It has been a rough few months, and while I don't think I can ever articulate all that's happened in our hearts the past few months, I did want to fill you in on some of it. You'll forgive me for how very long this entry will probably be, seeing as I pretty much wrote nothing on the blog during the time we were actually experiencing everything. It will probably come out like word vomit and you might have to take a break somewhere in the middle so you don't ruin your eyes. I apologize in advance.
About a week before Ember was born, I got that feeling. That feeling I have gotten, oh, about five times now. The feeling that is usually accompanied with nervous anticipation and hopeful anxiety. This time, however, that feeling carried with it nothing but absolute, stone cold dread.
When I told Josh I needed him to go buy me a pregnancy test, I think his reaction was something like, "You've got to be kidding me." I'm pretty sure that I immediately started yelping at him in tones only dogs could hear that I wouldn't kid about something like this and if he didn't go right this minute I would certainly keel over and die from the stress.
So he went, and I took it, and I have never seen a test turn positive so quickly or so cruelly. As Josh stood there in the doorway and I stared down at what I was sure had to be a bad dream, I lost it.
"Nonononononono you've got to be bleeping kidding me. Bleepity bleep bleep bleeperson Josh how the bleepity bleep did this happen bleep bleepity bleep."
Yes, I realize this is not language becoming of a Christian or a mother or anyone who isn't a soldier really. But please take a moment to understand where my heart was. My heart was, at that time, growing inside a birth mom who had just told us the baby she was planning to give to us had a terminal birth defect and would most likely die during or shortly after birth. My heart was immediately flooded with the dread of experiencing another miscarriage, or worse, another stillbirth. My thoughts were catapulted into memories of how hard the recovery from my first miscarriage was and how tedious and all-consuming the process of grieving Lily was and sometimes still is. I was smacked in the face with the record of our previous pregnancies and how no one in their right mind would bet on us if we were a football team. Our record was dismal at best. Add this to the fact that we were only days away from having to hold yet another baby with a death sentence. The timing was absolutely unbelievable.
While I sat there having my R-rated meltdown, Josh shook his head and sighed a sarcastic little laughy sigh and said, "Well. That sounds about right."
I then went into an entirely new panic mode. Let's say, by some miracle, I made it into the second trimester and we were forced to tell our friends and family about this little development? How could we possibly? What would happen with the adoption? How would people react? Most certainly they would react as badly as I currently was and probably never speak to us again. And then the baby would die, and everyone would say, "Well good grief. What did you think would happen?"
It was a dark place, and I was there alone. Josh almost immediately recovered and started reassuring me that it would all be fine. He reminded me that I always wanted four kids anyway, so maybe I should stop freaking out and just take a deep breath. And I remember thinking that he must live in some alternate reality where he couldn't understand what was really happening. I looked at him as if he was speaking a made up language from Star Trek and held up the pregnancy test.
"Hellloooo in there!!!! I am pregnant!!! Again!!! In the middle of a freaking adoption! Do you not understand what is happening here?!?"
I think he wisely chose to end the conversation and move on. And that's when I realized, that wasn't a bad idea. Since I obviously couldn't cope with my reality, how about I just didn't? It would probably all be over in a week or two anyways, so what's the point in talking about it and risk forming any sort of attachment to this "issue". Denial was the name of the game, and for the next few weeks, we did not speak about it, at all, period.
With Ember's arrival and all that was going on, it actually wasn't that hard to push it to the back of my head and not let it anywhere near my heart. But I couldn't deny it completely. I knew that even though this baby would surely betray me like the three before it and leave me suddenly and without reason, I still owed it the right to thrive. I forced myself into the doctor. I mentally and emotionally checked out as I filled out the mountain of paperwork describing all of my previous pregnancies and the reason for their "demise" as the papers put it. I then sat in the exam room for an hour discussing my incredibly depressing and even more complicated history with the doctor who tried to reassure me that my losses had been unrelated, freak accidents, not something likely to happen again.
Sure. She might not have remembered, but she had given me that exact same shpeal right after Lily died, and three months later I sat in her office grieving yet another unexplained miscarriage.
She gave me vitamins and started me on poison, I mean hormone supplements, to try and help the baby to "stick" as she put it. I was completely numb to the entire situation and didn't even discuss the torturous appointment with Josh.
We had an incident the day before Ember was born in which I had a lot of pain and was sent to the ER. The doctor feared the pregnancy was ectopic and would need to be removed immediately. I knew, I absolutely knew, that this was the end of it, and was honestly very grateful that the Lord was ending it so soon, before I had the chance to accept the idea and let it turn into something awful like hope or happiness.
After nine hours in the ER and a few tests later, the doctor told me I was not actually experiencing an ectopic pregnancy, but simply had a harmless cyst that would probably go away in a few weeks or months. "Not to worry!" He said. Well, thank you doctor. Now that you've reassured me that I don't need to worry when I'm about five seconds pregnant, I'm sure everything will be perfect from here on out.
I will not get attached. I will not get attached. I will not get attached.
This was my motto, and this is what got me through those first few weeks. And while I muddled through, God very slowly and patiently began chipping away at my heart, or more accurately, at the stone that had formed around it. When I say I didn't speak about the pregnancy to anyone, I meant anyone. I did not pray about it, I did not open up to Him about my fears, I just turned my head and waited for it to be over. And I feared once it was, I would never be able to speak to Him again.
A couple weeks later, I had my first real ultrasound. I was sure this would be the end of it, this would prove the pregnancy was not viable and I could move on with my life and our adoption. By this time Ember had gone home with her foster family and we were stuck in "no one knows we're pregnant but we can't go back on the waiting list until this whole thing resolves itself" limbo. When the tech started the ultrasound I did not look at the screen. I refused to open my eyes, and I laid there with my head buried in the crook of my elbow.
"Well, there's the little heart beating!" She happily exclaimed. I thought to myself that I would look like an absolutely horrible human being if I didn't at least open my eyes, so I forced myself to look at the screen. I weakly and very fakely smiled at her and said, "Oh, great."
What I was really thinking was, "Oh, great. Now it has a heartbeat. Now it's heart is going to stop. Now I'm going to have to grieve a baby who had a beating heart at some point." Very, very deep down, I was of course grateful that the baby was still alive, that this ultrasound hadn't ended like so many before it, badly. But the biggest parts of me were convinced I was in for one of those terrible ultrasounds in the very near future.
I went home and proceeded to live in denial. Unfortunately, either the baby or the hormone poison I was on made it impossible to ignore what was happening to me. I was sicker than I have ever been before, throwing up nearly every single meal and losing weight drastically. Though I have plenty of weight to spare, the way I was losing it was a bit hard to hide, especially from my incredibly observant children. Each time I would race to the bathroom or the kitchen sink, I would hear the kids say, "Oh, mommy's throwing up again! Listen to mommy throw up!" And I would wonder how long we were going to be able to hide this from them.
Until one day when Eisley straight up asked me, "Mommy, are you pregnant?"
I cannot, ever, bring myself to outright lie to my children. Like, ever, about anything. I have skirted the issue, I have changed the subject, but I have never straight up lied to their faces. I had only days before blatantly lied to my sister's face when she asked me the same thing, but for some reason I couldn't do it to Eisley. I tried my usual tactics of not telling a lie but not exactly telling the truth.
"Why do you ask that baby?"
"Because you throw up a hundred times a day and on Good Luck Charlie when the mom threw up a hundred times a day she was pregnant."
"That is not an answer mommy."
"Well, how would you feel if I was pregnant?"
"I would feel very mad at you for not telling me. You promised me you would tell me if you got pregnant again because last time you didn't tell me and the baby died before I even knew about it."
"Well, I was just trying to protect you."
And this is how our coversations would go every few days. Until one day when mommy slipped up. I was lying on the couch in utter misery as I so often did those first couple of months when Jake said, "Mommy, I sure hope I don't catch whatever you have."
"Don't worry baby, you can't catch what I have."
Both Jake and Eisley's heads shot towards me and they instantly started screaming, "YOU'RE PREGNANT!!! I KNEW IT!!! YOU ARE TOTALLY PREGNANT!!!"
I had no energy to confirm or deny these remarks, and told them to go talk to their father about it. I just had nothing left. So we told them, and thus began some very interesting discussions with the kids which I might share in later blog entries. Jake told me he was just glad I didn't have a horrible disease, and Eisley was still mostly mad at me for keeping it a secret from her. We swore them to secrecy, and that night I cried. A lot.
Now they knew, and now when this baby died it would hurt them. And that was just too much for me to bear.
Every two weeks I would go to the doctor and get an ultrasound, and each time I couldn't even force myself to open my eyes until the doctor said, "Okay, I see the heartbeat, you can look."
Each appointment I would take home a new set of pictures, and while you would think it would get easier as I got further along, it did not. I remember the first ultrasound that showed the baby waving his little arms and legs. I thought to myself, "Well now it has arms and legs. Now it looks like a tiny baby. Now I'm going to have to let go of an actual little person."
With each week, I did not grow more confident, I grew more fearful of the impact this loss would have. Each passing week brought me closer to the reality that this loss, when it happened, not if, would be more significant and eventually more public. I prayed that if it was going to happen, please just let it happen before we are forced to tell people about it. Before the baby is big enough that I would have to deliver it and go through what I did with Lily.
I drew further from the Lord and clung tighter to my fears. I was guarding myself from pain, but that also meant I was guarding myself from joy. The higher you get, the harder you fall. That is a fact I have learned through all of my losses. When you have no concept of what can go wrong, the shock when it does happen is incredibly hard to deal with. That's why my first miscarriage was so awful. We just didn't consider the possibility of the pregnancy being lost. I was thrown into a pit of grief that took me months to climb out of.
With Lily, I guarded myself, yes, but once I passed that "loss milestone" and got further into the pregnancy than with my miscarriage, I relaxed a lot and was able to enjoy the pregnancy, especially after hitting the second trimester. Ah, the second trimester. If you get there, all is well, miscarriage is no longer a risk, and you can breath easy. You made it! So I recklessly allowed myself to fall head over heels in love with Lily, because I knew we were now in the "safe zone". So, again, when we lost her, the shock of it was unbearable.
After Lily, we tried once more to get pregnant, did, and a mere week later, before I had the chance to react in any sort of way, we lost again. I had been very guarded when we got that positive, and quite honestly the loss just wasn't as hard to deal with because we hardly had time to accept it and hadn't been very optimistic to begin with. But that was the last straw. Never again. Never. I would not put myself through it. Deep down in my heart, I knew I really wanted the chance to carry another baby to term. I had been told the losses were unrelated, and maybe they were, so maybe, someday, I would have the courage to try once more. But in reality, I don't think I ever would have gotten to a place where I would have willingly put that much on the line again, and I certainly wouldn't have convinced Josh to do so.
At some point Josh and I cautiously talked about the pregnancy now and again. He asked how long I thought we could wait to tell people. I responded, "Forever." I remember the first time I had actually said the words "I'm pregnant" out loud to someone other than Josh. We were getting fitted for bridesmaids dresses for my sister's wedding. After everyone left, I snuck back in saying I had to use the restroom and quickly went back to talk to the alterations lady. "Excuse me, but, um, I was wondering if I might be able to get my dress altered to be, um, bigger?"
She looked at me and expected a little more of an explanation. "Um, well it's just that, um, I'm pregnant and um..."
The ladies behind the counter immediately erupted into squeals of delight and congratulations. I was quite taken aback actually. I think I stared at them wide eyed for a full minute before speaking. I hadn't expected anyone to react so happily to something so incredibly not happy. But they didn't know the situation, I reasoned.
I explained that there was a small possibility that I would need a larger dress as I could be about five months pregnant at the time of the wedding (I don't think they caught onto the significance of my use of could). They assured me that I would need a bigger dress, probably thinking that I didn't understand how a pregnant belly expands in five months. Oh, I understood. I just knew that it was a larger possibility that I would no longer be pregnant at that point. But I wasn't going to go into that with perfect strangers, so I didn't.
Josh was alright with my hesitation to tell anyone what was going on, but I could tell he was mostly just going along with it, and had I said the word he would have been just fine sharing the news. At some point I brought myself to share it with my sister, and I remember how significant that was to me. It was officially out there now. Saying it out loud somehow made all of it real. Not the four ultrasounds I had already had or the fact that I was vomitting every five seconds, but saying that to her, it opened my heart up just a bit. This wasn't going away, and I would have to deal with it whether it ended badly or progressed even further.
It also gave me something we had desperately needed the past few weeks...encouragement. Josh was too close to the situation to be of any real encouragement to me. He was, after all, going through the same fears and emotions I was, though not quite so severely. And I was of absolutely no encouragement to him, of that I can assure you. Telling Lisa shed some light on a seemingly dark situation. She was cautious in her encouragement and approached me as if I was a scared animal who might freak out and bite her face off whenever she asked about the pregnancy, but she would listen to my negative rantings and ramblings and she would validate them, but then offer some light and truth and something I needed desperately, optimism. And God continued to chip away a little bit more at my heart.
When Josh and I were going through marital counseling some years ago, we talked about how Satan works best in the dark. When things are secret, hidden, and we can't even bring ourselves to talk about them to God Himself Who of course knows everything anyways, Satan uses that against us in huge ways. He convinces you that things are insurmountable, that no one will undersand and everyone will be against you. He whispers these lies into your ear that everything will be worse when it's out in the open and you will most certainly never recover. He uses it to isolate you from friends and family and especially the Lord.
While I don't think keeping quiet about a pregnancy is on the same planet as keeping dark secrets about illicit affairs, the concept held true for me during this time. And once a bit of light was cast upon things by opening up to my sister and soon after to our families, I was able to see that maybe, just maybe, things weren't as hopeless as I had been believing.
Their excitement over the ultrasound photos and recordings of the baby's heartbeat gave me permission to get a little excited about them too. I refused to show it, of course, but God had been working to soften my heart and show me that, like it or not, we had another child that was living and breathing and growing bigger every day, and they deserved to be loved just as much as all our other babies.
We eventually had to break the news to our adoption agency too, and I had put it off only because I was so certain it would be a moot point and thought it best to just wait until I at least had one more ultrasound showing all was well. Four good ultrasounds later, I hesitantly wrote the email to our case worker, and was so thankful when she replied quickly and happily, and told us she'd be praying for us and keeping our file on hand for when this little one was older and we were ready to adopt. The doubts in my head told me it would more likely be after I lost this pregnancy, but I tried to push them out of my head and do what I had not been doing for the past three months, think positively.
We had a "big" ultrasound around 12 weeks that would tell us of certain abnormalities and give us a better idea of how the baby was doing in there, other than just having a heartbeat. I went in prepared for the worst, but having heard the heartbeat on my home doppler that morning, I was a bit more relaxed knowing the baby was at least alive in there. I have never seen a baby wiggle so much than I did on that ultrasound. It took a good 30 minutes for the tech to get any kind of measurements because the baby was so bouncy. She thought it was just hilarious, and all I could think was, "Stop it! Calm down in there! You're going to get all tangled up in your umbilical cord and freaking strangle yourself like Lily!!!"
These are the highly ridiculous and irrational thoughts of a woman pregnant after a loss. It was that ultrasound that the tech also offered to tell me if we were having a boy or a girl. "NO!" I quickly and somewhat suddenly snapped at her. She said, "Oh, you want it to be a surprise at the birth?"
"Um. Yes. Sure. A surprise."
I knew the truth. I didn't want to know the sex, because if I did, I would not be able to keep myself from attaching to this baby. It would be a baby boy, or it would be a baby girl, and there was no way I could remove myself from that knowledge. Then we would have to tell our families, and they would not be able to resist buying sweet little pink or blue things whenever they saw them, even if I begged them not to and they promised they wouldn't. I knew they would anyway, and then I would be stuck with more baby things forever taunting me and reminding me of the baby we do not have. I could not bear to have another box of things that were meant for a baby that was never able to use them. So when people ask me why we're not finding out, I tell them we want to be surprised, but now you know the real reason. And while I think the not knowing will make that moment in the delivery room that much sweeter, I also need to put that moment off until the doctor can hand me a baby who I can feel absolutely no qualms about bonding with.
It was around this time that Eisley informed me, "Mommy. You better start telling people you're pregnant, because you're belly is just getting too big to hide."
Such a sweet, sweet child.
It did bring up the conversation between me and Josh, though, and while it if had been up to me I'd have kept quiet about things for the next six months, I knew our time of denial was over, and we needed to think about how we would share this news. I couldn't even consider the cutesy facebook announcements everyone else gets to do when they're expecting, given our situation and my qualms about everything, though part of me is sad about that. I just couldn't deal with it and didn't know how people would react. I chose to tell my closest friends through text message or blurting it out quickly at random moments, like ripping off a band-aid. It was never as bad as I expected it to be, and with each reveal I let myself get a little more open to the situation and definitely appreciated the encouragement.
You of course know how we announced it to the rest of the world (see previous blog entry), and the rest is history, as they say.
So now, here we are. 15 weeks pregnant and still getting used to the idea. I had another ultrasound today which I was fortunate enough to get video of. I thought about posting it to facebook, then thought better of it, then thought about it again. I have no desire to share it with everyone and at the same time I find it harder every day to quiet that voice deep down that tells me she is happy about this baby and would like the opportunity to share her happiness with her loved ones. (Does that make me sound like I have multiple personalities? I would deny that I do, but that's pretty much exactly what is going on with me right now.)
Well. I guess I can at least share a couple pictures. Just in time for Halloween, our little baby has decided to go as a creepy skeleton. Don't worry, we still think it's cute.
|Creepy skeleton baby. We aren't that worried because Eisley looked creepy like this too in her ultrasound pics and look how cute she turned out.|
|We think it's screaming, "LET ME OUUUUUUTTT!!!" while it pounds its fists on my tummy|
Well there you have it. I have no idea what I'll be blogging about in the coming weeks, but I'm sure I will find something to say (I always do). Thank you so much for all of your encouragement as we walk this pretty scary road. You guys are too good to us, and we are so thankful for the love.