I had my second OB appointment today. Even though it has been only three weeks since the last one, the wait until today was interminable. I had all but convinced myself that we’d get there today and there would be no heartbeat. My symptoms this go round have been much less pronounced and a little bit different, and they have fluctuated off and on, where I might go for a few days feeling very little queasiness or fatigue. Instead of just feeling grateful, my explanation for this was that the baby had stopped growing soon after the last appointment.
I’ve worried about this from the beginning. Since Hudson died, the most relevant online support cohort I’ve been able to find are groups of women who have suffered pregnancy losses. Even though their losses are very different from mine, there is still something fundamentally the same for moms who outlive their children, regardless of whether their children ever took breaths. I’ve been so grateful for the support, but engaging with these moms also meant I was exposed to a whole other world of tragedy that I had really never contemplated before.
After I announced that I was pregnant, I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach as the congratulatory messages started rolling in. I thought, “What if something happens now? I will have to break all of these people’s hearts all over again.” Ed and I had talked about whether we should share our news so early (I was just past 7 weeks along at the time), but ultimately decided that if something terrible were to happen, we’d certainly be grateful for the same kind of support we’ve received ever since Hudson died--miscarriage must be one of the most silent griefs there is. And something I’d learned from my online communities of grieving moms is that there’s really no “safe” point in pregnancy—certainly things get “safer” and the odds of anything bad happening go down significantly after certain points, but terrible things can still happen after the first trimester, at 20 weeks, at 24 weeks, all the way up until delivery. And frankly, once you’ve been on the bad side of the odds like we have, it’s hard to put too much stock into them. So the idea of keeping a secret for what now seems to be an arbitrary 12-week period did not make a lot of sense anyway.
But because we’ve already been burned so badly by the odds, I’ve had a hard time letting myself believe that this pregnancy is going to be OK. I spent the last three weeks trying to prepare myself for the worst. I’ve been thinking about May 24 mostly theoretically, like we might have a baby then, and we might not. I’ve been preparing in my mind what I might write when we found out that I was going to miscarry. And on and on and on. This is still the sad work of a deeply grieving mind. It is yet another layer of our loss—the loss of the innocent, carefree spirit with which we were generally able to approach our first pregnancy. Now, everything looms dangerous on the horizon.
So you can imagine (well, maybe you can’t) my relief, my amazement, and maybe, just maybe, a tiny bit of joy, when the doctor pulled up the ultrasound picture and not only was there a heartbeat, but damned if we couldn’t see an entire little tiny human being, head, arms, legs, and all, squirming away like crazy on the miniscule in-office sonogram machine. The doctor remarked several times how active it was.
For the first time since I found out I was pregnant, I really exhaled. I know there are still no guarantees (so many of my friends are heartbreaking evidence of that fact) and I will probably still irrationally fear many more milestones during this pregnancy as they approach. But my rational mind knows that once you pass the embryonic stage and hit 10 weeks with a strong heartbeat, the risk of miscarriage drops to 2 percent. Two percent is not zero, but it is very, very small. My rational mind also knows what I’ve already learned in the very hardest of ways—that there is only so much that I can control. And with the exception of keeping myself healthy, I have absolutely no control over what happens from hereon out. So I’m going to try to relax and exhale some more.
And yet even as I finally begin to allow myself to feel some excitement about this baby, I grapple mightily with what that excitement means for my grief and for my emotional bond with my precious Hudson. I curse and cry every single day that this is my life now, that this is how I have to spend my emotional energy, instead of cheerily getting my sweet girl ready for Halloween and thinking about how and when I will tell her that she is going to be a big sister. It is just so very, very wrong.