"...suffering is one of the universal conditions of being alive. We all suffer. We have become terribly vulnerable, not because we suffer, but because we have separated ourselves from each other." -- Rachel Naoimi Remen

Sunday, June 30, 2013

What's in a name?

Our first thought was "A Doctors Prayer through Pregnancy."

And then, "Progesterone Prayers."  This one inspired the drawing (which I allowed my toddler to color), and is descriptive of how I feel pregnant. 
Progesterone Pray-er
Progesterone is the hormone that gives women many of their pregnancy symptoms, and I seem to be particularly sensitive to this.  One funny symptom of mine is crazy dreams.  For any of you who've ever taken Malaria prophylaxis when traveling to the developing world, vivid dreams is a commonly listed side effect and I experienced them whole heartedly on Mefloquine.  When I was pregnant with my first child, I had just come home from a mission trip to Nicaragua and had the dreams on the drug, so didn't realize at first that they were a product of progesterone.  [Let me preface this by saying that I love scary movies and watch mostly crime drama tv shows.]  So, when I was pregnant the first time, the week I conceived, I dreamt my sister was killed.  Later, my colleague from work and I were arsonists.  In my second pregnancy, before the (+) test, my best friend was raped.  Recently, I dreamt another colleague and I were tied up in a drug ring.

So, that's the "power of progesterone" as I like to call it.  But it has good side effects too, such as, making me more creative than usual (of course my spark usually comes in the middle of the night, or while in the shower or driving!).  Hence, the book and blog idea.

"Phantom Kicks"... where did this name come from?  Since my first pregnancy was a term live birth, I have the pleasure of knowing what it feels like to have a baby kick.  I didn't feel it with my first pregnancy until somewhere shortly after 20 weeks.  But, they say that in subsequent pregnancies you can feel it earlier.  In my second pregnancy, I was sure I felt her kick (lost her at 16.5).  After that miscarriage, and sporadically since then, I have had the sensation of a baby kicking.  Much like phantom limb pain, a pain an amputee feels after he looses a limb, I imagine this sensation has come to me, and others, as a subconscious reminder of what once was.  Although I'd never heard the term before I started using it, you can do a google search and find other moms, those who've lost and those who haven't, who use this phrasing to describe similar feelings. 

It's a friendly, and sometimes sad, reminder of what was. 

It's part of my reality.  And we thought it made a catchy title.  So, there you have it. 

Who we are

Med school in our early twenties.

Met shortly after that.  Well his last year and my first in Residency.  On a medical mission trip in Costa Rica. Yeah, that's how God started our life together... years with only a couple hundred miles apart but we had to meet a few thousand miles away. 

First kid born full term, we were both 30; he was conceived after two months of "trying."  We're thankful for fertility. 

Human life is a blessing.  We learned that in church (Catholic grade school for me, Sunday-school for him) and then again in Medical school.  When I dissected the hand in Anatomy, I really knew it.  Only a divine creator could fathom something so intricately beautiful.  And then on those ultrasounds, I Really knew it.  Finally, when you hold a perfect creation in your arms, it is true.  What a gift.

About nine months later, we were pregnant for the second time.  Miscarried at 16.5 week, baby number 2 had Trisomy 18.  A blessing in disguise they said.  Better to lose her now, than later. 

Then we took some time off, actually for a friends wedding in the Carribean, not our own mental health.  To avoid pills, we started Sympto-thermal Natural Family planning.  Wow, aren't our bodies a wonder?!  As much as I already knew about myself, being a runner since 12 and a woman (I happen to think we women are much more self aware just by the nature of menstruation and all), wow did NFP open my eyes to things I didn't even realize were possible.  (Anyone struggling with fertility, I highly recommend it!)  Of course, we were actually using it to avoid conception, but it is great, highly effective and educational. 

Third pregnancy almost a year later.  Miscarried at 6 weeks.  Never saw a heartbeat this time.  Was it a life?

Fourth pregnancy 4 months later.  "Surely God will bless us this time."  Early Ultrasound shows slow heartbeat and hemorrhages, 2 weeks later our baby dies.  Trisomy 16.

{And yes, I say 'dead baby' a lot.  I'd apologize for making you feel uncomfortable, if that does, but the fact of the matter is, that part of the reason I'm writing this blog is because I'm sick of apologizing to other people for my suffering.  Sorry if that makes you uncomfortable.  It does me too, but it's still my reality.  And this brings me to another of my soap boxes: I believe that life begins at conception.  It's ok if you don't, but that's what we believe.  So if that's what you believe, or even if you believe that life begins at first heart beat, then it's a life when that starts.  And that doesn't just apply when you're marching on Washington for some law.  It applies when my baby dies.  It's real.  Just because you never got to kiss his face, he was alive inside you, and that matters.  Ok, end of rant.}

Fifth pregnancy was a virtual duplicate of the fourth, occuring only 1 month later this year.  "Who has four consecutive miscarriages?," I asked myself a million times.  "It can't be me."  Yes, I'm a Christian, but I'm also a scientist and that just seemed so statistically improbable!  Nevertheless, we were also somewhat afraid to hope, afraid to 'let go and let God'; as it's becoming obvious that His plans are not our own.  Ultimately it ended in another demise, also at 8 weeks.  This one we didn't have tested. 

Sixth pregnancy was a total surprise.  Began when we weren't trying and ended around 8 weeks, a blighted ovum.  Truly this diagnosis means the embryo and baby never formed, so it was lost around 4 weeks, we just didn't find out until much later. 

So here we are...

Blessed beyond measure with fertility and a solid marriage that's "dancing in the minefields".  Thankful for a hilarious toddler who'd make a great big brother one day. 

A question mark over God's path for us...  

"O Lord, help us."