Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Miracle of Ordinary Days - Part 5

I went in for ultrasounds every few days at this point.  We went to each ultrasound knowing that day could be the day that Abby would be born.  It was a relief when we knew she was okay and also nerve racking when she did not need to be delivered yet.  It was one of the most anxious times of my life. Every time we saw the red ultrasound images and we knew there was blood flowing we were relieved and our favorite ultrasound tech would call the doctor in and they would send us home.  Still Abby's growth had slowed even more and her delivery was imminent.  She had only gained an estimated 4 ounces in three weeks.  She had gone from 15 ounces to 1 pound 3 ounces.  From 24 weeks to 28 weeks a baby should double in size.  She was now barely the size of a 24-week-old baby.

The 19th of January came around again and it was Aaron's 23rd birthday.  Aaron had said for weeks that if we could make it past his birthday he would be greatly relieved.  Our loss the year before on this day was fresh in our minds and I think we both wanted to get past it without incident.  We had a good dinner and celebrated with my family.  I would go in for another ultrasound the next day.  As I had many times before I asked my dad and Aaron to give me a blessing. 

For those not familiar with our faith, a blessing is given by two priesthood holders from our church in time of sickness or trial. They lay their hands on the head of the ailing person and speak words of comfort through the Spirit of God.  We believe that the priesthood is the power to act in God's name on the earth, to help and bless people who have faith in Jesus Christ.  These blessings were a lifeline for me and a constant source of the peace that I needed.  I was so grateful for these good men in my life that could help me feel a measure of peace.

There were times during those weeks that prayer was difficult for me.  It is hard to explain feeling that are so close to the heart.  It made expressing them even to my loving Heavenly Father difficult.  My emotions were difficult to understand and sort out so these reassurances that God was indeed in our lives and knew our situation was very comforting.  

I had received quite a few blessings over the course of my pregnancy.  I was very grateful for the peace and assurance that the words of these blessings brought to me.  That night was no different.  I felt at peace that night.  I felt calmer than I had for weeks.  I had given up the idea that I had any type of control over the situation.  I had handed it over to the Lord.  I knew that whatever happened from then on was His will, not just for us but for Abby as well.  My burden of worry was lighter and I felt the sustaining power of His love and the love of my family and friends. 

After the blessing, Aaron and I were sitting there talking and he reached for a little Elmo toy that our niece had left behind at Christmas and began playing with it and casually quipped, "I think Abby is about this size right about now."  We chuckled but then realized that Elmo was just about her size.  It was a sobering thought. That Elmo was tiny.

We had been warned at the previous ultrasound that the blood flow between Abby and I was decreasing.  We knew going into our appointment that today might be the day just as we had every time we went in for an ultrasound.  I had been given another round of steroid shots to help strengthen Abby's lungs.  That day felt different than the other visits for me.  I felt a growing sense of the inevitable news and my feeling of dread returned. 

Our goal had always been to get her to 30 weeks.  That day I was 27 weeks 6 days.  Our ultrasound tech came in.  She began the exam.  I knew the numbers I needed for my amniotic fluid and I knew about the red blood flow images.  I watched the screen intently and watched her face.  She was usually talkative but that day she talked very little.  I remember asking her questions and watching the screen.  I watched her measure my level of amniotic fluid.  I knew the numbers were low.  Then I watched as she checked the blood flow.  The screen didn't show the signs we were hoping to see.  Abby was still there on the screen, her heart was beating, she was moving around and I knew by the look on the tech's face that it was time.  She was very quiet and I knew she could not tell me anything without the doctor there.  She excused herself from the room.

I started to cry silently, knowing that it was not good news.  Aaron sat next to me holding my hand and gave my hand a comforting squeeze.  We didn't speak much but sat quietly waiting for the doctor.  Dr. Johnson came in the room and sat with the ultrasound tech at the machine to confirm what she had seen on the screen.  After a minute or two she turned to us and explained our next steps.  In summary, she said that we had done all we could to slow down the progress of the clotting.  The blood flow from me to Abby was minimal and the thing that is most concerning is that the blood flow from her to me continued. 

So in essence her blood was coming to me but my blood was not coming to her.  She said that the only way for our baby to survive was to deliver her. The earliest delivery they could manage was the first thing the following morning.  I was still taking blood thinners and it would be dangerous for me to deliver so close to an injection.  Abby still did not show signs of distress.  Her heartbeat was regular and she was stable.  I would be hooked up to monitors to make sure that continued.  We would need to do another round of steroids for her lungs but she would need to be delivered as soon as possible.  The doctor also explained that the safest delivery option would be a c-section.  This made perfect sense and I was good with it immediately.  All thought of future children and other options were nowhere near my head.  To me anything to help Abby was what we would do.  Dr. Fine would deliver the baby and Dr. Johnson would be there to assist him.  She told us that I would be admitted right away. 

Although we had prepared ourselves for this, when the news came, it was a startling reality.  It was crazy to think that in just a few hours, we would be parents of our own little baby girl.  Our daughter would be born at exactly 28 weeks gestation, a full 12 weeks early.  She would have the advantage of having matured to that age gestationally but her size was another issue entirely.  We didn't know what that would mean in terms of her chances of survival and no one could really tell us. 

We walked over to the maternity ward and we found the room I would be staying in that night.  I was surrounded by very pregnant ladies there to give birth to full-term babies and my almost non-existent belly was a reminder of how very different this birth experience would be. I envied their size and wished ardently for the same.   I knew that it was not to be and I was sad, worried, anxious.  Ready or not, our baby Abby would be born the next day and nothing we could do would stop it.  We had no idea what to expect but we were soon to learn everything we needed to know and so much more.

The Miracle of Ordinary Days - Part 4

The new year began as the old year had ended.  I was in the hospital hooked up to a baby monitor for four days.  Abby was so small that we had to adjust the monitor often.  I barely looked pregnant.  My amniotic fluid levels improved, I received my steroid shots for Abby's lungs and I learned how to give myself shots of blood thinner. 

I had an ultrasound twice during my stay from the same ultrasound tech that had done my previous ones at Deaconess.  She was so kind to us and it was a blessing to develop a rapport with her.  She showed us the images that she was looking for.  We learned that red indicated blood flow.  She checked to make sure the blood was flowing between us through the umbilical cord. 

I experienced a feeling of wonder knowing what was going on inside of my body.  It was comforting to know that they would be able to see when there was a problem.  I thought often of other mothers through the centuries that would go on through their pregnancy with no signs of trouble only to give birth to a still born child.  I was grateful that we knew the problem and that we were doing everything medically and physically necessary to help the situation. 
It was also very frustrating for me.  I felt a tremendous amount of guilt and of motherly concern for my little baby.  I had been reassured by both doctors that I had done all that I could and that I hadn't done anything to endanger my baby.  I remember wishing for some outward sign.  It sounds bad but it's easier to know there is a problem when you can see something externally wrong with someone.  A big gaping wound, a bandage across the face, a casted leg.  Instead I felt betrayed by my own body, a body that was silently and inexplicably severing my tie to my baby.  Besides the normal feelings of tiredness pregnancy brings I had nothing outwardly wrong with me.  I felt entirely healthy and laying in bed was tedious.  I did it because I knew that doing anything else increased the blood that flowed through my body making the clots worse and the flow to Abby even less.
Aaron and I started the waiting game.  He was my silent support during these days.  Anyone that knows Aaron knows that he is not the most talkative guy but he was right there with me any time he wasn't in school or at work.  He stayed with me and helped me feel safe and protected.
The time came to be released from the hospital.  We knew what to look for on the ultrasounds.  I had one every two or three days.  I was put on full bed rest.  I was allowed to make trips to the bathroom and to shower but other than that I was supposed to lay down.  My sweet parents invited us to stay with them so that Aaron could attend school and work and I would have someone to take care of me during the day.  They were a huge blessing to us. 
My mom made me food and kept me company.  It felt strange to feel perfectly fine and still have to lay around all day.  I gave myself injections of blood thinner twice a day.  It's odd to have to feel like a human pincushion.  After getting over the initial shock of intentionally sticking a needle into myself it became more like a science experiment.  I learned the best way to give myself a shot in the most painless way possible.  After a few weeks of this I got pretty good at it.  I know I could do it any time again if need but I am grateful that I no longer have to. 

The TV became my friend as did books and my writing notebook.  These were the days before streaming Netflix and DVR's.  I watched a few episodes of ER until they inevitably had an episode with a premature birth.  I watched the episode and looked at the little baby on the screen.  It was tiny and probably fake but it made my heart ache.  I didn't watch any more episodes of ER after that.  My imagination ran wild with anticipation of problems.  Although I love medical dramas it was a long time before I could watch anything baby related without bawling.  It's just the way I roll.

I've always been interested in medicine and helping people in that way.  Things like that don't usually bother me but my situation had changed.  I realized when it comes to a member of your family especially a child, everything is personal.  The feelings I felt are hard to describe.  My closest description is a unending ache down in my stomach that never quite leaves, an anxious knot that just sits and torments.  It was hard not knowing the outcome of a very delicate situation.  Think an end of season cliffhanger times a million. 

I felt another baby loss lurking there somewhere, knowing there was no way to stop it if it happened.  I worried about it.  I knew how devastating a miscarriage could be.  But this kind of loss would be far worse.  I knew that not all pregnancy ends with pink bows and chubby cheeks.  I knew there was a very real possibility that my baby would not survive this.  I knew that even if Abby did survive that there was a great chance of lifelong disability or impairment.  Sometimes I wished to be ignorant of such things and to not know what it meant for her but being educated and having a undying thirst for knowledge gave me the gift of knowing possibilities for my child that perhaps a person less educated wouldn't know.  It was a gift and a curse at the same time.

The goal that we set was to keep her inside as long as possible.  30 weeks was our goal week.  We talked about it and prayed for it. If we could make it to that week, her chance of survival and developing problems greatly decreased.  She was still very small for gestational age about half the size of other babies her gestational age.  There was still some growth but not nearly what it should have been.  As it was I prayed for any extra day my body would give me. 
There were special moments for me during this time, too. I felt her fluttering kicks and movement.  I could tell from very early on that she was a fighter.  She was a tiny, tiny baby but she was already making her presence known.  She especially liked music and when I would sing she would bounce around like a ball.  I talked to her often when I was alone.  I talked to her like she was a friend sitting next to me.  It gave me comfort to do that.  I knew she could probably not hear me or understand but perhaps in some spiritual sense it would help her deal with it like it was helping me. 

I was not alone in this trial.  Aaron was a constant support and encouragement.  We would sit together and talk about what we were going through and about our worries.  Like most men, Aaron doesn't deal well with crying.  Growing up with a bunch of brothers doesn't prepare you for an emotional wife.  I tried to be strong for him and to not be a ball of tears all the time.   He was strong and sure like he always is, my bulwark in the battle for Abby's life.  He felt from very early on that things would be okay.  He had a tremendous amount of faith in the matter.  He reassured me of that many times. 

I talked with my siblings and my parents often.  Aaron's parents were also there and supportive of us.  Our ward rallied around us in a way that I will never forget.  We had only lived in the Franklin Park Ward for a little while at this point maybe three or four months but it already felt like home to us.  The ward held a special fast for us.  They prayed in their homes for us.  We heard from many of our friends and family who were praying for us and for Abby.  There is something wonderfully sustaining in that kind of support.  We already felt the presence of our Savior through this trial but having people around to support and care for us made our burdens so much less.  We had so many thoughtful and heartfelt acts of Christlike love given to us that it truly buoyed us up.   I'll always be grateful for those who went through that time with us. 

In some ways we were very fortunate to know some of what we faced.  Premature birth (born before 37 weeks) is very common, somewhere around 12%, 1 in 7 births in the United States according to March of Dimes.  Most women who have a premature birth go into early labor that cannot be stopped.  Many of those births are caused by some underlying problem with the mother or baby and are emergency situations.  Our situation was a blessing in this way because we knew that it was going to happen we just didn't know when.  It gave us time to prepare ourselves. 

I am grateful for modern medicine and thorough doctors.  I know that in no other time in history would Abby have survived.  She would have died inside of me with no sign of what had happened.  I would never have known there was a problem until it was too late.  We also had time to prepare ourselves for what we faced.  Nothing could completely prepare you for a situation like that but it was at least comforting to know we had things in place for when the time came.  All we could do is wait and see what happened next.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Miracle of Ordinary Days - Part 3

The first indication of any problem occurred around my 20th week.  My ultrasounds in the office had indicated that there might be some issues with growth but because the equipment was older, Dr. Fine said it was something we could continue to watch.  He also ordered extra testing for my scheduled 20 week ultrasound where very detailed measurements would be taken on all structures in the body.  This week is much anticipated by all curious parents because it is usually the time that the sex of the baby is revealed. We were very excited to find out what we were having. 

I thought I was having a boy.  I learned quickly that I have no motherly instinct in this regard.  I have been wrong with every one of my children.  I knew I wouldn't be disappointed either way but it was fun to guess.  It was an exciting day.  At the ultrasound that day the measurements that were taken were not up to what they should have been for gestational age.  The ultrasound tech was friendly and didn't seem too concerned.  She told us that they might decide to change my due date to a later date because I must have calculated my due date wrong.  I was due April 22nd, 2003. 

I knew that this was not the case.  I knew the date of my last period and I also knew that the number of ultrasounds that had been done had showed that she was tracking at the correct gestational age early on.  Something had changed.  I learned to watch the ultrasound tech's face.  They have a difficult job that requires a lot of technical work.  They are not supposed to talk a lot about the results as they are coming up on the screen.  They can tell you what they see as far as body parts, etc. but are not supposed to comment on much else.  I made it a habit to watch the face of our ultrasound techs almost as much as I watched the screen.  I could tell by the studied way that our tech worked that she was being very careful with the measurements.   I didn't know at the time what this meant for our baby but I remember it didn't put my mind at ease. 

The appointment continued and we found out that we were having a baby girl!  We had decided beforehand what name to give our first child if it was a boy and if it was a girl and Baby Abby was the name that both of us loved.  My requirement for all of our names was that we give them good names with good nicknames.  I had the experience of growing up as Jenny, not Jennifer and having to always explain that it was not a nickname but actually on my birth certificate.  That was hard for a little shy girl that couldn't speak without blushing.  I love my name and it's origins.  I was named after two of my parent's aunts and wouldn't be a Jennifer even if you paid me good money because of that.  But I wanted to give our kids as many options as possible for the future in case they wanted to lengthen the name out at some point.  Abigail Lynne Martin was the name we chose.  We loved the names Abigail and Abby from the start.  Lynne is my middle name.  It seemed to fit her well, though we hadn't seen her face.  We had seen her profile and her skull.  It was nice to have something to call her when she popped up on the screen.  We were to have the opportunity to see her often on screen.

I met with Dr. Fine a few days later to discuss the findings on the ultrasound.  He told me that he would be monitoring me even more closely.  He told me that what they had found on the ultrasound concerned him.  He explained that we had an excellent baseline of measurements throughout the pregnancy and that there was no mistake in my due date.  Abby's growth had slowed down which indicated that she was not getting the nutrients she needed.  He told me that he would schedule an appointment with a perinatologist, a doctor specializing in high risk pregnancies.  There was nothing to indicate exactly what the problem was and he felt that she would be the best person in Spokane to help us.  She was so busy that I had to wait for three weeks to get an appointment.  My situation wasn't dire and there was still measurable growth so Dr. Fine felt it would be okay to wait.   

We scheduled weekly visits to his office so that he could do ultrasounds to monitor growth.  I researched all I could about what he had told me.  I learned a lot about IUGR (Inter-Uterine Growth Retardation) which was most likely what was going on.  He had been searching for an underlying cause for my condition but had not found anything that could indicate the problem.  It was a little frustrating not to know what was causing it and I wondered what it would all mean for both of us.  He put me on partial bed rest that day.  I wasn't allowed to do anything strenuous. 

Dr. Fine told me that if they could not find a way to fix the problem Abby might need to be born early.  He thought that we could wait until she was 34 to 35 weeks. This was a shock but it needed to be said.  Any premature birth is a cause for great concern.  I was filled with dread.  I still had faith but a pit in my stomach opened that was hard to ignore.  We waited rather impatiently for Christmas to pass so that our appointment with the specialist would arrive.  We were surrounded by people that loved us that holiday and it was comforting to have them with us but we worried for our baby and it was the all-consuming thought of those many days.

My appointment with Dr. Cheri Johnson was informative but also scary.  I went into see her on New Year's Eve 2002.  We met with a delightful ultrasound tech who showed us the information that she was looking for.  The main part of the ultrasound focused on the blood flow between Abby and I.  Dr. Johnson told us that it was likely that Abby would need to be born earlier than we had previously thought.  Likely within the next few weeks.  This was very shocking to us. I was a few days shy of 25 weeks gestation, a little more than halfway through the pregnancy.   We knew that she had an estimated weight of only 15 ounces not quite a full pound.  Giving birth so early to a baby so small seemed like an impossibility. 

Over the weeks between my 20 week ultrasound and the appointment that day, Abby's growth had slowed dramatically.  She was almost a month behind where she should have been.  They were still not sure of the cause of the problem or the reasons why it was taking place.  We only knew it was happening.  Both she and Dr. Fine had a theory that it was possible that I had a Protein S deficiency.  This is a protein in the blood that acts as an anticoagulant, it stops the blood from clotting.  Their belief was that this deficiency was causing clots to form in the blood vessels between Abby and me.  The only treatment that was available at that time was for me to give myself shots of blood thinner in the hope that we would be able to slow down the progress of the clotting to give Abby the best chance of survival.  I also had low amniotic fluid levels that could indicate further trouble in store for Abby. 
Dr. Johnson admitted me to the hospital that day to receive my first round of steroid shots to speed up the growth of Abby's lungs.  I would also be trained how to give myself shots in my abdomen.  This was not fun but other than that I felt fine.  They also filled me full of fluid to see if they could raise my level of amniotic fluid.  It was a bit surprising to be admitted to the hospital because despite breaking my feet four times I had never spent the night in the hospital except when I was born.  We spent the last night of 2002 in a hospital room at Deaconess Medical Center in Spokane.  There were tears and prayers said and blessings given and then we decided we were exhausted.  We fell asleep, me in my hospital and Aaron close by on the sofa.  I remember waking up to the reflection of the fireworks set off to ring in the New Year on the windows across the street from our room and murmuring Happy New Year to Aaron as I drifted back to sleep.  There was no time to wonder what the new year would bring.

The Miracle of Ordinary Days - Part 2

The next few months were good.  We were busy with our new life together, learning how to be married.  It was a mostly fun but sometimes difficult process.  I think anyone who is married can tell you that marriage takes work, it also takes love and most importantly commitment.  We had all of those elements and am happy to say we still do.  We were both working and going to school full-time.  One of the things I admire most about Aaron is his ability to accomplish his goals.  When he decides something needs to get done, he puts all of his time and energy into it.  He was determined to finish college in 2 and a quarter years.  He had the time and the ability to do it and he worked hard in his classes.  We finished for the school year. 
In June, I was able to go to Girl's Camp, a camp that our church puts on every year for the girls 12-18.  I was partnered with an amazing lady.  We had quite a long time to talk.  She told me stories about her family and about herself.  She talked about having children out of wedlock and then contracting a venereal disease that progressed so far that she had to have a hysterectomy at just 25.  She cautioned the girls that we taught about taking such things too lightly.  The faith she expressed in the process of becoming a parent helped me immensely.  It is amazing to me the way someone else's experiences can teach us so much about ourselves. 

One of the principles I live my life by is to apply other's experiences to my own life so that I can learn and grow without experiencing those challenges myself.  I knew that if she could go through such great trials and the loss of so much so young that I could endure whatever came next. Just hearing the struggles she went through and the way that her life changed after she found a relationship with God reminded me what I wanted to do with my life.  I knew that I wanted to be a mother. I felt the need for that so strongly.  Too many people in the world take being a parent for granted.  They don't seem to understand how fragile and fleeting the life of a child is, how short and precious the time flies.  They go through their days not realizing the miracle and blessing that resides in their own home and let days go by without expressing love and thankfulness for the privilege of being a parent.  I realized that week that I was ready to try again.  I felt the peace that comes with making a decision that is right.  It was the underlying peace that God was with us, whatever trials came our way.

I learned I was pregnant sometime in August.  I was worried about the pregnancy for obvious reasons.  I tend to worry too much anyway.  As anyone could tell you in my family, I come by it honestly.  I was really happy to be pregnant but I watched for signs of miscarriage every day.  I knew that the farther along I was the lower the risk would be.  I found a doctor that I trusted very quickly.  On a recommendation from a friend I heard about a group of doctors not far from where I lived.  She recommended one of the doctors but his schedule was very full.  I decided to see another doctor within the same practice, Dr. Kurt Fine. 

I was so happy with my choice.  The decision would prove invaluable as the months progressed.  The care that he gave me and his diligence with my case still amazes me.  I know that some people are called to be certain things in life.  I believe Dr. Fine's calling in life is being a doctor.  The way that he cares for his patients is a testament to it.  I'll always be grateful that he was my doctor through those trying times.  It's amazing the level of comfort that it can bring.  I know sometimes we are led to find the right person at the right time and Dr. Fine was definitely that for me.

The early tests indicated that everything was great.  The baby was growing on schedule.  Dr. Fine did a lot of things to help me stay at ease.  He tested my blood and gave me ultrasounds often in the first few weeks of pregnancy.  For most ladies these are happy visits but for me they were just anxiety causing.  It was comforting to see and hear the heartbeat of my baby.  He also took measurements and things were right on track early on. 

I was scheduled to return to school in September and plans continued so that Aaron and I would go back together.  I felt the need to quit my job at the hospital so that I could reduce my responsibilities.  Aaron was working and we had sufficient money from grants and loans to keep us afloat. I felt like growing the baby and finishing school would be wise and Aaron supported that. 

It surprised me one day when Aaron came home from work one day and said he wanted to talk about school.  He told me that he felt strongly that I shouldn't return.  He gave me his reasons and at first I was a little alarmed and kind of defensive.  I didn't feel there was a need for me to leave school.  I was already slowing down by quitting my job and I felt like I could certainly finish some classes while pregnant.  He told me it was my decision but that he felt certain that it was the right thing. 

I have always been independently minded and tend to get defensive when someone wants to tell me what I can and can't do and I don't like anyone telling me what to do.  I knew that he had good intentions but I had a hard time hearing it.  I thought long and hard about it.  My inclination was to go to school.  I wanted to finish my degree but as I thought about it and finally prayed about it, I realized that he was right.  We were led to that decision by a loving God who saw what was coming our way.  I am glad that we listened.

There were few indications of any problems in those first few weeks.  I had successfully completed the first trimester of pregnancy, the usual danger zone for miscarriage and I felt good about things.  All things pointed to a healthy pregnancy.  I spent my days at home.  It was a huge change from full-time student and worker status.  It felt strange to not have anything to do but keep up with the household chores.  I watched a lot of TV and read books.  I kept my mind occupied.  I went to my doctors appointments and all was right with my little world. 

The Miracle of Ordinary Days - Part 1

My story of Abby begins when I was young. I had a dream of my future. A dream so dear that it is hard to express. I dreamed of my life filled with children. Many children. When we met, Aaron and I determined that we wanted a big family. We quickly chose enough names for six children. We dreamed of the possibilities before us. I imagined blissful, happy days full of laughter. Rearing those children with love. There were many days early in our journey when such a future didn't seem possible. 

There are now many of these moments throughout my days. We do rear our children with love. We laugh and sing and talk together. I live in awe of the blessing of being a mother to my kids. They are each one an amazing miracle, unique and precious in our lives. I take nothing for granted. I know how hard it was to get them here and keep them here. I share this story as a way of healing for myself, as a way to help others that might find themselves in a similar circumstance and also as a way to share the ways in which our children have so richly blessed our lives and the gratitude we feel to our Heavenly Father for their lives. This is our story.

Aaron and I met after returning from our missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I served in Tokyo, Japan.  He served in Mexico City, Mexico.  We had both lived in two of the biggest cities in the world and we both liked little old Spokane and chose to make it our home.  We fell in love quickly.  We were crazy about each other and some people thought we were just crazy.  We had a lengthy courtship and engagement of two months before marrying on December 15th, 2001 in the Spokane Washington Temple. 

I am not ashamed to say that we didn't know everything about each other back then but we spent every day of that two months getting to know as much as possible.  I am also not ashamed that after eleven years of marriage we know each other really well so maybe that makes up for those early days.  We've always been able to talk about everything.  Finances, kids, what we wanted our family to be was the focus of our discussions.  It was a very happy time for us both.  The bliss of these happy times were soon to be interrupted by some times of trouble.  Life has a way of giving us bumps in our road, hurdles to jump, and gauntlets to conquer.  The next bump would throw us off track for a few months and give us a new perspective on our future life. 

We had a wonderful wedding celebration in December and I found out very quickly that I was pregnant.  It was a honeymoon baby and we were very excited about it.  There is something about finding out that you are pregnant that brings an excitement like no other.  I felt like my dream was coming true.  A great husband and a baby to boot!  What more could a girl want?  We were soon to be disappointed by the loss of that pregnancy.  I was barely pregnant when I started having trouble and after being checked we found that I had a blighted ovum, an egg that is fertilized but does not form into an embryo.  Most women don't even know when they occur.  We had a positive pregnancy test but no baby.  I miscarried with no complications. 
This experience was a wake-up call in our lives together.  Those first few months together we floated somewhere in the clouds and falling back to earth hurt.  It taught us quickly that our life would not be only sunshine and roses.  Heartache was also a possibility.  It might sound naive to say but we were young and in love and unaware of many of the realities and difficulties life can bring.  It taught us that we might have trouble keeping pregnancies, a thought that hadn't really occurred to me until that time.  I knew everyone had the possibility of pregnancy loss.  Many people I know have experienced it.  My two sisters had also experienced it.  I just didn't consider that this would be one of our problems or more specifically, my problem.  I had always just assumed I would have no trouble having as many children as I wanted and reality of loss really hurt.  The worst part of it was the day of the miscarriage was also Aaron's birthday.  I remember feeling terrible for him.  He had a very hard time with it.  But we could only move on with our lives and get back to business.  We decided to wait a while before trying again.

I'd like to say a word here about miscarriage.  I know that many women experience it and that it is not uncommon but for the woman going through it can be really difficult, if not devastating.  It is an exciting thing to know that you are pregnant.  You can't help but imagine the baby that is growing inside you unseen.  It is hard not to put all your hopes and love into that precious little bunch of cells.  The more I have found out about embryos and fetal development the more I am amazed that it doesn't happen even more often than it does.  Life in this early form is a wonder to watch.  It is a miracle in and of itself. 

For me the loss of that pregnancy was very difficult.  I felt numb about it and sad about it.  Aaron and I had a hard time talking about it.  I closed my heart against having another baby for a few months.  It is a very personal and private pain for a mother.  I didn't talk about it very much but I was struggling.  I think I was mourning that loss and the loss of my own innocence to such pain. 

I was only 24 years old and hadn't experienced a lot of loss in my life.  I had lost all of my grandparents and a dear friend's mother but those experiences were not as close a hurt as a parent or a sibling.  They were not my own child.  This loss was closer, a part of myself.  I also felt responsible like if I had done things differently it would not have happened.  I knew it was irrational and untrue but in my case it was more a matter of the heart.  I knew that miscarriage happens all the time intellectually but when those times come it can feel like you are the first and the only person to ever go through it.  Gradually the pain of that loss subsided but from then on I knew that my life was not a fairy tale and that hard things would come our way.  Looking back on it, I see how that early loss prepared us for what was to come.  We were being prepared for the more difficult days ahead.