Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Fighting the Fear

I am now in the third trimester, just over 28 weeks pregnant. And yet I am still not totally convinced that a live baby is coming home with us sometime in the next (hopefully) 9 to 12 weeks. As I predicted many months ago, when I was looking forward to when this baby would start moving so that I would have a regular indicator of how he was doing, I now worry constantly about whether he is moving enough. Just when I think that I’ve beaten that monster and I start to relax and feel like everything will be OK, I have these moments where I think, “I haven’t felt him move much today.” Two nights ago, I barely felt him move once during any of the many times I was awake and rolled over in the bed, whereas it seemed to me that he used to always thump at least once or twice every time I turned over and before I fell back to sleep. When he continued not to move a whole lot during the morning yesterday, even after I ate and drank a cold fizzy fruit drink, I entered a barely controlled panic. I called Ed from the airport in Raleigh where I was delayed and before I knew it, I was in tears. I was already preparing myself for how I could break everyone’s hearts again by telling them that we had lost Jackson, already thinking in my mind how I could possibly explain how something like this could happen to us again, already feeling guilt and shame over the death of yet another child, this time one inside my body. Of course, once I got back to my office a few hours later and sat quietly at my desk, where every thump is noticeable, I could feel him moving frequently throughout the rest of the day. Just when I think I might be getting the fear and anxiety under control. It’s just so hard because I have such difficulty trusting my instincts anymore. After watching my little girl die slowly right in front of my eyes after what started out as the most seemingly normal toddler illness possible, EVERYTHING seems abnormal to me. And I have no way of distinguishing between the instincts that are right and the instincts that are wrong and/or just poorly disguised irrational fears. I like to think that next time I have one of these panicky moments, I’ll be able to remember yesterday and how silly I felt when he started kicking and rolling all over the place, but I doubt I will. And before you ask, yes, I am still planning to talk to someone about this (especially because I know this is only going to get worse after Jackson is born). I just haven’t yet.

Fortunately, we also had a follow-up ultrasound scheduled for this morning anyway, and (after waiting for almost TWO HOURS after our appointment time), everything still looks OK. He is still measuring pretty big—based on the ultrasound (which I’ve heard from many of you is notoriously unreliable for such things), he weighs about 3lbs 3oz, whereas normal for this point is about 2lbs 4oz. His head is still above the 97th percentile. But I am nearly certain that the established due date is about 3-4 days past what it should be, so that could account for some (but not all) of the extra size. The amniotic fluid index is still just on the high side of normal, but it hasn’t gotten any worse since last time, which seems to me is a good sign and an indication that nothing is wrong—he’s just a big baby and therefore makes a little more amniotic fluid than normal. They’re going to make me do a second glucose screen just to be on the safe side about the gestational diabetes, which can still show up between 24 and 30 weeks. He’s sitting head-up right now, but I’m not too worried about that yet—he’s still got plenty of time to turn. The one piece of resoundingly good news is that the echogenic focus on his heart seems to have completely disappeared, as so many of you suggested had happened with your own children. So strike that out of the “worries” column. At least I can strike something out of there.

We got a pretty cute picture of his little face. Contrary to my earlier worries, he is clearly going to have his daddy’s nose. Which means he will also have his big sister’s nose. I wonder how else they may look alike.

Even though I wish there were no reason for more follow-up ultrasounds, I am actually glad that they’ve scheduled us for more. Again, after Hudson died because we didn’t have all the information that we needed to know how sick she was, I am all for having as much information as possible, even if it ultimately makes me worry. So we go back in four weeks to check in again on the amniotic fluid and his growth, and then again at 36 weeks. Then from 36 weeks on, we’ll go in weekly for non-stress tests, which is apparently standard operating procedure at my OB practice for women over 35. I can’t tell you how relieved that made me.  I probably would have wanted to ask for that anyway, having met so many mamas online who have suffered late-term stillbirths. Even though I know that the extra monitoring might ultimately lead to extra intervention that I don’t really want (e.g., an induction that may not be totally necessary), I am okay with that. As much as I hope, hope, hope that Jackson’s labor, delivery, and birth is as spontaneous and natural and uncomplicated and intervention-free as Hudson’s was, all I really care about is bringing home a healthy, living baby at the end of it. I never thought I would feel that way, but I do. Even though I know that interventions can cause some complications themselves, those complications very rarely lead to infant mortality and frankly, no mortal risk from NOT intervening is remote enough for me. For now though, all I can do is hope that everything goes as smoothly as the first time and try to keep myself sane until then.

Knitting and sewing is really helping on that front. The time I spend doing both, thinking about Hudson and Jackson and how to keep the two of them close to my heart and close to each other, not only makes the days go by faster but makes my heart beat slower and brings much-needed smiles. Last weekend, when I was at home in Chapel Hill, I went to a fabric store in Carrboro that I had passed a hundred times before but never stopped into (because I didn’t sew). I happened upon the best fabric I’ve found so far, and even though I have no idea what I’m going to do with it yet (I think a lot of the prints I like most are really meant for d├ęcor and not for clothing, but I don’t really care), I had to buy it. Check it out:

I saw the penguin first. And then right next to it, the turtle. And then just under the turtle, the monkey.

Then I looked at the name of the pattern on the tag. It’s called “Jack’s Zoo.”

My precious kiddos. Talking to me again. Trying to tell me it’s going to be okay. Bless them.


  1. comes the sun...


  2. Such cute fabric!!! I think it would make a TERRIFIC backing for a quilt...something real simple ~ sew a few squares into rows, sew a few rows into sections and *voila* adorable EASY blankie! (Just a thought.)

    Jackson seems to know just when you need a little nudge now & then...try hard not to worry, mama ~ easier said than done, right? I'm glad everything is looking good.


  3. ...oh, and PS ~ I am an avid quilter, and I LOVE looking at children's fabrics and making baby/kiddo quilts. I must say I have NEVER seen ANY fabric with penguins AND turtles AND monkeys all in the same print!! What an uncanny IS going to be ok!


  4. Dear sweet Mandy. I will never tell you not to worry, not a possibility for you anymore. Just know that you are not alone, and those fears have crossed all our minds. Even after delivering a healthy baby, my second was big and I had 2 pregnancies that didn't come to term before the first was born. I didn't seem to wory much during the first time around. I didn't have anything to compare it to. So I did nothing but wory during the second. It did bring me some peace to have multiple sonograms, but nothing fully put my mind at ease until I held him in my arms for the first time. Keep knitting, sewing, and writing and know that we are all here for you and love you. Take care of yourself and your sweet boy.

  5. So glad all is well with Jackson and that print is adorable! What wonderful gifts - to have new, fulfilling hobbies and, most importantly, to be near your children in them.

  6. I can't wait for that cute little guy to be born. Honestly, I check the countdown every week and there is no doubt in my mind, absolutely none, that he is going to be a strong
    and healthy baby boy.


  7. Thinking of you, Mandy. Everything you feel sounds "normal" to me after such a tremendous loss, but that doesn't make the worry any less traumatic. I am counting down the days until Jackson's arrival. Love to you, Ed, Hudson, and Jackson.

    P.S. The fabric is so sweet. Whatever you make from it will be much-loved. Maybe save some extra and stash it away to use down the road for something special when Jackson and future kiddies are older, too?

  8. Your worry isn't surprising. After losing Hudson, your "everything's going to be fine" switch is broken. I don't think mine has fully recovered, even almost 27 years later. It didn't help that my son born "after" caught every possible baby and toddler illness involving a high fever. Hugs, sister.

  9. I posted before when you were concerned about gestational diabetes. I've been an insulin dependent diabetic since age 16 and have three healthy children, all born when I was of "advanced maternal age". It must be nerve-wracking to have to think about diabetes, but this all will be a distant memory once Jackson is here. I'm happy that you have such vigilant doctors.

    Your narrative about the fabric made me smile. Awesome find.


  10. Thinking of you, Ed, your Penguin, and your Turtle/Monkey, as always....Much love!

    Tracy M.

  11. That fabric... wow. Brought tears to my eyes this morning. A smile from your sweet kiddos to reassure you. Much love,
    Rachel C.

  12. Mandy --
    so great to finally meet you guys IRL last night! :)

    I experienced every anxiety during my sub pregnancy that you are having right now.
    Once Jackson is here I think you will slowly regain confidence in your instincts. That's how it's worked for me at least. But it does take time to learn to trust again.

    Absolutely love the fabric. How has to be a sign.

    Hugs, Olivia

  13. Hip hip hooray! three cheers for some good news at your ultrasound! I'm sorry you're having so much (understandable) anxiety and worry, and difficulty distinguishing between good instincts and irrational fear (which is actually hard to call irrational after what you've been through). Your instincts to keep busy with things that make you feel productive and connected to both of your children (sewing) are spot on, so trust in that.

    Try not to worry too much about Jackson appearing to be a big baby. I am not a big woman, and I was able to give birth to a big baby, 8lb 10oz. You have a great attitude about interventions, so do your best to just go with it. Would it help to hear from women who had positive experiences with interventions? I was resistant to interventions, but agreed to be induced 10 days after my due date because my fluid dropped. I had pitocin and an epidural, and neither caused side effects for me, nor did they interfere with my ability to give birth. I wish for a healthy birth for Jackson and you, whatever form that takes.

  14. That's awesome fabric, Mandy. Knitting and sewing are such cathartic activities and have the added benefit of making cute items for your little boy. :)

  15. I am so happy to hear that the ultrasound went well and that Jackson gave you a little nudge when you needed it :-)

    And the! Hudson and her little brother are finding ways to speak to you when you least expect it!

    Much love to you, Ed, Hudson, and Baby P always

  16. Mandy,

    I'm a loyal reader of your blog, even though I never comment. (I always felt like I was lurking or something since I didn't know you.) Anyway, I actually went to law school with you and Ed at UNC (where I had a few classes with Ed), but I don't believe you and I ever met. I found your blog through our mutual friends on facebook.

    There are simply no words to express the sorrow I have over the loss of Hudson, a precious child that I never had the privilege to know. The loss of my child is not something that I can even pretend to comprehend. But I can relate to
    some of the fear that you have already with Jackson and your pregnancy.

    I was diagnosed during my second trimester with a rare liver disorder that continued to worsen throughout my pregnancy. The condition causes the mother's liver to stop functioning effectively and causes bile acids to build up in her bloodstream (which essentially "poisons" the baby). The longer I carried the baby, the higher the risk of stillbirth, but if we delivered too early her lungs might not have been ready, so it was a delicate and risky balance.

    It was horrible. I was supposed to do kick counts every hour just to make sure she was still alive. I was afraid to let myself get too attached to her because I didn't know if she was going to make it or not. It was agony lying awake at night wondering if my child was going to live or die and seeing all of these happy go-lucky pregnant women without a care in the world.

    And worst of all, there was nothing I could do but wait. We did ultrasounds every week from 26 weeks on, level II ultrasounds, and nonstress tests, visited high risk OB specialists, steroid shots, you name it... and no one/nothing really held the answers that I sought. I just wanted that security... I just wanted to know that my child would be alright. That she would live.

    My water ended up breaking at 33 weeks, which was a blessing because the baby had already passed meconium (a sign of distress associated with this condition) and we wouldn't have known it otherwise. She spent a week in the NICU and I spent 8 days in the hospital. And I remember crying because I just felt so lucky that she made it. That the wait and the agony of not knowing was over.

    Anyway, just know that I'm out here, waiting with you for Jackson to arrive. So hang in there!

    And one more thing--hopefully this will comfort you some. My baby was measuring REALLY big on the ultrasound, too--and that turned out to be a good thing since she was born early. So I wouldn't worry about Jackson's size or his head size-I was actually told the same stuff about head size and amniotic fluid. Since he is bigger now that may be why you are feeling him less often--he has less room to move around! :) My child weighed over 6 pounds and she was over 6 weeks early. (And I'm only about 112 lbs. myself.) Even the doctor looked at me and said "That big baby came out of you?" So even though I know it will be virtually impossible,try not to worry.

  17. Please try to remove "guilt" and "shame" from your emotional landscape. They have no place in the heart and mind of a wise, loving, caring mother. Hudson would be the first to agree with me.

    Remind yourself often that the loving support group of grieving mothers you have found includes a statistically uncommon number of mothers who have experienced pregnancy loss and stillbirth. It is hard not to let these tragic stories overwhelm you with anxiety. A good counselor could perhaps help you find ways to manage this.

    I always hold you and your family in prayer, and I am especially praying for your peace. Love and blessings to you.

  18. Of course you're worried--you've already seen the worst happen. But try to think about the flip side--because you've seen the worst happen, you will treasure every second with your precious baby boy and never take things for granted. Try to dwell in the gratitude.

  19. Beautifully written. Beautiful fabric. Beautiful children.

    I can't wait to "meet" Jackson. What an incredibly lucky little guy.

  20. Everyone has written such beautiful things. I don't have much to add, except that I love the fabric. It's just perfect. And I hope that you continue to get through the fears--irrational or not, they are perfectly understandable--with reassuring OB visits, ultrasounds, and support from friends and family. And let me know if you want to hear about my completely unmedicated (i.e., no Pitocin, no epidural) induction (after my NST at 39 weeks showed a blip, and ultrasound confirmed low amniotic fluid) with Isabel if you're interested. (It's definitely possible to be induced--if it comes to that--and still have a natural birth.)

  21. The universe is definitely speaking to you through that fabric! I can relate to the constant feelings of unease about your pregnancy. I also did not completely believe I would be bringing home live, healthy babies until it actually happened. When I meet women who delivered twins vaginally I always have a small (very small) pang of regret that I didn't even consider it because there was a point in my life I couldn't have fathomed requesting a c-section. But I wanted the lowest risk birth possible, and Zach, dear sweet baby was sideways the entire pregnancy (very, very uncomfortable!). After such a long road to conceive, bed rest, etc, etc...It wasn't about my experience anymore, it was about bringing two healthy babies into the world as safely as possible. So, a long winded way of saying, I can relate. I hope for you the natural birth you want, but intervention is OK too.
    Susan L