Monday, July 14, 2014

Christmas in July

Well, we had a baby! William Andrew Yoder (Will) was born on July 5, his due date, at 8:33 a.m. He weighed in at 8 pounds 5.6 ounces. He had an echo when he was about eight hours old, and his heart is perfect! I'll have to write down his birth story at some point, although I am in no danger of forgetting.

July is obviously the most difficult month of the year for our family, as it includes Weston's birthday and the day he died. Last July, we had an incredibly healing vacation in Colorado. This July, we had a baby!

I can hardly believe I have a living, breathing baby to hold and love. Over the past ten months, I have only let my mind wander to the place of holding a baby occasionally. Even as I pushed Will out, with my family saying excitedly, "There he is! There's his head! He's here!", I could not let my mind imagine the reality of a live baby until he was on my chest where I could see him, and crying, so I knew without a doubt that he was alive. He is such a gift.

Will arrived two days before Weston's second birthday. That reality hasn't sunk in yet, although Weston's birthday was a very hard, emotional day. My heart and mind need to work through the birthdays, but I'm simply too tired to do so right now.

Will looks exactly like Caroline did when she was a baby. Weston has a lot of strong similarities to the two of them as well. I imagine the similarities would be even stronger if I had any pictures of him both alive and not covered in tubes.

My first big "test" came only eight or so hours after Will was born. Shannon had left to pick up Caroline, so I was alone with Will. I knew he would need a repeat echo on his heart, and I was emotionally prepared. I was not prepared, however, for the echo to take place in the NICU.

Merely seeing the doors to the NICU causes my chest to tighten and my heart to race. I could not imagine going in there. The nurse came to get Will for the echo, but there was no way I was going to let him go without me. As his mother, it was simply not an option.

With the powerful motivation to be present for Will, I did not fall apart this time. I did not have to scrub in, which was a relief, and we were led to an area about twenty feet from Weston's bed. There were only one or two babies in Weston's pod, including one in Weston's spot in an identical bed. The NICU was very quiet that day. I don't think I heard any alarms. I sat there in that eerily quiet NICU with my healthy child, directly in front of the spot where my sick child was taken off life support.

But I was OK. I got a big hug from one of Weston's former nurses. She had enabled Shannon to hold Weston for an hour one night (I wasn't there). I wonder if others thought it was weird that we were reminiscing about such a painful time, but I am grateful for my memories and grateful that she was willing to share hers.

We were discharged late in the afternoon of July 6. As I was wheeled outside with my family, and a healthy baby in my arms, I remembered the late afternoon of July 6, 2012: I was taken to the high risk unit and began the terrifying countdown to Weston's birth about ten hours later.

In case anyone is wondering, we are very happy with our decision to give birth at the same hospital where Weston lived and died. That building will now forever hold the most painful and some of the most precious memories of our lives.

The monsoons are here, which means…rainbows. I still have only seen one rainbow since Weston died, not counting the one we saw the day he died. However, other people have told me about their rainbow sightings in recent days, for which I am grateful.

We had newborn and family photos taken the other day. I had set up the session several weeks ago. I told the photographer about Weston and let her know we'd bring a few objects to represent him in the family pictures. We were at her studio all day, and I was blown away at her ideas to incorporate Weston into the pictures. I cannot wait to see the finished product. It was a special day; I loved watching my family interact for these pictures, but I did not expect to feel Weston's presence so strongly there.

We were all exhausted when we went home from the photo session. I got the mail on my way inside, which included a large envelope full of cards and a letter from the Postal Service. I figured they were congratulatory cards for Will's birth. I scanned the Postal Service letter, which said something about being sorry that our mail got damaged. I looked closer at the cards and discovered that they were all postmarked December 2012. They were Christmas cards from our first Christmas without Weston.

Somehow these several cards were lost in the Postal Service system for 1.5 years, only to materialize in July? Like Will's birth falling so close to Weston's birthday, this was no coincidence. I was so overwhelmed that I had to put the cards aside to read them later. One card was written by someone who has since died; it was surreal to see her handwriting, expressing her sympathy.

I have mentioned previously that I gave myself permission not to observe Weston's birthday this year and not to feel guilty about it. Although I didn't feel guilty, it was still an incredibly painful day. I had figured, with the happy chaos of a new baby, Weston would fall to the wayside for a while. I couldn't have been more wrong. His presence is everywhere, and others are remembering him too. My heart is full.

And I am not the only one. For some reason, July is a tragically busy month in the bereaved parent community. But these children are everywhere. There are random acts of kindness happening, vivid dreams, and unmistakable signs.

Caroline and Weston will always have a bond; they were alive together, after all. Today, on Will's ninth day of life, the bond between my two boys is unmistakable. I am grateful.



Saturday, June 28, 2014

Everywhere

Weston's second birthday is in nine days. I will most likely give birth between now and then. Last year, anticipating the month of July was like a rock in my chest. I know so many families of children who died in July. Whether we are one, two, or twenty years out, it is a painful month. I anticipated and experienced the same.

However, there is nothing like cardiac problems with one's unborn baby to shift the attention and anticipation elsewhere. Make no mistake, my attention has been right where it should be. However, now the cardiac problems seem to be abating, and I have truly begun the (probable) single-digit countdown to childbirth. The reality is upon me that I will be giving birth again very soon.

When we learned that Baby #3's due date would fall two days before Weston's birthday, I gave myself permission to not observe his birthday and not feel guilty about it. Even baking a cake will be too much with a days-old newborn or being overdue in Phoenix in the summertime.

Throughout my pregnancy, I have wondered how my grief over Weston would change when his little brother arrives. Different fears have come and gone. At times, I've expected to be blown away by the intensity of the grief. I don't talk about it much outside of a very small group of people, and I'm not going to elaborate here either. It is quite taboo for any emotion besides elation to accompany the arrival of a new baby, so I'm keeping my mouth shut.

Reminders of Weston are everywhere these days. It is almost overwhelming. In one evening recently, two people let me know he was on their minds.

A new website was launched this week specifically for pregnant women who have previously lost a child. It has been enormously helpful to read others' experiences with childbirth, caring for their rainbow babies, and all the feelings that accompany these experiences.

And, yesterday. I had another echo at the hospital's medical tower. It was fine: baby's heart is unchanged from last time, there are still no signs of distress, and I don't have to have anymore fetal echoes! They will do another one directly on the baby when he is born, and we'll go from there.

Recently, I've been having brief bouts of sciatic pain that, quite literally, stop me in my tracks. I had several of those as I left the medical tower. I was limping along when I saw someone out of the corner of my eye. I looked closer-yes, it was her. Dr. Z, the neonatologist who treated Weston as he was dying.

At that moment, I had a strong, painful contraction. Dr. Z was talking to someone else and didn't see me. I hadn't seen her since our meeting a couple of months after he died. I limped to the elevator and somehow made it to my car before I ugly-cried for several minutes.

I had figured that seeing the NICU or any NICU staff that I knew would be a painful trigger, but I did not expect ugly crying. I felt a little better afterwards, or so I thought, because then I almost had a BAD car accident. I can't bear to imagine the consequences if the accident had actually happened.

At this point, I have to keep it together. I have a baby to birth and a lot of anxiety to work through to make it happen. I can't wait to meet him, and I think about holding him constantly. I have a daughter who is petrified that I'll go to the hospital and not leave for a month again. It will all be over soon.

If you see me in the month of July, please go easy on me. There is no doubt that Weston is with me, even when I'm too overwhelmed to see him, until he makes it quite obvious like he did this week.

It is hot and dry out, with forecasts ranging from 107 to 115 degrees for the following week. But, wouldn't you know it, there is a chance of rain on July 4. I'm hoping and praying to have both of my boys with me that day: one rainbow in the sky and my rainbow baby in my arms.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Elimination of First World Problems (Again)

For the last few weeks, my toenails have been on my mind. I painted them myself a few weeks ago, but it was, uh, challenging. Just put a beach ball under your shirt and try to see past it; then you'll know what I was up against. Now they are chipped, and I can't paint them at all (the whole nine-months-pregnant thing). Yesterday I had a routine-for-me ultrasound scheduled, so I decided to squeeze in a pedicure afterwards. I have probably had less than ten pedicures in my whole life-I'm a DIY kind of person when it comes to beauty-so the pedicure was going to be quite a luxury.

When one's child dies, one's entire world view shifts. As the title suggests, first world problems vanish. For me, some of them have returned since Weston died. But I am a different person now, so I'm fairly certain that I will mostly either not experience or not care about the majority of my former first world problems anymore.

For me, I guess, fretting over ugly toenails at nine months pregnant is a first world problem that returned. Just as quickly as it returned, though, it has disappeared again.

Yesterday's ultrasound was the last of my growth ultrasounds. Due to my severe placental problems with Weston, my OB ordered these extra ultrasounds every four weeks to make sure baby's growth is on track. Everything has been perfect, growth-wise and anatomy-wise, so far.

So I had the ultrasound, was told baby is measuring about one week ahead, and waited a few minutes for the ultrasound tech to confirm the results with the maternal-fetal-medicine physician. There was some back and forth communication, more calculations on the computer, and eventually the tech returned with the MFM to re-measure baby's heart. It was probably around that point that I forgot about my toenails.

It looked enlarged, but probably because baby was at a weird angle. No big deal, we can send you to a pediatric cardiologist if it will make you feel better, but it's not necessary, etc. Then one more measurement was taken, looks were exchanged, and I was promptly referred to the pediatric cardiologist, "just to be cautious."

One hour later I found myself at the medical tower at St. Joseph's Hospital, site of Weston's birth, life, and death, in the same building where my former MFM had his office. Another ninety minutes after that (spent in a tiny room with an ultrasound tech, nurse practitioner, cardiologist, Shannon, and myself), and we had added the anatomy and function of the human heart, specifically of our baby's heart, to our areas of medical expertise.

In a nutshell, our baby's heart is enlarged; more specifically, the right ventricle of his heart is enlarged. This enlargement is apparently causing slight decrease in heart function and signifies stress on his heart. It is NOT a defect-the anatomy of his heart is perfect-and there are no rhythm or circulation problems. At the time of the cardiac exam, his heart rate was slightly elevated as well.

Many things can cause stress on a baby's heart. However, none of those reasons was present on the ultrasound screen. I don't know if that is good or bad. The cardiologist said he'd like to repeat the scan next week but that my OB would make the final call regarding care from that point. We were reassured that no one had been in a rush to do anything yet. Even the MFM had originally suggested a Monday appointment with the cardiologist. So we went home with instructions to wait for a follow-up call for further recommendations.

An hour later, my OB's partner called with instructions to present to the hospital for continuous monitoring over the weekend with a repeat cardiac scan on Monday. After that, everything is up in the air. I do know that, if his heart is worse, he will probably be delivered by C-section then. What I do not know is whether I will get to go home if there has been no change.

It is also my understanding that cardiac issues are the most common newborn problems, and most are easily corrected. Also, some people just have larger hearts than others. This is not entirely reassuring to me anymore, because he specifically has an enlarged ventricle. And, some babies' heart issues just disappear, either before or after they are born. The sense I get is that, if this problem does not go away, baby will be delivered sooner rather than later, will spend some time in the NICU getting tested, and then go home with us.

So here I am. I'm in a room like the one where I spent eight terrifying hours before Weston was born. I had to ask to switch rooms to one that is flip-flopped from the pre-Weston room because, well, terrible flashbacks.

I have already seen three of my former nurses, which makes me happy. Two of them were/are my current nurses, and the other one will be on Monday.

Since I have been on continuous monitoring, it has become evident that baby's heart rate is NOT elevated. An elevated heart rate is another sign of stress. His heart rate has remained steady, and there are no other indications that he is in any distress. I can unhook the monitors myself to use the restroom, etc., and I was told earlier today that I can even walk around the hospital without any monitors a couple times a day.

I am trying not to let my mind go where it inevitably wants to go, and I'm doing OK so far. My entire medical team is quite calm, so I'm holding onto that. On the other hand, (1) my child died, and (2) there is something not right with my baby's HEART.

My baby is not quite full-term: one more week until we hit that milestone. Fortunately, medical risks that accompany prematurity would be minimal if he has to be born in the upcoming week.

Caroline is doing relatively well. She was quite upset to hear that I am in the hospital until she arrived last night for a visit. Then she was just disappointed that the baby is STILL in my tummy! She's having fun today so far, and she and Shannon will come visit later this afternoon. But she remembers this room as "the room you were in when Weston was in your tummy."

Despite the cautiously optimistic outcome, this experience is quite trying. It almost feels like a cruel joke that we are in this position again. On Monday, I want to see a regular-sized ventricle and heart, a fully functioning heart, and a medical team scratching their collective heads as a result. And I want to go HOME and come back in a few weeks for a regular labor and delivery. And maybe even squeeze in a pedicure in the meantime.

Thank you for all the prayers, love, and support. Please keep it coming.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

To My Son

Dear Son,

You, my third child, will arrive in less than two months. Your big sister, Caroline, is anxiously awaiting your arrival, and your dad and I are working feverishly to get our house ready for you. Once again, our lives will change when you get here.

Four of us will experience life together, but we are a family of five. You have an older brother who died. You are the only member of our family who will never get to meet him. Our family talks about him all the time, so I think you will always know he is part of us. I don't envision a big, sit-down talk where we tell you that you have an older brother named Weston.

You are expected to arrive right around Weston's birthday. In fact, there is a chance the two of you will share a birthday. If so, I hope it creates a special bond between the two of you.

Parents have hopes, dreams, and fears for their children, even before they are born. After losing your brother, my list of hopes and dreams for you is pretty short: I want you to live longer than me and your dad. I want you to know you are always loved, no matter what. There are more, but those are the two big ones.

And, fears. That list has gotten longer. It is one of many changes in moms and dads who lose children. Now, though, I just want to address one fear.

I fear that there are already heavy, heavy expectations placed on you.

I am elated that you will be joining our family. The thought of meeting you for the first time, smelling your sweet newborn smell, finally holding you, and watching you grow fills my heart with a joy that you cannot even imagine.

Weston died when he was three weeks old. He will not grow up. The two of you will not play together. And that fact makes me very, very sad. Weston's absence has left a hole in my heart that will never be filled as long as I am alive.

My fear is that YOU, my second son, are expected to fill the hole in my heart. Thankfully, no one has suggested that you will replace Weston (what an insult to both of you). But I am afraid that your arrival in our lives will be characterized as a cure for my sadness and grief over Weston.

I feel joy every day. Your big sister and your dad bring joy to my life. Now, feeling you kick, preparing your room, and imagining my day-to-day life with you in it bring me joy as well.

But I am also sad every day. Because I always think about Weston, and he is not here, so I miss him terribly. As a mother, I cannot help but carry all three of you in my heart, constantly. I could no more stop thinking about the three of you than I could make my heart stop beating.

So the key is this: it is possible to feel abundant joy and overwhelming sadness at the same time.

Trying to "cure" my sadness is an impossible task. It is unfair to ask such a thing of both you and your big sister. When you see my sadness over your brother (and you will), please do not ever think that you need to make it go away. That is the heavy expectation that I will never place on you.

You will learn that two seemingly opposite states of being-joy and grief-can coexist. They do not cancel each other out. But as long as we love someone who is not here, we experience grief. And joy does not invalidate or eliminate grief. They are yin and yang. In fact, I would argue that we cannot fully experience either state of being without the other.

You are not Weston, so you do not need to fill a Weston-shaped hole. You are not a cure for my grief. You are my third child, my second son, the baby of our family. That is and always will be enough for me. You are a gift from God.

I love you,
Mom


Friday, April 18, 2014

Sharing Anniversaries

Two years ago today, the journey of losing my innocence began. Nearing the end of my first trimester carrying Weston, heavy bleeding began at the park. It was not the worst day, and it is not the worst "anniversary," but it is quite symbolic to me, as it (unknowingly then) changed the course of my life.

If April 18, 2012 was the beginning of a journey, it, by necessity, signified the end of something else: a relatively carefree and oblivious life. It was the first of many crossroads.

Today, April 18, 2014, is Good Friday, in which Christians observe the death of Jesus. The significance of these two "anniversaries" occurring on the same day is not lost on me.

Lent ended yesterday. (Lent is the roughly 40-day period preceding Easter in which Christians prepare their hearts for the events of Holy Week, which include the death and resurrection of Jesus.) There are fasting days, and people who observe Lent usually forgo some luxury (Facebook, sweets, etc.). For the past several years, I have read Lent readers (daily meditations on various Lenten themes), and for the past two years I have done additional spiritual explorations/projects.

Last year and this year, I consciously decided I am NOT giving up anything for Lent. I feel that I already "gave up" Weston, however involuntarily, so I cannot bear to give up anything else, at least this point in my life. Last week, a blogger I follow, who writes about losing THREE children, among other things, made the identical statement. So, right or wrong in my feelings about Lent, I know that I am not alone.

The last two weeks have been full of highs and lows: a growing, healthy baby (29 weeks tomorrow and the size of a butternut squash!). Missing my baby. A road trip to see my family. People I love having health struggles. A hayride, a hike, and roasting marshmallows. Being judged for my grief. Birthdays. Unexpected flashbacks and nightmares. Seeing an old friend. Insomnia. New crown molding. Yet another allergic reaction, complete with a visit from the paramedics.

(Regarding the last item, everything turned out fine: Caroline is OK, and…what could be better for a kid than to see an ambulance and fire truck up close?!)

I haven't done much to observe Holy Week this week, and my soul feels it. We didn't even have time to go to church today because our schedule was too full. Finally, I had some time this evening to catch up and reflect. I have been reading a daily lectionary (selected Scriptures) and was struck by the mix of despair and hope in today's selection.

For me, today's date marks the beginning of the darkest road I have ever walked. For Christians, myself included, today is the darkest day of the year. Acknowledging it and reflecting on it is essential to fully appreciate and truly rejoice in the coming observance of the resurrection on Easter Sunday. The darkness, suffering, and despair of Good Friday has drawn close to me in the last two years. As odd as it may sound, it brings me comfort and hope: Jesus can empathize with the pain I have experienced, because he has been there. He actually had it much worse.

But there is hope. We will celebration the victory of Jesus on Sunday. However, humanity's true "Easter" will not come during life on earth. It will happen when we are united with God for eternity, and when we are reunited with our loved ones.

While there is not wholeness on earth, there is hope. I'll take it. Today's lectionary demonstrated both despair and hope. Before Weston died, the same couple of Scripture verses came into my life over and over, and they were part of today's reading:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23.

I am holding onto hope on this day of dual anniversaries.

A blogger I follow wrote beautiful words today from the perspective of Mary, the mother of Jesus: another mother who watched her son die. I love her description of wholeness. Through the death of her son, all parts of us became sacred, even the all-encompassing, gut-wrenching, involuntary heaving sobs of a mother saying goodbye to her son:

…You let your side be ripped open that our lives need never be split into sacred and secular.

How you were slashed that our lives could be seamless - all holy.

That the veil in the temple rents in two because of you, and there is no longer a divide between the common and the hallowed, and the whole earth is full of your glory and You are the continuous, unending, divine thread that weaves through all of the world, holding all together…even when you, Son, are rent apart.

-Ann Voskamp


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Tale of Two Hospitals

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Just kidding. Once an English major, always an English major.

Deciding where to give birth is a pretty routine decision: you go where your doctor goes, or you pick the place closest to your house. With Caroline, I chose the place second closest to my house, because the closest hospital has no labor and delivery. With Weston, I had already been there for a month, so he was obviously born there. I initially "chose" that hospital because my perinatologist told me to go there if things got bad. I suppose it's the third closest hospital to my house and only ten minutes away. Anyone who gets injured in my neighborhood is covered.

You probably know what's coming: choosing the hospital this time has NOT been routine.

For several weeks after Weston died, I was intensely drawn to the NICU. I found a reason to go almost every day. Someone told me, without judgment, that my obsession was a little out of the ordinary, but it didn't matter. I was just doing what I needed to do to cope.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving 2012. I delivered cards to the NICU and barely made it. The NICU, and the rest of that entire wing of the hospital, had changed from a place of comfort to a place of torture. I haven't been able to even look at the NICU doors since. The only places in the hospital that have provided comfort since then are the chapel and the lobby, where I'd get my daily frappuccino and hang out in my wheelchair with my family.

So, it's a little weird that, ever since we began considering another child, I have felt drawn like a magnet to give birth at the same hospital where Weston lived and died. That feeling only intensified when I found out I was pregnant. I can't explain it exactly, but I have felt that giving birth there will be quite healing, a way to honor Weston, and a bond between my two boys who will never meet in this lifetime.

But then it became more real. I will actually be giving birth again. My doctor delivers at two equally good hospitals, including Weston's, so I had a decision to make. The decision has been hanging over my head; I would cry every time my doctor asked me if I'd chosen yet. The "deadline" to decide was my 26 week appointment, last week.

So, Shannon and I talked and then made a very scientific decision: we would tour the "other" hospital, then venture up to the labor and delivery wing of Weston's hospital, compare and contrast, and…go with our gut.

Now, I didn't want to tour the hospital in the standard way with a large group of other pregnant women. They would have all been happily innocent, first-time moms, which would have been entirely too difficult. So, I called the "other" hospital, which is a very good hospital, by the way. Most of my central Phoenix friends give birth there, in fact.

I asked the lady on the phone about tours, etc. Then I casually asked if I could have a private tour. "This is my third child, and---." "NO. We do not give private tours." And then I just fell apart. I was crying so hard, it's a miracle she even understood what I was saying. "Uhhh, let me transfer you. I can't answer your question."

Long story short, they agreed to the private tour. But I was seriously doubting myself: I can't even make a stupid phone call to a hospital, so how can I…do what, exactly? No stork is gonna deliver this baby to my house. I don't really have a choice regarding upcoming events.

Shannon and I went to our private tour, and it was fine. The nurse pointed out the NICU (a NICU I had never seen, mind you), and I almost cried again. But I learned something new: if you have a normal c-section, your baby gets to go to the recovery room with you. Who knew?!

A few days later, it was time to go back to Weston's hospital and venture all the way up to Labor and Delivery. My counselor met me there and walked me through the entire process. (Shannon had already gone, alone. Brave man.) I do not know how my "self-guided tour" would have turned out if she had not accompanied me, and I'm glad I don't have to find out.

I did it. It was hard, I cried, I saw the NICU lobby, I saw OB triage, where I spent so many scary hours (and where I'd spend some time prior to admission with baby #3), and I survived.

My mind was made up before we ever got on the elevator, though. We were sitting in the weird lobby place (not my favorite frappuccino lobby), a place that holds unpleasant memories for both Shannon and myself. My counselor didn't like the space either, and we talked through a plan to avoid that area during labor. Then I saw a woman walking across the lobby toward us and thought to myself that we'd get on the elevator after she leaves.

This woman came closer and closer, and then I recognized her: my OB. My current OB, with whom my friend set me up for my c-section follow-up after Weston died, at a time when my medical condition was the last thing on my mind. And I LOVE HER. If you ever need an OB/GYN, talk to me.

Call it what you want, but this was a sign. Seeing someone linked to my current pregnancy, in the sacred place where my last baby died, literally in the middle of the decision-making process: I think my decision is obvious. We chatted for a couple of minutes, I told her why I was there, and she left to deliver a baby.

Having made this decision is a huge relief; it had been weighing on us for months. There is no doubt that giving birth again is going to be incredibly challenging emotionally. However, it is going to be challenging no matter where I am. I am anticipating it and working on it: with my counselor, with Shannon, with God. I feel peaceful and confident about my decision, and hopefully I can hang onto this peace when labor starts and it's time to head down 7th Avenue.

I have had a really hard few days, because of Weston and other reasons. But I am also feeling God's presence close by, in the form of an article sent by a friend I haven't talked to in quite a while, speaking directly to a struggle she didn't even know I was having. Chills.

And, good old Facebook. I posted a picture of my belly today (finally, at almost 28 weeks!). I felt a little weird doing it, but I deeply regret my lack of belly pictures with Weston. The "likes" and sweet comments practically broke records. For my Facebook page, anyway.

Pregnancy after losing a child is quite emotional: I'll never be able to explain it adequately to someone who has not experienced it. There is so much joy for this new life we're anticipating, but it also opens the grief floodgates again: not to mention that ALL of my difficult anniversaries with Weston, including even his birthday (maybe), will start next week and continue through the duration of this pregnancy.

So, seeing so much love and support from others on difficult days really does help carry me through. On a day when grief threatens to overpower, I am so thankful for the joy from others, even if it is just on Facebook.

And now, I'm off to count baby kicks.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Weekend of Deja Vu

Today was the day I have been dreading for a long time. I am 24 weeks 1 day pregnant: the day in my pregnancy that Weston was born.

For the past twenty months, I have primarily been grieving the death of my son. However, I have always known that, if I were to get pregnant again, I would have to work through the events of my pregnancy with Weston and his birth. Recent (and well-timed) communications have confirmed this need. I have struggled through the past 24 weeks, and now it is time to prepare for what is ahead: childbirth. Look at me, already off on a tangent. I'll save the future talk for a later post.

There is a popular pregnancy resource that compares babies in utero to produce. I got rid of the fear-mongering book, but I still can't help Googling "size of a xx-week fetus" every week to see how big my baby is getting. Caroline often asks me as well. At 24 weeks, my baby is the size of an ear of corn. But that sounds weird to me. I've seen a baby at 24 weeks: I know what they look like. I can't quite imagine Weston as an ear of corn. So, this week I am saying that my baby is the same size as Weston.

I had my first growth ultrasound on Friday, at 23 weeks 6 days. My doctor wants me to have them every four weeks, because I have a higher risk of having a too-small baby. I wanted the sonographer to check my placenta closely, and I ended up telling her some details about my abruption at Weston's birth. She told me I am lucky to be alive.

Now, I know how serious placental abruptions are. I know they can kill mother and baby. But, after my c-section, when they discovered the abruption, no one was that dramatic about it. Of course, they said we were both very fortunate, and one of my surgeons said he'd never seen anything like my situation when they opened me up. But no one said, "You could have died."

So it was striking to hear those words from a medical professional, especially at the same point in my pregnancy. It was also quite a reminder of how different things are now.

The ultrasound examination continued. "Everything looks great…your placenta looks good…his heart looks perfect…growth is good…it looks like he weighs one pound six ounces." Unbelievable. That was Weston's birth weight. Fortunately for the sonographer, I was able to hold back the tears until I was in my car.

One of the most difficult aspects of pregnancy after loss is doing normal pregnancy things with other pregnant women. I have been attending prenatal yoga on Saturday mornings (side note: if you ever find yourself pregnant, get yourself and your bump to prenatal yoga!). My emotional difficulties in class are outweighed by the physical and mental benefits; I think the yoga will pay dividends during labor.

Anyway, class always begins with introductions, how far along we are, the sex of our babies, and anything else we'd like to share. Almost everyone else in the class is expecting their first child and is blissfully unaware of anything that could go wrong (I know this because they also say it's their first pregnancy). I always try to be a little vague. Yesterday, for example, I didn't want to say what I was really feeling: "I am 24 weeks pregnant today and so relieved to be here instead of in the hospital, which is where I was at this point in my last pregnancy, getting all kinds of radiation exposure, followed by hours of being chained to a hospital bed, followed by a scary-like-a-TV-drama c-section, and I'm so glad I'm here because I think yoga will help me deal with all of these flashbacks I will inevitably have at this baby's birth." No, that would not fly.

But it is really hard to hear things like, "I'm 37 weeks, blah blah, and I'm not looking forward to the sleep deprivation." I don't like sleep deprivation either, but…seriously?

So I feel like I don't really belong anywhere. Yes, I am pregnant, but I don't want to complain and commiserate this time. Yes, I will (hopefully) be pregnant in Phoenix in the summer, but no, it won't suck. No, I won't have my hands as full as you think I will after having my third child. Yes, I am elated to be pregnant, but I am also indescribably sad and will never be able to adequately explain the contradiction.

The weekend continued with some fun and distractions; I did not think about the 24-week milestone constantly. But my body reminded me: this morning Shannon woke me up at 9:15 (!) and asked me to help get Caroline ready for church. I was almost nodding off again around noon. Noon is when I finally met Weston, ten hours after he was born. Later today, I fell asleep on the couch twice. I think my body just wanted to block out today completely.

Caroline and I planted a little herb garden this afternoon, and Shannon planted flowers. We didn't plan it out, but, yep, we started new life in our yard on the same "day" Weston was born. Like Weston, these plants won't survive the summer. In fact, they will probably be gone by the time Weston's baby brother makes his first appearance.

Now that the pregnancy milestones are over, I pray that days of joyful anticipation outweigh days of fear and sadness. Somehow, though, it will be acceptable if they do not. There is room in my heart for every emotion. For baby #3, what matters is that he is loved. He is dearly loved, and I can't wait to meet him.