Monday, May 16, 2016
Our Rainbow Baby
We found out that we were pregnant on New Year's Day, and the first few seconds after seeing that second pink line felt just like the first few seconds after finding out we were pregnant with Mila. There was overjoyed disbelief, tears, shaky hands, and huge hugs. But mostly shock, even though we were hoping to get pregnant, followed by fear. My guard went up pretty quickly and stayed firmly in place for the next eight weeks. I kept finding myself thinking, Well, here we go again.
The following days were filled with blood work and an ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy, along with the desperate feeling of not wanting to get my hopes up. After two early miscarriages before Mila, I knew the fragility of early pregnancy. And after losing Mila, I knew that absolutely nothing is guaranteed. We told our families and closest friends. Not because we were bursting with excitement and couldn't contain our joy, but because we knew we would need their support if we lost this baby, too.
At ten weeks we had genetic testing done and impatiently waited for the results to come back. I didn't sleep much during the nights leading up to our routine twelve week ultrasound, when we were hoping to find out if there were any fatal chromosomal abnormalities. I had nightmares that there would be a problem and was certain that we wouldn't be lucky enough to have a healthy baby. Thankfully, I was wrong. Everything looked perfectly average, and we were told that we were having a little boy. The ultrasound took longer than expected because the baby wouldn't hold still for measurements, which I was completely happy with because we never had that problem with Mila. Anthony squeezed my hand as we watched our baby kick and flip around in my already growing belly, and the tears came.
We still hadn't gotten the results from the genetic testing when we walked back to the waiting room, but the relief of seeing a healthy, moving baby overwhelmed me. I cried to the point that people stared as I looked at the pictures of our baby boy. Our healthy baby boy. And by the time we were called back for the official genetic report, which revealed no chromosomal abnormalities, I was already thinking about names. The guard had started to crumble.
Finding out we were having a boy came with a flood of mixed emotions. I had fallen in love with the idea of having a daughter, and learning that this baby is a boy brought its own sense of loss. I wanted to wrap this baby up in the blankets knit so beautifully for Mila. I wanted to dress her in the sweet clothes I had picked out for her big sister. I wanted this baby to sleep in the room that we designed for Mila to love. But at the same time, being pregnant with a boy feels like we were given a clean slate. The overwhelming anxiety that had taken hold when I got pregnant lost a little of its grip because this pregnancy started to feel like its own, separate thing. And while Mila could never be forgotten, the fear that people would see this baby as a replacement for her has lessened in learning that this time we’re having a boy.
People ask if this pregnancy is different that the last. Physically, it's pretty much the same. I started showing and feeling movement much earlier, but otherwise it has been just as easy as it was with Mila. Emotionally, it's a different story. With Mila, all of my thoughts were about when she came. When we had the baby, we might be spending Thanksgiving in the hospital. When Mila arrived, I would need to take a couple of months off from work. When we had a baby, Christmas and my birthday and Mother’s Day would all take on a new meaning. This time around, everything is stipulated with if. I will be induced at the end of August if we are lucky enough to make it to term. This baby will come home to a room still painted for his big sister if we are lucky enough for him to be healthy. We will cherish this baby more than imaginable if we are lucky enough to leave the hospital with him in our arms.
Even though the stress and fear have decreased significantly since the first day we saw our healthy little boy, I can't seem to give people the reaction they want when they see that I'm pregnant. They tend to expect the innocent, bubbling excitement that most women express, but my innocence is gone. I know too much. Not only do I know that I could lose this baby to a horrible, twisted fluke when I am one month away from being full term, I know that there are so many other terrible things that could happen between now and then. And I know that devastation can occur afterwards, as well. I now know women who have lost their babies at 16 weeks, 23 weeks, 26 weeks, 38 weeks, 41 weeks, and 3 days after giving birth. Before Mila, these stories only happened to people far, far away. Now they are part of me and something I think about throughout every single day.
But even if I can't ignore what I know, I have been surprised at the strength of my instinct to nest. I remember telling my support group for pregnancy and infant loss that I would not buy a single thing or set up the nursery until I was holding a healthy baby in my arms. So it surprised me that as soon as we found out we were having a boy, I couldn't help but start to prepare for him.
To those who still think about Mila, I want to thank you. To those who write and say her name, you have no idea how much I appreciate you. Anthony and I are so lucky to have such a strong support system of family and friends who have helped us navigate the past seven months and continue to do so now. To all of the other families that I’ve gotten to know who have lost babies, you are always in my heart. And to those wondering what they can do now, just keep us in your thoughts. It doesn't matter to me if you believe in God or statistics, karma or a higher power, positive energy or angels. Whatever you believe in, we will gratefully accept any thoughts, prayers, and well wishes that are sent our way. And if we are lucky enough to bring this little boy home with us, he will grow up knowing all about his big sister and how many lives they both have touched.