Four years ago today, I was mincing around, a huge 190 pounds of boob and belly, thirty-eight weeks pregnant with my second-born.
I was also in a state of fear and anxiety.
In late July of 2007, after twenty months of trying to conceive, my husband and I had lost a baby we had both desperately wanted. You see, our first-born daughter, Amethyst, had been this beautiful, sweet, happy blessing in our lives, and we were so very much in love with her that we could not see anything else to do but have a second baby to experience more of that bliss of pure-white love that we felt for our first-born. After three rounds of the fertility drug Clomid had resulted in nothing but hyper-stimulated ovaries and tears of frustration and failure, we had decided to stop trying to get pregnant. And then became pregnant. We had been given such a beautiful gift. And in a cruel twist of fate, we lost that gift we had begged for. You hear people talk about their hearts being broken; our hearts were shattered. Because we had finally been handed a long-anticipated dream, only to have it cruelly ripped away from us.
For myself and my grief, the months following the loss of a child I had wanted more than anything in the world were long, drawn-out, and exceedingly painful. I closed off from friends and family members, and did what I could to keep things normal and happy for the child we did have. But shortly after that devastating loss, my brother and his wife announced they were expecting their second baby, due just one month past what would have been my due date.
How do you balance the emotion of joy with that of anger, hurt, frustration and loss? I some how managed, but looking back, five years later, I have no idea how I made it through. Because with each milestone my sister-in-law reached was a reminder that I myself would have just experienced it myself, had I not lost my baby.
Nine days before my nephew Tyler was born, and on what would have been my due date had I not miscarried, I found out I was pregnant. And my doctor as well as his staff were endlessly patient and understanding of the extreme fear I held. I spent my pregnancy counting down. How many days until the first sonogram when we’d see the baby’s heartbeat for the first time and the chance of miscarriage would drop? How many days until the Ultra-Screen? How many days until I was safe in the confines of the second trimester? How many days until the week twenty ultrasound when we would find out if we were having a son or daughter? How many days until week twenty-six, when the baby could be born and potentially live outside my body with the aid of medical devices and medications as an ultra-premie? How many days until the third trimester? How many days until week thirty-five until our daughter could be born and not have to go into the NICU? How many more days until I’d give birth and finally hold within my arms the daughter we had so desperately wanted.
Every appointment brought with it fears, the largest that the doctor would not find a heartbeat and would have to turn to me and say, once again, “I am so very sorry for your loss.” Every twinge was cause for alarm. Any long stretch of time where there was little to no movement within my womb would bring with it tears and a panicked telephone call to my husband or my best friend.
At thirty-nine weeks and two days, I went into labor at 12:30 a.m., November 25, 2008, ironically enough, the day I had been scheduled for an induction. I spent five hours walking the floor of our apartment, whispering over and over again to my daughter, “Please, just please make it through today. Please let me hold you, please let me hear you cry.”
We dropped Amethyst off at my brother and sister-in-law’s house on our way to the hospital, and my sister-in-law hugged me and told me that everything was going to be fine, that soon I’d finally hold our daughter in my arms and see her face.
And labor went much as it should, until I hit six centimeters and we began losing our daughter’s heart beat. In a panic, I shouted at my doctor, “Just fucking cut her out of me, NOW! Just make her safe, please, just make her safe!” And it was a very close thing: I was actually shaved and ready to be rolled into the operating room when a position change in my body helped bring her heart beat back up.
Finally at ten centimeters, I began pushing, and for the next ten minutes, Brian held my right leg while my sister-in-law Catie held my left. Right before the final push that brought my daughter into this world, my doctor looked at me and said, “You ready for this?” And Autumn Morgaine came into the world, pink, screaming and so beautiful I could not take my eyes off her. I stared at her perfect, perfect face until the nurses took her to be weighed and have her APGAR test done. I had to fight against my urge to not let go of her when they brought her back to me, not even for her father who was just as desperate to hold his daughter as I had been.
Autumn approaches everything in her life, from food to the playground to arts and crafts with a passion and ferocity that I admire the hell out of. She charms the hell out of everyone she comes across with her gorgeous smile and her outgoing personality. She has her father’s blonde hair, and she is the only one of my three children to get my odd multi-colored eyes. And like her mother, she hates the word “no”, loves fiercely, and if she cannot find a way around or over an obstacle, she’ll blast through it in her determination to work for what she wants. She loves music, and wants to be about a million things when she grows up. She adores babies, and is fiercely over-protective of her younger brother. She’s angry she cannot get her first tattoo for fourteen years, and loves it when I spray her hair purple or pink just like Mommy’s. She is loud, rambunctious, beautiful, and outrageous. And while I beam to see parts of her father and parts of myself shine through in who she is, I am elated when I see what is all her, and no one else.
Happy Fourth Birthday Autumn. I love you, just as you are, and not a day goes by that I am not grateful for the beautiful gift you are to me. Many more birthdays to you my darling, beautiful girl.