41 Weeks Later
I waited 41 years to achieve a full-term pregnancy. (Well, obviously, I wasn't trying that whole time.)
I stayed pregnant for 41 weeks, until we had to finally evict him, as my doctor put it.
It has now been 41 weeks since I gave birth.
Here are 41 facts about my pregnancy.
1. It took us 13 years to get pregnant, after 6 IUIs and 4 rounds of IVF (for those who understand infertility terminology).
2. My very first attempt at IVF was successful...for 13 weeks, at which time we suffered a devastating miscarriage in late September, 2015.
3. I needed something to do with that grief, somewhere to put it. I ended up putting it in a children's book, which will be released in July of 2019, after my rainbow baby turns 2.
4. We then suffered a second miscarriage, very early, in April of 2016.
5. Our third round of IVF resulted in a negative pregnancy test. Another wave of grief piled on top of the previous two and it was almost more than I could bear.
6. (I've felt several times throughout this ordeal that I was being asked to handle more than I could bear, and those were the times I found the strength I didn't know I had.)
7. On the 4th attempt, scheduled for October 10, 2016, I knew in my heart that this was the last time I could go through this, win or lose.
8. One thing that gave me the courage to press forward was this address from LDS apostle Dieter F. Uchtdorf. It felt like a personal message to me. This was my own personal "fourth floor, last door," and I kept on knocking.
9. This last round of IVF was the only round in which we transferred two embryos. All of the others were singletons.
10. We were concerned about the possibility and complications that could come with twins, so we debated back and forth up until the very last minute (literally the VERY LAST minute) about whether to transfer one or two embryos this time. At the very last minute, after a heartfelt prayer, we opted for two in complete unity.
11. Right after we made that prayerful decision, I looked at my phone and realized I had missed multiple phone calls from my doctor. One of our embryos hadn't survived the thaw, so they needed to know ASAP whether to thaw another one. I didn't hesitate and said, "Yes, we need one more. We're transferring two." It was a rare moment of complete certainty on a path fraught with indecision.
12. (I kinda suspect that the embryo who sneaked in at the last minute was probably our little Wyatt.)
13. After each round of IVF, you get three doctor-ordered "Princess Days," where you basically relax on the couch, reading books, thinking "sticky thoughts," hoping for a successful implantation. That part, I never minded.
14. After the "transfer," it takes 10 agonizing days before you get your blood test results. You go in the morning for the blood draw, and then you get a phone call sometime before 6 p.m., depending on how busy the office is that day. It can be the longest 10 hours of your life.
15. Keep in mind, I've been through many of these blood draws. I usually leave feeling jittery, anxious, hopeful, terrified. All the feelings. But on this particular day, which was a beautiful sunny morning, it was different. I can't explain it, but as I drove away from the clinic and rounded that curve to get on the freeway, I was flooded with an intense feeling of peace, happiness, and wellbeing. I felt overwhelmed, surrounded, by a love so all-encompassing and strong that I wouldn't have been surprised if my entire car was visibly glowing. I knew in that moment that God could see me, and whatever happened, all would be well.
16. Did that feeling last throughout the day? Not at all. I kept returning to it, though, trying to hold onto it. Anytime I let my mind take over, anxiety would reign, but when I centered myself in prayer and that higher, truer version of myself that's not driven by racing thoughts, I captured it again. I tried to breathe it in and let it permeate my entire being.
17. The call from the doctor came during dinner at Jim's Diner, where I had met my parents for a quick bite before going to a community play (Aladdin) that my niece was in. I excused myself from the table to take the call in the waiting area, where I may have jumped up and down just a little bit. I remember the nurse telling me this was a "good, strong start." My levels looked great. My heart soared. I walked back to the table with a giant grin on my face and didn't have to say a word.
18. p.s. Pregnancies tend to take FOREVER when everyone close to you knows you're pregnant 10 days in.
19. We went in for our ultrasound in November, when I was 7 weeks along. This was the day we would find out if we were having a single birth or twins. It was a single, and Travis almost fell off his chair in relief. I too was relieved that I wouldn't have to worry about the extra complications twins would bring at my age.
20. That night, after seeing that strong, steady, single heartbeat, I went home feeling happy and relieved. Within a couple of hours, I started bleeding.
21. I called out to Travis that I was having another miscarriage, even though this isn't how the first one occurred, and the panic overwhelmed me. I called the doctor, who walked me through what else to watch for and encouraged me to try to relax (yeah, right!) and wait out the night. As long as the bleeding isn't a certain color and doesn't continue to increase, chances are good that things are totally fine. They'll do another ultrasound in the morning. Deep breaths. Prayers. Utter stillness. I listened to a guided meditation for hours, so I could listen to a calm voice telling me what to think about, to keep me from being overtaken by my worries.
22. The next morning, I was back in those stirrups for another ultrasound. I almost couldn't look. But I gathered my courage and looked. There, on the screen, I could see that little heartbeat fluttering away. The baby was okay. What I had was called a subchorionic hemorrhage, which are common, but scary, and usually turn out fine.
23. For the next 5 weeks, I got weekly ultrasounds to make sure the hemorrhage was healing and the baby was fine. This was great for my peace of mind in general, but I still managed to work myself into a dither before each appointment. Our first miscarriage was discovered by ultrasound, you see. I knew what it felt like to look at that black-and-white screen and feel the world fall out from under my feet. It was agony each and every time to look at the screen and pray desperately to see a heartbeat winking back at me. This time around, my courage was rewarded at every visit.
24. I also took advantage of the doctor-ordered "light activity" while the hemorrhage healed. I may have overdone it, opting for almost full-on bed rest. I walked gingerly, sat carefully, and thought very gentle thoughts. I watched a full season of Dancing with the Stars on Hulu during this period of rest and healing. If this baby turns out to be a dancer, I won't be too surprised.
25. I worried incessantly about accidentally lifting more than 20 pounds, which is the arbitrary number the doctor tells you not to lift. I was only a few steps away from carrying a baby scale everywhere I went just to make sure. And once, after accidentally lifting Keira into the truck, who weighed more than 20 pounds at the time, I spent the afternoon in a mild state of panic.
26. I worried incessantly about the vitamins I had taken in the first trimester. During all of the infertility cycles, I had been taking larger doses of certain vitamins, recommended by somebody at some point (probably the Chinese-medicine doctor I had seen a few years previously). But, while they can be helpful leading up to pregnancy, you're not supposed to take mega doses of vitamins during pregnancy. In fact, as the Internet will tell you, all kinds of terrible misfortunes await those whose mothers take too much Vitamin C or Vitamin D or Myoinositol or what have you. I emailed my doctor for reassurance. I bugged my brother, who was in Nurse Practitioner school. I spent days and weeks fixated on it. Then I worried that my worrying would harm my baby.
27. I worried incessantly after I mindlessly accepted a single slice of deli ham while grocery shopping. Right after I swallowed, my brain screamed listeria! Pregnant women aren't supposed to eat deli ham, you see, and I panicked that this one slip-up had doomed my pregnancy, despite the fact that most people don't even know they're pregnant as early as I did. Some people don't find out for months, and they happily munch away on deli meat, none the wiser, and still manage to birth healthy children. But logic wasn't getting through.
28. I worried incessantly after using some eye drops for a nasty bout of pink eye that happened to be on the wrong "schedule" of drugs. I was pretty sure I had just given my baby a birth defect by using prescription eye drops that hadn't been tested on pregnant women. (Newsflash: no drug is ever tested on pregnant women.) I called my N.P. brother. I called my eye doctor after hours...TWICE...so he could reassure me that yes, he knew I was pregnant when he prescribed them. And yes, he's prescribed them to many pregnant women with no negative outcomes.
29. As you can see, it didn't take much to throw me into a panic. Intellectually, I knew that the first miscarriage wasn't my fault. I didn't do anything to cause it...not by lifting 25 pounds or by ingesting a slice of delicious peppered turkey or getting a flu shot. But I still struggled to let that thought sink in all the way.
30. I sought help from a therapist for the grief of the first miscarriage and the stress of the rest of the journey. I had to frequently (daily) remind myself of her wise words:
"You've already given enough time to your worries."
"You're living your life as though you're about to have a miscarriage. Live your life as though you're pregnant, which you've dreamed of for over a decade. Enjoy it."
"Keeping yourself from getting excited now WON'T protect you from the pain of another loss. All it does is rob you of the joy of the present."
I believed the words, but I still had to repeat them constantly in order to soothe myself into a state of calm.
31. Personally, I remained healthy and felt pretty good throughout the pregnancy. My worst complaints were the terrible heartburn in my first trimester, which daily doses of Omeprazole entirely cured, and hugely swollen feet during my third trimester.
32. My placenta was on the front, which meant I felt the baby's movement later and less frequently than most, which also added to my neuroticism. (I did more "kick counts" than I care to admit to, just to make sure I could feel him there.) With such a thick barrier from the outside in, it was also difficult for my husband and family to feel his kicks and movement. For those who have never been pregnant, here's the best way I can describe baby kicks: it feels likes when a kid kicks the back of your seat in the car—but internally, if that makes any sense.
33. I am NOT a napper in general, and I tend to resist going to bed early, because there are always things I want to do, see, or read. But while pregnant, I was a sleeping and napping champion. I often slept 9-10 hours a night, hugging a fuzzy body pillow (I called it "replacement Trav"), which helped a ton during the huge and uncomfortable stage.
34. My due date was June 28, 2017, which came and went with no signs of labor. So then I pinned my hopes on a July 1st baby, because the birthday 7/1/17 would be awesome. And then I hoped for July 2nd, because Keira was born on October 2nd and my angel baby's due date was April 2nd, and that would be perfect. And then I hoped for a baby "born on the 4th of July!" And then I just wanted that baby OUT.
35. I had a C-section scheduled for July 5th. We went in at midnight on July 4th—after waiting for 6 hours, wide awake, for a call that was supposed to come sometime after 6 p.m., with Keira already gone to a sleepover at grandma's house. As Travis tried to catch a few winks, I watched the fireworks popping like popcorn across the valley, as I looked out my back window from the blue baby recliner we had just set up in the living room.
36. We arrived at the hospital and were set up in a room, where overnight induction drugs were administered. I was advised to try to sleep, but that did NOT happen. Although we'd still be debating between a few names, when the nurse asked if we wanted her to write the baby's name on the whiteboard, Travis said, "Yes, Wyatt." And so, throughout the labor, everyone called him "Wyatt." And it grew on me to the point that, once he was born, that was clearly his name. Our runner up (Madsen) became his middle name.
37. I spent the next 20 hours in labor, just barely meeting the progress milestones when the nurses or doctor would come to check on me. "Okay, if you're not dilated to a 6 by 6 p.m., we may need to consider a C-section." And I'd just barely make it. I had an epidural, but it didn't totally work, because I could still feel every single contraction. (Although I know the drug took the edge off.) Needless to say, it was a long day. But I fell IN LOVE with flavored ice chips. Grape and orange were the best.
38. At about 9:30 p.m., we called it, and they prepped me for surgery. My body was already completely and utterly depleted. As I lay on the unbelievably narrow operating table, I found myself shaking uncontrollably. The drugs, the fatigue, the anticipation overwhelmed me. While strapped to the bed and immobile, I was overcome with nausea. All I could do was turn my head to throw up—twice—and allow the incredibly nurturing veteran anesthesiologist to reassure me and clean me up. Travis sat over my left shoulder, holding my hand, being my rock and my strength. He doesn't always do well at the sight of blood, so he wasn't sure he could peek over the barrier to watch the birth, but at the last minute, he did. He stood up and watched our son being pulled from my body.
39. I found it so strange that I could feel pulling and tugging sensations on my abdomen, despite the complete spinal block. I could feel instruments being laid on my immobile legs, as if they were a table. I felt the touch and the pressure, but no pain. There was a strange suctioning sensation and a loss of pressure when Wyatt was finally tugged free, and those few seconds between his birth and his first cry felt like an eternity. But he let out a healthy wail, and Travis accompanied him to the weighing and cleaning station. Travis commented on his perfect lips and brought him over to show me, but I was so jittery and in shock that I could barely process what I was seeing or react in any way.
40. Gradually, my trembling subsided enough for me to be able to hold him. We were wheeled back to our room, and I sat upright in bed, holding this tiny, perfect miracle, who figured out nursing on his first try. I stared at him in wonder, feeling more than I could even comprehend.
41. I soaked up all five days in the hospital, being waited on, being visited by people I love, gently and slowly shuffling around the hospital ward, slightly hunched over, trying not to laugh. Travis showed me a video of a kid bonking his head on the way down a slide, and I laughed so hard I thought I was going to shred my stitches. Even thinking or talking about the video put me into hysterics—the extreme fatigue was surely a culprit. I tried to describe the video to my stepson during a slow walk around the hospital ward, holding on to Wyatt's rolling bassinet, and I had to stop in the hallway and giggle-cry (hahaha-OUCH-tears-hahaha) until I composed myself enough to keep on shuffling.
I could keep going and going, believe it or not, but I promised myself I'd stop after 41 thoughts/facts/memories about my miracle late-in-life pregnancy, and the birth of my beautiful son.
I could talk about the endless ups and downs of our fertility struggle. I could talk about my sweet Keira and her reaction to having a baby brother (she knew it was a boy all along). I could talk about Wyatt's minor health scare on his first day home, which about put me over the edge. I could share my thoughts about bonding with a child after an adoption vs. after a birth. I could talk about how there's NO DIFFERENCE in the love and attachment I feel for my kids, even though they arrived in different ways. I could talk about my breastfeeding journey, which was not successful. I could talk about the 32 pounds of water weight I lost in about 10 days after the birth (I wish I had photographed how swollen I was when I went home!). I could talk about so much more.
But for now, I'll end with this: as I recovered at home, I felt so incredibly proud that I had chosen to be brave, to keep going, to never give up. I felt proud of myself for the physical ordeal I had endured, and I felt a new sense of awe for every woman who has gone through childbirth time and time again, and for the women who endured childbirth long before current medical advances have so improved the odds of a good outcome. I felt overwhelmed with gratitude toward God for this supernal gift, as hard-fought as it was. I felt with absolute certainty that the torturous journey was WORTH it. This little baby was worth it. And I would do it all again if I had to, for him.