Angelversary Eve

I am still not sure how to commemorate this week. I’m even having a hard time classifying it. Is it an anniversary or a birthday or a date of death? I tend to like the description of “angelversary,” so that is how I will refer to it from now on. I do know that I wanted to write about it, and I’ve already done that. I’ve already given the gory details, the emotional havoc, the heart shattering narrative and I don’t want to keep beating into everyone’s head the play by play. So I’ll say this. This week has been hard, but not as hard as it could be. I find myself completely keyed up when it is time to go to bed, so it has been harder for me to sleep. I’ve watched several Christmas movies in the past couple of weeks and they just aren’t the same. One of them I hadn’t seen since I was a kid and I watched it “that” night in the hospital. It made me really sad. I have avoided listening to a lot of Christmas music because I know some of the songs will trigger some emotions. I was afraid to write a Christmas letter this year because I had to include something about Charlotte and I sometimes worry that people who receive it will think, “Geez, just move on,” or “why did she have to bring this up?” but I did it anyway. She shaped our lives so much in the past year that I couldn’t reference a new job or new baby without including her.

I find myself making it through these past couple of days and being inundated with memories of this day, this minute, this hour a year ago. I keep drifting back. This past weekend, we went to Brad’s company’s Christmas party and I thought, “Wow, what I would have done to have gotten out of this last year?” I wondered what all of the people that I only see once a year were thinking or feeling when they see me. I am (again) so happy to have a baby this year or I probably would have tried to get out of it again.

I have really tried to keep myself busy, but I also know that the emotions and memories are going to come no matter how much I have going on, and so I write to keep my sanity and to remember. I don’t want to push everything away because that is all I have left of Charlotte.

It is unfortunate that the whole “event” wasn’t limited to a day or so, that it had to spread out over five days, and I guess I should be relieved that I didn’t know this was coming weeks or months before it happened. That five days in the grand scheme of things, isn’t all that long. As much as I was grateful to have family and distractions and for everything to happen around the holidays, it has ruined some of the joy of the season. As we get closer to Christmas, we get closer to the 17th and the 19th, the two worst days. I am so relieved that I was out of the hospital and physically I was close to back to normal by Christmas. I was also thankful that one of the hardest of milestones, was out of the way so quickly. I hope for my sake, my sons’ sakes and my entire family’s sake that this can be a typical holiday. That there will be more smiles than tears and I am sure that will be the case.

I want all of you to know that I am happy, not how I expected to be, but life is good. How could it not be? I have two handsome sons and one beautiful daughter guardian angel and not to mention, a pretty kick ass husband. It is not in my personality to be sad, so I try not to dwell on the sadness too much. I write when the mood strikes me, not because I am wallowing in it every day. And I want everyone to be happy for me, not to be sad. I wrote this blog to do two things, help people who may be going through this and to share the journey. I never intended for people to feel bad for me or to illicit sympathy or pity. I am an open book and I want to be approachable, to speak the truth and also shine light on a very taboo (and unfortunately very real and scary) subject. Every half an hour of every hour of every day in THIS COUNTRY, a couple experiences stillbirth. That equates to over 26,000 women per year. That number is staggering and very unfortunate. I wanted to bring a voice to stillbirth. I hope I have.

It is truly a different year and as hard as it was, thankfully, it was also joyful. We have hit every milestone of the first year. We have emerged stronger and maybe even better than we were. As hard as it has been, I am so thankful for Charlotte, so happy she was in my life and even happier for the way she has changed my life and our family, as well as the lives of those around me in ways I would have never dreamed possible.

So Happy Angelversary Eve to you sweet Charlotte!

December 17th

One year ago, this was the worst day of my life.

I call the doctor’s office first thing in the morning telling them that I haven’t felt much movement. All the movement I’ve felt is reminiscent of the first trimester of “was that movement or not?” Not at all what has been her trademark since week 18. The nurse tells me to drink something sweet and lay on my left side for an hour and count how many twists, shrugs, kicks and punches I feel in that hour.

I try to watch TV while burping up Cranberry Sierra Mist for an hour. I count 9, but I’m not confident about any of them. When she calls me back and I tell her 9, she says, “Great!” She also says they were looking for 4. I figure if half of them are legitimate, then it is still better than 4.

I suffer through work, still doubtful. I text my nurse practitioner friend and ask if she can bring home her Doppler and if we can stop by later that evening. I have a doctor’s appointment two days later, but I am driving myself insane and need some sort of reassurance to get me through the next two days.

Brad, Chase and I go to dinner. We go to Lauren’s house. We’ve never been there before so she gives us a tour. Her son and Chase play downstairs. Finally, I lay down on the couch and she gets out the Doppler. She searches around for a while. She says, “Where are you Charlotte?” “Where are you hiding in there?” She can’t find anything, my ears are straining for something, anything that sounds like the familiar whoosh whoosh I hear in the office. Nothing. I ask her if I should be freaking out. She tells me that by this point in the pregnancy, it should be easier to find a heartbeat, but that she could be hanging out in a weird place. Tells me that if it were her, she would call the doctor on call at my office and see what they say.

I tell Lauren that it feels like she is laying low on my abdomen, show her where and she puts her hand there. Then she says, “You know, you don’t have to call the doctor on call, you can go straight to the hospital.” Now I really start worrying. She thinks I’m cramping. We leave and I call my doctor’s office, I have the option of leaving a message. I decide that since there isn’t an answering service during off hours, we are going to go to the hospital. I call my mom and ask if she can come over to watch Chase while we go to the hospital.

We get home, I pack a packet of tissues because I tell myself if I am prepared, then there will be nothing wrong. We are waiting for my mom to arrive and then we head to the hospital. On the way there, I repeat my mantra of the past four and half months, “If something is wrong, I’m out. I am never doing this again.”

As we are checking in and I am making jokes with the admitting nurse, and I smell the sterile smells of the hospital, I do a complete 180. I know that everything is fine. She is hiding inside my uterus, already causing drama, and everything is totally okay. Now I am wasting my time and the hospital’s time for nothing. They have a full house, so they put me in a recovery room because even their triage is full.

A nurse comes in looking for the heartbeat, she can’t find it. She says she will bring in a nurse practitioner to do an ultrasound. As is the norm in a hospital, it is a lot of waiting. When the NP comes in with the machine, the screen is turned so I can’t see it, but Brad can, which irritates me. He keeps saying over and over again, “It’s going to be ok. Everything is going to be fine.” But I saw something on his face and knew it wasn’t going to be. When I asked the nurse if she saw any movement, she slowly shook her head and said, “No, I don’t see any movement.” And I said kind of panicked, “What about a heartbeat, do you see a heartbeat?” And a minute (an hour) later she said, “I’m sorry, I don’t see a heartbeat.”

I look at Brad, he’s jumped up and is hugging me. He leaves me and the nurse comes back. Hugs me. She tells me she’s sorry and I snap back at her, “I’m not surprised. I knew she was gone. I already knew this.” Brad leaves me to text my mom, “Come now.” I lay on the bed wondering what the fuck is going on. At some point the nurse who hugged me tells me that she had a loss too, makes me promise her to go talk to a grief counselor. Brings me a warm blanket. Then she leaves me. Why is everyone leaving me?

Then the impossible questions start. Questions I am not prepared for because this hasn’t soaked in yet. How would you like to deliver? What would you like to do with the body? Would you like to hold the baby? Would you like pictures with the baby? Would you like pictures at all? All I can think is, I want this to be over with as soon as possible. I don’t want to ever remember being pregnant. I don’t want to remember Charlotte. I want to go home and continue on with my life like this never happened. I want out of this place. I want my life back. I want my baby girl back.

I’m not sure when the crying starts and when it ends. Actually, I know it takes weeks for it to end. But I can’t remember when it begins. It is probably when my mom arrives at the hospital.

I want to be able to tell you that I can tell you exactly what happened after that. I was stunned, but not surprised, DEVASTATED, not really thinking very clearly or logically, and most importantly, not wanting to remember a single second of what was going on, so I blocked a lot of what happened next out. I do remember a couple certain things.

I had to go to the bathroom a million times, the only bathroom we could use was the employee bathroom, and it was to the right down the hall. To the left was the nursery and that made me want to scream. As did the lullaby that would come on every now and then. Feeling the emptiest I have ever felt in my life and waiting. God the waiting was never ending. People kept telling us that it would be just a little bit longer, but we didn’t get moved into a room until almost 2am. They put us as far away from the nursery and other women as possible. It takes them close to five hours to get the room ready. By that point the doctor has come by, patted my arm to apologize (that’s all I get from Mr. Bedside Manner), and told me that they need to do an ultrasound to determine if I can deliver vaginally since it looks like my placenta may be wrapped up in the scar from my c-section.

I have never been so sad in my life.

December Fifteenth

One year ago today, everything is starting to fall apart, I just don’t know it yet.

I spent the morning baking, spent the afternoon bagging up my baked goods, watching football and wondering why I hadn’t felt much movement from my 22 week old baby girl.

My mom, Chase and I went to an amusement park about an hour away to go to their Christmas themed celebration. The whole way there I sat quietly waiting to feel something, but if I felt anything, it wasn’t much, I wasn’t even sure it was her moving. The whole time we were there, I waited for the same thing. We stood in line for two hours waiting to see Santa and I shook my belly, would say silently, “Come on Char,” and wait. Nothing. There was a little girl in front of us in line, she was probably four, her name is Charlotte. We go to eat dinner. Nothing. We head home. Again, nothing.

After we get home and Chase lays down for the night, he throws up. He has a cough and inevitably during any cold with an accompanying cough, he pukes at some point. He and I shower, I hold him because he’s upset and crying and his heel bounces against my protruding belly. I wonder if that will wake up his sister. I tell myself that I’m overreacting, that everything I’ve read, says before a baby hits 24 weeks or so, there are hours, days, where there is no movement. In that moment, which I can still remember so vividly, I am happy. Finally. My children and family are complete. I have one still nestled in my belly, the other in my arms and I can’t wait until we are all together.

Not much longer.

December Fourteenth

One year ago yesterday was the last day of normalcy. It started with an argument with my husband that even today, a year later after spending way too long thinking about it, I cannot remember what it was about. I do know that I cried and also told him that arguments were not fair with my crazy hormones and his anxiety/depression/whatever he was going through.

Some friends came over later that morning with their kids and all of the kids played. We had lunch from Panera, everyone left, Chase napped, I worked on addressing Christmas cards and stuffing them with the letter I wrote telling everyone the happenings of the past year, including the fact that I was pregnant with a baby girl. What had started off as a gorgeous winter day, evolved into torrential downpours and freezing temperatures. I thought better of mailing the Christmas cards and thought I would do it the next day when it was supposed to be warmer.

We had Brad’s work Christmas party that night. I begged him not to go. It was cold, rainy, we could use the night with a free babysitter to go out to dinner, just the two of us, which was going to become more and more difficult. He insisted that we go. I decided to wear maternity dress pants and a sparkly red sweater. I kept wondering when it was going to be okay to show off my pregnancy. To stop worrying. I was 22 weeks along, I was in the glory days of the second trimester, I was past the scary parts of the first trimester full of fears of miscarriage and doubt, and only three weeks earlier, I had seen Charlotte at my anatomy ultrasound and she looked great. I felt her kick and punch me, swiftly, every day. But I still couldn’t shake a weird feeling that had plagued me my entire pregnancy.

The party was fine. People made over both of us, everyone told us how happy and excited they were for us. Charlotte kicked me during the entire program. It was nice. On the way home, I stopped and got me a milkshake for suffering through the party. As I went to bed, I noticed it didn’t jazz up Char like sugar usually did.

The next morning, we all slept in. Chase is usually up at 7am, but this morning we all slept past 8. I noticed that I hadn’t felt Charlotte moving much in the night, which wasn’t unusual, but it was a little weird. I had several friends who I was baking for that morning, and was already super behind since I had slept in, so I spent the next several hours in the kitchen baking a couple of batches of cookies and getting together some breakfast cakes. Again, I noticed that Char wasn’t moving around much, but she rarely did when I was on my feet a lot. I did mention this fact to Brad, so I went upstairs to take a shower because that always worked to get her ramped up.

At 10:06am, laying on my bed after my shower, I saw the usual gymnastics reflected around my navel. That was the last time I ever felt her move.

Thankful

This past Thursday, I realized I have a lot to be thankful for.

I am thankful for my husband, for everything we have been through and what we have become.
I am thankful for Chase. I am thankful for his laugh, smiles and sense of humor. I am thankful for his hugs and kisses. I am thankful for being a mom. For the stress, love and immense joy.
I am thankful for Charlotte. I am thankful for her kicks, jabs and punches and her brief existence. I am thankful for everything she gave me, thankful she made me into a better person.
I am thankful that I am not pregnant any longer.
I am thankful I have a new little person in my life. I am thankful for the NICU. I am thankful for spit up, milk breath and middle of the night feedings. I am thankful for coos, sleepy smiles and cuddles.
I am thankful for my family and friends.
I am thankful for every day I have been granted in this crazy life. It’s not always perfect, not always pretty, but I wouldn’t trade it for any other.

I hope you have just as much to be thankful for.

The Other Side of Things

It never ceases to amaze me just how judgmental some women are of other women’s birthing “choices.”

I brought my four year old to a birthday party yesterday while my husband stayed home with my seven week old. During the pizza eating portion of the party, I made small talk with a couple who had a two year old daughter. They were asking if my four year old was my only child, how life was with a new baby, whether there was jealousy, etc. They seemed nice enough. The husband eventually took his daughter to get a cupcake, my son ran to the bounce house in another room and the wife and I stood there talking. Somehow we got on the subject of babies again and I told her that my newest son was 8 weeks early. She went on to tell me how her daughter was 9 days late, and I made a face, mainly to mean, “Man, that sucks that not only did you go 40 weeks, but you added another week and a half to that.” Maybe she misinterpreted the face, or maybe she understood perfectly. She told me how her doctor wanted to induce her after she hit 41 weeks, and how she told the doctor “No.” Then she said, “You know, that’s the problem with childbirth these days. Everyone being forced into c-sections and listening to their doctor and doing what they tell them to do just because we think they are some sort of an authority.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but I tend to respect someone who has gone to college for four years, medical school for another four years, and then completed a residency of several years after that. I go to a doctor because I respect them, because I need their knowledge and experience and because I trust them. The “Heather of a Year Ago” would have nodded politely, agreed with this woman and vented to my husband about it later that night. Not today. Instead, because this woman who was a complete stranger, who had never spoken to me before yesterday, and who had NO IDEA about my life or what I’ve been through, felt so self-righteous to tell me her views on childbirth, who really and truly stepped all over my toes, I decided to tell her my story. I said, “Well I actually lost a child at 23 weeks in between the two that I have, so when they told me that they need to go get my son, I told them to go as quickly as possible.”

She mumbled something about, “Oh, that must have been really hard, I’m so sorry” and then promptly walked away. I’m sorry if I have become some sort of a social freak who oversteps my bounds, but frankly, she had done the same thing. This chick needed to hear what I said so maybe she won’t be quite some presumptuous the next time that she talks to someone about “what’s wrong” with obstetrics these days.

In my three pregnancies and three deliveries, I have had the choice of delivery options once. That was with my daughter. I begged for a vaginal delivery because I wanted as little pain and suffering with my recovery as possible. I was told that I could deliver vaginally because there was no way that my placenta was going to affect the outcome of whether this baby could survive labor because she was already dead. I hoped for and wanted natural childbirth each and every time that I have been pregnant. But I haven’t mourned losing that part of my birth plan because at the end of the day, the two babies who arrived via c-section were born living and breathing and honestly I can’t ask for more than that.

There are women who do actually slip into a depression when they cannot have a baby the way that they hoped and prayed for. I have even read an article titled something along the lines of “It’s Not Just About the Health of the Baby.” I am 99% positive that NONE of these women have been through what I went through. None of them have been told that their baby no longer has a heartbeat. None of them have then had to follow thru with their birth plan and suffer through labor to deliver a dead baby. After losing Charlotte, I would have pushed a baby through my big toe hanging from the ceiling of the Labor & Delivery room as long as it was healthy and living. I understand the disappointment of not having things go your way. But that’s life, and life is hard, so suck it up and deal with it and be happy that you do have a breathing baby no matter how that child comes into this world.

Hundreds of years ago when the vast majority of women gave birth vaginally, the mortality rate for both babies and mothers was much higher than is today. Despite nature trying to advance the species, there are some women who are not cut out for carrying or delivering a baby. After three failed tries, I must admit that I am one of those women. Modern medicine exists for a reason. C-sections exist for a reason. Without either one of those, I would remain a motherless and possibly dead woman.

Sorry for the rant today, but I had to get this off of my chest. And just as I despise when people get on their high horse when it comes to childbirth, I will get off of mine.

The NICU

My first son was born at 34 weeks and 3 days. He spent the first ten days of his life in the NICU which is not really something that any parent is prepared for. It was a quick choice that he was going to be delivered that day via c-section and was before the time of most smart phones, so I didn’t Google anything about the NICU, nor had I read anything beforehand because it just wasn’t something that you think you will experience as a first time mom. Although they tell you to expect for your baby to stay in there until their due date, they rarely do and I ended up with a baby whose gestational age was 35 weeks and 6 days home with me. The NICU comes with many ups and downs and there were a couple of days that were better than others, but for the most part the entire experience was wonderful.

The nurses are literally the best in the hospital. They all have fantastic personalities, most have a great sense of humor and they have the patience of saints because they deal with nervous parents and unpredictable infants all day long. I felt very confident when Chase came home because he was on a set schedule, could sleep through alarms dinging day and night and I knew more about a newborn’s respiratory and heart rates than most parents could imagine.

There was a very tiny part of me that would have been sad had any of my other children not gone for a visit to the NICU. Not for them, but more for me. Although I would have loved for my newborn to sleep in my room and to know what it feels like to discharge from the hospital with an infant, the NICU kind of cheats you out of the first week (or weeks) of parenthood. You can sleep in your own bed, don’t have to attend to a baby every three hours, or even really wake up in the middle of the night, and you can get everything ready for when the baby actually does come home.

So imagine my surprise when I was told that my baby was going to be born at 32 weeks and 4 days. I had a nurse practitioner visit from the NICU, and unlike the first visit, this time I knew what to expect. I knew it would be a roller coaster, one step forward and two steps back. I knew what each and every alarm meant and which ones to worry about. I was much calmer this time because the nurses had done such a fantastic time helping me deal the first time. I would say 90% of those nurses that Chase had are still in the NICU. One of them greeted me at the door on Ryder’s second day there to give me a hug. In fact, she saw when I was admitted the Friday before Ryder was born and didn’t come see me that day because she knew she would see me early the next week when she was working.

The hospital where women deliver was moved three years ago and the NICU in the old hospital was a large open room, this one has small, private rooms. The old NICU was about a half mile away from my parents’ house, the new one is three miles down the road from our new house. There were several nurses that remembered us from when Chase was in the NICU, and there were several new faces, but I did not meet a nurse that I didn’t care for. They literally are the best.

Ryder’s NICU experience was different from Chase’s. While Chase was briefly on a ventilator to help him with his breathing, Ryder never was, despite the fact that he was born two weeks earlier. In fact, Chase was considered the sickest baby in the NICU for days, that was never the case for Ryder. Chase’s biggest issue aside from his breathing difficulties was the fact that he would forget to breath while he ate. That was not a problem for Ryder. But he was not without his own issues. He was on oxygen much longer than Chase was, he wasn’t as good of a digester of food that Chase was. But his 32 week gestation slowed him down more than Chase. I knew that we would be in the NICU for weeks with Ryder, and we were. We ended up spending 25 days there, but it could have been way worse. I thought he would be in there for four weeks at the very least, and he was actually supposed to leave after 20 days, but had a bit of a setback. I was super depressed after he had his hiccup, but I honestly wasn’t ready to have him home yet.

The twenty five days was great because we had time to get the nursery together (up until the weekend after I got home from the hospital, that room was still an office), to bring down clothes and accessories from the attic to figure out what we needed to buy, to get caught up on sleep, to prepare Chase for his brother to come home and to prepare myself for the reality that I actually did have a baby and that he was eventually going to come home.

Was it hard? Yes. Did I hate every single minute that I wasn’t with my new baby? Yes. Was I so over having to get in my car to drive up to the hospital to find a parking space to walk to Labor & Delivery to check in to walk to the NICU to scrub in to walk to my child’s room, which meant that I needed to leave my house approximately 25 minutes before he ate in order to feed him? Umm, yes. But I got to catch up with my pals from four years ago, make some new friends, learn more about my baby and how he eats and what he tolerates, he was able to get healthier and then we came home, which made homecoming even sweeter than it already was.

I’m Pregnant

It is only now, today, with a two week old baby that I feel comfortable enough to put this in writing. I’m pregnant. Well, I was, and now I’m not, but I still should be, if any of that makes a sense. Two Sundays ago, on September 21st, I gave birth to a beautiful, perfect, living, breathing and crying four pound, seven ounce, 17.5 inch long baby boy. We named him Ryder Philip and we are ecstatic he is here. It was one of the happiest days of my life and I still cannot believe that he is here. I have to pinch myself every time that I see him and just stare in awe that he is alive. He’s not supposed to be here. He’s not even supposed to exist. Nine months and two days before he was born, I was trying to get out of the same hospital as fast as humanly possible because I had just delivered my stillborn daughter at 23 weeks and less than a week before Christmas and there was no place I wanted to be less than that hospital.

To say that Christmas was hard would be the understatement of the century. It was pretty damn close to impossible. Thankfully, I have the most wonderful family anyone could ask for and they got me through it. Thankfully, it was the holidays and there were enough distractions and people and booze that I made it through. Thankfully, I had awesome coworkers who picked up the slack while I worked from home for four weeks. Thankfully, time marches on despite our best efforts to slow it down and I somehow managed to get through the hours and days and weeks and months following her death.

I knew from the day that I left the hospital that we would try again. The first question that I asked the doctor who delivered was, “When can we try again?” The first question I asked the doctor who discharged me was, “When can we try again?” and the first question I asked at my postpartum appointment was, “When can we try again?” Interestingly enough, all three gave me different answers, but I went with the answer I liked the best, which happened to be my actual OB who told me that we were welcome to try as soon as I had a regular period. I had failed as a successful gestational carrier and I was obsessed with making it right.

On March 6th, I discovered that I was pregnant. My husband was out of the country and it was just the dog and I when I found out. I was ecstatic. Happier in that moment than I was at any moment in my entire pregnancy with Charlotte and that happiness never subsided. It had taken me 3 months to get pregnant with Chase, 7 with Charlotte and 1 this time. We weren’t even trying, we had just decided to see what happened. And then it happened.

I had stupidly convinced myself that 9 months (or 40 weeks or 280 days or 6720 hours) would fly by! Yes, the pregnancy progressed quickly, but there were some scary moments. When I was five weeks along I learned that there was more that had happened that could have been a contributing factor to Charlotte’s demise, other than the fact that it was a fluke. I had a genetic mutation called MTHFR which prevents folic acid from being absorbed, but can be fixed by taking extra folic acid. There were also blood clots found in my placenta, so they prescribed baby aspirin for that. At 9 weeks, I got a call that Charlotte had Trisomy 21, more commonly known as Down Syndrome. My low risk, “normal” pregnancy suddenly wasn’t. We were referred to the high risk doctors, also known as Maternal Fetal Medicine or MFM. They did multiple genetics test and every one of them came back negative, but I still held my breath.

At 15 weeks, I felt some cramping that felt similar to what was the writing on the wall for Charlotte. I called my (amazing, wonderful, godsend) friend that had told me to go to the hospital and asked if she could please bring over her Doppler. Thankfully, she found the heartbeat immediately and I’m not sure who was more relieved that she found it, her or I. At 20 weeks I had a miniature panic attack when I realized that if I lost the baby from this point on, it would be another stillbirth, and I honestly wondered if we were completely out of our minds for doing this again. Several weeks later, I was downstairs at 3am chugging 32 ounces of water because I had not felt much movement in an hour or so. Thirty minutes later, everything was totally fine. For the most part though, the baby did its best to convince me that everything was fine.

Chase would wake me up in the morning with his hiccuping when he was in utero, but that could be as late as 8 or 9 or 10 in the morning. This baby woke me up every single morning at 7am. He moved constantly, including just about every single time that I woke up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. We had decided on the name Ryder if it were a boy and after he was born, we looked up the meaning of his name. One of them is “The Messenger,” which is perfect because that is precisely what he was. I would hear the song that in my mind meant that everything was fine while I was pregnant with Charlotte EVERYWHERE! I would hear the song I designated as my anthem for this pregnancy all the time, including on the day Ryder was born. It wasn’t much, but it was one more small thing to ease my mind.

I fought for a lot during this pregnancy. The MFM appointment didn’t do much other than give us some answers about our genetics, but it also resulted in a “Plan of Action” for the pregnancy. They wanted to start doing Non Stress Tests (or NSTs) at 34 weeks, but for some reason 28 weeks stuck in my brain. At my 28 week appointment I asked the Nurse Practitioner what they were going to do to up the monitoring. I would have been willing to go to the doctor’s office every day to know that everything was fine. They started me on weekly appointments at 28 weeks with ultrasounds at every appointment and then twice weekly appointments starting at 32 weeks with NSTs at every appointment and weekly ultrasounds.

I never made it past the first two NSTs. Apparently, you can’t fail more than two and I did just that. Thankfully, the two days before Ryder was born, they were able to get in two doses of steroid shots to help with lung development before things really started going south. So when I was 32 weeks and 4 days, he made his grand entrance. He is on his fourteenth day in the NICU and he’s still got several more weeks before he will come home. But he’s here, he’s safe, he’s being monitored and he is making improvements every day. I was told that my “uterine environment was compromised,” and the doctors and nurses had no idea what was going on inside of me. At least here, we can see him and know what is going on. I would give anything to have a normal, typical pregnancy, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards for me.

I told myself that if I did get pregnant, that we wouldn’t announce it on social media. We told family and close friends, but that was it. I told my husband that I didn’t want to find out what we were having, and that we would have some names, but that we would not share them with anyone. We both kept our word on the rules I established for the pregnancy. I wrote almost every day, but I could not bring myself to post any of the entries not because I was trying to be sneaky, but because if something had happened, I would not have been able to publicize it again. I was having a hard enough time dealing with all with the pity from Charlotte.

The entire time I was pregnant, I was in denial. We did not purchase a single thing and we didn’t set up a nursery. There was no mention or offer of a shower or a sprinkle, and there was no way I was going to have either. There was one point where I was at the hospital and people kept saying, “your baby” this and “your baby” that and I honestly wondered whose baby they were talking about. It was the coping mechanism that I must have needed because it worked. Despite those feelings, I have had no problem bonding or loving this baby as much as I knew I would.

Over the past nine months I have often wondered why we lost Charlotte. I wonder if there was something I was being punished for or if there was a true reason for it. I haven’t been able to come up with any answers or even much closure and I’m not sure I ever will. But I do know this much, we would not have Ryder if we hadn’t lost Charlotte. I would give anything to have her back, but she’s gone, so I have to be happy with the brief time she was here and also appreciate Ryder as well. It’s almost like there is a chunk of my heart that is missing and that piece will always be missing, but Ryder is a band aid on that piece. He can’t fix it, but he has made it better. So now I find myself wondering why we have been blessed with such an amazing, beautiful baby boy. But for now, I try not to think so much and instead just be happy. And honestly that’s pretty easy to do these days.

The Hummingbird

One morning last week I was sitting at our kitchen table with my cousin when she looked out the window and said, “Look, there’s a hummingbird out there.” I have only seen a hummingbird in my city one time, nearly four years ago, and I will occasionally see them at Brad’s parents house, but they live 30 miles inland and have hummingbird feeders to attract them. This one was interested in only one particular plant in our backyard, Charlotte’s flowers. It kept hovering around them and zooming from planter to planter. I am almost positive that it was a female because it wasn’t the brilliant colors of the males. It made my heart smile.

I miss you baby girl.

The Guardian Angel

Growing up, my Aunt Rhonda’s “job” was running a small daycare out of her house. She usually had a couple of kids that she would watch during the day, but there was a time where all of the kids had grown up, her own children were in school and she took on a more permanent job. She worked in the office of an OB/GYN practice. Rhonda lives close by, so when I got pregnant with Chase, I hoped and prayed that she would be able to go back into childcare and would agree to keep him. It took about a month of convincing, but she finally decided to get back into it.

Flash forward to Chase going to RaRa’s house for about six months. There were a couple of other babies that had come and gone, when one of the nurse practioners at the office where Rhonda used to work called and asked if Rhonda could bring on another baby. She was due in January and later broke the news to Rhonda that she was having a boy (Rhonda is incredibly partial to boys). Rhonda told me that I “had to meet” this girl. “You guys are such much alike.” “Your husbands are so similar.” Blah, blah, blah. Eventually I met her, and it was fine. She was nice, friendly and we saw each other about once a month when I happened to drop off or pick up Chase super early. Her hours were way different than mine, so it didn’t happen all that often.

At the beginning of summer last year, I quit my job and took a couple of weeks off before starting my new job. My first real day off, I went strawberry picking with Rhonda, Lauren (the nurse practioner), her son and Chase. We had fun and it was one of the first times we actually had a real conversation. Rhonda was totally right! We had some strange similarities, and we had a great time.

I invited Lauren and the family to Chase’s birthday party in October, and from then on, we were friends. We texted occassionally, were happy to see each other at Rhonda’s, and that’s how it went. Then the night before my big 20 week ultrasound, we hung out with the boys, Rhonda and my family looking at holiday lights at the beach. I was completely FREAKING out about the ultrasound (as I was the entire pregnancy) and Lauren talked me off the ledge. She kept it up until that fateful day in December, and has kept going ever since.

I believe that people are put into your life for a reason. Rhonda worked at an OB/GYN office so she could meet Lauren, so she could keep Kellen, so Lauren and I could be friends. I feel like our friendship has been one sided so far. I rely on Lauren so much (and that will only continue if we go down the path of pregnancy again), and I can only hope that one day I can repay her. I doubt that will be possible, but she has really and truly been my guardian angel. She has answered so many questions, she has offered so much guidance (that I needed), and kept me sane and calm.

Losing Charlotte was single-handedly the worst thing that has happened to me. However, appropriately, some really wonderful things have stemmed from it. Among the other beautiful, wonderful women I have written about, I’ve been so happy that Lauren has been one of the ones to make such an impact and became a better friend. My only hope is that our relationship will continue for years to come because if anything, I owe it to her.