28 April 2014

The Final Chapter: Safe in Heaven

It has been more than two months, and I am just finally getting up the nerve to finish our story here. I don't think anyone but friends and family have followed this blog, but if I am wrong, then I'll tell you about the end of our story. I've written about it in detail elsewhere, but it has been hard to put the words here, in a place that was so happy and so full of anticipation.

We lost our Shrimpy-baby, Haven Melody, a day before I reached 38 weeks. We went to the hospital during my last day at work because we were concerned that she hadn't moved that morning. After a nurse couldn't find her heartbeat and they performed two ultrasounds, we found out that she was gone. There aren't words to describe the shock and agony that we felt when we saw our little girl motionless on the ultrasound screen, where we had seen her dancing just weeks before. The next 38 hours are burned into our memories forever; Danny calling our family and some of our friends, my friend Nancy coming as soon as she heard (to be our birth coach, as we'd planned), the four rounds of induction gel, the two rounds of induction pills, so much morphine, an epidural, the Pitocin drip, my water being broken, and the too-silent birth of our longed-for baby girl. And tears. So many tears. They came, and they have not left.

Haven Melody, our "safe place" and "song," was born at 7:30am on February 16. Though we don't know her length, she was 6lb, 5oz. She looked just like Danny, as I knew she would. She was tall and slender, just like I imagined she would be. The only part of her that looked like me were her wrists and hands.

I am happy that the first words that were ever said about Haven were about how perfect and beautiful she was. The nurses were so kind and treated her with such dignity. She had her first bath and was wrapped up all snug just like any other baby. The nurses took photos of her for us, and chose a pretty knit dress and cap for her that had been made by volunteers. We have those things, and a few others, in a little box they gave us. I don't get to share her pictures often, but this is her blog, and here, it is safe:

She is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.

We spent a few hours with her, holding her, telling her how much we loved her and how sorry we were that we wouldn't be able to get to know her more. "Auntie" Nancy sang her a song, and her grandparents on Danny's side held her and loved her. My mom and Danny's sister were on their way from Alberta to be with us. Letting go of her that last time and watching her be wheeled out of the room was one of the hardest moments of my life. It felt like in the movies, where a mother's child is taken away and she is out of her mind with grief. I know what that feels like now. Because there is no love like a parent's love, there is no grief like a parent's grief. They are two sides of the same coin.

A few days after Haven was born, we held a beautiful funeral service for her. We put up her pictures, and there were songs and a message. We and our little one were surrounded by love.

Almost 8 weeks after Haven was born, we found out that she died due to complications from a hyper-coiled umbilical cord. We did not expect to be given a cause, because most late-term stillbirth autopsies don't turn up any results. It is comforting to know why she died, but painful, because she was perfectly healthy and thriving until the moment her blood supply was compromised. If she had been born early, she would most likely still be here. I try not to let myself focus on that too often, because the what-ifs can kill.

We never imagined we would be in this position. Full-term stillbirth was something that happened to other people: unhealthy women, drug addicts, or people in third world countries. Not us. And yet, there we were, and here we are. I have since learned how common it actually is (1/160 pregnancies), and how many different causes of stillbirth there are (a lot). Even for women with a "picture perfect pregnancy" (my OB's words).

I have tried to come up with a word to describe the feelings we've felt in the past two months or so, but none seem adequate. Perhaps as a group they might come close: anguish, desolation, joy, fear, love, despair, emptiness, rage, aching, numb, directionless. Out of the ashes have come beautiful things too. I have learned - really learned - about grief and about true compassion. I have learned more about loving than I could have imagined possible. It caused me to realize how much people love us too. It taught me how to forgive and let go of my anger and bitterness. How to cherish the people God has put in my life, because I just don't know how long I will get to spend with them. It has made me hold Danny a little closer, because all of this reaffirmed what an amazing husband he is. I am blessed beyond measure to have a partner like him. I have learned to find comfort in God's love. What I wouldn't trade for even ten more minutes with Haven, but all of these things are her gift to me.

We miss our baby daughter so much. In closing, I'll repeat the words I said to Danny on that hospital bed just hours after we heard the news:

"It was the most wonderful nine months."

18 January 2014

33-34 Weeks: A Fashionable Manatee

I'll start with the bad and the ugly and save the good for last:

1) What I thought all along was hip pain is actually Posterior Pelvic Pain. The fun part? It's spreading to the front of my pelvis, presumably as Shrimpy begins to "drop." It is incredibly painful, and it means I look a lot like a penguin when I walk. It also causes grinding in that area when I turn over in bed. At least I can laugh at how funny I look wobbling across the room, especially since the waddle is accompanied by my huffing and puffing!

2) The baby's squirming and kicking has changed from cute to uncomfortable to downright painful. Many of our evenings are spent on the couch, with me hissing or gasping every few seconds or minutes as I'm pushed and pummeled and kicked from the inside.

3) So. Stinking. Tired. Not in the coma sort of way I was in the first trimester or the mental/physical drain of the second. Now, I am just physically spent, and everything takes triple the effort it did before. It takes a lot of effort to turn over in bed, to get up from bed or a chair (or, God forbid, the floor...when I temporarily forget that I just can't do that anymore). At least it's entertaining to watch!

33 Weeks!
The good. There are lots of great things happening right now that make all the exhaustion and pain easier to bear:

1) Danny and I went to a prenatal class at the hospital in week 33. It was good to have all of the information presented in one day, and to have a tour of a case room and recovery room. I am planning on attending a breastfeeding class with some pregnant friends soon, and then all of us couples will attend a newborn care class. Knowledge is power, ha ha!

2) Baby's nursery is almost complete. All that's left to do is hang a few pictures and a curtain and to give the whole room a good clean.

3) Baby hiccups. They're just cute. My belly jumps every time it happens (which is often up to three times a day).

4) I had a fun shopping day last week with our friend, Janice. We were looking for a dedication dress for baby, but we had no luck. We did, however, find this giant grater in Winners. 

What in the world would you use it for?!

5) My friend, Nancy, will be in the delivery room with me and Danny. Today, Auntie Nancy and I got the registry ready for my baby shower. It was just another reminder that our little one is almost here! We also talked about the things I should pack in my hospital bag, and what my birth plan will look like. I love lists...they make me feel prepared!

6) This will sound frivolous, but my friend, Steph, lent me a bag of beautiful maternity clothes that should take me up to the end (I was down to a few shirts and dresses). Even though I love showing off my bump, sometimes the third trimester can make even the most confident of us feel sloppy and tired-looking. I'm a manatee, but at least I'll be a fashionable manatee. Thanks, Steph!!! :)

7) We have an exciting week coming up:
  • Our maternity photo shoot is scheduled for tomorrow. I am looking forward to having a few nice shots of Danny and me and the bump. Fingers crossed for dry weather!
  • My second OB appointment is scheduled for Monday.
  • Our second scheduled ultrasound will happen on Tuesday. Other than making sure Shrimpy is healthy and doing well, we are hoping to confirm that she is actually a girl! I am hopeful; her bum has been pushing upward for many weeks now. :)
I'll be posting some pretty pictures of us soon!

09 January 2014

31 - 32 Weeks: The Headlines

This week was my first back at work after sixteen glorious days off. I was anxious about returning, but being back really made me see how little time I have left before maternity leave starts. Five weeks. I think I can, I think I can...

Let's do this in point form sections (because I'm tired):

1) Nursery.

We got baby's nursery mostly set up last week. It felt good to finally get the room cleaned out and to put the furniture where we want it. It's really starting to sink in that she will be sleeping in there soon. Surreal!

Daddy did most of the set-up.
It was sweet to see him coming up with ideas.
He can't wait to meet his little girl!
2) Blackouts.

If you haven't heard about the blackouts caused by the recent blizzard, then I'll spare you. Except to say we had about 8 in our house (6 one hour, 2 prolonged).

A few flakes came down. A few trillion.
Thank goodness for tea lights.
They can provide light OR heat up a latte if used creatively!
3) Sort-of Resentment.

Because he can do this:

Or this:

Without trying.

4) Job Ad.

Soon we'll find my year-long job replacement! Fingers crossed that we find a me clone. Hopefully my coworkers don't like "Shmandy" better than the real deal!

5) Fluffy Bum.

My cloth diapers arrived this week! YAY! They are so.stinking.cute. I am particularly fond of the bumblebee print. I can just picture our little chubby-butt waddling around in these. I might chomp her legs off.

Seriously. So cute.
6) Alien Mutation.

I discovered that I have a big, splotchy white patch of skin around my belly button. And apparently it's not terribly common, because I found only one reference to it online. Seriously, not even one mention on the countless pregnancy websites and forums! Maybe the baby is actually plotting an alternate escape route! I sure hope not...

7) Baby Hiccups.

They get hiccups inside! It's mostly cute, unless it happens when I'm trying to fall asleep. Shrimpy seems to get annoyed when it happens and starts flailing and twisting around like she's trying to escape them somehow.

8) Eczema. On my FACE!

Enough said. I am so itchy and miserable.

9) Obstetrician.

My first obstetrician appointment was this week. I was only in there for a few minutes, but I learned (1) That I am up about 15lb over all, so that is great! (2) Mama and baby are doing well. Blood pressure of a champ and my bloodwork is good. (3) I get to have a 34 week ultrasound to check on baby's growth! I think we'll also take a peek if she's cooperative, just to double check that she's a she and not a he. :)

10) I Suck.

I put off booking our prenatal class until...this Monday. Yeah, I knooowww. But there was a cancellation, so we were able to get in this Saturday. Otherwise, we would have been out of luck! I think the class will be more for nervous Daddy, who could probably use a little knowledge and reassurance under his belt going into the labour process.

11) Baby Shower.

Plans are underway for a shower in a few weeks. I can't wait!

12) Did I Mention?

My belly splotch and I are really, really tired.

31 December 2013

31 Weeks: The End of a Year

We had a lovely, relaxing Christmas with Danny's mom and step-dad. Getting out of the house (and the city) to spend time in their cozy, river-side cottage home was just what we needed. It feels nice to be taken care of when you are used to doing everything yourself. I've been battling burnout from work lately (due to my pregnant state, not the task load), so a day or two away was really great.

The view!
I've appreciated my saved-up vacation days and the extra few days off my job offered this year. I wish I could say I've done a lot of productive things, but I've mostly relaxed, slept, and given myself some time to reflect and think ahead. Sometimes life just doesn't give you time for introspection.

2013. What a year of roller coaster ups and downs! The early part was taken up with my car accident, the search for a "new" used vehicle, sorting out insurance and therapy, Danny searching for a job after his layoff, then rejoining the workforce in May, with me working extra long hours at work that month. Right after that is when we conceived, and we found out for sure at the end of June. When we got back from our Nashville vacation, we dove into the thick of it with a family wedding, prenatal and therapy appointments (for my injuries), our "new" car dying, the long search for yet another vehicle ending in the surprise gift of our new car from friends. Then, our house nearly burned down days before the start-up of programs at work, and Danny started a new job. Between a busy fall schedule, appointments, and the clean-up efforts, months passed...until we decided to move and spent weeks packing before we ended up in our new home at the start of December. And here we are, still unpacking and trying to get settled as quickly as possible. We feel like we've hardly come up for air!

Little boots for little feet!
2014. My hopes for this new year is that life settles down a little. That my therapy appointments can ebb, then cease as I recover. That my work replacement is found and trained quickly. That things progress with Danny's job and he is assigned support. That in the next few weeks we are able to spend some quality time together before our little Shrimpy arrives. That everything goes smoothly with our delivery prep and the baby's arrival. That the baby will be healthy and strong. That we adjust okay to our new financial situation once I'm on maternity leave. That we settle quickly into a schedule and a balance with our little one. Really, I don't think I want anything more than that.

I think the greatest lessons I've learned this year are a bit hard to put into words. I've grown in thankfulness for the many blessings in our lives. In my appreciation of Danny, our family, and our extended web of friends. In perspective. In my spiritual walk. In forgiveness. In openness. I hope that these things keep growing in 2014 and beyond.

Lots of love from us to each of you as we transition to this new year!

30 Weeks at Christmas.

22 December 2013

A Drop of Christmas Thankfulness

Christmas always makes me think about how much I (and we) have, and how grateful I am for the people in our lives. I don't think that has ever been more true than this year as we prepare to start our little family. A friend commented today about how blessed our baby is to have parents like us, and a community of friends to help support and nurture this little life. I hadn't thought about that, to be honest. With all of our family so far-flung, I've been really sad when thinking about how rare it will be that our kiddo will get to see her extended family. We are so fortunate to have a large support system of friends here in the city, some with kids, some without, all with something to contribute to her in some way.

That said, I can't wait to introduce her to our parents and siblings and any other family she is lucky enough to have in her life. I hope that opportunities open up when we least expect it to see them and share in the joy of raising her.

And, of course, I am constantly reminded of what a blessing I have in Danny. His strength, support, kindness, and willingness to sacrifice for his family (and friends) are truly remarkable gifts. He is a "real man"; a wonderful partner, and soon-to-be awesome dad.

...and all that sappy jazz. ;)

Merry Christmas, family and friends! Please know just how much you are each loved and appreciated by us!

19 December 2013

29 Weeks: Deck the Halls with Boughs of - SLEEEEEEP!

How are Mama and Papa?
We are pooped out. Danny has been working three jobs, and we've been so busy trying to get ready for Christmas between paperwork crises and parties and all the rest of it. We appreciate our new bed soooo much, I can't even tell you. Thanks to the new mattress, I no longer have to sleep atop my Throne of Pillows. I can just sleep with a body pillow like a (mostly) normal person.

I had my last checkup with my regular doctor this week, as I'll be seeing an obstetrician from here on out, starting January 6. She said that everything was perfect (including my glucose test, YEAH!)...except I'm anemic. Despite my vitamin supplements! It didn't really surprise me; I have a lot of the classic signs, including fatigue, muscle weakness, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, and irritability. Hopefully I can modify my diet a little to get what I'm missing.

Speaking of diet, it looks like I have finally started to gain some weight, and rapidly! I have put on 6lb since my last appointment 4 weeks ago! That averages out to 1.5lb/week! Usually at this point, women put on only 0.5lb or 1lb per week. If I keep at it, I'll actually hit the "recommended" weight gain of 25lb.

How is Baby?
All in all, things are good. Shrimpy has flipped upside down, so now she has discovered the joy of repeatedly tapping on the bottom of my uterus (seriously, like 30 times in a row) or punching my bladder, or squirming around (which is the weirdest feeling!) Even with my squished stomach with its hormone-lax muscles making me almost lose everything I eat, I am so incredibly grateful for my healthy, totally standard pregnancy. And my bladder-punching baby!

One of the funniest things the baby does happens in the middle of the night. I will sleep for a few hours on one side, then cautiously turn over. I can't just flip over like before; this literally takes me about 20 to 30 seconds, as my bones and uterus and muscles have to move around and adjust to the new position. When I finally get to the new position, Shrimpy has a flail-attack with all limbs going at once. I always imagine gravity making her sink into one side while I'm sleeping, then I turn and she sinks down to the other side. It always makes me smile (through the discomfort).

Why No Pictures?!
I have pictures to share but haven't had a chance to scan them in yet. I'll post them soon! I finally got a few with my handsome baby daddy. Shrimpy might be getting her picture taken again in a few weeks too; a friend who has already visited my OB said that she routinely does 34 week ultrasounds just to make sure all is well. I am hoping we get to have another peek at our little one. Fingers crossed!