National Infant and Pregnancy Loss Day

October 15

Today, October 15, is National Infant and Pregnancy Loss Day. The whole month in fact is Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness. I learned about this day last year, at a bereavement group meeting.  (See related blog post here.)  

Last year was different.  We were four months into living our new reality, missing Millie, and trying to continue on as a family with Mon Cœur (MC) propelling us forward.

This year, we are 16 months missing Millie, carrying on as a family with MC keeping us on our toes, and we are 14 days from an induction to meet our baby boy.  This year is harder in many ways than it was last year, perhaps precisely because we are expecting, and in just two weeks.  I believe it is the home-stretch anxiety, knowing how close we are, and also knowing that it could all slip between our fingers.

Throughout this pregnancy, we have had our ups and downs of emotions – excited, skeptical, hopeful, anxious, excited, scared.  We are all anticipating his arrival, and yet some severe anxiety clouds our joy.  We know the potential outcome.  We know we aren’t in control, and little things can trigger thoughts or feelings of “what if?”

Gifts and conflicting emotions

Our village exudes enthusiasm for us – they don’t see or feel the apprehensions that we do.  We have had more people shower us with gifts prior to baby boy’s arrival than Millie’s, which is confusing from my perspective. I hate to sound ungrateful or ungracious, I simply can not mentally process the gifts that have been given us…We are scared.

When it’s just us, and we aren’t putting on a face for others, we are in fact very aware of what could or couldn’t be. I have hid all of the gift bags away and out of sight until we are back home with baby in arms.  I would rather be exhausted, have my hands full, and have to process gifts and write thank yous once I know he is here instead of looking through them now, getting hopes up, and maybe not be able to put these gifts to use. Silly? Maybe. I am trying to be strong while also protecting our family from potential emotional anguish, and it’s a fine line to walk.

Every time we receive a gift, I flashback to the day that I received a gift from my sister, and then Chouchou came home that same afternoon and had forgotten a quilt at work which had been made by a co-worker.  “It’s no big deal, baby – you can get it tomorrow,” I told him.  

That day was the day before the morning I woke up and didn’t feel Millie, that I naïvely believed that although I wasn’t feeling any movement, since I felt contractions, everything was okay.  Everybody kept saying, “Babies move less and less right before labor.” “Okay, she’s ready then,” I incorrectly thought.

The morning I woke up and Chouchou was busy preparing a dinner feast in the kitchen, and MC was running around laughing.  The morning I planned on “just running up to the hospital for a quick check-in” while Chouchou felt much more ominous about the situation.  The morning we placed my hospital bag and the car seat in the car, expecting to come home with a baby bundle and at the doctor’s office learning that would not be the case.

Managing this pregnancy

Although I feel like we’ve managed well throughout this pregnancy, the one thing that we have refused to do is set up anything baby related or open any baby gifts.   We just can’t bring ourselves to do it.  Instead, I have begun a wish list of things for my mom to do when she comes up.  I am grateful for her help, support, and understanding. What gets done, gets done, and what doesn’t get done, we’ll figure out once we get home. Anything is better than coming home and having to break down a no-longer needed nursery, and reallocate no-longer needed gifts.

Everyone keeps saying that this time it will work out, this time will be different. While I want to believe them, I can’t help but know that it might not work out, it might not be different this time.  When I hear those phrases it makes me itch inside, like there’s a rash that can’t be soothed. When I hear that, I just want to hit fast forward to the day when we are reassured by his arrival, his cry and his physical, squirming presence.

Remembering Millie

Today especially I am reminded of Millie Bonheur, our darling who did not come home with us.  I think of her every day.  I remember her every day.  MC sees a butterfly and says, “Hello, Millie!” She is remarkable at her timing to notice Millie’s urn and ask to hold her or speak to her. Just this past Tuesday, she asked to hold Millie. She talked to her, held her, then we put her back.

Today I am remembering our Millie, and all the moms whose hearts ache for their baby angels.

To read more about our pregnancy journey, check out these previous blog posts:

Big sister conversations

The other night during our bedtime routine, Mon Cœur (MC) really surprised me with an out of the blue statement. 

“I don’t want a baby,” she whined to me.  

I was caught off guard, and felt like I had the wind knocked out of me.  I certainly was feeling anxieties myself, about a successful end of pregnancy, a smooth delivery and bringing Baby Boy home to be with us.  I wasn’t sure what brought this on or how to address it.  

I summoned her out of her bed, to the rocking chair where I was so we could chat and cuddle.  As she made her way to me in the glow of her nightlight, I thought about how I should respond.

I said, “What do you mean?”

“I don’t want the baby in your tummy.”

“You mean Baby Brother?”

“Yes!”

“Why don’t you want Baby Brother?”

“Because he will eat all my pompoms and planets!”

“Mommy will not let him eat your pompoms! Or planets! You know how Mommy is!”

Feeling Mad

I was at a loss – I didn’t know what to say, as she had never mentioned anything like this before.  We had just read Way Past Mad by Hallee Adelman, where a younger brother messes up everything for an older sister.  I wondered if that could be why she suddenly felt the way she did.

“What about the book we read today?  Way Past Mad? Are you worried Baby Brother will mess everything up?”

“Yes.”

“Well, you know sometimes things will happen and we’ll all make messes, but we will work through it.  We will figure it out together.”

A new bedtime routine

I thought some more and realized that perhaps she is figuring out new changes in our routines. Chouchou has begun taking over the bedtime routine, so we can all get used to it before Baby Boy comes home.  I need to practice letting go, so that Chouchou can step in, and MC needs to get used to this change.  

So I asked her, “Is this because Daddy put you to bed last night?”

“Yes.”

“Well, we all need to practice a new routine for when Baby Brother gets here.  I can’t always put you to bed.  I wish I could! Sometimes Daddy will have to help. Okay?”

“Okay.”

“Mommy and Daddy won’t be able to help you all the time like we do now.  You’re a big girl though, you can help us with Baby Brother and we will also make sure to spend special time with just you, too.”

Ending on a positive note

“I’m so excited that you’ll have a Baby Brother – do you know why?”

“Why?”

“Because you are an excellent tree climber.  When he’s big enough you can teach him how to climb!  And when we go out to Millie’s garden, you can teach him the names of all the different flowers, because you know absolutely all of them.  And you are an excellent reader – you can read books to him, too!”

“Yeah!” she agreed and climbed back into bed.

Whew.  We are counting down the weeks, anticipating the best, trying to prepare our family for a new addition, and doing our best to not let our fears of worst case scenario cloud the view.

Keep calm and go to the doctor

Or, how I am dealing with my anxiety in the home stretch of my first pregnancy post-loss.

I haven’t wished to project every little anxiety that creeps into my mind on my blog, and yet there have been two occasions recently that have had me…us…on edge.  

I am 30 weeks pregnant now, and things are progressing as they should.  Every appointment has checked the baby as growing steadily and healthily.   If this were a routine pregnancy, I’d say everything was perfectly fine, no worries. 

I am certainly more aware and sensitive to things in this pregnancy as opposed to my previous ones.  I feel like right now, we are so close to the prize, and yet just entering what I refer to as our “danger zone.”   I’ve become hyper-observant of movements – anything that could be construed as out of character or attributed to the baby being in distress.

1. Decreased movement

A little over a week ago, after hours, I had experienced a decrease in movement.  Typically, as soon as I go to lie down, Baby will begin kicking.  Instead, I felt an enormous calm Sunday evening.  I began to worry that something had happened, and then I started to rationalize – I hadn’t eaten a lot that day, I wasn’t even hungry at lunch and skipped that meal.  

With less sugars in my system, Baby was probably just not as active.  I became super alert to any movements, and felt a few flutters here and there throughout the night.  I woke early the next morning, drank a huge glass of cold water and lay back down on my left side.  He began kicking, and all was right with the world.  

We had our check up and discussed starting kick counts, twice a day. Having this data and these patterns helps reassure me daily, and keeps my head on straight between appointments. I set two timers on my phone and when they go off, I stop what I’m doing and count kicks.

2. Quick, intense movements

This morning, right before Mon Cœur (MC) crawled into bed for morning cuddles at 7, I felt rapid, intense movement, both of Baby’s legs and arms were going, and then there was an eerie calm.  There was some subtle movement afterwards, and I told myself, “Everything is okay.  When the office opens, I’ll call the doctor and get scheduled just to double check.”  

Shortly after MC came in and cuddled between us, I just couldn’t shut my mind off.  I decided to get up for the day, get ready and begin our morning routine.  I was determined to go into the doctor’s and get a non stress test (NST) to confirm that everything was okay.  I’d go ahead and drive in; maybe if I arrived early enough they could get me in first thing.

Trusting my mom gut

With Millie, the one thing I continue to regret is not trusting my gut and calling the hospital the evening I felt contractions.   I know my body best, and I have to trust what I feel.  I know I can’t change anything now; the regret is just a nagging feeling that I can’t get rid of. I just have to have conviction and confidence and act on what I feel going forward.

The movement pattern this morning – rapid and intense – was not something that fell within Baby’s normal pattern of movement.  I needed to know that he was not in distress.  I decided to act on my gut and go in for reassurance.

Pregnancy amid Covid-19

I got dressed and tried to carefully choose my words for Chouchou.  I know he’s worried, too, as we approach the end of this pregnancy.

“Good morning, baby.   Everything is okay. I am going to go into the doctor’s this morning.  I felt some rapid movement, then lots of calm.  I’ve felt him move again, I just need to go get a non stress test to make sure, for me.”  

“I’m going with you.” 

“You can’t – I need you to stay here with MC.  I’ll let you know as soon as I know anything.”

It was only 7:15am, and so I continued to make coffee for us, make a bagel for the road for me, and get MC started on her breakfast invitation.  I was trying to stay composed.  I was trying to keep Chouchou calm, and I was trying to reassure MC, who was asking all sorts of questions – “Where are you going? Can I go with you? Why can’t I go?”  

“Mommy’s just going to say hi to the doctor real quick, then she’ll be right back.”  Chouchou was a little alarmed I wasn’t moving with more haste, but I knew the office wasn’t open and I didn’t want to project my angst onto them.  We all needed to stay calm.

Luckily, MC is a master at keeping us busy, so between her request for Chouchou to make eggs and her breakfast invitation, I knew that she could keep him preoccupied and vice-versa.

I shouldn’t have told Chouchou that he couldn’t go with me, it’s just that with Covid, all previous rules of engagement are null.  We would not be allowed to go into the office as a family.   We’ve made arrangements for other appointments, and I am trying so hard to keep him involved at every level.  I understand (on a very surficial level) how a father may feel out of the loop in general with a normal pregnancy, not being able to feel the baby, etc.  So, I can only imagine how Chouchou feels this pregnancy.  I try very hard to communicate every little good thing, to have him feel any flutter, kick, or hiccup, and try to stay positive and collected otherwise.

Non-Stress Test

As I waited in the waiting room, my anxiety was compounding – I felt no movement, I was drinking cold water and sitting there rubbing my hand in circles on my belly and wondering when I would be seen.

The nurse came and called my name, took me back, was very calm and sweet and talked me through step by step what they were going to do.  She noted my vitals, and observed out loud my blood pressure was elevated.  Alarmed, I asked if it was high – she said, “It’s in the normal range, although it’s definitely higher than your normal range.”

I went ahead and settled into the chair for them to hook me up to the NST.  She found the heartbeat and as soon as she did that, I let out a huge sigh of relief and a few tears.  He had repositioned himself, his head was now on my left side, but there was a heartbeat and it was good and it was strong.  They gave me a cup of ice-cold water and I began sipping it through the straw.  Pretty soon thereafter, the doctor came in to check on me and I was thumbing the quiz-show buzzer, tracking his frequent movements.  

The doctor stayed with me the whole time, save when I FaceTimed Chouchou to let him know everything was okay.  The doctor and I chatted about various things, she gave me general information about patterns I could expect and scientifically documented active times for babies in utero at this stage – like they are most active between six and ten pm.  

She said many times, “Darlin’, anytime you need to come in to this office you come on in.”  After about a half an hour strapped to the NST, with heartbeat fluctuations and enough movements, all parties were satisfied and I was able to head back home to Chouchou and MC.

Managing anxiety

She also inquired, “How do you manage your anxiety between appointments?”

“I have a three year old to chase after, all day, every day. For the baby, as long as there is regular, normal, patterned movement, then I am reassured.  I thought everything was okay this morning, but I needed to be sure, so that’s why I came in.”

And that’s the truth – MC is great at keeping me preoccupied.  Every day is a new adventure – she keeps me busy and on my toes.  We are creating a daily and weekly routine as best we can in these times.  

The twice-daily kick counts have also been helpful in reassuring me, as patterns begin emerging.

The finish line in sight

We had previously focused on just getting from one appointment to the next, but we are literally eight weeks away, and are both beginning to fixate on just fast-forwarding to the arrival date. 

I’m starting to make a to-do list for September – call and schedule the induction, write a (loose) labor plan (which I have never previously done, because we’ve been carefree, go with the flow), make a request for specific L&D nurses (if possible), and make a specific request to not be in the same delivery room as where we delivered Millie (something I had not thought of, but Chouchou had).

Our journey has not been without anxiety, although I feel incredibly grateful to Chouchou, MC, our group of doctors, and our family and village. Thanks to their strength, courage, prayers, and good vibes, I feel strong myself and able to carry on as we approach our delivery date.

To read more about our pregnancy journey, check out these previous blog posts:

Measuring up: 28 weeks

This week is the 28th week of pregnancy for us, and that means just 10 more weeks to go. We’ve been counting down for a while, however, now that we’re about to hit single digits, and we can feel the finish line in sight…it’s become really real for us.

If this is the first time you’re reading, you may be wondering why just 10 weeks? That’s only 38 weeks and not the full 40 weeks. Check out our backstory here.

28 weeks: Which fruit or veggie this week?

It may feel like I’m carrying around a baby watermelon, but that’s not this week’s veggie!

Recently I discussed the apps that I was using to track this pregnancy, and depending on which app I reference, Baby Boy is either a large bok choy (14.75″) or as large as a head of lettuce (romaine, perhaps?) and approximately 2.25 pounds. It’s not a watermelon, but it’s still sizable.

This morning, Mon Cœur (MC) happened to be right beside me when I was checking the app for this week’s updates. So, I read all the little snippets of the growth milestones for this week, and she watched the What to Expect video for the week. Then I shared Baby Boy’s approximate size.

Of course, as a three year old, telling her 15 inches doesn’t really explain much, so we got out a measuring tape so I could show her. She loves the measuring tape – we’ve been using it a lot recently around the house for various projects, and she always has to help, so she was eager to hold the tape measure and help size things up.

After she saw the tape measure, I realized this was an opportunity to make things really tangible to her, and find objects in the house that were comparable in size. We decided to look through her stuffed animals and measure them to try to find an approximate size match. We went through bunnies, bears, baby dolls, and unicorns looking for a match. This was a great exercise for her to compare size, and for us to make her baby brother’s current size real.

Hopeful…and anxious

“I want to see him now!” MC said after we were finished measuring.

“Me too, baby, but he’s not ready to meet us yet. We’ll see him very soon. Ten more weeks.” I said.

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but as we enter our “home stretch” of the pregnancy, the anxiety has amped up again. I start feeling hopeful, like things will definitely turn out this time, then I remember that I just have to wait because nothing is guaranteed, and I’m not in control.

I cringe inside every time that I allude to the fact that Baby Boy will be here soon. I used to say similar things to MC about Millie being here soon, and then we had to explain that she wasn’t coming home. I want to say this time will be different, although I won’t know until I have safely delivered him and we are all home as a family.

This pregnancy, MC has been a lot more “hands-on.” She will literally come up and put her hands on my belly and enthusiastically say, “Baby Brother is moving!” She will talk to him, give him hugs, kisses, and her favorite, raspberries. She will tell me how much she loves him and can’t wait to meet him.

She also asks about Millie more frequently, “Where is she?, Can I call her?, Can I visit her?”

“She’s in heaven. You can’t call her, but if you want to talk to her, you can. I’m sorry, we can’t visit heaven.”

Chouchou and I are both feeling these contradictory feelings of optimism and angst as we approach these last few weeks. I’ve been cleaning and organizing, we’ve been discussing our plans and our fears. We are preparing for the best, and remaining all to aware of the worst-case scenario. To an extent, I see these same conflicting emotions in MC, too.

Early next week will mark the beginning of the 29th week and we’ll have some reassurance at another prenatal, too. As we are biding our time, waiting for the arrival of Baby Boy at the end of October, I will continue to make his weekly milestones and measurements as concrete as I can for MC, as she along with the rest of our family and friends are excitedly and anxiously awaiting his delivery.