Elegy for Amy

What Is Lost December 8, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — elegyforamy @ 7:21 pm

This blog started out as a place for me to get all of the complicated emotions surrounding losing our first child out in writing. An ode to our daughter, to Amy, and to us as a family. And then it was a place to record the fears and ups and downs of the subsequent pregnancy after a loss. To post the terrible things that go through your head but can’t say out loud. And then we had a little boy, a wonderful, living son. And so this blog sits in such a weird space in my life right now; so many posts I’ve almost made and then decided not to.

Because I can think of no better phrase that captures my life right now than “my cup runneth over.” Way over. Like a karmic bounceback from losing your daughter, in the span of six months, we’ve had a living child, enjoyed several successes professionally and financially, and most recently were able to purchase and move into an amazing new home, a dream-home kind of home. The people we love are all happy and healthy and so are we, and frankly that’s luckier than a lot of people get. So it feels kind of … petty, almost, to write about being sad that Amy’s not here to share it with us, when I am happy and we are happy and so very blessed. Except for the daughter we’ll never get to raise, we are living a pretty charmed life. I don’t want you to think I don’t know that – especially since Amy, I feel our blessings acutely, every day. Even the small ones. And these aren’t small ones.

But some days, it’s hard to escape the knowledge that without Amy, there would also be no Levi. Either because he wouldn’t have existed or because we wouldn’t have known about my incompetent cervix and we would have lost him, too. To have a second, we would have always had to lose the first. If we’d been told that up front, would we have done it? Who can know, and of course that’s not possible anyway, but it’s still the truth. Without her, he wouldn’t be.

And so sometimes, even though I am happy, even though my life is lovely, even though we are so blessed – sometimes I am still sad, because our daughter is still dead. And sometimes people tell me that I need to just get over it, that I need to let it go, and maybe they’re right, but I’m not sure that’s possible. I see a glimmer of what we’ve lost in every little girl I see. For a long time, I thought this was because I didn’t yet have a living daughter, and maybe if we do one day, maybe then I won’t see Amy in a strange little girl’s skipping down the street, maybe then I won’t be jealous of every little baby girl born to my loved ones, and then finally I realized that’s not true – I could have ten more children, I could have ten more daughters, and Amy will still be lost, and I will still be jealous of those who have no lost daughters, and I will still see her, from time to time, in every other little girl, even my own.

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Tragedy August 23, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — elegyforamy @ 8:31 pm

We watched a documentary about the science of happiness last night. It talked a lot about how studies consistently show that the things that make us truly happy often are not at all the things we think will make us happy. One that really struck me was about how humans cope with tragedy. That we expect if something tragic happens, we will be devastated forever. But that what usually happens is something very unexpected – when something tragic happens, we are devastated for a relatively short time, and then afterwards in the rebuilding, we are usually happier.

Happiness is about expectations. A poor man from India spoke of his house happily. “It is covered with a plastic tarp, but on one side, there is a window. We have some trouble with rain coming in during the monsoons, but other than that, we live well.” For him, a house, with a window – that’s more than he could expect, and so he is happy.

Tragedy changes your expectations. You no longer expect that things will just work out, because that is what they do. Getting to bring home a living, breathing baby was not, for me, the natural culmination of an arduous pregnancy – it was a gift, of the very best kind, one I can never really take for granted. I watch others taking it for granted, torn up about delivery methods and birth plans and formula and whoknowswhatelse, and I just think, you don’t realize, how lucky you are just to bring them home. Mourning anything about my amazing, adorable, alive son is not something I can even imagine.

I’m not some virtuous parent. Babies are hard. Babies are exhausting. Babies are infuriating at 2 in the morning when you’re running on fumes. But they’re also a gift, and on my maddest day, I am still so happy, just to have him here. To have him smile at me, or cling to me in distress, or deprive me of precious hours of sleep. And so I find myself, with my adjusted expectations, surprised at how much better parenting is than I expected it to be, and I realize, it’s not because it’s easier than I thought, it’s because I am just so happy for the opportunity that I don’t mind so much when it’s hard.

 

Due Date Dos July 26, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — elegyforamy @ 12:36 am

Dear Amy,

One year ago today was your due date. And I always knew, and your dad always knew, we all always knew, that you’d be born before this date, though we had no idea how much sooner it would end up being. So this date feels like it shouldn’t matter, but it does to me. Nearly two years ago, I found out I was pregnant a baby due July 26th. Last July 26th, we were very, very sad and you had been gone for more than three months. We on a vacation together, a special trip to Costa Rica, and returned feeling closer to normal than we had in a long time, knowing this date was now in the past.

But here it is again. And this year, your brother is here. He’s big and happy and thriving, and we are happy and so very much in love. But someone is missing. And today of all days, I am missing you most acutely. I wish you and your brother would ever be able to know each other. I wish you would grow up to be his obnoxiously know-it-all older sister. Or at all. These are the days when I am certain, this is forever. I will always love and miss you. I don’t think July 26th can ever be the same again.

Love,
Your Mother

 

Levi Is Here July 4, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — elegyforamy @ 12:44 pm

So, we had a baby! A healthy, full-term, flail-ly baby. 

After 294 injections, cervical surgery, and 11 weeks of bed rest, my cervix developed a sense of irony and I had to be induced due to my thrombophilia on June 12 at 38 weeks and 5 days gestation. We were all extremely glad I was induced at that point, as our son, Levi Louis, turned out to be 9 lbs 2 oz and a bit over 22 inches long! Imagine if we had gone another week or two.

After such a complicated pregnancy, we had a relatively straight forward delivery – no surgery, no anything but the epidural, and from the time they broke my water to the time I had my son on my chest was less than six and a half hours. And our same OB who delivered Amy got to deliver him; it felt like we had come full circle and there were a lot of happy tears. Levi is awesome, and watching him outside the womb has been an exercise in “oh, so THAT’S why that hurt so much!” His feet are huge and his movements are strong and we are so very much in love.

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His facial expressions are hilarious.

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We are all so happy, and feel so incredibly lucky. To have gone from “can we make it to viability” to having a nearly 39 week, 9 pound baby is amazing. Our pregnancy journey and our experience with Amy has amplified our experiences; there are no lukewarm feelings about having a newborn or concern about not being bonded. We love him and in that regard it’s all very simple. But having a take-home baby after losing Amy is sometimes complicated, when other people are involved.

I thought people would stop asking if this was my first after I wasn’t pregnant anymore. I don’t know why, of course they don’t. Except I feel even more awkward now mentioning our dead daughter because here is this happy, squirmy newborn and I feel like the question is more “is this the first time you’re having to wake up 3 times a night to tend a crying baby” or “is the first time you’ve experienced the joy of snuggling your brand new baby,” to which the answers are of course yes. But no, he’s not our first. First living. I have to think it silently in my head, most of the time. Even family – no one wants to think about a dead baby when you’re over the moon about a living one, so in my head I add “living” and try not to correct them out loud. But no, it wasn’t actually my husband’s first Father’s Day, and Levi’s not the first grandchild, and I know it would be more cheerful if he was, but.

There is also a big debate about who he looks most like, me or Dan. Everyone is very certain, but there are a similar number of people in both camps. The only people who aren’t certain are Dan and I. I don’t know which one of us he looks most like, but the thing I don’t say is that the person Levi currently looks the most like is Amy. I got out her pictures to reassure myself I wasn’t crazy and even Dan was surprised at the similarities – their faces share all the same features, the same shape, the same hairline. Siblings, through and through. So I don’t know if he has Dan’s nose or mine or where he gets the dimple on his chin, but if you want to know who he looks like most, it’s his dead sister. I don’t say that out loud, either. Seems like it would bring down the mood.

Which I don’t want to, because we’re not! Down. But I feel like I had to say these things somewhere, other than inside of my head. 

Our son is here, and he’s amazing, and we still kind of can’t believe we made it as far as we did and how lucky we are to have him.

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38w2d June 9, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — elegyforamy @ 2:11 am

We’re officially living in some kind of weird twilight zone where my cervix is remarkably competent. If this was my pregnancy with Amy, I would have been induced two days ago. But protocols for my clotting disorder have changed, so we get a few extra days, and somehow the old incompetent cervix is still hanging in there. No change at all from 37 weeks, though I am “very favorable” for induction. I really can’t believe that after so many months of trying to avoid preterm labor, we’re now going to have to coax this kid out at 38w5d.

I am extremely pregnant. Which means I am extremely uncomfortable, and extremely cranky about it. And just when I get to my crankiest, I think about how crazy it is that we were never supposed to get anywhere close to this point, and how wonderful it is for our son. Not premature, or “pretty much full-term” or barely full-term, he’s a solidly full-term baby. A big one! Ultrasound guesstimate was 8 pounds, so closer to 8.5 pounds by Wednesday. I know it can be off, but I doubt it’s off by a whole lot considering the regularity with which we’ve gotten growth scans.

I can’t wait to not be pregnant anymore. And I can’t wait to meet our little boy.

 

JUNE June 1, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — elegyforamy @ 2:27 pm

The trash collectors woke me up this morning, and I remembered that we have to decide by July 1 if we want to pick a new trash company or not. July 1 is a ways off. Except then I realized, today is the first day of June. I’m due June 21st, and I’m being induced June 12th, and today is June 1st which means no matter what, I am having a June baby. A full-term June baby.

I could just type “full-term June baby” 100 times and this post would maybe express a fraction of the joy, relief, excitement, and miracle that this feels like.

Yesterday I turned 37 weeks, which is considered full-term (though an average pregnancy lasts 40 weeks and that is what my due date is, anything between 37-42 weeks is considered full-term by the medical community). The odds of our making it here were stacked against us, though why I should be surprised that we came out on the smaller side of odds is a mystery to me. Had another appointment yesterday and I’m up to 3 cm, but again they said that’s a normal range for 37 weeks and that they see no reason to assume I won’t make it to my induction.

Which was another shocking phone call I got this week. A voice mail from my OB’s nurse, letting me know that they’d put me on the induction schedule for June 12th. The baby who wasn’t supposed to be able to even get to full-term has made it long enough that I’m on the induction schedule because of my clotting issues. I’ll be 38.5 weeks then. Listening to that phone call was one of the more surreal moments of this pregnancy; it feels like we accomplished the impossible and the real winner in all of that is of course our son. Who definitely won’t be a preemie. Who weighs nearly 7 pounds now.

We’re having a full-term baby in June.

 

36w1d – no, really!! May 25, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — elegyforamy @ 8:54 pm

Yesterday was the big day before the Big Day: Cerclage Removal Day. After 21 weeks and 6 days of relying on two small pieces of surgical twine to hold our son inside of me, we were scheduled to show up at my OB’s office at 9 AM to have the training wheels removed. I have never been so nervous, though I’m sure I’ll be more nervous when I have to announce to Dan that it’s time to go to the hospital to have a baby – because I’m still pregnant. Cerclage-free, 36w1d, and still pregnant.

Last week, it started to really hit me that we had made it to all of our goals. I’d wake up every day and after I got over my initial 20 minutes of grumbling discomfort (it turns out it’s really uncomfortable to get out of bed, walk around, etc when heavily pregnant, who knew), I’d sit there and think god, I’m STILL PREGNANT. As in, how is this possible, how wonderful, how lucky we have been this time. I can’t wrap my mind around my new status of, as my doctors called it, “normal pregnant lady – well, except for the heparin.” They always throw in that little parenthetical, but yes, except for the heparin, I’m now just like any other 36 weeks pregnant lady walking around. I’m not supposed to be monitoring myself for a million possible symptoms of preterm labor or shortening; if something happens, it happens. I’m only supposed to call L&D if my water breaks or when I start having contractions that are 10 minutes apart. (okay, this part isn’t quite normal – normal pregnant ladies are supposed to call at 5 minutes apart, but my cervix overachieves in the dilation department as we all know.) Anything else, no one cares, doesn’t matter. Or rather, it is supposed to happen at this point. Because I’m 36 weeks pregnant, and that’s what happens. Your body prepares for and goes into labor. You have a baby. You hopefully get to bring it home.

And if you’re reading that and thinking, “well yes, of course,” then you’ve never spent the first 8 months of a pregnancy in fear of going into preterm labor. Because yes, of course, but that position is about 1 million miles away from the pregnancy we had up until yesterday. Dan asked me this morning if I ever thought, if we hadn’t lost Amy, this pregnancy and these complications might all have felt less traumatic. And I think that’s probably true. But we’d also appreciate it all a lot less. And then there is also just the simple truth that Amy has changed us and our lives forever. We won’t ever see pregnancy, children, our family the way we would have if we hadn’t lost her. We’ll always wish things were different, but we will also always know how incredibly lucky we are to be in a position to bring this child home with us. In, you know, a car seat.

—————–

Some details on the cerclage removal, for those of you reading this knowing (hoping) that one day you’ll be doing this too. I read a lot of other peoples’ removal stories going into this, and people seem to fall into two groups. One group goes in, comes out, reports that it “wasn’t that bad” and was “mostly just discomfort.” The other group reports it was the most painful thing in the whole world and maybe they ended up in L&D with an epidural to finish, and the doctor had to cut the stitch into a million pieces and they thought they’d pass out and the whole rest of the day was awful. I was hoping really hard to be in the first group, and I think mostly I was. It seemed like it went about as well as you could possibly expect.

The procedure is more or less the same, from your end, as getting a Pap. Insert giant speculum, which I have found to be pretty uncomfortable in and of itself since becoming pregnant. Then I got a warning about some discomfort and she went to town with the scissors. I don’t want to downplay this part – it really was pretty painful, but not constantly. Mostly it is was uncomfortable, but when she was actually grabbing the knots and cutting (I had two cerclages in place), it made me cramp and it really freaking hurt. But the entire procedure took less than 3 minutes, and I felt an immediate lessening of cervical pressure as soon as she clipped each knot. I felt crampy and uncomfortable for less than 5 minutes afterwards. The only part that was more unpleasant than I expected was the bleeding – they tell you to expect “some” bleeding but this was a lot more blood than I realized, it’s far more than spotting, but it settled down to spotting within 30 minutes or so.

After the cerclages were out, she did a manual cervical check to see what my cervix did as a result. I was dilated 1.5 cm and she estimated about 60% effaced, perfectly normal at 36 weeks. Then they had me sit on the monitors for about 30 minutes to make sure I wasn’t having contractions (I didn’t) and baby was still active (he is), then walk around for a few more minutes, then hop back on the table for a second manual check to make sure my cervix wasn’t going to just immediately go crazy. Everything was still exactly the same, so they sent me home!

Here is what was more pleasant than I expected – after about 32 weeks, baby got so big and my cervix got low enough that my cerclage was actually pinching me a lot, like a wire scratching in a very unpleasant location. All the doctors said this is kind of to be expected in a cerclage patient late in the game and said after removal that would disappear, which it did. However, a lot of OTHER discomfort I’d been having also disappeared. I can go about twice as long without having to pee now, and it’s not nearly so uncomfortable when I do have to go. I’d also been having a lot of tightness and soreness in the lower part of my bump which I thought was just growing pains, but I think now was actually my cerclage pulling just a bit too tightly for being so far along, because that disappeared too. Sitting upright is more comfortable and I’m just generally less sore. And the better bladder thing means I am suddenly getting a lot more sleep, so I’m a lot less cranky, too.