Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Terror and the Hope

I've been anxious pretty much throughout this pregnancy.  I've most definitely been worried.  Hell--I think I was past twenty weeks before I stopped looking for blood every time I went to the bathroom.  I've had sleepless nights before every ultrasound.  I still come to my doctor appointment with prepared lists of questions and concerns.  And yet, (besides the fact that my first baby unexpectedly died for unexplained reasons) I never had a reason to worry.  This pregnancy appeared to be totally textbook, and the Deuce (just like Eliza) appeared perfect at every appointment.

Sunday morning I woke up around 8am.  David was already out of bed and had turned on the TV in the living room.  I lay in bed for a few minutes, enjoying the luxury of no alarm clock and clean sheets and a snoring dog snuggled up next to me.  Then I realized that the Deuce wasn't moving.

I poked and prodded my stomach.  I rolled from my left side to my right.


I did some more poking and prodding and rolled onto my back.

Still nothing.  I started pushing on my stomach pretty hard.  I could feel the Deuce in there, but I wasn't getting a kick or even a wiggle in response.

There it was.  I had a reason to be scared.

I called David back in the room and he patted my tummy and talked to the Deuce.  I shifted to my side again.  No movement.

And then I started to cry.

This wasn't an abstract fear getting my heart racing, wondering what might happen if...  This was a cold, sinking fear that started in the middle of my chest and spread outward.  I knew what would happen if.  I could see it all playing out in horrific detail.  I imagined having to break the news to other people, to tell my parents and friends, having to say it out loud over and over again, having to put my worst nightmare into words and endure the pity and the shock from friends and acquaintances and strangers.

David told me not to cry because we needed to be able to feel the baby, not feel me shaking with sobs.  I told him to call the medical exchange to get a hold of my doctor.

Then I told him to wait because I knew my doctor would tell me to drink something and lie down.

So I forced myself to get out of bed and drink an orange juice and eat a small piece of banana bread and then I lay back down on my side.  And waited.

I look back and marvel that I wasn't hysterical, that I didn't completely lose my shit and start screaming, that I wasn't already on my way to the ER.  But I guess my response isn't that surprising.  I mean, what else could I do?  I managed to stay calm after I learned that Eliza didn't have a heartbeat.  After all, there was nothing left to be done.  I'll fuss and cry about furniture, about one negative comment out of fifty student evaluations, about feeling overwhelmed at work.  But big things that really matter?  Instead of getting me riled up, they make me feel frozen.  I remember lying on that hospital bed and feeling absolutely paralyzed with that cold realization of my worst fear--a fear that was so terrible I had never really believed for a second that it could happen to me.

And now here I was, lying on my couch at home, feeling that same cold fear and knowing that it could easily happen to me.  Again.

After about fifteen minutes of me lying down, the Deuce started moving.  I counted every kick for thirty minutes or so, until I was satisfied that it was not my imagination.  David was sitting on the floor in front of me, his hands on my belly.  He felt the kicks, too, and I watched the tension around his eyes soften, and saw the relief spread across his face.

I continued to be hyperaware (even more than usual) of movement all day long, and Deuce passed our nightly kick counts with flying colors and continued to thrash around after I'd gotten into bed, which perhaps just indicates that the baby is already preparing to sleep all day and be awake all night long.  But I never quite shook off the chill of that morning's scare.

I had a doctor's appointment already scheduled for Monday, as my OB wants to see me weekly from the start of the third trimester until this baby is born and I am happy to oblige him.  I told him about Sunday morning and he nodded and affirmed that I'd done exactly what he would have suggested.  Then he listened to the heartbeat for an extra long time.  He said the accelerations were good and everything sounded great.  Movement has been normal today, with the Deuce squirming through conferences with my students about their upcoming papers.  And so we continue to hope that this false alarm is as close as we get to tragedy this time around.


I think sometimes about what I wish I could do differently in this pregnancy--specifically how I could enjoy it more.  Should I be decorating a nursery so I could sit in there in the blue and white rocking chair and talk to the baby?  Should I be sorting and organizing baby clothes?  Should I be choosing a baby name now instead of putting it off?  Should we find out the gender so we can call the baby by name?  Should I be ordering diapers?  Am I somehow doing the Deuce a disservice by not reading a weekly pregnancy calendar?  If the baby lives, will I wish I had done it all differently?  And--sometimes more preoccupying--if the baby dies, will I regret not doing these things?

It's hard not to compare myself to other people--especially to those who haven't lost a child--and to wish that I could approach pregnancy the way that they do.  I want the Deuce to feel as loved and wanted as Eliza.  I don't want the Deuce to feel like a replacement child who's getting Eliza's sloppy seconds (ie. unused  clothes, toys, books, sheets, and us as parents).  I feel sad that this pregnancy has so little of the confident joy that had me beaming when Eliza was in my belly.  I don't spend my spare time looking forward and daydreaming about what it will be to have a baby at home, which is ALL I did when I was pregnant with Eliza.  I focus on daily stuff, on little tasks, on kick counts and Pinterest projects, and what's for dinner, on cleaning the inside of my washing machine and grading another stack of essays, because looking at the calendar past the month of May feels much too dangerous.

I know there's nothing wrong with living in the moment.  I know that I'm not taking an instant of this pregnancy for granted, and there is as much grateful appreciation for the Deuce as there is fear that he/she may never come home with us.

But still I feel guilty.  Like I'm selling the Deuce short.  Like I'm wasting a precious time in my life that I'll never get back. A year of my life lost to grief, another ten months lost to a pregnancy that feels like a twist of that story we read in eighth grade:  "The Lady or the Tiger."  "The Baby Or ..."  Could go either way.  Will I get a baby?  Or will that door swing open and reveal a ravenous grief that eats me from the inside out?  Is there any way to be sure that I make the right choices to get the outcome I want?  Or is it a total crapshoot in which we hope that the randomness of the universe skips over us this time and makes some other sucker its victim?

And then I have to turn off my brain.  Because I. am. doing. the. best. I. can.  I may be enduring instead of enjoying this pregnancy, but if not enjoying this pregnancy is my biggest regret about this time in my life, then I will consider myself infinitely lucky.  I'll make up for it by enjoying the Deuce once he or she is in my arms.  The Deuce will not know or care that there isn't a nursery set up on the day we get home from the hospital.  I have to remember that getting through this moment is enough, and if someday three months or three years from now, I look back and wish that small things had been different, who freaking cares?  What I would change most in my life can never be changed, and any other regrets hardly seem worth the energy.

But I've also promised myself that on these gorgeous spring days, when the sun is shining and the pollen is making everyone sneeze, when my desk is buried in student papers, when I have nothing to wear and the dogs are obnoxious and nothing sounds good for dinner and I am so, so scared that something will go wrong and we will lose everything all over again, when I feel this baby kicking, I will take a breath and whisper a thank you.  Because, at least for the moment, this broken and tragic and fallen world has something amazing happening in it.  I may not "enjoy" this pregnancy, but I am so grateful to have every moment of it.


  1. That was crazy beautiful.

    I would comment about pivotal points you made, but I just loved the rawness of this whole post.

    When I had movement panic attacks and B finally started moving, I would sit and count with Elliot, too. I needed a second opinion that he was, in fact moving, and that it wasn't just a figment of my imagination.

    "That was a kick. That was definitely a kick," Elliot would chime in to reassure me. Thank goodness we aren't alone in this.

  2. I think we all worry that we are wasting precious time and not enjoying things enough. I do know that we all appreciate our pregnancies more than anyone else and that none of us are taking it for granted. But it is hard to be über joyful like we once were. And that is sad that we can't, but it's also sad that our babies aren't here. So it's just kind of the card we've been dealt. And it blows. Hopefully, we can make up for lost time and enjoy these babies once they are here. Please?

  3. Enjoy every moment my friend. Thinking of you and the deuce.. hugs.

  4. How scary!!! So glad everything turned out to be ok.

  5. So glad that everything was okay!!! I completely understand the worry, the fear and the enduring. I am slowly finding the joy, but the fear is still there. Enjoy whatever you can and that will be enough.

  6. You are doing the best you can. That is exactly the truth. I struggled with the same feelings of guilt while I was pregnant with Clio. So glad everything was ok.

  7. This is an amazing post.

    I was holding my breath through the whole first half, and had an intense longing to reach through the computer and hug you. I am so, so sorry. I've had that happen to me and it is scary. But I cannot imagine how you were feeling.

    All of us just do the best we can. You are amazing. Deuce is already a lucky baby!

  8. How terrifying! I am so glad that the Deuce is okay. Keeping you, David, Eliza, and the Deuce in my thoughts and prayers.

  9. Oh, so scary. We've had a couple of those, too.

    I identify with so much of what you said - I am grateful beyond anything for my current pregnancy, but enjoying it seems out of reach.

  10. I agree with Becca-- the Deuce is such a lucky baby to have you. If you go back and read your entries since you have been pregnant, you'd find a lot of joy. Keeping you all in my thoughts and prayers.

  11. This was actually my favorite use for the doppler, it wakes them up and gets them moving like crazy. I used it a lot in the third trimester on, not so much to hear the heartbeat but to wake the baby up. I am sorry you had such a scare though, it definitely happens.

    I do regret that I spent so much of my pregnancy with Luke worrying, but I don't know how you don't. I do think that for us, finding the gender, picking a name, etc. helped, but there's nothing wrong with that not being for you.

    Anyway, thinking of you.

  12. I came home from work, showered and sat on the couch and began to read your post. I was eating honeydew mellon. As I read:

    "I poked and prodded my stomach. I rolled from my left side to my right.


    I did some more poking and prodding and rolled onto my back.

    Still nothing. I started pushing on my stomach pretty hard. I could feel the Deuce in there, but I wasn't getting a kick or even a wiggle in response.

    There it was. I had a reason to be scared."

    I almost choked and kind of started sucking air and then started to cry...cuz of course...We have all been there...the no movement, the sitting waiting, the extra pushes and shoves from the outside asking for something anything from the inside. and the NOTHING.

    So I am sitting here sobbing unexpectedly because its just so fucking scary and sad and heartbreaking.

    The calmness...I know that feeling. the logical step by step process: drink orange juice, eat something, lay down...wait. When I went to the hospital that morning and they couldn't find my baby's heartbeat I didn't scream, I just sat there, my whole body started to skake uncontrollably, I know I cried, I said I have to call my husband. I just kept shaking. the whole bed was shaking. My baby was dead. SOB

    I have already had a scare like this during the pregnancy but only in my mind. I don't have the lack of movement to freak me out yet. I just know how you feel....on so many levels. Doing things differently and hoping things turn out differently.

    I am sending you so much love...through this crazy mess.

  13. Also, what Angie said about the doppler? That was me as well. Third trimester, he would wake up by the sound of his own heartbeat (I had the volume on full blast). I used it for that purpose a good number of times.

  14. It's the fear and acknowledgement that you actually DO KNOW what comes next that gets me. :( I'm glad deuce began to cooperate, but those first moments where there is no response to prodding, turning, and waiting are absolutely nerve wracking. Bah.

    Enjoying this pregnancy is a struggle. Perhaps it's enjoying it and trusting in it all working out that makes it so. But it's all the evidence I need to know you love that Little nugget.

  15. I almost held my breath till the middle of the blog! I don't know if this helps, but not decorating a nursery or not buying baby stuff is a common practice in India. All of my friends who got pregnant in India, never bought one single thing, until the baby was 21 days old. It is a belief that it gets jinxed. One can argue both ways on this topic, but if it makes you feel normal - the second most populous country in the world does not believe in setting up a nursery before the baby arrives. You are not alone, Brooke. Just my 2 cents.

    Sending you tons of good wishes & vibes. I am praying for you.

  16. Thank you for writing this. Everything you wrote is everything I have been thinking. We are at month 2 since the loss of our daughter and I am already concerned about what it will be like next time around if we go for it. You are in my thoughts and I send you much love as you venture towards the meeting of your child.

  17. Wow, Brooke. You have an amazing way of describing how we all feel. Oh GOD, this could have been me last night. I felt his little bum, and it was solid and he was not moving. And no matter what I did, he wouldn't move.

    I plunged into darkness, straight up PTSD. I remembered feeling my G-girl, lifeless inside me.

    No one should ever have to endure this kind of terror. EVER.

    My prayers, my thoughts are with you, with us both, as we endure this. Love and peace to you, mama.

  18. Sending light and love. I wish I had more to give.

  19. I promise you won't feel regret when the Deuce is here. Well, I don't, for what it's worth. I know I did the best I could as well.
    Those scary moments are enough to shave a few years off our lives. Sorry you had reason to be scared. Stay active in there Deuce!

  20. i completely understand. i didn't enjoy my pg. up until the very end i was full of anxiety and worry. but i find that i am now enjoying it in retrospect. now that she is here, i look back at my pregnancy with her and smile/laugh. and i think that's ok.

    as you said you are doing the best you can. we have experienced something so traumatic as the loss of our precious children, so of course, we are terrified of feeling that pain again. but we have made the courageous choice of getting pregnant again after that loss, and every day that we get up out of bed we are choicing to live in that hope that we will have a life with our rainbows.

    i don't think you are doing Deuce a disservice at all. and in fact, i think that Deuce is so incredibly lucky to have you as his/her mother, and Eliza as his/her sis. just take it day by day. do what you need to do in order to stay remotely calm (believe me, i know being completely calm is not an option for us).

    you don't have that much longer until Deuce is here. and i know that you will shower that little baby with so much love that he/she will never ever think that he/she is a "sloppy second." i had so many of those questions/feelings myself. and though there is no doubt that i will always grieve my son not being here. our girl has brought us so much closer to him. and for that, i am also thankful.

    lots of love to you my friend.

  21. You are doing the best you can given your previous experience. I was very anxious throughout most of my pregnancy and I wish I had been able to enjoy it more but that's just the way it worked out. I think you are so smart to try to focus on short moment during the pregnancy that you enjoy and feel thankful.

  22. I had a big scare like that when I was pregnant with Finn. we couldn't pick up his heartbeat on the doppler and I couldn't feel him move. I was also having terrible stomach pain so we went to the ER. I was convinced they were going to tell me he had passed away.

    Sometimes I felt like I only "enjoyed" my pregnancy when I knew, during kicks, NSTs, etc, that my baby was alive. The rest of the time was terrifying.

    You don't need to be calling the Deuce by name and you don't need to know if he's a boy or she's a girl. You don't need a nursery totally ready. All you need is love for that little baby and you have plenty of that. He/She is very lucky.

  23. I sit here in tears for you, for all of us who have lost, because how CAN it be anything terrifying? Sending you giant hugs today...

  24. This happened to me on an international flight home. It was awful.
    Also in London...I ended up Skyping with my doctor's office because I didn' want to be the crazy grieving pregnant lady at a British hospital in the middle of the night asking for a doppler check. What terrible times for the baby to be asleep!
    I feel for you. It won't go away totally.
    When the Deuce arrives safely as we all hope, you will find joy in the baby and hopefully the guilt of not enjoying the pregnancy -- and just both of you surviving it -- will pass. I hope so.
    So much is taken away when a baby dies, and you illustrate this here. I think we will find reverberations forever.

  25. This is a beautifully written post. You've captured the pregnancy-after-loss feeling that I had and I know many have had.

    Your calmness really resonates with me and put into words exactly how I reacted during my tragedy. When I read of other women who screamed and were hysterical, I wonder immediately why I didn't react similarly? It is comforting to read your explanation. Thank you.


  26. I don't think there's any way for this not to be terrifying. I hope the hope and the joy temper the terror for you, but I wasn't able to relax until well after Dot was born. And I still make sure she's breathing a couple times a night.

    I think the Deuce, upon his or her arrival, will end up being so spectacularly him or herself that the "replacement baby" worries (so familiar to me) will dissipate fairly quickly. And, as others have said, s/he is lucky to have you and David.

    And I'm sitting here with crossed fingers, sending you lots of love and hope and wishing that the next few weeks go by uneventfully and quickly.

  27. I have never commented here before, but after my daughter was stillborn in January, I found your blog and read all your posts about Eliza, some of them over and over. You write beautifully of your daughter and of grief and your words have helped me enormously. I wish there was some way to help you back - all I can say is that I hope the rest of your pregnancy goes as smoothly and as peacefully as possible. It's heartbreaking to lose the capacity to feel absolute joy and hope in a pregnancy. I am thinking of you, of Eliza and of the Deuce.

  28. This is a great, honest post. I can really relate! I'm sorry about your scare, it is so horrible when that happens. It makes me trust my instincts even less because I didn't "know" when there was a problem before and now I "know" something is wrong and then it's not.

    Also, I like to think this baby (after loss) will be born knowing how to hope, to grieve, and not take anything for granted (rather than being paranoid and crazy, which is what everyone implies is going to happen when I'm stressed). Just my thoughts.

  29. So sorry you had such a scare. :( But glad that all is well. Sending (((hugs))).

  30. Yep. Beautifully captured in fine detail. The scares, the hope, the guilt, the menial tasks. The road is so long and arduous...even though we're only two and a half weeks away, it still feels like May 7 is actually going to fall sometime in November.

    Love and peace to you guys as you move forward with kid two.

  31. Yep. I can relate to this so much. The growing panic that sets in as I push and poke and get no response from my sleeping baby. It's terrifying.

    I thought of you last week when Glow asked for writing submissions. I think your post "Go Ahead Make Me Cry" (or something like that) would make a great submission. I actually sent it to my family and friends last fall, and it really helped us all navigate that difficult time. You captured something so important in that post.

    Hoping with you for the safety of your little one...
    - Kari

  32. We've all been there, and it's horrid. I wish it could be easier, but it can't. And you are doing remarkably well, truly, though I know it feels anything but.

    The only thing I regret about my pregnancy after Ben died is that we never took a photo of me pregnant the third time around. Not one. At the time, we couldn't do it, but now I really regret that.

  33. I can't even read anyone else's comments bc I know I'll just be repeating what most of them say and then won't write anything at all.
    Again, Brooke, you've spoken for me, if not for most (all?) of us. I still look for blood every time, I think I will the whole ride. I had the exact same scenario about a month ago (has it been that long?) and didn't have your ability to follow through with juice and waiting. I was at the office within 30 minutes, making them check. And then I bawled like someone given a second chance at life when she was fine. Maybe the only difference was my cold fear started in my stomach rather than my chest. But as I was driving to the office the day played itself out - calling my husband out of a busy day at work (was there a way not to tell him? To let him have the rest of the day in innocence?), friends/co-workers/family reactions, doing it all over again with even more horrified incredulity on their part... and at the end of all that, the big unanswerable question - Who will I be? Will I call Uncle for this life? Because I barely made it the first time.

    And about enjoying the pregnancy...as you know I've struggled with other factors surrounding this pregnancy, but as I read this I wonder how much of it is simply being the mother of a rainbow child. The guilt for this baby about not feeling the joy, engaging in all the anticipatory activities and dreams that you did with your first. Wondering if doing more will make you feel better or worse, depending on the outcome? What avenue will bring less regret? Will this child always feel the sting of their sibling's death and therein somehow feel 'less than' because we stuggle to separate the two? Or just continue to miss the child we lost so much?
    I read the blogs of other rainbow baby moms, I hang out with a few in my community. For the most part I am assured the living child is not a replacement baby, nor does he/she feel as such. In large part because we parents continue to carve a space designated for the child we lost, rather than trying to find them in the child we have. Still. It's all conjecture and hope until you get there yourself.

    I think all we can do is exactly what you're doing. Be grateful for the chance to parent a living child, grateful for this moment today when you're baby is still moving, when the future still holds hope. Names, diapers, self-education...there's time for all that. Today is about survival and recognition that for all we've been through, we're still here and in the game. Broken, battered, but not yet beaten. Holding on to the hope and healing that surely will come in some measure when these children are in our arms.

  34. Well said. Your expressions of guilt and questioning; the doubt about how to interact with this pregnancy and this baby, it was all so poignant. Why isn't there a correct way? Can't someone tell me how to handle a subsequent pregnancy so that I'll have no regrets regardless of the outcome?