Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Confessions of an Anxious Mama: Pregnancy After Loss Edition II

As I tearfully packed away a drawer in the nursery, at the very bottom under the hospital blanket was this tray. Along with the single angel wing, this was another one of the sussies my mom gave me the week of Hudson's due date. I put it in a special drawer with his hospital and funeral service keepsakes. Today, I needed this little sign from him to know it's okay and to give me hope for her.

Big things are happening on this journey and it's not just my growing belly. My faith over fear mantra has been prevailing for the most part. Hadley has been moving around more and more, now her movements can be felt by hand as well. I have my fetal heart monitor and I use it about once a week, at times that I need that little extra reassurance between appointments that she's still there. I've been actively trying to enjoy this pregnancy, trying not to wish the time away to just let it be October already, and allowing myself to prepare for Hadley's arrival little by little. This weekend we took big steps that were full of happiness and excitement in the moment but afterwards it did bring on significant emotions. We bought her crib, the glider and ottoman, and some pieces of decoration for her nursery. At almost 22 weeks, I let myself go there.

I went there with Hudson. I purchased a rocker and picked out a crib but we were waiting until his room was done to bring it home so it wasn't yet another thing to store during the renovations. I had all of his d├ęcor ready to hang and assemble but I didn't get to do it - at least, not the way it was supposed to be done.

For her nursery, I decided I needed a different rocker because the one I had purchased previously, well that was his. It was the place I went to rock in anticipation for him, then became the place I went to mourn him, to feel close to him. For Hadley, I need something different. I reached a place of acceptance, where I was ready to relocate it. I moved it from the nursery to the guest room, this way I still have it when I need some "Hudson time." As the nursery will slowly transform from his place to hers, that rocker in a different room will still give me a place that is mine with him.

I pulled out the changing pad I had for Hudson and it still had his cover on it. I love that cover but it's not right for her. I replaced it with hers to make sure it fit correctly, that I liked the look of it with the wall color and her bedding. It was perfect but then I felt guilty. What do I do now? Do I pack his away? Do I put both of them in a drawer until October is closer? Do I leave it out and begin to replace? I have slowly started the switching out process.

Over the past few days, I have gone in as I feel ready and pack away a little at a time. In a large box is everything that sat on that dresser for Hudson. Today I removed his special lasso rope cattle brand of HJS from the wall and replaced it with the angel wing painting from the One Wing Foundation's auction event a few weeks ago. My grandmother won it for me as a special gift. It represents his legacy, it is a symbol of hope, one of comfort and of strength. I have kept pieces out that I plan to integrate with Hadley's things. In the closet, clothing for her is beginning to appear. I've moved his clothes over, but soon, I'll need that hanging space and more will join the Hudson box. As I pack things away, I take moments to pause. To look at everything individually, to feel each item, to read the words on certain keepsakes, to express the emotions this brings. I hug things tight to my chest and allow myself to feel everything that comes with the reality of preparing for another child after the death of the one who came before. All of these little things meant for him, the boy who isn't here.

However, in a way, preparing for her brings fresh perspective and an enthusiasm again. There is joy mixed with the uncertainty of the unknown. It is all met with a little hesitation because you know, what if? Faith over fear. Faith over fear. Faith over fear.

Speaking of conquering fear, we've been traveling quite a bit this past month with Hudson's birthday weekend escape to Boston and Cape Cod, a visit to see family in Wisconsin and a wedding in New York. The grand finale happens in less than one week when we will land in Frankfurt to explore the Bavarian region of Germany into Austria. At six weeks pregnant, Max came home to say he had found a great deal on airfare. We entertained it just for fun and then thought, nah, we'll wait until next summer when maybe we are ready to travel again post-baby. Perhaps an early 5 year anniversary trip, we thought. Then we kept thinking about it, and had the flights on hold just in case. I was nervous about overseas travel in my second trimester, for no reason in particular other than the what if something happens? Traveling had nothing to do with the cord accident that ended Hudson's life. In no way was that related to any of the travel we did during that pregnancy. However in Pregnancy After Loss, you are aware of all kinds of different ways a baby may not make it. There is hypersensitivity and analysis to every little thing you do - in your head, and in the thoughts of others.

At my eight week appointment, we talked to my doctor. She said go. I had a list of "buts" and excuses and questions. To each of them, she said go. She told us we can't live in fear, we can't position ourselves within ten minutes away from the hospital at all times. She won't let me travel past 28 weeks, but for the timeframe of 22-23 weeks when I'm experiencing the "sweet spot" of pregnancy, she said go. She said to enjoy this opportunity, a European Babymoon, the special time together experiencing new places. She said at this point, hypothetically, if something were to happen again, this trip would not be the cause of it. Her confidence and her assurance gave us peace. Therefore, we made our decision to go. So we are. We are defying fear and living life to the fullest.

We have an appointment on Thursday to see Hadley again via sonogram and to meet with our high risk specialist for the first time, then to meet with my doctor following. It will give me peace to have this appointment before we leave because I have now started to have anxiety about going. Several have inquired if it's safe and what my doctor thinks? As if this was a decision we made lightly without a thorough conversation with our doctor. These questions from others have stripped away the confidence that our medical professional gave us with the certainty to go and do, to live without fear. I'm trying to regain that again so that I can enjoy our babymoon exploring new experiences with my husband. I will enjoy it because Hadley is with us, along with Hudson watching over.

As soon as we get back, we will have another appointment with the high risk specialist and that will start the weekly visits. As it stands, I have 15-16 more weeks to get through until we will induce for her arrival. That's roughly 105 or maybe 112 days of little victories to keep surpassing. There are some emotional milestones to get through between now and then, such as the second anniversary of his due date approaching and the 33 week mark when last time, our life was flipped upside down.

If you are a religious person, I ask for your continued prayers for Hadley and for our strength to keep choosing faith over fear.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Confessions of an Anxious Mama: Pregnancy After Loss Edition

Big cheeks and button nose, just like big brother.

As I got ready this morning, the thought occurred to me: I didn't cry yesterday. When I cry, it's not the same as when I did a year ago. It's not with the same sadness or feelings of complete despair. Sure there is sadness but it's more of a longing for what would have been. It's a song on the radio, a thought in my mind, a vision in front of me that brings tears to my eyes and can make the heart ache for what isn't here. Those daily tears are usually in the shower, in the car or the quiet space before I fall asleep. It's not heaving sobs anymore. Some days it's just a few tears and sniffles, a simple release. Other days it's more substantial but it is usually short and sweet.

Yesterday I don't recall shedding a single tear. There may have been other days between now and May 26, 2015 but this is the first time I've realized that a day had passed without tears.

After that realization, the tears started in a heavy flow. The reason for them today was fear for what the next few hours would bring. I didn't sleep much last night and when I did, my dreams were ridiculous on the crazy scale with different scenarios over and over for this 20 week appointment. My anxiety has been building over the past week and I felt like I was just teetering at the top of that mountain. Today was the big sonogram, the full anatomy scan. With Hudson this was met with so much excitement and not a thought in my mind that something could be wrong. I was blissfully unaware at that time of how many parents can create a turning point of the beginning of their life after loss journey from this appointment. Our 20 week scan with Hudson was perfect, but this time around I was not very "excited" because although I knew what our early blood testing had already been able to rule out, I also knew what we could potentially discover today. I cried because how much I love Hadley already and it tore me apart to think that she could be taken away from us, that we could lose another baby this time in a different way. I cried because of the guilt I had that I wasn't able to be excited for this appointment because of the fear that I now know but didn't know the first time around. I cried thinking of the Parents of Loss who are now in my life and that this is where their lives changed.

I had the release and then it ended.

I picked Max up from his office and within minutes we were at the hospital, heading up to my doctor's office. We were led back into the room and our sonographer, Holly, was very thorough with us. She knows our history. I found myself holding my breath again, unable to exhale until she said "there's that beating heart." I had just listened to it the other day at home with my fetal heart monitor, but it still gives me pause every time. She looked at the chambers of the heart first, my eyes following her curser as she made her notes and checked everything off on the screen. After the heart, she did the diaphragm, then the stomach, then the liver, the kidneys, followed by the bladder. We looked at the arms and legs, her spine. She gave us assurance after each vital organ and bone had been measured, scanned and received the seal of approval. The brain was last and what I kept holding my breath on. That was my biggest fear, that her brain would not be developed and she wouldn't be able to live. I don't know why this was my greatest fear, but it was. Anything else and I felt like we could handle it, there would be quality of life, we would make the best of it, we would create our next steps and gather our resources, she would live or at least have a chance to. Brain development, or lack thereof, terrified me. Last week as I started feeling kicks and taps, I was googling whether you could feel movements or not if a brain was not developing. I didn't find an answer. Paranoid much? (raises hand)

As she scanned the brain from the top of the skull, Hadley kept moving her head back as though she was trying to look at us. We all laughed, I could relax again. She had the hiccups during her scan. We saw her suck her thumb and rub her little face. She would roll her head from side to side as though she was playing peek-a-boo so we couldn't really get the best side profile pic but we managed the one above just as she was turning away from us again. We got a close up of her face that showed a little button nose. We saw ten fingers and ten toes. At one point she decided to do a somersault for us. That was impressive. She got stuck and again we laughed, she kept trying and trying, using the inertia from her arms to continue the flip, then finally made it all the way around. I wanted to cheer for her. A determined little one.

She rubbed her little face, put an arm close to her head and snuggled in as if she was saying okay, show is over, it's nap time.

We got a close up of her head and shoulders and Holly pointed out the cord hanging out in view. This led me to get that icy hot feeling that starts in the gut and then pulses through your body. I asked if that was okay, if that was common? She knew where my panic was coming from and assured me that it was, that the cord is not in any way distressed, she checked the flow through it which looked exactly as it should.

I had a cyst on my right ovary but she said that is common and looked like it was going away. She said that I more than likely had ovulated from that ovary and a cyst had formed to help with implantation. We will continue to watch it but it is not a level of concern for her or my doctor. She is currently head down and I have an anterior placenta this time (it was posterior last time) which again, is no cause for concern. It just makes movements feel less or more dull for the time being.

We finished up and were handed the roll of pictures, then led back to discuss everything with our doctor. When she came in the room, she was beaming with a report of perfect health. We went over everything together and I felt relaxed. I felt calm. I was thankful for a positive outcome at another appointment, this big benchmark of pregnancy can be checked off the list. We began to discuss what the remainder of my second trimester would look like and into the third. Since I will be induced at 37 or 38 weeks, I am already over the hump of that halfway mark to having her with us. I wish it were tomorrow.

With Hudson's 20 week scan, I walked away feeling like I know this child. He was so rambunctious, lively, spirited and hilarious. We laughed so much through that scan. He was showing off and had some serious kickboxing skills. We got a perfect side profile of him and it was so indicative of who we saw when he was in our arms. That silhouette was exactly what the sonogram had showed us. I knew he had my nose, a small chin with thin lips, the longest little legs.

With Hadley, I walked away today feeling the same way. She's a little more shy, possessing a sweetness, with some spunk. She had a playfulness yet looked like a little cuddle bug as she wiggled into her nap position. While she was a little more bashful and we couldn't get as clear of a view as we did with Hudson, we could make out certain traits that I can't help but think will resemble her brother a little bit - mainly her cheeks and nose.

Alone in the car after dropping off Max, as I drove to the office, I cried again. This time those tears were of relief and joy as I said a quick prayer of thanks. I made it through another big fear in this journey and everything was okay. We take it day by day, week by week. I go back in two weeks for another sonogram and for my glucose test. Two weeks later in mid-July, at 24 weeks, I will begin going weekly, alternating between a high-risk specialist and my doctor to receive the additional monitoring and assurance needed. 

Maybe tomorrow there won't be tears of any kind. Maybe there will be more days like that. Maybe they will happen more frequently and become consecutive. Maybe they won't. Tears or no tears, there is hope, joy and thanksgiving to counter the fear, anxiousness and guilt that Pregnancy After Loss can bring.