Countdown to D-day B-day.

We’re less than two weeks away from Emmett’s first birthday, and every day brings a growing feeling of dread. Logically, it doesn’t make any sense. He’s doing really well, all things considered, and it’s not like anything bad is going to happen on his first birthday or anything. It should be a happy day. But I suppose this is just part of the PTSD experience — and from what I gather from other preemie moms — normal, even.

I have this app on my phone called Timehop. Most of the time I love it. It shows you pictures you took or things you posted to social media this time last year and every year it has access to. It’s been fun to revisit baby photos of Theo or to see some of the ridiculous thoughts that occupied my mind eight years ago that I somehow thought all of Facebook needed to know. But you know what’s been popping up lately from this time last year? Pregnancy photos. Casual, breezy selfies I snapped in the bathroom at work, or in front of the mirror in our bedroom. And while I rarely take selfies normally, I’ve always felt an uncharacteristic sense of body confidence while pregnant, and found myself admiring and snapping photos of my growing bump quite often.

And so it’s weird to juxtapose last year’s carefree photos with my current state of anxiety. It’s haunting to see these photos now, knowing what was about to happen. I had no idea my world was about to come crashing down while exploding with love, all at the same time. Oblivious that I was about to embark on the hardest year of my life. Unaware I would soon come to think of a hospital room as home and that I would create familial bonds with the caregivers who held my son’s life in their hands.

I also find myself reopening Pandora’s Box with the whys. We were told my preterm labor was unexplained, and that we’d probably never know why it happened. For the first couple weeks, that bothered me a lot. And then we got preoccupied with other life or death matters (literally) and I was able to push the questions out of my mind. But I find myself asking why a lot more again these days. Was it the fertility treatments? Did all the medications I took to prevent me from miscarrying again trigger something else that caused labor? Was there some connection medically between the losses and the preterm labor? My OB says no, but that seems hard to believe. Did I work out too much or too hard? I was really into barre while pregnant and took pride in the strength and flexibility I was capable of, even as I got bigger and my center of gravity shifted. Did I overdo it hosting Theo’s birthday? I remember my back hurt really badly that evening, and that was just a week before Emmett was born. Was it the pedicure I got just three days before Emmett arrived? I’ve heard there are acupressure points on your foot that are supposed to induce labor and that sometimes women who are overdue will get a pedicure or foot massage in hopes of kick starting labor. Could any of these things have triggered it? And the reciprocal question that haunts me: is there anything I could have done to prevent it?

So many questions that I’ll probably never have the answers to.

Sweet, naive me.

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7 months old

True to form, this seven-month update is closer to his eight-month birthday. But at least the photo was taken at exactly seven months. Time is flying and this little man has become such an important part of our lives. I’m so proud of him and how far he’s come. 

Adjusted age: 4 months

Stats: 13.4 lbs. and 25.5 inches

Milestones: rolling like crazy. Babbling with consonants. Really wants to crawl! Theo was an early crawler at six months, and I won’t be surprised if Emmett crawls by six months adjusted (which would be nine months actual).

Sleeping: Still waking up 1-2 times most nights. Naps are getting more substantial and consistent – usually around 3 per day: one long one mid-day with a shorter one in the morning and late afternoon.

Eating: Nursing is going well, despite some supply issues (more on that later). He’s taking about 3.5 oz per bottle at daycare, still fortified with NeoSure, and then we’re pretty much exclusively nursing at home. I don’t even bring backup bottles with me anymore, which is so nice.

Personality: Still the happiest baby I’ve ever met. He’s been sick a lot since he started daycare, but even that doesn’t get him down. Pretty much the only time he cries is when he’s hungry. He gets a little fussy and needy in the evenings before bed, but that’s easily remedied by just holding him. I think after a long day at daycare he’s just a little tired and probably misses us. 

Likes: Being tickled. His neck is especially ticklish and sometimes when I’m getting him dressed, just pulling his shirt over his head sends him into a fit of giggles. I need to capture this on video one of these days. He also adores his big brother. Anything T does is basically the most hilarious thing he’s ever seen. The bond these two already have is honestly my favorite part of being a mom.

Dislikes: Saline and suction. Because he’s been sick so much we’ve had to give him saline drops and suction out his nose. He really fights it, and he’s freakishly strong. But after I’m done he’s back to his happy self.

Mama: As I briefly mentioned earlier, I’ve been battling some milk supply issues, and it’s been stressing me out (which I have heard can also affect your supply, but I have yet to figure out how to break THAT cycle!). It all started when I got mastitis a couple months ago. Then it dipped again when I got my period, but seemed to recover. But then it plummeted again. There are times when I get ONE ounce total (from both sides) in a pumping session. And even on a normal day, I’m not making enough to send with him to daycare the next day. I’m thankful I have such a huge freezer stash, and truthfully it’s good to have an excuse to use that before it all goes bad. But the low pump output made me worry that I might not be producing enough to exclusively nurse while we’re home together. I mean, if I’m only pumping an ounce in a session sometimes, that’s obviously not enough for a full meal for him. But I had also heard that babies are more efficient than a pump, and that pump output isn’t necessarily indicative of what you’re producing. So I rented a baby scale from the breastfeeding center at the hospital for a couple weeks and weighed him before and after feeding just like when we were back in the NICU. And while there were definitely times he didn’t eat much, I noticed he would usually make up for it at the next feeding. I’m assuming this is all normal (after all, my appetite varies throughout the day too), and it was reassuring to see he’s probably nursing enough. I still find it depressing when I have a sucky pumping session, but I’m not as worried about his intake anymore. The real test will be at his next appointment, whether he’s still following his growth curve.

Here are some photos since our last update:

 

Bizarro world.

Yesterday, in an attempt to start clearing space for when E eventually comes home, I listed our futon on our local Buy Nothing group. A nice family with two cute but rambunctious boys came to pick it up. Watching the boys interact with each other and get into mischief while their parents loaded up the futon, I smiled and told the mom I have two young boys and felt like I was getting a preview. Immediately, I wished I hadn’t said anything. Naturally, she asked how old my boys are. I briefly hesitated, then told her I have a three year-old and a newborn. When she asked how new, I told her he was almost three weeks old, as feelings of shame began to wash over me. I felt like I was somehow lying. I wasn’t in the mood for anyone’s pity at the moment, but in leaving out the full story I felt like a complete fraud. Because I don’t really feel like I have two boys yet. Emmett doesn’t quite feel like ours yet. And that made me sad, because I do have two boys and I felt guilty for feeling otherwise.

I wonder how long it will take to get used to these types of feelings. I know even once he’s home he’s not going to look like a typical three month-old. He’ll look more like a newborn. I’ve mentioned before that preemies usually go by two ages — actual and adjusted — until they’re around two years old. I recently joined a couple preemie Facebook groups and someone had asked the question a few days ago: “what do you tell strangers when they ask how old your baby is?” Interestingly, a lot of parents responded that they just tell strangers the adjusted age when they don’t feel like fielding the “but he’s so small!” comments or explaining that their baby was born premature.

It’s weird feeling like we don’t really fit in anywhere. We’re new parents, but not dealing with typical new parent stuff. We have a three week-old, but he’s more like a negative-11 week old. We’re bringing home a new baby in August, but I’m not pregnant.

When I was pregnant with Theo, I joined an online “birth month club” to talk with moms who had babies due around the time Theo was. This group eventually spun off into a private Facebook group and some of those moms are among my closest friends today, more than three years later. It’s been great to navigate all those milestones — from feeding, to sleep training, to talking, to tantrums, to preschool — with fellow moms in the trenches. I had hoped to find something similar when I was pregnant with Emmett. But all those August moms are still pregnant and I don’t belong there anymore. My world is suddenly completely different from theirs. But I don’t belong in a world with other babies born in May, either. We’re in this weird alternate universe. The preemie Facebook groups have helped some, but everyone’s story is so different, and they’re all at various stages (some are still in the NICU like us, while some have older children now). And while the success stories are inspiring, the cases where children have gone on to have significant physical or cognitive delays are discouraging. It’s a double-edged sword and I can’t decide whether these groups are more helpful or harmful to me at this stage.

The hospital has its weekly NICU parent support group tonight and I’m planning to attend again. It’s not always very well attended, but I’m hoping I can start to connect with other parents. But again, every story is SO different, even among current NICU parents. Theo has always been so textbook when it comes to milestones and funny toddler quirks, and I’m finding this experience very isolating without the “me too” moments.

As long as he’s okay, I’m okay.

Predictably, we get asked a lot: “how are you doing?” My answer is usually, “we’re okay.” And it’s true. We’re okay. Not great – this isn’t an ideal situation, no matter how you spin it. But I’m acutely aware of how much worse it could be. And that fearful day I was in labor by myself, I definitely pictured all the worst case scenarios. I was mentally prepared to say goodbye.

But as it turns out, Emmett is a NICU rock star. The doctors and nurses all say so. All of his “setbacks” so far have been minor, and par for the course for a baby born before he even reached the third trimester. So while I can’t help but hold my breath with every desat and feel like my heart stops with every brady, it’s completely unreasonable to expect a micro-preemie to regulate his oxygen levels or heart rate on his own. The doctors have every expectation he’ll grow out of this as he gets bigger and stronger, and by the time his original due date rolls around, he should be a fairly normal infant, just three months behind what his actual age says. Most preemies go by two ages, actual and adjusted, until they’re about two years old, by which point they usually “catch up” to their actual age.

That said, I’m aware that things can change on a dime. As I’ve mentioned multiple times, the NICU mantra is two steps forward, one step back. So far we’re more like three or four steps forward for every step back, but I know that may not always be the case. There may even be days where we are taking more steps back than forward and so I’m trying to temper my optimism with a good deal of caution. People keep telling us how strong we are, but I can’t take credit for that — it’s only because Emmett is so strong. If there comes a day where we take some major steps back, I might not be okay. But until then, I keep repeating: as long as he’s okay, I’m okay.

We can handle anything as long as he’s okay.

Mother of sons.

Today is Mother’s Day. T is napping, D is cleaning up after part one of our two-part birthday party for T yesterday (more on that in another post!), and I’m sitting on the couch, feeling baby kick. It’s hard to believe I’m about to be a mom of two boys. I think often about what it will be like — with two kids, and both of them boys! Will life be twice as crazy as it is now? Will baby #2 be like a mini-T or will they be polar opposites? I’m excited to find out.

Interestingly, I’ve found myself almost defending our excitement when I tell people we’re having a second boy. I’ll be honest, I’ve never really understood the concept of “gender disappointment.” Maybe it’s because we’ve had such a rocky road building our family that I take nothing for granted. Maybe it’s the practical side of me that knows any time you have a baby, you’ve got a 50/50 shot at either sex. But I’ve been amazed at the way many people act almost sympathetic when I tell them we’re having another boy. The receptionist at T’s haircut place actually said to me the other day “Oh. Well I hope you’re still excited.” Huh? Of course I’m still excited.

Sure, when we found out we were having another boy there was a small part of me that briefly acknowledged the finality of the fact that I’ll never have a daughter. We are D-O-N-E after this. But any sense that I might be missing out by not having a girl was immediately overshadowed by the joy in finding out we are having another boy! There’s just something about finding out the sex of your baby that makes everything feel infinitely more real. You begin picturing what they might look like. You start thinking seriously about names. You feel one step closer to actually “knowing” your baby. And let’s face it, if T is any indication, we make pretty awesome boys.

But inevitably, the first question people ask is, “will you try again for a girl?” Try again? Like we got it wrong this time? First of all, we would have just as much of a chance of having a third boy — maybe even higher, according to some theories. And I’ve always only wanted two kids. But let’s say we did try again. How would our second boy feel if he found out the only reason he was the middle child was because he didn’t have a vagina? That his parents felt the need to try again because he wasn’t quite what they wanted? I’m being dramatic. I know parents don’t tell their children they wish they had been born the opposite sex (at least I hope not!), but when did everyone determine “one of each” was the ultimate goal?

Truthfully, I’m looking forward to being a mom of two boys. From a practical standpoint, we already have the clothes, gear, toys. And our boys can share a room, which makes things easier from a space perspective. But more importantly, I can’t wait to see how they are with each other. While they aren’t as close in age as we would have preferred, they’ll still be close enough to play together, and will probably have an unbreakable bond. I know our younger son will look up to Theo in a way only a little brother can.

I also must say, that while I don’t know any different, being a boy mom is pretty special. Boys tend to love their moms fiercely. Theo blazes through life a million miles a minute, but always takes the time to give me a hug or kiss, or to tell me he loves me. And while it’s exhausting being the one he usually calls to first, there’s something sweet about how he wants me to comfort him in the night when he’s scared, and asks for me first thing in the morning when he wakes up. He loves his dad too, and I don’t mean to downplay their bond, but their bond is just different. Talking to other boy moms, I think this is a pretty common dynamic between boys and moms.

And, let’s face it, I’d be lying if I didn’t mention the fact that I’m happy to bypass the teenage girl drama. I know I’m grossly overgeneralizing, but I was a dramatic and emotional teenager and karma would surely come back to bite me if I’d had a girl. I’ll settle for being my three nieces’ favorite aunt and will leave the hard stuff to their parents!

On a more serious note, I’m both looking forward to, and overwhelmed with the responsibility of raising these boys to be good men. They say you can tell a lot about a man’s potential as a husband by the way he treats his mother, and I’m honored that I get to play such a huge role in preparing them for their future wives (if they choose to go that route). And some day I hope to be the type of mother-in-law who will love my daughters-in-law as my own children. I have had the bar set high by two pretty great mothers-in-law, myself.

Yes, I’m feeling blessed to be a mom of two boys.

Stuff.

One of the greatest things about having another boy is that we really don’t need much “stuff” this time around. We saved all the big items from T, like his car seat, swing, and bouncer. And we saved most of his clothes too, so we are pretty well set! Fortunately, the weather here in the PNW is pretty mild most of the year, so we shouldn’t even have to worry too much about the boys being born in different seasons, though we’ll evaluate as baby #2 grows and we see what fits and what we need. Poor kid is going to be dressed 99% in brother’s hand-me-downs (such is the life of a second child!). Fortunately, big brother has pretty good taste in clothes (*ahem).

There are a few items we’ll need, so I did start a registry on Amazon. It’s mostly my own shopping list — plus Amazon gives registrants a 15% off “completion discount” where you can buy anything off your registry yourself in a single purchase to snatch up any last-minute stuff, up to 60 days prior to your due date. And we’ve also had a few people ask us for ideas. Even though we aren’t anticipating a baby shower this time around, it’s nice to have somewhere to point people who would want to get the baby something regardless.

For this second baby, we’ve found we need stuff for generally one of four reasons:

  1. Duplicates of things T is still using (sound machine, second camera for our monitor, etc.)
  2. Replacements for things that have worn out over the years (e.g., bottle nipples, new crib mattress, new pump parts)
  3. Things that get used up (diapers, diaper cream, breast milk storage bags, etc.)
  4. And then a few “nice-to-haves” — things I wished we’d had the first time around (like a Rock n Play or a snuggle nest), or things that might make life with two easier, like a nice baby carrier, a sit and stand stroller, or a bigger diaper bag.

For anyone reading who may be preparing for the birth of a second baby, here’s what’s on our list, broken down by category:

  • Diapering:
    • newborn diapers (we’ll reuse most of T’s cloth diapers once baby fits in them around 2 months)
    • diaper rash cream
    • new diaper bag (the one we used for T was a little on the small side)
  • Feeding:
    • bottle brush
    • Soothies gel pads
    • bottle nipples
    • pump replacement parts (new membranes, tubing, etc.)
    • Medela quick clean micro steam bags
    • lanolin
    • breastmilk storage bags
  • Bathing:
    • hooded towel
    • washcloths
    • bath sponge (the kind they lay on in the sink)
  • Sleeping:
    • new crib mattress
    • new PNP mattress
    • snuggle nest
    • a couple of Woombies
  • Gear:
    • Tula carrier
    • Rock n Play
    • Sit and stand stroller
  • Misc:
    • new nail clippers
    • sound machine
    • humidifier
    • second camera for our monitor

It’s a pretty small list, compared to all we needed to get ready for T! Definitely not feeling as stressed about being ready this time around. The biggest thing we need to do now, though, is get T’s big boy room ready since baby will be taking over the nursery. But that’s a post for another day…

Heavily medicated.

I’m starting to feel like the Collette Reardon character from Saturday Night Live with how many times I’ve been to the pharmacy in the last couple weeks.

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As I mentioned in my last post, my doctor has recently started me on a few medications to help my body do a better job at keeping this baby. I’m on so many meds right now — many of which need to be taken at different times — that it’s getting hard to keep track of everything. I actually had to go buy one of those “days of the week” old lady pill cases and set alarms for myself just to keep everything straight. Here’s what a typical day looks like now:

6:00 a.m. – alarm goes off, take Synthroid (for low thyroid; must be taken an hour before eating)

7:00 a.m. – inject myself in the stomach with Heparin just before leaving for work (to prevent blood clots)

10:00 a.m. – phone alarm goes off, take Prometrium (for low progesterone; 12 hours before bedtime dose)

6:00 p.m. – eat dinner, take prenatal vitamin, DHA, extra folic acid (4 pills), B6 and B12 (for fetal health and pregnancy support; must be taken with food)

7:00 p.m. – second Heparin injection (12 hours after the first)

10:00 p.m. – second dose of Prometrium, just before bed

For anyone counting, that’s 11 pills plus two injections every single day. After the first trimester I should be able to stop the Prometrium, and I may be able to drop the Heparin at some point, depending on the results of my blood clotting disorder tests.

Speaking of tests. I had betas drawn again today. I’m happy to say my betas are at 315.3 (up from 91.4), so they’re still more than doubling. The doctor wants me back for one more draw on Wednesday, after which they’ll schedule me for my first ultrasound if my numbers are high enough. Also today, I had all my repeat loss testing done. 16 vials of blood in total. I was surprised I had any blood left and didn’t pass out walking out of the building. My poor arms look like those of a heroin addict from all the blood draws, not to mention the all the bruises that will soon be covering my stomach from the Heparin injections.

It’s a lot to handle, but I just keep saying – whatever it takes to bring this baby home. I’m reminded of a powerful image I saw recently of a sleeping baby surrounded by hundreds of syringes and vials, illustrating the journey through in-vitro fertilization. And while I know what we’re going through pales in comparison to IVF, I can certainly relate to the great lengths, pain, discomfort and money many couples go through in order to do what so many people take for granted.

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13 things you may not know about miscarriage

October 15 is pregnancy and infant loss remembrance day. Tonight at 7 p.m., people all over the world are lighting a candle for babies lost. For years, I’ve wanted to do something publicly for this day, but until recently we weren’t really “out” about our miscarriages, and I’ve never really known what I wanted to do, exactly. What could I say that hasn’t been said already? But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it isn’t necessarily the awareness of pregnancy loss that’s the issue; it’s the lack of understanding. Long before our first loss, I knew miscarriage existed. I’d even known people who had been through it. But while I’d always offered my condolences, I never fully grasped the magnitude of what that person was going through until I experienced it firsthand.

And while I know everyone’s experience is unique, here are 13 things I’ve come to learn about miscarriage that I would have never thought about before. (This is the first time I’ve ever posted anything from my blog to Facebook. If you’re visiting from there, consider this your TMI warning. It’s about to get personal.)

  1. It’s so common. One in four, to be specific. Think about that for a second. Picture all your friends’ kids. For every three children here today, there’s one who never came to be. One who never existed to the rest of the world, but whose parents are forever changed because of those six weeks, or eight weeks, or 13 weeks – or even just that one day when two pink lines held so much promise, before the world came crashing down.
  2. It’s often a well-kept secret. Maybe you don’t think you know anyone who’s been through it. But you probably do (see #1). With our first loss, not even our parents knew until after the fact. Everyone knows you’re supposed to wait until 12 weeks to announce your pregnancy – because you don’t want to have to un-announce if it all goes south. But what no one tells you is how lonely it is to go through alone. You’d never be expected to silently grieve the loss of any other loved one, yet all over the world today, grieving parents are quietly putting on a brave face while inside their hearts are breaking. I recently read a fantastic article about how smiling Facebook pictures don’t always tell the real story. The reality is, you never know who around you may be suffering in silence.
  3. The physical act of miscarrying is horrific. It’s not just “a little bit of blood.” It’s a terrifying amount of blood. Probably more blood than you’ve ever seen in your life. It’s real contractions and actually birthing a tiny baby. I opted to have a D&C with my first loss because weeks after my baby had died, my body still hadn’t realized it, and I couldn’t handle waiting around for such a traumatic experience to begin. With my second loss I didn’t have a choice because of how far along I was. But a D&C isn’t a walk in the park, either. It’s surgery, under general anesthesia, and comes with its own complications and recovery. Oh, and fun fact – it’s the same procedure as an abortion and if you get a pro-life nurse like I did who can’t keep her disdain to herself, you may be treated like a pariah until she realizes your baby is already dead, and then she suddenly has all the compassion in the world for you. Yeah, that happened.
  4. It’s hard on the dad too. Most of the information you’ll find about miscarriage focuses on the mother. Understandably so. We’re the ones who physically carry the baby, so we’re the ones who typically bond hard and fast. And we’re the ones who must endure the pain of physically losing the baby. But it was his baby too. I can only imagine how helpless it must feel to watch the love of your life crumble emotionally and suffer physically — all while trying to be strong for her and dealing with your own grief. In the 13 years D and I have been together, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen him cry. But the death of a child – even one you’ve never met – will break even the strongest of men. Even though our second pregnancy was flawless and resulted in our beautiful son, D told me afterward he essentially held his breath for nine months. And when we started talking about trying for a sibling for T, he was very hesitant to agree to try again because he was so traumatized from before. He said he thought he could be happy with one child simply because he couldn’t watch me go through that again.
  5. You’re stronger than you know. Unfortunately, we did go through it again, in the early second trimester this time, when we thought we were out of the woods. I won’t lie. It was awful. But we survived we are surviving. I remember after our first loss, thinking I would simply die if we had to go through that again. But I didn’t die. It hurt like hell, but the world kept turning. Theo still needed his mom and dad. The house and yard still needed to be kept up. Work still had to be done. I have a very understanding boss who knew what had happened and she told me to take all the time I needed, but honestly what I needed was to not sit around with time to think. After two days to physically recover from the surgery, I was back at work. I put on a brave face and pretended nothing had happened. Studies show the physical act of smiling can make you happier. Perhaps acting strong makes you stronger.
  6. You play Pain Olympics. I posted about this a while back. The fact that no one talks about miscarriage can sometimes make you doubt the validity of your grief. Why are you so broken up over a baby you never met? You look at people who have had stillborn babies, or lost children through tragic accidents or illness, and you wonder if your loss even “counts.” Surely their pain must be greater than yours. Do you even deserve to grieve? Likewise, I’ve had friends downplay their losses around me because theirs were “only” 5 or 6 weeks. For what it’s worth, I think I had a harder time with my first loss at eight weeks than I did with my 13-week loss. So length of gestation doesn’t necessarily correlate to level of grief. Grief is grief and loss is loss. It does no good to compare your pain to someone else’s.
  7. You may find yourself haunted by shadow babies. A “shadow baby” is a baby who was due around the same time as yours. It can be really hard to watch a friend’s pregnancy progress after yours has ended and not be reminded the belly you should have by now. Or to see that baby reach milestones yours never will. No matter how much you care about that person, the sadness – and jealousy, if I’m being completely honest – can trump the happiness you feel for that person. I’ve skipped baby showers. I’ve hidden friends and family whom I love dearly from my Facebook feed – because it just hurts too much. It has nothing to do with how much I care; it’s self-preservation.
  8. “When are you going to have [more] children?” is a loaded question. I’ve really come to hate this topic of conversation. People ask about others’ reproductive status so nonchalantly all the time. I know they don’t mean anything malicious by it. But anyone who’s ever struggled to get or stay pregnant knows just how much that question hurts, because it’s hard to answer without making the conversation awkward. Most of the time I shrug or give a vague answer, but on bad days I sometimes feel like being brutally honest. I have secret fantasies of making the person asking the question just as uncomfortable as they’ve made me. Maybe I should. A friend recently told me she asked this to someone once and got a very blunt and awkward answer in return. She said in hindsight she was grateful for the experience, because she had never thought about how such a seemingly innocent question might affect someone so deeply.
  9. You feel a kindred connection to anyone who’s been through it. It’s like a club that no one wants to belong to, but when you find other members, you find solace in the fact that you’re not alone. You know their pain. They know yours. And you both know that no one else really gets it unless they’ve been through it.
  10. The pain never goes away completely. Sure, it lessens with time. It becomes less acute. You find you’re able to go minutes, then hours, then days, then weeks, then months without crying. But it’s always there. It’s an emotional scar you’ll forever carry with you. I believe the pain is what gives us such compassion for others going through it, though. One of my biggest supporters through our most recent loss has been my mother-in-law (D’s step-mom). Even 40 years later I can hear the pain in her voice when she talks about her three losses, and I know that pain is what’s given her such empathy for what we’ve been through.
  11. You feel at fault. Anyone who’s been through this knows one of the first things the doctor will tell you is, “there’s nothing you did to cause this.” Probably because they know that’s the first place our minds go as mothers. Was it the wine I drank the night before I found out I was pregnant? Did I exercise too hard? Was I too stressed at work? Should I really have painted the dining room trim? I wore a mask. It’s hard to shut off your brain when you so desperately want answers. And answers – even bad ones – are often easier to swallow than no answers. Because you can’t fix it if you don’t know what caused it. Even if you aren’t worried you actively did anything wrong, it’s hard not to blame your body or feel defective. Why does a 16-year old crack addict get to carry her baby to term, and I’m over here avoiding sushi and deli meat, popping my prenatal vitamins religiously, and my body still can’t carry out this basic evolutionary task?
  12. It forever changes your views on pregnancy. Having a miscarriage robs you of the joy you should feel while pregnant. It strips you of that naivety and once it’s gone, it’s impossible to get back. It gets a little better once you pass your loss milestone, but you never quite lose that nagging feeling in the back of your mind that something might go wrong; that everything could be taken away from you at any minute. To top it off, it makes you irrationally angry at people who are naive or confident. I still remember (and wrote about) when Kourtney Kardashian announced her second pregnancy at nine weeks and justified the early announcement by saying she “felt confident.” And while I would never wish a loss on my worst enemy, part of me just wants to shake people who think they’re somehow immune to miscarriage. Perhaps what surprised me the most was that not only was I jaded about my own subsequent pregnancies; I’m automatically guarded about anyone’s pregnancy. It’s sad to admit, but when I hear about someone’s pregnancy, my first thought isn’t, She’s having a baby! It’s more like, She *might* have a baby. I hope it works out. I carry the same fear for my friends’ and family members’ pregnancies as I do during my own. I want to protect the ones I love from the heartbreak we’ve experienced.
  13. If you’re lucky enough to have a live baby, you take nothing for granted. There’s a phenomenon commonly known in the world of pregnancy loss as a “rainbow baby.” It’s a baby born after a loss — i.e., a rainbow after the storm. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t marvel at what a perfect miracle our little rainbow is. Even on his worst days when he’s acting like the quintessential two year-old, I smile (sometimes through gritted teeth!), because I have been given the opportunity to be this little boy’s mom, and there were days I doubted whether I’d ever be a mom. I like to think my losses have made me a better mother and I can only hope I have the privilege someday of getting my second rainbow.

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Good days and bad.

It’s hard to believe it’s been a month since our D&E. Emotionally, I’m feeling okay most days. I know I’ll carry both our losses with me forever, but it’s true what they say — time heals. Each day feels a bit better than the last, but I do notice certain “triggers” take me by surprise. Like earlier this week I was sitting in a meeting and noticed the date on the calendar and had the realization that I would have been 18 weeks that day. It hit me like a ton of bricks and took my breath away. I had to really focus to compose myself. Little things like that seem to come out of nowhere, but overall I’m doing okay.

Physically-speaking, I had my post-op appointment and talked to my doctor about next steps last week. In another month or so, we’ll do an HSG test (where they inject dye into your uterus and tubes to look for abnormalities), and we’ll test for autoimmune and blood clotting disorders at the same time. I’m also going to get tested for Celiac disease again. My dad has Celiac, and it’s hereditary, and can cause miscarriage. I tested negative for it about 5 years ago, and I’m not showing any symptoms, but it’s possible to be asymptomatic and test positive at a later date, so we’ll get that checked out. Unfortunately, my doctor said she doesn’t think any of these tests will find anything, because if I had had any of these issues they would most likely have affected our pregnancy with Theo, and that pregnancy was essentially textbook. She said if she had to guess we’ve just had bad luck. I still want to do all the testing, though. As strange as it sounds, I hope they find something wrong with me. Most of these things can be treated if you know what you’re treating. But if we can’t pinpoint a cause, I’ll feel more confident knowing we’ve at least ruled out some things. It feels good to have a game plan, but I need to start accepting the reality that we may never know what happened or why.

Unfortunately, I was still bleeding slightly at my appointment, which the doctor had hoped would be over with by that point. She did an hCG draw and my levels were 11.6. That’s very low (the most sensitive of home pregnancy tests will detect around 25), but she had hoped they would be zero. We just did another draw this week and I’m happy to say they’re finally zero! I’m pretty sure the sheer elation of reaching zero is truly something only a miscarriage survivor can appreciate. I’ve also finally stopped bleeding, so that’s a relief. I recently started tracking my cycles again by taking my temperature, and my body seems to be still wonky. 32 days out and I have yet to ovulate. It’s not like we would do anything about it yet (more on that in a minute), but it would be nice to know my body is back to normal.

Some good news: D and I had a serious talk the other day about trying again. I was terrified about having this conversation. He was on the fence about trying this last time, due to fears leftover from our first loss, and I was afraid this later miscarriage would put him over the edge and he would be totally closed off to the idea, but to my surprise, he is completely on board. So that’s a relief. We’re still going to give it a few months so we can do all the testing, but I have hope that we will be pregnant again — it’s just a matter of when.

I think the “when” aspect is actually one of the hardest things for me to accept this go-round, though. I had always dreamed of having children 2-3 years apart. Now, best case scenario we’re looking at 3-4 years apart. I’m trying to have patience, but the truth of the matter is, the more time that passes, the farther apart the siblings will be in age, and that’s hard for me to accept, since I have such great memories of playing with my brother growing up (he’s two years younger). The other thing is that, frankly, time is not on our side. I’m 34 now, and best case scenario, I’ll be 35 when this next baby is born. That’s considered “advanced maternal age” by the medical community. I know women are having babies later these days — and I still feel young — but biology doesn’t lie, and the older a woman gets, fertility declines and chances of complications rise. It’s ironic — we got married so young — who would have thought we’d reach the point where we were at risk of being “too old” to have children? It sounds dramatic, but in some ways I sometimes feel like my life is passing me by and there’s nothing I can do about it…

Flying with a baby…

As I mentioned in my last post, we took Theo to Hawaii last month. It was our first time flying with him and we pretty much just dove right into the deep end with a 5 1/2 hour flight. I did quite a bit of research ahead of time on tips for traveling with a baby, but the truth is, you really never know how your baby will act until you just do it. With that said, in case any friends or family need advice, or any strangers stumble upon this blog while searching for tips, here are my two cents based on my limited experience flying with a nine month-old:

Booking the tickets:

Since children under two can ride on your lap without their own ticket, we went this route to save money; however, we purposefully booked an aisle and a window seat for D and me, hoping the middle would stay vacant. Different airlines have different policies, but many will allow you to bring your car seat on and use it in the empty seat if it’s is still vacant at boarding time (here’s Alaska Airlines‘ policy). I figured, best case scenario we get to bring the car seat on for free; worst case scenario, we offer the person in the middle the window seat. It’s not like they’d refuse. Our plan worked on the way there. On the way home our flight was full and we had to gate check the car seat.

Having done it both ways now, I’ll say this: if you can swing it financially to spring for that extra seat, it may be worth it, particularly on a long flight. On the way there when we had the car seat, we were actually able to get him to fall asleep for a little while (he sleeps great in the car, so I imagine it felt similar). On the way home, he squirmed the ENTIRE flight, and I had to stand most of the time. But if you’re on a budget or can’t justify the price of an extra seat, you may just get lucky and have an empty middle seat – especially for a touristy destination like Hawaii where people are less likely to be flying solo. Either way, you definitely want that aisle seat, so you can get up easily. Because chances are you’ll be up a LOT.

In-flight entertainment:

I had read one article that suggested buying a couple new toys to introduce while in flight, hoping the novelty would hold the baby’s attention more than toys they already know. This might work better with an older child. Or maybe my kid is just super ADD. But he was interested in the new toys for all of five minutes before he was squirming again. A napkin, a plastic cup and the in-flight magazine held his attention just as well, so my advice would be to save your money and not go gangbusters buying a bunch of new toys like I did, especially since you aren’t going to want to buy noisy electronic toys, so your selections will be rather limited.

Food actually held his attention much better than toys did. What can I say? My kid loves to eat. I brought some squeezy pouches and a spoon, and fed him small bites of food at a time, and that bought us about an hour. Puffs are always a hit, and as a bonus, you can let them hold and shake the container, which doubles as a rattle.

The best form of in-flight entertainment, I discovered? Other people. For a social baby like mine, having old ladies coo at him was pretty much the greatest thing in the world. Oh, and other babies can be great distraction too. Go on a walk and visit with the other babies on the plane. Chances are, their parents are also trying earnestly to keep them happy and will be grateful for your company for the sake of their own kids’ entertainment.

Mile-high diapers:

Nothing makes you realize just how tiny those airplane bathrooms are like trying to wrestle a squirmy, poopy baby on a changing table the size of a place mat. During turbulence, I might add. (Imagine my horror when the fasten seatbelt sign came on while I was doing damage control on a blowout.) The last thing you want to do is add a giant diaper bag to the mix, especially since there’s nowhere to set it except on the nasty floor. I’d suggest getting something like this; something you can stow in your big diaper bag under your seat, and quickly grab before heading to the lavatory. It folds out into a changing pad, which you’ll want anyway (in case the person before you lost the battle with poopy turbulence!).

Despite the fact that I normally prefer cloth diapers, we went with disposables for the flight (and the entire vacation, actually), which I would highly recommend. They pack more compactly and you don’t have to worry about wet bags or carrying smelly diapers back to your seat. There’s enough going on already when you’re flying with a baby, and there’s something to be said for the convenience of just being able to toss them in the trash and forget about them. I’d say that’s a pretty good overarching theme for flying with a baby: do whatever is most convenient and makes your life easiest. You can save the planet or worry about instilling good habits another day.

One more tip: on many airplanes, only one of the bathrooms has a changing table. It took me forever to figure this out the first time I went into one of the non-changing table lavatories.

What (and how) to pack:

The rules will be different if you’re traveling solo with a baby (and in that case, you have my condolences), but here’s what we did, and it worked well for us:

The diaper bag was my one and only carry-on. I had my wallet, phone, chapstick, gum, and the rest was stuff for Theo. Don’t even bother with magazines or books for you – chances are you won’t have much time for yourself and if you do, count yourself lucky and get some sleep! If you’re feeling really optimistic, maybe consider installing the Kindle app on your phone and downloading a book ahead of time. But you’re better off saving your bag space for baby stuff. Back to the diaper bag: in addition to minimal items for myself, I had my nursing cover, the diaper changer thing I linked to earlier (stocked with diapers, wipes and hand sanitizer), an extra change of clothes for Theo, several small toys and books, and some baby food in a small bottle cooler bag with an ice pack. I put the toys and food in the outside pockets where I could quickly grab them if he started to fuss. I also packed my manual breastpump in case he decided not to nurse and I needed some relief. I ended up not needing it, but if you have a finicky or distracted nurser and a long flight, it may be worth it.

I had D carry our rollaway carry-on bag, which had extra changes of clothes for both of us, extra diapers and anything we couldn’t live without for a couple days in the event our checked luggage got lost. We checked one very large bag with everything else for the three of us. Normally I hate paying to check a bag, but when you’re traveling with a baby you need a lot of crap that’s hard to fit into a carry-on. Plus it was nice to not have to worry about dealing with yet another bag through the airport and onto the plane. So walking through the airport, D carried our rollaway and empty carseat, and I carried the diaper bag with Theo strapped to me in a carrier (I have the Beco Gemini and it’s awesome – it was also a lifesaver for the flight home when I had to stand/walk the aisle the entire time). For a really tiny baby I would have considered bringing our snap and go stroller for the carseat and wheeling him through the airport since you can gate check strollers for free. But since we knew we wouldn’t use the stroller at our destination, we opted not to bring it.

What to wear:

I would recommend wearing pants or a skirt you can get on and off with one hand instead of jeans or anything you need to button, so you can hold the baby with one hand and get your pants up and down with the other (on a related note: if you go to the bathroom to change the baby, don’t forget to go yourself while you’re there – the last thing you want is to have to go later when the baby finally falls asleep on you). If you’re nursing, you’ll obviously want to wear a top with easy access. I would recommend stretchy low necklines as opposed to anything with buttons or clasps. Less to fumble with in already tight quarters.

Footed jammies are convenient for baby. He’ll be comfortable (and hopefully sleep?) and you don’t have to worry about losing shoes or socks. Plus, then you don’t need to take pants completely off to change him and risk dropping them in the nasty lavatory or something. Bring a couple extra changes of clothes – for you and baby. We had a blowout about 20 minutes into our flight, thanks to some antibiotics Theo was on for an ear infection that caused massive explosive poops several times per day. Speaking of ear infections…

Ears

I was really worried about his ears in flight. I had heard babies can sometimes have trouble equalizing the pressure in their ears on takeoff and landing, but surprisingly we didn’t have much of an issue, even though we were dealing with the tail end of an ear infection. He got pretty fussy on takeoff on the way there, but I had him in his car seat and was trying to feed him a cold bottle of pumped milk, which he wasn’t having. About halfway through our ascent with him screaming, I took him out of his car seat and nursed him instead and he instantly calmed down. We nursed most of the way through descent until he lost interest and got distracted by the turbulence (which he thought was fun – laughed and squealed with every bump and drop, even though my stomach was in my throat). Thankfully he didn’t seem bothered by his ears at all.

Security

Security was a lot easier than I expected it would be. On the way there we got waved through a special line and didn’t even have to take off our shoes or remove liquids from our bags. On the way home, we had to go through the whole song and dance, but they still let me wear Theo through the scanner, and even though we had to declare the breastmilk and baby food (they made us take it out, briefly looked at it and then waved us on through), you don’t have to adhere to the 3-1-1 rule when it comes to breastmilk, formula or baby food (or ice packs to keep the aforementioned cold).

Other passengers:

This was perhaps what I was most nervous about – getting dirty looks (or worse) from other passengers. I read somewhere that you should hand out candy or Starbucks gift cards to the people around you, but that just seemed overly apologetic to me. Yes, he’s a baby and he’s rude and noisy sometimes, but he has just as much right to take a vacation with his family as anyone else does. If he were particularly fussy I could see offering to buy your seatmate a drink, but it felt like overkill to me to preemptively apologize for your baby just for being on the flight.

Actually, most people were really nice. A few people even commented about what a good baby Theo was being, or gave me a knowing look and told me I was doing a good job; that they’ve been there before. We only had one rude encounter when the woman across the aisle from me made a loud passive aggressive comment to the person next to her about me standing in the aisle for the whole flight (believe me, lady, I’d much rather be sitting).

I’ve always tried not to show my annoyance toward fussy babies when I know the parents are doing the best they can, but I also can’t say I’ve ever paid any parents a compliment for having a good baby either. But I’ll admit, it really meant a lot to be reassured that I was doing a good job, or even just to hear people tell me how cute Theo was. I’ll remember that next time I fly and will go out of my way to tell a flustered looking parent that they’re doing great.

This turned into a long post and I haven’t even gotten to the actual vacation part yet! I’ll stop here and will save that for a separate post. With that, here are a few pictures of my little flyer.

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