31 week sonogram on February 19
Just like that, we are well underway with our third, third trimester. Given that I've been pregnant during the busiest time of year for us, I knew it would feel quicker, but this has truly flown by. The third trimester represents such a simultaneous composition of excitement and preparation, but for me it is also coupled with an impending fear of the unknown and the memories of what has happened before.
I haven't done a lot of writing this pregnancy because when I write, I go to a place that can conjure a lot of emotion. It can bring on all kinds of thought trails that at this point in time, I don't want to go down. I was in a different point of my healing process when I was pregnant with Hadley. It was a time that I needed to go to that place because I was still working through so many facets of grief and the expression helped in the release of the build up of fear and stress. I need to share through writing because it helped me and in turn, it was helping others who were also walking the same path, or those who just wanted the insight to better understand. This pregnancy, I have tried to silence my fears and anxious voice. I've viewed myself as someone who embraces my grief, wasn't afraid of it. However, throughout this pregnancy, I have tried to ignore my grief - unsuccessfully. I haven't wanted to go to that place of emotion in an effort to control my stress and anxiety, but I don't feel that it has done me any favors because it very much exists, just as much as my first pregnancy after loss with Hadley.
I had actually started writing and readying a post that was what this experience has brought the second time around. What is the same, what is different. I was waiting to get through our 30 week appointment last Thursday to finish it out. Now, it's changed a bit to include what is going on with this baby right now and how it is impacting my second pregnancy after loss.
I think a common thought to most people is that once you have a living baby after a pregnancy after loss, you are "back to normal" and the fear that was once there is now gone, or that you are no longer at risk, subsequently meaning that another pregnancy is easier. To address that, yes - I guess you can say that I am one and one now. I've had a stillbirth and now a live birth. But - I've had a stillbirth, I've still had a baby who has died, so that will always overshadow the fact that I've had a healthy live birth. We will always err on the side of caution and that fear is still very much present. I am high risk, I am at-risk, and that hasn't changed.
One of my soul sisters - a friend who I've met because we are both mothers of loss - is also pregnant with her second baby after loss and we are due within a few weeks of one another. In a text recently as we updated on our current states, she gave the perfect example. She said that she tells people that this is like surviving a plane crash that happens at landing. You'd be terrified of every other flight you are on, and the anxiety of ever experiencing turbulence while on the flight. The stress doesn't ever go away, but you just find ways to cope with it.
I think because grief is evolving, I'm in another heart and head space than I was in that first pregnancy after loss with Hadley. I know more, I've seen more, I've experienced both, certain things still trigger, others don't. This time I've faced a different set of triggers because there are a lot of similarities to life circumstances between this pregnancy and when I was pregnant with Hudson. They trigger those memories that take you back to the dark place. There's a trauma that exists and a fear that takes hold after you've experienced a loss like we have. That's "our" normal.
In my pregnancy with Hadley, I celebrated each week that I was still pregnant, I checked the box on each step and milestone. I had high anxiety, my pregnancy with her wasn't completely carefree, we had scares, every sono caused me to hold my breath until I saw or heard the heartbeat. I had to shut down the fear with faith, and that was my mantra faith over fear. Through it all, deep down I felt like she would be in our arms, living and breathing. She had to. We couldn't do this again. Faith over fear. That feeling drove the confidence in our medical team and in that end result of her getting here safe and sound.
Faith over fear.
Now let's talk about this pregnancy.
This time the fear set in almost immediately for many reasons that I discussed in my first post about this baby. It wasn't until almost the 21 week mark, when I started feeling legit continuous fetal movements, that I felt much more at ease. To be honest, I was very at ease up until about three weeks ago. What changed? We entered the third trimester, we started getting closer to our week of loss mark (32/33 weeks), and movement has been stressing me out. This little one's patterns of movement have changed from when I first started feeling them and are not as continuous, but more so, they are different than Hudson's and Hadley's. This one moves mostly at night and in the morning, and if doing a kick count, I get to the 10 kicks within an hour at those times of the day. Yet during the day, more often than not, we are very quiet and still. So quiet and still that it has really freaked me out at times. Some days are an exception to that but most days the fear creeps in and I wonder if everything is okay. It quickly escalates past wonder and goes to action mode. I grab a little Dr. Pepper or a handful of chocolate covered almonds to try to get some movement started. Sometimes it will work, but a lot of times it doesn't. Truth be told, I've had a lot of sugar the past few weeks - and not out of craving this time but necessity in my mind for sanity, sugar actually gives me heartburn - just to get some movement going and feel like everything is fine. Until 29 weeks, I hadn't used my fetal heart monitor since 21 weeks, but now it is in my bag with me at work. One afternoon I raced home to use it because I had a Dr. Pepper to try to get some moves, and then an hour later a chocolate chip cookie but nothing had happened in two hours. So now, it comes to work with me, that's how in my head I've gotten, in case I just need to know now and can't wait to get home later. Waiting isn't an option when you've been through what we've been through.
Enter the mantra again.
Faith over fear.
So, let's talk about our 30 week appointment last week on Thursday. Our appointments have been every 2-3 weeks since 16 weeks. By this time in our first pregnancy after loss, we had started going weekly, but I've been doing okay with the current set up. However, it had been a busy and stressful two weeks since my last appointment and on top of what's been going on in life in general, my anxiety has been building as we inch closer to the week of loss mark from Hudson. At that 30 week appointment, I had planned to go ahead and ask for us to start weekly appointments going forward if she didn't suggest it already. It was just getting to the point that I wanted to be monitored more closely and needed that weekly check in.
Last Thursday, I took my mom and grandmother to my appointment with me because Max was in New York for work. After the sonogram, we met with my doctor who shared that the blood pressure levels within the umbilical cord were elevated - just like Hadley's were at this exact point in my pregnancy with her. There is not a black and white, clear-cut reason for this. Just a lot of it could be's. It could be due to a compression, restriction, or some kind of stress on the cord. It could be due to cord placement and size. It could be an issue with the placenta and not pulling enough oxygen. It could be my stress levels, even though my blood pressure is fine. The latter is what my doctor had concluded with Hadley and what she leaned towards again with this baby.
They checked a few different places of the umbilical cord and the level they want to see is between a 2.75 and 3, the spots that were checked were all 3.75 and 3.9, which is enough of an elevation to warrant caution. We talked about stressors, the last two weeks there have been a lot going on - our dog having sudden surgery to remove cancerous tumors, construction project in our house, Hadley's been sick, I've been sick. As she told me that this was an issue again, I was strong, but I cried. My doctor said moderated bed rest until Monday and I'd come back on Monday, and we would now begin appointments twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays.
We left, I felt okay, everything turned out fine with Hadley when this happened, we were going to monitor twice a week and I know the drill. I know the plan. If it gets to a point where it is more risky for baby to stay in than to live on the outside, we would take baby then and there. Following the appointment, I had lunch with my mom and grandmother. I texted Max an update. However, leaving lunch, things weren't sitting right with me. I called my nurse and said that for peace of mind, I want to see the specialist at the hospital's Fetal Care Center like we did last time when this happened with Hadley. Because lack of movement has also been a heavy thought on my mind for two weeks now, in order to stay as stress free as possible, I'd like to have this additional layer of assurance using their advanced imaging to be positive there is no restriction in the cord causing this. They tried to get me in between patients but it wasn't happening, so I was sent home to rest and landed an appointment time on Friday at 1:30 PM. I know from last time that this is a gradual issue, it isn't over night. If there had been restriction or compression of any kind, baby's size would be impacted and there would be more signs, like fluid on the brain. These things were not present, I could wait 24 hours.
Max had come home from his work trip and was able to head to that appointment with me on Friday. The specialist was very thorough and we were able to conclude that there did not appear to be any pressure on the cord, it wasn't knotted, wrapped or a cause for distress. Levels had lowered from the day before but we still needed to watch them. We will focus on my rest and try to keep stress down as much as possible because that's the only answer I am given. She said we needed to monitor twice a week. She suggested we induce at 37 weeks this time. She was the same specialist who last time said that we could wait until 38 weeks. The fact that she is willing to go a week earlier this time had me a little off kilter. What wasn't I being told?
Faith over fear.
The fact that the unthinkable happened to us once before and that anything can change in a matter of seconds is not at all lost on me. The previous trauma is always in the back of my mind, the fact that I've been down this road of having a seemingly perfect pregnancy only for the lightening to strike and have this teeny tiny percentage of a tragedy occur. When my mind is overcome with that, I have to remind myself the really unfortunate difference between then and now, as another way to calm myself.
With Hudson we had the first sonogram to confirm the pregnancy, we had another quick one at 14 weeks because my nurse had a spare machine and we were waiting for my doctor to return so she did it for fun as we waited, then we had the anatomy scan around 20 weeks. That was it. I wasn't high risk and 3 years ago, in my doctor's practice at least, for a normal pregnancy, it wasn't routine to have another sonogram if you didn't need it. Maybe I would have received another with a 3D/4D option if we had made it to the 34 week appointment and beyond, I don't know. But between 20 weeks and 33 weeks, a problem developed that wasn't seen at the 20 week anatomy scan, couldn't be traced through simple blood tests, belly measurements or listening to the heartbeat. I didn't have a fetal doppler at home to listen to his heartbeat to see if something wasn't right. I didn't get the attention we receive now where I get a 2D then a 3D/4D sono at each appointment and look at everything in immense detail. We didn't know the umbilical cord was a problem, but we would now. So in that, I have some peace but I'll never forget that anything can happen at anytime and because we've experienced it, you just feel more susceptible to it and it's always a tender point, sometimes a downright raw patch.
That is where this fear and stress derives from. But again, we channel faith over fear.
Part of that is getting ready for a baby that you have faith will be here, even though the fear of what happened once is etched in your heart and mind. But even after the loss of Hudson, I didn't let that stop me from readying Hadley's nursery. His things were comforting and therapeutic for me to be around. In my heart, if something happened to her, I would still have this space that I could be close to her. By 22 weeks, we had the majority of her room ready and just finishing touches to complete until she arrived.
Compared to the other two pregnancies, I feel very far behind on getting ready for this little one's arrival. In some ways, we already have so much of what we need because we will be able to reuse a lot from Hadley. If it is a boy, I have things from our preparation for Hudson that I will use for this baby. Before last week's appointments, I conquered a little PTSD earlier in the week briefly mentioned above. At this point with Hudson, we were a few weeks into a large home renovation project, one that involved his room. In our new house, we needed to do a little reno project for this new baby's room and it was the sole reason for the work we are doing. Back then, we added a door to Hudson's room. Now we are removing doors and adding a wall in this baby's new room, taking it from an open office to a private space that better converts it into a bedroom. I've had some questions in my heart like, should we do this or just wait until the baby is here and safe in our arms? But trying to do a home construction project with a newborn and a toddler seemed like a terrible plan, so I put that fear on the shelf with my grief and we decided to get this done now. The fear was if something were to happen, that room would be very much a bedroom. I love the office the way it was, it had beautiful french doors that opened to the dining room. If we closed that off, turning it into a bedroom, it was now that baby's room. It would haunt me if this baby didn't come home. But, the estimated 2-3 day project took 1 day. It's done and we concentrate on moving forward and the optimism and happiness to bring this baby home to his/her own space. I see it all in my mind and it helps my fears to begin preparing it.
We started the nursery this past weekend. I stuck to my orders of rest and monitored as Max built the crib and Hadley tried to "assist". Monday's appointment went well and levels had dropped back in the range we want them in, just like with Hadley's. Sunday marked 31 weeks. Next Sunday will be 32 weeks and that is a very emotional place in a pregnancy for me to be. That was the last week I was pregnant with my first baby. Reaching it brings sadness, brings the memories of tragedy, bring the fear that you are trying so hard to overcome with faith. I'll take it gladly and be thankful every single second of it, even through the challenging times that pregnancy after loss brings but I'll tell you it is defeating. It is defeating to not have answers for this cord issue that has happened with Hadley and now this baby. It's defeating that there's something your body is doing or not doing that creates risk or warrants caution for your baby. It's defeating that it is happening in a space that is supposed to nurture, grow and protect but for me, I worry my body will fail me. I worry it can betray me again and harm my baby. I want reasons but there aren't any they can give me that are a sure thing, so what's left?
Faith over fear.
And that's what we hold onto to get this baby in our arms safe and sound.