(borrowed from Angie at Butterflies and Rainbows)
The first time I got a positive pregnancy test, I squealed and jumped up and down with excitement. We'd made a baby! It was like magic! It was Mother's Day and I had already defended my dissertation and I was about to graduate and life was peaches and roses. I knew I was lucky to have things working out so easily and so perfectly, but I was also smug and self-satisfied and delighted with my own good fortune. I thought I deserved this happy ending. I also thought this baby was a sure thing.
This time, I showed David the pregnancy test while still in the bathroom. It was October 23rd. (Happened to be my brother's birthday because evidently I like to take pregnancy tests on memorable dates). David said, "You're pregnant?"
I said, "I guess so. I mean, it's positive." I set the pee stick on the sink and we both stared at it in silence for a few moments.
Finally, David gave me a big hug and said, "It's okay to be happy." I knew he was right. Wasn't this what we'd been desperately hoping for? For MONTHS? But I started crying. Not because I wasn't happy, but because it felt so different from last time.
Last time I got pregnant on our fourth month of trying (by which I mean having unprotected sex and timing it around when I thought I'd probably be ovulating). This time it took seven months, and hundreds of dollars spent on tests to say nothing was wrong, and some doctor-prescribed hormone supplements (an ovulation "trigger shot" -- yes with a NEEDLE) that evidently helped boost my body to do what should have been doing on its own.
Last time, I felt an excited kind of hope each month, and although I was disappointed when it didn't work THE FIRST TIME we tried, my confidence that I'd be pregnant before long never wavered.
This time, the TTC process was fraught with anxiety, grief, and a genuine fear that it wouldn't work. It seemed to me that if a healthy, perfect baby could die for no apparent reason, then a healthy, average 30-year-old could become completely and inexplicably infertile. The one scenario seemed just as likely as the other. After all, the most unexpected thing in the world had just happened to me--why in the world should I expect that I'd be able to get pregnant again?
Last time I was so freaking pleased with myself that I'd achieved my "PhD and Pregnancy Before 30" plan.
This time I felt like I'd aged a decade in the blink of an eye and I was running out of time.
Last time, when I was about 13 weeks along, I sent pregnancy announcements to our close friends and family.
Oh, yes, that's right. I mailed PREGNANCY ANNOUNCEMENTS. Because THAT is how goddamn sure I was that once I got out of the first trimester, everything would be FINE.
(Sometimes I look back on that pregnancy and I see it as a horror movie, except instead of being scared, the protagonist has NO IDEA she is about to be blindsided by her worst nightmare. I want to scream at her to STOP, to take precautions, to be scared instead of so damn naive and sure of herself. I try to remember that since that's the only time I got with Eliza, it's good that I fussed over her and enjoyed every minute of it as much as I did. It makes me feel foolish, yes, but it's also evidence of how excited we were and how much we loved that girl from the moment she existed.)
Last time, I arranged a meeting with a doula when I was 14 weeks pregnant. We met at St. Louis Bread Co. We liked her. I guess she liked us. We gave her a $100 deposit. She refunded it in January, with a sympathy card.
I ordered a planner from Amazon called "The Essential Pregnancy Planner." (My OB raised his eyebrow and chuckled about just how "essential" this planner actually was. I smiled with him, but I didn't care that he thought I was obsessive. I was so CONFIDENT I was doing the right things.)
Last time, I beamed when anyone asked me about my pregnancy. I flaunted the belly and grinned when someone asked, "Is this your first?" I'm normally not particularly outgoing around strangers, but I had no trouble gushing about this pregnancy to anyone who mentioned it, in line at Trader Joe's, on campus between classes, or at my favorite neighborhood coffee place (decaf hot tea for me, please!).
I knew that everyone I knew wouldn't be as excited about my pregnancy as I was, but let's face it--a lot of people were! Five of my friends were pregnant at the same time or had just had their babies. Every conversation we had was a discussion of pregnancy, baby supplies, or nursery preparations. My mom was always ready to go shopping for baby clothes, and even before I had my baby showers, we had a closet full of clothes for our Baby Duck.
We enrolled in Bradley method childbirth classes and I became convinced that a natural, med-free birth was the right decision for me. I read books, articles, and blogs about about natural birth, breastfeeding, colicky babies, cloth diapering, sleep patterns, most recommended baby products and supplies. David and I researched every single item we bought or registered for. Crib, organic mattress, jogging stroller, cloth diapering system. I created a baby registry on Amazon. I decided to decorate the nursery around a quilt my Nana made that had little yellow ducks on it. I started trolling Etsy for wall decor.
Last time I believed that my body would protect my baby. I believed that I was healthy and strong. I thought that every choice I made--to eat organic produce, to have a non-medicated birth, to visit breastfeeding support groups, to read Consumer Reports before registering for a car seat--was ensuring a healthy start and a bright future for my baby. I thought I was giving Baby Duck every advantage while she was still kicking around in my belly. I trusted myself to make the right choices, and I felt so confident in my ability to take care of this child the best way I knew how.
Yeah. That was then.
Back then, I wanted "hands off" healthcare. I thought my body knew what it was doing. This was a natural, biological process. I don't need medicine, I don't need intervention. I just need to eat right and be healthy and prepare myself by doing lots of research. This time I'm seeing my regular OB and a high risk maternal-fetal-medicine specialist. The Deuce already had more ultrasounds in 14 weeks than Eliza had in 34 weeks. This time, I'm open to the idea of being induced, of having a c-section, of frequent-frequent-frequent monitoring, whatever it takes to get me a healthy baby that I get to take home.
It's my second time doing this stuff, but I have no where near the confidence I had a year and a half ago. I don't trust myself to know I'm making the right decisions. I'm terrified I'll overlook something that could be the cause of another tragedy. My research couldn't save Eliza, and my intuition sure as hell didn't tell me something was wrong.
Last time I signed up for weekly e-mails and pregnancy calendars and I could tell you at any given day how big the baby was by comparing her to a fruit (Baby Duck is the size of a kumkwat!). This time I haven't even looked at any of those things. I don't want to see a calendar or think about how many weeks I have to go. The only milestones I have in my head are:
26 weeks: viability.
28 weeks: kick counts.
30-ish weeks: non-stress tests.
34 weeks and 3 days: please, please, please don't let the baby die.
(I have no idea what happens after that. I cannot see beyond 34 weeks and 3 days.)
Last time I found comfort in statistics. I remember hitting 18 weeks and saying to David, "Good news! At this point, we have a 97% chance that Baby Duck is going to be okay." This time, I know what it means to be part of the 1% of unexpected, unexplained stillbirths in this country. And sometimes my odds feel like about 50/50 that I'm going to end up right back there again.
This time is so different. It's harder. It's sadder. It's angrier. It's also more grateful, more appreciative, more focused on what's really important.
This pregnancy is full of grief, and fear, and guilt. It's also full of wonder and awe, and so much love and support that it still bowls me over.
This time isn't an accomplishment. It's a relief. It's a chance for David and me to quit feeling so frantic and scared and to try and focus on living in the present moment, savoring what we have, and not taking it for granted.
This time is bittersweet. I'm happy and sad all at once, everyday. I still long for Eliza, and I look forward (cautiously) to a time when that ache is accompanied by the joy and fullness that her sibling can bring to our lives.
This time is not about me getting the baby that I deserved to have before. This time is about how incredibly fucking lucky we are to have another chance. This time I'm well aware that so much of this is not in my control at all.
This time will never be like last time was. There are many, many days when the storms of grief and fear are still raging all around me and within me and I can't think about anything but last time and how I'd do anything to go back and change it, to have Eliza here with us.
Often, I wish I could just catch a glimpse of how this story will unfold, wish I could just see around the next twenty weeks and know that my baby will be healthy. Unfortunately, I can't see the future. On those days, though, I'm at least looking forward, and that's something in itself.
Last time, at Eliza's first ultrasound, I stared at the gummy-bear on the screen, and squeezed David's hand, and my face hurt from smiling so big. It sounds so cheesy, but I remember that it felt like our love was so magical we could make a baby with it.
This time, at the Duece's first ultrasound, which was so early all we could see was a blob and the flicker of a heartbeat, I squeezed David's hand and tears ran down my face. I was afraid to breathe because it felt like this baby could disappear in the blink of an eye.
Last time, I thought we were looking at the baby we'd undoubtedly be taking home from the hospital.
This time, I was seeing the tiny glimmer of something that just might turn out to be a rainbow.