The Second Trimester
Entering week 14 was when I truly started to settle into the reality that I was going to be a mom. My morning sickness was subsiding, and I had a little belly signifying the life I was growing inside of me (something I did not experience in my last pregnancy). I am not entirely sure what I expected it to feel like, but I can only think to draw a parallel to the way a blister feels below the surface of your skin when you press against it. I shared this with a mom friend of mine once and she totally got what I meant, so I feel like that is an accurate description.
In week 16, I felt my first flutter while I tried to reposition myself in bed. Not long after that, while lounging on the couch next to Josh, I felt her do a little cartwheel in my belly. I could not remember for the life of me what we were watching, but I do remember that I could not stop smiling with my hand delicately placed over my belly. Of all the new sensations I was experiencing there was (and will never be) anything more incredible than feeling her move.
Once that fog of fear and doubt started to clear, Josh and I began preparing ourselves. Every visit with our midwife and every ultrasound, we felt more and more assured - this was really happening. Josh and I started reading our respective literature. I chose Mama Natural (by Genevieve Howland), while Josh took his ears to the audiobook version of The Expectant Father (by Armin Brott). At the time his commute to and from work was about an hour per trip. He actually made it through his audiobook like a hot knife through butter. Every day I would get a text or a call or he would come home with some more interesting facts he learned. He took his responsibility as a father and as my partner very seriously. Including taking the time to regularly remind me that I was beautiful and my new body was beautiful too. While I was comfortable sporting my little baby bump, I will say that I was less so with the enormity of my breasts. While I have always been chesty, this I was not prepared for (Josh, however, had no complaints).
Over the coming weeks, we started to nest a little. Even my mom was getting in on the fun. One day she showed up at our house with a load of goodies comparable only to something out of a daytime game show, from nipple covers to a year's supply of wipes. She even sent me some pictures of cribs that she saw after popping into Babies R Us.
I had a Pinterest board that had been curated over a period of a couple years, so Josh and I had a pretty good idea of how we wanted the room to look. We decided on the nursery accent wall and found some wood at Home Depot to whitewash and install. Josh picked every single plank and I took photos to one day show our girl all that her Daddy did for her.
We then decided on our crib and dresser and picked that up. We also spent some time thinking about how we would announce our little one. Styled our shoot and took the photo in our room. We held on to that photo for sometime before publicly sharing our news. I was about 18 weeks or so when we finally announced her pending arrival.
Very shortly after our announcement, was our anatomy ultrasound, and when things would take a turn for our family. We always looked forward to ultrasounds, we loved to see her move around and hear her heartbeat. That day, in particular, we had been looking forward to finding out the sex of the baby. As I laid there holding Josh's hand eagerly awaiting the news, the technician told us how healthy our baby was. Said she was perfect. She had a strong jaw and a strong heartbeat. When she asked if we wanted to know the sex of the baby we smiled and said yes. The technician told us it was a girl and we were thrilled. But our moment was cut short as the technician very quickly said 'I am going to get you to strip from the waist down so we can do a quick internal. I am a little worried about your cervix. I will be back, I am just going to grab the doctor.". She scurried out of the room before we could process the sex of the baby, let alone the bombshell that she had just dropped before Houdiniying herself out of the room.
The technician returned with the doctor to give me my first of many internal ultrasounds. The doctor was icy from the moment she walked in and stood there sternly looking at the screen before looking to me and asking who my doctor was. I let her know that Josh and I had a midwife. My answer was met with a glance of unfiltered disapproval and in a hurried unemotional tone, she let me know that she would be contacting my midwife and that I should go home and pack an overnight bag. I was being admitted to the hospital because my cervix was short. She was about to leave the room and I mustered up the strength to ask her what that meant and what the risks were. She stopped mid-stride and with the emotional tact of a robot explained that my cervix was short and may send me into early labour "before the fetus is viable". "Before the FETUS is viable". That sentence still rings clear. She then said I may need to have an emergency cerclage done to stitch my cervix closed but there were no guarantees. She reiterated that she would be in touch with my midwife and we should go to the hospital immediately before quickly exiting the room.
She stopped mid-stride and with the emotional tact of a robot explained that my cervix was short and may send me into early labour "before the fetus is viable".
Josh and I left that appointment in a daze. I called my midwife and she calmly and empathetically answered all of my questions while reassuring me that she has seen this before and they have had great success with both progesterone and cerclages to treat short cervixes. There was a demonstrative difference in the delivery of this news between the doctor and my midwife. This is a topic that I want to talk in more depth about, but I am going to leave that for another post.
Josh and I met at the clinic for our ultrasound and had to drive home separately. We walked to our respective vehicles hand-in-hand and followed one another home. That entire drive home I was stone-faced as tears streamed down my cheeks. I spoke to my dad and prayed that it would all be ok. I prayed that if anyone was watching over us that they would let us keep our girl. That they wouldn't take her too.
I guess Josh could see me in his rearview and he called me. We spoke for the remainder of our drive and I did my best to hold it together, but I was a mess. We were stopped at a red light when Josh asked me if I had Kleenex. I didn't, but I told him it was ok, we were almost home. Josh grabbed the box of Kleenex in his truck, put it in park, and ran to my car to hand me the Kleenex and kiss me. He had just enough time to tell me "We got this, ok?" before running back to his truck as the light turned green. I love him so much more for this.
Josh grabbed the box of Kleenex in his truck, put it in park, and ran to my car to hand me the Kleenex and kiss me. He had just enough time to tell me "We got this, ok?" before running back to his truck as the light turned green. I love him so much more for this.
Josh and I went home, packed our overnight bags and made a decision to stay positive; to put our faith in my body and in my dad to watch over us and get our girl home safely. It was a promise my dad made me before leaving us. The one crack in Josh's complete faith that everything would be alright was the way he looked into Liliana's unfinished room before closing the door. That look broke my heart.
When we arrived at the high-risk clinic I was told that I could not be admitted as I was just shy of 20 weeks along. We were sent down to Emergency where we navigated from waiting room to waiting room. When we finally got into a room with a doctor I was poked and prodded for a while before she said that she would not be admitting me. She would be making us an appointment with the high-risk clinic for the following day to have a more detailed ultrasound conducted.
That ride home, Josh put all of his energy into reassuring me that we would be alright. We needed to stay positive and have faith. He was everything that I needed him to be. While my instinct is always to err on the side of optimism, I needed a little reinforcement. I am so grateful that he saw that without me ever having to ask. This was weighing heavily on both of us and I was so appreciative of his bravery even though he was every bit as terrified as I was.
I want to make a really conscious effort to acknowledge his struggles throughout this experience. In the months that would pass, Josh identified something to me and ever since I have been hyper-aware. There is something that happens the moment that there is a risk, the focus shifts. The father becomes invisible. A quiet presence in the corner of the room. He fears for me, he fears for his child, he is struggling with the fear of losing everything, but he is not acknowledged. In the next few weeks, I am going to talk about coping with high-risk pregnancies as a couple and what you can do to support one another while touching on the invisible man phenomena that we experienced.
There was a storm brewing and we were readying ourselves to face it. We were strong together, and we would have to be to weather what was ahead. As you know, our story doesn't have the happy ending that we had imagined, but you can always find hope in the wreckage. A purpose from your pain.