Monday, March 10, 2014

Trying Again: Pregnancy Fears and Anxiety After A Loss

            A funny thing happened when I finally decided to slow down, remove Parker from preschool, and learn the fine art of how to be a wife and mother. I relaxed. Really  r-e-l-a-x-e-d. And so did Parker and Chris.
            Parker finally stopped asking all of those morbid, rapid-fire questions regarding my health, his health made a miraculous improvement, and Chris seemed to like being home more because edginess and anxiety no longer reigned supreme in the house. The family atmosphere meter registered somewhere between happiness and contentment, all of the time. And, to Parker, all was finally right with the world. He had his mom’s full attention and we spent hours sprawled on his bedroom floor overseeing the function of an extensive Lego airport.
            We even started taking a three-day vacation every month, and launched our family’s love of train travel by riding the Amtrak rails to Santa Barbara one weekend. We felt like a thriving family again.
            And I got the first inkling that my emotional and spiritual healing had made progress when the question of trying again to have another child started rattling around my brain.
            Should I, could I, would I? How does Chris feel? Would Chris even want to try? Is he finally ready to discuss it?
            It turned out that Chris had healed a lot emotionally and spiritually, too, because he was finally able to discuss it. When I asked him how he felt about it, he said he was interested, and ready to try again.
            “Well, do you remember what you said to me when I was lying in bed with Victoria, receiving treatment for my severe morning sickness?” I asked him tenuously.
            Chris blinked in response.
            “You said to me, ‘I don’t know about you, but if something happens to this pregnancy, I’m not going to want to go through this again.’”
            Chris blinked again, then nodded slowly. “I do.”
            “Are you positive you want to try again, then?” I nudged. “Absolutely sure? Because I’m not going to even attempt to have another baby if I’m going to be a single parent again, with you working on getting some other business venture off the ground, while I’m going through a possibly tenuous pregnancy, raising Parker pretty much on my own, and holding everything together around here. It’s not fair to Parker or me; and I won’t do it. It cost us way too much last time.”
            My words were greeted with a moment of thick silence before Chris responded. “I
know. And I’m ready, and I’ll be here. We should try again.”
            “Even in spite of the high possibility of my having another placenta previa?” I didn’t have to tack on the line, “I might die this time, you know. Are you ready to confront that possibility?” although I knew both of us were thinking the same thing.
            He took a deep breath as I tried to read his eyes. 
            “I’m ready. We should try.”
            We sealed our pact with a hug and kiss. And once again I went to the Lord on my knees.
            “God, am I in Your will, here? Are we in Your will? I want Your will to be done, not mine. I’m prepared to give everything up to You.” Then I sneaked in a request for a smooth, uneventful, easy and enjoyable pregnancy, like Parker’s had been. Yet even as I asked for all of that, I knew in my heart that if I weren’t granted those pleasures, God would see me through it. He would not forsake me, in either a difficult pregnancy—or another loss.
            Saying those things in prayer were altogether different from outwardly displaying the peace and confidence those confident words implied. When Chris and I actually put our words into action, I rapidly liquefied into a jelly-like human amoeba.
            The abdominal pain, from which I suffered since my pregnancy with Victoria, increased. I started suffering what seemed like heart palpitations and rapid heart rate episodes accompanied by an annoying fainting sensation. Gall bladder attacks emerged as inescapable post-meal assaults. The doctors tested me for thyroid disturbances, gallstones, heart problems, scar tissue and aortic aneurysms. I received a thorough scouring over by an ultrasound technician, donated blood for analysis, wore a heart monitor for twenty-four hours, and had one of those lovely lower gastrointestinal enemas scheduled so they could take a digestive system peak.
            Meanwhile, during this three-month medical marathon, Chris and I attempted to verify our fertility during the monthly opportunity window. And that became an emotional, physical and spiritual burden. With each unsuccessful attempt, my heart plummeted and depression crept in like dark, persistent clouds smothering our hopes—until the next month’s opportunity window flipped over on the hormonal calendar, and we psyched ourselves up to try again.
            While we kept the home fires lit, the medical test results rolled in. All but one returned with a “normal” judgment. The abnormal blood test showed an increased potassium level, which may have been the culprit behind my heart palpitations. The highly scientific diagnosis: Cut down on the vast quantities of bananas and banana bread I consumed.
            In my anxiety, I’d driven my body into another steady state of constant panic and fear, and the stress had triggered a variety of illnesses. My bodily systems were in overdrive, unable to equilibrate and function properly; unable to maintain what physiologists and doctors call homeostasis—the happy status quo the body loves to maintain, for all systems to function properly.
            While unenthusiastically awaiting my lower GI enema test, it became evident to me during the first week of August of 1994, that I might be pregnant. With glee, I canceled the test—not allowed in pregnant women due to the body-assaulting radiation—and nibbled my lip until the magic time arrived to perform a pregnancy test. Being the impatient type, I headed to the store to purchase one of those over-the-counter, do-it-yourself models. (Back then, those pink line, “yes,” blue line, “no” wands had just become readily available in the grocery stores, and most women still sojourned to the doctor to provide their mid-stream-only test sample and fork over their co-payments to have the test read by a nurse. With only two to three weeks having transpired since possible conception, I suspected the results were likely to be inaccurate, or false, chucking my emotions right back in the depression basket.
            After pacing the bathroom floor for the prescribed waiting time, I closed my eyes, sucked in some air and then peeked apprehensively at the indicator.
            I blinked. Then I readjusted my vision and squinted at the wand protruding from my clenched hand, which was shaking spastically in front of my peering eyeballs.
            Pink lines.
            Positive pink lines!
            A firestorm of emotions ripped through me. Elation. Fear. Apprehension. Ambivalence. Yet thrill out-muscled the others and emerged the victor. Giddiness stretched my lips into an ear-to-ear smile and vision-clouding tears dribbled down my cheeks. I kneeled on the bathroom tile and choked out, “Thank you, God! Thank you…”
            Then my analytic mind kicked into gear. “Better get official test results from Dr. Landry before telling Chris,” I mumbled to myself. “Their high-tech equipment will provide a firm diagnosis.”
            I bounced, light-hearted through the day and managed to keep my secret through the night. The following morning, I waited on edge for Chris to leave the house and then called Dr. Landry’s office. Thankfully, they ushered me into an appointment that afternoon. After filling their cup, re-screwing the lid and gingerly setting it into the prescribed lab tray, I returned to the waiting room to jiggle my legs in anticipation of a verdict. Finally, the smiling nurse poked her head around the waiting room door corner and escorted me to Dr. Landry’s officer, where he sat immersed in some charts.
            Dr. Landry looked up, invited me to sit down, offered grinning “Congratulations,” instructed me to buy seasickness bands for the impending morning sickness and wrote out a prescription for pre-natal vitamins. Then he sent me home, “to relax.”
            Relax!? How would that happen? I  o-o-z-e-d euphoria and made mental plans to surprise Chris with the news Saturday night, when we had a scheduled date to celebrate our eleventh wedding anniversary. That was three days away. I’d have to keep my secret stuffed away until then and avoid donning the affectation of a Cheshire cat.
            What will he say, I wondered. Will he be excited? Stunned? Self-satisfied?
            I didn’t know what the future held, but, for that sweet, adrenaline-infused moment, I was going to soak myself in the supreme joy of knowing God was taking us down this road—one more time.

NEXT WEEK: Fleeting joy and broken hearts…

Until next week,

Thanks for joining me!