Just in case you missed it, I am having a baby. It's OK if you did miss it. I am not offended.
In the comments of my January 2nd post, Elizabeth M asked if Billy knew I was pregnant when he predicted a new sibling this year. Yes, we had told them, and it was a moment worth remembering.
When you have babies every couple of years with regularity, you start to expect babies every couple of years with regularity. The baby I lost right before Bill deployed to Afghanistan, though unplanned, was not unexpected. Mary was well over a year old at that point. Since Bill's return two years ago, I've had two other miscarriages. At some point, I began to expect loss instead of joy.
I sheltered my children from these losses as best I could. This was a natural extension of sheltering myself from these losses. I am a big fan of repressing pain and sorrow. You'll not convince me that depression and crying are good for the soul. My children knew of two of these losses. One, immediately after the worst was over, and at that time, we mentioned the one from 2009. They were so devastated, I did not tell them about the last one.
And I definitely did not tell them I was pregnant with this baby for quite some time. I wasn't sure how long to wait, but often things just work themselves out with time.
The first hurdle, in my mind, was getting past the 6 - 8 week mark. Twice, the first indication that something was wrong was when I began to spot. Somewhere around week 7, I began the process of getting a referral to the midwife group I wanted to use. This should have taken, at most, a week. It took more than four (because government-run health care is that good). The next challenge was confirming a heartbeat. With my second loss, I went to the midwives at around 10 weeks, but the baby was only 8 1/2 weeks in size with no heartbeat. It was another 2 weeks before my body expelled the baby. Even though I was over 11 weeks by the time I got an appointment with this child, I knew that there was still a possibility that the baby had already died.
The midwives have an ultrasound machine, but the woman who does their scans is only in on Tuesdays. I knew that, but the first appointment they had with the midwives was on a Friday and they had this funny thing about scheduling first appointments with the ultrasound lady. They didn't seem to care that that's all I cared about. What's the point of doing that whole history thing and drawing blood and having a physical exam if you're not going to have a baby in the end?
So I went in on that Friday late afternoon, last appointment of the week, and gave blood and recited my medical history (having written my medical history prior to the appointment) and had my eyes, nose, ears and glands checked. I had a breast exam, and then she felt my uterus and said the size matched my dates, so everything looked good.
Then she got the little sonogram machine that lets you hear the heartbeat. She warned me it was still early (I knew), but she said let's try to hear one. She tried and she tried and she tried. And I might have been fine if she had stopped after a minute and said, "Well, these babies don't like to come out for these things, and it's still too early, so we'll bring you in for an ultrasound on Tuesday and see the baby then."
But, no, that's not how it went. "There it was!" she said, but then she lost it. I didn't hear it. She desperately wanted to give me that thread of hope, but the more she searched, the harder it became to maintain my composure. She left me for a minute to get a newer machine, and it gave me time to dab at my eyes, take a deep breath, and turn off my brain. "Don't think about anything!" I ordered myself. She came back and after another agonizing minute or two said, "Can you hear that, in the background, that ticking?" There was a ticking, like the second hand on a clock, faintly, which sounded most like some sort of static interference. "That's the heartbeat," she insisted. Riiiiight.
She was convinced, and my logical, intelligent brain reminded me that she is an expert and has heard thousands of heartbeats on these machines, so she knows what she's talking about. My illogical, emotional side, though, decided that I would not tell the children, not yet.
Friday afternoon until Tuesday morning is a long time to wait for something important, but I managed to push my worries aside by simply not thinking about the baby as best I could. That Tuesday morning, I left Fritz in charge so I could go to a "doctor's appointment." On the drive there, I could feel my pulse and respiration increase as my anxiety fought to surface.
All was well. The ultrasound lady showed me the healthy heartbeat, and she pushed my abdomen to try to get the baby to turn toward the wand. We watched an arm lift a hand to the face. And I fell in love, again. I fell in love with this baby. I fell in love with my husband who helped create this new life. And I fell in love with God who gave me another precious gift.
I think I called my husband on the way home.
I know I called my sister, who had been praying so hard for me for weeks.
I called my kids and Katie answered. I had her check in the fridge for lettuce and tomatoes for our Taco Tuesday dinner. I told her I would stop quickly at the store, but that I had some good news to share when I got home. I thought about telling the kids and wondered what they would think. It's not a topic they nag me about - like going to Disney World.
By the time I got home, all the kids were eager to know what I had to tell them. As I gestured for them to calm down, one asked, "Where were you, Mommy?"
"She had an ultrasound," said my nosy 13 year old son who is in the habit of studying my Google calendar. If only he were as interested in charts of Latin verb conjugations.
"What's an ultrasound?" someone asked.
"It's when they look to see if there's a baby growing inside you," explained my suddenly too-smart-to-tolerate 13 year old son. Apparently, he did not get the memo about how homeschooling shelters children from real life.
"And do you?" asked the children.
"Yes, I do," I answered.
And they cheered. They cheered.
They could not have given me a better gift than this joy at knowing we are adding another member to the family.
I remember when I came home from the hospital with Billy. Fritz enjoyed a rigid bedtime routine: bath, pajamas, brush teeth, story book, prayer, kiss goodnight. After the disruption of mommy being away for a few days, I wanted to get back into it. He needed me; he had missed me so much. I sat him on my lap in his bedroom to read his book while Bill paced with the baby in the living room. In our tiny condo, he could not prevent us from hearing the baby cry and fuss to be nursed. Fritz was worried that I would leave him to go to the baby, and upset at the baby's presence in our home. The book was all about loving a child all his life no matter what. I started to sob, and all I could think was that I had ruined our perfect family. "What have I done?" I wailed to myself.
What have I done? I have multiplied the love.