Friday, April 26, 2019

So Close. So Far. 35 weeks, 4 days.

I had a dream that we went to pick up a crib. It was in a swanky apartment in Manhattan, but once we got inside, it was was so full we could hardly move around. I’d clearly misunderstood something. I thought the crib was from Restoration Hardware but instead it was from The Restoration—like the seventeenth century. It was elaborately carved, but all the bedding was in tatters. I thought we should take it anyway, but David was less sure. I don't know what we decided.

From there—still dreaming—we went to a monitoring appointment in a taxi in New York. We arrived at the hospital only to be told the baby had no heartbeat. I couldn't speak. “I’m so sorry,” said the young nurse wearing a pink and white striped uniform.

I woke then, panting. I lay still, my heart pounding, willing the baby to move. After several agonizing seconds, she did.

I nudged David. “I had a bad dream,” I whispered. When he asked me what it was about, I just started to cry.

***

My screen time usage has sky rocketed. Daily hours are double what it was in the fall. This is not because I can't stop scrolling Instagram or Pinterest. It's because most sedentary activity—reading, watching TV, being a passenger in a car—is paired with kick counting on an app. I do this in intervals of 10, mostly so I can make myself stop. And so I have comparable data points. How long does it take to get 10 kicks? Usually less than 10 minutes, now. But when baby was smaller, with my anterior placenta absorbing movement like the tempur-pedic mattress that doesn’t spill the wine glass even when the bowling ball is dropped on it, it took at least twenty minutes. Longer than any of my other babies. My doctor says 10 movements in two hours is fine. I’d crawl out of my skin waiting that long between the interior taps and pushes that promise me baby is, literally and figuratively, still kicking.

***
A friend asked me if hitting 35 weeks was a relief. She was acknowledging that I’m past the day of Eliza’s loss at 34 weeks 3 days. She wondered if I found relief in passing that milestone.
Yes, I said. Eliza was small. Maybe growth restricted? I’m being monitored so closely that I do believe if the exact same thing going on with Eliza was happening to this babe, we would know by now. We’d maybe even have the chance to intervene. So getting to 35 weeks makes things a bit easier.

And no. Because countless other things could also go wrong. Viability is pretty good at 35 weeks. Developmentally, it’s quite possible—likely even—that if i went into labor today, baby would survive on the outside. But while she’s still on the inside, i need to be hyper-vigilant. If something goes wrong, I have to notice decreased movement or some other symptom and take action in time to save the baby. I have to pay attention at all times—which is impossible.

“That‘s a lot of pressure,” said my friend.

Yes, I agreed. It can make it hard to sleep.

***

I’m typing this on my phone at 2am.

***

I tell myself that baby is big and healthy. Fluid levels are normal, Baby is active, heart rate has been strong and steady at every check in. I want to say that most babies are fine. I want to believe that my baby will be okay. Mostly, I do say this. I think this. I will myself to believe it.
But for every 99 women walking confidently with their bellies bulging and their nurseries decorated, there’s one of us. One of us who knows that normal measurements and steady heart rates don’t prevent a true knot in an umbilical cord. There’s one of us who knows that healthy, strong women trip and fall on the sidewalk, landing hard on that baby bump. There are placentas that inexplicably detach while you sit on your couch watching television—one moment you’re laughing at John Oliver, next moment you’re hemorrhaging in the bathroom. There are impossible to predict accidents that snatch healthy babies away just minutes or hours after their heartbeat comes galloping through the monitor or their foot reassuringly nudges your ribs. You can’t prepare. You can’t always prevent.

***

When people ask how I’m doing, I say, Fine! (Always with the exclamation mark.) Or great. I know how lucky I am to be pregnant, to have this chance. I don’t want to sound ungrateful. Sometimes, depending on the person, I’ll admit that I’m tired, that I’m ready for the baby to be on the outside. And partly that’s for all the reasons people expect: because my crotch literally aches when I climb stairs, and my back is sore, and my feet are tired, and baby is pressing on my sciatic nerve again, and my body is so cumbersome it takes monumental effort to roll over and get out of bed to go pee at least once every night. But mostly it’s because when the baby is on the outside, it’s easier for me to see that she’s breathing. I'm ready for this baby to be on the outside because my own anecdotal experience is so skewed that I'm quite sure my odds of keeping this baby alive are drastically improved once she’s out of my uterus.

***

“I’ll be a double big sister,” Zuzu remarks as she contemplates a new baby. She is eating Life cereal. She sounds pleased and quite important: “I’m the oldest kid in our family.” I pour hot water over a tea bag and say nothing, watching her face as she thinks this through. Her brain is thinking about sisters. She is working out birth order. She adjusts her statement as though she's clarifying things for me: “Well, I’ll be the oldest kid in our family who’s alive. Because Eliza is eight.”

She explains this to me gently, matter-of-factly, as though these are the observations every six-year-old makes over a breakfast of yogurt and cereal, as though this is an idea I might not have considered before she mentioned it. Oh, my dear girl. It has been considered. She's simply repeating an abbreviated description of the greatest grief of my life, a truth that is tattooed on my heart and revisited daily, my thoughts tracing the pattern of that ache in its infinity spiral: This is actually my fourth baby. All girls. Eliza would be eight.

***

I got home from monitoring yesterday. It was a gray-ish day, but it felt like spring time in our kitchen. A bright table cloth. Baseball on television. Clementine making good use of the doggie door we recently installed. (Cooper won't use it because he has figured out that humans are his servants.) David paused from the prep of a Blue Apron* meal to give me a hug and a kiss and ask how it went.

(*This post is not sponsored by Blue Apron, although the mere thought of this being a post sponsored by Blue Apron makes me laugh. Gallows humor, folks.)

“Good,” I said. “Normal fluid levels. Baby still head down. Passed the non-stress test quickly.”

Coco walked over, wrapping her little arm around my thigh. “Mama,” she said, looking up with her impossibly big eyes: “Is your baby still alive?”

My breath catches for the briefest second before I reply. “Yes.”

I squat down beside her, that move that Meghan Markle makes look effortless in three inch heels, but which makes me grimace and grunt as I ungracefully reach one hand out to steady myself against a kitchen cabinet. I wrap my other arm around Coco, pulling her in for a hug and breathing in her sturdy and reassuring smell of playground mulch and watercolor paint and the faintest trace of lavender soap near her hairline. I kiss her soft cheek and squeeze her tight.

“Baby is still alive.”

10 comments:

  1. Oh, Brooke. I remember the last weeks of my pregnancy with M so clearly. The intense fear that something could go wrong and the absolute stress of knowing it was all on me to recognize if it did. The constant state of hyper-vigilance. And all that sibling reckoning. I'm holding you all in my heart over these next few weeks.

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  2. *sniffle* Tearing up while reading this. Thinking of you, & hoping these next few weeks pass quickly & uneventfully!

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  3. I have felt all of this. Every word. this post brings it all rushing back. I hope these weeks go by quickly for you. What week do you plan/hope to deliver? Keep hanging in there, day by day... minute by minute when you need to.

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  4. I’m so grateful for how far we’ve come as mums that we can speak of our losses much more openly. I’m fortunate to have four healthy grown sons, but every year on the anniversary of my miscarriage I still feel a wave of loss. No one can ever know what might have been, but it truly feels so good that there is that support out there now.

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  5. I'm a pediatrician and I've done a lot of newborn care in my career (sick and well, and attending many deliveries) so I know too well from this experience that things don't always go the way we would prefer. I'm not religious at all, but I feel like with each of my own three pregnancies I've had to use an intentional suspension of disbelief (to use a literary term), to just trust the universe. It's not easy. You're right, there is still just a lot you cannot control. Thank you for keeping us updated, and this internet stranger's thoughts are with you.

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  6. "Baby is still alive." Gracious, that's a lot.

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  7. This brought tears to my eyes. Sending prayers and love for the safe arrival of The Closer. I can’t wait to hear her name and see her beautiful face. I often think of Eliza as a guardian angel watching over her sisters here on Earth.

    Kel

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  8. Oh this post just makes my heart ache with you. So much anxiety, fear, stress, love and hope. So complicated.

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  9. I found this post over on Stirrup Queens and i am so glad i did. My pregnancy(5th one but no baby yet) ended at 20 weeks due to an incompetent cervix and we are getting ready to try gain, last night i had a dream that we made it past 20 weeks but that at 22 weeks there was no heartbeat. i woke up in a panic praying that, that will never be the case. I'm scared to try again because i don't want to stress myself out over every little thing, but how can i not try again when a baby is all i long for? How do you do it? i am glad Baby is still alive.

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