Happy Anniversary! It just occurred to me that it was right about this time last year, January 10th to be precise, that I sat down and began this little blog. It was a jumping off point. A commitment to myself that after a very trying year (or two), I was ready to leave it all behind and start figuring out who I was again. I am pleased to report that 2017 was a MUCH better year! It was a year full of uncertainty and change – making big leaps of faith and discovering that even though things didn’t work out quite the way we thought or hoped, we ended up exactly where we needed to be at exactly the right time. This blog is a token of that decision to leap, but as much as I hoped it would be a place for me to check in and report back along my journey, there was a big piece of the puzzle that I was still working through. Every time I sat down to write a post I felt like I was being inauthentic as I danced around the subject and tried to write about other areas of my life. Nothing else seemed to make sense without that critical piece, yet I couldn’t figure out how to share it. I tried dozens of times to type it up and throw it out there just to remove that road block, but every draft felt cold and pointless. Heaps of words that spelled out my story but failed to do it justice. I needed to find clarity. A way to sum up my feelings and find a path forward before hurling it all out for the world to see. All year long I sat,
not so patiently waiting for that clarity to come until finally it smacked me upside the head in the most unexpected of ways. It was not pretty but I am so thankful that I finally understand my story well enough to share it. Really and truly, my biggest hope is that in doing so, I may be able to reach just one person who needs this story. Who can read it and know that you are not alone. I understand your pain and I PROMISE there are brighter days ahead!
As few people know, Lee and I have been trying for baby number 3 for well over 2 years now. The decision to add to our family did not come lightly. There were many times after Madeline was born that I thought for sure I was done with two. Even after much discussion and the decision to casually try, I was admittedly on the fence. We’d already been blessed with two happy, healthy children who fill our hearts and many times our hands with the trials and responsibilities of parenting. I was nervous about messing up a good thing, but at the same time my heart yearned for another baby. When I quickly became pregnant that May of 2015 all of my fears were pushed aside at the sight of that little pink line! I knew we would make it work and adjust to a new addition just as we had done before.
My confidence was quickly shattered, however, when that pregnancy ended in a miscarriage just over a week later. Not having experienced any difficulties before or during my pregnancies with Emily and Madeline, it came as a complete shock. My doctor threw out statistics, ensuring me that this was merely a common outcome of the reproductive cycle. I could not get over the thought, however, that maybe this was a sign that we were meant to remain a family of 4.
We waited over a year, trying to figure out whether we should try again or move forward with our little family as it was. In the mean time, we had made the decision to homeschool our girls. The thought of adding another ball to juggle was scary when I already had so much on my plate, but the desire for another child remained strong. We decided to try again. When I got pregnant I was told by my doctors that our previous loss was just “one of those things”. This time would be different. I assured myself that every day. Nearly a week later, however, I woke up with that familiar loss of pregnancy symptoms and a gut wrenching feeling that something was wrong. Sure enough things would not be different this time around.
I was convinced that this was not just a random case of bad luck, but was told by my doctor that testing is not done until after three back-to-back miscarriages. We quickly decided to try again, hoping for the best, but falling back on the comfort of knowing that even if we did not get our baby we would at least get some answers. Again I got pregnant quickly. This pregnancy felt different. It wasn’t until seven weeks when my doctor called to inform me that my HCG was no longer doubling that I had any indication that things were not going well. I was devastated but did my best to keep my chin up and proceed with the testing in hope of finding a cure for this terrible heartache. When we finally got the results back I was shocked that everything looked “normal”. Everyone told me to be thankful that I was healthy – and I was – but I felt so lost! The one thing I was counting on to solve my problems had failed me. My doctor referred me to nearby Reproductive Endocrinologist as our next step, but once again, I began to question whether or not we were meant to have another child if the universe kept throwing barrier after barrier in our path.
I needed time to think… or not think. I don’t know which. My head and heart were in constant battle and I didn’t know what to trust. I wrestled with feelings of guilt over not being content with the two amazing children I already have. I suffered from anxiety, wondering if something was wrong with me that had not yet been discovered. I constantly questioned whether my desire for another child was genuine or if this had turned into some sort of battle of me trying to prove to myself that I could do this and I would win! Did I want another baby to raise and to love or just to heal this gaping wound that was left on my heart? I didn’t know. My head was too cluttered to make any sense of it and I wasn’t willing to take the steps to fight for another child before I knew I was doing it for the right reasons.
All year long I sat in this place of limbo, focusing on finding contentment in the moment and hoping that God would sooner or later lead me in one direction or the other. It was a year full of soul searching. I learned a lot about myself in 2017 and made a lot of growth in some very unexpected ways, but I still felt undecided on the matter of growing our family. Overall though, I had come to find peace in our current family structure for the time. Toward the end of the year, it became clear that our girls were ready for separate bedrooms and in the spirit of embracing life as it is, we made the decision to convert our playroom – a room that we had been setting aside as a future nursery – into a bedroom for Emily. The decision felt right and I wondered if maybe this was a signal that it was also time to let go of the space in my heart I had been setting aside for our “someday baby”.
We spent the entire weekend taking apart bunkbeds, getting Emily set up in her brand new room, and resetting the playroom down in the basement. The Monday following the move, however, it occurred to me that I might be a day or two late for my period. I ran out and grabbed a home pregnancy test just to be safe since we had plans for an upcoming Halloween party just around the corner. I was in disbelief when that faint pink line appeared on the screen. I had just begun to think we were being led down the road of life as a happy family of four, and now this! I did not know what to make of it. We had not made any progress in resolving our issues since the last miscarriage, and while the test results showed no indication that there was anything to prevent me from going on to have a healthy pregnancy, it also left me with little reason to believe this time would be different.
In the days following my positive pregnancy test, I forced my self to unwind from the bundle of fear and anxiety that initially gripped me. In doing so, I made the commitment to myself and my baby that the way I would make this pregnancy different was by simply experiencing it for all that it had to offer! To let myself feel every emotion as deeply and as powerfully as it came to me! One of the biggest things I learned and tried to practice throughout 2017 was self-empathy, a concept I had never known existed until I read a post from one of my favorite bloggers, Rachaeous. Her reminder that “it’s just as OK for us to feel and express the full spectrum of emotions as it is our children”, inspired a lot of personal growth throughout the year and seemed especially applicable in this situation. This time around I would not shy away from the fear and pain. I would let myself feel scared when I needed to feel scared and sad when I needed to feel sad. But at the same time I would not push the overwhelming feeling of love for this little life aside in attempt to guard my heart. I would enjoy my journey with this baby every day that we had together, whether that was a matter of days or an entire lifetime!
Before long I found myself on the other side of the 8 week mark, a milestone that I’d mentally noted as the point at which I could breathe. I knew it was time allow my mind to venture ever so slightly into the future as I begin looking for a doctor to care for myself and this baby if it was going to stick around. I found one quickly and reluctantly scheduled my first appointment for December 7. Booking that ultrasound re-triggered my anxiety. I knew that it would be the turning point at which my worst fear would either be confirmed or denied. Once again, I let those emotions rise to the surface, allowing myself to really feel out what they were trying to tell me. Late one night as I lay in bed trying to work through the suffocating panic that had crept up on me throughout the day, I began whispering positive words of health, strength, and hope to my baby. Suddenly, a wave of peace washed over me and the words “this will not be the end of your journey” came to me. Not audibly, of course, but the message rang through my head loud and clear! I was a bit afraid of what it meant. On one hand it sounded like perhaps this baby would not be the final destination on our quest to grow our family. On the other, it felt like a message that there was something more beyond this place of fear, doubt, and anxiety that I had so long been sitting – there were brighter things ahead! Either way, I was oddly comforted by it and chose to interpret the message in the most positive light.
With that little token of wisdom to help keep my anxiety at bay, I made it through the week leading up to my appoint fairly well. I was beginning to get excited for our visit and couldn’t help but envision the surge of tranquility that would come over me upon seeing that tiny flickering heartbeat on the screen! Just days before my appointment, however, I was relaxing on the couch and started drifting into thoughts about the baby as I often did. I imagined it’s jerky little movements floating peacefully in my belly while I lay there. All of the sudden it hit me like a ton of bricks that I could not feel anything! Not movement of course, it was far too early for that, but I could not feel the connection – that warm sensation that had always come over me whenever I placed my hand on my growing belly. I tried again to tap into it but could not. I just felt emptiness. At the time I chalked it up to anxiety. I had never made it this far, all my symptoms were stronger than ever, my belly was quickly becoming more and more difficult to hide, and I had not experienced any cramping or spotting to indicate cause for concern. Surly I was letting my imagination get the better of me.
I was a bundle of nerves when the morning of our appointment came, but tried not to show it as I got my kids ready and sent them off to school. I drove down to pick Lee up from his office then ventured to the OB together to get the first glimpse of our little bean! My palms were sweaty as I sat in the chair of the waiting room, anxiously preparing for the moment of truth. Finally they called us back. I sat on the table, my stomach in knots, only halfway listening to the midwife’s explanation of what to expect during the ultrasound. I laid down, and reluctantly turned my head towards the screen. I knew what to look for. I knew that within moments I would be able to tell if our news would be happy or sad. With Lee holding my hand, she turned on the machine as I held my breath waiting for what I hoped to be our strong little baby appear before me on the monitor. Instantly my heart sank. I could see something but it was not our 9 week 5 day baby – that much I knew. I laid there completely numb as she checked and rechecked, questioned my dates, and called in another doctor for a second opinion. When the midwife finally confirmed what I knew to be true, I crumbled.
The days to follow were a bit of a blur, filled with more advanced ultrasounds and blood draw after blood draw. The storm of emotions that tossed me one way and the next seemed unbearable at times, yet I insisted on letting myself feel them. I knew from past experience that these feelings would not dissolve within. They would need to come out sooner or later so I let them come. I was angry at my body for tricking me into believing everything was fine when it was not! I was scared that I would never be able to trust it again. I was heartbroken that this baby that had been with me for nearly 10 weeks would not be mine to hold. I was afraid that this was my breaking point – that I wouldn’t have what it takes to expose myself to this potential gut wrenching sadness again. I felt isolated having so few people to talk to and fewer still who truly understood.
At the same time I felt an immense sense of gratitude. Gratitude for the people in my life who supported me when I needed it most. For my husband and his uncanny ability to never lose hope! For our relationship and the opportunity that each struggle has provided to bring us closer and build us stronger. Gratitude for my two amazing daughters and the continual reminder of the miracles that they are! Gratitude for a deep understanding of the essence of life. For the privilege to experience it in it’s most brief and raw form and to witness the profound impact that even the tiniest flicker can make! Above all though was gratitude for the opportunity to be one of those who “truly understands” – to have that knowledge and to use it to help others!
For weeks I’ve ridden the wave of those highs and lows. Though the process has been long and (I’m sure) still unfinished, surrendering to it has brought so much of the healing, answers and clarity I have long been searching for. As I spent time sifting through my emotions after the initial shock had faded, the message I received earlier in the pregnancy returned to me – “This was not meant to be the end of our journey”. This baby was not ours to hold, but it had a purpose and fulfilled it completely! This baby was sent to us at just the right time – a little spark to reignite that fire inside that I was getting ready to stamp out. A reminder that yes I want another child, yes it is 100% for the right reasons, and yes it is totally worth fighting for! With our RE (reproductive endocrinologist) appointment now officially on the books, I can finally say with certainty that we are moving forward down the path that is meant for us. I have no way of knowing if this will be our final hurdle or if this just another box to check off along the way, but for the first time in a LONG time I trust that I will be ok. Whether that means a baby or no baby. Whether that means this year, 5 years from now, or never. I know that I can get through hard things! That I can learn and grow and benefit from the trials just as much as the blessings. And above all, no matter how dark and fuzzy the path may seem, there are always brighter days ahead!