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But first, let’s make sure you’re caught up on this story before you venture any further:
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Now, let the journey continue…
Telling your friends and family your pregnant “again” didn’t come with nearly the same excitement as it did a year prior. Every time I made the announcement, I buffered my usual animation for something much more collected.
“So, if everything goes OK and we remain healthy, and things work out like they’re supposed to… then you should have a grand baby here in February” was the timid approach I took to telling my Dad on Fathers Day that he had a grand-baby in the making. No cool tee shirts or photos, no jumping for joy, just little smirks, and hesitations, and hugs. Everyone always gives hugs.
“Today I took I pregnancy test” I explained to my best friend who was riding shot gun in my car… “and I’m so anxious cause it said yes” I said in one breath of a run on sentence. This is how I conjured up the courage to tell my best friend who had been watching me cripple at the sight of children for months that I was finally pregnant. Reading the environment, she shared the tension with me and let me vent. With tears in my eyes and a smile on my face, we finished our conversation by stopping at the local Shoppers Drug Mart to purchase me another pregnancy test: just so I could confirm my wondering mind again. We shared a hesitant hug. Everyone always gives hugs.
And hey, it turns out my third pregnancy test of the day said I was still pregnant.
I’d been waiting to share this announcement for what seemed like years and yet the discouragement and pain of my previous miscarriages continued to pull the reigns on my happiness. These memories haunted me and prevented me from leaning in fully to accept the reality I was currently living.
I’d stand in the shower daily as I recited the most basic and concrete affirmation I could conjure:
I am… pregnant.
I am… pregnant.
I am pregnant.
I would say this on repeat to myself in the solitude of my bathroom. Looking for confirmation but yet remaining tongue tied.
Everyday was one day closer to baby.
Weeks 4-8, more specifically, Days 31 to 80 were filled with mindset management, half-smirked celebrations and pure mind games. I tracked DAYS of pregnancy to give me hope: not weeks. Weeks felt like years at this point and if I could track hours you better fucking believe I’d be all over that too. At any given moment I’d know I was precisely “5 weeks, 4 days and 13 hours… pregnant”.
Seeing the end of 40 weeks felt, at the time, that I would be growing a baby for the next century.
Every time I used the bathroom was a game of Russian Roulette. Spinning a six shot revolver in this lethal game of chance was nearly equivalent to my probability of miscarrying my baby into the toilet.
I’d sit down to pee, place my single round of ammo into my revolver, spin the cylinder, place the muzzle to my head, pull the trigger and pray the loaded chamber did not align well enough for my dreams to discharge in front of me. Who knew taking a pee could be so frightening. Dramatic or not, this was my reality for months.
I’d awake in the middle of the night, dreaming about blood pouring down my legs, my midnight heart rate escalating well over 100bpm. Nightmares of doctors visits, depression and DNCs haunting me multiple times during these weeks. My subconscious never let me off the hook.
I ate beets for dinner once. The next day, after using the bathroom for number 1 and number 2- the red remnants sent me for an absolute tailspin. I sat and quivered with tears pouring down my face at the traumatic looking beet-coloured toilet water that held nothing but last nights dinner. After confirming he too had red poop that morning, my husband calmed my anxiety with a little giggle. But, I never ate beets again. Still haven’t.
I also saw my doctor religiously. Bless her soul. The same physician that had watched the ebbs and flows of my baby journey from day 1. She’s a saint and allowed me to be a panic stricken psycho as much as I needed to be. She was a realist though, never telling me “everything is going to be OK”: cause shit, she knew it might not be. “We need to make it through this first trimester” she would continually tell me: “then things start to look more positive”
To know my first trimester finished the week of my 29th birthday meant a countdown was on in more ways than one.
From Weeks 4-8 she ordered me blood tests to calm my nerves and give me reassurance that I was, in fact, still pregnant. Every Tuesday morning I’d make my way to the lab to collect my blood sample and every Thursday she would call me with results. 2 blood tests per week for 4 weeks. Yes, a tad psycho and ever so happy to be an Alberta citizen.
Ignorance was never bliss. Ignorance was panic.
“Hey Ashlyn, just letting you know your HCG increased again this week, have an amazing weekend”.
That sentence was all I needed and yet every week I sat in anxiety waiting for that phone call.
After the Week 8 reassurance call, Rob and I made the decision to join my family at our cabin for a week of summer sunshine and relaxation.
Being on week 9 while out in the wilderness, the same week I miscarried my last babe, meant no relaxation was had for me.
I awoke one morning and burst into tears when my dad offered me a coffee. I hadn’t desired caffeine the last 5 weeks and why I wanted one in that moment had surely meant something was wrong with my baby. Totally reasonable, right?
My irrational thinking vortexed into the spilling of dinosaur sized tears that my father hadn’t seen from me since I was a tot. The guy just wanted to make me a cup of Joe. And here I was: anxious, sweaty, bawling, and trying to explain to him that I no longer felt pregnant.
Are you feeling cramps at all? My step mother inquired when she awoke to notice me panic-stricken.
Nope, no cramps.
What about blood or discharge or anything like that? She continued with factual and rational questions.
No, Jodi: nothing like that.
I let my mind and anxiety get to me so badly that morning that I called my heaven-sent doctor EIGHT times. EIGHT. I talked to the receptionists, to her nurses, to her voicemail. And then finally with pure relentless spirit: I talked to her.
And let me preface this by saying, I’m totally NOT a “Karen”: I’ve never been. I’m usually quite level headed guys, I don’t tend to complain, I never send my food back at restaurants or ask to speak to managers or use coupons or ask for deals. I’m chill. Super chill… until I’m not.
The fact I wanted a god damn coffee and had limited nausea must have meant my baby was doomed. In hindsight: I’m crazy. In the moment: I’m advocating for my health and for my baby. Nothing could stop me.
I requested that my doctor send me for blood work at the closest British Columbia hospital. After a 30min drive and a couple phone calls, I could be back to enjoying my week-at-the-cabin adventure with a calmed sense of self.
Unfortunately being as I was now in another province, this wasn’t going to happen. “I can send you for blood work again this week Ashlyn, but you’ll need to come back to Lethbridge”.
Now, a FOUR hour drive and NO week-at-the-cabin-adventure was the sacrifice I would have to make for any sort of solace.
I packed my bags and drove back to Lethbridge, got the fucking test and even managed to puke once after picking up a slurpee from a local 7/11. Turns out that the mountains, the fresh air and the lack of things to do were the perfect dose of Diclictin. Also turns out, my baby was just fine.
First trimester nausea may be a complaint for some: but for me, I embraced it. With no heartbeat to listen to yet, no movements or kicks to confirm her presence and no daily blood work: if I felt like shit: that was reassurance this baby was growing. Bring on the barf.
The first ultrasound of my pregnancy was a milestone day. Both for anxiety and for excitement. I awoke that morning, drank all the water perfectly to the recommended ounce and stressed over the all the things that could go wrong.
The thought of “I can’t wait to see the heartbeat” would be immediately followed by, “what if there is no heartbeat”. A deep breath that felt so good going in but unable to exhale fully to completion.
Suffocated by my own thoughts and traumas, I paced my house that morning unable to focus on work, talking outwardly to my step dad in heaven, confirming to him how utterly distraught I would be if something went wrong and asking again and again for his blessing.
Press “play” below to see my pre-ultrasound thoughts:
I buckled up my jean overalls over my water-bloated belly, picked my hubby up from work and laid back in a fully reclined position in the passenger seat as I heavy breathed all the way to the radiology centre. Partially due to the pressure on my bladder and partially due to the pure anxiety that was flowing through me.
Mid-July 2020 was a time of slight restriction lifting of the COVID pandemic in Alberta: enough so, that as long as he passed the screening at the door, wore a mark and sanitized his hands: my husband could join me in the ultrasound room that day.
My tech walked us to the back, jellied up my flabbier-than-typical lower abdomen and began to giggle.
“You need to pee” she said right away. “Your bladder is so full we won’t be able to see anything”
She handed me a cup, insisting that I fill it only 1/3 of the way: just letting out “some pee”- a very tough challenge for an overly filled bladder and hypertonic pelvic floor- but my willpower over rode the desire to let my bladder relax fully. I knew from that point forward I never had to follow the ultrasound prep instructions perfectly.
I re-entered the room, dropped my drawers for the third time in ten minutes and got re-situated on the partially inclined bed with my husbands right hand now stroking my left forearm in comfort.
My tech re-gooped my belly, pressed into my now 75% filled bladder and asked me a few introductory questions:
“So, how many pregnancies have you had?” she inquired.
“OK.. so, third pregnancy, first baby…” she went on.
As she quizzed me she tilted her screen in the opposing direction of my gaze: a small act on her part that immediately sent my heart rate through the roof.
What was she seeing?
Why was she typing so fast?
Why couldn’t I see?
I watched as her head bobbed up and down up and down as she banged relentlessly on the keyboard and pressed firmly into my abdomen.
I starred into my husbands eyes with concerned contact. He knew what I was thinking. The emotion on our faces were unscathed by our masked mouths as we awaited verbal contact from our tech.
And then, she stopped.
I watched closely as she reached behind her, grabbed a remote from the darkness of the room and pointed it to the TV situated in the corner of the wall in front of us.
And there it was. The blinking light of hope. My daughters heartbeat.
“And there is your baby” she spoke. The most simplistic yet poetic words I’ve ever heard spoken.
A pinky sized tadpole wiggled on the screen in front of us as the blinking light of hope continued at 170+ bpm.
As my eyes filled with tears I could see my husbands eyes were doing the same. The comforting touch he once held on my forearm was now a full-on vice grip as we both exhaled the breath we’d seemed to be holding the last 2 years.
And that moment, that’s one of the moments you only get to experience once.
The tech then left, I re-buckled my jean overalls and stood in the dark room in the arms of my husband with tears in my eyes and his body nestled close to mine. No words needed.
“That, right there” Robbie spoke first, “was one of the top 5 experiences of my life”
And I couldn’t agree more.
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