Friday, January 29, 2010

20 wks: What You Aren't Supposed to Say

The contractions started while I was at work. I felt them. I knew they were there,but I didn't want to be a burden to coworkers. I remember feeling fear. Fear for my unborn baby. Fear that this, combined with my history with E's pregnancy, would end my ability to work. Which spawned fear for the financial well-being of my little family. Fear.

But we, as pregnant women, are not supposed to think of anything but the baby. After coworkers convinced me to go to L&D to get checked, all I could think is "this is it: there goes my life right before my eyes". All of the overtime worked to keep on top of bills. All of the hours of study-time logged to get me closer to my goal. My job. My house. My car. My ability to provide for E. All of it. Whoosh! There it goes.

They stopped the contractions and I was able to go home after a few hours. Home to bedrest until I could see my OB in the office. But something happened to me that night. I left the hospital feeling less adequate and faulty. What was wrong with me? I was supposed to be the selfless mother, concerned only with her baby. Who thinks of work, school, or others at a time like that? The answer is ME. I do.

Because what they DON'T tell you while you are laying there, strapped to monitors that are recording your body's dysfunction is that you are only human. And that while I have an obligation to be selfless for this baby that still needs to grow, I also have obligations to others in my life. E is young, and he needs me. J needs me. My coworkers rely on me to be there when scheduled. And my family relies on me to work to provide, to get my education to provide more in the future.

But I'm not supposed to say that. There is no "self" and there is noone else when you are pregnant. The world is supposed to stop. For the baby.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hmmmm, I Should Start at the Beginning

I guess our fight to become parents began with E. eight years ago. E was the little boy we were sure was to be our daughter, and we found out we were expecting him almost one month to the day after we were married. I remember J's excitement, after having told me he, like I, wanted a girl, and then we saw the telltale image on the ultrasound screen to show us it was not our daughter after all, but rather a son. "That's my BOY!", he exclaimed!

I will never forget the feeling of the tightening in my belly at eighteen weeks of pregnancy. It seemed so benign. But after a few minutes, it happened again, and I realized that I was having contractions. We reported to the hospital to be told what I already knew. But instead of saying I was in preterm labor, they said I was having a late miscarriage. No. No no no no no. Miscarriage is something that happens at the stage of pregnancy when everything is still so abstract. Not to ever belittle the loss of a baby, but this was OUR baby. Our son. Our E. Of course we cried.

The doctor agreed, since we were a young married couple, to try to stop the labor. Looking back now, I realize how arrogant this truly was. Who were they to "decide" which babies are worthy of saving? But they gave me a shot, and the contractions stopped. But the battle was far from over. I went into labor on average of once a week from that point on. That is, until it got to the point where I just didn't stop contracting. I spent a month in a local hospital, what was known as the mecca of obstetrical care in this region of the country. I toured their NICU, in preparation for what we would be facing. I was on every drug known to man: Brethine, Procardia, Sulindec, magnesium sulfate. I got the steroids, a course in each trimester, to be exact. I was on bedrest and couldn't work. My husband, having just started a new job, lost his from having to be absent so many times thinking "this is it, we're having a baby". We ended up living in my in-laws' basement from financial ruin.

But E held on. To know him now would explain it all: a spirited, gifted, spunky little boy who can have you enamored with him within five minutes of meeting him. He was born at 34 weeks gestation and came out screaming. I cried when he cried, from lungs that were to be underdeveloped. That is what we had prepared for, after all: the idea of immature lungs had been hammered into our head from 20 weeks of gestation. But he made it, and was a picture of health. He's now eight years old.

When E was a baby, if you asked me if he would be an only child, I would've told you no. While we were not eager to repeat the experience of his pregnancy, to test fate, we loved being parents. We had been so lucky, and our family had emerged, other than a few minor bruises, largely unscathed. Our boy was healthy and proving to be quite smart. And one day we would give him a brother or sister, but "not right now". After a few years of recovery, I didn't even think of birth control. If it happened, it happened. It never did.

I was always kind of sad about that, though I would never admit it. I didn't want to attempt fertility drugs because I didn't want to chance multiples. Not after having survived E's pregnancy. I would stifle my jealousy as others around me became pregnant. I knew I SHOULDN'T want another. We couldn't afford it. I couldn't risk it. And I had things I wanted to do with my life. I went back to school to become a health care professional, and began to earn a far-better salary. Then I turned to the idea of fulfilling a lifelong dream: I went back to school to work on the requirements for medical school.

As E got older and older, people started to ask when we would have another. "NEVER!" would be my cry. My life was crazy. A full-time healthcare provider, a full-time pre-med student, a wife, a mother. J had started nursing school so that he would be done in time for me to start medical school, so I could then slack off at work. We had plans. And they were coming to fruition. No. No more babies. Instead, we had given up the idea and filled our life together with other things.

But God had other plans for us. And after just "not feeling right", and years of no birth control, I discovered myself to be pregnant. Everyone around me judged me for thinking this, but I honestly thought it was a cruel joke. As in: " Now? Really, God? Are you serious?" And I was upset. All of the struggles we fought to bring E into this world came back to me. What if they happened again this time? How would we handle it? J was unemployed and a full-time student. E was thriving. And me? I was the sole breadwinner for the family. What if I couldn't work? What if it was worse this time? What if I just couldn't hang on again?

Gradually, I got used to the idea by telling myself this was finally my daughter. I was later devastated to discover it was to be another son. After all, this really is to be the LAST ONE. I am an obstetrical nightmare, and the odds of a complicated pregnancy increase with age. I am now 33 years old. I had to tell myself that this is it. I will never have a daughter.

But then something happened. I got over the shock. I got over the disappointment of a boy. I began to realize that this, just like E, is to be our baby. And we love him. I never thought I could love like I love E, but I do. I picked out clothes and furniture and bedding. We picked out a name. Zachary, because it means "God remembered", and Clifton, after J's grandfather, who passed away this past year.

I took comfort in the idea that every pregnancy is different and watched as the weeks ticked by on the calendar, each week thinking "so far, so good". I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Finally it did, and I went into preterm labor on January 29 at 2o weeks gestation.

So now, here we are. Fighting for Zachary. And I am starting this blog to document the struggle. It is not foreign territory to us, but I find myself wishing I would have documented something with E's pregnancy. Now is my chance.

(Image: E at 4 years old, on the front porch, and those chocolate-brown eyes that reel me in.)

Friday, January 1, 2010

From the Beginning Again: Looking Back

I should explain that while this is dated as the first post of this blog, it is not. I am currently 6 months beyond my pregnancy. Zachary is six months old.

I started this blog for several reasons. I endured a pregnancy much like my pregnancy with Zach with my oldest son, Evan. As the years passed, some memories of the ordeal seemed to stay almost palpable, while others softened and blurred around the edges. I remember wishing I would have kept a journal so that when I tell Evan he is a miracle, he will have tangible evidence as to why this is true.

I began my pregnancy with Zachary as being ignorantly hopeful that I would not have to endure the same experiences.The first trimester made this even more believable. Somewhere nearing the midpoint, as with Evan, I began to experience a sort of deja vu, and the battle with a dysfunctional uterus began. The names and faces, the times, and the treatments available changed with the passing of eight years. The experiences remained largely the same, all the way down to the boys' birth weights, which were only a few ounces off. So with this in mind, the blog became less about documenting the story of his birth for Zachary and more of a catharsis for me.

I was in my final year before entering medical school, a dream I have had since childhood and was finally making a reality for myself. I was a borderline workaholic. I was a complete control freak, type A, know-it all sort of person. And despite the fact that I had at one point wanted another child, after eight years without conceiving a little brother for Evan, my husband and I had given up. Suddenly, I was thrust from my life with a pregnancy that was unplanned and actually quite a shock to us.

I cannot put into words the place from which this was all written. It was my entertainment and my outlet for 4 months of bedrest. Four months of lost control, pain from both contactions and treatment for those contractions, fear for Zachary's well-being, and a deep sorrow for the life I had to give up. Add to that the financial burden of our family's sole breadwinner being grounded, the medical bills, and the guilt that was provoked from feeling anything but pure joy at the thought of my pregnancy, and you have a very deep, dark place. In fact, there was one particular phase where the only factor keeping me from suicide was Zachary's right to his life.

I try, many times over, to revisit this blog. To look back. I never can seem to do it. I would much rather spend my time moving forward with a little boy who is the greatest joy in my life. I don't miss the idea of medical school because it would diminish time with my baby. Where I surrounded myself with my job before the pregnancy, now it is simply something I have to do and that takes me away from Zach, which I deeply resent. Zach's presence in my life has had that much of an impact for me. When I first became pregnant, I remembered thinking God had horrible timing to wait for a point in my life where I had gotten past having babies. Now I know his timing was perfect.I needed to slow down in order to love and appreciate life with my amazing husband and my two miracles.

I am in the process of editing the blog. I had, on average, anywhere from 20 to 40 contractions an hour for the duration and, toward the end, did so with tachycardia, dyspnea, and a narcotic-induced fog. The fact that I was able to type all of this is still somewhat miraculous to me, but I did. And as a result, it is wrought with typographical errors and in need of some general corrections. Other than that, I plan to leave it largely untouched. Raw. Rough. To smooth anything over would defeat the whole purpose of me recording any of it.

The reason for the editing? I am having it made into a book for Zachary and myself. As if to say, "Look, kid! We made it through!" With that being said, I should say something to my angel of a baby boy:
Zachary, I love you more than words. There is no part of this that I would not do again just to have one tiny glimpse of you in my life. You are that worth it to me. Never doubt how loved and wanted you are.
And to my team of doctors, who have remained largely anonymous through this: I did this out of professional courtesy. but please know that each time I look into the gorgeous blue eyes of my perfectly healthy baby, I am reminded of you all. I hear your voices of reason. I see the art with which you knew what I wanted for my unborn child, even when my voice was saying something altogether. Of course I didn't want a grossly premature baby, even though I was begging you to end my misery. And I hear your voices, in the middle of the night, once again awakened by nurses who were staring at a recording of my contractions in panic. Ever calm, ever reassuring, ever reasonable, ever patient. Even when you had to be groaning on the inside at the mere mention of my name, I never felt this from any of you. Even when I was trying to refuse trips to the hospital or more drugs for the contractions. You guided me though some of the roughest waters of my life, thanklessly, and I will be eternally grateful. That your hands were the first to touch Zachary seems appropriate since his presence here is as much your work as it was mine.

So this is it. Zachary's story. My story. Zachary's journey into the world, and my fight to get him here. I am so glad I won.