I feel a little overwhelmed right now, so please bear with me if this post seems to be all over the place. I can’t seem to put two thoughts together, I’m exhausted, and I am an emotional rollercoaster… because I’m pregnant. Yup. Ahern baby #4 is due in November. We are so incredibly grateful for this gift that God has given us. Harper Lou is so excited, and she constantly has a stuffed animal stuck under her t-shirt claiming that her baby is almost ready to “pop out.” Dylan keeps telling us we’ve had enough girls for now, so we need to have a boy. She’s like me, however, and wants to wait until the baby’s birthday to find out the gender. Robert, just like in all 3 previous pregnancies, is taking incredible care of me. He takes over as soon as he walks in the door. He, more often than not in the first trimester, has had to stop somewhere after work and pick up dinner because I have been too tired or sick to cook. He rough houses with the girls, he does cleanup, bath, and bed, all with no complaints. Which is good, because I’m complaining enough for the both of us.
This pregnancy has kicked by butt so far. I haven’t been throwing up or too ridiculously nauseous, but I have just felt like I have been hit like a truck. There are days where I drag myself out of bed to pour cereal for my girls, then I shuffle to the couch where I lay until they start begging for lunch. (Yeah, I know. I’m Supermom.) Then back to the couch until Robert gets home and feeds us, then I go to bed. It’s awful. So on top of feeling like dog crap, I also have a huge amount of guilt. I feel like I’m not carrying my weight. I feel like I’m letting my husband and my girls down. I am very aware each morning of all of the things I should be doing, but most days I just can’t or don’t do them.
On top of all of the physical challenges, I am starting to get to a very confusing point for me in the grieving process. In the first 6 months or so after Annie died, I felt very comfortable in my grief. I felt like my tears and my sadness were normal. In these past few months it’s feeling less and less that way. I’m starting to feel more alone. I really feel like sometimes I can’t distinguish my grief from my pregnancy symptoms, because they are so similar.
This baby was not an accident. My doctor gave us the green light to start trying for a baby 6 months after Annie was born. Robert and I knew that pregnancy would be difficult emotionally so soon after losing a child, but there were a few reasons we went ahead and tried. We want our children to be close in age. He and his sisters are all 2 years apart, my sisters and I are also 2 years apart, and we want our own children to have that special intimacy with each other. When this baby is born, Dylan will be almost 6 and Harper almost 4. That’s a much bigger gap than we ever wanted, and we didn’t want it to get any bigger.
The second reason is, I’m not a huge fan of the baby stage. (Gasp!!!!!!) I know. Call me a jerk if you must, just not to my face. With my mood swings these days I can’t guarantee your safety. Don’t get me wrong, the newborn stage is ok, other than middle of the night feedings. The way newborn babies smell is like crack to women, we just can’t get enough, they are the best snugglers in the whole wide world, and they sleep all day. After they get out of the newborn stage, however, they just get really wiggly. They get that weird neck cheese in the folds of their fat little necks so they smell like old milk all day, they spit up all the time, their poop starts to REALLY smell, and you can’t ever put them down. Seriously. When we go to family get-togethers these days, I rarely see my kids. They are running around the whole time with their cousins, going to the bathroom on their own, feeding themselves, and just having a blast. If you have a baby, you can’t put it down. Their heads are wobbly, they get bored after 15 minutes in any particular spot, and they require a lot of hands on attention. After saying all of that, I think it’s obvious that I need to have all of my babies as soon as possible so I can get that stage out of the way.
The third reason we went ahead with trying is because we weren’t sure how to know when you’re really ready. Every time we have decided we wanted another baby we have felt severely unqualified to make that decision. How in the heck to 2 people just say, hey. Let’s make A WHOLE NEW PERSON. It just seems absurd to me. This time we had the “are we really sure we want another baby?” coupled with the “are we emotionally ready for this?” Honestly, the second question was impossible to answer. I am not over losing my daughter. I pray that I am never over it. I always want to miss her. I always want to think about her. For the longest time I was so worried that would I want another baby just to replace her, but I truly believe that that is not the case. I know this because as of right now, I feel more sad that Annie isn’t here with us than I feel excited about this new baby. I’m ashamed to admit that, and as a mother it seems so wrong to feel this way, but it’s true. I pray that my excitement will grow in the coming months, and I’m sure it will, but as for now I can’t even feel this baby move yet. I don’t know it. (see? It’s still an IT.) So most of my feelings are still focused on Annie.
One thing I have been thinking of lately is that I feel like a lot of my physical discomfort could be stress and anxiety related as opposed to only pregnancy. I remember on the day Annie was born, I was full of joy and peace while I was with her, but I was also nauseous and throwing up all day. The nurses told me it was related to the medication I received during surgery which might be true, but the moment Annie died all of my nausea was gone. I truly believe that holding my little girl and knowing her time was running out was enough to make any parent throw up. Once she was gone, I knew where she was and that she had been healed. She was with our Savior and there was nothing at all to be anxious about. Physically I felt fine.
This pregnancy has me riddled with anxiety, but I know all too well that there is nothing I can do at this point. I am trusting, waiting, and praying. I received a phone call recently from my doctor’s office saying they had scheduled my ultrasound for June 24. I flipped open my calendar and noticed that we would be out of town at a family reunion that day. I informed the woman on the other end of the line that we would get back into town on the 25th. She paused and scanned her available appointments. A moment later she piped up, “Ok, how about Thursday, June 26 at 9:30?” I was stunned. June 26 is Annie’s birthday. What are the freaking odds? I was a little shocked so I just wrote it down and hung up. I called Robert and told him what had happened, and he quietly told me that we could change the appointment if I needed to. I thought for a moment and said, “you know what? Every single time I have tried to take control in the past year and a half, God has shown me that I don’t have this. He has this, and He has me.” He has taken care of us and protected us in our most awful storms, so who am I not to trust Him now? I am sure that the day of this baby’s ultrasound will be anxious, terrifying, and full of painful memories. I’m also sure that Annie’s first birthday will be incredibly difficult. Now they will be combined into one day, and I pray that seeing a healthy little baby will lighten our hearts a bit.
I am afraid of what is to come with this baby. There is no guarantee that once one tragic thing happens to you then you are safe for awhile. That’s not how this world works. If anything, I’m positive that more tragedies will come my way. I’m not trying to be depressing, I actually think I have a pretty positive outlook on life, but the reality is that we live in a fallen world. This life shouldn’t be perfect. This isn’t paradise. I don’t feel like God owes me anything because I have suffered a loss. I am trusting in Him and in His plan, but as I’ve stated before, I’m human. I’m trying my best to keep my fear in check and not let it consume me.
Pricilla Shirer was a guest speaker at church recently and she spoke on fear. She declared fear is not of God, and if it is not of God than it must be from Satan. The more she spoke, the more I was completely and totally convicted. I was in tears. I couldn’t believe that I had allowed myself to have a spirit of fear surrounding this pregnancy. God has provided, protected, loved and cared for me and my family in the most incredible ways, some so beautiful I can’t even describe, so how DARE I be afraid?!! He is good. He is constant. Despite my failings, He will not fail. I love the saying “He is not threatened by my doubt, but He is glorified by my faith.” I realize that I will experience the feeling of fear throughout this pregnancy, and that is ok. However, I will not allow myself to ever again have a spirit of fear. I know and serve a God who deserves so much more than my fear.
Something that has helped a tremendous amount in quieting that fear in me is the ripple effect we have seen materialize from Annie’s tiny little life. My family was recently invited to a picnic at OU Medical where Annie was delivered that was put on by LifeShare. We were told that there would be free food and there would be some awards handed out. All I heard was free food, so I said we’d be there. We showed up, ate, and let girls run wild and dance to the Frozen songs playing over the speakers just for them. (They’re kind of a hit with our LifeShare family) We looked around and saw several familiar faces. We saw the nurse who cared for Annie during and after her birth. I will never forget that woman’s face, because she is the one who handed me my daughter for the first time. We hugged and reminisced a bit. Then we saw the chaplain who was there for us in several of the prenatal planning meetings and during our prayer service before Annie’s birth. The nurse who was kind of our liason between all of the different departments working together came. My doctor who delivered Annie arrived and sat with us. Several nurses who were involved in our care showed up. Then I was approached by a woman I didn’t recognize who said, “Excuse me, are you Annie’s mom?” Her name was Ashley, and she told me that her daughter Gabriella was born with anencephaly this past December, and became the second infant organ donor in Oklahoma. My eyes immediately filled with tears as I listened to her talk about her daughter. I can’t tell you how wonderful the conversation I had with Ashley was. How horrible of a circumstance to have to bond over, but I felt like we did. As I was talking with her, I felt understood, like really understood, for the first time in a long time. I could see her pain, but I also saw the joy and pride in her eyes when she spoke about her daughter’s gift of life. Our stories were very different, but so similar at the same time. Her daughter was diagnosed in July, and she had come across this blog in her internet research. That was how she got in touch with LifeShare in order to plan for Gabriella’s donation. As a donor mom, donation has been so incredibly helpful in the healing process. I’m grateful that this beautiful family was able to have the same help.
As the award portion of the picnic began, I realized that everyone receiving an award was part of our “team.” They were being acknowledged for all the hard work and planning they had done to make such an incredible thing like infant organ donation happen where it never had before. Then everyone was gathered for a picture, and I couldn’t believe the visual. There was a big group of people, some of which we had never met, who had all worked so hard for us. I was emotionally depleted when we left, because I was in no way prepared for the events of that picnic. I couldn’t be more grateful.
Another big thing that has happened is Annie’s LifeShare nurse Shellie has written an award winning abstract entitled; “Pistol Annie, Boldly Opening Doors for Neonatal Donation after Circulatory Death in Oklahoma.” Her abstract was selected to be presented at a conference and Rob, the girls, and I were able to attend. The auditorium was very large and it filled up quickly with nursing students. Harper attracted a lot of attention because each seat had a huge microphone on the back of it for questions so she was shamelessly belting out “Let It Go” until the presentation began. (What is with that movie?!) When Shellie gave the presentation, I just sat in awe of my little girl. She really has opened doors in this area, and if this process has been made even just a tiny bit easier for the parents behind us, it was worth it. Shellie will be traveling to the east coast this summer to present again, and I am so proud to know her and proud of her work!
Despite all of these positive things our little girl has accomplished and we are able to see, it still really really sucks that she’s gone. I miss her so much. It’s almost routine for my other girls. They see me cry all the time, out of the blue, and they stop whatever they are doing and just hug me until I’m finished. Mother’s Day was ridiculous. I cried during the music part of church, and it wasn’t my typical quicky cry. This was an all out, balls to the wall, sob fest. It started during a song that was praising God for being constant. I just became overcome with pain and guilt singing that. There is nothing I am more grateful for these days. After all He has done for me and all of my answered prayers, you’d think I’d be shouting His praises from the rooftops. He absolutely deserves that. But I’m not. I have been still and quiet. I feel so empty and low, and undeserving of His unfailing love. We made it through the service without any more outbursts (sorry Robert), and went to lunch. All I wanted for Mother’s Day was to work in the garden, so we went to Lowe’s and got supplies then headed home. We worked outside all day, the weather was incredible, Robert looks ridiculously gorgeous when he’s digging, so that was a plus, and just enjoyed our little family. Well, I enjoyed it between cries. I don’t know what it is on holidays. I’m sad every day, but I guess I just feel a little more justified in letting it out on big days like that. I feel incredibly lonely when I cry, because I’m the only one doing it. I know my husband loves and misses his baby girl, but he’s not as emotional as I am. My big girls talk about their sister all of the time, which I love, but their feelings of loss are in no way comparable to mine. So I cry, get lots of sweet hugs, then apologize for awhile.
I don’t know that I want the pain to ever go completely away. I want to learn to deal with it better, and to be able to live with it. A question I have been getting for a whole year now is, “have you taken your boards yet?” I graduated from nursing school 6 weeks before Annie was born, and after she died I just wasn’t in a huge hurry to rush back to work. We took the girls out of daycare and I became a stay at home mom for the time being. Robert has worked his tail off from the very beginning of our marriage, and he has put our family in a position financially where I don’t need to work. Dylan starts kindergarten in August, so I was just enjoying my time at home with my girls. More and more time passed, and I still felt like my brain was enveloped in this fog of grief. I’m still not ready. It has now been a year since I have graduated, and I still haven’t taken my boards. I am so absolutely OK with this. This is the least of my problems. I love my husband whose only desire is for me to be where I need to be. He has not pressured me one way or the other. He has allowed me to make my own decisions on how much time I need to take to heal, or move on, or whatever. He has actually been selected for a pilot position in our Air National Guard unit and is currently in the deep dark depths of government paperwork trying to get started with training. Once he begins, the girls and I will need to go where he goes, and our main job will be to try and support him as well as he has supported us over the years. For the first time in our marriage, we don’t really have a plan. We’re going with the flow, and it’s a little scary. I really and truly believe God called me to be a nurse, and I loved doing that work. I haven’t given up on that path at all, but I do feel that I’m allowed to roll with the punches a little bit.
Please please please don’t feel like this is a “woe is me” post. I am fully aware that we all have struggles we deal with every day. I felt led to start this blog at the very beginning of our journey, and it was really intimidating. I have never felt more vulnerable or exposed. I have talked about things here that I haven’t shared verbally with anyone, because it’s just easier for me to sit alone in my room and write. God has been stirring in my heart to share these feelings for some time, and I can’t ignore Him anymore, no matter how embarrassing they are to admit. What woman wants to tell the world that she feels weak and out of control? I, for one, like to post my happy pictures of my happy family and show all of you that everything in my life is great and wonderful and deny the darkness. I actually stayed home tonight and skipped my bible study because I felt like total crap, and I have been laying in bed, staring at the ceiling, unable to sleep because this was still nagging at me. Maybe God wasn’t allowing me to sleep until I finally shared what was He had put on my heart. So there it is.
In closing, I want to say something to the dear, sweet, fourth little fetus in my belly:
Hey little baby. I know that one day when you grow up you’ll be reading this and think, “well crap. My mom was super sad and she didn’t even want me.” That couldn’t be further from the truth. I can’t believe I am lucky enough to be pregnant. I am honored to suffer through pregnancy pains just to meet you. I bawled like an idiot when I saw your sweet little heart beating strong and quickly at my first doctor’s appointment. I panicked and made everyone stop talking when it took awhile for the doctor to find your heartbeat at my second appointment, then cried tears of relief when he finally did. I want you more than words can say. Your sisters can’t wait to take care of you. Your dad is already taking care of you by taking such good care of me. This family isn’t complete yet, because you aren’t here. I praise God for giving you to us, and we can’t wait to meet you.
PS- right now, your name is Lil Rainbow. You can thank Harper later.