*For those still struggling with infertility or are early in their pregnancy/infant/child loss journey, please know that this post contains information about a new pregnancy and ultrasound pictures.
Today is a very important day for us, a milestone day. Six weeks ago we announced to our Facebook tribe of friends, family and colleagues that we are expecting a son this year. In a few short sentences we tried to express that this little boy was the remaining embryo from the IVF that gave us our twins. The announcement came one day before he reached the same gestation that we lost them … unplanned but significant I suppose.
It’s significant because this little boy is being carried after a loss - a major, life-altering, still aching loss. And while we don’t identify with the term ‘rainbow baby,’ because he was created with the twins before they were gone, it is the current cultural term to describe a pregnancy after loss – a rainbow pregnancy.
I’ve written a few posts to try to describe pregnancy after loss, each one rambling longer than the next, before I realized I don’t know how to describe it just yet. There is a powerful colliding of emotions, a squishing of contradictory feelings that ruminate daily in my heart. I’m sorting it out. Living it now. That’s why I haven’t posted in several months. I’ll save the ramblings to sort through later.
This was what our FB announcement said: "We are cautiously excited to announce that we are expecting a baby boy this June! This little guy is Finnian and Maisie’s triplet, our frozen miracle of science and prayer. We are so hopeful that we get to hold this extra special baby and believe he is already carrying the spunk, spirit, and love of his brother and sister. We will take all the prayers, positive energy, or any way you might lift us up for a safe pregnancy. Come on 2017, we need a win!"
In addition to learning how to navigate the roller coaster of a rainbow pregnancy, we are in the midst of a very complicated high-risk pregnancy. For all the mamas out there who managed through high-risk pregnancies – I salute you. No, that’s not enough - I admire the hell out of you. Because a high-risk pregnancy has it’s own colliding, squished emotions that pull you outside the normal pregnancy experience and force you to quietly fight for the life your body is just supposed to know how to grow.
We have been on careful watch this pregnancy since it still incredibly unclear why our twins were born early. We knew I went into pre-term labor because I contracted and delivered, but we have no idea what exact sequence of events led us there (we have great doctors though and have been working off theories to manage the care of this pregnancy). Our first trimester was riddled with episodes of bleeding and threatened miscarriages due to a hematoma. Our second trimester began with the revelation that I have an irritable uterus that painfully and frequently has spells of pre-labor type contractions. We have been attending weekly doctors appointments and ultrasounds to check that these contractions do not cause my cervix to begin the labor process. Two weeks ago, my cervix did shorten and we wasted no time getting in to surgery and sewing it closed.
So why is today a milestone? A big, important day for us? Because today we have reached medical viability at our hospital. Some hospitals require 1-2 more weeks of gestation, but we picked the one with the most advanced NICU. We picked the one that has the knowledge, equipment and resources to take a baby born 18 weeks before their due date.
Today, if my son is born, they will try to save him. He is considered “viable” to live outside of my uterus. This moment washes over me with immense relief that collides and squishes under the weight of losing our twins so early. When they handed me our daughter, Maisie, she was alive. I stared at her heart pounding, knowing she wanted desperately to take a breath. And I searched the room for anyone to help her and they could not. They could not because she was too early to survive without me. No equipment could help her fragile lungs.
It was this moment that I recounted while I laid on the surgery table for my cervix. Numb from the waist down and exposed to a room of scrub-clad doctors and nurses, I told their story. I let the tears slide down my cheeks and puddle by my face while I begged them to please get me to viability. I tried desperately to impress that this little boy that I am carrying is more important than any other baby because of what we went through with his brother and sister. My medical professionals were fighting for me … but I needed them to know what the battle was for and why. I needed them to know that I am willing to do absolutely anything I can to get him here, and I need their help.
We are here now. 22 weeks. And the reality is, he needs a lot more time. We are still hoping and praying he makes it a lot longer. But we are also realistically preparing for what happens if he comes prematurely. Each week is a new goal. Each week increases his survival chances and decreases his risk of long-term health struggles.
Each day I feel him kick more. Each week I see him on the ultrasound, perfectly formed, happy and heart-thumping. Every time I am filled with immense joy and love for this little boy. Every time I imagine the twins reaching the same moments. It’s messy.
I’m laying on the couch with my feet in the air the majority of the day just to keep him in. Often perusing Facebook to see how my friends are tackling their careers, advocating for political change, nurturing their young families, and advancing their studies. And I put all those things on hold for myself. Because right now, feet in the air, I am fighting the hardest battle I’ve ever fought and he is so worth it. He has always been viable to me.
Hello friends, I took a hiatus from writing last month but have received several recent encouragements to get started back.
We traveled at the beginning of September and then took the rest of the month to settle into our new reality – which is actually a non-changed reality - A reality in which we do not have to figure out how to juggle two newborns and all their needs. Our house is still quiet. That’s the thing about infant loss or pregnancy loss. On the outside your life seems unchanged, but you were planning for major changes. And when they don’t come … you just feel lost. Lost and sad and quiet and kinda lacking purpose.
There is an old Patty Griffin song that I used to play on repeat: Making Pies. The song has a sweet somberish sound with an undertone of bravery. The lyrics tell a story of a woman making pies instead of caving into her grief (at least that’s how interpreted it). My favorite line “You could cry or die or just make pies all day. I’m making pies.” Oh Patty, me too.
I have actually, literally, started making pies. I'm staying at home during the day and often baking a pie. I’m fortunate enough that my husband is able to take care of our living needs – so I’m “breaking” from school and work. The advice to take a step back from social work while I try to recover makes absolute sense. My work and study require my heart to be strong, it requires me to put my pain on hold so that I can hold someone else’s pain. (Side note: Hug a social worker if you can. There is not shortage of self that they are giving in their work.)
I can’t give that right now. Some days I want to – I miss working. I miss helping others. I’m bored a lot of the time. I actually cannot remember a time in my life where I haven’t worked, volunteered, or gone to school in some time consuming combination. But, I’m forcing myself to recover, to gently glue the pieces of my heart back together so it can hold. I’m also working on gluing those pieces together so we can hopefully open our hearts again. In the process I think I can learn to be better in my work …
Also, I think I am becoming a better human. Loss does that. It breaks us and forms us and builds us. Strange, but true. I wouldn’t pick it though. But unfortunately, I can’t unpick it now.
The truth is, I still cry a lot. I spent a lot of life being strong. I spent a lot of the last decade and a half standing up to the pain of loss. I spent a lot of hours being bigger than my grief. But losing my babies … it was just cratering in a way that I can barely put words to. I feel so incredibly broken inside. But also, I feel full. Broken and full. Love does that – makes us bigger.
In the healing space, I’m practicing holding both things: love and pain. It’s true of all loss though isn’t it? We learn to hold the weight of our love and our pain. We practice over and over until we are recovered. I don’t expect to fully recover until this life is over, but recovery is a lifelong thing any way. At least that’s what I would tell a client … so I’m gently telling myself. Every day, every step, a little closer. The bravery is in letting both things exist (love and pain) without feeling like you have to get rid of either to be healing.
So in the meantime, I’m making pies. It takes time, concentration, and I feel good about the outcome. When I need an hour or so to escape – I’m putting my hands in the dough, stirring the raspberrys or apples or cream or peanut butter (for Dad), or pecans (for Mom) and appreciating the ability to make something.
I didn’t cook or bake much before we lost the babies. So I’m learning this as I go. It’s new. It’s yummy. My husband loves it. I’ve picked up a couple other hobbies/self care activities too, but this is his favorite.
“I could cry or die or just make pies all day. I’m making pies.”
I’m interested to hear what new thing you began after your loss? Did you make something? Create something? Or start doing something different? Change an exercise routine? Please share … maybe it will inspire another griever with something that they could try while learning to live this new life after loss. Feel free to post a comment here or on the blog Facebook page: Facebook.com/lossandlife
Hi, I'm Tiffany. I believe in the power of stories to connect us to each other. I write about life after loss and all the love, longing, and learning that comes from it. Grief is big, love is bigger. My newest stories are about motherhood (after both infertility and loss). In my experience, love doesn't get bigger than motherhood.
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