Wednesday, April 14, 2010

How Not to Expect When You're Expecting

I can't tell you just how fucking liberating it is not to worry about being prepared for a baby. The annoying question de jour is "Are you ready?" and I shrug my shoulders -- I mean, I'll never be ready for delivering a baby that may or may not live, right? Who's ready for THAT? What exactly can you do to prepare? Put a casserole in the freezer? I suppose that covers you either way.

Oh right, I suppose there is one thing: I've called Children's back because my OB would like a 24/7 contact number in my file because he kinda made a funny face when I suggested that Hospital-Next-Door-NICU would promptly move a sick kid over. I think his underlying motivation was actually sparing Mr. ABF and me from rummaging through our wallets and cell-phone caller id's (in a sea of exhaustion after delivering said baby) to find names and corresponding numbers which -- Nice. Thank you. So I now have emergency contact information to load up into my file regarding how to get all the peculiar specialty fellows who are on call in the middle of the night. What, that's not in your birth plan?

This has left April free for doing what should be done in April: Finding summer camps for Bella. Oh, and we hosted a big neighborhood fundraiser last week which was an enormous time-suck but really tons of fun. And getting Max to rehab -- jeez, talk about one step forward three back. Every time I think he's looking great he wipes out on the hardwood or bolts off leash and pulls up gimpy for a day. And getting indoor seeds sowed and monitored for garden planting. All of which is super crazy when you're planning around two NST's and one OB appointment per week.

But in terms of the other stuff? The stuff that people think you should be doing? I'm ready, completely. Hell I was ready last September. Which is to say, I've done absolutely nothing and nor will I. I like to think of it as Un-nesting.

Here's a game I like to play: You know the whole "In Bed" add-on funtime feature for fortune cookies? When someone delivers a typical pregnancy declaration, I always add on "If He Lives." Usually in my head, but sometimes it slips. For example:

May is such a nice time to have a baby! If He Lives.

Haha, boy you'd better get ready for not sleeping for two years! If He Lives.

Bella must be over the moon. If He Lives.

Gosh, you guys must be going crazy trying to get everything done. We will. If He Lives.

Wow, summer is going to be nuts! If He Lives. Wait a minute . . . . .


Ok, to say I've done nothing is a wee stretch of the truth. I have ordered precisely one thing: A "Carry On My Wayward Son" sling from C's old outfit. I figured at the very least it's a great donation to a wonderful cause in memory of someone I care deeply about. And if the sling goes to an anonymous mom at a shelter here in town, well, so be it -- that's not such a terrible thing in the big karma wheel.

I've also organized precisely one thing. An online DBM who I'll keep anonymous for the moment in the event that she doesn't want people to know (if she'd like to out herself in the comments, that's fine -- or if she's ok I'll out her in a future post) sent me "a few things" that she had purchased for her son who never wore them. She said she'd like me to have them, and I was so humbled and honored and touched I really couldn't say no even though the whole thought of fingering baby clothes kinda gave me the willies.

I was expecting a few things in a padded envelope and received an enormous box with a wardrobe for a boy through about age two. It was so wonderful and heartbreaking to see all of these tiny clothes with the tags still on them. It was also really the only way I could receive baby clothes into my home. I wouldn't dare buy anything myself, and I think getting clothes from people who haven't been through the same would set me on edge. (I could see myself waving a onesie at some poor, unassuming person screaming, "What the fuck are you thinking?!") This for some reason seemed right. Or as right as it can be, touching soft clothing covered with puppies that were never worn by the intended. I like to think I'm remembering this baby because certainly if I have something live to put in them, I won't need reminded of my own. And I think that's lovely.

Bella and I went down to the basement and pulled up the bins with her things through the same era (for some reason I didn't have a downstream for hand-me-downs at that point) and we sorted everything by size and then by gender neutrality. Since we didn't know what Bella would be, there's a fair amount a boy can wear. I bought only a few things for Maddy, and I'm pretty sure I crammed them into a box of clothes a friend had loaned me when I sent them back seeing as she was now pregnant. I really only recognized two things that were expressly bought for her.

We repacked everything back into the bins including the lovely new boy's clothes; donated the girl's clothing; saved a few nice Bella items for some baby girls who might enjoy them; labeled everything; and then stashed the bins away again.

We'll pull them out next month If He Lives.

If not, all clothes, bins and all, will take a trip in the truck to the shelter.

I suppose that's something, but honestly that's where I'm stopping. There will be no painting, no changing table set up, no car seat purchase or even diapers. I plan on just going full-tilt boogie until delivery and dealing with the consequences afterwards.


And the ultimate date of those consequences just got very tangible: At yesterday's OB appointment, I had a lovely midwife whom I've seen a few times before. She's now familiar with my past and my way of talking about it and like my high-risk guy, I appreciate her ability to balance affability and kindness without blowing sunshine and roses up my rear. She saw in my chart that a doc had marked "Patient will Not Go Beyond Due Date." And she gently segued into how I feel about induction (like all things birth now I could care less if they deliver this child through my left nostril), and then said look: why don't we pick a date the week before your due date? That way you'll know, we'll get it scheduled to make sure you're on the books, and you can even maybe pick your doctor. I asked when she was on (strangely, my High Risk guy doesn't deliver I found out recently; I guess he's all about the getting-you-there danger, and then hands off the ball. Which seems very modest to me), and it turns out she is with another hot-doc from the practice during the penultimate week. We put it in the computer.

Obviously this is one of those deals where I call in the morning to make sure they're not slammed and have room so it could drift a day or two, but we have a birthday. After trying to forget my due date (fairly successfully I might add) this one is much harder to blank out. I've told a few people and am equally relieved and nauseated, so I think I'll wait to set it down in print here. So you're going to have to wait. Mid May. Maybe a bit early-Mid-May.


Baby's been cooperating with my attempts to change his schedule and I've been trying to ramp down what it is that wakes him up. Sugar does nothing apparently. And before you roll your eyes and assume that I'm some donut-eating-juice-swishing-fructose inhaler for whom a handful of chocolate-chip-studded trail mix and a frappucino has zero effect, I really don't have much sugar in my diet nor have I since Bella. If anything, I'm especially careful during pregnancies. So much so that an OJ and a banana should be like an electric shock to both of our systems and keep us humming for 36 hours, but not so much. Caffeine seems to do the trick, and although my high-risk guy gave me permission to drink a cup a day, I admit to doing a fair amount of half-caf and de-caf and even milking that down into au lait's which are barely brown. The first time I went to an NST after "my usual," the baby napped per usual. So I'm now trying to scale up the caffeine a bit on NST mornings but not so much his poor heart goes off like a racehorse.

This is my life.

In the fluid check yesterday he was sucking his thumb, and you could see his lips and cheeks moving and my head immediately filled with the Maggie Simpson sound-track. And I forbade my brain from taking the next step, which was . . . certainly a baby with a fried neurological system wouldn't be sucking his thumb, would he?

If He Lives. If He Lives.


Toni said...

I'd forgotten this! I too tacked IF IT LIVES onto every thought about The Baby (we didnt want to know the sex)
I remember not wanting to even acknowledge that a Little Stranger might be on the way, just in case I jinxed the whole thing.
I read this with tears in my eyes Tash -- i dont pray so much anymore, but every single one I have is for you and yours.

Hope's Mama said...

God, Tash. Thinking of you so much. Shit the end is hard. Damn hard. I think you're doing remarkably well. I am too much of a control freak not to have done anything. Because if he did live (and he did, thank god), I wanted things ready. Thing was, everything was still completely ready from his sister who didn't live 15 months earlier. There wasn't a great deal we had to do.
Waiting patiently for your news (or maybe not so patiently as the case may be!)

Sue said...

C and I totally did they "If he lives" thing, or our variation of it. I recall that I had begun getting sloppy with that a week or so before my water broke. I got a basket of maternity-wear that had gone around my social group and had accepted our first baby gift: a bouncy seat.

The superstitious person in me says, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

(I'm sorry, but I only got as far as the box of baby clothes before I had to stop reading your post. Our boys were due mid-May, so, well, as much as I'm hoping (wishing, finger and toe-crossing) for the "lives" outcome and sending so much love, reading and commenting regularly are and will become more sporadic. I would have emailed, but couldn't find the address.)

CLC said...

Wow, I am holding my breath for you. I think the "if he lives" thing is totally normal from our perspective. I said that all the time, and was never able once to imagine an actual breathing baby coming out of me.

So my fingers are crossed as is everything else. And how sweet of your blogger friend to mail you the clothes. I am sure it was super-difficult for her, but at the same time I can see how it would be easier to give intended clothes to a babylost mama rather than the one having babies left and right down the street. It is just so sweet. And yes, I know I already said that.

debbie said...

Not because my first pregnancy took the same tragic turn as yours--but because my baby had her liver in her chest as well as her bowels, and she had no right lung, and my water broke at 27 weeks--i can say I know some of what you're feeling. I remember as soon as we found out her diagnosis, we carried around that awful if she lives feeling every day. I was constantly imagining what I would tell people if only one twin lived--what would going back to work be like--or seeing my neighbors--or whatever. Bottom line. It sucked. That feeling of impending doom during pregnancy is the worst m'fing feeling--made worse by the fact that every single person in the (other) world thinks because you're pregnant, you're supposed to be the happiest person in the world.
So . . . I feel for you. I'm holding my breath with you and hoping to G-d with all that i have that soon this trepidation (I know, an understatement) is nothing more than a memory.
And from someone who was sent to the hospital at 27 weeks and not let out until after they were born--i can say that the babies were in no way harmed by the lack of cute paint, matching drapes and baby furniture. And they still don't miss those things.

Sophie said...

I remember feeling the same way Tash. Barely did anything until the last couple weeks; during which I was simulataneously convinced my baby would die, and determined to hope that he wouldn't. It was excruciating.

Waiting with you Tash. I swear having a child after loss is one of the hardest things I will ever have to do. Thinking of you all.


janis said...

waiting with you. xoxo

loribeth said...

Keeping all fingers & toes crossed for you. I got tears in my eyes reading about the box of clothes. What a lovely gesture. As CLC said, I'm sure you will appreciate those clothes far, far more than anyone else ever could or would. I still have all my maternity clothes & I could never see parting with them, but this has me thinking that I probably could give at least some of them to a deserving dbm going through a sub pg. (Although they're 12 years old & the styles have changed a lot since then!)

Reba said...

i attempted to give a friend the very short list of things that had been given to us for our twins. i chickened out and the items are safely hidden away in our office closet again.

we did "if she lives" a lot during my sub. pg too. we did purchase and install a car seat and i am very glad we did. there was enough running around that day we brought her home, just trying to get the co-sleeper set up so we could...wait, no way we were going to put her down anyway, so why did we bother to set it up? ;)

holding my breath for you.

Anonymous said...

Love, crossed fingers, prayers, good wishes.


k@lakly said...

I remember doing the 'if he/she lives" silent mantra too. Eyes glazing over as others waxed on with the 'ordinary' tales of their past pg's. Made me feel a bit psycho, having all those 'imaginary conversations' in my head while they prattled on outloud. Gave a whole new meaning to the phrase 'inside voice'....

Having a date felt good to me. Gave me something else to focus on instead of a wishy washy sometime in Novemeber feeling I carried around. Sort of helps to remind that yes, it will end, somehow anyway.

Hope the NST's and the caffine continue to bring good news. The offer for the Starbucks card still stands. I'd be glad to buy you and that little man a cuppa joe or two. Sitting over here hoping and crossing things feels a bit less helpful than I like to be:)


tree town gal said...

here too... waiting.

Reese said...

Before I went into labor, I had 1 box of diapers (wrong size), 1 box of wipes, and a box of clothes that I got off Craigslist. That was it. My in-laws thought I was crazy. My friends all understood and bought their gifts, left the tags on, and had them in boxes ready to ship if the news was good. The night before I went into labor, I actually bought the bassinet on-line, and it arrived the day we got home from the hospital. In the grand scheme of things---that was all we needed.

As everyone was happy and gleeful around me, it took everything not to lose my shit on an hourly basis in the last month. I took a lot of time just sitting and feeling her, just in case it was all I got. Kept telling her that we loved her and wanted her here.

Add my name to this long list waiting patiently with you. I have your name on my pink Post It note at work. I can't wait to put a smiley face by your name in a few weeks.

Hang in there, Sweet Girl. You are almost there...


Alexicographer said...

I haven't BTDT but I knew enough that the "if" phrase limited how much hoping (and preparation) I allowed myself. I am hoping for you, now.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure you've had this conversation with your peri/MFM - neurological damage is evident in third trimester fetal behavior. They know what they're looking for this time and they haven't found it.

So congratulations. You're having a healthy baby boy. You can be happy.

With Love,

Andrea said...

I found your blog by looking for some 'advice' on how to support a friend who lost her baby at 40 weeks. Your writing is beautiful and so raw with emotion and love. I can't really imagine what it must feel like to be in your situation with your experiences. The continual 'what if' involved in having a baby. Keep on writing, I will keep on reading.

Betty M said...

Such a beautiful gesture from the other blogger. Hoping the time until early-mid May passes as safely and quickly as possible.

Tash said...

Shamela: I really am rather loathe to reply to your comment because I hate punching holes in other people's optimism balloons and pointing out fears when they're fairly adamant about there not being any. I really admire your optimism frankly, and wish I could drum some up of my own. But because your statement isn't factually true on a number of levels, and I've heard from a couple readers that they were put off by your statement, I really feel the need to respond on that gound alone:

1) As for Maddy: At least 3 of my 15 or so u/s of her were done in the third trimester (after 28w). They never found anything "wrong." Granted they weren't looking for that particular problem, but it just goes to show that u/s are really snippets in time and if your baby isn't doing anything peculiar during those 10 minutes, they're not going to pick up on anything. I might also add that after she was born and it was a known entity that she had a neurological problem, the cat scan and the MRI failed to diagnose precisely what was wrong. That wasn't determined until the autopsy. Imaging technology is not the be-all and end-all.

2) As for the current pregnancy, and this is just an example: I had a slightly elevated AFP level. AFP can be a marker for Spina Bifida and other spinal cord/neurological disorders. My MFM (who is nationally renown) told me that 90-some percent of these disorders are diagnosed through u/s, but there are a remaining fraction that are undiagnosable until birth. (Because I have so many other worries on my platter, I'm choosing not to occupy my time with this particular one.) Point being: Yes, there are some neurological disorders that can't be diagnosed, even in the third tri.

3) To a very large degree, the above two points are moot. I have a child who died, it could happen again, and frankly no amount of positive testing is going to convince me it won't -- the child being born healthy is all that will settle my mind. I would argue that most mothers who have lost children in stillbirth or other scenarios feel the same way -- there is no safety zone, no place at which you can pronounce "Congrats, you will have a healthy baby" until that baby is actually born. In large part, this is because many who read and respond here have had very healthy pregnancies and babies -- until they suddenly weren't. Just to give two examples: there's a mom who reads/comments here who was hooked up to monitors for hours, released with a good report, and her son was dead two hours later; and another who had a healthy pregnancy, whose perfectly healthy child died during delivery.

Point being: I'm fairly comfortable accepting other's good wishes and optimism. (I belong to a group of friends who often say, "Let me be optimistic for you so you don't have to!") But it's a bit disconcerting to tell a mother whose previous child has died that they are guaranteed a living, healthy subsequent child as a statement of fact because we all know it doesn't work like that. Would I like it to work like that? Yes. Would I even like to *think* it works like that? That would certainly make my life easier. But it doesn't, and I implore you to refrain from making blithe comments like that here and elsewhere because I know it's not just me that you're hurting. It makes the lot of us sound like drama queens when we're really trying to corral an enormous amount of fear.

Sue said...

Nicely said, Tash. Thank you for articulating it.

My sister, a DBM herself, ordered furniture and some necessities at 32 weeks in her subs. pg, sent it to someone else's house so it wouldn't be there if something went bad. Even with every precaution taken. Even though she had relaxed somewhat at 39 weeks when she went into the hospital for her c-section, she had a 3-pack of onesies, a box of diapers and some baby wipes at home.

Hoping so hard for you, Tash.

Megan said...

Well put, Tash.
We were still saying "if the baby lives" as I was in labour with Leo, even though everyone kept telling me how perfect his strips were.
I'm sorry to have been one of the asswipes to say the wrong thing.
I'm thinking of you.

G$ said...

Ahh, thanks for giving words to the odd feeling I have after every "normal" interaction regarding this pregnancy. If he lives puts words to that feeling.

Hang in there Tash, waiting quietly with you.

c. said...

Thank you, Tash. You made me cry. XO.

A date...something to set your sights on. Sounds wonderful to me.

Waiting with you, Tash. Thinking of you and that baby boy more than you could imagine. XO.

c. said...

After letting the tears rain down in the shower just now, I want to add that those clothes came to represent an ending for me. I want so badly for those same clothes to be a beginning for you. Fingers crossed. XO.

ms. G said...

You sound exactly like me during my pregnancy with A. I had actually forgotten that I tacked, "if she lives" at the end of every thought.

Most of A's wardrobe, was literally bought that last week. And only because I had nothing for a wee one to wear, I didn't think they would let me take her home naked in December.

Hang in there, friend.

Michele said...

The "if he lives".... I still do that. People talk about birthday parties and the like, and I still think "sure, if they are still alive". Babies dying... It never leaves us. Never... I joke about college being around the corner, but in the deep corner of my heart, I always say "if, if, if". Do you think, at some point, we stop with the "if" and hear "when" instead?

Hugs, dear one...