38 weeks, 4 days

I’m almost to the end.

I’m almost to the end of a pregnancy that went incredibly fast and incredibly slow. A pregnancy that was emotionally difficult, yet almost completely uneventful. A pregnancy that we longed for and that I’m reluctant to say goodbye to, but also can’t wait to be over. And I feel calm, panicked, excited, terrified, happy, sad, apprehensive, and impatient all at once.

Just 10 short days until our due date.

And I can’t wait to meet our little guy. I can’t wait to see that he has safely made it into the world. I can’t wait to be done with all the pregnancy worries I’ve carried for so long; monitoring movement, wondering if he’s ok, panicking at thoughts of the worst case scenario happening. I can’t wait to hold him in my arms. I tear up when I think about going into labor, although I try to convince myself it’s not because I’m afraid (“It’s not ’cause I’m a wimp!” I tried to tell my husband, wiping my eyes), but just because I feel so overcome with the emotional intensity of it all.

And then there’s part of me that is sad to no longer be pregnant anymore. I waited for so long, I wanted it for so long, I fantasized about it for so long. I feel so mixed about it being over.

Tuesday was our 3rd wedding anniversary. Exactly two years ago to that day we got our first positive pregnancy test. So interesting to have our anniversary punctuate a beginning and an end to this particular fertility journey. Despite the struggle in between, I can look back on these anniversaries fondly, as happy times, as times of great anticipation, and feeling so excited and connected as a couple.

And of course, feeling like there is another huge adventure in front of us…

a healing heart

our beautiful baby shower.

our beautiful baby shower.

Our baby shower was last weekend. It was hosted by my godmother, sister-in-law, and mom, and we chose to make it co-ed. And it was exquisite. Held in my godmother’s backyard, late on a sunny California afternoon, they had an impeccable spread of upscale Mexican food and sweets, and a bartender serving sangria, margaritas and mocktails. So many of our friends and family came out, including many that traveled in for the weekend to celebrate with us. The day felt so loving, magical, and surreal.

As I tried to take in and savor each moment, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the baby shower I threw for my sister-in-law exactly a year ago. A year ago, when I was still in so much pain, but trying with everything I could to focus on the happiness I felt at the little boy that my family was gaining, and not on the babies I had lost. I wanted desperately to feel joy for my brother and for my parents, and the little steps I took in that direction felt monumental. So many moments I thought I was okay, and tried to convince myself that I was okay. So much pressure that I put on myself to be okay. But looking back now, I can see so clearly how much pain I was in, and how much more I had to go to heal.

At our shower the two little boys who shared the due dates of my two angels, my nephew and my best friend’s son, were together in front of me for the first time. It felt odd to see them together, and although I tried not to think about it, I felt a tug to my heart. The next morning, I woke with my two angel babies on my mind, and in the afterglow of such a beautiful party, I felt a sadness for them. They never had the opportunity to be celebrated in this way.

But, despite those reminders, what really struck me was how much my heart had healed.

At the same time that this pregnancy has been a long road of tangled emotions where I’ve been forced to face past trauma, confront fears, and search for elusive bits of equanimity, it has also been healing. Every day, as I’ve been working through these emotions, I’ve been working on finding peace and closing a chapter. Even where I still struggle, I know I’ve made progress. I still flinch at unexpected pregnancy announcements on Facebook. I still make assumptions that others have had an easier path to a baby than me, and I still let it sting. I still tear up at the word ‘miscarriage’, in any context, whether it’s a personal story, a brief mention in a TV show, or a magazine article. I still hold my breath at every prenatal appointment, as my OB searches for my boy’s heartbeat.

But I’ve also learned how to acknowledge these moments without letting them tear me apart. I can acknowledge the pain, without carrying the pain so deeply. I can see my nephew and my best friend’s son playing together in the yard, let it remind me of my own angel babies and spend a moment reflecting on them, and then smile that my nephew and my best friend and so many others have gathered around to celebrate the baby I will soon get to meet. I can reflect on the shower I threw a year ago, and remember the pain without seeping in the pain. I can feel in these moments how far my heart has come in its journey to mend, and how my identity is shifting. I no longer walk around with a swirling sensation of loss and defectiveness, but rather I feel like someone capable of creating life with a near effortless pregnancy.

Our baby shower felt like such a beautiful expression of love; for my husband and me, for our unborn baby, for the family we are creating. Surrounded by so many of the same people who rallied and supported us during our dark days, they were now there to celebrate our happiness. Days like our baby shower help us bask in the joy, and help us feel that no matter the struggle and the hardships we face, the universe will ultimately be good to us.

And the fight is so worth it.

30 weeks

I’ve spent the last two years with an almost singular focus: making it to the second trimester. Of course there were the mini-goals along the way; trying to get pregnant each time, getting through surgeries, waiting through cycles as my body healed from large cysts and lost pregnancies. And then there was the obvious larger, looming goal of simply having a healthy baby. But always there was an elusive land that I wanted to get to, and for many, many months everything I did was aimed at getting me to second trimester-ville.

It almost never occurred to me that one day I might find myself in the third trimester. The third trimester seemed so incredibly far away and out of reach, I didn’t even dare imagine it. But two weeks ago I arrived. 

While dealing with infertility and pregnancy loss, your world revolves around one common theme. Uncertainty. The constant swirl of looming questions in your head, “will I ever have a baby?” “when will I get pregnant?” “will this pregnancy stick?”, never go away. As someone who likes to plan and finds safety in knowing what to expect, I became surprisingly comfortable living in constant uncertainty. I somehow started finding safety in that, for if I stayed uncertain perhaps I wouldn’t attach to a particular outcome, or become disappointed or heartbroken with any one turn of events. 

And so when I got pregnant, I stayed uncertain. Partly out of habit. Partly out of fear. I felt a lot of emotions, including hope, happiness, anxiety, and terror, but never certainty. And I’ve clung to that uncertainty throughout my pregnancy. Although I started going through the motions of preparing for a baby and speaking in certain terms long ago, on the inside I had yet to feel like it was anything close to a sure bet.

That has started to shift for me. As my baby boy has grown, and I’ve gotten to know him well through his jabs and flips and by him simply just existing along side of me moment after moment, month after month, I started to believe in him. I started to find that if I had thoughts of doubts about the outcome of this pregnancy, I immediately felt a twinge of guilt. As if I didn’t believe in my baby boy, and in his ability to be strong and to survive. If I stayed in an uncertain place, I felt like I was undermining and betraying him. I started to find it harder and harder to doubt him. And although I openly express worry and anxiety, especially when he takes a rest from his karate chops and high kicks and goes quiet, I find it almost impossible to vocalize words like, “if” and “we’ll see.” Words I used to live by. 

Since this shift happened so late in my pregnancy, I feel like I am suddenly on a truncated timeline of processing what is about to happen: my shift to motherhood. There is a surrealism to this change that I think all pregnant women experience, regardless of fertility history, that makes the idea hard to truly grasp. But when so much of your energy during your pregnancy has been spent on navigating previous pregnancy trauma, there is little left for looking forward and truly internalizing this shift. I’m starting now, at 30 weeks, to begin embracing this change and shift in my identity; to think about what it means, and try to understand what’s ahead.

I’m thankful that this pregnancy has been so uneventful. My boy has given me no reasons to worry. My body has given me no reasons to worry. Once I surpassed the harrowing first trimester, I’ve had very few symptoms, save a burgeoning belly, some late night aches and pains, and an insatiable desire for cake. My prenatal appointments have been quick and routine; my fundal height growing exactly on pace and my boy’s heart rate always around a steady 140 beats per minute. 

I am grateful. And although I’ll always worry about my boy’s well-being, I believe in him, and I have started looking forward to the much desired inevitable: becoming a mother to this sweet baby boy who’s been loyally with me for the past 30 weeks. 

where i am taken when i’m asleep

*trigger warning*

I love waking up and remembering. No matter where I’ve been taken throughout the night – from the surreal to the whimsical to the horrors of loss and blood and hospital walls – I get to wake up and remember.

I’m still pregnant.

They say that your dreams are more vivid while pregnant. Perhaps due to just how much change is imminent in our awake-life, and how much our psyches are processing this shift into motherhood. Or perhaps it simply has to do once again with the pregnancy hormones that have made themselves at home in our bodies. My dreams take me for a wild ride every night, and every morning I am so thankful I get to wake up to this reality.

In the beginning, I had repeat dreams of being on roller coasters I wasn’t supposed to be on because I was pregnant. Dreaming of roller coasters was likely a humorous side-effect of being married to a man who works for Disney and taking one too many trips to Disneyland. But it was also an obvious metaphor for the ride I was about to embark on, and all the complicated feelings that accompany it after repeat pregnancy loss. The rides symbolized the loss of control I felt, and the fear that I would make the wrong decisions and jeopardize it all. Each night, I would find myself on a ride I thought was safe, only for it to speed up and take jarring turns and drops and I’d find myself screaming and clutching my belly and not knowing how to keep my baby safe.

Soon the roller coaster dreams faded and the loss dreams started. A few times a week, I would miscarry in the night. I would see blood, I would rush to the hospital, I would find out the pregnancy was over, that my baby was gone. Each dream formed it’s own heart-wrenching plot, but the ending was always the same. My heart would shatter and I would feel the same broken emotions that had been so familiar to me in my awake-life. The relief when I would wake up was so intense it would take my breath away. The realization would wash over me, swaddling me, like a warm blanket on a cold, shivering night: it was only a dream, I still have my baby, this is not like the others. I would instinctively clutch my belly for proof.

These loss dreams continued for weeks and weeks until they culminated in a dream that shook me so hard I woke up in the middle of the night sobbing. I dreamt I had been taken to the hospital. I can’t remember why or how I got there, but I found myself in a room surrounded by doctors and nurses. Somehow, without me knowing it and without my consent, the doctors decided to transplant my baby into the womb of another woman. They decided without my knowledge that the baby would have a better chance of survival with someone else. When I realized what had happened, I felt an indescribable shock as I realized my belly was empty; that where I thought my child lay safely was actually barren and hollow. Both literally and figuratively gutted, I started screaming. I felt shame and horror and heartbreak. I felt unworthy. I felt helpless and broken. And most of all, I felt anger. As a normally quiet and reserved person, I took on a new persona, and started yelling aggressively at the doctors, the nurses, and the woman with my child, one by one, demanding to know how this could happen. Just as I imagine I would do in my real life, should my child ever be in danger.

And then I learned, the baby would not survive.

The baby could not survive in the womb of another woman. And we watched as the heart rate monitor slowly dropped.

I woke up in the middle of the night with a gasp, and cried. I couldn’t shake the horror of all the emotions I had just so intensely experienced. I couldn’t shake the horror of all the emotions that I’ve experienced in my real life that had just haunted me in the form of a cruel dream. My heart stayed broken for the rest of the night, as I tried to nuzzle my way back to sleep, safe in the arms of my husband, safe in the realization that it was just a dream.

As I tried to process the dream the next day, I knew I could see the dream in two ways. As a broken woman, who felt unworthy of motherhood and damaged from the trauma of prior losses. Or I could realize what this dream was trying to tell me. That this baby belongs to me, and only I can keep him safe. Because I am his mother.

Soon after that dream we had our 20-week anatomy scan and since then I haven’t had another loss dream. I hope that continues, and that instead I’ll soon be dreaming of holding my sweet boy.

But still every morning, the joy of waking up remains the same. No matter where I’ve been taken in the night, every morning I get to remember. I’m still pregnant.