It's Infertility Awareness Week. Can I tell you it's a really weird week to be pregnant for me?
Like I'm cheating on my fellow infertility sufferers. I've also been thinking a lot lately about the weight and space this pregnancy is taking in my life and in my emotions.
After dealing with secondary infertility for more than a decade, I could be trying every single fertility treatment and becoming pregnant is still a stunning occurrence. After two confirmed, and fairly dramatic losses, becoming pregnant doesn't equate to a baby for me.
It equates to an eternal soul, but when half your children are dead and you suspect you've had some additional early losses that were unconfirmed, the immediate sensation is not HOORAY BABY, it's PLEASE GOD PLEASE.
At the end of September, we were waiting with an open foster home for the word on placements. I had heard from my licensing rep that an expectant mother was due anytime and we were anticipating being the foster home for this baby. We didn't know gender, ethnicity, anything really, other than that we were on high alert for a hospital trip and it was time to make sure the baby carseat was ready to go.
On October 3rd, I walked out of the hospital with a baby who needed a foster home for an undefined amount of time. Our days and nights became wrapped in her care. We settled in to the newborn phase of life and a kind of magic surrounded us as I watched our family knit closer around this common purpose of new life.
A few weeks later, I thought to myself, "that's funny, shouldn't I be starting a new cycle?" New baby fog hadn't made for the best record keeping, but surely sometime around now was the start of the next month, right?
Feeling unsure what else to do, I took a test on a whim. As it turned immediately in the affirmative, I crumpled over the bathroom counter sobbing. No, God, no. Not again. I can't lose another baby. I can't do this.
I needed to call the doctor, I needed to start checking hormone levels and getting any necessary medications, but I was frozen in terror. The sobs wracked my body as I stood unbelieving in my bathroom. I frantically messaged my close prayer partners, I just got a positive pregnancy test. I can't stop crying. I'm having an anxiety attack and I can't calm down enough to call the doctor. Please pray.
Their love and prayers flooded in, and slowly, my breath stopped catching enough that I could make the call to the doctor with a wobbling voice. Tests were ordered, I went straight out to get them done, newborn in tow.
Progesterone was prescribed and levels were monitored. Always just on the cusp of sustainability.
Even as I worried the baby would survive, the waves of nausea rolled in. Standing upright left me shaking and dizzy. All my energy, all my effort was on just the next thing I needed to do to care for the girls.
In the background of it all, as I fought through the sickness laying over my life, all I could think was, this could all be for no baby. I could just be this sick and then have to survive another ectopic.
As I made it to the day of the first ultrasound at 7 weeks, I walked in with dread. Seeing the baby's little heart beat, I thought, this may be our only time seeing this baby.
At 12 weeks, my progesterone levels dropped dramatically and waves of anxiety rolled over me as I waited for my doctor's appointment that week. The nurse put the Doppler on my abdomen and nothing. No heartbeat could be found. My heart dropped and I focused on all the people who were praying for me at that moment as I struggled to keep my composure on the way to the ultrasound room.
That wait, those moments, I felt the tangible and physical presence of grace surrounding me. Nothing else kept me from hysterical sobs on that table, as they looked for the baby.
Expecting this to be the moment where my life crashed down around me once more, it took a minute for it to fully sink in that I was seeing my baby moving on the screen. There, wiggling around, happily alive, was this little warrior. An anterior placenta and scar tissue from a csection had blocked the doppler from hearing this fully alive and moving baby.
As we publicly announced the pregnancy, elation rolled in from everywhere. Friends who have watched us walk through dark and difficult passages reached out to share their joy at the news. Still, I would think, yeah, but the baby could still die, guys.
Each time these thoughts entered in, I would think about a story my mom told me. When my mom was a young grade schooler, her mother entrusted her to the care of Our Lady of Mount Carmel as she left the house. So I prayed, Mary, this baby is yours to hold. I give you this baby to guard and protect because I know your mother's heart will hold this baby as tightly as my own.
Mary had to take over, I could only rest in the knowledge that her heart, pierced with sorrows, would hold this baby close and mourn with me, if needed.
At first, I felt guilty to not be excited like my friends about the news of this baby. But, the Holy Spirit spoke clearly into me, let them hold the excitement for you until you can carry it too. This is the Communion of Saints at work in the Church. They can hold my excitement in their hearts as I walk a harder path set before me.
Each phase of pregnancy has carried different worries, and slowly, the baby coming home sneaks in as a possibility. At week 17, I drove to school pick up and was suddenly assaulted with the thought if the baby dies now, we're going to have to do a full funeral with everyone. That overwhelming thought settled in me and I answered it, that's true, and everyone will surround us if that happens.
Slowly, I counted weeks/days until that mark of survival, Week 24. Finally, if something happened with the contractions that had been sneaking in, the baby might not die. Each week past that moment was a weight removed, closer, closer, more possible, we might make it.
Each week was a practice in asking for help, letting others take on more for me as my body told me to slow down more and more.
Finally, now, I'm here in the third trimester, 31 weeks. Even more things have to be taken off my plate as I honor the baby's needs and my body. We need to keep baby in at least 4 more weeks, according to this week's doctor's visit. Almost there, closer, closer, and there, standing with me, are all the friends holding the excitement, loving us, caring for me, praying for us.
The journey through this pregnancy has been hard and heavy and physically painful and emotionally draining. But my interior growth as I've released the anxiety, let go of guilt over how I "should" feel and let others care for us is slowly transforming my interior, in step with the physical transformation of housing a person. So here I sit (or lay most times), waiting out the days until we all rejoice together that the baby is here.