Hi everyone, it’s me again.
It has been over 1 year since my last post. If you only have the patience to read one paragraph, I’m a parent now to two living breathing crying babies. As I sit here writing you, Mariel has our sleeping daughter laying on her chest. The daughter that I gave birth to a little over 5 weeks ago. Our rainbow baby. And if that doesn’t seem wild enough all on it’s own the magic didn’t end there because three days after our baby girls birth, Mariel gave birth to our son.
Since my last post I’ve had so many things I wanted to write about but they all seemed so large and overwhelming that I never wrote a damn thing. Sometimes it feels like “my story” isn’t in new parenthood after loss but in the miracle of it all. And sometimes it doesn’t even feel like I can sit down to write my story because I’m still living it and it’s not over yet.
Since my last post we wanted so desperately to grow life again that we met with our known donor and he agreed to help us try and make another baby. Our goal was for one of us to get pregnant but as fate had it I found out I was pregnant and then a few days later Mariel found out she was pregnant. That’s a story all on it’s own! To sum it up – we were in shock. I couldn’t stop smiling and Mariel didn’t believe she was really pregnant for months. It was a special time but one that we’d never do again or really recommend to anyone! Two pregnancies at once was everything you imagine it to be plus more.
Fourteen weeks into my pregnancy I had a McDonald purse string cerclage surgery to make sure my incompetent cervix didn’t result in another infant loss. I was scared shitless! I’m not new to surgery and have had so many things done but it’s entirely different when you are the only one undergoing surgery. The fact that my tiny little 14-week daughter was indirectly being put under too and the knowledge that something could go wrong did me under. I cried the entire time in pre-op until I fell asleep from the anesthesia. Despite the risks we couldn’t take the chance that my body would fail again so we did everything we could to keep baby girl safe. Thankfully I woke up with no complications but minor contractions and cramping that went away after 2 hours.
The three weeks between the 21 week mark when I lost Bruno and the 24th week of my pregnancy when baby would be viable were especially difficult. I was so sure that something horrible was going to happen and I’d lose her too. At any given time I would come up with a “plan” of how I’d handle it if my water broke at that moment and how I’d get myself to the hospital. Nothing happened. While my pregnancy with Bruno was extremely difficult (never ending nausea/vomiting and bleeding), my pregnancy with baby girl was easy. Around this time was when I found a counselor and started to see her weekly. Every week that I was pregnant past 21 weeks was so amazing because I’d never been that pregnant before. I was a veteran pregnant lady up to 21 weeks but the territory past that time was brand new! Those weeks were every emotion imaginable and I was so full of hope. But every week that passed I realized I had that much more to lose. Somewhere around 30 weeks I went from saying things like “if my baby lives” to “when I’m a mom”. The only idea I could count on was the knowledge that “today I am pregnant” because thinking about the future made me an anxiety ridden freak.
At 36 weeks I had the cerclage removed and fully expected to give birth at any second! I was so sure the only thing keeping my vagina shut was that string so when it was removed I thought baby girl would just fall right out. The removal was done in my doctors office and was completely painless. Despite the extra long walks I took, red raspberry tea I drank and curb walking, I went full term with baby girl and may have gone past 40 weeks had we not planned an induction.
With both of us pregnant everyone kept asking if we would deliver on the same day. While birth is totally unpredictable it became clear pretty quickly that at least one of our births would be planned because our son in Mariel’s belly was breech the entire pregnancy and never flipped. With her cesarean date scheduled I had the option of waiting until I went into labor naturally or choosing an induction date near her date so that we’d bring the babies home at the same time.
During both of my pregnancies I’d spend hours pouring over Ina May Gaskin’s “Spiritual Midwifery” book. I watched the Business Of Being Born and last October we attended a doula led retreat, The Babymoon Retreat, in Sedona where we spent days learning all about natural birth, breastfeeding and postpartum. I felt completely prepared to labor and deliver medicine free so a medicated induction was less than ideal. I didn’t have anything to prove, but needed my birth experience to be healing. I didn’t want a second traumatic birth experience so I was very intentional with the choices I made and part of that was making sure that emotionally I was in a safe place and had a carefully picked support team with me. I think if I wasn’t pregnant the same time as my wife I’d have given birth spontaneously when my body went into labor but that wasn’t the case.
My induction day came and we gave birth to baby girl complication free. Two days later we were discharged from the hospital only to go home, wash clothes, pack our bags again and check back into the hospital the next morning for Mariel’s cesarean. Baby boy was born complication free and all four of us were in the hospital for the next four days learning how to be parents. The time spent in the hospital was tough but we also felt pampered. We were both sore and covered in milk and sweat. Baby girl cried a lot with a ferocious hunger and baby boy was a sleepy little hunk that didn’t like sunlight and would only settle on his birth mami’s chest. We were both coming down from the emotions of just having birthed our babies and we cried a lot. We barely slept. We couldn’t stop staring at our babies and were so in love.
When it was time for me to be discharged from the hospital I sat in the wheelchair with baby girl in my arms and made sure to look up and smile at everyone and everything. That was my redemption day and we were bringing a living baby home. But I wasn’t expecting the rush of emotions I’d feel when putting her in the car seat. The moment I went to strap her in I started to sob and said out loud, “this baby gets to come home.” I’ll never understand why we lost Bruno but got to keep our rainbow babies.
Postpartum has been something I didn’t feel prepared for like I should have been. I didn’t expect to be as sore as I was or for breastfeeding to be so painful and difficult. The sleepless nights haven’t been as terrible as expected – I’ve been taking it in stride.
I read something the other day that said, “grief exists because love exists. you grieve because you love. that’s why grief never ends – because love never ends.”
Having brought baby girl and boy home has resurfaced all our memories of Bruno and our love for him. I often wonder how much baby girl and Bruno would have looked alike. I wonder what pregnancy with baby girl would have been like with a little toddler running around and how he’d have reacted when he met her. Knowing my kids cries and coo’s I wonder what his would have sounded like. Life is a funny thing. Love is a funny thing.
I mentioned our rainbow baby births a few paragraphs above and will write a much more detailed account of those days in another post. I can’t promise regular blogging since I’m raising twins but feel strongly about sharing what infant loss and life after loss is like for the next family who finds themselves in this same place. But aside from that, what would you like me to write about? A few ideas:
- pregnancy after loss
- using a known donor (his role in the kids lives, the adoption process, etc)
- how we got pregnant at home (tools and tricks that worked for us)
- what being 1 week apart in your pregnancy with your wife is like