Sunday, October 12, 2008

Christina Ann Painter

Well, we got pregnant once more. We were excited and nervous. We had all the same tests as before but this time we were also seeing the perinatal specialist for regular fetal scans from early on.

With this disorder, you can't really tell anything is going well or going wrong until the bone growth takes off around 16+ weeks. That's typically the earliest you start to see some indictation of things going right or wrong. So I had to spend long months experiencing all the things of pregnancy, the morning sickness, the breast tendernous, the tiredness. All of that for months and months without knowing if things were going to work or not.

I was consumed with worry and dred from the beginning. Always nervous. I often cried. I even stayed on my antidepressants for a while to try to help. I tried to keep living, going on day to day caring for my daughter, trying to keep things regular and normal for her. We ended up telling both our families early on that we were pregnant again because I wanted the prayers. I needed them. Interestingly enough, it was our church ministers who we told first. We took solace in knowing we weren't alone. The senior minister at our church told us when we'd lost Noah that he and his wife had lost their first child full term. We encountered more and more people with similar background, different types of losses of course, but still losses.

I'd joined a loss support group after Noah. And ladies, I will warn you know...some people in those loss groups change after you get pregnant again. Suddenly you aren't one of them, even though you have so far to go and are not out of the woods yet. I had a very dear friend I made through the group and she never quite came to terms I think with the fact I was finally able to have another healthy child. And I don't fault her for that. If I had not been able to have Olivia, I probably would have been stuck in that same rut of pain and loss.

And not everyone understands. Shortly before Noah was delivered, but after we knew things were desperately wrong, we were supposed to go a baby shower for some friends back home. Or rather I was, it wasn't a couples thing. We got a lot of resentment because I bowed out. I couldn't take it. The thought of being there and trying to be all happy and excited for someone else, someone about to birth their first baby when all I wanted to do was cry and worry about my baby and how I was likely to lose him soon. I was in no frame of mind to celebrate anything. And people thought I was selfish. Maybe I was. But how can you really expect me to go and sit there while you oooh and ahhh over all your adorable little boy clothes when I know in a matter of weeks or days my child, the child in my belly, might be dead. I am sorry. I couldn't do it. I truly think it's one of those things that unless you've walked in those shoes, you don't know what it's like.

I didn't want to see anyone else's baby. I didn't care how cute they were. None of it mattered. It only reminded me more of all I'd lost or was about to maybe lose.

The months waiting were agonizing. We prayed. We prayed hard. Through it all I said I'd never do it again. If something happened and something were wrong with this baby, I was done. I couldn't go through it again. It was just too hard emotionally and physically. By this point I felt like I'd been pregnant two years. Between the first miscarriage and then Noah and then now being pregnant with Christina I was constantly in a stage of pregnancy or recovery or about to become pregnant.

Early fetal scans showed things not looking great. Measurements were off. We even went to my parent's church, a place we got married, to have a laying on a hands (our church didn't do that.) I was desperate. Anything I could try I would.

In the end, the worst happened and on August 14, 2003, Christina Ann Painter was stillborn in the same Richmond hospital her older brother had been nearly a year before. It wasn't the same room. As before, we got to hold her tiny body, take pictures, have some family there to hold her fragile litte body and say their own goodbyes. We elected to donate her remains to the International Skeletal Dysplasia Registry at Cedars Sinai like we did with Noah. And we had a memorial for her at our church after.

We were devastated once again and for a while, I thought my heart would never recover. Being around other babies was even worse than before. I didn't want to hear them, see them, smell them. Nothing. Everything reminded me of the precious babies I'd lost. I felt myself withdrawing more and more.

And then I kept on coming back to something miraculous that had happened at the hospital with Christina. I remember crying as they once more hooked me up to the machines, pumping medicine into my veins that would eventually make me deliver her. I remember being so upset and distraught one moment and then in the next, suddenly having this peace. Out of no where, this peace settled over me and I suddenly just knew that if I tried one more time it would be ok.

NEVER ever had it been in my plans to try again. During the entire 21 weeks of Christina's pregnancy I swore I would never do it again. If the worst happened, either we'd settle with one child or possibly look to adopt. And if we adopted it would have to be internationally because I could not stomach the possibility of someone coming to my house to take a baby from me because they'd changed their mind. I could not handle another loss. If we had more children, it would have to be adoption.

So never, never ever had I thought of trying again and suddenly I had this knowledge, this feeling that if we tried one more time it would be ok. The induction process that early on is a rather lengthy one (around 24hrs) and so we saw a parade of doctors from my ob and the perinatal specialists, 6 of them in all...I remember them coming in at various times but all saying the same thing. "If you can bear to try one more time, the odds are with you."

Each time another doctor came on duty and told me that, it stuck in my mind. Someone was trying to tell me something. Another and another and another, hammering home the point. It would be ok.

After Christina, I just knew...early on...I needed to try again. Derek needed more convincing. He wasn't so sure. He was hurting badly and didn't know if he could go through it again. And there just wasn't us to consider, but also our families and friends who had to ride this roller coaster with us. Going through the uncertainty and loss is almost too much to bear.

But I knew...I knew I would never have peace unless we tried. Derek took a leap of faith, believing in me and my convictions. As soon as we could try to conceive after Christina, the very first time, we got pregnant. And from the beginning it felt better. I had so much more hope and peace. Yes, I had moments or worry and concern and doubt, but I just felt better.

I still remember...when we were really early on....having Christmas at my parent's house. I was helping my mother get some linens out for Christmas Eve dinner the next day and she was talking to me about how we were holding up and if we thought we might consider adopting one day, or if we were done. Just talking really. And I was saying I didn't know, we'd just have to see. My mom was kneeling by a buffet, getting a table cloth out of the bottom drawer and she suddenly looks up at me and asks, "Are you pregnant?"

I was stunned and my look of stunned disbelief must have been answer enough, because her immediate response was, "Oh..good." She said she didn't even know why she'd asked if I was pregnant, as it popped into her head she just blurted it out, even though she'd never even considered it a possibility before. And her initial reaction was happy and good instead of fear and dread. I guess even then somehow we knew.

Derek and I moved from Richmond to Charlotte during the middle of that pregnancy. It was hard and sad to leave my trusted doctors, but we stayed just long enough to get through the critical weeks and scans, confirming that everything was looking ok. They wanted so badly to see me through to completion, to see that happy ending, but were happy to know things were looking up when I had to leave. One more scheduled ultrasound once in Charlotte to confirm things were still looking up and then we felt it was ok to finally breathe. Well...sort of. I never really relaxed totally until she was delivered safely and I could hold her in my arms and see and hear for myself she was really ok. And she was. Our beautiful little Olivia Nicole. Born August 2, 2004, just shy of the 1 year anniversary of losing Christina.

People ask how I did it. How could I bear to try again after all those losses? How could I manage? I know for certain, I could not have done it alone. God's grace helped me through it. He gave me the strength I needed. I know HE was there in the miracle of peace and knowledge that came over me in the hospital that day. A day and time I was facing another crushing loss. A day, like so many other before, I'd sworn I was done. I'd never be pregnant again. I simply couldn't take it again. It was too much to bear.

And yet...with HIS guidance, my world changed and a new blessing came into my life. My youngest daughter. And as crazy as it sounds, I would not change any of it. As horrible as those losses were and are, they made me who I am today and I can promise you I am a much better person for it.


Kevin and Beth Tanner said...

I want to say something but I don't know what to say...your words are healing to my heart, thank you, thank you, thank you!

Journeygirl (not the band!) said...

And you know what? Hearing I am helping others, even if only for a moment or in some small way, makes me feel blessed. I can't tell you how much joy it gives me to know some good can come out of all that darkness. I learn more and more every day....there is so much hope out there to be had and felt and shared. Thank you for giving some of that to me.

She said...

You're so strong. You may not always feel it, but you are. I sometimes wonder how people make it through the next pregnancy, always worrying about whether it will be okay. I guess the answer can be as simple as "have faith."