Remembering Baby J

When I was putting away some Thanksgiving leftovers in the fridge last night, I glanced at our calendar to see what else we have going on for the remainder of the month. And then I noticed the day–the 26th. It dawned on me that was the date we lost our second baby 7 years ago. (Or had our second loss, since technically she was the third baby after Baby N and Little Man.)

I don’t think I’ve written much about my second miscarriage, other than to state that it happened. But I think that baby also deserves to have her story told.

Little Man was about 7 months old when we found out we were pregnant with Baby J. When I saw the two lines, I was scared, wondering how I was going to handle a toddler and a newborn.

Since the OB I saw with LM didn’t do any ultrasounds or testing during the first trimester, I put off making the first appointment to the 14 week mark, figuring I’d get checked out then and make an appointment for the ultrasound. I got my multivitamins, cut the caffeine, and was careful about what I ate.

The day after Thanksgiving, when I was 12 weeks along, Sam and I went Black Friday shopping at Walmart, something we had never done before. It was there standing in line to check out that I started getting cramps. Those didn’t go away after a couple hours and heavy bleeding started, so we called the doctor and they told me to come in immediately. They did an ultrasound and there was no heartbeat, so off to the hospital I went to get a D&C.

A few hours after the procedure, I went home. And that was that.

When we lost Baby N, I actually delivered him, got to hold him, we were given a baby bracelet and other mementos that recognized that he was here. There was nothing with Baby J. It was almost like she didn’t exist. Even our families didn’t think too much about the miscarriage or come over to offer support. It made me wonder what the cutoff was for a baby to matter to people. And maybe I’m part of those people since I’m extremely aware of the dates in January when we lost Baby N, but it wasn’t until looking at the calendar that it hit me about it being Baby J’s anniversary.

Some weeks after the miscarriage, we got back some DNA testing to see what cause it. The baby had Turner Syndrome, which occurs when a sex chromosome is missing. Another fluke, nothing going on with our genes that would make future pregnancies likely to end in loss. The person we spoke with said that by default this baby was a girl, so it gave us some comfort to at least know the sex.

Obviously we didn’t try again for a long time after losing Baby J. It was almost five years later before we tried and then Baby Girl came along.

I’m not sure how to wrap this up other than to say that I wanted to share this since it was weighing on my heart and mind today.

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Learning The Hard Way

As a young girl, I remember my grandmother talking to my cousin and me about missing those she had lost.

Her mother. Her father. Her sister.

Her two sons–one died in a car accident in his early twenties and the other died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at 22. And then there were the miscarriages she had.

“But you have us,” my cousin and I would tell her, not quite understanding how loss works at such a young age.

“You never get over losing anyone,” she said. “Especially a child.”

Secretly, my grandmother told me that even though you never get over a loss, my early arrival had made the difference in life and death for her. I was born almost three months early, which my dad believed was due to my mother’s smoking cigarettes and marijuana, as well as likely taking other drugs. I was also born on the day my uncle shot himself.

“I don’t think I could have gone on after losing a second child. My sixth, counting the other babies I lost. But when I received the news that you were born that day, that made such a difference. I was able to hold on, looking forward to you coming home [from California a few months later].”

I was around Little Man’s age the first time she told me that, and I heard that many more times during our years together.

My grandma told me at one point that she had lost her babies early in the first trimester. By that time, I had taken a child development class and had some idea of how big the babies would have been. I didn’t dare say it, but I wondered how on earth losing something so tiny, something that hadn’t existed for long at all, something that had never even been held, could have such an effect.

As I’ve written about a few times before, my husband and I have lost two pregnancies as well, around 20 and 12 weeks. I delivered and was able to hold the first baby for a while, but not the other. Some people told me that I was young and would get pregnant again, that it wasn’t a big deal since the losses were miscarriages, that the baby I held wasn’t a “real baby anyway,” among other hurtful things. Words that only added to my pain.

So I learned just how true my grandmother’s words were–that you never get over losing anyone. No matter how small. No matter how many loved ones you have remaining.

I started this post a couple weeks ago with the intentions of finishing it and publishing it in October, which was SIDS, Pregnancy, And Infant Loss Awareness Month. I put it aside, thinking that I had more to write, but I can’t quite remember what else I wanted to add now, so I’m publishing it anyway. Even if I am a couple days “late,” I think the message of recognizing such loss as loss and not diminishing it is important. 

That’s Not Dinner Table Material

Tonight Little Man and I had another mommy-son date night. We went for dinner and a movie again. Well, movie and a dinner, since we caught the early show.

We saw Pixels, the new movie where Adam Sandler, Kevin James, and Olaf take on Pac-Man and Donkey Kong. I wasn’t expecting much, but I thoroughly enjoyed it, as did LM. The language was a little much for young ears in a couple of parts, but otherwise it was okay.

After the movie, we stopped at this 50s style diner for hamburgers and milkshakes. While we were eating, LM asked me rather loudly, “Mom, you never told me how the baby gets out of your belly. Does it come out of your pee hole?”

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“Uh…no. Why are you asking me this now?” He had been quiet for a couple of minutes–a beak from the nonstop chatter and nearly bouncing off the walls–but I hadn’t anticipated that this is where his mind had gone.

“I was thinking about things and wanted to know. So if the baby doesn’t come out of your pee hole, where does it come out of?”

The people next to us looked rather appalled. I guess they’ve never had an inquisitive almost second grader.

“That’s really not dinner table material,” I said, invoking my grandmother’s spirit. Whenever one of us–especially my dad–would say something inappropriate at supper, she’d always say “that’s not dinner table material” while looking extremely offended. “We’ll talk about it in the car, okay?”

“You promise?” Little Man asked. I understood his hesitation to let the subject go–the last time this came up was when I was carrying his sister, I think. I had told him God made the baby appear when he asked, as I wasn’t comfortable talking about this stuff with a 5-year-old. (And, no, he didn’t believe that.) I had planned to explain things before she was born, but as luck would have it, she was delivered via c-section, so I put it off.

“I promise.”

And I didn’t weasel out of it this time. While we were driving home, I did explain things, sorta.

“Can you see the hole?” he asked after I explained a little about where the baby makes its exit.

“Um…not just by glancing,” I said, thinking about how he might happen to pass by while I was changing his sister’s diaper.

“Can you see it with a microscope?”

“Little Man, you aren’t going to go looking at a woman’s private area with a microscope. Really the only person who would need to see is the doctor.”

“So you show the doctor your private parts?”

“It depends on which doctor I see, depending on what needs to be done.”

“So if I tore my penis like that guy did on The Office at the wedding, then I’d have to let the doctor see my private area so he could fix it?”

“Right.”

He was quiet for a moment.

“Mom, I caught two frogs in my bucket, but Bilbo ate one of them. I need to feed the other when I get home, okay? It’d be nice to have two pets, if he doesn’t die.”

Baby Girl’s Birth Story

In less than a week, I’ll have a one-year-old. As such, I wanted to take the time to sit down and write out her birth story, from the time we decided to try for a baby to, well, having the baby. This is really more for myself, hence the length (so I don’t forget too many details later), but you’re welcome to read about Baby Girl’s journey to this world.


To sound all clichey, it’s hard to believe how fast this year has gone by. Or that it has been almost two years since we decided to try for another kid.

My husband was not sold on trying to have another kid. He didn’t really embrace the idea of another kid until after the positive pregnancy test. At that point we had Little Man and two losses, both of which hit Sam really hard. Not that they wouldn’t hit anyone hard, but he’s one of those guys who takes it super hard when he sees his wife struggling, when he can’t do anything to fix things. So on top of his own grief, there was that, making things tougher for him.

I understood why he was hesitant. I was hesitant too, but I was still willing to risk the possibility of further pain to have another kid.

“How many times are you willing to try?” I asked him after he finally agreed. With a 33 percent success rate at that point, I had already accepted that we would probably have a loss.

“What? Just once. If we lose that one, I don’t want to try again. What were you thinking?”

“Three times.”

He shook his head. “No, that’s too much.”

“Let’s just see how things go.”

After I had my IUD out, I figured it would take a while to get pregnant, since what I read indicated 6 to 12 months on average before conception. Not for us–it took two months of trying before that positive pregnancy test (and the five more after it, just to make sure). The only “issue” with getting pregnant so quickly was Zoloft. My OB had suggested I drop Zoloft and stay on Wellbutrin, and I had been decreasing the dosage but hadn’t weaned off completely since I thought I had time, so I had to rush that.

We had an ultrasound at 6 weeks to make sure the baby was where she needed to be (not ectopic, I suppose). We also got to hear the heartbeat. That evening, we told Little Man he was going to be a big brother and showed him the ultrasound picture of the tiny little peanut. He was excited beyond words.

About two weeks later, we had the first scare. Spotting–lots of it, plus cramping. I was devastated. With my history, I was sure there was no way that I’d have that much spotting and still be okay. I cursed myself for telling Little Man, for putting that pain on him.

My husband called the doctor the next morning and they saw me immediately. They did an ultrasound and said everything looked fine. He did a blood test go check my HCG levels and they were as they should be.

We were able to breathe. For about a week. Then I started spotting again, and even more this time. Once again, devastation. This is really it, I thought.

Since it was Friday night, I couldn’t see the doctor, but my OB put in a blood test order at the local hospital for the next morning. I had stopped spotting the next morning, but was still very scared. After Little Man’s early baseball game, I had the blood drawn and waited. Finally the on-call OB messaged me to let me know things looked good.

I was back at the OB’s office the following Monday morning where he checked things, did another ultrasound, and confirmed that things were fine.

The next few weeks were scare-free, and we made it to the second trimester. I informed my husband what the chances of a successful pregnancy were at that point. Not that this truly mattered since I was 18 weeks when I miscarried Baby N, but it was something.

It was around that time that we got the results of the Harmony test, which is a blood test that checks for Down syndrome, plus Trisomy 18 and 13. Our doctor had recommended this test since Baby N had Down syndrome.

“It doesn’t matter if the baby has Down syndrome,” my husband had informed the OB.

“I know that, but it’s good to know so you can prepare yourselves. This test also tells you the gender a few weeks sooner than the ultrasound would.”

We got the call on my husband’s birthday. Everything was fine. And the sex–you know that by now, a girl.

Another easy couple of weeks went by and then that was the last that the pregnancy would be relatively stress-free.

At around 16 weeks along, we got the results of the AFP screen during an ultrasound with the maternal-fetal medicine specialist we had seen for an earlier ultrasound. The ultrasound tech kept commenting on how the baby’s spine looked normal, which we thought was weird. And then the doctor came in, took a look at things, and said that he didn’t think it was likely that our baby had spina bifida, but that he couldn’t rule out something being wrong with her brain because he couldn’t get a good picture.

Wait, what?!

We obviously hadn’t been given the results yet, but result of the screen was 1:6. This was way high. So high, the doctor said, that there had to be something wrong, even if it wasn’t spina bifida.

To add to that, her size wasn’t where it should be. We were told to come in for the level two ultrasounds every three weeks to keep an eye on things. So once again we were panicking, and there wasn’t a thing we could do, other than do research online to make ourselves feel worse (okay,was the one doing the research).

At the next appointment, BG’s size had dropped even more. The specialist didn’t see anything wrong with her brain, but again reminded us that something had to be wrong. Likely something with the placenta.

This continued. The next appointment the specialist advised us to be ready for her to come at “any moment.” This was around 23 weeks and you know what the likelihood of survival is at that point. Add to that her small size and, well–more fear. Lots of it. So then we were both doing a ton of reading on preemie babies, trying to get an idea of what to expect if she was born suddenly.

At a point, we went to ultrasounds every two weeks, and then I started NSTs twice per week. (This is when you’re strapped up to a monitor and they keep an eye on the baby’s heart rate and try to get the baby to respond to stimuli. When all else failed–except for one big scare that landed us at the hospital at 36 weeks–playing Hey Jude would get her moving.)

All throughout the pregnancy, Baby Girl stayed small for her size. Each time we had an ultrasound, we were informed of how her size had continued to drop for what was expected that that week. We were constantly informed of risks, things that could go wrong, etc. The pregnancy was one big anxiety fest. Near the end, she dropped off to slightly below the 10th percentile, which was Not Good. The specialist said he was taking her at 39 weeks.

And wouldn’t you know our sweet girl was breech? They kept hoping she’d move, but no–she sat up like a little queen on her throne (hello, Heartburn City!). At shortly before 38 weeks, we had to decide whether to let them move her manually or to schedule a c-section. I so did not want a c-section. I asked my OB (one of four I had seen) what to do, who said that it was up to me. I know this is kinda the standard answer after providing me with my options, but still.

This lady was pregnant. I looked at her belly. “What would you do if you were in the same situation as me?” I wanted to know. I trusted this particular OB implicitly–there was just something about her that exuded intelligence, among other things (she was extremely kind to LM when he’d go to appointments with me, always taking the time to answer his many questions).

Without hesitating, she said she’d get the c-section, so that’s what we did. I researched c-sections, death rates, etc. in the week before the surgery. I was convinced that I would die, because anxiety.

We had to be at the hospital at 5AM on a Monday morning. We left the house at 3:30. I had slept two hours thanks to crazy nerves. I was pissy at Sam for being able to sleep so soundly and considered kicking him so he could join my anxiety fest, but decided that he should probably be alert enough to actually drive us to the hospital.

After we got there, we went through the surgery prep and all that. The anesthesiologist went over things for the spinal. “Why are you flagged as a psych patient? You don’t seem crazy.” Cue the embarrassment. I explained things. “They like to flag everyone with that shit, like it’s such a big deal to get depressed and have anxiety?”

And then he explained that I would carefully have to lay back on the operating table after getting the spinal and not fall off. “It’s small and if you’re not careful, you’ll go right off, and that won’t be good.”

As soon as he left, the tears began. “I can’t even walk to the fridge without tripping!” I wailed to Sam. “I’m gonna fall off the table!” My supportive husband laughed and laughed.

And then I went into the operating room. I quickly found out that real life c-sections were nothing like the ones on TV. I thought I’d get more…modesty…than what I got with LM (where I was disappointed that I didn’t have a sheet over my knees), but no. Everything was on full display. Oh my god, the bright lights and all the people. While all my junk was on display. Talk about being uncomfortable.

Everything went fine with the spinal–the sweet OB that I had first seen to get my IUD removed held my hands through it–and I had to wait for Sam to be allowed to come back.

The anesthesiologist took over the hand holding for the OB who needed to get to prepping stuff I guess, and I was shaking like hell from the spinal. Finally my husband came in and took over the hand holding and the show was on the road. I was a little peeved that I couldn’t watch the procedure, which took a shockingly little amount of time. I could smell something burning and a few minutes later, someone said they were about to take her out.

I couldn’t feel the pressure that I was supposed to feel, but I knew when she was out by the look on my husband’s face, which made me start crying. I got a glimpse of her when they took her to be weighed and all that and all I could see was a snowflake white baby.

“Is she an albino?” I called out, which had Sam laughing. Nope, she wasn’t an albino, that was vernix.

Finally–minutes later–she was put on my chest. And oh my god, she was so tiny. Beautiful, but so tiny. Her brother weighed almost 8 pounds–she was 5.5 and almost three inches shorter. That doesn’t sound like much of a difference, but it really is. He felt big and sturdy in my arms, where she felt like a fragile little hummingbird of a thing.

True to form, we got a birth scare, which was that her blood sugar was super low. They wanted to give her a high calorie formula, so we did, despite our plans to breastfeed only (lol, every time I tried to get her to latch she’d act like I was trying to feed her poison and get mad). Her little heel was spotted in pricks from her blood sugar being checked, which caused Little Man to later chew out a poor CNA who had nothing to do with this.

At one point they took her to the warmer, warning us that if her blood sugar dropped much more, she’d go to NICU and that there was the risk of seizures and worse.

And then, the blood sugar went up suddenly, and all was well.

The day after she was born, the super sweet OB came in to check me out and informed me that Baby Girl’s umbilical cord had been wrapped around her neck three times. That hit me like a ton of bricks, realizing how things could have ended. No wonder she hadn’t moved from breech. I was so freaking happy that we didn’t go for moving her from the breech position. Best case scenario from that, I imagine, would have been an emergency c-section. Worst case? I don’t even want to think about it.

It amazes me that, despite all we went through–the constant fear, the tests, etc., that we’re here today with a healthy, beautiful Baby Girl. She’s still a little on the small side, and was often behind on her milestones at checkups, but she’s healthy and such a blessing.

Putting The Baby Days Behind Us

I will not cry. I will not cry. I will not cry.

That has become my mantra for when I go through the various baby items Baby Girl no longer uses.

There’s the tummy time mat, the play mat, the bouncer seat, the swing, the bumbo seat. Admittedly, she probably didn’t use any of these items more than a handful of times because unlike Little Man, she preferred to be held constantly (and we were happy to oblige), but still.

Getting rid of these items is another sign–like BG moving in 12M size clothes a few weeks ago–that the baby days are numbered.

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I have a hard time dealing with watching the kids grow up. I’m know I’m not the only parent who struggles with this, of course, but it hits awfully hard at times. When Baby Girl cut her first tooth, my husband was thrilled, but all I could think was “I may never have another toothless baby again.” It’s almost like a part of me is grieving for the baby, the toddler, the kindergartner, etc. that will never be again.

And now it looks as though the likelihood that I’ll never have another toothless baby is about to move to 100 percent (well, 99.999 percent), as my husband visited a urologist to discuss getting a vasectomy last week.

I knew this was coming. My husband wasn’t convinced that he wanted a second child until after he saw a positive pregnancy test. And he was so sure that he didn’t want a third kid that he volunteered me to have a tubal during the c-section.

“Why push our luck?” my husband asked when discussing a third kid before his visit to the urologist. “We’ve lost two already and you had two very stressful pregnancies, especially the last one. Do you really want to go through that again?”

I’m pretty sure that I’m happy with the current size of our little family. I was even more sure of that during the pregnancy scare we had last month when I screwed up my birth control pills, the incident that prompted my husband to schedule an appointment with a urologist. How in the hell will I handle three kids when I feel like I suck at handling two?! I thought during the scare.

There’s also the issue of the meds I currently take–one is category C and one is category D for pregnancy. I’m not willing to put a baby at risk, so obviously I wouldn’t take the meds if I were to become pregnant (and quitting the meds is not something I want to do either). My husband says that even thinking about going off the meds when things are improving isn’t an option, so the matter is settled in his mind.

Despite all that, I’m not 100 percent sure like my husband is. I don’t feel like my body is done. I’m not sure that I’m ready to say at 31 that I will never carry another child. Never feel the little flutters from the baby’s first movements again, never feel those jabs to my rib cage, never feel those somersaults. Maybe a woman, a mom never feels like she is done in that regard.

I’m pretty sure that even if I had five more babies, I’d still feel the same, though. So even though emotionally I may not be ready to say “we’re done,” I know it’s the most logical thing. I told my husband to go ahead and schedule the appointment.

Trying to accept that we’re done building our family hurts. A lot. But falling into that trap of longing for being pregnant, newborn days, the baby days, etc. and ultimately getting depressed by it all (as I have before and will again if I’m not careful) just cheats me out of enjoying my kids in the present, so I have to try to force myself not to get lost in that type of thinking. Easier said that done, but try I will.