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.

20 week anatomy scan, babymoon, & gender reveal

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my 20 week baby bump & the gorgeous view from our room.

Last Thursday, we had our 20 week anatomy scan. The next morning, we were booked to jump on a plane to Hawaii for our babymoon. I had just finished up a big push on a project for work, and I had been looking forward to this appointment and this trip for a very long time.

I arrived at the scan my usual bundle of nerves. Even though through this entire pregnancy, the milestones I felt I needed to hit to feel assured kept getting pushed further and further out (once we hear a heartbeat I’ll feel better, once we hit 10 weeks, once we get to the 2nd trimester….) having a healthy and normal prognosis at the anatomy scan would truly be a heavy weight off my weary shoulders. I couldn’t wait.

The scan went  almost completely perfectly. The baby was moving a lot, covering his face with his arms, hiccuping and fluttering about. All organs looked healthy and the baby is measuring quite big, in the 80th percentile. My cervix was over 4cm and was closed. They confirmed I have an anterior placenta, which disappointed me slightly since I want to be able to feel every little bit of movement as soon as possible. But I was thankful for no real placenta issues to be concerned about.

At the end of the scan, the doctor came in and told us that they saw a “bright spot” on the baby’s heart (technically called echogenic intracardiac focus). Apparently this has no impact on the health or heart function of the baby, but is considered a soft marker for Down syndrome. Because both of my first and second trimester bloodwork had come back so low risk (1 in 21,000), and the doctor did not see any other soft markers for Down syndrome  during the scan, she was not overly concerned, but did offer the MaterniT21 test to us. We decided to do the test, because apparently I’m willing to spend any amount of money in exchange for peace of mind. I’ve gone this entire pregnancy so far with a nagging, unsettling pit in my stomach that at any moment this could all get taken away, and have struggled so much to believe this baby is actually coming.  I didn’t want to spend the second half of my pregnancy continuing to carry those feelings. I wanted to release them and be done.

We left the scan a little unsure what to think, trying our best to reassure each other and keep our concern in proportion to what the actual risks were. The rest of the evening was hectic and included a trip to the emergency vet with my dog (she’s ok) and scrambling to get all our packing done for our trip the next day. But I felt unsettled, dazed, and overwhelmed with concern over my baby and my dog.

We vowed that we would use this vacation to take a break from worry.

It took about a day and a half of relaxing and exploring the beautiful island of Kauai, top down in our jeep with the sun and wind whipping our hair, but I finally released my nagging thoughts and worries and embraced all the things that make me happy and smile these days.

My husband had let the hotel know ahead of time that we would be celebrating our babymoon, so when we arrived we were inundated with congratulations. I was so overwhelmed at how beautiful the St. Regis hotel and the surrounding area was, that by the time we got to our hotel room I had tears of gratitude streaming down my face. I felt so grateful to be in this moment, to finally be celebrating our baby to be, and in the most exquisite way possible. And I felt so grateful for my husband, who spent two years traveling and often putting in grueling 80 weeks, but who’s hard work allowed us to book this extra luxurious vacation entirely on points. I wanted to soak it in and be in this moment forever.

But the next morning was the real pinnacle of our trip. We woke up before sunrise (I woke up at 4am out of sheer excitement) and drove to the east side of the island where the sunrise would be directly over the ocean. In my hand I had the envelope with our baby’s gender inside. I could hardly deal I was so excited. We got to the beach just as the dark started fading into light, and as we stood facing the ocean, I started opening the envelope just as the burning yellow of the sun started to crest the horizon.

We are having a boy!

My husband exclaimed, “I knew it!” and danced around in celebration. I laughed and freaked and hugged my husband. I felt like deep down I had known it too, although I always claimed to have no idea. But I also felt a little bit of shock and disbelief…at how real this was becoming and that I would be a mom to a little boy. I realized that in all my daydreams about become a mom I had inadvertently always pictured a little girl. Maybe it’s because it’s what I know, maybe it’s because I grew up around so many boys and longed for female companionship growing up. To realize I’d be having a boy instead gave me this whole new world to think and fantasize about, and that felt surreal, thrilling, and completely odd all at once.

But I also felt so, so happy.

Having a boy lit a spark for my husband, who is now feeling a connection to the pregnancy in a whole new way. He couldn’t stop talking about his mini-me, and all the activities they will do together, and letting every stranger who walked by know our news.

I also realized how amazing it was to get five undivided days together to process, talk, and daydream about our future son. The rest of our trip was lovely, with poolside reading, exploring beaches and canyons and hikes, complete with indulging in daily Hawaiian shave ice, but the glow of our gender reveal made the trip carry an aura of magic to it.

On our last day, as we stopped for lunch before heading to the airport, I received a phone call from the doctor’s office. Our MaterniT21 results came back normal. I blinked back tears, and had a silent moment of gratitude that I didn’t spend our entire trip twisted and stressed about the ultrasound finding.

Our little boy is healthy as can be.

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holding the envelope with the gender inside!

 

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it’s a boy!!

 

that gorgeous sunrise

that gorgeous sunrise we’ll never forget

16 weeks, 2 days

I’m in the very surreal land of the second trimester. And it feels amazing.

The first trimester really beat me up. I struggled with 24/7 nausea, vomiting frequently, intense fatigue, and constantly feeling like I was coming down with the flu. And on top of the physical effects was the constant worry that something would go wrong, that it would all get taken away. I grappled with the love/hate relationship I had with my morning sickness. In my head I knew I was forever grateful for this desperately wanted pregnancy, and the assurance the nausea brought. But emotionally and physically I was spent. I had thoughts that I was ashamed to have given how hard I fought to get here. Thoughts like, “I don’t like this.” “How will I ever get through this again to have a second child?!” And, “This. Totally. Sucks.” I tried my best to squash those thoughts and not give them space in my mind, even though I knew they were there. I always imagined I would love pregnancy, and I would have 9 months of total bliss, rubbing my beautiful belly and cherishing every moment. I thought that surely nothing could feel bad enough to bring me down from the high of being pregnant.

Instead, I ended up feeling so sad that I wasn’t enjoying it, that it was nothing like I thought, and I worried my nine months would be so rough I would never feel the bliss.

And then the second trimester came to my rescue. It eased my nausea, fatigue and my fears. I still feel pregnant, with sporadic aches and pains, and I still fall into bed every night, bleary-eyed and heavy with exhaustion, only to lie awake in the middle of the night after the 4th trip to the bathroom.  And although it feels like my nausea is mostly gone, I don’t quite remember what it feels like to have a completely non-queasy stomach. All I know is that I feel so much better. And any symptoms I have now are completely tolerable. I’m feeling like myself again. 

They say you end up with amnesia about how hard pregnancy and child birth are, and that is why women have the courage to have multiple children. I already can’t remember what it felt like to be so horribly nauseous all the time. I keep thinking it couldn’t have been that bad, and next time I’ll be so much tougher, the nausea won’t bother me as much. Lies I’m already telling myself, and believing, and it’s making me feel like already I can’t wait to do this all again. And again and again (if I am so lucky).

The second trimester has brought me some bliss. Some optimism. Some calm.

Last weekend I finally decided to buy some maternity jeans. The bloat/bump combo I’m sporting has made my regular jeans too small, and I find that the belly band I bought is so tight it makes me stomach hurt. My husband came with me and sat and watched as I tried on my first pair. I looked at myself in the mirror in these new jeans, my baby bump shyly poking through my sweater, and I smiled.

“I think…we might actually be having a baby,” I said slowly, in awe, to my husband.

“I know!” he responded, laughing. “You’re the only one who doesn’t realize that yet!”

I’m starting to realize it. Slowly, on my own time, I’m starting to embrace it, even though I’m also painfully aware there are never any guarantees. I had a prenatal check up last week, and everything looked good, baby’s heart steadily beating at 145 beats a minute. The appointment was so easy, so routine.

It is all starting to feel just a little more real. And that feels….so surreal.

crawling slowly to the 2nd trimester

Everything has been going well with the little babe. But it’s been over a week since the last scan, so my nerves and fears and paranoia and anxiety is back.

We had the NT scan last Thursday at the Perinatal Diagnostic Center. The sweet ultrasound tech, named Carlos, performed the scan, taking his time and explaining what he was doing the entire time. The nuchal fold measured less than 1mm (anything under 3mm is considered low-risk). He went on to check the basic anatomy of the baby, assuring us that all looked good. He checked to make sure there were two legs and two arms. He showed us the baby’s hands and together we counted all ten fingers. He measured the crown to rump length and we saw the baby was measuring 5 days ahead with a heart rate of 174. He tapped my belly to get the baby to move around and into the positions he needed to take all his measurements. At one point, the baby fell asleep, and so he gave my belly a few small thumps to wake him/her up from its snooze. The baby woke up, moved around a bit and then…began rubbing its eyes.

My husband and I melted. It was such a human response.

As the ultrasound tech continued to take various measurements, he stopped to point out to me that my uterus was contracting. We could see the contractions on the ultrasound and it was blocking images of the baby that the ultrasound tech needed. He told me contractions were normal and would probably subside within a few hours, and that it can sometimes happen if the mother is overly tense or anxious.

My eyes filled with tears. Which doesn’t take much these days.

I know it’s normal to be anxious at a scan like this, but anything that reminds me that I am overly tense or anxious reminds my of why I’m feeling this way. And then I feel vulnerable, damaged, and weepy.

When the ultrasound tech realized that I was so nervous, he started trying to assure me, in his sweet calm way, that everything he was seeing so far was really good. My husband squeezed my hand. 

And even my anxiety couldn’t stop me from grinning ear to ear watching our little babe on the screen, moving all around, dancing, and being adorable.

When the scan was over, the doctor came in to talk to us about the results of our blood test. She said our results came back with the lowest risk for downs syndrome she had seen in a really, really long time. She said she had just been in the hallway marveling at the results with the other nurses. My husband and I just stared at each other with stunned happiness. I felt like I had just won a prize. But whenever I get good news, I immediately think of my friends and readers and fellow bloggers who perhaps have not gotten that same good news recently, and I feel guilty. At the same time I feel so happy and relieved, my heart also breaks a little. In those moments, I feel so close to the pain and heartache that so many others have felt, and that I have felt so many times before.

And once again, the confidence I felt that day, after seeing a strong baby and receiving good test results, has slowly faded over the last week. Even though we have made it so far and are so close to making to the 2nd trimester, a place I’ve been desperately seeking for so long, I still feel the same uncertainty as I did when I first got that positive test. I know if it were anyone else I would have no doubts at this point that they would be holding their healthy baby in about six months. But I still feel so vulnerable, so scared that some way and some how this baby will still get taken away from me.

I have to remind myself everyday of all the positive news we’ve received over the last two months, all the statistics that are in our favor, and that at no point has our baby given us a reason to think he/she is not a fighter and a surviver.

And today, I am 13 weeks pregnant.

After 22 months, 3 positive pregnancy tests, 2 miscarriages, 2 surgeries, 1 D&C, 5 doctors, and countless tests and procedures, I have finally completed my very first twelve week eternity.

For that I am filled with awe and gratitude. And as always, keeping hope.