Thursday, September 29, 2016

ghostbusters halloween

With Halloween just a month away, I thought I'd get into the holiday spirit and do a little #tbt to Joe's first costume. James and I have always been really into dressing up, so we were so excited to finally partake in family-themed costumes.

Our first family costume was none other than the Ghostbusters because the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man was just too perfect for our chunky little man. And luckily, Mimi (my mom) is a master sewer and made his adorable costume by hand. I think it might be one of her best costumes yet!

I can't believe this was almost 3 years ago already. I just want to squeeze that sweet little baby face.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

fake it till you make it

After 2 losses, I've accepted the fact that I will never be a normal pregnant person again. I will never be naive and feel protected, I will never get my pregnancy innocence back and I will always carry my two angels in my heart.

But lately, something in me has shifted. I'm 22 weeks pregnant and I've been feeling a strong desire to try to be normal. I want more than anything to be able to enjoy this experience like I did with Joe. I feel this little girl kicking constantly now and I have a ton of good test results and hi-risk ultra sounds under my belt. (Technically I'm not even considered hi-risk, but my amazing doctor is treating me as such for my own peace of mind.) I can't keep trying to detach myself as a way to protect myself.

It almost feels like my head and my heart are constantly battling each other. My head is telling me to relax and enjoy, life is too short to hold on to the past. But my heart, well, it likes to remind me of how it feels to get the rug ripped out from under my feet.

I looked back through old pictures of my first pregnancy with Joe. By my halfway mark, I had already announced our pregnancy to Facebook and posted 2 bump pictures to Instagram. I had already announced at work and met with HR to map out my maternity leave. I had already created a "nursery ideas" board on Pinterest and had a ton of images pinned. And then it hit me... I haven't done any of that yet. And while it's probably to be expected after what I've gone through, it actually made me feel really sad.

So to combat this internal struggle, I started to do something that may sound silly to most but has actually helped me a lot: I started pretending to be a normal pregnant mom. I still have all the complicated emotions and the imaginary caution tape wrapped around my belly, but I've been trying to go about my day as if they aren't there. I like to ask myself, "What would a regular, naive, never-experienced-loss kind of mom be doing right now?" And then I try to do that.

I finally stopped hiding in oversized tent-dresses at work and started wearing cute maternity outfits that show off my belly. I hung 2 pictures from our 20 week ultra sound next to my other desk pictures and like to look at them throughout the day to remind myself how far I've come. I haven't made an official announcement or anything (and still don't want to or plan to), but I think it's obvious to my coworkers now that I'm pregnant. I feel like I'm finally coming out of hiding, both mentally and physically.

I decided to order some new maternity clothes for myself. I still find it hard to walk through the maternity section at the store, so I decided to order online instead. I found some really cute dresses on ASOS Maternity and despite my anxiety, I forced myself to hit "purchase." (Now to most people, buying maternity clothes would be the logical thing for a pregnant woman to do at a certain point of pregnancy, but most people haven't had to return those maternity clothes because their baby died before they had a chance to wear them.) It was a difficult milestone, but I conquered it.

Always acknowledge and celebrate the little victories.

Last week, though, I think I conquered the biggest emotional hurdle thus far -- I secured our daughter a spot on the wait list at our daycare. For some reason, that just felt really real. And even though I cried in my car afterward, I still powered through and did it because I'm just a normal mom preparing for the future.

They say to hope for the best and plan for the worst. But with sub-pregnancy, I think it should be the opposite. You have to force yourself to plan for the best and hope the worst doesn't happen. I'm going to keep preparing for this little girl's arrival and keep pretending that I'm just another normal pregnant mom, because I'm finding that the more I fake it, the more I'm starting to believe it.

Friday, September 2, 2016

kindred spirits

I saw a little girl with her mom at the grocery store the other day. She was wearing a cute little flowered dress and had short blonde hair with a bow in it. She seemed content playing with a box of uncooked pasta, listening to the noodles shake inside.

The little girl also had Down syndrome.

For awhile, seeing children with disabilities sent me down a deep dark tunnel of sadness, guilt and anger. It sometimes took days to recover from and days to remind myself that I did the best I could. But that particular day, I didn't feel any of those things. I felt connected to the little girl, connected to Grace, and especially connected to that sweet little girl's mother. 

For 2 weeks I had a daughter with Down syndrome and Down syndrome only. For 2 weeks, I carried the weight of a decision that I didn't know how to make. A decision I felt like I couldn't make. Those 2 weeks between initial diagnosis of Down syndrome and our final and fatal diagnosis of Down syndrome and Hydrops were by far the hardest 2 weeks of my entire life, and the hardest to recover from. I had so many dark thoughts...thoughts that still haunt me today and make it incredibly difficult to forgive myself for.

Sometimes I think God made Grace sicker to let me off the hook. Like He gave me a get-out-of-jail-free card to free  me from the whirlwind of confusion I was feeling. He knew I couldn't decide, so He helped guide me along. It probably sounds twisted to admit this, but I feel grateful and blessed that He did. 

Many women in my support group have terminated for Down syndrome alone. No other known issues. Nothing else to guide them except research, faith and trying to do what's best for themselves and their families. I hear it over and over again whenever I share my story: well, your daughter was going to die regardless. It's so easy for me to hide under the covers of that statement and forget those 2 weeks of complete turmoil ever happened. Society as a whole is *somewhat* more accepting of those circumstances, of that choice for those reasons. But what about the women that quietly suffer every day in a diagnosis that's not so socially accepting? A diagnosis, like mine, that left me completely lost for those 2 weeks? Those mothers that choose termination AND those mothers who choose to continue their pregnancies, both with very little support?

For those that think it's a clear and easy decision, let me tell you from someone who has actually lived it -- it is not. It's so easy for us to judge one another. Before all this happened, I thought I had all the answers, too. But a decision at a birds eye view is significantly easier than a decision that you yourself are living and will have to live with for the rest of you life.

One of the moderators in my support group likes to talk a lot about our crisis-self, and I think her idealogy is absolutely brilliant. She says that we make decisions during crisis mode that are the best we can do at the time. Later, when the crisis is over, it's easy for us to question those decisions. To feel guilt and regret about doing and not doing this or that. But a decision in crisis mode is always the best decision we can make. It's instinctual, fight or flight. It's the best we can do at that time under those circumstances. But here's the thing, crisis-self and non crisis-self do not always make the same decisions. 

I'm not sure if the mother at the grocery store learned about her daughter's diagnosis at 15 weeks like me or at 30 weeks or after delivery. But whatever the case, she's a kindred spirit. As are all of the women in my Ending a Wanted Pregnancy support group.