Mom to Jason
May 5, 2008
Metro Atlanta, GA
My name is Jennifer, and boy am I terrible at pregnancy.
Growing, up, I always said I wanted 6 kids. Younger kids tended to be drawn to me and I really liked them. As I got older, I thought 2 or 3 was more realistic, but there was never a question that I wanted kids. My stepdaughter was 9 months old when I met my husband, and a year old when I met her. I loved having this little girl in my life, even while joking that she was my baby that I didn’t have to work for. We married when she was four, and when she was 5 I found out I was pregnant.
At 10 weeks, on my 29th birthday, I had a miscarriage.
A year or so later, I had my second miscarriage. Chemical pregnancy, whatever. It still sucks and it’s still a loss of hopes, of dreams, of potential.
I was pregnant again fairly shortly after that, and my doctors ran some bloodwork and started me on progesterone. I got out of the first trimester and breathed. I had the easiest pregnancy, I swear. I had morning sickness for a little over a week, grew a cute little belly instead of the 900 pounds I assumed I would gain, and other than about 3 days of back pain until something shifted, I was great. People at work commented that I was such a happy pregnant girl. We were expecting a little girl, to be named Genevieve Elise and called Vivi. At 37 weeks, on a Wednesday, my slowly increasing blood pressure became cause for concern. I was put on partial bedrest (I could work, but only from home), given a just for 24-hour urine collection, and told to come in Monday to turn in my jug and get a non-stress-test.
After increasing panic while they failed to locate the heartbeat with the NST monitors, an ultrasound confirmed that we had lost the baby. I was a little over 2 weeks from my due date. It was May 5, Cinco de Mayo, 6 days before Mother’s day.
I went into panic mode, which for me is really calm and planning. I have read blogs for years, and read some funny women who had dealt with fertility issues and loss since before I even started trying. So I knew I would have to deliver. I knew my milk would come in and asked about preventing that (short answer: the meds have bad side effects, so get an ace bandage and bind the heck out of your breasts). I also asked for a c-section. Call me a wuss, but I could not face pushing, knowing what was at the end. My doctor made me tell him to his face that this is what I wanted, because he didn’t want me to make a totally emotional, rash decision I would regret later. I love him for that, and also he did a great job with the incision which was nice.
I cannot say enough about how wonderful the hospital was. They gave me the usual epidural, as well as Versed, which made my husband comment that he was glad I was knocked out. I wasn’t, but apparently all those sentences I thought I was saying to him were gibberish. I remember everything clearly, including the moment the baby left my body. It’s a feeling I can never put into words, the sudden lack of that weight coupled with the utter silence that followed, the missing cry that should have been there. They put me at the end of the hall, with the angel wings on my door, and other than a night nurse the second night or so (there’s always one), everyone was amazing and kind.
Jason was born on May 5, 2008. Yes, Jason. Turns out Vivi was a boy. Believe it or not, that was the hardest part. My smoky-eyed girl with her straight dark hair that had been in my dreams, that I had grown so attached to, was a boy. And I loved him and held him and still, I grieved for Vivi for weeks before I could face grieving for him. To me they are very separate, distinct losses. It’s like the miscarriage thing – even if you can’t hold them, the potential and plans and love we already had for her were so real, and made her real. And my boy, oh, my beautiful boy, who could have been his father, asleep, with the expression on his face. Photos were taken, arrangements were made, and 3 days later, I left the hospital with a box of blankets, footprints, clothes, keepsakes. I felt like everyone was looking at me, wondering why I had a box and not a baby.
I like information. Even if I don’t like what I hear, concrete facts are comforting. And I am lucky – we were able to construct what likely happened. A blood clot hit the placenta, which caused fetal distress, which caused him to release meconium, which he then aspirated on. About 9 months later, after further testing revealed that I have Hashimoto’s (hypothyroidism, which can cause increased risk of blood clots), the MTHFR gene mutation (which affects absorption of folic acid, which increases risk of blood clots, and a blood factor called Lupus Anticoagulant (which is neither lupus, nor anti-coagulant, it also increases my risk of clotting). In other words, I clot. Any future pregnancy would see me on daily Lovenox injections and strict monitoring.
I had excellent support from work, and through friends and family. My stepdaughter’s mother became one of my closest friends. I reconnected with a half-sister who had been through her own losses (3 of my dad’s 4 children have had fertility issues, it seems). My husband got lost in the shuffle sometimes, but I tried to make sure he was always considered. And my little girl, all 7 years of her, bullied by kids at school who would rather believe she was a liar than accept that babies die. Who tormented her, demanding evidence, like an eyeball. Those days are hazy, but I think a group of first-graders were on the receiving end of the “anger” stage of my grief (through official channels, of course). My baby girl, who had to hear everyone else talking, who filtered it all and came to me with questions. Where I would have been annoyed if her grandmother had directly asked me why we don’t “just adopt” (there is no “just adopting”), when the question issued from my girl’s mouth, it forced me to be patient and loving and honest, which was a gift in itself.
After a lot of soul-searching, I was done. I couldn’t put myself, my husband, or my little girl through this again. Or even the fear that it might happen. I decided that my family was good, we might foster or adopt in the future if we were emotionally ready, and that was that. I was subscribing to the philosophy of the late, great, WC Fields: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it.”
Alex, however, had other ideas. Alex went and got himself conceived despite my best efforts, and then he decided he couldn’t wait to be born, either, since he showed up at 26w5d, 12 inches long and weighing 1lb 10oz, due to Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR) which, from reading his chart, seems to be a byproduct of the MTHFR. After 118 days in the NICU and one tummy surgery, he’s thriving and will shortly be a year old. And when he was in the NICU, the computer monitor next to his bed had Lilies of the Valley as a wallpaper, which is May’s birth flower, also represented in a tattoo on my leg. They’re also called Eve’s Tears, and are supposed to have sprung up from her tears as she was banished from paradise, which I thought was appropriate when I decided on the tattoo. So a fairy tale was born, one I tell Alex often, about how the Little Prince had to leave, and it was so sad, but that his job was to look after the Very Little Prince.
And I got my tubes tied at the same time Alex was born, because seriously. I am awful at this.
You can contact Jennifer firstname.lastname@example.org