(the feast of St. Andrew the first called)
(Update 7/12/14 – I added some photos of Andrew at the end of the post.)
|6 weeks, 4 days|
This blog will not turn into “all about the baby”. On the one hand, there’s more going on in my life than that and on the other, there are still a lot of people struggling with infertility and loss who would like not to have it in their faces all the time. On the third hand (don’t all mothers have three arms??) there’s not much to say right now anyway. This is frankly more a time of worry and uncertainty than anything. To be honest, I don’t know that I’ve had any moments of happiness or excitement yet. There was only the slightest bit of relief at seeing the heart beating on Tuesday. The measurement was a little smaller than I had expected and likewise the heart rate a little slower than expected. I did get the one picture (which I posted) but there’s every chance that it will be going into a memory box. There’s not going to be a time when I can sigh with relief and say that “all is well now”. I know from losing Innocent at the end of the first trimester that you don’t have to have any signs that anything is wrong to have lost everything. There is no “safe period”. I will be spending the next 7 1/2 months worrying and praying, not nesting and planning.
Please keep us all in your prayers.
Hope is such a powerful thing. One thing I learned as a nurse was not to take away someone’s hope. This doesn’t mean expecting an outcome with blatant disregard for the facts of the matter, but acknowledging that we are humans and cannot know the outcome of any situation. It means that if there is a chance of recovery, then we acknowledge that chance while admitting that the possibility is small. We tell the patient that we will do everything possible to help that small chance become a reality. So, again, I stress that hope is not a blind optimism. [And parenthetically, I have encountered such blind optimism and in every case it was terribly sad because the family was in no way prepared for the eventual poor outcome.]
The risks of miscarriage are larger than people think, largely because miscarriage is kept hidden by the general public. Doctors believe that up to 25% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. That’s 1 in 4! This includes many, many miscarriages that happen before women have even taken a pregnancy test. Indeed, some people believe the total number of all pregnancies lost is closer to 50% or above. Saying that “every baby is a miracle” isn’t an exaggeration at all.
By the time women find out they’re pregnant the risk has dropped to approximately 15%. Obviously, the statistics vary with age, prior medical history, etc. The risks for miscarriage after having had only one miscarriage (with other living children) is no higher than the rest of the population. Having more than one miscarriage raises the chances that the next pregnancy will end in miscarriage, but not by much. Age is also a factor. It is theorized that you have an approximately 10% chance of miscarriage in your 20’s. By the time you are between 35 and 39 the risk rises to 20%. Miscarriage risks also rise with the ingestion of high doses of caffeine, illegal drugs, some prescription drugs, smoking, alcohol, poorly managed chronic illnesses (diabetes, hypertension, etc.) and possibly over-strenuous exercise.
The good news is, the farther along in a pregnancy you go, the lower your risk of miscarriage is. One study showed that the risk of a miscarriage (for women over 36) after seeing cardiac activity on an ultrasound is 15%. After the first trimester the risk drops to approximately 3%.
So given that I am 37, non-smoker, non-drinker, not using caffeine, taking no illegal drugs and only the safest prescribed ones, with no chronic illnesses, good cardiac activity on ultrasound, and having a history of five live births and one miscarriage, what odds do you think the doctor gave me on Tuesday? 10%? 15%? 20%?
And for what reason? Certainly nothing scientific. He acted like it was an affront to his day, my simply being there. He kept talking about “rolling the dice” and my “advanced maternal age”.
I will not be returning to his office. Instead I will be driving to another doctor an hour and a half from here where I know I will receive good care.
I do not expect to be given false reassurances that all will be well. I know that no one knows the eventual outcome but God. But for heaven’s sake, let’s at least not be more pessimistic than the statistics would have us be. How can I trust a doctor who has taken away hope?
The sweetest sound…
…is your baby’s heartbeat. Thanks to my sister Em, I was able to hear it this afternoon on a home-use doppler. The rate was 172. Thanks, Em!!!
(And a HUGE load of worry off my mind!!)
Outside my window…
77 degrees, partly cloudy, off and on breezes from the south, 68% humidity. It feels and smells like spring but it looks like fall. We have the windows open. There’s a possibility of rain later.
I am thinking…
That it sure would be nice to have a porch swing.
I am thankful for…
A husband who pitches in with the dishes
Girls who help around the house
Watching my sons create a city in their room (that takes up the whole floor)
The lovely breeze
Getting to 10 weeks
Books and music
Watching Are You Being Served? while eating 3 meat pizza last night
Not having to get up to take Ribby to school this morning
Although I’m nauseated, I’m not throwing up.
From the learning rooms…
I’m trying not to get too far behind. I was so exhausted last week while I was on my own that it was hard to stay motivated. I really, really want to get the school year completely finished before the baby is due.
From the kitchen…
We’re gearing up for the Nativity fast which starts tomorrow. To be honest, I still have to put together some menus and a grocery list. I was feeling pretty sick this morning and that derailed everything. Food is a love-hate thing right now and I never know what I’m going to be able to eat. I’m having a small dish of cottage cheese with apricot preserves at the moment and my most-craved food has been Subway.
I am creating…
I’m making some Christmas presents for nieces and nephews. Can’t reveal any more or it won’t be a surprise!
I am going…
I’m headed to the doctor’s office this afternoon. The new doctor. I’m hoping they’ll do an ultrasound. I’ve been checking the heartbeat almost every evening so at least I’m not worried I’ll get there and the baby will be dead. It’s not something I ever worried about before, to be sure. My biggest worry is finding out that the hospital is still in the dark ages as far as labor and delivery goes.
I am reading…
I read through five of Chaim Potok’s books in the last several days and A Briefer History of Time.
I am hoping and praying…
For the child Noah. I haven’t heard any updates since my last post. Update as of Monday night.
For multiple pregnant women (Kh. Patty, Elizabeth, Sarah, Trish, Kh. Nicole, and one who is still anonymous)
For my unborn child
I am hearing…
lunchtime chatter at the table
Around the house…
I’m trying to keep my head above water. I haven’t done any decorating or anything lately.
A few plans for the rest of the week…
Duchess’ birthday this week – she’s turning 11.
Shopping for the fast.
The appointment was fine. It was fantastic to see the doctor again (we had a good time catching up) and the baby was fine. I did have an ultrasound and the heartbeat was 160 (good). My official due date is June 6th.
This has got to be one of the cutest pictures I have of a baby this young (10+weeks):
|Look at those little legs and feet! (I think that’s the cord trailing off to the left…)|
|This is a little harder to see, but the head is on the right, the body is on the left
and there is a hand up next to the face.
Top 10 Things I Thought About Today
1. I love Mentholatum. Love it.
2. Washcloths are rougher than handkerchiefs, but you’ll use anything in a pinch.
3. The Hitchhiker’s Guide books weren’t as funny this time around.
4. I hate packing for trips.
5. Naps are a double-edged sword: helpful if you’re exhausted but they leave you groggy and don’t help your nocturnal sleeping pattern.
6. Is it worth it to suffer with only Mentholatum and Tylenol to keep the medication miscarriage risk to zero? Yes it is.
7. You know, I really like some 80’s music.
8. I’d forgotten all about Micky Mouse Disco until Father pulled it up on Youtube. Hahahahaha….
9. I meant to cut my hair, but I’m too tired and feel to bad to care.
10. Twelve weeks tomorrow…
12 Weeks 5 Days
That’s where we are today. That was what Innocent measured when he died.
I don’t think I properly realized the miracle that Innocent was. That something so precious and complex could grow from the union of two cells. Before he died he was kicking, moving around, possibly sucking his thumb. I never got to see it, but it was there. I try not to dwell on it but I wonder from time to time when exactly he died. What happened? Did he struggle? What did he think when he saw his guardian angel?
With this baby, I am in awe every time I find the heartbeat. I slowly move the transducer, marveling that he or she is in a different spot every single time. When I finally lock onto the heartbeat, trucking away at around 155 now, I heave a sigh of relief. I listen for a while. I know exactly what this baby looks like right now, having held the older brother in my hand at the same age. Occasionally I’ll hear thumps and realize I’m hearing kicks. The last few days I’ll be listening and suddenly, without my moving a millimeter, the heartbeat will disappear and I’ll have to move over a bit to find it again. This little one likes to swim. (:
There’s no other way to put this. I couldn’t find a heartbeat this morning with the doppler. We drove up the interstate to the hospital and my doctor confirmed with an ultrasound that the baby died. I last got a heartbeat, a nice strong one, late Tuesday night, so that means the baby almost certainly died yesterday, the feast of St. Andrew. I’m in shock. I feel like this can’t possibly be happening again. My two babies died at the same age. In the event that I haven’t delivered by then I have a scheduled induction Monday the 12th. They have assured me we’ll be able to take the baby home to bury.
Please keep us all in your prayers. This is so hard.
I appreciate all of the prayers and expressions of sympathy. I can’t wake up from this nightmare. I’m trying to internalize what happened but it’s so huge and horrible it just simply doesn’t fit.
I’m making a “to do” list to keep me sane because I’m a list-maker.
1. Order icon of St. Andrew. (done)
2. Make measurement sketch from photos of Innocent – they will be the same size.
3. Make tiny white shroud and cap.
4. Make small flannel blanket in pink (and blue just in case).
5. Shop for casket.
6. Modify casket.
7. Arrange childcare for when in hospital. (friend working on it)
8. Pack hospital bag.
9. Make list of everything I want to do with the baby so I don’t forget in my fogginess.
I’ve decided that I’m not going to let the hospital staff take the baby away out of sight even for a minute. I just can’t trust that they won’t do something to her or not let me have her back. What will they do, arrest me? Personal feelings simply don’t come into play. It just seems much wiser to hold her and not let anyone take her away.
I can’t forget that this is Advent. I can’t forget that the feast of St. Nicholas is next week. My five living children will have a happy Christmas if it kills me. The reason I am going with the induction is so I don’t risk miscarrying on Christmas eve.
I’m sorry this is so incoherent. I’m grateful for all of you, for your support and prayers. I want to let you know what’s going on.
I so badly want this baby to have something pretty. I feel like I did the best I could for Innocent under the circumstances. I was so worried about having an intact body (and not having to go through surgery) that I didn’t do all I could for him. I don’t really feel guilt; like I said, I did the best I could. But there were many times I thought “next time I would do this” even while acknowledging that assuming I would lose another child was rather morbid. I guess you could say I’m benefiting from experience.
I had assumed that babies this small were impossible to dress so I didn’t attempt to make anything for Innocent. Afterward, I was hurt that I had to lay him in his grave “undressed”. I’ve thought about it since and looked at his pictures many times. I decided that I would at least make the attempt to dress this baby.
The flannel gown opens in back and the sleeves are short and wide enough so that I shouldn’t damage her arms trying to get them in. The bonnet is fairly simple. I was afraid to try to make a stocking-type cap because the size would have to really be right and I didn’t want to damage her head.
I’ll take these to the hospital and dress her after she’s born. Everything is white, like a baptismal gown, so if this is a boy it will be fine.
I took the pictures on some of the flannel I’m going to use to make a little blanket.
It really helps to be able to do something for my baby.
It’s dark at 4 AM.
At 8 AM I remember my child is in heaven. At 4 AM I wonder where she is. I wonder where Innocent is. I worry about them crying and not being held. My heart aches. My useless, empty arms ache.
I fell asleep reading last night at 8:00. Father stayed awake as long as he could, afraid I would wake up alone. When I woke up, I wasn’t sleepy. I said the Jesus prayer. I remembered the wonderful woman in Tasmania who promised to keep a candle burning all day every day there until I delivered my baby, because it’s nighttime here when it’s daytime there. That way, if I woke up in the middle of the night I would feel someone praying. It’s true. It was comforting.
At 4:30 I hunted around and found my book light and tried to read. Horrible grief sat at my shoulder, tapping insistently as I read frantically. There’s only so long you can push it away as it gnaws into your spine.
Before 5:00 I gave up and cried. Father woke up.
Thank you, God, for my husband, who held me while I cried, who didn’t offer idle rationalizations, who said, “I know,” when I cried, “It isn’t fair!” Who assured me my babies were happy, had never known one moment of fear, pain, hunger, sadness. I know that, I just need to hear it. A mother’s heart is hard to comfort.
I cried myself out by dawn. Father went back to sleep. I read about children freezing on the prairie in 1888 in one of the worst blizzards in history. Pickles got me up to get him breakfast after 8:00.
My eyes are burning. They haven’t felt right in 2 days. Someone changed the calendar from November to December in the kitchen. I feel like I fell through a time-warp. I read the emails accumulated from last night. I have so many to respond to. I’m grateful for the time each person spent sending them and leaving comments. I remind myself when I note that I’ve lost blog subscribers since Thursday that some people don’t have any more room for pain in their life. I can understand that. I don’t feel like I have room myself.
The day stretches out like eternity. Will I eat today? I don’t know. Father will probably spoon something in if I refuse. He was alarmed when he realized how little I had to drink yesterday and the day before. The knowledge that I could have caffeine out the wazoo is so depressing.
I will probably make the blankets today. I made the gown and bonnet yesterday, can make the blankets today and then…a casket? What am I going to do for the next 9 days? I can’t make diapers, I can’t crochet a layette. I can’t get a bassinet ready.
Waiting is so hard. But I would have cheerfully waited for a different outcome, not this.
It’s striking how many metaphors there are for grief. Storms, tossing oceans, valleys, mountains, roller coasters. One line from the Orthodox Church’s memorial services keeps coming back to mind: “You who have trod the narrow way of grief…”
You who have trod the narrow way of grief;
All you who, in life have taken upon you the Cross as a yoke,
And followed Me by faith,
Draw near, enjoy the honours and celestial crowns I have prepared for you.
After Innocent died I couldn’t help feeling rather shunted aside by the Church. Because my child had not been baptised he would not have a funeral, would not have panikhidas celebrated in church, would not be commemorated among the dead during services. I did come to terms with that and explained it here. The one thing that never failed to comfort me was the set of verses from the memorial hymn above. There have been many memorial services celebrated since Innocent died and at each one I looked forward to this verse. I felt like the Church was comforting ME specifically, acknowledging the pain that I had suffered and still suffer, granting it weight. That in some way there was purpose to the grief I suffered.
I’m feeling that once again. Next week we will lay yet another little still form in the ground. It’s not spring this time. Pascha is not just over the horizon. The only flowers I can gather from the yard are camellias which aren’t pressable (with the exception of the certifiably insane hydrangea in the side yard which has persisted in blooming this week despite weather to the contrary). Once again I will be whispering my baby’s name during the litany of the faithful when it comes time to list the departed, since my babies aren’t technically included.
God hears the cries of my heart. He weeps with me. I happened to read this the night we found out our baby had departed:
[Aslan has asked Digory if he will help rid Narnia of the evil that Digory (unwittingly) brought into it.]
“Yes,” said Digory. He had had for a second some wild idea of saying, “I’ll try to help you if you’ll promise to help my Mother,” but he realized in time that the Lion was not at all the sort of person one could try to make bargains with. But when he had said “Yes,” he thought of his Mother, and he thought of the great hopes he had had, and how they were all dying away, and a lump came in his throat and tears in his eyes, and he blurted out:
“But please, please – won’t you – can’t you give me something that will cure Mother?” Up till then he had been looking at the Lion’s great feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself.–C.S.Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew
As much as I love my babies, God loves them infinitely more. I can’t understand this, just as I can’t understand why they are in Heaven and not with me. I can’t understand lots of things. But I mostly accept that I don’t have to understand, that God doesn’t need me to understand, but to endure and trust.
Humility, Love and the Incarnation
I am so humbled by the number of you who have sent cards and letters, emails, left comments, prayed. I feel like there’s some sort of misconception that I’m this nice person, a prayerful, holy person, and I’m so definitely not. I joke that I’m so far from being on the bottom rung of the ladder of St. John, I haven’t even found the ladder yet. I know you all are my betters. But if pitiful, sinful people weren’t here on Earth then there would be no one for the rest of you to pray for. It’s hard for me to let people do for me, even to pray for me, but I have no choice right now. There are a few times in our lives when we are so beaten down that we have no choice but to let others lift us back up. It’s humiliating, in the theological sense.
This is tangential, but read Nonna’s latest post please. She’s so much more eloquent than I and she expresses things so well. An excerpt:
Christ’s Love is a suffering love… it is compassionate – with passion (in the ancient sense) – it suffers with others, and so bears their burdens. I’ve said it before… Love hurts. It hurts to see people hungry, to see them in pain, to see them dying… When we love someone our hearts are laid bare for them. They will hurt us – whether by words, or deeds (or non-deeds) – by dying, or by suffering in front of us – by misunderstandings, or disagreements – by joys unshared, or expectations unmet… in some way we will be hurt. And that is when we can become more like Christ… it is then our life can live out the truth, “I must decrease, and He must increase.” Real love remembers the Truth beyond the pain… and it realizes the pain is an integral part of the joy. Love is the ultimate “bright-sadness” – as the times of the Fasts teach us…
So, how do we learn this love? We don’t… we live it. And we take the time to stop, to remember… we are to love everyone. Not just those who love us… We are to love the cold-hearted, the uncaring… we must remember that we need them. They are the ones who make us more and more like the One Who is Love.
Thinking about Christmas, the baby in the manger, has made me bitter a few times in the last week. My baby will be in the cold ground by then. But the honest reality of that incarnation is terrible. One of the gifts of the magi was myrrh. The Theotokos, in all of the icons depicting her with the infant Christ, is sad. The spear has already pierced her heart. As mothers we must remember that spear any time a child is conceived. Because on this earth, all life ends in death. But all death ends in life everlasting.
A Christmas Story
I went in the thrift store Tuesday looking for a basket I could line to put my baby in. I didn’t find one. I looked around to see if they had a nice box but they didn’t. I went to the store afterward and got a casket and memory box. While I was at the thrift store I noticed they had a number of Christmas things out, notably some Christmas village houses, the kind with the light inside. I was fairly despondent so I didn’t think about it too much.
Today we were going to be setting up the Christmas tree and putting the lights on. I had given some thought to how I wanted to do some of the decorating. I don’t know how much sense it makes but I wanted to deliberately do something different. Even though we didn’t have either of these babies for a Christmas with us, I had mentally worked them in and felt the need to change things around so I wasn’t thinking so much about how they weren’t here with us. You may remember the mantle I did last year. I suddenly thought about those village pieces and remembered that we had one already. What if I got a few more and did a little village on the mantle? Father said to go back to the store and get them. They were only a few dollars each anyway.
This afternoon I went back to the thrift store. I immediately picked up two buildings that appeared to be in working order. After glancing around I realized that the staff had put out a lot more Christmas stuff since Tuesday. I decided to have a look around. I found two old-fashioned china St. Nicholas figures and put them with the houses. Then I saw it.
A few rows over I saw the back of a stable. It looked just like the one we had when I was growing up. I held my breath and walked around to the other side. It was. It was almost exactly like the nativity stable I remembered. I was just beginning to be sorry there were no figures when my eyes caught sight of a small, decrepit cardboard box next to the stable. I looked inside. Wrapped in fragile brown paper were the figures. I carefully picked through them and realized the whole set was there. And they looked just like the ones we had growing up. I checked the price. Four dollars. I nearly cried right there in the store.
I got it, of course. I brought it home and showed Father. We both thought it was a Fontanini set – the base of each piece said “Italy”. Father checked online and it is indeed a Fontanini, probably from the 1960’s. How it got into the thrift store I’ll never know. They had just put it out and the woman said she hadn’t even looked through the box to see if all the pieces were there.
I’ve wanted one of these for years. We priced them last year but they start at at least $100. The overwhelming feeling I had, standing in the store (irrational or not) was that this was the babies’ Christmas present to me. I wept when I got home and put all the pieces out. The only thing I had wanted for Christmas this year I couldn’t have. But they gave me a Nativity scene.
I’m terribly nervous about tomorrow. I’m going to write a birth plan that includes all of the things we want and DON’T want. We’ll go over our requirement that the baby stays with us at all times. If someone really wants to see if she weighs one ounce or two (how much would she weigh, anyway?) then I’m ok with Father walking her down to wherever they keep the scale, but I think that’s highly unlikely. If they do not accede to that requirement, then we will leave. That’s a hard decision to make, but I don’t make it lightly. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever for the lab to “need” to check the baby in “for a few hours” or even five minutes.
I want to explain about the above picture. I made the gown and bonnet too big and made the mistake of having gathers at the neck. Thus, the neck of the gown comes up almost to his nose and you cannot see his face clearly. This photo has confused some people who were trying to see what a 12-13 week baby looks like. If you go to Lost Innocents and look at the photo section you can see him much more clearly.
Andrew was born after a difficult 11 hour labor. There were problems from the very beginning and it looked as if I’d have to have a D&C to prevent serious blood loss. Thanks be to God, the situation calmed down and things proceeded “normally” for a good while. I wasn’t progressing, however, and we were again worried that a D&C would be necessary. Things picked up and I wound up in hard labor for about an hour and a half before he was born. He was born intact and it appeared that everything was fine. Within about a half hour they realized I was again losing far too much blood and after an examination it was determined that I had retained placenta. Procedures were done at the bedside to correct this – with the help of quite a number of staff – and although I lost a lot of blood, I did not have to have surgery. We were able to spend some time with our son. The staff at the hospital were absolutely superb and I’ll be writing a letter to the hospital administration commending them. They, at the expense of time and trouble on their parts, made all the arrangements so that we could keep Andrew with us at all times until we went home. Because of the complications I had to stay overnight, something for which we had not planned. We got home this afternoon and are both exhausted.
I appreciate the many, many prayers that were sent up in the past weeks and especially yesterday. Thanks to Michelle for keeping everyone updated and for requesting prayers for us at critical times. I also appreciate the many notes of condolence that you all have sent in the mail and by email. I will get around to responding to everyone in time but at the moment I’m too weak to do a good job. Even though you’re not hearing from me, understand that I appreciate and love you all very much.
We’re still grieving and will do so for a long time. Christmas is a hard time to lose a baby. I know you all will continue to keep us in your prayers.
My Little Boy
God, where do you put this much pain?
Are there wells deep enough?
How many pieces of your heart can you rip out before it just stops?
How do you spend the rest of the day after you bury your baby?
What am I supposed to do with this tragedy that has been handed to me?
“How are you doing?”
What does the future hold?
How do you sing Memory Eternal when grief has stolen your voice away?
How do you tell people that you can’t “fix” grief?
How long will it be before I hold my babies again?
I need to take a break from blogging for a while. This has been a terribly hard year, many ups and downs. It’s not going to be good for me to look at everyone else’s pregnancy and baby news on their blogs either. This hurt is running too deep for words.
I appreciate all of your messages of support. They were and are needed and I am very grateful. I hope you all understand my need for a time of silence. This blog will not go away. At some point I’ll compile all of Andrew’s posts into a page called “Andrew’s Story” to complement the one about his brother.
Hug your children tonight. Call people you love. Thank God for your blessings.
I hope each and every one of you has a blessed Advent and Christmas.
|Ornaments from my friend Michelle|
|Ornaments from my sister Rebecca|
Andrew’s birth story is now published on the “Your Stories” page of Lost Innocents.