a birth – some backstory

About three years ago, we decided to do something brave. We changed our lives. We’d been contemplating for some time but were to afraid to pull the trigger on it. We moved out of the big city into a small city an hour away.

Why was this such a big deal? Change is hard for many people of course. For us, we felt tied to the city by a series of appointments and surgeries and therapies that our two boys had needed over the years. But when L turned 13 we hit a lull in his repair schedule, and this timed well for him to start grade eight in a new school with all the other new grade eights, it seemed a good time to leave. I drove back and forth several times looking for a rental, and somehow found myself talking to a realtor, then a mortgage broker, and suddenly we were buying a condo. Things were quite a blur from there on out. We bought in April and moved at the end of June, so we had two months of sorting and packing and hauling bags (and bags and bags) of things to the local thrift shop. Also the craziness of regular visits with the lawyer, and regular drives to the new home to read and sign papers (if you’ve ever bought a home you know how much work this is) plus time to play at local parks, and start to get a sense of where we’d soon call home.

Moving day came and our movers were fantastic, but they brought a truck that was entirely too small. We’d chosen to move the last week of June (so as not to pay rent for July) which meant the kids still had a week at their old school. My days that last week consisted of a one hour drive to drop off the kids, load up the car, do two more round trips to drop things off, then pick up the kids, load more things into the trunk, and head home. The last weekend involved many more trips back and forth. When we were done, we’d put 6000 km on our car in 80 km increments.

We spent most of June and July in flux. We went back and forth to the big city a lot so the kids could see their friends and bring their friends up to see our new place. I also decided that after 6 failed attempts to get C in a public school that worked, I was going to homeschool him. So there was lots of planning to do and resources to get into place. It was a very busy time, but it was also a very exciting time. We loved our new home and we felt really positive about our future.

I’ll always remember (at least I hope I will) one sunny afternoon with just the hubby and I. The kids were in the city with friends and we had gotten ourselves some ridiculously expensive coffee. We found a patch of grass and lay there, staring at the mountains we now called home, and discussed how it felt to live a life without regret. We knew we’d made the right choice moving, and wondered why we’d held ourselves back from it for so long. We imagined what it would be like to be dying and think of all the things we didn’t do. Neither of us wanted to live like that. It was an invigorating discussion, for me, and I felt like we were a team, on an exciting new path and life was good.

Not long after that, we discovered I was pregnant.

Wow, right? How perfectly time for this discussion about living life with no regrets! I had always wanted more children but felt we couldn’t or shouldn’t, due to finances and the needs of the two boys we already had. My body seemed to agree because I actually hadn’t menstruated for several years and getting pregnant again, ever,  didn’t feel possible and wasn’t on my mind. Discovering I was pregnant brought a rush of joy like I can’t really describe, as well as panic. What would people think? We had a son with Autism, struggling already with school and more, we had a son with a cleft who’d had 13 surgeries already, and we were so broke! And could I really handle it? I had just committed to homeschooling my son, and I had no idea what that was going to look like. And how would it effect the kids, already adjusting to the new city? Ah! So many questions, so many worries and under it all – eeeeeee! I was so excited!

I reached out to some friends I have who had kids with high needs who then went on to have more babies. I heard so many great stories about it, and I began to think everything would be OK. We could do this! I could have the baby I had silently longed for and my older boys would thrive as older brothers and our home could be filled with happy baby giggles and everything would be great! I found the local midwives, booked an appointment, told my mom, and booked my first ultrasound. My husband would look at me and chuckle, and when I asked why he said I just looked so happy. And I was. We picked up prenatal vitamins and I refused wine at parties and when the day came I drank my gajillion glasses of water, did the pee pee dance in the waiting room and excitedly hopped up onto the table for my first ultrasound.

No heartbeat.

And my heart stopped, too.

The technician was quick to assure me that maybe we had our dates wrong and it was too early for a heartbeat. Come back in two weeks, she said, we’ll check again. Here’s a smidgeon of hope you can hang on to.

In retrospect, in my heart I knew the truth then but I held on to hope anyways. I went back two weeks later and I hoped and I wished and I prayed and I silently begged but there was still no heartbeat again. Two days later, on my wedding anniversary (which was also Thanksgiving) the bleeding started. And it was awful. Too awful to recount. if you’ve been through it you don’t need me to remind you. if you haven’t, I fervently hope you never have to.

I don’t think I every fully recovered from that loss. I don’t know if I ever will. I hadn’t discussed it with many people and at this point, I felt I couldn’t. How do you bring that up? ‘Oh hi, I was pregnant and terrified but I figured t out and was super excited but then I lost the baby and now I am broken, how was your weekend?‘ So I didn’t reach out for help and I didn’t talk it over very much and I ached and I ached. And I ached.

We decided to try again but it didn’t go well. My cycles (the ones that had disappeared for years) were incredibly irregular and I had maybe 5 cycles in the first year as opposed to the expected 12. Every time I was late I would hope.  I would poke and prod at my belly and breasts desperate for changes that signalled a pregnancy. I would get achy breasts when I ovulated and again a week before menstruation and every time I would think the achy breasts meant I was pregnant. But again and again they didn’t.

And eventually I had to turn it all off. It was too hard, and I was too broken all the time. I distanced myself from my body and it’s signals and I focused on other things. Homeschooling C was going very well, I got a job that I loved, I worked on my hobbies. The sore breasts would come and go and I’d only notice in the back of my mind. I compartmentalized anything to do with my reproductive system into a place in my brain that I ignored. Then I didn’t have to ache.

There came a week in the fall when the whole family had the flu. There was vomiting and other nastiness and there was sleeplessness and nobody was happy. Nobody was safe. When the rest of the family got better and I didn’t I chalked it up to my stress level, lack of sleep, maybe a weaker immune system because of oh I don’t know, a whole lot of vague excuses I told myself. Then one day I was volunteering for C’s swim team and everyone kept asking me if I was OK and I realized simply getting off the bench was an effort. Bright light made me nauseous, smells made me gag, and an idea started to form in the back of my head. I wanted to ignore it because that idea had been the source of so much pain in the past, but I also very much did not want to ignore it. As I drove home I snugged up my seatbelt so it was tight across my pelvis and felt a hardness in my belly. Oh my gosh, that was familiar! I stopped by the drug store and stopped into the local Starbucks washroom on my way home.

And so it came to be that 2 years plus one day after our loss, exactly one day after our anniversary, I walked into our bedroom where hubby was reading, climbed up beside him and whispered into his ear, ‘I’m pregnant.’

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