1. Happy Birthday to my gorgeous younger sister! She is presently embarking upon a new chapter in her life, in a new city, and we are really excited for her. (Even though I’m bummed that she won’t be an 8-minute drive away.) We love you so much, Auntie Beth! You are one amazing gal.
2. (Sorry for this abrupt change of topic.) I had a reminder yesterday morning that the calm I’ve been experiencing in relation to this pregnancy is a very thin veneer. Like a layer of frost – distracting, but meltable at the first sign of heat.
I have been so lucky that this baby is such a mover. I know she’s alive because she feels alive in there, basically all the time. Whenever I wonder to myself how she’s doing, I never have to wait long. You could say she’s been working with me on the anxiety thing, helping me through it.
Yesterday morning when I awoke, I realized right away that I had been in the same position for almost the whole night – very odd indeed – which means I’d slept unusually soundly. Then I realized I’d been leaning a bit on my belly. I quickly (in a mammoth-like, awkward way) rolled over to give the baby a new position.
Normally, as soon as I’m awake in the morning, I feel her start to move. Maybe the increase in my heart rate gets her going, but whatever it is, it’s something I count on. This time, I didn’t feel anything.
Right away, the frost of calm began disintegrating.
I lay there and chatted with E, hoping my voice would rouse her. Then we got up, walked around, had breakfast. I figured food, especially fruit, would wake her up for sure. Still nothing.
I kept nudging her – but gently. Looking back, I can see that I didn’t get very aggressive with the nudging, and I know why. I was afraid to be justified in my paranoia. I was afraid I would nudge her hard and still get nothing – and proceed to shatter into a pile of anguish right in my kitchen.
I should reassure you right now that everything is fine. After half an hour of being awake, I finally felt her start to hiccup. (I’ve never been so glad to feel those damn hiccups, let me tell you.) By the time I called the midwives, I’d felt some real movement, if not as much as usual.
I know I sound melodramatic. Come on, half an hour and I’m panicking? And let me not soft-pedal this: although I was managing to keep my voice and manner calm for E, inside I was genuinely freaking out. It seems a little much. I’m sure lots of quiet half-hour periods go by and I don’t even notice.
But there was no internally talking myself down from this one. I’ve recently been writing all about how different this feels, in a good way, and how we’ve been confident enough to have given ourselves over to excited anticipation long ago… and as I’ve now discovered, that confidence is about as solid as corn flakes. It retains its appearance and integrity, but only when there’s zero interference.
It was not pretty, what went through my mind. (I’m almost abashed to share it.) I focused fiercely on small tasks like making E’s toast, to keep the dread certainty from clutching at my throat. Remembering what it felt like to carry a deceased baby… Anticipating the white noise of the Doppler when there’s no heartbeat… Imagining when and how to break the news to Sean… Having to tell my sweet little E that once again, his sibling can’t come home with us… Feeling terror in the knowledge that I can’t do this again. If this happened for a second time, it would be all over. Whatever strength and hope and solace were findable during the last ordeal… I just don’t know if they would regenerate under a second attack.
Especially because it would be my fault. I don’t blame myself that Sebastian’s heart didn’t develop right, but we know that this baby girl is perfect. We have kept intimate tabs on her the whole time. If something went wrong… I just couldn’t get it out of my head that I must have done something wrong. Unwittingly, accidentally… but still.
I don’t know if that’s possible. (Normally, I am very rational. It’s not as if I would ever, in a thousand years, blame any other mother for the stillbirth of her otherwise perfect child. It would be stupid to blame myself in such a situation.) I just know that after E was born, it was hard having him outside my body because I felt like he was safer inside. After Sebastian was born, I felt the opposite: being inside was obviously not as safe as I’d supposed.
Suddenly, I’m relating to the moms my OB was telling me about, the ones in my situation who want to be induced as soon as they hit 37 weeks, so they can just have that baby in their arms already. Throughout this pregnancy, I’ve been feeling like I can wait however long I need to, as long as I don’t have to be induced. Then, lately, a certain impatience has been building. And then, yesterday, I knew that if I had a choice, I would take any measures necessary to have a live baby.
I want to look into her open eyes. I want to hear her voice. I want so, so much to nurse her. There are no words to describe how much I want all this. Despite myself, I am already completely in love with this baby.
Plus, E needs his baby sister. Honestly, thinking about his reaction if something went wrong, especially now that he understands so much more… it’s almost worse than what my own reaction would be. He is so excited. He knows September is the month the baby is coming, so this morning when I told him that it would be September on Saturday, he said, “September… and the baby will be here!” with his little face absolutely glowing. (Of course I told him she would probably take at least a couple more weeks… but he just really wants to meet her.) It was heartbreakingly beautiful.
I did make a mini-appointment at the midwives’ later that day, just to hear the heartbeat – as they’ve encouraged me to do if I’m ever worried – and she sounded great. (E insisted on getting up on the stool to watch what was happening. And I got a little teary-eyed, as you can imagine.) Head not quite all the way down, but pretty close. My daughter totally karate-kicked the midwife during palpation, so she must be okay.
As I was confessing a few days ago to another mom-friend who had a stillborn son, I have realized that there’s a reason the milestone of 34.5 weeks was not as big of a deal as I was expecting. It’s because just getting past that date didn’t make the fear go away. If I’m honest with myself, it’s been just barely under the surface this whole time, and I know too well that the gestational age has nothing to do with anything. As I’ve said before, you’re never home free.
I still feel kinda sheepish for overreacting, jumping so hurriedly to the worst-case conclusion (not that I had a choice, it seems). But, well. That’s life. These doses of fear just remind us we’re alive, right? And fortunate, in so many ways.
Just a few more weeks.
P.S. I have to admit, with all the extra ultrasounds this baby and I have had, sometimes it absolutely blows my mind that we happened to have Sebastian’s scans when we did. That those two final ultrasounds so closely book-ended his death. Seriously, what are the chances? It’s crazy-bizarre. Sean and I still shake our heads incredulously about it… but we feel very lucky that it happened that way, for so many reasons.
Again, even in those awful circumstances… fortunate.