Thursday, October 29, 2009

28 weeks, and lots of feelings.

Warning: I'm sad tonight.

I hit 28 weeks yesterday. That'a exciting; it means that even if the baby were born tomorrow, she would have a very good shot at not having any long term issues due to prematurity. By long term, of course, I mean lifelong...Seth was born at 34 weeks and at 15 months, he is still dealing with several issues due to his own premature delivery. Our goal, made with all of his doctors and therapists, is that he be caught up to other kids his age by his second birthday. I feel really, really good about his odds of making that goal. He is just growing by leaps and bounds lately.

Of course, after I get excited about making it to 28 weeks, it hits me that with Eli's pregnancy, I had already been on bed rest for seven weeks at this point, and at 30 weeks, I went to the doctor for a routine visit only to find out I was dilated to 4 centimeters. Straight to the not pass Go, do not collect $200. The weeks I was in the hospital, listening to Eli's heart beat all day and all night, I remember I would stare at a painting on the wall of a mother lying in a hammock with her baby. I wondered if Eli would look like the baby in the painting. It was the only time in his short life I was able to focus completely on him, seeing as I was in the hospital doing a whole lot of nothing.


When I was 33 weeks, I was released from the hospital on strict bed rest and spent just about all of my time at my OB's office having nonstress tests and biophysical profiles. When I was 34 weeks and 6 days, I went into labor again, and before I left for the hospital, I begged John not to let them stop my labor again. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I felt like he had to get out.

Our hospital has a policy that they have to try to stop labor before 35 weeks. Even though I was only 24 hours shy of that mark, they gave me a very hard sell on how there was no choice. I felt overwhelmed and exhausted, and I felt like I would be endangering my baby if I turned down the medication. Three doses later and a long night spent in triage, and they sent me home. Later that day, I went into my doctor's office, and he passed another non stress test with flying colors. The doctor and nurses were so happy I had made it to 35 weeks...they told me that I could have him anytime, that they wouldn't stop labor again, that I had made it!

Eli died the next morning. Every single test came back negative. He was a completely healthy baby. If I had delivered him at 34 weeks 6 days, he would most likely have been fine.The theory (and it's just that...a theory) is that when my water broke that next morning, his cord was compressed against something and cut off his oxygen supply. When I took a quick shower that morning after I knew I was in labor, getting ready to go to the hospital, I felt him kick my hand. Just once, hard, on the left side of my stomach. Just then, I suddenly thought "He's saying goodbye." Then I scolded myself for being so morbid when I had to reason to think he wouldn't be just fine.

That was the last time he moved. I don't know if he died then, or if it was while John was running into Dunkin Donuts to get treats for the nurses, or when I was dropping Ava off with our friends. I do know that by the time I walked into the hospital, thrilled because I knew they wouldn't stop my labor this time, he was gone. When they put the monitor on my stomach, there was nothing there. They looked so hard, and once they thought they'd found his heartbeat, but it turned out that it was my own heartbeat, racing out of control. They called an ultrasound tech up to do a sonogram, and as soon as I saw the screen, I knew without a doubt he was gone. Of course, no one would say it, and I had to finally say "Can someone please tell me? I need someone to say it out loud."

The nurses were great. A doula whose whole job was to help us through our loss was given to us. We were given a room away from the labor and delivery unit, so I wouldn't have to hear the music every time a baby was born, or listen to other people's babies crying. While I was laboring, I heard John in the hallways making arrangements to have our son cremated. That afternoon, he was born, and the moment I felt his body leave mine I think I was broken. I still haven't decided whether that moment or the one when I had to put him down and watch them take him away for good was worse. Or maybe the moment John came home holding Eli's ashes in a small stone heart, when it hit both of us what cremation actually was, what his body had gone through to fit in such a small space. There is such a huge difference between knowing something logically and feeling it, and even when you know that your baby is in heaven, what happens to their bodies still feels so important.

I've told parts of this story before, and I've probably repeated things here. The thing is, in many ways our family has healed from Eli's death. We love him and miss him, but we function every day and we are happy. I don't feel guilty when I laugh or enjoy my other children, and sometimes I go days without thinking about him.   While my kids love him and talk about him all the time, they don't get sad when they talk about him like they used to. We have been blessed beyond measure and are, overall, a very happy family.

The thing is, I don't think I can go through it all again, especially without my husband. But I can't know that this baby is going to be okay. For our family, there is no safety zone, not until we hear those babies crying. And even then, with both Seth and Jace, things were very touch and go for a while. They both came close to dying. So the further along I get, the harder it gets for me to just enjoy being pregnant. I have to wonder if she is going to come too early, or die before she is born. I have to worry about whether she will have Respiratory Distress Syndrome like her brothers did, and how sick she will get before she gets better. I have to wonder whether every kick and roll I feel is the last, then I have to feel paranoid for feeling that way.

It's all such a gray area, having this baby. My OB and Perinatologist have to weigh very carefully how long we keep this baby in versus how long we let her stay in. If my water doesn't break this time at 34-35 weeks, like it has the last three times, how long is it safe to keep her inside, and when would she be better off facing a NICU stay than risking her dying in utero? There are no good answers, and so my doctor already talks as if she'll be born soon. I remember with Seth, his plan had been to deliver as close to 36 weeks as possible, watching him very closely for any signs of distress and delivering as soon as we saw any. Problem is, Eli didn't show any distress less than 24 hours before he died. It happened relatively quickly. So it's all so touch and go, and we have to read into almost every symptom, just trying to get a live baby here while balancing the pros and cons of whether being in or out is better for her.

Obviously it's not really up to us, and I have to leave it up to God. But even though it's all I can do, it's a very, very hard thing to actually follow through on. All mother's want to do is take care of their children, and I  already failed at that once. On top of that, because my stupid water has broken early every time, two of my sons have gone through NICU stays because I can't seem to stay pregnant. Once someone, who I think was trying to be nice, told me that I just seemed to be bad at pregnancy and I should probably stop having children.

I just want her to be safe, and healthy, and alive. I just want Eli to have been safe, and healthy, and alive, and here with me. I just want Seth to be okay, and for my other kids to be okay. And not one of those things are things I can make happen. I can't even hold my marriage together, for goodness sakes. Sometimes it just all feels like too much, and I just need to know what's going to happen so I can prepare myself.

This sucks. I hate not being in control. I hate knowing I can't keep my own kids, my own family safe and sheltered. I know we'll be okay, but that doesn't change the fact that this is all really hard. That sometimes, even though I know that I'm not alone, it still feels that way, and even though I know that if there is only one set of footprints, that I'm being carried...that I can't always feel His arms. I know it all, I do, but that doesn't change how it feels sometimes.

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