We did it. We brought home our second living child.
We made it through another stress-filled, anxiety-riddled pregnancy after loss. A fair amount of disassociation and obsession with kick counts got me through.
I’ve been keeping my head down and my mouth shut. Replying with a smile, “Yes, it IS exciting” while I silently go through all of the other things pregnancy is – like terrifying, exhausting, demanding.
It’s like when people comment on the timing of having a baby – as if some of us have a choice. We also struggle with infertility, so just getting pregnant at all is a victory after rounds and rounds of fertility treatments, drugs, and shots – so honestly, I couldn’t care less when this baby arrives, as long as he’s alive, Susan.
But we did it. We made it through part one of the hard parts.
Our first daughter, Mathilda, died shortly before she was born at full term. Our second daughter, Winslow, was born alive and came home, only to end up needing emergency transport to Boston Children’s for life-saving heart surgery on day 9 of life.
She did great, and her time in the CICU was short, all things considered. She is now a thriving, too-smart-for-her-one-good, almost-two-year-old and just earned her BIG SISTER status this week.
She is already a little sister to her big sis, Tillie – something she knows but doesn’t quite understand yet. Now she is also a big sister to her little brother, Hugo – who she lovingly refers to as “baby HUG-o.”
It’s pretty cute.
So now, as Hugo is a week old today, I take a deep breath and hope that he won’t need some life-saving medical procedure.
I know it’s highly unlikely.
I know, his fetal echo came back normal – but of course, Winnie had a Critical Coarctation of the Aorta, which starts to show up around this stage of life.
I know, lightning rarely strikes twice. I get it.
But here’s the thing – Winnie was supposed to be my easy baby, the one who lived – and she did, but damn if it wasn’t without a huge fight for a tiny baby.
I just can’t believe that it can be true until I see it.
It’s never easy.
Hugo needed an extra night in the hospital last week for phototherapy because of his high-risk level of jaundice. I know this is so common, especially for smaller babies born on the earlier side (even though he was full term at 37 and 4), but you would have thought I was being told he needed heart surgery.
I couldn’t control my response to seeing him struggle under these lights, blinded with the tiniest pair of goggles you’ve ever seen. I rationally knew he would be okay – the light therapy would make the next week so much easier than going in every day to check jaundice levels and chase the numbers as we did with Winnie.
I couldn’t comfort him, and maybe that was it – I felt helpless again. I felt worthless that here were another one of my babies who needed help to live.
Why can’t I make bigger babies? (All three of our children were born at 5lbs 1oz – which could be smaller, but still) why can’t my babies just live, on their own, with no intervention?
So, here’s the real question – how can I acknowledge these traumatic experiences – Tillie’s death, Winnie’s surgery, our struggles with infertility, and come to a place where I am not internally agonized by all of the horrible “what if’s” and always falling on the wrong side of the statistics?
After Winnie came home from her surgery, I remember saying- death IS always right there, just waiting.
We can forget, for a bit of time, but then, there it is- the possibility of death. That feels like it isn’t a very good way to live with that mentality.
I have to say, I can choose hope over fear most days, and for that, I am proud of myself.
I guess it’s just hard to have all of this swirling around inside and not have an opportunity ever to let it out.
No one wants to hear about my fears, my daughter’s death, my other daughter’s fight for her life – and when I mention these things, I feel guilty – like someone will think I always need attention for these traumas.
I don’t like to talk about them – but they are a part of my story – a part of my motherhood.
Leaving them out feels like a disservice to my truth, and so what if that makes others uncomfortable?!
I get it – people want to fix it all, find the silver lining, focus on the positive. Assure me that, “He will be fine! It won’t happen again! You’ve earned a normal maternity leave!”
But I know better than anyone, that isn’t how it works. I certainly didn’t ‘earn’ the other experiences.
So I will sit here, watching Hugo gently breathe in and out; wondering if he is sleeping too much; checking his feet every hour to be sure they haven’t turned blue; trying to sleep when I can to keep some perspective.
I can also say to myself – we did it. We are doing it.
And hopefully, we can keep doing it. I just need to recognize the struggle, say it out loud, to also remember all of the good.
Let’s try to support each other to say all the things- it’s okay to recognize the hard, the stressful, the scary- and we are all smart enough and brave enough to hear it and just be with it.
Let’s give that to each other- and ourselves- especially as parents.
Let’s give one another permission to take out the “at leasts” and just let the fears and challenges exist on their own. We don’t need to qualify them. They can stand on their own, apart from the amazing, the beautiful, the good.
We don’t have to pair these things to make others feel better because we all have these things that we carry.
Let’s be honest with one another and then maybe, just maybe, the load won’t feel quite so heavy.