in writing is probably going to jinx me forever, but… I’m pretty sure we won the easy baby lottery.  No newborn is truly easy to live with, but we seem to have gotten it about as easy as it gets.  Sure, he fusses occasionally, but we can always calm him down with some combination of the 5 S’s (swaddling, swaying, shushing, sucking, side-lying).  And while we’ve had a few tough nights here and there, most of the time he sleeps in two- to four-hour chunks at night, and will wake for a diaper change and feed and then go straight back to sleep.  I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop — I’m convinced that there’s going to be some disaster, or he’ll get sick before six weeks and need a spinal tap and be up crying all night, or that he’s sleeping too much and it’s a sign of developmental delays to come, or he’ll suddenly get colicky in week four and we’ll be miserable for the next couple of months.  I guess this is just the beginning of a lifetime of parenting worries.  But in the meantime, I will enjoy this magical baby that we have been given!

After she went home, my mom commented to me about how healing it was for her to see everything going so well with my delivery and postpartum recovery.  She felt like it was healing for her as well as for me, since her experience giving birth and caring for me in the first weeks was also extremely difficult — she wound up with an emergency C-section, and I was colicky, and my dad was not supportive.  She’s seen a lot of deliveries since then in her work as a women’s health nurse practitioner, but it’s different when it’s your daughter, and when you stick around after the birth is over.  She said that watching me going through a healthy and normal delivery and recovery, and caring for a healthy newborn with a supportive partner showed her just how good things could be — how right it was possible for everything to go.  After being with me for the horrible end of my first pregnancy, she said it was so wonderful to see things finally going right and well and to see me finally getting to be a mother to a living baby as I’ve wanted to do for so long.  It really has been amazing, and I feel so extremely fortunate to be here at last.

This isn’t the end of our story.  I know there will be challenges ahead with Soren, and I know there will be challenges as we start to work towards conceiving our next baby (we very much want a younger sibling for Soren).  But these early days have been so very beautiful — yes, sleep deprived, and yes, full of the exquisite boredom and dull busy-ness of caring for a newborn… but also astonishing and full of truly momentous love and the incredible process of watching our son’s life unfold.  I feel that I will never tire of kissing his soft cheeks and watching his enormous blue eyes take in the world.

We are so very lucky.

Birth Day

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!

The End is in Sight

Our baby has reached term.  He’ll be 38 weeks on Thursday, which means that he could be here any day now.  Sometime in the next three weeks I’ll be in labor.  We will most likely be parents to a living baby this month.  All of this is unbelievable to me, but somehow it’s real.

All of a sudden, it feels like we’re as ready as we’ll ever be.  We have a safe place for our baby to sleep, a few clothes and diapers and some books and toys, and even some pictures on the walls of the nursery. Tonight we did two big things:

  • We facetimed with my husband’s cousin and her husband and asked if they would serve as guardians for our baby if anything should ever happen to us.  They agreed wholeheartedly, and even asked us if we would do the same for them (apparently even though their kids are 4.5 and 2.5 years old, they’ve never asked anyone, and they guessed that this was what we wanted to talk to them about, discussed it, and agreed that they would ask us too!).
  • We packed our hospital bags.  I hardly packed anything for myself; just some clean clothes, toiletries, breast pads, extra socks, a charger for my phone, and flip-flops.  Most of what went into my bag is for our son: two one-piece outfits for bringing our baby home, one in newborn and one in 0-3 month size (in case he’s big), a fuzzy hooded bunting with bear ears to keep him warm for the car ride home, the hat knitted for him by one of my friends on the faculty (who has also experienced baby loss).  I also packed some sentimental things, foremost among which is the coming-home outfit that my mom knitted for me when I was a baby — it’s woolen and potentially itchy, so I didn’t want it to be the only clothing we brought, but I do want to put it on him for some photos at least.  There’s a photo of me wearing it as a newborn, and I am so looking forward to taking that same photo of my son.  Then, I brought the tiny micropreemie hat that is the only item of clothing our daughter ever wore.  It won’t fit our son, but I want to have it with us, and maybe include it in a photo of him.  And there’s the receiving blanket that my mother-in-law made for our first baby, which is lovely and soft and will also help keep this baby snug in his car seat for the February car ride home from the hospital.  I feel so fortunate to have so many lovely, meaningful, handmade things to help welcome our baby home.  Yes, there were waterworks as I dug into my daughter’s memory box tonight to fish out her hat — I couldn’t help going through all the cards people sent us after she died, which got me thinking again about the might-have-beens, including how she’d be turning one any day now if she had lived.  Thinking of her while our son squirmed in my belly was bittersweet, and her presence will very much be with us as we head back to the hospital, hoping for a happier outcome this time.

Otherwise, things are going fine.  We had our last growth scan at MFM yesterday, and he is measuring right on target: 54th percentile, with an estimated weight of 6lb6oz.  Today was our weekly NST and OB appointment.  He was so active this morning that they kept me on the monitor for an hour trying to get a “baseline” reading of his resting heart rate, but he kept squirming and showing accelerations (which is what they are mostly looking for anyway).  Everything seems set for me to stay on the Lovenox, and I got reassurance from my doctor that being on the medication is very unlikely to increase my (already low) risk of hemorrhaging if I need a C-section — apparently they often give doses of anticoagulant before surgery to people with high clotting risks anyway (who knew?).  I had a chat with our doula today about breastfeeding, pumping, and sleep with a newborn, which was helpful.  And I’ve been organizing the hand-me-down bottles we’ve been given, washing parts and ordering new nipples and a microwave sterilizer which should arrive later this week.

Overall, I feel mostly a sense of calm anticipation.  I’m having trouble thinking about anything other than pregnancy/baby stuff (although I am still hoping to get at least one paper submitted to the journal before I go into labor — I am so close, just waiting on some last-minute input from colleagues!).  So many women have told me they were miserable by this point in their pregnancy, and I am happy to report that I am still not miserable.  In fact, I feel pretty good.  A little tired, a little large (OK, very large), but still generally not too uncomfortable and I am content to be pregnant for a couple weeks longer if that’s what happens.

I am nervous about labor, of course, but at this point I mostly accept it as an inevitability.  I know that I’m as prepared as I can be, and that now I will just have to deal with whatever happens as it comes.  It reminds me of the feeling I used to get before exams in college: I knew that I’d done as much preparation as I could, that I was as ready as I’d ever be to deal with whatever they threw at me, and that I just wanted to get it over with, already!  I know that things could still go wrong, that our son could still die.  At the same time, I’ve finally reached the place where I was at the beginning of the second trimester in our first pregnancy: I don’t really believe that our son will die, even though I know (oh, boy, do I know) that it’s a real possibility (although unlikely).  While that might sound like a good thing, it scares me, because I know how unimaginably horrible it was to have that belief and then lose our first baby.  I also know that it would be even worse this time around since I’ve now carried our son twice as long as our daughter.  So while my daily emotions are calm, I have a storm of anxiety brewing in the background.  I just hope that I’m able to maintain my equilibrium as long as possible, and that I don’t panic during labor.  But at the same time, I also recognize that the outcome is largely out of my hands at this point.  I’ve done everything I can to stack the deck in our favor, and now we just need to see how the cards play out.

38 weeks on Thursday.  Baby arriving any day.  Life is truly a wonder right now.

Time Warp

I’ve had two experiences over the past week or so that have made me feel like I’m in a time warp back to last year.

This past weekend, I was one of the organizers of a big regional event for undergraduate women in physics.  Last year I attended the same meeting, held at a different university, four months after the death of our daughter.  That was one of the notable times that I lost it in public.  During the meeting, a string of female science professors got up to introduce themselves and talk about their work and personal life.  One, who works in my field and whom I know casually from conferences, was just slightly less pregnant than I would have been if our daughter hadn’t died.  Seeing her up there and hearing all those women talking about how important their kids were to them was incredibly painful — somehow amplified since it was a bunch of female scientists living the work-life situation that I so desperately wanted.  I quietly sobbed in the crowded auditorium, and found myself physically shaking afterward.

This year, I was the hugely pregnant woman at the front of the auditorium, and it felt odd.  On the one hand, it was wonderful to have such a clear reminder of how far I’ve traveled in a year.  On the other hand, it was also a clear reminder of what my emotional state was like last January, and I was acutely aware that seeing my large belly might be painful for some of the women at the meeting and I might not ever know.

Similarly, the last time I went to a prenatal appointment, I saw a woman sitting with her partner in the waiting room with THAT LOOK on her face.  Fighting back tears, looking down, clearly avoiding eye contact with anyone else in the room, but not looking at anything in particular.  Her partner was holding her hand and hovering protectively.  I don’t know her story, of course, but I strongly suspect she’d just had a miscarriage.  And there I was, in all my 8-months-pregnant glory, remembering exactly how painful it had been to sit in the waiting room last year watching heavily pregnant women and newborn babies come and go around me.  To remember how even when they moved me to a private waiting area, a woman about as pregnant as I now am waddled up to the water fountain in front of me and all I could feel was the bleakest despair.  I wanted so desperately to say something to the woman in the office last week.  To tell her I was sorry for her loss.  To tell her that I’d been there.  To tell her she’d make it through, even though it didn’t feel possible right now.  To let her know I wasn’t the carefree pregnant lady she probably assumed I was.  But how can you start that conversation?  I couldn’t.  I smiled hesitantly at her partner.  And then my name was called and I walked away.

The pain of pregnancy loss has so many associations for me now.  Seeing sad women in the waiting room of an OBGYN practice is an obvious one, but who would have thought that an event for female physics students would do it too?

These two situations brought me back strongly to last year, but I’m also happy to report that my husband and I are moving forward and planning to welcome our son home in just a few short weeks.  We finally took the plunge and started organizing our baby stuff.  I washed and sorted all the hand-me-down clothes, and we started buying stuff to fill in our needs around the edges. The Amazon boxes have been arriving in a steady trickle.  We even took a trip to Ikea for some furniture, and now the room in our house that has stood empty since we moved in a year and a half ago is starting to look terrifyingly like an adorable nursery.  I still feel the dizzying duality of fear and joy when I think about it.  I imagine holding our son, rocking in the old rocking chair that my in-laws brought us at Christmas.  When that gets too scary, I remind myself that even if we don’t bring home our son this year, we will eventually be parents, and that the nursery will eventually be used by a living child, even if it’s not this one.  Thinking about it as our family’s nursery, rather than our son’s nursery, is my coping technique du jour.  I wish I could fully commit to making it HIS nursery, but I’m just not quite there yet.  And still, we act like he’s coming home soon.  The carseat is installed in the car, just in case.  We’re planning on taking a trip to Target this weekend for exciting necessities like diapers and wipes.  We’re preparing, ready or not.  While it’s not likely yet, he could theoretically arrive any day (now that I’ve reached the 36-week mark).  I mostly feel calm, until I think about things too hard.  But I suspect that’s a normal feature of late pregnancy.

Physically, I’m fine.  Most of the time I feel pretty placid about the wait.  Other women have told me they were miserable by 36 weeks; I’m not.  Sure, there’s some discomfort, but it’s all minor aches and pains.  I can still walk my dog two miles in the morning (just slowly).  I can mostly sleep at night (with a few interruptions).  I can mostly focus on work and sit at my desk comfortably (as long as I waddle to the bathroom every so often).  Life feels more or less normal.  The strangest thing about this week is the buildup to the start of classes.  It’s the first time in three years as a professor that I haven’t been caught up in the buzz of the start of the semester.  I’m working hard, trying to finish two papers before the baby comes (I finished a draft of paper #1 and sent it off to collaborators today!), but I’m not putting together a syllabus or writing lecture notes or fielding frantic student emails about whether there’s space in my class.  Students mostly aren’t bugging me about stuff, because within my little department they all know that I could disappear at any moment.  I’m watching my colleagues buzz around instead.  I’m guiltlessly saying no to any requests that do make it to my inbox.  It’s unsettling to start to disengage from work so thoroughly, but also kind of exhilarating to imagine how different our first few weeks of parenthood will be from the academic life that has been my “normal” for… well, forever.

So that’s where I am at the moment: in a strange time warp, in limbo between my painful past and what I dearly, dearly hope is our impending future with our son.