05 June 2018

Loving a Baby after Loss

I wasn't able to write about it the entire time I was pregnant. That's how unsafe, how fragile, I felt. The normal me needs to write to process everything. I still don't fully feel able to write about the experience. But let me share glimpses of what pregnancy after miscarriage looked like for me.

30 weeks. 

- The positive pregnancy test was a very, very joyful day. And a terrifying one. Because now I knew, most vividly, that a test that reads "pregnant" doesn't necessarily mean you'll be allowed to have a baby. I calculated the due date right away, but I didn't know if it would be a "real" due date or not.

- I had scary symptoms throughout the first trimester--and thankfully a very proactive doctor and pills that helped. But I remember one night around seven weeks being very sure that this was the end, it was so much like last time, and falling into bed, exhausted, crying myself to sleep. I fought the fear as much as I could even in the face of symptoms that reminded me of last time. What I would say fiercely to myself is: "This isn't your story. Your story isn't that of losing two babies in a row. If that becomes your story, then you can feel that way. But right now your story is that of being pregnant again and you're going to choose joy as hard as you can. The only story you're allowed to tell yourself is the one that's actually true."

- We still shared our news early--with Angel's family on the same day we found out, with mine, a week later (because of distance/location issues). We announced to our friends on our birthdays a few weeks later, though still in the first trimester. What I learned from Baby Em is that I believe life deserves to be celebrated, and that sometimes you don't have as much time as you think you will to celebrate that life, so make the most of the time you have.

- I counted every day. Every single day. I had a routine. Every morning I'd wake up, and I'd color in one more box on the 40-week chart of boxes that I drew up on the very day I found out I was pregnant. I'd drawn up a 40-week chart last time, too. I didn't get to fill out very many weeks. But I didn't let that stop me from being brave enough to draw up a chart right away and fill out every new day. I also wrote down what number the day was--how many days I'd known about the baby, in my planner. I knew about Baby Em for 25 days. I waited on tenterhooks for the first 25 days this time. I at least wanted to get to be with this baby for longer than 25 days. At the very least. I wanted more time. I eagerly showed Angel my planner every time we reached a new milestone. I remember excitedly showing him the planner when it read 10 days--double digits. 50 days--a half century. 100 days--triple digits. Baby was born on Day 251 and I finally stopped counting days.

- I was so happy to have such noticeable morning sickness. It's harder to let your mind play games with you when you're throwing up most of what you eat, 2-3 times a day, for weeks at a time.

- I never felt like I was in any "safe zone," though I celebrated 24 weeks and 28 weeks and 33 weeks. Once the baby was big enough that Angel could hear his heartbeat, I had Angel listen for his heartbeat a couple times a day. I never felt super confident and ready to prepare for the baby. My baby shower was when I was 33 weeks along and I still felt nervous--what if it's too early? What if I don't get to bring my baby home? How will I give the gifts back? Preparing his nursery was a regular exercise in faith--faith that it was possible that I would get to bring my boy home. I prayed every day for his little body, at the same time accepting that sometimes babies don't get to live, though I prayed fiercely that this one would.

- I tried to be as 'safe' as I could the whole time. I didn't drink anything with the least bit of caffeine until well after the first trimester. I didn't color my hair or paint my nails during the first trimester. I didn't visit Subway or eat any deli meat for my entire pregnancy. I took my pills at the same time every day, never skipping one. I never missed a prenatal vitamin. And at the same time...I knew, most vividly, that in many situations it truly "doesn't matter" how 'safe' you are or how much you really really try to stay pregnant. Because I'm not in control of what happens to my baby or how they develop, and that's so very hard to accept. I did know it, and sort of accepted  it, but there's still that feeling of, "Well, at least I don't want to leave something undone that I could have done to help give this baby a good chance!"

- I documented more than I otherwise would have. I'm so not the "maternity photo" type. But I took belly photos every few weeks or every month because I knew I needed photos "with" my baby for as long as I could get them.

- I froze when people asked, "Is this your first pregnancy?" I must have seemed so weird. I know that lots of people can go through this experience with calmness and sensibleness and practicality but somehow that's not me.

- In the aftermath of well wishes and congratulations and everyone wanting to love on Cyrus and take care of him, I missed her even more.

- It was a 36-week journey of fighting to claim "He is able...but even if He does not" as Daniel's friends claimed in front of the fiery furnace. And the journey didn't end when I went into labor and they couldn't find his heartbeat for a while (even though I knew they were just looking in the wrong place and if they'd handed the monitoring thing to Angel he knew exactly where to find it), or when he was born and was purple and they took him away for a long time and didn't tell us why or even three months after we've brought him home, and it doesn't matter how much it makes sense because I'll wake up throughout the night to put my hand on his chest to check his breathing anyways.

For me, nothing before parenthood has caused C.S. Lewis's famous quote from The Four Loves to cut so deeply:

"There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. 

But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell."
Jalina King said...

Thank you for sharing this, even though it was hard for you. I can relate to every single point you make in this post. Pregnancy after loss is so complicated! I love your line "This isn't your story..." Such an important reminder, as difficult as it is!

Amanda said...

I am grateful that I have not had to experience the loss of a child, and both of my pregnancies have been mostly very routine. That said, I am an extremely anxious pregnant person and throughout both was constantly worried about something happening. The first weeks felt so long because I was paranoid about going to the bathroom and seeing blood. I am sure that is even more pronounced after you have experienced a miscarriage. I was better about it with J, but with R I checked her breathing constantly when she was asleep. They scare you about SIDs so much! Having a baby is wonderful and terrifying. I'm so glad he's here and healthy and you can love on him from the outside :)

AnneMarie said...

Thank you so much for sharing this, Rachel! This is really, really beautiful. And that C.S. Lewis quote is so perfect for this (and this is a good reminder that I need to give that book a re-read some time, since I haven't read it in years).

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing about a topic that is hard to talk about. I appreciate your honesty. Although I never lost a baby, I went through a severe premature birth where my child almost died. It was scary and it took a long time to get over it. Its not easy bring children into the world and I'm glad you are talking about the difficult aspects along with the blessings. I'm so glad you now have a son and I'm sorry about the loss of your daughter. Hugs and prayers to you and your family. I appreciate your blog.

Michelle said...

I remember reading that C.S. Lewis quote and loving it. He is always so dead on.

Thank you for sharing this. It takes tremendous courage to go through a pregnancy after loss, even though it's a gift and obviously something you can't change in the moment. I was suffocated by fear for much of my pregnancy, and I can't imagine what it would have been like had I previously lost a child.

Mrs. M ~ a.k.a. ~ April said...

I remember going through similar after my first miscarriage. When you said that you froze when people asked if this was your first pregnancy, I was always like, what do I say to that? I do remember you encouraging me by commenting after I wrote about my miscarriage. Thank you for writing about your experience. I know it was not easy.

Wigdiggity said...

This post hit home. I've been pregnant more times than I care to admit out loud. Every time I would see a positive sign on that stick, I would be frozen in fear. Every single day that passed I was sure that it would be the last day. That fear never really went away even after my boys were born. It's such a horrible emotion. So very sorry for your loss.