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I feel so lost right now. My heart is gone... My reason is gone... It took months to get to a place where I thought we could try for baby #3 after Nick and Sophie left us. Not to replace them- no one ever could- but because we wanted a large family and wanted to have many, many children. We were afraid but they gave us such joy that we decided the fear of the pain of losing another child was worth the joy of another baby growing, the promise of the birth of another child. The miscarriage was such a shock; who expects that a baby will not implant? Who imagines being told their baby fertilized but never came into being? We were so sad, but somehow found a way to continue trying. And then our beautiful son... Our Alexander... Who brought us such hope and peace...
The first few weeks were so hard. We were pregnant- but would it last??? Would the baby implant and thrive? Would he make it to the first ultrasound? Would we see his beartbeat? Would we make it to our first prenatal and hear his heartbeat? What about our second prenatal? Would we? And things continued to progress. Every time we saw the baby and he was fine... Every time we measured the cervix and the results were top of the charts... Every new day, with kicks and swooshing... Every yoga class and Bradley class... More and more, we began to believe what everyone was telling us: that Alexander would be fine... that our pregnancy was normal... that, come the spring, our son would be born healthy and happy. It took about 16 weeks, but last Monday, we both had finally accepted that our prenancy was actually normal. That our son was fine and we could relax.
We talked about the things that most parents talk about when they are expecting another baby... The routine things... Who he would be, what he would look like, what the baby showers would be like... There weren't talks of my cervix being possibly faulty... There weren't talks about "what if" he came early. We were, for the first time in so many months, just another set of expectant parents with their hopes and dreams, with their jitters mostly subsided. Everyone was right: our pregnancy was normal. There was nothing to worry about.
I still don't know why Wednesday played out like it did. I can't even think about the why. Part of me feels like it was a blessing in disguise. I was so tired that I'd thought of staying home from yoga. I would have gone to bed early, peed during the night (without really being able to see), gotten up (possibly without noticing any blood) and gone to work, for a day of being on my feet. Would I have gone into labor at work? Would we have had any extra time with him? Would Peter have been with us? Instead, I decided that I'd go to yoga, since it made me feel so much more relaxed. As I walked out the door, I stumbled and fell, landing on my left wrist and left knee. My stomach was protected by my yoga mat and never hit the ground. A complete mess, I went into the house, checking for blood, freaking out, even though I wasnt in pain or bleeding. After calming down and still seeing nothing, I went to the class and it was wonderful. I had such a lovely time, holding my belly, talking to little Alex. It was wonderful and so relaxing. I drove home with such a feeling of peace and planned on succumbing to my peanut butter craving with a PB&J sandwich. I got home and, of course, had to pee. So, I did. And there was no blood, no excess mucus. But something said, check again... So, I did, this time keeping the tissue a little closer, a little longer. And the pink presented. It was so light that for a split second, I thought I was seeing things. But then, the fear hit.
I darted up the stairs and, in a panic, tried to find the number to Lankenau. The first number I called was a bust. The second put me on hold for the OB on call. Running back down the stairs, I checked again. It was pink- and it was pinker. I laid down on the couch and put my feet up. There was still no pain, only my fear. Using my cell, I called Peter... No answer. I tried another choir member... She wasn't there. Finally, the choir director, yelling for her to send Peter home right away. I couldnt breathe, I couldnt control my voice, I was on the verge of tears. I didn't know what to say, what to do. I hung up on Peter, who had taken the director's phone, when the doctor came on the line. Much to my dismay, she basically said that she couldnt advise me, that I would have to call Dr. B.'s answering service. (This is the same OB on call who told me, with an open cervix, to walk around...)
I called the answering service and within a minute or two, Dr. B.'s associate had called me back. He told me that the fall had nothing to do with the bleeding, that bleeding from that would have been a lot quicker than 2 hours later. He said that, for peace of mind, to come to the hospital and that they would admit me to antepartum for overnight monitoring. As I hung up the phone, Peter pulled into the drive. I met him outside and we rushed to the hospital... The staff were waiting for us and we were taken in right away. Within 5 minutes of arriving, a nurse had a doppler strapped to my belly and we heard our beautiful cuddlebug's heartbeat, a steady 155-160 BPM. It was wonderful. She also strapped me in to see if I was having contractions; nothing showed on the monitor. It wasn't until midnight that the resident I'd spoken to on the phone (who couldn't help me) came in and did an ultrasound. Our little boy was playing soccer like usual, jumping up and down on my bladder, moving all over the place, his heartbeat strong. Her physical exam showed my dilated cervix, and this is the only part of the hospital stay that angers me. Common sense tells you that if someone's cervix is open, you stay off your feet. No question. Dr. Genius told me not to use a bedpan, to go to the bathroom, and to just relax until Dr. B. saw me the next day. I fully believe that this order is what allowed my bag and little Alexander's legs to slip into my vagina. I think that, had she given me the advice my doctor gave me the following day (inversion, 100% bedrest, 100% bedpan) that I'd still be in the hospital. In a precarious situation still, no doubt, but I dont think my water would have broken and I dont think labor would have progressed. To the contrary, I think my cervix would have closed and that Dr. B. would have been able to perform the cerclage surgery. I'd like to think that the doctor isn't incompetent, but, in my grief, in my looking for someone to blame, she is the only doctor that didn't live up to par.
In spite of this, I have a beautiful baby boy, to remember, to love, to hold in my heart forever. I can't regret that. I just wish for more time... So much more time...
We ordered Alexander's memorial Mass cards. We worked on them last night and the proofs were emailed to us this morning. It's hard making funeral arrangements when we should be planning a baby shower and day dreaming about his Christening day.
Make me an instrument of your peace... The prayer of St. Francis... This sums up our little boy. He brought us peace. So many times during our hospital stay (and even now), we just felt this enormous peace, the peace of the Divine. There just aren't words to describe it. For example, after my water broke: peace. Pure, unadulterated peace. The nurses and doctors were more upset than we were. Peter even said he knew things were okay because I was fine. No stress, no fear. It was all okay. That was Alexander. He just had a way of setting you at ease with his spirit. We took a nap and afterwards, still no pain, no worry, just peace. When the moments got bad and the worry took over, again this feeling of peace decended. Feelings of love and joy, of hope in a time where hope was scarce. Even when talking to Dr. B.- there was this sense of ease, a feeling he understood and worked with us in. When the bleeding began, there was fear, so much fear, and I think we both knew that Alexander's time was coming. After the ultrasound showed our little boy's heart beating and his little body moving, amid all the blood, after the doctor's told us that there was no hope left... We felt his peace... It gave his father the ability to tell the doctor's that we would follow whatever lead Alex gave us, that we would handle his labor in our way, on our own. That peace, I think, gave them the sense to go away, to let us be, to understand that they wouldnt be called back until our son entered the world. We weren't immune to the hope that our son would wait, that he would hang on and that my placenta would hold, but there was a peace to the situation, his peace, that told us it was alright.
After the priest visiting and prayed over him, and prayed for Peter and I and our labor, a final peace took place. When we were all alone, we faced each other and talked to each other for a while. The contractions seemed to fade away and we took that last, precious sleep together. I can close my eyes and feel Peter's body pressed against mine, his arms wrapped around my expanded belly. I can feel our son moving to find his daddy's hands, whooshing back and forth, kicking, finally settling into his cuddlebug position, resting under the warmth of our hands. That nap was so wonderful... So full of hope and love and peace. He was relaxed and unafraid. He was getting ready to meet his parents, face to face.
When his labor went into full force, there was no crying, no screaming, no utter pain. It was labor, no doubt, and it hurt, sometimes terribly, but there was this stillness... This place that doesn't exist outside of those moments. I'll never forget them. There were perfect kisses from my husband, from the father of our children, Alexander's father, my love... Even now, those kisses transport me to this place of peace and love. There was hand holding like nothing else, as his dark brown eyes guided me through the peace that labor had brought. Finally, there were his voice, telling me that our son was, indeed, as I had thought, being born... That is perfect little legs were coming out, kicking, playing. There was the announcement that his chest was out, that one more gentle push would bring him completely into the world. There was the gasp of wonder and amazement and then the words that announced our son's broad shoulders (like his mommy's) and beautiful head (shaped like his daddy) had finished his birthing process. There was the smile and the words every mother longs to hear: he's moving. Finally, after his cord was cut, there was the moment I'd waited for. Peter brought my precious baby boy to where I could see him, finally in fullness, and said "Our son".
Those words... Our son... Other than "our daughter" (which is equal is perfection), there are no words as beautiful. Not even "I love you", I think. There is something so sacred about those words... Our son or our daughter... Our child... Our baby... The culmination of our love, exploding in divine creation, perfection. You look at this child, this perfect image of all that is right in the world, and you know that there is nothing you wouldnt do, nothing you wouldnt give, for this baby. You would lay down your life a hundred times over, you would rip your own soul out, you would descend to the bowels of hell and risk the ultimate loss, over and over again, just for a moment holding, kissing, feeling, loving... There is no pain too great, no sorrow too much for that single moment. You look at your baby, your beautiful, sacred child, and you know that there is no love greater than that of parent and child. It changes everything. It makes your life worthwhile and purposeful. It conquers everything else. Because, when you stare into the face of your perfect child, there is nothing else. There never could be.
Today, I sit here, broken. My heart has burst into thousands of shards, each more painful than the one before, as they stab at what is left of my fractured soul. But it has broken not because of my grief, but because of my love. Because it wasn't big enough to hold the explosion of love that my son gave me. Because of that love, today, I survive.