Spring: Finding Hope in New Life

I think sometimes I could sit on my couch all day with my hands on my middle, enjoying the kicking, wiggling movements of my unborn son.

Each jab and nudge are a miracle to me. A miracle I tragically took for granted last time I was pregnant. I still can’t believe I am going to have another baby.

I wrote last year about how spring seemed like a slap in the face. The birds chirping, the flowers blooming, were all salt in my wound — reminding me of the son I buried in the spring of 2010.

This year my attitude is somewhat softened. Today, spring is a reminder to me of the miracle of life. I have come to know how close the line between life and death can be. How easily it can be crossed.

Something as simple as a little more water would have meant life to my poor pine tree. And a simple true knot in a vital life chain meant death for my third baby boy.

It’s crazy how fragile life is.

And although I still miss my Luca like crazy — last weekend I cried until I thought my eyes would melt as I thought about his loss and the changes it has forced into my life — I have been thinking more on the miracle of life than the tragedy of death.

With Easter coming I talked to my boys about the meaning of Easter eggs — how they can be a symbol of new life. Now whenever I see a colorful egg I can’t help but think of new life. And more specifically the new life that is growing inside me.

I guess I am kind of like a giant Easter egg. (We all know I am starting to look like one.) My round, bursting belly is a symbol of new life. A life I can’t wait to meet. No matter what happens.

And although I still take far too many things in this life for granted, this year I am trying to enjoy the warming of the Earth, the rebirth after winter.

Just Shoot Me Now

Thursday nights have become a real pain in my butt thanks to a new medication I’m taking.

As if I weren’t in enough pain already, I decided to add a shot into my life every 7 days.

Since my second child was born 4½ weeks early, my new doctor suggested I start taking medicine at my 16th week of pregnancy that should prevent me from going into preterm labor this time.

Little did I know that medicine was administered by weekly injection. Oh, and in order to save $30 a week, I was going to have to give the shot to myself or have my husband administer the shots instead of a registered nurse at my doctor’s office.

It has been a real learning experience. The first week doing the shot at home, my two little boys wanted to watch. But as soon as the needle was ready they started screaming bloody murder in the hallway outside our bathroom.  That did wonders on my nerves.

I know I’ll never forget the week we lost the needle off of the syringe somewhere on our bathroom floor. Then, found it again when it stuck my husband’s thumb. I sure hope he doesn’t go into preterm labor now.

But all joking aside, I am a big baby when it comes to needles. Normally I have to turn my head when a nurse draws my blood or I’ll get lightheaded. I have been poked and tested more times in the past 18 months than ever before in my life, but that doesn’t mean I have grown to enjoy the skin pierce.

Not to mention the pain that comes after the shot. Normally the medication makes my whole leg sore for a day or so.

But despite all of the pain, I have never wanted to have a baby more in my entire life than I do right now. I am scared, anxious, ecstatic and thrilled to be pregnant. Too bad being thrilled does nothing to soften the needle’s point.

I think that no matter how many times I go through with this weekly ordeal, and no matter how many times my husband tells me to “relax,” I will stiffen up like a corpse during every injection.

But I am determined to do all that is in my power to ensure that the baby I am carrying has a fighting chance at life. For me that means things like no Ibuprofen and weekly shots.

The things you do for love. And heaven knows I love this baby — a lot more than I ever thought possible at this point.

One day I’ll look back and be glad I did this, but for now I’m going to keep my eyes closed and try not to flinch.

The Prenatal Screening Debate

I was outraged this week when I heard a news story about Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s opposition to prenatal testing.

I saw a story Tuesday morning on the Today show that said he was opposed to the portion of Obama’s health care law that would require free prenatal screening to insured individuals. His reason for opposition? That screening would lead to more abortions.

Excuse me? As a mother of a stillborn baby who is now pregnant again, knowledge is power. I want to know everything I can about my unborn son. Just ask the ultra sound technician I had last week. She was annoyed by never ending questions  — specifically those about my unborn son’s umbilical cord.

I understand that there may be others who don’t share my opinion. That there may be some tragic cases where a mother hears the results of her prenatal screenings and determines to terminate her fetus. But opposing a healthcare plan that requires those services be free of charge is ridiculous.

A CBS article states that Santorum said he was specifically talking about amniocentesis when discussing his oppositions to prenatal testing.

I would like to think that all forms of prenatal screening enable doctors and staff to know how to aid in the delivery of babies with special needs.

I would like to think that prenatal screening would allow a mother to prepare mentally and physically, before delivery, for a baby that will require special attention.

At first I gave Santorum the benefit of the doubt, thinking he didn’t know what it was like to lose a baby. Then I stumbled across an article that said his wife delivered one of their sons at 20 weeks. That little baby lived only 2 hours.

Santorum and his wife were alerted early on in the pregnancy that something was wrong and that the fetus would not live long.  Would he have rather not known that something was wrong with his unborn child, but find out suddenly when his wife went into premature labor?

No prenatal screenings could have told me that my baby would die at 37 weeks. And yet I wish they could have. Maybe that would have given me time to wrap my mind around carrying an angel. Maybe I would have lied in bed with my hands on my bare belly when he was active at night just so I could feel as close as possible to my unborn, living Luca.

I read an article recently of a family that found out their unborn baby would not live. They chose to help it “live” the best they could while it was in the womb. I love that article and their inspiring attitude. (https://www.deseretnews.com/article/695257510/When-A-Birth-Is-Also-A-Death.html)

I wish I would have made an effort to help Luca “live.” I guess we should never take any life for granted, no matter how short — and regardless of our prenatal screening results.

Gender War

I have had a few different reactions from people when I tell them I am expecting. Several people have told me that they hope I have a girl.

I have my 16-week appointment today and may actually find out if I’m carrying a boy or girl.

But honestly I don’t care what I have. I feel bad because last week I snapped at someone when they said they were hoping I got a girl. I told them, “Well, I just hope I get something.”

That’s the cold hard truth. I don’t care if I’m carrying a boy or a girl. I just want to be able to bring it home to sleep in its bassinet next to my bed at night.

But I wouldn’t be completely honest with myself if I didn’t admit that there are two main reasons why having a girl would ease my mind. (Notice I said “ease my mind” not “make me happy.”)

Neither of those reasons has anything to do with the fact that I have never hairbowed or ponytailed my offspring. Heaven knows I love playing with my boys.  And I can draw on a pretty mean pirate mustache and sew a great bowtie.

But I have already had some nervous, anxious moments during my pregnancy. For some reason as I get further along, I feel like having a girl may ease my chances of completely succumbing to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I guess in my mind a gender change would make things seem a lot more different therefore lessening my chances of a repeat stillbirth. It makes no sense I know, but I’m not of a sound mind these days.

What will I do if it is a boy? Probably worry day and night like I am already doing. I have made some other changes this pregnancy. Hopefully a new doctor and new hospital to deliver in will make things seem different enough.

But there’s another reason a girl baby may ease my mind.

We watch the movie “Hook” a lot at our house. There is a scene toward the end of the show that has been haunting me lately. Peter Pan goes back to check on his mother several years after he left her for Neverland. He flies to her window and sees her with a new baby.

She is very happy, as a new mother should be, but Peter takes that to mean that she has forgotten about him. That he has been replaced.

My heart would break if somewhere in the heavens Luca would ever think that he has been replaced. I can never fix the hole his death left in my heart. I am pretty sure I will live my whole life wondering what things would be like if he had lived. I will probably always watch kids who were born his same year and dream of him doing what they are doing.

I don’t know why, but the thought of having a girl lessens my worry of him feeling replaced. My husband and I have always wanted several children. Losing Luca hasn’t changed that. Had Luca lived I may have been trying for my fourth by now anyway.

I know a lot of this sounds crazy. Boy or girl, above all, I just hope that my baby is healthy and born kicking and screaming.

And If it is a boy, I just have to hope that the Lost Boys will keep Luca company until I can find my happy thought and find the strength to fly to the “Second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning.”

Pregnant and Terrified

I am three months pregnant and absolutely terrified. 

Don’t get me wrong I am also thrilled. My husband and I have waited a year to see a double pink line appear. But that doesn’t mean my hand wasn’t shaking while holding the testing stick and I was able to get any sleep the night we found out.

I have waited for this baby for a long, long time. I wrote about my struggles getting pregnant back in October. Less than a month later I found out I was expecting. I am so grateful for the love and support I have received recently.

I have tried to take a cautiously optimistic approach to this pregnancy. My boys are extremely excited and have big plans for what they are going to do with their new sibling.

I am extremely grateful to be carrying another life.

But on the other hand I am scared to death. Scared of death to be exact.

The odds of my unborn child dying are seriously slim to none. But I’ve heard that before. There is absolutely no one who can guarantee that in 6 months I will be bringing a bundle of joy home to raise here on earth.

I have made it past the 9-week mark. That’s when my second pregnancy ended in miscarriage. But I still have 23 weeks to go to make it to the 37-week mark when Luca died.

Some days I am completely fine. I feel at peace with my body and my new baby. But other days I get severely anxious and nervous.

Like the day I woke up without any nausea. I have been pretty sick for the past two months and so I was convinced that I had lost my baby because I felt fine.

Then I had an ultrasound at 10 weeks. Everything looked great. Until I got the photos home and it looked like one of the pictures of my baby’s umbilical cord showed a knot.

I stressed over that photo for two weeks. Until I took the picture in to my doctor and he reassured me that it wasn’t a knot and that my baby was too small to make a knot yet anyway.

Any time I am scheduled for an appointment I have serious stress. My biggest fear is that I will go to an ultrasound and my child’s heart won’t be beating on the screen. Or that my doctor won’t be able to find the sound of the heartbeat with his doplar monitor.

But these are stresses I knew I would have. Stresses that I have to have in order to risk bringing another life into the world. I knew it would be rough and I am in for the long haul.

July 10 won’t come fast enough.

Until then I am going to indulge in my cravings and dream up ways to get more sleep.

Problems Getting Pregnant

What has been harder for me lately than giving birth to a full-term stillborn baby? Finally feeling ready to try being pregnant again and then facing nearly a year’s worth of infertility.

Talk about feeling lonely, helpless and discouraged.

Most people who know about Luca probably wouldn’t dare ask if we were ever going to have another baby. Some probably assume we’re done. But we’re trying not to be done.

I’ve even signed up for a research study on fertility/pregnancy loss to try to better understand my body and what I can do to ensure a healthy pregnancy. Each morning for the study I go through what I have nicknamed my “lab rat” routine – testing my urine and popping a mouthful of vitamins.

But despite my countless visits to the hospital as part of the research study as well as consultations with my doctor, I have yet to become pregnant.

Now I know some people have tried for much longer than a year to conceive with no results. I know I should sit back and let nature run its course. But a year is a really long time when you desperately want a baby. It seems even longer after your last baby was stillborn.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m not meant to raise more than two kids on earth. Other times I feel bitter and angry and don’t understand what is going wrong.

One of my church’s leaders, Dieter F. Uctdorf – second counselor in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints first presidency, gave an incredible talk last month that completely touched my heart. In his talk he referenced “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by one of my favorite authors, Roald Dahl.

He talked about the quest in that book to find a “golden ticket” that was sure to bring happiness. The tickets were wrapped in Willy Wonka chocolate bars and shipped throughout the world. People went crazy looking for the tickets. Some became so obsessed with finding the ticket that they no longer took satisfaction in the chocolate candy bar that they used to love. If it wasn’t wrapped in golden lining, they had no use for it. All they could focus on was that golden ticket and how their lives would be infinitely happier finding it.

I think getting pregnant and delivering a healthy baby has become my golden ticket. I have become bitter, angry and ornery in my quest to get pregnant.

I have stayed far away from pregnant friends and even farther away from their newborn babies because unlike them my quest for another child has not come as easily.

At times I have been so preoccupied with my golden-ticket search that I have been unable to enjoy the “chocolate.” I’ve forgotten to enjoy the two beautiful boys I do have here on earth.

One morning after my dreaded cycle started again, I looked at my little guys while they were eating breakfast and thought, “These guys are pretty special. If that’s all I get, so be it.”

Don’t get me wrong, I still long for another baby to have, hold and cuddle. And I still feel anxious and uneasy near pregnant women and little babies – for a number of reasons. But I’m trying not to wait for my golden ticket to be happy. I’m trying to enjoy the chocolate now.

I don’t know how much longer it will take for me to conceive, or why it’s taken this long so far, but I do know I can’t keep driving myself crazy waiting for a positive pregnancy test. Heaven knows another pregnancy will probably stress me out to the max anyway.

Last week I went and got a second opinion from a new doctor who is very proactive in helping me. I am optimistic that I will get pregnant soon. Meanwhile, when my infertility is getting me down, I’m going to try to take a step back, take a deep breath and live in the now.

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