A Fading Heart

Baby Grouch is still small but she isn’t really a baby anymore. She pretends she is a waitress and asks, “What would you like today?” and she says, “This is my coffee.” as she takes a swig of milk from her sippy cup. She “reads” her favorite books – We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and Baby Giggles and Brown Bear, Brown Bear. She’s heard them so many times she’s memorized every word.

Currently, one of her favorite movies is Tarzan. Her favorite part is when Tarzan presses his hand against Jane’s and notices that their fingers align perfectly. She holds her own hand up, palm facing out and fingers pointing to the sky and says, “Go like this.” I press my hand into hers and I hold it there until she pulls away. It always surprises me how long this sustains her attention and how her tiny hand is able to push against mine with a firmness many adult-sized hands don’t possess. Tarzan leans his head into Jane’s chest and his eyes widen as he listens to her heartbeat. Baby Grouch puts her head against me and smiles when she hears mine. She pulls me close to her and I hear her rapid whumpa-whumpa-whumpa in return.

I get transported to the 12-week appointment where we waited anxiously to hear that sound. Just a week before, we stopped hearing the rapid beating from Baby A and Baby B so we were very nervous about whether or not we’d still hear Baby C. It took forever for the nurse to find that sound and when she finally did I pretty much lost it in the office.

She’s always been the fighter.

When she’s not playing Tarzan, she sings at the top of her lungs and she bangs loudly on her drum set. She presses so hard when she colors that waxy smears of crayon obliterate the image printed on the page. She deftly snips with tiny scissors and cuts a single sheet of paper into a million pieces that litter the art room floor. She screams when she’s happy. She screams when she’s not. She screams so loudly it hurts my eardrums. She demands that I pick her up and then put her down. She yells “Help!” and when I ask her to try again and “I can do it!” when I offer assistance. She tears off her shirts and her pants so they don’t encumber her as she leaps off of the sofa. She giggles when she lands on the floor with a thud.

She is tough.

When she takes off her shirt and tosses it aside, I can’t help but notice that the heart-shaped birthmark on her back – once blood-red – is almost imperceptible now. The doctors told me it would probably fade away but I wasn’t so sure. It was so bold before. For me, it’s always been a stark reminder that there were others with her for a brief time.

Sometimes I watch her with amazement and feel the odd sensation of deeply missing something I never really had in the first place. Sometimes I stare at her in awe and think that what I’m missing is what allows me to retain a small shred of sanity.

Lately, one of her favorite songs is a Phil Collins number from the Tarzan soundtrack. Like her favorite books and videos, she likes to hear it over and over and over again. I sing it with her, I sing it to her, I catch myself singing it even when I’m by myself.

“You’ll be in my heart. You’ll be in my heart….allllllwaaaaays.”

heart

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Emotional Stages: Discovering You Will Become The Parent of Multiples (And Then Not)

We struggled to become pregnant with baby number 1.  We tried on our own for two years before seeking help from a reproductive endocrinologist (RE), who informed us that I very likely was not ovulating on my own at all (makes it a little harder to conceive) due to my PCOS.   After a year of ingestible, injectable, and suppository meds, a combination worked and after a relatively delightful pregnancy and birth, Baby Grouch was born.  Huzzah! The whole process made me naively believe that, for me, conception was close to impossible, but pregnancy would be relatively easy.  Pregnancy Viking!

We knew we wanted another child, so started trying on our own very soon after her birth. Naturally, the whole no ovulation thing meant nothing actually resulted from those attempts.  Who did we think we were?  Normal people?  Hah.  So, we went back to the RE, who put us on the same combination of meds that resulted in the first pregnancy.  And WHAMMO.  Pregnant the first medicated cycle! Crazytown.  Unfortunately, that ended in an early miscarriage.  A few months later we started our next medicated cycle. And can you believe it?  WHAMMO AGAIN!  The power of (correctly balanced) hormones is astounding.

In infertility terms, three pregnancies in a row (okay, in a medicated row, over a course of 21 months) is almost unheard of.  It’s like winning the lottery.  No.  That’s not quite right. It’s more like winning The Conception Toilet Bowl, since you’re comparing yourself only to the group of people who really suck at baby-making.  Whatever, you still get a prize in the end.

Immediately I could tell that this pregnancy was different.  It was so much MORE than the last one(s).   First, there was the uterus.  The uterus that I swear felt – POOF, and expand exponentially, instantaneously.  I seriously felt poochy 3 days after conception.  A week later I KNEW I was pregnant.   My body was heavy with the pregnancy already.   I alternated between feeling nauseous and ravenously hungry. I only wanted to eat Crunchwrap Supremes from Taco Bell, a food item I had previously disliked. But, what did I know?  I had only experienced the glimmer of a second pregnancy before, so maybe this is what it always felt like when you already had one child.

Then the data started rolling in.  My beta numbers were through the roof.  Whereas my beta over the summer was 70 (very much in the average range), my beta in the fall was 1270.  Honestly, still in the realm of possibility of a singleton, since HCG levels can vary widely, but the number was noticeably high.

I was sure there were TWO. I sent my  husband texts that said things like, “The babieS are hungry today!”.  I had a dream that we had twin boys.

Working with the RE, we got to have our first ultrasound at 7 weeks (how on Earth do you normal people wait so freaking long to see your baby?!).

The following stages are what we went through from the day of that first appointment, until now.

1. Fear – What if there isn’t a heartbeat?  What if I am just feeling so pregnant because I WANT to be so pregnant?  Water poured out of my eyes, as we waited for the ultrasound tech to get ready to give us a peek at my insides.  I was just hoping I could blame the tears on surging hormone levels.

2.  Elation –  There’s a baby!  With a heartbeat!  OMG there are two babies!!!!  Whumpa. Whumpa. Whumpa. Whumpa. Whumpa.  I turned to Mr. Grouch and said, “I told you!because no wife misses an opportunity to tell their husband they told them so.  Um. Three heartbeats!?!  Yes.  Three.  Holy Eff.  But, no matter how freaking crazy it might seem, once you hear your baby’s Whumpa Whumpa, you’re elated.  In this case, triple time.

3  Shock – The car ride home was mostly filled with silence.  Mr. Grouch broke it at one point to say, “We have to buy two new cars.  We won’t be able to fit our entire family in either of our cars“.  This was followed up with more silence.

4.  Denial/Disbelief – It’s so early in the pregnancy.  Anything could happen. There might not even BE three heartbeats anymore by the time we go back.  There was one little runt that was much smaller than the other two.

5.  Guilt – OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD please don’t let anything happen to my babies.  Please let them be alright!  Whumpa whumpa whumpa echoed in our heads.  A primitive, instinctual beat.

6.  Trepidation – How will all three babies get enough touch?  We can’t hold them all at once.  What will the psychological damage from this be?  How will Baby Grouch handle suddenly being the sister of The Triplets?  Will she feel left out? Holy hell, we can’t afford daycare for four children under the age of 2.  At least not without giving up groceries, heat, water and garbage removal.  We will never, ever retire.  How are we going to do this?  Oh, yea, don’t forget we need new cars.

7. Acceptance – We’ll figure it out.  We have a good support system.  We’ll beg and borrow for baby things.  We’ll be alright.

8.  Elation – We’re going to have a loud, obnoxious, messy house, plastered with Cheerios and dirty handprints and SO. MUCH. LOVE.  And drama. There will be a lot of drama.  Still cool.

At around 10 weeks we went in for our last appointment with the RE.  We stared at the screen as the ultrasound tech adjusted the wand until all three of our babies were visible on the screen. There they were!  Except they weren’t really all there anymore.  Not all of them. We immediately noticed that Baby A was still little.  Too little.

9.  Relief – So there are only two.

10.  Grief – So there are only two.

11.  Shock – When the ultrasound says, matter-of-factly, “I see one heartbeat“.  I inhaled sharply, and Mr. Grouch instinctively reached out to touch the only part of me he could reach – my foot. Since the very beginning there had always been more than one.  We had never imagined one.  And now she said “one“.  It was incomprehensible.  It was shockingly sad.

12.  Anguish – After losing three of our babies in a matter of months, it was hard to concentrate on the fact that there was still one beautifully healthy looking 10-week-old fetus intact. We both left the office in tears, trying to stay positive and appreciate the good news we had been given.  But, we could hardly look at on another other because our own grief was reflected on each other’s faces.

13.  Guilt – How dare I be upset about not getting THREE when so many do not even have ONE?  I should not feel sad, I should not be so greedy.  We’re getting one, which was what we set out for in the first place.  But, no matter how many times I reprimanded myself, I was still heartbroken.

13.  Anxiety – We graduated from the RE to the regular OB.  The wait between appointments was brutal.  We had lost Baby A and Baby B, without warning.  What made us think that Baby C would be okay?  The thought of losing yet another was too hard to imagine, yet impossible to push from my mind.

At our OB appointment, we explained our first trimester history to the nurse.  She saw the anxiety on my face, and she measured it with the blood pressure cuff. She told me she’d try to find the heartbeat as soon as she could.  She moved the doppler around, “That’s your intestines.  That’s your heartbeat“.  She kept moving the instrument around my abdomen.  Tears started to leak out.  Where was the heartbeat, where was it?

14.  Gratitude –  “There’s the heartbeat!  There it is!” Her relief was almost as obvious as mine.  Except my elation was exposed in the form of uncontrollable sobbing, right there in the office, in front of the nurse.  After our appointment, I played with Baby Grouch, and when she was in bed, I snuck into her room and just watched her sleep.  Mr. Grouch and I turned in, and Mr. Grouch wrapped his arm around me, caressing my belly, simultaneously saying goodbye to A and B, while sending love to C.  Gratitude wrapped in a thin veil of grief is still gratitude.

15. Elation. We’re having a baby! The happiest words ever uttered.

So, that’s the news.  We’ll be keeping the cars we have, and Baby Grouch will be a Big Sister in June.