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.)

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