When thinking about the best way to proceed with where I left off a few months ago, it only seemed appropriate to continue this today. Reflecting on this date is unavoidable. October 7th is significant for many reasons. It may take me a while to get this all out. But, if you can hang in there with me, this should eventually make sense.
One year ago today, Blake's little sister, Anne Claire was boarding a plane to Hawaii with her new husband, Jeremy. Their wedding day had been absolutely beautiful. Months of planning, preparation, appointments and fittings all came together perfectly on one blessed occasion. Not only was I thrilled to have witnessed their union, I was relieved to have enjoyed every second of the entire weekend. That may seem odd for me to say.
The initial plans included a 6 week old little girl, wearing a day gown handcrafted by Lucy. She would have been second in line to steal the show. Anne Claire selected forgiving bridesmaid's dresses that would conceal any lumps and bumps that remained from carrying her 40 weeks. Mine was orderd 2 sizes larger just to be safe. Blake and I were planning to have our daughter at the wedding. Anne Claire was anticipating the presence of her first niece.
After life threw its first curve ball, the family was concerned how my emotions would hold up on October 6th. How would I deal with the awareness that my first child would not be there as planned? My state of mind had been prayed for by many up until that point. Family members prayed specifically for my peace on that day. It worked. I made it through a milestone, of sorts, and had barely shed a single tear of sorrow. She had not gone unnoticed. She was not forgotten. I had just been given peace. What a blessing.
Sunday, October 7th 2007, did not look much different from any other Sunday. We got ready for church, worshipped with our church family, ate lunch and then I did some shopping with a friend. I was distracted most of the day by the calendar. I knew my cycle like clockwork by that point and expected a lovely gift at any moment. Much to my dismay, it had appeared in September after an unsuccessful attempt to conceive. October was feeling no different. Once I got home, I knew there were a few tests under the sink. There was no point in taking one because I already knew the results. But there was also no point in thinking about it constantly for the next few days. To put my thoughts to rest, I decided to just waste money and take one. I proceeded to change from my church/shopping clothes into comfy ones and momentarily forgot about the results. When I remembered a few minutes later, I learned that my instincts were wrong. Two pink lines were telling me the opposite of what I had been feeling. I was pregnant.
Blake had no idea I was even taking a test. He was caught off guard to see me walking down the stairs, half dressed, crying, with a stick in my hand. I can only imagine his initial thoughts... Once he realized what I was holding, it started to make sense. All I could do was sit in his lap and cry tears of joy and concern. This was what we wanted. But could we do it again? Were we emotionally ready to be pregnant again? What if...? In his ever calm voice, Blake reassured me that a new plan was in place for this pregnancy. We were as ready as we would ever be.
Because a new plan was in place, Dr. B got the ball rolling quickly. I was in for blood draws 2 days a week for the first 2 1/2 weeks. He monitored my hCG levels to see that they were doubling every 48-72 hours as they should. We had no problems there. An appointment was made with the hematologist to get Lovenox on board. It would require I take two, 60 mg injections, daily. My stomach was the target and Blake held the dart. It took 10 minutes before I could work up the nerve to let him give me the first dose. I hate to be stuck with a needle of any shape or size. This one may have been small but the medicine stung enough to make up for it! What can you do, though? If this is what it would take to safely bring a child into this world, I would do it. (I may have whined like a 3 year old with each injection...)
The first few weeks progressed smoothly. I purchased a second journal, intending to keep my thoughts and fears within its covers. Yet, somehow, I was never able to open it. I found myself being somewhat superstitious. If I followed the same "rituals" with this baby that I did with Finley, the outcome might be the same. I did not want to "jinx" this pregnancy. I did not sign up at babycenter.com for weekly updates. I had learned my lesson. It had been too hard to "unsubscribe" after Finley's loss. It did not help that your name was given to other companies like ViaCord, Pampers and Gerber, leading to free offers in the mail and frequent calls. Just like the weekly email updates on my baby's progress, the calls and mailers continued after her passing. I finally had to tell a salesman, "I have no cord blood to donate because my baby died. Please remove me from your list." I did not want to set myself up for that again. Because I was too scared to write, dates are fuzzy. I cannot say exactly when the first problem started but it was somewhere around 8 weeks.
Blake and I were home one evening after work. A routine trip to the bathroom revealed a nightmare. I was bleeding. Not just spotting, bleeding. My heart started to race and I felt like I would pass out. All I could do was yell for Blake. Never having experienced an early miscarriage, I assumed I was in the midst of my first. I called the doctor's office, after hours, and was told to make an appointment with Dr. B in the morning and to hold off on the Lovenox. The next morning, I was scheduled for an ultrasound to confirm what seemed to be a first trimester miscarriage. It was miserable to sit in the waiting room with other pregnant women around me. When we got to the room, I could not even look at the screen. I just watched Blake's face and saw his eyes widen with a look of disbelief. There was a heart beat. We still had a baby. We met with Dr. B for the results and learned that I had a small hemorrhage where the placenta and uterus join. Fairly common in early pregnancy, it did not seem to be a major concern. I was sent to the hematologist and my dose of Lovenox was reduced to one 60 mg once a day. It may be the dosing was too much for my body, causing a slight hemmorhage. Trying to look on the bright side, that was one less shot for me each day.
Once we survived the initial hurdle, the pregnancy seemed to return to some sense of normal. It appeared body knew what to do, as I began to show much faster than with Finley. My symptoms mirrored my first pregnancy: fatigue, no mint flavored gum and keep a full stomach or be nauseated. Each time I had an ultrasound, the heart rate was in the upper 170's, just like Finley. In tune with EVERY sensation coming from my lower abdomen, I felt movement for the first time on December 23, 2007. I was 14 weeks and 5 days pregnant, on a plane, flying back from a Caribbean cruise. I was able to feel little flutters over and over the whole flight home. By feeling each kick, I was reassured there was a little life growing within my womb. An ultrasound screen had confirmed it time and time again, but it seemed easier to breathe once I could feel it on my own.
January 18, 2008, Blake and I headed to Gatlinburg to meet some friends for the weekend. I was 18 weeks and 3 days and must admit I was hesitant to travel that far from my doctor. Choosing to put on my game face and go, I would refuse to live in fear, sort of. Just east of Knoxville, I began to notice tightening in my lower abdomen. I didn't give it much thought at first. But when it continued, mile after mile, I could feel my pulse race and my anxiety increase with each passing second. "Was that a contraction? No, it is just my GI tract...I am fine...No, there it is again...I think that was a contraction...Please, Lord, not now...It is just gas...stop doing this to yourself..." My fears were out of control by the time we reached the cabin. Of all times, why did this have to happen when I am finally with a precious friend whom I have not seen in ages? After a few moments in the bathroom, my fears were slightly eased. Maybe it was just GI after all. We went to dinner and I was on edge the whole time. A few more stirrings sent me back to the bathroom. Afterwards, things seemed to stop. I was fine...I was fine...
Another "superstition" of mine involved shopping. I did not want to buy any maternity clothes for myself and I surly did not want to by anything for the baby. That was way to presumptuous. But we were at an outlet and I really needed khakis for work. Gap had a pair that were so comfortable that I gave in and bought them. Then we went to Old Navy and surprisingly found a ton of baby clothes that were to die for. They were marked down to the point that they were practically giving them away. Once again, I broke down and bought them. Some were pink and some were blue. We would not know the sex of the baby until after we returned home. Once we found out, I could take back what wasn't needed. As if I had not already broken a TON of my own rules, I walked into the Motherhood Maternity outlet. I found cute dresses from A Pea In the Pod and Mimi Maternity....marked down to reasonable prices...they could work for a shower... Oh, forget my rules, I just bought them. Against my better judgement, I left with several sacks of maternity and baby clothes. By the end of our trip, I had allowed myself to relax a little and believe it could actually happen. We would really bring home a baby this time.
My ultrasound was set for the 23rd of January. First and foremost, I wanted to hear our baby was healthy. It was a relief to once again learn that all organs were visible, 10 fingers, 10 toes, 4 chambers, 2 hemispheres. Developmentally, our baby was right on track. Then we learned we would be having a girl. It was a bittersweet moment. We would be given a second chance to have a daughter. Because of the similarities between the two pregnancies, I felt like she was a girl all along. It was now confirmed and we were thrilled to get the news. I was going in for weekly checks at that point in time. I had experienced several episodes of what seemed to be contractions and Dr. B was aware. However, with each appointment, my cervix was holding strong. There were no changes. I was not dilating. I still appeared to be progressing according to plan.
On Sunday, February 24th, 2008, Blake and I had been to church. I talked him into swinging by Baby Depot after lunch to look at a few gliders. Thrilled with the idea, he was willing to accompany me as long as the trip was quick. During another routine bathroom break, I noticed a tiny, tinge of blood. It was so minimal, most people would not have even noticed, but, my slightly paranoid eye picked up on its presence. I told Blake but I wasn't all that concerned. Looking back, I am not sure why I came to that conclusion. If only I had gone in at that moment... I decided to keep an eye on things. I was fine the rest of the day with no more sightings. Later that evening, I noticed the tightening, but again, I had been feeling this for weeks. Well into the night, the tightening became more regular and I became somewhat concerned. I was drinking glass after glass of water, with not noted improvement. When I saw another tinge of red during a bathroom visit and I began to worry. Blake and I sat on the bed around 2:00am deciding if I should go now or wait until they opened in the morning? We were both scheduled to work the next morning. I hated to be overly anxious and go in for no reason but something told me this could not wait.
The all-to-familiar drive to Baptist was less stressful than our previous late night trip. I was not having serious contractions. I was not in pain. We got to the registration desk and calmly filled out the paperwork. My bladder was screaming at me due to the gallons of water I had consumed over the course of the evening. I kept asking to use the restroom and was finally allowed once I made it to triage. It was in that moment my world, once again, came crashing down before my very eyes. Bright, red blood. A lot of bright, red blood. My hands started trembling, followed by my entire body. I frantically walked out to Blake and was barely able to tell him what I found. All I could do was cry out over and over, "Not again...please Lord, not again...I can't lose another baby." Over and over. It was all I could say as every nurse in the area flooded my area. Blake was at a loss for words but his face said it all. I have rarely seen that face but I knew what it meant. He was angry. Why was this happening to us?
I was 23 weeks and 6 days when I was admitted, early that Monday morning. The nurses tried to calm me down and reassure me. " This is not the same pregnancy...this is not the same baby...you have to calm down...the outcome does not have to be the same." But their faces told me otherwise. They did not believe the words they were saying. One nurse did and exam followed by a second. When the first asked, "Are those membranes I was feeling," I nearly lost it. By the time I reached the hospital, not only was I dilated, I had hour glassing membranes exposed in the birth canal. To type this is almost too much to bear. Tears fill my eyes as I revisit this horrific moment because I feel like I am there. I can feel the despair like it is happening all over again. I have never felt so far away from my God in my entire life. So alone. So helpless. So hopeless.
I learned of Caroline's existence on October 7th, 2007. I was admitted into the hospital at 23 weeks 6 days, beginning a fight that would ultimately lead to her loss. Here I sit, one year later, on October 7th, 2008 and am now 23 weeks and 6 days pregnant with her brother. It is impossible not to reflect on this day. I am praying for a different outcome and ask that you would do the same for me. Today might be a little harder than others.
Daddy Daughter Dance
2 years ago