This might be one of the longest posts I’ve ever written, if not the longest. It is also the most emotional post, and most personal, that I have ever written. But I feel I need to share my story, because without , these are just images of a cute little newborn and her family. And even though that is exactly what she is, to the parents holding her she is so, so much more.
It was such a long road, getting to this point. It was almost three years ago that my husband and I started trying for our second child. After several months of trying, we found out we were pregnant, and saw the tiny beating heart on an ultrasound at 8 weeks. At 10 weeks, I heard the heartbeat on the doppler in my OB’s office. Two weeks after that, it was gone. To say we were devastated is an understatement. I had never understood the words “mind-numbing, chest crushing pain” until that moment. We had it all, and had it all ripped out from under us in just a heartbeat.
Several weeks later, as the heartache started to subside, I found out why we lost the baby, and also found out I would need to go through chemotherapy treatments, only 1 or 2, my doctor assured me. 1 or 2 treatments turned into 15, and I became an oncology patient in Iowa City. Along with this came the news that we would have to wait at least 12 months before trying for another baby. We weren’t sure we would ever have the strength to try again. I could handle going through chemo again, the blood draws, the injections, the nausea and pain. I knew, though, that I could not handle finding out that we had lost another pregnancy, and I was scared.
For the next year, we pursued private adoption, going through all of the paperwork and interviews and applications, with the plan to discuss trying for our own biological child when we hit the one year mark. We had a few leads, but nothing came through for us. We had such tremendous support from our family and friends, through the miscarriage, the chemo, and the adoption process, and it strengthened us.
Last May, one year after finishing chemo, my oncologist gave us the “ok” to try to get pregnant again. Two weeks later, the birth control that protected me during that year, was removed, and in June, we started trying, not knowing what to expect. With both of our previous pregnancies, it took months of trying to conceive. Imagine our surprise when, on June 26, I peed on a stick and a little pink line appeared.
The next few months weren’t the happy, exciting time that it is for most pregnant women. In fact, I was kind of a hot mess. We had our first ultrasound at 6 weeks, but seeing the heartbeat only temporarily calmed me. We had several more ultrasounds throughout the pregnancy, and each time I left feeling calmer, if only for a bit. I was elated when we found out we were having a little girl, but continued to worry, even after we hit viability.
It was a difficult pregnancy, too. Being a type 1 diabetic complicated things, of course, but I had every pregnancy symptom you can think of – morning sickness for 28 weeks, heartburn that could take out a horse, exhaustion, joint pain, and so much more. By the end of the first trimester, it caused me intense physical pain to be on my feet for more than 20 minutes at a time (due to a hip injury from my first pregnancy). I never had that second trimester energy spurt, and by the end of the pregnancy, was so miserable all I wanted to do was sleep and cry. I joke that had this been our first pregnancy, our son would be an only child.
The day I was 38 weeks, I went in to our local OB office for an NST (non-stress test). After 5 hours and a BPP (biophysical profile), they sent me to Iowa City for observation, and after three more hours there on an NST and BPP, the decision was made to induce. Baby Girl wasn’t reactive on the NSTs and BPPs, and there was some concern about how she was doing. I was far enough along that is was safe to induce and delivery naturally, and we started the process at 8:00 that night.
After 9 hours of labor, and virtually no medication (the epidural that I was begging for at 3:30am didn’t work), Claire came into the world at 5:03am. My first thought when I saw her was that she didn’t look anything like anyone in our family, and were they sure they were giving me the right baby? She was perfect. Her apgars were 9 and 9, and she latched on within seconds when we first tried breastfeeding. Her cry was music to my ears. I was in shock for several hours after she was born, surprised that I was in the hospital, no longer pregnant, instead of at home and resting like I had planned. I couldn’t believe how fast it had gone, and that I wasn’t pregnant anymore.
And most of all, I could not believe that the tiny little life I was holding in my hands was mine, my baby, my daughter. It wasn’t until after our guests had left, the doctors were gone for the day, and the night nurse had brought her in for a middle of the night feeding that everything came to me, and I sat in the rocking chair in my hospital room, my husband asleep on the bed beside me, and my baby nursing at my breast, that I cried. I cried from joy and heartache and happiness and relief. I cried away the last three years, and as my tears landed on her sweet little face, I cried with thankfulness for my daughter, whom I had waited a lifetime for.
A couple days later, I told my best friend of 21 years that it all seemed so surreal, that I didn’t feel like I deserved everything I had in front of me. She said to me “Wendi, you went to hell and back for this little girl. You deserve this more than anyone I know.”
So for you, my dear Claire, I love you so much, and even though I couldn’t see it at the time, you were worth going to hell and back for. I cannot wait to see you grow up and become an amazing little person, just like your big brother. I cannot wait to see you both grow up together, and to love you both forever, to infinity and beyond.