My last run was September 16, 2015. A Wednesday I will never forget: we had scrubbed our apartment clean, purchased a new shower curtain (what what), and baked cookies. I even bought cheese and crackers and fresh spring-sprung water that didn't taste like mold. It was the big Home Study day. Cathy, our beloved social worker, had come around 12 pm while Loren was still meeting with a student for lunch and I was being interviewed about my childhood. When he got home it was his turn to be interviewed and I walked the short distance to our precious gray and yellow nursery and spent time praying for our precious birth mama, birth daddy, and baby growing in our hearts rocking in the wood chair.
This was CD (cycle day) 29 for me. Usually, I would have tested a day earlier, cycle day 28, checking as early as possible for those Two Lines. But one month earlier, I had finally felt this beautiful peace about not testing. (If you have no idea what the heck I am talking about, I am talking about testing for pregnancy - a pee stick - a urine sample - peeing into a cup and dipping the tests into it to see if not only one, but two, beautiful lines greet you). I also knew that I could not go into my Home Study interview with a clear head if I saw Two Lines. I also knew that if it were One Line again, I would be feeling the sting of yet another failed month of trying, marking 2 years and 4 months (28 months) which to some seems like very little time, but to us felt like for forever. I was working really hard on wrapping my heart's hope back around Jesus; not my body or adoption or humans, but Jesus and solely Jesus. Because putting my hope in my body, in our family growing, in Two Lines, in babies and humans and processes and anything but Jesus is only setting myself up for disappointment. I know this and I knew this, but sometimes it is just hard.
I was sick of seeing the One Line response. I didn't want to have it glaring up at me again. Not again.
Thursday passed (CD 30). My "lady-ness" is weird and random and sometimes is 28 days and sometimes is 33 days. Better than the old unknowns of anywhere from 14 to 44 days, hey? Friday passed (CD 31). I don't remember what I did those days except continue working on our nursery, meeting with ladies whom I adore, feeling the tired sting of Cousin Red coming and my ladies up top growing sorer and sorer. That's normal for me. You're welcome and you're welcome. Here we are, internet friends, reaching a new level of friendship and you're getting to know my body better than I should probably let you. I'm sure I will come back and backspace some of these sentences one day when I have kids that can read and access the internet. Poor kids gunna be embarrassed.
Saturday morning (CD 32) arrived and we had a 20-22 mile run scheduled for the day. We were training for our very first marathon. The longest distance either of us have ever ran. We had signed up over a year ago, complimentary of my grandparents, and had been training all year. Kind of. But really actually training for the last 4 months. While training and pushing my body further than it had gone, God and I had many conversations. They went like this: "God, if my body can't hold a baby inside of it, then let's show it what it can do: it can run. It can defy normalness. Running 26.2 miles is like running your body down and then hitting it with a train. That's almost like giving birth right? (Go ahead and laugh, or cry, I cried alot). Let's be proud of my body - God, help me be proud of this body you created for me. I want to run this marathon and complete it. Because, really I should be 7 months pregnant. And since I am not, let's run this marathon."
I woke up around 7:30 am, put on not one but two sports bras because Hello Tenderness. Tie those suckers down. A thought occurred to me while brushing my teeth: Self, if you are indeed carrying a precious thing that has an actual heartbeat, you probably shouldn't run 22 miles today; you should probably be careful with your body, tender with the Love inside. And so went my disgruntled self, opening the bathroom cabinet, finding a pregnancy test, fearful of the One Line. I knew it would be One Line. I knew it more than I knew anything. I felt stupid for pulling out two tests, but I just needed my mind to be clear on our run so I could focus and pray and love my body. But man, the voices in my head were shouting how incredibly stupid and foolish I was.
I do the deed. Not that deed, Loren was still waking up. I pee into the majestic plastic white cup and I annoyingly stick two tests into it. I open the lower cabinet door again to set them inside, in case that Loren comes in. Of course, IF it was Two Lines, I would want to surprise him in a fun loving way like last time. (Oh my gosh you guys, last time was so fun and I did so good and we danced and cried and laughed and I video taped [Loren would correct me and say I did not video tape it, but recorded it] it and it was great). Not just by showing him the test - I want these moments to be made special. No matter the outcome, I want these moments to be happy memories. The kind that you tell your kids and they feel so loved and cherished and wanted.
Well what ACTUALLY happened was this: before I even set the tests down Two Lines appeared and I said over and over again, "Oh no, oh no, oh no, oh no. I can't, I can't, I can't, I can't." My head went fuzzy and I became suddenly so light headed I thought I might faint. And then I stumbled two steps towards our bedroom where Loren was lying down asking, "What? Is there a spider?" I then did actually black out slightly and slumped against the door. He raced out of bed and I held up the test and said, "I can't do this again. I can't lose another." Don't tell anyone, but he cried because he has a heart of beautiful gold. He held me while I sobbed and he smiled. He held me tight while fear took over and I felt like an idiot for not telling him in some fancy fun beautiful way, and instead revealed how deeply afraid I was.
I of course then took the rest of our pregnancy tests and dumped them into my pee to make sure I didn't make it up and we weren't seeing things. I mean, they look pretty clear:
I took plenty of pictures of these little sticks, because in the case that we had to say goodbye to soon, they were currently all I had to show for our little baby. No ultra sound, just little sticks screaming, "Yes! I am here mom! Don't run 22 miles today, please!" I hadn't taken enough clear photos of our little sticks for that baby, but I did take a couple, so here I was taking photos of my tests.
The whole "pregnancy after loss fear" was more real and more intense than I had anticipated. I never would have guessed the crippling fear to take ahold of my entire self like a giant prickly hug from a thorn bush. It was WEIRD. And like I said: so unexpected. I had read stories and blogs about pregnancy after loss, but a lot of those stories were after still-born losses. And ours was lost very quickly after discovering the little nugget, but the loss ran deep.
Our midwife Julia is amazing and met me that afternoon to check my hormone levels. She ordered me some hormonal creams which helped my body have enough of what it needed to keep baby inside! She also is the actual best and ordered an ultra sound for week 6, just a week and a half away! So we got to see little baby and his/her heartbeat fluttering away early October. She also encouraged me to set up my maternal fetal medicine doctor to immediately get on blood thinners.
Our first trimester together ended up not being the most beautiful. It was full of grief, loss, mourning, anger, stress. Among a lot of other things. We lost our job, that we had let wrap itself around our actual identity, in the most ugly and hurtful way. We lost relationships we cherished dearly, who we had sacrificed with and for, who we had many formative memories with. We had: about two months left of income, an identity crisis to walk through, no idea what our next move or jobs were, a brand new high risk pregnancy, a blossoming adoption, and questions for God. Big questions like: what are You doing? Where are we going? What is our identity, again? Do you see us down here? Are we Youth Pastors? Are we parents? Will we have to walk through losing another baby through pregnancy? Will our adoption be halted? Will we ever heal from the mess that has just been exploded in our face? Where will we move?
On top of the raw emotional turmoil we were undergoing, I am also one of those blessed souls who experiences ALL THE HORMONAL SIDE EFFECTS. So I was puking out the car window and splashing toilet water into my face (we've had a few laughs while stuff is spewing from my face) and breaking out in zits and becoming sore in tender places. But I kept thinking, "Thank you for letting me know my body is doing what it should."
My poor little sister came over sometime in early October and we sat her down and said, "Hey sis! Look at this picture!" And showed her the ultra sound. Then we were like, "Also, we are 98% we are moving to Idaho!" The poor girl just cried and smiled and was so confused with what to feel. I learned in that moment not to dump an extremely beautiful thing mixed with some really sad things together and hope it turns out well for the receiver.
ANYWAYS. The truth one of the matters is this: I have struggled a lot with this pregnancy. When we were first married, I imagined our pregnancies being beautiful and shared week by week with the internet world of my blog. I envisioned weekly updates about how I was feeling and what I was craving and how baby was doing and how mama was throwing up and exercising and eating. I pictured this lovely time for all of our friends and family and some readers to watch my belly grow. But then this year sort of just threw us off and changed a lot of things. Now I fear hurting those who are still trying to conceive. I fear hurting those who are walking through fresh loss. I fear taking this precious gift for granted, when all I want to do is cherish every moment that his or her heart beats within my own womb. I want to share with the world how incredibly grateful I am for this baby. That if we did lose this baby, I would be grateful that I had the time with him or her. Since September 19, I have taken this pregnancy day by day, doing my best (but often failing) to lift this baby up with hands surrendered wide open. Each day I do better with the thing of surrendering, but each day I still fail.
I've been giving myself injections twice a day to prevent blood clots, since week 6. We had a blood clot scare, but guess what! I didn't have one. I had bronchitis. Weird how similar those felt. I have come to often dread the shots, because they hurt not only while going in, but for about ten minutes afterwards. But I do my best to be every so thankful for needing them (it means there is a baby inside of me). I am also so thankful for western medicine - without these shots, me or my baby would not survive. Here's a picture of my squishy belly from a about a month ago:
It still hurts to see some pregnancy announcements. It still hurts when people complain about their pregnancies or make jokes to me about pregnancy being accidental. I don't know when or if that will go away. It should, because it is kind of annoying. I don't know why it still hurts. I have a friend who tried to conceive for "two whole months" and I about cried when she explained how hard it was to wait that long.
This is me confessing and saying: this journey is not over yet. Becoming pregnant and reaching week 17 (which is today!) is not the goal. This journey is more than conceiving and carrying. The journey is seeing beauty in the small and minute, finding pieces of Heaven when all seems broken, learning to live hands open palms up in surrender, cherishing the life He has given me, even if it is life on earth and full of brokenness. Even if it is a life I did not expect or a life different than what I had envisioned. Though I seem to be often clouded with bitterness and hurt and sadness and fear (this happens when I am not praying, and instead letting my mind run), I am doing my best to be thankful. To be delight-filled. To move forward on the journey, no matter what happens. To remember that no one knows the future and today I am pregnant but I do not know what tomorrow holds.
I take those weekly "bumpy" pics to document for myself and our baby. I read about him/her all of the time. I place my hand(s) over my womb and pray and talk and send love to our little Naval Orange sized baby. I am working towards feeling free to find joy in this so wanted baby, because as I stated, I often feel guilty or fear of hurting others. If you're reading this and you're still trying to conceive, please know that you are thought of so often in my dailiness. I pray for you so extremely frequently.
This feels pretty sacred to post, but here's Baby Brenner at week 12 (we think he/she has a big nose):
I went on a 2-mile prayer jog-walk Monday, yesterday and today. I have only been slightly nauseous the last few weeks with little to no vomit, and thought it was time to get back into an exercise routine where prayer is the main focus. And these prayer walks? They are such gifts. Such treasures. Today I am pregnant. Today I am working towards feeling free to celebrate the baby inside, rather than feeling guilty about him/her. Today I celebrate the life that is within me. Today I breathe freedom because He has given it to us.
One day at a time.
Today, I pray with hands open in surrender.