Immediately after learning I was pregnant, my husband and I shared an awkward “What have we just done” hug and I had to head to a dentist appointment. My head was reeling.
I walked in to the office and the receptionist said, “We’re planning on doing some x-rays this time. Is there any possibility you might be pregnant?”
Oh my God. My jaw dropped open. “Uh. Actually, yes. I’m pregnant,” I said quietly. “I just found out.”
At that moment hundreds of balloons fell from the ceiling. A marching band came out of nowhere while women twirling batons dropped everything to throw me up in the air in a blanket. Not really, but everyone in the office pretty much lost it. Smiles all around. A thousand congratulations. “When are you due??” I didn’t even know. “January, right?” In all the excitement of others, I prayed they wouldn’t ask if it was my first, or second, or third. Thankfully no one did. In all of their genuine well-wishing, I could only think of one thing: But my son is dead.
A friend of mine who also lost a child, a woman I met after I started this journey, said something to me before I got pregnant. “Let me know if you decide to get pregnant again. It’s no picnic.” Sweet Jesus, was she right. I will tell you without reservation that becoming pregnant does nothing to take away the grief. You’re racked with guilt for even trying to have another child. You’re consumed with worry that something will be wrong with the pregnancy. You’re terrified of what others will think of you for trying to put your life back together. And the final, overwhelming feeling was denial, so much so that I couldn’t actually fathom that this was real. I was actually carrying a baby, and it wasn’t Jay.
At 13 weeks we went to have our nuchal translucency scan to check for birth defects. I pulled into the parking lot and had a flashback to 2 years ago, almost to the day, when I drove over to get the same scan for Jay. I recalled the funny female doctor who walked into the office, took one look at the screen and told us she saw a third leg. We were so happy to have a boy.
I am not going to lie. My first hope was that the baby was healthy. My second hope was that it was a boy. It’s what i knew. What would two girls be like? It seemed so foreign, but maybe that’s what we needed. Maybe something completely different was what was best for us. This lab is fantastic. I knew this same doctor would be able to call it this early.
The scan went fine. She gave us preliminary results based on the previous blood work I completed weeks ago. “The baby looks great. We don’t recommend any more testing. The numbers are even better than what’s considered normal for your age. Did you want to know the sex?”
God yes. “Sure, can you tell?”
“Let’s take a look.” The baby’s legs were spread wide open. “Alright. You see that right there? That’s what we call two balls and a stick.” This lady really has her one-liners down. It was a boy.
I had started showing at around 10 weeks. Once you get to three kids, your body just goes full throttle with the bloating. Your uterus swells to six months pregnant immediately. Parents at my daughter’s preschool kept glancing at my stomach. They wanted to ask. I said nothing. My coworkers knew I was pregnant just by looking at the way my body was rapidly changing each week. I said nothing to them for ages. They didn’t ask and I was eternally grateful for that. No Facebook posts, ever. No emails to people. As far as I was concerned, one day I’d show up with a baby. I couldn’t discuss it. I couldn’t bubble up with excitement when my son was dead. But every day that went by, I fell more in love with this little person inside me. In the middle of this horrible grief was a constant, wiggling reminder that Life happens, too.
We told our daughter at 17 weeks. At this point it was impossible to hide. I was huge. She was pretty much the only person who had no clue I was pregnant. She must have been in as much denial as I was. We went to get an ice cream one afternoon and decided to tell her. She was completely stunned. She stood there as strawberry ice cream slowly dripped from her cone down her hand and stared at me for what seemed like forever.
“Is this for real? Do you really have a baby in your tummy? Is this for real life?” She asked over and over, and we confirmed over and over.
“How do you feel about it?” I asked.
“Well, I’m happy. But also a little nervous.” I was impressed by her ability to consciously hold both these things.
“Are you nervous because you’re afraid of losing this baby, too?”
Yea, baby. Me too. The due date is very soon. The anticipation of meeting him is enormous. My births are always filled with a healthy amount of drama. Not dilating, cord around neck, uterine infections, meconium madness; I’ve seen it all. I don’t know what this one will bring, but I’m not too optimistic for a trouble free birth, although I hope so much for it. I hope with everything I have that he’s healthy. And I wish with all my heart that I could have all three of my children with me.
Sometimes when I wake up at night, the reality of the last 11 months is too much. My brain can’t process the pain, nor can it process that I’m about to give birth. I get so scared that this life, my life, could actually happen. I wish I could tell you that eventually I chill myself out and I can get back to sleep believing things will one day be OK. But I don’t. Instead, the only thing that helps me calm down is this thought: This isn’t real. He’s not dead. This didn’t happen.