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So, what happened to August? The last thing I remember is bemoaning August’s seemingly never-ending existence. And now we’re nearly two weeks into September. How did that happen?

I don’t even remember the last time I posted here. And I’m not going to go back and look, because it honestly doesn’t matter. I needed a break. I started a lot of posts but never got very far with them because I never really knew what to say or if I even had anything to say. I spent most of the last couple weeks of August just trying to deal with every day life.

There was the week our AC went out. That was fun, if you have a rather skewed idea of the word “fun.” August was a hot, hot month, and we spent most of it slightly over the 100° mark. The two and a half days we did not have AC were not exempt from the hot, dry temperatures. The worst was probably the two nights we spent lying in bed, sweating so much and giving off so much heat that we couldn’t stand to touch each other.  We ended up having to sleep downstairs in the living room on the fold-out couch, the oscillating fan going at full blast and the windows opened. The AC went out on Monday evening (too late for any repairs to be done, of course), got it back Wednesday afternoon, and didn’t have it fully fixed until Friday early evening. Fun week.

And then we developed an ant problem. Well, we had a semi-problem with ants before that, in that we had a couple of mounds in the yard, but we didn’t have a major problem with them coming into the house, only the odd stragglers who found their way in. But, the night we had the sliding glass door open just made it too easy for them to march in and attempt to steal away the cat food, which I didn’t realize was kept so tantalizingly close to the door. I moved the food into the kitchen and sprayed both the inside and the outside, but at least one colony had invasion on its mind, because they kept coming back even though there was nothing left for them to eat. So, that weekend, we went out and bought some ant-killer. It took two sprayings, but the yard now seems to be ant-free.

And then there’s Niko. We are still undecided about a name, so she’ll probably be known as Niko until she decides to make her arrival. We aren’t fussing too much about the name – she’ll get one when the time comes, and until then, there’s no rush. We’d still be calling her Niko anyway.

I named this post “twenty-seven weeks,” but the truth is that I’m closer to twenty-eight weeks now. Which means that we are at the brink of the third trimester. And I am so glad.

I can’t say that I really enjoyed the second trimester. Yes, I felt good physically. In fact, there were days when I felt so good that pregnancy didn’t seem that bad. Physically speaking. Mentally and emotionally, the second trimester has taken its toll, and I’m not expecting the third trimester to be any better. You see, with the second trimester comes that much-loved sensation of feeling the baby move for the first time. I first felt Niko move around week eighteen, and I’ve been feeling her pretty consistently since about week twenty. It’s both wonderful and terrifying. Wonderful because she’s alive and active, and terrifying because, in my experience with pregnancy, that doesn’t last.

It’s hard to explain to people who don’t know what it feels like to be aware that your baby isn’t moving anymore. Kick counts aren’t even suggested until the 28th week, and there’s nothing that can be done for the baby before the 24th week anyway. But that’s rational, and the babylost don’t always work on rational feelings. I panicked the first time Niko had a quiet day. It was a day that made me realize how glad I was to have chosen to work with midwives, because they let me come in and have a heart-tones check, and when her heartbeat showed up immediately, the midwife helped me calm down and listened to me and assured me that this was perfectly normal for someone who is in my situation. So not only did I feel relieved that Niko was perfectly alright, I was glad that I wasn’t treated like a crazy, overly sensitive pregnant woman. Because I do feel like that sometimes.

I am hyper-aware of what Niko is doing. Lauren’s movements were always normal up until the end, but sometimes I wonder how attuned to her I must have been if I spent so much time questioning myself and my instincts. So I’m vigilant about keeping track of Niko. Especially now. Because, yes, I am still terrified that I will wake up one day and realize that I haven’t felt her move in a while. We’ve rented a doppler to at least be able to hear her heartbeat when we need reassurance, but I know that movements are what’s most important. More than once a day, I lie down on the couch and see how long it takes me to feel her move. Most of the time, it doesn’t take long at all – she is quite active. Sometimes, it takes a little orange juice to get her going. So far, everything’s been normal, and I hope it stays that way.

So, I’m glad the second trimester is over, it seemed so long. The summer always seems to drag, but it was especially slow this year. We’re in the final stretch, and I’m spending my days now dreaming of a December day when we get to bring Niko home. I want that to happen so much, and it seems so close now, so possible. Twelve weeks. A little less than three calendar months. So close.

I have found that writing about this pregnancy has been rather difficult to do. This was true when I was pregnant with Lauren, so it doesn’t really surprise me. Take for example this post, which has taken me about three days to write.

I’m not even sure what I want to write about, and that’s generally the biggest problem I have when I sit down to write about Niko. It’s impossible to sort out my thoughts and get to something coherent. Everything is so jumbly and confusing in my head that if I start to think things out too much, I get all emotional and melancholic and weepy and useless. There’s a lot of juxtaposition of opposing thoughts and feelings that just renders me tongue-tied, except it’s in my head, so brain-tied?

I’m thrilled to be pregnant, but I hate being pregnant. I love that my body can nurture and help build this new life, but at the same time, I hate how crazy it gets during the process. Once again, I don’t feel like myself.  I do feel better now that I’m in the second trimester, and most of what’s happening to my body now is pretty much what I experienced with Lauren, so at least it’s not coming as a complete surprise. I know what to expect.

I’m so happy we’re having a little girl, but a deep-down part of me wishes we were having a boy. There are so many reasons for this. For one thing, Geordie is the only male in his generation on his father’s side, so unless some of his cousins decide to keep their maiden name, he’ll be the last to carry the family name. And I’m pretty sure I don’t want to go through this again. We had planned on Lauren being an only child; the same is true for Niko. It’s not such a big deal, but I liked the idea of having a son who would carry on a family lineage. We also had the best boy’s name picked out: Malcolm Thomas. I love this name. I love the sound of it by itself, I love the sound of it with our last name. I just love this name. I love that it has the Thomas from paternal grandmother’s maiden name; it’s the only male name we could agree on from either of our families. Also, we can’t decide on a girl’s name. We’re currently going through a baby name book, and we have a couple of ideas but nothing that we’re very much in love with. It’s just going to take some time.

I’m really enjoying shopping/window-shopping for Niko, but at the same time, it’s not easy to do. It reminds me of all the planning and dreaming we did with Lauren, only to have it all ripped away from us when we were ready to bring her home. Sometimes I feel like I’m just going through the motions, and sometimes I’m genuinely charmed by every little thing we do to get ready for Niko. But always, I seem to find myself thinking of “if,” not “when.”

I’m so anxious and excited about meeting this little girl, but I’m also half-convinced I’m going to lose her the way we lost Lauren. I feel like I’m just “borrowing” her for a while. It’s hard not to get attached, but it’s hard to be attached too. This seems to be normal for the babylost who are expecting again, but it’s disturbing all the same. And it’s hard to hear the certainty of others, how they say “congratulations” instead of “best wishes.” It’s hard for me to be objective because I know. I know that babies die. And though I know of many women who have gone on to have healthy rainbow babies, I know of many other women who lost theirs. And though I don’t often say it out loud or even allow myself to consciously think it, it’s always there, deep in my head and my heart: Niko could die too. It’s terrible and it hurts and I wish it wasn’t true, but it is. I can’t ignore that. I can’t live in blessed obliviousness. I don’t want to know it any more than others don’t want to hear it, but I can’t close my eyes to the truth. That wouldn’t be fair to Lauren, who lived and was loved and is missed still. We assumed that she would live. She taught me that life is both fragile and precious, that it can slip away when we least expect it. I’m not going to ignore the lessons of love that she taught me.

I wish I could fast-forward to December and be done with all this waiting, to know if I’ll be celebrating or grieving – but I also want it to linger, to last as long as needs to, in case we do lose Niko, so I can have as much time as possible with her. Every movement she makes is both wondrous and heart-breaking. I love knowing that she’s still there, but I can’t help wondering if it’s the last time I’ll feel her. But I like that too, because it makes me vigilant. Even if we do lose Niko, I won’t let her go without a fight.

Niko is due in exactly four months.  I announced her existence nearly four months ago. She has grown, and she is thriving. She is an active, healthy girl with a strong heartbeat and a bounty of energy.

And may she stay that way.

Now that Geordie and I are actively trying to conceive, I’m thinking more about what kind of birth I want to have and where I want to have it. I’m thinking about this because it’s what other – normal – women think about when they’re having babies. I’m thinking about it because I want to ignore the fact that I will not be having a normal pregnancy, even if there is nothing wrong with me or the baby or anything else.

My daughter was stillborn. That automatically puts me in the “high risk” category. Even though I had no problems with the three glucose tests I took. Even though I never had signs of pre-eclampsia. Even though everything was going perfectly until Lauren’s heart stopped beating. Obviously, something went wrong. Unfortunately, nobody knows what or why.

I understand why I would be considered high risk, I do. The last thing I want is to lose another baby. Nobody would want that. But it frustrates me that it means that I might not be able to make the decisions during pregnancy or delivery. Again.

See, in Japan, birth plans are pretty much unheard of. The doctor is in charge; what the woman wants doesn’t always come first. In fact, depending on the doctor, it doesn’t even factor in. My first doctor in Japan was awesome, but very Westernized. He had his own clinic and, being unaffiliated with a hospital, was free to allow his patients to make their own decisions. It wasn’t until later, after we’d moved and were looking for a new doctor, that we understood how incredibly progressive he was. We rejected a couple of nearby hospitals because they did not allow fathers (or any non-medical personnel) into the delivery room. We only heard of one clinic that offered pain relief during delivery, and they were no longer accepting anyone around my due date. Although I had a birth plan in mind, I didn’t bother to write it up, much less present it to my doctor at the hospital we eventually picked. We didn’t see the point. Nobody ever asked my opinion about anything or my preference. It was always, “This is what we are going to do.” And they only did that because we asked them. The first part of my induction with Lauren went terribly because I was never told what was happening. If not for Geordie’s presence, I would never have known what was going on.

That’s just the way it was. Given the circumstances, there was nothing to be done about it. But I believe that, even if I had been giving birth to a live baby, I wouldn’t have had much say in the matter. I almost believe they gave me a little more leeway – because I’m American, or because my daughter was dead, I can’t say. In the end, my doctor did the best he could, and I liked the staff well enough. Except for that midwife. I still think unpleasant thoughts about her.

The plain and ugly truth is that – according to “studies” – a woman who has had a stillbirth has a higher risk of having another one. How much higher is the risk? Twofold to tenfold, according to one. That seems like a pretty big range, right? If the risk of stillbirth is 0.4% for a first-time pregnancy, then it could be anywhere from 0.8-4% for subsequent pregnancies. It all depends on the cause.

So what if the cause was unknown? Lauren’s cord and placenta were fine and healthy. No knots or kinks – which is important, because cord accidents apparently can recur. The same thing with placental abruptions; those also have a possibility of recurrence. Bad news for mothers who have had those problems – but what about me?

I don’t know. I do know that I follow the blogs of at least two ladies who have given birth to healthy second babies after the unexplained stillbirths of their first children. I also know that I’ve heard the stories of at least two ladies who had two unexplained stillbirths before delivering a healthy baby. I don’t know where that puts me. All I know is that I’m terrified of losing another baby. I will do whatever it takes to be able to bring home a healthy baby.

But I also want to have some say in my pre-natal care. I love the idea of giving birth in a birth center, not a hospital. I just don’t know if that’s an option for me.

Tomorrow, Geordie and I are going to an open house at a birth center run by midwives. The woman who spoke to me on the phone warned me that I might be “risked-out” because of Lauren’s death. But she also said that they needed more information to make that decision. And she also said that, if I am risked-out, they might be able to offer some suggestions on where to turn to find the care I’m looking for.

So, I’m worried but hopeful, which is probably something I should get used to. It’s likely to be my most consistent feeling during pregnancy #2.

Sara

I am a daughter and a sister, a wife and a friend. I am a reader and a writer, a dreamer and a realist, a teacher and a learner. I am the mother of a baby born sleeping. I am on a journey of healing, walking a path paved with tears and grief and hope.

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