On the morning of August 18 Robert, Iva and I went in for my 37 week checkup. I had been feeling bad all week, and by this time I was completely over it. The week had been so hectic already because it was the big girls’ first full week back at school. Getting back into that routine is not for the faint of heart, let me tell ya. We already had experienced one of those moments at breakfast (I think it was on Tuesday) where one daughter looked at me and said that today was her day to bring snacks for her whole class and she was going to bring goldfish. I actually laughed in her precious naive little face. We had no goldfish, or any food for that matter. I hadn’t been to the store in 2 weeks because NOPE when I was that huge and miserable. We live a good 20+ minutes from a grocery store (in the opposite direction of the school) so she got to learn an important life lesson that day about preparation and notification.
I waddled into my doctor’s office and grunted as I stepped on the scale. I rolled my eyes when I saw the number on the scale had jumped 11 pounds since the Friday before, because I knew what was coming. The lower half of my body had become so ridiculously swollen over the previous few days, I was surprised it wasn’t more than 11 pounds. Then the nurse took my blood pressure, and Robert and I looked knowingly at each other when we saw the reading. My BP had been creeping up during the 3rd trimester, but had stayed in the safe range until that morning. As soon as my doctor walked in and asked me when was the last time I had had anything to eat or drink, I wanted to cry, dance, do a herkie, and of course, eat a burrito because now I couldn’t. I’ve had several c sections, so I know that question means it’s baby time. He told us to go home, pack a bag and come back to be monitored so we could officially diagnose me with preeclampsia if that was the case, and possibly deliver that day.
I was so beyond relieved. I’m a lot older now than when I was pregnant with Dylan, my oldest, and this baby is my fifth. My body is weary, and I’m a lot more cranky and loud about it than I was in my twenties. This pregnancy was hard on me and I wanted this kid out. I was 37 weeks so we were in the safe zone to deliver. Both Rob and I knew there was no guarantee our baby wouldn’t need help, heck Iva was born at 41 weeks and needed 4 days in the NICU. We just prayed and hoped for the best.
We went home and packed, took and posted a final belly pic (I cropped out my terrifying marshmallow feet), made childcare arrangements, then we headed back to the hospital. After a period of monitoring it was clear that I did indeed have preeclampsia and delivery was the best course of action. I went back to the operating room alone for the part of the procedure I hate the most. Getting the spinal is not particularly painful or difficult, but having to do it without my husband while in a chilly and sterile environment where everyone is wearing masks and all you can see are their shifty eyes counting all of the shiny sharp things just skyrockets my anxiety. I laid down and got prepped, and Rob came in. This was when I had the “holy crap, we’re having a baby!” moment. Whether it’s your first or your fifth, there is something totally overwhelming and humbling about bringing new life into the world.
Surgery always seems to go super fast, and suddenly it was time to drop the blue drape. (C section mommas, if you don’t know about the clear drape option, ask your doc if it’s available! This was the first time I was able to see my baby pop out, and it was fantastic. Your belly + operating drapes obscure all of the sketchy stuff, FYI) I peered through the clear drape and saw a ticked off little face and shoulders rising up, and I looked at my husband and he said “It’s a girl!”
Of course it is. Our fifth little lady. I started crying of course, and they took the baby over to the table for her assessment. It was supposed to be super quick and we were planning on doing skin to skin, but I noticed Robert had stopped taking pictures. He was looking at two nurses as they were explaining things to him, and he was nodding a lot. I kept asking “is she ok?!” and was reassured that she was fine, but she needed help. I strained to listen to what the nurses were saying and I heard what I had been dreading. She was having trouble breathing, her oxygen was low and respirations were high, and she needed to be transitioned to the NICU. CUE ABBEY’S GIANT SOB FEST. (God bless my doctor for his ability to finish operating on my belly while I was bawling. That can’t be easy.) The nurses told Robert that we had to wait for a transport team to come and take our baby. Robert asked them if I could hold her while we waited, and they brought her to me. They laid this tiny precious baby on my chest and covered us with warm blankets. She had her tiny eyes open and we just stared at each other. I was lost in those eyes until I heard the nurses commenting how her oxygen level was rising. They also noted that her respirations were slowing. Transport showed up and one of the nurses said “let’s give her a few more minutes, she’s doing better.” God bless THEM for giving us time. We apparently just needed each other. She stabilized, my doctor finished my surgery, they moved me to a bed and took me to a room. WHILE I HELD MY BABY. 😭😭😭😭😭 I still can’t believe it. The whole time Rob and I were asking each other, “is this for real?!”
We named our sweet girl Margaret Francis. Daddy calls her Margie, Iva calls her Frankie Pop, and we are all just beyond obsessed. All of her sisters touch and kiss her from the moment they wake up (even when she’s nursing so that’s awkward). She sleeps fairly well at night as long as I’m holding her, and I’m not even mad about it because I binge watched Narcos on Netflix and it was awesome. With 3 big sisters she had to hit the ground running, so she’s already spent a day at the zoo, a day at Silver Dollar City, and been on her first road trip, so she’s the best baby in the whole wide world.
Robert and I have danced around the decision of whether or not we are done having babies, but right now I’m not making any decisions because I’m crazy hormonal and exhausted and old and exhausted and hungry and exhausted. I cry when we broach the subject, because right this moment I feel like I don’t want any more children because I can’t handle the ones we have. It has been a difficult adjustment this go round because my recovery was challenging and Robert wasn’t able to take any time off of work. (PRAISE THE LORD and THANK YOU to all who took Iva off my hands and brought food. We would not have survived without you!) I do feel like we are leaning towards being finished, but I want to make that decision because we feel like our family is complete, not because I feel overwhelmed and desperate. So we’ll just kick that can down the road a bit. Plus, the van is pretty dang full…
I am so grateful that Margaret is here, she is healthy and growing, and she is so very loved. She looks so much like big sisters Harper and Annie. She is my second rainbow baby, and I praise God for that enormous gift.
I will say that my grief journey has gotten easier with time. Annie died 4 years ago, and during that time there has been so much pain, exhaustion, depression, fear, anger, growth, learning, acceptance, and healing. I’m a completely different person. I’m usually thankful for that, but lately I’ve been kinda pissed about it.
-I’m pissed that I make new friends when babies die.
-I’m pissed that I’m terrified and not excited for friends posting “tomorrow is our ultrasound! I can’t wait to see if it’s a boy or a girl!” because I know there’s SO much more they can see. Or not see.
-I’m pissed that there is no break. I catch myself relaxing in the normalcy of life only to wake up to a message about a new family with a new diagnosis.
-I’m pissed that far too many of my friends have had funerals for their children, or never even got to meet them in the first place.
-I’m pissed that my daughter is in a box on the shelf in my living room and I can’t decide what to do with her ashes because nothing feels right or good enough.
-I’m pissed that two of my daughters never got to meet their big sister.
Please know that even though I am THOROUGHLY pissed about all of these things and so much more, I wouldn’t call myself an angry person. I have realized that I am capable of feeling so many things at once, and being able to name the things I’m pissed about has helped me to sort of release them. There is absolutely nothing I can do about any of the things on the above list and I refuse to let this anger gobble me up, so the best thing I’ve come up with to do is to put it on the internet in list form for strangers to read. 🤷🏻♀️
To those of you beginning your grief journey, I weep for you. I also want to encourage you. “This too shall pass” has proven to be a big ole crock for me, and good. I never want the desire for my daughter to pass. “This too shall get better, then hard again, then a little bit better, then hard again, and finally you will learn to manage it” is more true in my experience. I pray so so so fervently for those of you waiting for your own form of healing. I pray for those waiting for rainbows, for those who can’t get out of bed, for those of us who struggle with guilt when we want, no, NEED time away from the children we have. I have been so thankful for this outlet. Sharing has been therapeutic for me, so I encourage anyone who has the urge to do so to go for it. It is so freeing to find that I am not alone.
Speaking of time away from children, my two oldest are at school and my two youngest are asleep, so imma bout to make a latte and find a new show on Netflix. ✌🏼