Beauty from Ashes
Updated: Mar 13, 2019
When you are trying to conceive (whether for the first time or the 10th time) it's really hard to have patience. Generally I am an impatient person already, so trying to accomplish something that I have very little control over is difficult. We conceived Beth after 2 months of being off the pill - so pretty quickly! When we started trying for another in 2014 it felt like it took FOREVER - but in reality it took about 9 months. I say that knowing that there are so many families who try for a much longer time, and sometimes with no success. So I want to acknowledge that my impatience was relatively petty, and that I have been blessed immeasurably by having 3 healthy babies.
My oldest sister, Stephanie, got married in August 2014 and it was wonderful - my family traveled to magical Prince Edward Island (where they live), stayed in a dream-house, explored the beaches and tourist attractions (hello Green Gables!!!), and ultimately witnessed the beautiful wedding of Stephanie and Adam. I didn't think much about where I was at in my cycle before we left but I realized that I should have started my period on the weekend of the wedding. My body is like clock-work so if I'm even a day off what is regular for me, I notice. I also had noticed that I was extraordinarily tired and very easily irritated. So the Monday after the wedding I picked up a pregnancy test and voila! I was pregnant! It was super fun finding out with so much family around and we shared the news with them immediately. We were so happy to be adding another child to our family, and while I was nervous about my PPA returning, I didn't think too much about it. I would have been about 4-5 weeks along when I took that test.
Approximately two weeks later I started bleeding a little bit. I tried not to let myself assume the worst because I knew that bleeding can be common during early pregnancy. I figured that if it went away within a couple days than everything would likely be fine. It didn't go away but it didn't get worse, so I booked an appointment with my Dr to see if they knew what was going on. During that appointment there didn't seem to be any obvious trouble but they snuck me in for a quick ultrasound while I was there. That sweet little babe was hard to find but eventually we saw a little heart beating - 152 bpm! I was so incredibly relieved and went home hopeful that everything was fine. Fast-forward another couple of days and the bleeding was slowly getting worse. Again, I tried not to panic since I had seen our babies heart beating. David was supportive but still hopeful, and told me to just wait and see. On Saturday, September 14th, 2014, I lost that wee baby. We were at home, and it was nothing dramatic or physically painful, but let's just say that I knew what I was seeing wasn't normal. I went to the emergency room to confirm because I really didn't want to believe that it actually happened. Unfortunately they did confirm that we had had a miscarriage and we were sent home in complete shock. Neither of us could really process what had happened for a couple of days. What happened?? Did I do something wrong?? I saw a heart beating, what changed in 3 days?!? And why, oh why, did this have to happen?? As if I hadn't experienced enough during my motherhood journey, this just added insult to injury. It added to our feelings of shock that I did not experience any dramatic physical effects. It felt like one day I was pregnant, and the next I was not. No major cramping or excessive bleeding. Just *poof*...baby was gone.
We named that baby Enoch because we both felt that it was going to be a boy. I had always loved the brief story in the Bible of a man named Enoch, who was described as walking with God and than simply being no more - which most people interpret to mean that God took him into heaven without actually dying (there is much to be taken from that little story but I won't dive into Biblical interpretation right now). It has always brought me comfort imagining that that was how life happened for our Enoch. We know that someday we will hold him in our arms, but it would have been nice to do that here on earth too.
As we mourned the life of that baby, we also knew that we still wanted to have another child. At first I was terrified - my Dr said there wasn't any medical reason it happened so I shouldn't worry about my ability to have another healthy baby. We talked a lot about adoption during those first weeks because I didn't know if I could risk doing that again...it hurt my heart too much. But after hearing from my Dr, praying a lot and considering all the options out there, we decided to give it another try. I expected it to take a while again but by November 2014 the pregnancy test was positive! It was SO hard to be excited during the first weeks of that pregnancy - I wanted that little bean so badly but I was afraid to get too attached. In the best way possible I felt pretty awful in that first trimester and into the second one too. I know I still had it pretty easy with my pregnancy symptoms, but those first 16 weeks were hard!! When we had safely made it into the second trimester it was like a giant weight dropped away from my shoulders - of course there are always risks at any point in a pregnancy, but we had made it past the particularly dangerous part and we were so grateful!! We found out that this baby was another girl and the rest of the pregnancy was spent picking out a name and decorating the nursery. I was so excited that Beth would have a sister!!! We chose the name Alice pretty quickly (it had been a strong contender for baby #1) and prepared ourselves to become a family of four.
I've always found it hard to put into words what it's like to have a miscarriage but to almost immediately have another baby. Of course you are happy and joyful about the new life growing inside of you - but than you also are sobered by the thought that in order for us to get Alice we had to lose Enoch. If Enoch had lived, we would have never known the fire-ball and unending sweetness of Alice Grace. In the process of conception/pregnancy/giving birth there are very specific and delicate things that happen, we all know this. But to think that our lives were blessed with something good only because we first experienced extreme heartache is really...confusing. It forces us to question why God allows bad things to happen while in the same breathe praise Him for blessing us. But this is one of those things that I just can't understand on this side of heaven and literally have to concede defeat over. I will always struggle with it but I know that my fury and sadness is received with grace in the hands of a good God. And I do find peace in that.
Throughout all of this, the nagging worry of PPA was always there. When I miscarried Enoch I wondered how I would cope with that loss. I was hyper-aware of how I was feeling in those first couple of weeks, but thankfully I was able to cope with our loss in a healthy way. When I was pregnant with Alice we had a lot of conversations about how we would face another round of Postpartum Anxiety. I really didn't want to assume that I would experience it (your chances of experience PPA or PPD increase 50% when you have had it during a previous postpartum period) but I didn't want to be naive either. I felt very confident that since I had made it through it once, it would be easy to identify it quicker and therefore increase my medications quicker and ultimately felt that we could bypass any major episodes. When planning for maternity leave we knew that David should plan to take time off work since I felt safest when he was home with me during those high-anxiety times. So the plan heading into Alice's arrival was that David would stay home full-time with me for 6 weeks, followed by 2 weeks of part-time work, and eventually returning full-time to work after 8 weeks. I also had talked with Dr. Aftab about how to best prepare, and since by that point I was on the lowest dose of Venlafaxine there is, she said that I should increase it slightly right after birth for the first few weeks.
By now you can probably answer this question pretty easily: is that how things turned out? That would be a resounding NOPE. You know how women will say "after a while you forget how painful child birth was"? Well it seems that's also true for experiencing Postpartum Anxiety - when it reared it's ugly head again it took the wind right out of me. No amount of preparation or planning can ready you for those feelings of panic, guilt, fear, or hopelessness. I thought that I would cope with it better because I had made it through twice before. But those positive thoughts went right out the window at the 2 week mark postpartum with Alice, when I experienced a totally irrational panic attack while out with family for breakfast. Here we go again.
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