Thursday, February 26, 2015

Between Two Worlds

During my pregnancy with my first daughter I was about as joyful as a pregnant woman can be.  I had some nausea, heartburn and general discomfort, but I was so thrilled to be carrying a tiny life inside of me that it didn't really matter.  I bought dozens of adorable baby outfits, decorated the nursery and planned to bring home our beautiful baby. Towards the end of my pregnancy my husband and I decided to enroll in childbirth classes.  We were hoping to have a natural, drug free birth and we figured that talking classes geared towards this would be our best bet.  We started our childbirth classes about two months before my due date.

I remember the first class well.  We walked into the room with several other expecting couples.  All told, there were six pregnant Mom's in the class.  I looked around the room and felt the same excitement I had for myself with all of these other first time parents.  We were all just weeks away from experiencing a true miracle!  After a few weeks of class one of the other couples suggested getting together for dinner before class the next week.  We agreed on Olive Garden, because pregnant ladies and unlimited bread sticks are a winning combination.  My husband and I walked in and the hostess looked down at my large belly and smiled at us, she knew right where we were headed, to the table with all the other Preggos.  We sat and chatted with the other expecting couples.  It was wonderful to be able to share all of the same feelings of excitement and nervousness. Even after our birth classes ended we stayed in touch with several of the families.  Our children have had many play dates together and the parents have become good friends.  It has been wonderful to have these new friends that we share so much in common with.

Now with Victoria everything is different.  I am no longer the naive excited Mom that I used to be. I have since become involved in the baby loss community.  I have made new friends with other baby loss Moms.  We share something in common as well, but it is grief.  Once I became pregnant with Victoria I found myself feeling a disconnect from this community.  Once I started showing I stopped attending the support group that I run with another Mom and let her take over.  I remembered all too well coming to the support group one month when I was fresh in my grief and seeing a pregnant Mom in the room.  She was a loss Mom as well, but just being around a woman full of new life was too much for me.  I went home that night and cried.  I couldn't bear being that trigger for another Mom. I felt like I no longer belonged, although I was still grieving.  I wanted to jump back into the "regular" Mom community.  I considered taking a childbirth class series again since it had been almost four years since I had given birth at full term.  But the thought of sitting in a room full of parents that were full of joy was just too much for me.  I also felt a disconnect from those parents.  The instructor that taught our first classes was kind enough to come over to our house for a private refresher course.

Since Victoria's birth I have attended several Mom groups for breastfeeding support.  Every time I go I have a mini panic attack.  Will someone ask me how many children I have?  How will I explain without upsetting the other person while still acknowledging my twins.  What if I am triggered?  What if I start crying?  So far I have been fine.  I want to connect with these other Moms.  We share so much in common.  But I can't help but feel like an outsider.  When Moms start complaining about the day to day trials of caring for a baby I have a hard time relating.  Of course I understand the challenges, I face them every day.  The constant feeding, attention, crying, sleepless nights.  It's hard, I get it.  I just feel so thankful for all of that.  I have been wanting that again desperately for the past three years.

So now I find myself in the awkward place.  I am a baby loss Mom and I am a Mom of living children.  I am lucky enough that most of my friends have stuck with me through all of this.  I need the support more than ever to continue navigating through these new challenges.


Monday, January 12, 2015

Dreams

It has been two years and four months since the birth and death of Penelope and James.  In that time I have not once had a dream about them.  I have longed to see them in my dreams, since that is the only place that they still exist.  Last night it finally happened.  It was weird, nonsensical and disjointed as dreams often are.  But they were there.  I held them in my arms, kissed them, took pictures of them and told them how much I loved them.  They got to be held by their big sister, something they never experienced in real life.  They looked nothing like what they actually looked like, but it didn't matter, it was still them.

I woke up feeling happy this morning.  I got to see my babies again, even if it was only a dream.  Then as I started trying to explain my dream to my husband I started feeling a lump in my throat.  The realization began to hit that it was just a dream and I will never again be able to hold my precious daughter and son in my arms.  The harsh reality hit me all over again and it was heartbreaking.  Even over two years later it sometimes hits me just as hard as it did that first day.  It literally takes my breath away and uncontrollable tears well up in my eyes.

I know these intense moments of grief will pass as they always do.  I will soon be distracted by life.  Caring for my four year old and newborn daughter, laughing with my husband, Doctor appointments, folding laundry and wrapping Christmas presents.  James and Penelope will once again fade in the dull aching in my heart.  But for now, this morning I grieve.  I cry all the tears I need to cry.  I sit in the anger and bitterness and unfairness that they are gone.

Our Rainbow Baby

I have had mixed feelings about the term "Rainbow Baby" since I first heard it following the loss of my twins.  A Rainbow Baby is a child that is that is conceived following the loss of a pregnancy or infant, the rainbow after the storm.  It is a term that is often thrown around in the Baby Loss Community and now that I was part of that world I was seeing it a lot.  The time I first heard this term I was fresh in my grief from the death of my twins.  I was in the eye of the storm and I honestly couldn't even imagine life ever being happy and beautiful again.  I had given birth to two beautiful babies and watched them slowly fade away before my eyes.  I was surviving, but barely. 

Technically Penelope and James were my rainbow babies.  I had suffered a miscarriage about four months before finding out I was pregnant with twins.  Although I struggled greatly with my pregnancy loss I had great hope for this new pregnancy.  Once I found out I was carrying twins it was like everything was right with the world.  I bought into the whole "everything happens for a reason" and figured that this was all just part of some great plan.  I had lost one baby, but now I was carrying two.  I was able to reason with myself that surely something was wrong with the baby that I lost and these two were healthy and meant to be part of my family.  These were my rainbows, although I wasn't familiar with that terminology yet.  I was optimistic and ready to bring home our twins.

Following the loss of James and Penelope my optimism was gone.  I could no longer believe in those ideas that got my through my first loss.  How could everything happen for a reason?  I could think of no reason great enough to take my two babies away from me.  If this was all part of some great plan it was a plan that I wanted nothing to do with.  It was around this time that I started hearing talk of rainbow babies and feeling unsettled about it.  It felt to me like a rainbow baby was a cure all for the grieving parent and the faster you "caught your rainbow" the better.  It was like a sick race that I didn't want to be a part of.  I wanted my son and daughter and I didn't even want to think about being pregnant again.  Of course, I did understand the strong desire of some parents to get pregnant again quickly.  After losing a baby the ache of empty arms can sometimes be unbearable.  Another thing that didn't settle right with me was the question of what about the parents that never get their rainbow.  What about those that either choose not to try again or are unable to conceive?  What about those parents like me that lose their rainbow?  Are we doomed to live forever in the storm?

As time went by I became more comfortable with the idea of a rainbow baby.  I realized that while many baby loss families strive for a rainbow baby it is not a goal or reality for everyone.  This does not mean that those parents are doomed to be stuck in the storm.  I learned by working through my own grief that many things help heal the pain of pregnancy and infant loss.  Crying, talking, yelling, hugging, remembering, more crying and just allowing your heart to heal.  I knew it wasn't my path to race to a rainbow baby.  I needed time to grieve and heal.  I am so glad I took that time because it was through that process that I was able to realize that I would be okay, even if we never brought home a rainbow baby.  I learned that while there would always be a part of my heart that was broken I could be okay, I could be better than okay.

Now that Victoria is here I have fully embraced her as our rainbow baby.  I know that it was not her birth that healed me, or brought me out of the storm.  I was able to do that hard work on my own.  She is just her own wonderful person.  She is a part of our crazy little family and she doesn't have to carry the weight on her shoulders of fixing anything, she just is.  She is a baby that was wanted. Not because we needed her to get out of the storm, but because we wanted another child.  She is my fourth child and she is amazing.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Tears of Joy

It has been 17 days since our family welcomed it's newest member.  Baby Victoria Grace came into this world on November 21st at 5:17 am.  She was pink, crying, covered in vernix, wide eyed and one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.  She was immediately placed in my arms, while still attached to me via umbilical cord.  I held her in my arms and immediately began to weep tears of joy.  I looked at Micah and back at Victoria, I couldn't believe she was actually here.

My labor began on Thursday morning around 3:30 am.  I woke up for one of my frequent bathroom trips and noticed a contraction.  I went back to bed, but I couldn't go back to sleep.  I went downstairs, turned on the TV and every ten minutes or so I felt another contraction.  Since around 22 weeks I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions, so I was hesitant to think this could be the real thing.  By the time Micah got up around 6:30 am the contractions seemed to be getting stronger, so he decided to take the day off.  As the day went on I had contractions on and off.  They would get stronger for a while, and then lighten up.  We went to the mall to walk around for awhile, then out to lunch with my Mom where I would periodically sit back and breathe through a contraction.  Finally around 9pm they seemed to be consistently strong and regular, we decided to go the hospital and call our Doula.

When we got to the hospital I was checked into triage and the nurse checked me.  I was dialated to about 4cm.  We walked around the halls for an hour and I got checked again, I was between 4 and 5.  We again walked the halls for another hour, this time with our amazingly helpful doula.  By now my contractions were strong I was started to feel back labor.  I would lean on the hallway handrails, hold Micah's hand and Hattie our Doula would put counter pressure on my back.  By the time I got checked again I was close to 6cm dialated.  I labored for a while longer before our labor and delivery nurse Paige arrived to transfer me to our delivery room.

Once we got settled in our new room I got in the shower and labored there for a while.  Then I came out and not long after my Doctor arrived to check on me.  I was lucky enough to have built a good relationship with my Obstetrician over the past two years.  She was the Doctor that delivered James and Penelope and had seen me for every appointment following their birth and with this pregnancy as well.  She had offered to deliver Victoria even if she was not on call and even gave me her personal cell phone number.  I was still around 6cm and she offered to break my water in hopes of speeding things up.  At this point I had been in labor for over 20 hours and anything to speed things up seemed like a good idea so I agreed.  She broke my water bag and the next contraction was crazy intense.  I couldn't believe how much more painful it was.  After a few more contractions I started crying and telling Micah and my Doula that I couldn't do it anymore, I needed an epidural.  We called the nurse in and she set up an IV for me.  She said once the bag was empty we could start the epidural.  Within about 20 minutes of sitting on the birth ball and doing some deep breathing I was handling the contractions much better and I told her I didn't need it.  Within an hour the contractions were more intense again.  My legs were shaking and once again I asked for an epidural.  This time our nurse Paige suggested checking me first to see if I had progressed.  I was almost 10 cm dialated, I was almost done and I knew I could do it without the epidural.

I got back on the birth ball and a few contractions later I started feeling the urge to push.  I begrudgingly got back into bed and our Doctor was called back in along with a Resident.  Pushing went pretty quickly and after about 20 minutes Victoria came out.  The physical pain of labor and delivery was worse than I had remembered, but the pure euphoria of holding your newborn baby was even better than I had remembered. It had been almost four years since I had given birth to my first daughter and a little over two years since I had given birth to my twins.  All three births were completely different experiences.  I just held her in my arms, crying and telling her how much I loved her. 

Victoria has been home with us for a little over two weeks now and I can't imagine our family without her.  She is just perfect and watching Gwenevere in her big sister role is precious.  Every moment with her is a gift, but it is also bittersweet.  Every moment I have with her is a reminder of what I never got to have with Penelope and James. I am so grateful to have her here, but I can't help feeling sad for my my son and daughter than I never got to bring home.  I am also aware that if my twins had survived we would not have gone on to have another baby and Victoria would not be here.  She is a piece of our family's puzzle and she makes us a little more complete.  But we will always be missing two pieces, James and Penelope.  They will always be loved and missed and they will always be part of our family.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

38 weeks tomorrow

I am ready for this baby to get here!!  I have spent so much of this pregnancy worrying about preterm labor and having a premature baby that it's weird for me to be at this point.  I have spent so many days and nights worrying about contractions and whether or not my water is breaking.  Now I am just ready to bring it on!  I will be 38 weeks tomorrow, so I am not even full term yet.  I want to just be patient.  I know that the closer to 40 weeks we get, the healthier this baby will be.  So I should just wait patiently, but I can't.  I have been so anxious this whole pregnancy and I am terrified that something will go wrong last minute.  I just need to see her and hear her cry.

With my first pregnancy with Gwenevere I never really felt impatient.  As a first time Mom I anticipated that I would go over 40 weeks, probably 41-42.  I was being seen by a midwife and I knew that she wouldn't push for an induction just because my due date came and went.  I was due on December 8th and the thought of going into labor in November never even crossed my mind.  So when I started having contractions on November 30th I didn't really think it could be the real thing.  But sure enough, the next day my daughter was born at 39 weeks exactly.  Not exactly early and certainly not premature, but sooner than I expected.

Now that I have had a baby at 39 weeks and my twins prematurely at 22 weeks I have been certain this whole pregnancy that I would not make it to term.  I have been hoping for at least 32 weeks, but preferably 37 weeks.  Well here I am about to be 38 weeks and no sign of baby coming.  Now that I have made it this far I can't help but wonder if I will go past my due date.  I know that the best thing for baby is for her to come when she is ready.  I just don't know how much longer my nerves will last.  Last week at my OB appointment she started talking about a possible induction at 39 weeks.  Normally I would be completely opposed to being induced unless absolutely nessesary.  I found myself smiling and saying that it seemed like a good idea.  I don't really want to be induced, in fact it sounds awful.  But I want my baby here.

For now all I can do is try to be patient.  I have an OB appointment this Wednesday and she will try to strip my membranes if possible.  I have hope that doing that will get things going.  If not, I will continue to wait.  All I can do is wait and trust that my body will keep this baby growing and healthy until she is ready to be born.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

33 Weeks; Trying to Keep it Together

Yesterday was a scary day.  I woke up in the morning feeling a little off, so I spend most of the day drinking water and resting.  As the day went on I noticed that I was having Braxton Hicks contractions.  I have been having these since about 20 weeks, but every time I have one I freak out a little bit.  As the day went on I noticed they were happening more and more frequently.  Around 3pm I decided it was time to call the Doctor.  She instructed me to rest and continue drinking water, if they weren't settling down in an hour to go to the hospital.  I did as I was told and the contractions kept coming.  Micah and I dropped of Gwenevere with my parents and headed into labor and delivery.

The whole way there I kept thinking that this couldn't possibly be labor.  Maybe I was just imagining the contractions.  Once we got there they hooked me up to the monitor and sure enough there were my contractions on the screen, one every 4-5 minutes.  Crap.  This was not what I was hoping to see.  We waited a while for the Doctor as my anxiety grew.  We found Sex and the City on TV which proved to be a pretty good distraction.  Once the Doctor came in she talked about everything they were going to check, cervix length and several swabs for any signs of infection.  She performed the exam and was happy to report that my cervix was still closed and long, great news.  We waited a while for the lab results to come back and everything looked good.  By the time the lab results were back my contractions had started to slow down to every 7-10 minutes, which was a good sign.

Once the Doctor determined that I was not in actual labor I was free to go home.  They sent me home with a prescription to help calm the contractions, but it comes with some pretty bad side effects.  She suggested not taking it unless I really needed to.  She also told me that while it subdues my feelings of tightness from the contractions it does nothing to actually prevent labor.  So as of now I have not filled the prescription.

Today I am stressed.  I am glad that our little girl didn't make her big debut yesterday, but I am scared that she could come anytime now.  I am not ready, she is not ready.  I am now 33 weeks.  If she were born today she would most certainly survive, but not without medical intervention.  Just the thought of seeing my baby hooked up to a ventilator makes me want to cry.  I want to have what a had with Gwenevere, a big, healthy, full term baby.  I am trying my best to take it easy today, but that is challenging while trying to keep up with a three year old.  I feel like every time I get up I have a contraction.  But I know I can't just lay on the couch all day.  Micah is coming home on his lunch break to take the dog on a walk and Gwenevere is getting more than her share of screen time.  All I can do for now is take it one day at a time.  Every day that she stays in she is getting bigger and stronger.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Good Memories

Tomorrow marks the second anniversary of the birth and death of James and Penelope.  Looking back to that day and the days that followed there was so much pain.  The kind of pain that takes you over and makes it difficult to just breathe.  There is much of my life during those weeks and months after we lost them that I don't really remember.  I know that life went on, I had my almost two year old to take care of.  But what we did, what I did during that time I'm not really sure of.  I know there were lots of tears, I know there were some happy times too, but much of it is just blank.  So today, instead of trying to go back to that time of intense grief I am trying to live in the moments of joy that led up to it.

In April of 2012 I took a home pregnancy test and was thrilled to discover that I was once again pregnant.  My excitement was mixed with fear because I had recently suffered a miscarriage several months ago.  But mostly I was thrilled.  We quickly calculated what my due date was and I was due the week of Christmas.  This baby would be born just weeks after our daughter's second birthday.  I called my Midwife's office later that week to schedule our first appointment.

Our first appointment with the midwife was the last day in April.  I was 6 weeks pregnant and as sick as a dog.  Because of my previous pregnancy loss she offered us an ultrasound which we happily agreed to.  The ultrasound technician began and on the screen I couldn't see much, just two small black circles.  Within a couple of minutes she said the words that I will never forget, "Well, there are two".  Micah and I looked at each other and then asked her if she was sure.  She assured us that yes, there were in fact two little embryos and both had a strong heartbeat.  We got to hear of their hearts beating and it was music to my ears.  Twins were not something I ever thought would happen, but in that moment I felt so lucky.

We went back for another appointment the beginning of June.  I remember walking into the office that day terrified that we may have lost one or both of the babies.  When the ultrasound began and I could actually see two little babies squirming around I instantly felt relief and joy.  These two babies were growing inside of me and they looked healthy and amazing.  We were also told that day that the babies each had their own amniotic sac and placenta, which made it a much lower risk pregnancy.  That was good news.

By the time my next appointment rolled around it was the second week of July and I was almost 20 weeks along.  I was getting big, I already looked 30 plus weeks pregnant.  I couldn't wait to catch another glimpse of my twins during the big ultrasound, the anatomy scan.  If the babies were cooperative we would also be able to find out if we were having boys, girls or one of each.  By this ultrasound the babies had gotten so big you could no longer see them both on the screen at the same time.  The technician started with Baby A.  We got to hear the heartbeat again and she took measurement after measurement, everything looked perfect.  Then she asked if we wanted to know baby's sex, "Yes!" we both said.  "It's a boy"!  I remember crying a little at the excitement.  She then moved onto Baby B.  Once again we got to hear the heartbeat and all of the measurements looked perfect.  "This one's a girl"!  I cried again.  I couldn't have been happier than I was in that moment.  I already had one amazing daughter at home and I was being blessed with not just one healthy baby, but a son and a daughter.  I couldn't believe how lucky I was.

Over the next couple of days I finally began to feel fetal movement.  It had taken a long time since both of the twin's placentas were anterior, or located on the front which was blocking much of their movements.  By 20 weeks though, they had gotten big enough that I could feel them both.  My son was down low below my belly button and my daughter was up high.  Micah and I would often joke about me being pregnant with an octopus since there were eights little limbs in there.  Their kicks and punches were big enough for Micah to feel as well and we spent many nights sitting on the couch with his hands on my belly, one up high and one down low.  These short few weeks of anticipating the birth of my twin son and daughter were among the happiest of my life.  I couldn't wait to hold them in my arms, to watch my daughter Gwenevere become a big sister, to attempt breastfeeding two babies at once, to see my number of children triple in one moment.  My heart was about as full as it has ever been.

Three weeks after that ultrasound I went into labor.  But that moment forward I have rehashed enough.  It is those weeks and months before that I want to remember today.  Those magical moments when I got carry two lives inside of me.  Those appointments holding my husband's hand and seeing two babies that we made with love and listening to their hearts beat.  Those nights spent on the couch watching Mad Men and feeling my son and daughter squiggle and kick in my belly.  Having my one year old daughter walk up to me and touch my belly and say "Babies". The phone calls to our parents to tell them the double good news that we were pregnant with twins.  The reluctant shopping for minivans when we realized the difficulty of fitting three car seats into a sedan.  The buying of matching outfits and decorations for the nursery.  These are moments that I wouldn't trade for everything.  Even though I only had several short months carrying Penelope and James I will always cherish that time.  Tomorrow is their birthday and I will remember every amazing moment that I had with them.  Happy Birthday my lovely children, where ever you are I hope that you can feel all of the love I am sending your way.