Sunday, October 4, 2009

Baby Dreams

(I haven't posted about my dreams during Noah's and Joni's pregnancies. I wrote this in response to a discussion topic in a support group I belong to.)

When I was pregnant with Noah, I had a dream he had died just a couple of weeks before it was so. I couldn't remember the details but I told my husband about it and asked him if we could try again if something happened to Noah. (Noah had been very unplanned and we had been in desperate financial straights - so we really had no business having another baby). He said "of course but nothing is going to happen to him."

Around the same time I was at a rummage sale and struck up a conversation with another very pregnant mom and we discussed due dates. I said "we're having a boy and he's due September 13th - but he's not going to make it." I checked myself immediately. What I meant was he wasn't going to make it to his due date because he was so big and I was having so many contractions - unlike anything I had experienced with my other two full term pregnancies. In the end both my slip and my feeling that he was a big baby and would come early were both true. He arrived at 37 weeks, big, healthy, but still.

On the day of his funeral we had family over to our apartment, an apartment we moved into only 4 weeks before Noah died. When they left, I walked into the kitchen and looked at the remains of the gathering on the counter - a half empty ginger ale bottle, a bakery box filled with bars from the funeral lunch, paper plates, plastic cups - and I deja vued back to the dream. I hadn't thought of it in the week since Noah's death, but the scene in my tiny kitchen had been part of that dream. I knew at some level the Noah was going to die.

In the last days of November, just three months after burying our son, I was pregnant again. Like many newly pregnant women I had lots of crazy dream. It was not new for me - I experienced crazy dreams with all my pregnancies. But as a babylost mom, the dreams seemed more macabre - which of course, given the dream in Noah's pregnancy, scared the crap out of me. The dreams escalated in intensity until one morning I had the loveliest/scariest dream about the baby I was carrying. She was a big happy healthy chubby dark-haired little girl who looked exactly like me. In the hospital I carried her on my back wrapped in a big native looking cloth - she was so big and strong. And then she smiled right at me with all her teeth - a big wide gap-toothed smile. I was so incredibly proud of her.

And then in the dream she started to wither away. I was showing her proudly to everyone, but I could tell she was slipping away and I knew it was because I wasn't feeding her. I tried to get her to nurse, but she refused. I tried to get the nurses to help me, but they were too busy. And so, in my dream, my big girl withered in my arms.

Interestingly I woke from that dream overjoyed that I was having a girl. I talked to my therapist (a rather wise hippie counselor) about it and asked if she thought I could be excited about it even though it ended badly. She said she thought the sad part was more about Noah than my new baby. And so I was happy about my baby girl (yes the baby is in reality a girl), but my worries about her "withering away" lingered.

As the days went by I had more and more dreams. One had me in the hospital again - asking for help and getting none - wanting to see my baby. They finally brought me my baby - one I was expecting to be dead - and then she opened her eyes and looked at me. I was confused and looked at the nurses and said - you brought me the wrong baby - this baby is alive but my baby is dead - he died yesterday.

The dreams continued like that until finally I had what could only be described as a nightmare. It was clearly about Noah this time. I was trying to bring him back to life - but he was dismembered and I couldn't do it - so I tried to bury him again - but I couldn't do that either - so he just laid there in pieces on the dirt.

I woke up in tears - sobs really - and stayed that way the entire day. I couldn't shake the dream. I decided I needed to go to the doctor to have my baby checked. Because so many of my dreams had been about seeking help from my primary doctor and not getting it, I decided to call an OB I had seen in the past instead. I explained my anxiety - just short of describing the dream - and was fit in with an NP who was very kind and reassuring. She did a quick ultrasound and the baby was still alive. I was happy, but not quite relieved. I asked her if they could run a progesterone test. She said there was really no need since the baby measured right on track and had a beating heart. But then she looked at me and I think she could tell I needed something more to be reassured and said - "well if it will help."

I was about eight weeks pregnant at this point. I had seen my regular doctor a week before because of a tiny bit of spotting. My progesterone was 21 which was low for me compared to my other viable pregnancies, but my doctor declared it "great". Now at eight weeks my progesterone came back at 9. I spiraled into panic. I was put on prometreum - 200mg per day. A few days later I had more spotting and cramping so the prometreum was doubled.
After that everything with my body - if not my mind - was calm. No more spotting or cramping. And although I remained a basket case during my waking hours for most of the pregnancy, the dreams never returned.

The pregnancy was not easy. There was much to give me pause even beyond the anxiety that seems to be part and parcel of a subsequent pregnancy after loss. Even after she was born things were not perfect. I've thought of the dream often - of my big healthy girl withering away - and wondered with each dip in the road "is this what it meant - am i going to lose her now?" In writing it all out though, I think it was about the progesterone - I think my body needed that little extra boost to keep her safe - and Noah was warning me.

Another funny thing about that dream: when Joninah was born, except for being a girl, she looked nothing like the baby of my dream - she was SKINNY! Now, at seven weeks she is that girl. Far from wasting with lack of breastmilk, she is an avid, sometimes ravenous, nurser with chubby cheeks, chubby legs, chubby everything! She is dark featured, and a quick look at her toothless gums seems to point toward a gap between her two front teeth - just like mommy, big sister, grandma, and great-grandma. Poor thing!

Two months in

Joninah is a big, healthy, strong, gorgeous, baby girl - what more can I say?! I won't apologize for my vain, prideful, mother-biased crowing. She is the full, round, happy, dark-haired, dark-eyed, gap-toothed baby I dreamed of when she was just a group of primordial cells settling in to her first home. Dreams do come true sometimes I guess.

We call Joninah "Coconut". At first it was "Peanut" - not too original, but descriptively accurate. And then my milk came in. I swear we woke up to a different baby every morning. It seemed we were literally watching her grow before our eyes (and I do know the difference "literally" and "figuratively"). One morning, while marveling at our breastmilk-metamorphosed baby, my husband commented "you know honey she really isn't a peanut. She's more like a walnut." We tried "Walnut" out for a few days - but it just doesn't sound very warm and cuddly. So then Grace suggested Coconut. Well of course she is just like a sweet, round, fuzzy little coconut. And so she is.

And now she is asking for me - and I'll never post anything if I don't post in small chunks - so that's all for now.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

No Woman's Land

I am 34 weeks tomorrow. Only a few weeks left! people keep telling me. Six long long terrifying weeks left - I can't help thinking. She could be born soon. She could die soon. I am being seen twice a week now for NSTs. Starting at 36 weeks I'll have a bio-physical profile instead of one of the NSTs. I have been seen just about weekly since the very beginning. She seems to be growing, her arrhythmia is a bad memory, her NSTs so far have been great - everything is fine - and yet I can't shake the feeling that she is going to die.

Noah's death was caused by a true knot. I really don't know for sure how long it took him to die, but I imagine it was minutes. Try as a might (and I really am trying) to find comfort in all this monitoring, I can't get past the thought that I could leave the clinic after a perfect visit, get in my car, and she could be dead before I pulled out of the parking lot.

One thing that is hard is that she just doesn't move very much. I listen to her heartbeat with my doppler and that will usually elicit a few jabs (she must really hate it), but often, too too often, she is quiet - and it makes me INSANE!

I'm in two worlds. One has a big box of beautifully clean and carefully folded newborn clothes waiting for her to wear, poop in, spit-up on and grow out of. The other world has a little ziploc bundle in my purse that contains the outfit I want her to be buried in. I keep it with me in case I don't get to go home before I deliver her as happened with Noah - I didn't get to pick out his burial clothes. Learning from experience I guess you could call it.

Will I still be sane when this is all over? Will I be of any use to anyone - to my Grace and Chet - if this baby dies? Will I know what to do if she lives?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Missing Noah

All my posts are really about missing Noah I guess. Joninah is moving around more. The last couple of mornings I've felt her kicking even before her breakfast-banana boost. It reinforces my relationship with her to feel evidence of her life inside of me. It also reinforces what I lost with Noah.

Who would he have become? How can it be that I will never know? How can it be that he was alive inside of me and I can know nothing more about him than that? How can it be that most babies live, but Noah didn't? I think Joninah will live - that I will get to watch her become who she is. I think in a way her life may make Noah's loss more searing for me. She is so completely not her brother - this miraculously unexpected girl-baby. I won't be able to fool myself for a second that she is who I lost when Noah died. He is gone - permanently, irrevocably gone. Joninah is so wanted and cherished, but so is Noah.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

trying again

Noah was born still on August 30 and I had a positive pregnancy test in the first week of December. I got pregnant during my second full cycle. Part of trying again so quickly for me is that I am 40 and I was terrified about not being able to conceive again, as well as being frightened that if I did conceive that the baby might have chromosomal problems due to my "advanced maternal age". I kept imagining months going by and my last good eggs being flushed down the toilet. For me, I had to get pregnant as quickly as possible.

So now I am 24 weeks pregnant with an apparently healthy baby girl. Her nt/quad screen was excellent despite my age and her level two ultrasound looked great so we are fairly confident that she does not have any genetic problems.

That said, this pregnancy, except for burying our son, has been the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I cry daily for Noah. I cry almost daily for the safety of our daughter. I ask daily - "God do you know I can't bury another baby?" I ask Barry daily if he thinks God knows (he is a little tighter with God than I am). I beg almost every waking hour "please keep my baby safe."

It hasn't helped that there have been complications with this pregnancy that I did not experience with Grace, Chet, or Noah's. I had spotting and low/dropping progesterone from weeks 7-9 so I was placed on prometrium until week 14. Then about a month after that bullet was dodged, our daughter developed a seriously irregular heart beat. I literally spent the two days before we could see the maternal fetal specialist planning our baby's funeral. We were ultimately assured by two specialists that the arrhythmia is benign, but I struggle to take comfort in assurances. Even something as inconsequential as an anterior placenta feels like a curse to me because it makes it difficult for me to feel her move.

One of the only things I really know for sure is that, whatever the outcome, I can not put myself or my family through another pregnancy. At the same time I can not even begin to express how truly grateful I am to be here - to have life, potential, hope growing inside of me again. Like my experience of mothering our Noah, as crushingly painful as it is, I would not trade this time with our daughter for the world.

And then there is my Sybil-self. She says things prefaced with "when Joninah comes...." She buys clothes for her, designs her birth announcement, and plans her welcoming shower. She lets herself imagine the sweet moment of her birth and the tender release of nursing her for the first time. She dreams of spending Noah's first birthday picnicking at his grave site with this girl-baby nestled in her arms. Sybil-self is almost as innocent as First-pregnancy self was. After all, how could it possibly happen again....

When it comes to trying again - jump right in or wait awhile - in my opinion it doesn't matter. Babylost mothers never ever forget what it was like to have their child die inside of them. We have a rare and brutal knowledge. It is in our bones. That we have it in us to hope is a testament to our strength.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

hey jealousy

This is my response to a post about jealousy in my spals (subsequent pregnancy after loss) group.

My version of the jealousy issue revolves around high order multiples (Jon and Kate, Natalie Suleiman) or any pregnancy in which a family brings home healthy babies despite extreme odds against them. So why do they get to have all their babies and my one big healthy full-term little boy is in the cold ground because of something so ridiculously uncomplicated as a knot? Selfish yes, but it is the first thing that comes to mind when I hear these stories. I truly don't want anyone else to hurt, but I don't want to hurt either. Then I think - I hope they know how blessed they are. And then I think - most baby do live. Despite everything that can go wrong - most live.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Defining a purpose

So I'm not sure what I want to do with this blog. I started it as an extension of this idea I had that has, perhaps, evolved into a compulsion.

Things were pretty crazy for our family when I was pregnant with Noah. I did everything I was suppose to for him while I was pregnant, but I'm not sure he was the center of my universe. Survival was. Not his - ours. I think I sort of figured the "pregnancy" would take care of itself. Then he died. Almost the minute we got things straightened out and I was ready for him, he died.

And so as I went through papers getting us settled into our new home, I collected little forgotten scraps to remind me of out time with him. Appointment cards, test result letters, a picture of me pregnant with him before I even knew it (the only picture of me during his pregnancy). I gathered and keep gathering these little bits as I come across them, and tuck them in a drawer. They help me feel like a mother to him.

So I didn't want to be caught rummaging through stuff one step away from the recycling bin if something happened to this baby. The pregnancy tests were carefully dated and tucked safely away. This unlike Noah's, which were tossed in a bag mingled with completed tests from six other pregnancies - too "precious"to be thrown away, but indistinguishable from each other now. Every appointment card was tucked in that same special drawer, along with dated ultrasound pictures and notes from family. Everything about this baby has been meticulously saved in the same drawer where I have collected my mementos of Noah.

As I joined online support groups I started collecting hard copies of my posts. I'm not a journal-er, although I do like to write. I thought the posts would be a good way remember what I was thinking about while pregnant with our girl without journal-ing. That quickly evolved into wanting Joninah to know what I was thinking about. Someday. I'm thinking of the whole collection as a gift to her after she delivers her first baby. Before might be a little too much.

Support groups are about supporting others as much as they are about being supported. That means biting your tongue (crossing your fingers, making a fist, sitting on your hands....) when you might otherwise want to say what is really on your mind. Still, having a theoretical audience to consider keeps me honest.

The other thing is, I think about things beyond what is going on inside my uterus - or those who once occupied it. Some days it feels like not many other things. But mostly there is quite a bit going on in this head. I haven't found a great place to let it all out. I guess I decided to create one.

I admit I am not a huge blog reader. I will shocked if anyone reads mine. To a large extent I am only imagining a blog will do for me what I want it to do. We shall see I suppose - we shall see.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

a dream

Our daughter Joninah is due in August, about two weeks before the first anniversary of her brother Noah's birth/death. In my dreams August 30th is a sun-shiny warm day and we spend it introducing our baby girl to her big brother. A picnic, a cake, flowers, balloons, gifts..... Older siblings blessed early with death knowledge, comfortable with this as Noah's place, grateful for the open tumbling space he shares with them. A warm wiggler, breast-milk stupor-ed, snuggled contentedly next to me - outside of me - and still with me - in her sling.......

I let myself have this dream.