Happy Birthday, Ginny

Ginny, 

It’s been one year since I felt you wiggle in my belly. You were more than a belly bump or a series of kicks. I felt your spirit. You were with me wherever I went. I could feel your presence in the same way I know when your dad walks in a room. 

I felt you were joyful and fun. I imagined being silly together, laughing together. I felt your playful spirit. Beyond that, I had an indescribable sense of you. I’ve been told by other mothers that the sense you get from your child in the womb is the same as the sense you get from them outside the womb. That convinces me that I truly did know you. I do know you. 

But one year ago, when I held your body in my arms, I didn’t feel you anymore. You weren’t in your empty shell. I waited to see you. Then when I did, you weren’t there. You were in heaven. We missed you.

We miss you. Every single day we miss you. I try to remember that sense of your spirit. I do feel you. 

But I wish I could see you, hear you, hug you, laugh with you. I wish we were singing “Happy Birthday” to you and watching you make a mess of a cake. I wish I was laughing and saying, “She’s never had this much sugar before!” I wish I was wetting a washcloth and wiping you down. I wish I was helping you open a new toy and watching you reach for it. That’s one of a million moments we are missing with you. 

But we will have more than a million moments together one day. One day this time apart will seem like nothing. But it doesn’t feel like nothing now. This year seems massive. 

So we celebrate this massive year. We celebrate your precious life. We celebrate your spirit that was with us for a short time and is in heaven now with Jesus. 

We celebrate making it through this year of grief. We survived when it seemed like we wouldn’t. 

We celebrate the love, perspective, and hope you’ve given us. 

We thank God for all these things, most importantly you!

Please know your daddy and I love you with all our broken, growing hearts. Your brother will know you and love you too. We are family forever. 

Happy Birthday!

Love, Mama

One Year Ago: The Day of No Heartbeat

Why Have You Forsaken Me?

To the choirmaster: according to The Doe of the Dawn. A Psalm of David.

22 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
    and by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
    they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a man,
    scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
    they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
“He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;
    let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
    you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
10 On you was I cast from my birth,
    and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11 Be not far from me,
    for trouble is near,
    and there is none to help.

12 Many bulls encompass me;
    strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me,
    like a ravening and roaring lion.

14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
    it is melted within my breast;
15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
    you lay me in the dust of death.

16 For dogs encompass me;
    a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
17 I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my garments among them,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.

19 But you, O Lord, do not be far off!
    O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
    my precious life from the power of the dog!
21     Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

22 I will tell of your name to my brothers;
    in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
    and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or abhorred
    the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
    but has heard, when he cried to him.

25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
    my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek him shall praise the Lord!
    May your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
    and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
    shall worship before you.
28 For kingship belongs to the Lord,
    and he rules over the nations.

29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
    before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
    even the one who could not keep himself alive.
30 Posterity shall serve him;
    it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
    that he has done it.

The Lord Is My Shepherd

A Psalm of David.

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

It’s a…

Finding out the sex of the baby is by far my favorite moment of this pregnancy so far!

We decided to do the cell-free genetic screening this time around. This blood test checks for a few different genetic disorders and also identifies the sex chromosomes. We met with genetic counselors. They explained that all of Ginny’s genetic testing came back normal so they have no reason to believe we were at a higher risk of genetic defects. They drew my blood and said they would call within 5-9 business days with the results. 

Then Daniel left for a business trip to San Diego. My sister Keri and I joined him a few days later for vacation. We went to yummy restaurants (side-note: Daniel ate 22 tacos in his 10 days there), saw a bunch of sea lions, visited the town where I was born, watched paragliders, and went beach-hopping up the coast. It was so much fun!

Throughout the first few days of the trip, I was slightly pre-occupied with knowing the genetic counselor could call at any time. I really hoped we’d hear while we were together on this trip instead of back home while I was at work alone. Every time my phone made a noise, my heart jumped. Is that the call?! 

Meanwhile we were following all the stops we had planned for the trip…except one. I really wanted to show Daniel the beautiful beach my grandmother had taken Keri and me 13 years earlier. The problem was I couldn’t remember where the beach was. I described the place to Keri. It has beautiful black stones all along the beach. She had no memory of it. I tried googling it with no luck. I asked our Uber drivers; they had no idea. I was beginning to think I had dreamed of this beach. But I specifically remembered thinking, “Wow! This is so  beautiful. I need to bring Daniel here one day.”

It was Friday afternoon. I realized that it was past 5pm in the Eastern timezone; it was too late to get a phone call from the genetic counselor this week. I felt disappointed. I also had given up on finding the beach. Oh well… we were in beautiful San Diego on the way to our next adventure destination. We were heading to Torrey Pines State Reserve, where we would get to do a little hiking. 

We pulled into the parking lot just along the beach. I looked out the window and saw it! It’s the beach! The beach of my dreams is real! I saw the black stones and the memories came back. This is it! Keri suddenly remembered and agreed. Wow! I couldn’t believe we actually stumbled upon it! 

I was so excited to get out and show Daniel the highly anticipated beach. Just as he put the car in park, my phone rang. Could this be the call? I picked it up, and yes it was the genetic counselor. I put her on speaker phone so Daniel could hear. The results came back great. They showed no signs of the genetic disorders. I was very relieved. Then she asked if we wanted to know the sex. We quickly responded yes. She said they detected a Y chromosome. It’s a BOY!! 

Wow! A boy! Daniel and I smiled at each other while Keri cheered. Something about knowing that he is a boy made it all seem more real. He’s his own person; he is real. We love him. 

We got out and walked to the beach. Daniel and Keri agreed the beach was indeed very beautiful. We came up with the idea to collect the bluest stones and spell out “boy” for a cute picture. What a perfect moment!

I stood on the beach staring at the waves with the sun on my face. I felt real joy. I couldn’t believe how beautiful that moment was. I felt God was telling me, “I do want to bless you. I do want joy for you. The season of sorrow will not be forever. There are good things ahead for you.” In that moment, I felt more hope that we will actually get to bring this baby boy home with us than ever before. I’m so grateful. I will never forget it. 

The First Ultrasounds

One thing I was most nervous about getting pregnant again was going back to the ultrasound clinic at the hospital. The waiting room was the last place in our former “before” life. The dark room was where our world came crashing down. The thought of going back there frightened me, but I knew it would be worth it. 

After finding out I was pregnant, I made two appointments right away. The first was with my MFM (high risk OB) and the second was an ultrasound (the first ultrasound since Ginny died). That first prenatal appointment was on December 4th. I was anxious for it, but mostly just eager to come up with a plan for this pregnancy. I figured this appointment would just be talking because it is too early to hear the baby’s heartbeat. I had some comfort in knowing that we couldn’t get bad news and my heart wouldn’t be broken in this appointment. 

We arrived for the appointment. Daniel and I had a good discussion with the doctor, and we had a plan in place for the next 9 months. Then the doctor said, “Let’s do an ultrasound and see the baby today.” My heart leapt. I hadn’t mentally prepared for this. But maybe this is better. I didn’t have a chance to worry and work myself up for it. The nurse brought the ultrasound machine in the exam room, and the doctor stepped out while I went to the restroom. I came back into the room and immediately apologized to Daniel. He asked why I was apologizing. I said, “I left you alone in a room with an ultrasound machine.” He said, “Yeah, that was a bit harder than I thought it would be.” 

The doctor and nurse returned. They attempted an over-the-belly ultrasound. I knew it was too early to see much that way. Then they switch to a transvaginal ultrasound.    I didn’t care. I just wanted to see a heartbeat. We looked at the tiny blob on the screen. We saw a flicker! What a relief! There was a heartbeat!

As we were leaving, Daniel said, “I haven’t been this happy in a really long time. I was so happy to see the heartbeat.” That warmed my heart. 

This took so much pressure off the ultrasound the next week. There is a heartbeat, at least for now. 

As the ultrasound appointment drew near, I got more and more fearful. I know my true fear was another loss, but my mind wouldn’t let myself focus on that possibility. What I was so nervous about was …what if we get the same sonographer? I vaguely remember what she looks like. What if we get the same room? I think it was room 6 maybe. What if we get the same doctor? The one whose face I was looking at and voice I was hearing in the worst moment of my life. What if all this happens, and I have a panic attack or some sort of PTSD episode? I knew it was irrational. Even if we had the some sonographer, same room, and same doctor, the outcome is likely different. This is a new day and a new situation. I couldn’t help but be nervous. 

I read techniques for calming panic. I learned how to breath right and what to focus on. I wrote scriptures on index cards and put them in my pocket. Just knowing they were there helped. 

Daniel and I arrived to the clinic. The lady at the front desk said, “You’ve been here before, haven’t you?” Yes we had. Did she remember us? 

We waited in the same waiting room. It felt different now. It was such a happy and hopeful place before. I thought of it as a place parents wait to see their babies, but now I know it is also a place parents wait to get terrible news. Daniel and I tried to distract each other. Finally my name was called. I looked up. The sonographer was not the one I vaguely remembered. In fact she was the one who did Ginny’s anatomy scan. That was a wonderful memory. She was friendly and brought us back to “Room 6”. I felt afraid, but when we walked in the room I realized I was mistaken. Room 6 is not the dreaded room. 

As soon as we walked in, she asked, “Is this your first child?” That question. Of course that question. “No actually, our daughter died at 35 weeks in utero. This is our second child.” Tears immediately started flowing down my face. Daniel explained, “This is our first time back here.” She was immediately warm and empathetic. She said this is going to be good because we will get to see our baby. She took me to the bathroom. While I was in there, she asked Daniel more details of what happened. She asked what our daughter’s name is. I had pulled myself together, and the sonographer asked if I was ready. I said yes. She went straight for the transvaginal ultrasound. I couldn’t look at the screen at first. I needed confirmation of a heartbeat before I could bear it. I heard her say, “There’s the heartbeat!” I felt such relief. Baby is growing right on track. She printed us a few pictures and emailed me more. 

As we left, I walked past the sonographer who couldn’t find Ginny’s heartbeat. I think she recognized me because she looked at me with such sadness in her eyes. I know that was a hard day for her. It had to be.

We left the clinic knowing our baby is alive and with a new memory of that place. I felt proud of myself. We did it! We faced our fear of that place. We took the rest of the day off to be together and celebrate. 

My next appointments and ultrasounds would be scheduled at a different location. We realized that although the hospital is less than 5 minutes away from both of our jobs, it is worth the extra 15 minute drive to not have the anxiety of returning there. I feel more peace at the new location. Each appointment is a challenge on its own without bad memories on top of it. I’m grateful to have location options and still see the same MFM team. 

At the 11 week ultrasound, they measured the nuchal translucency. All measurements were good. This was the first ultrasound where the baby actually starts looking like a baby, not just a little blob. I love seeing the little nose and hands.

We are now anticipating the big targeted anatomy ultrasound scheduled for March 5th. We are excited to see the baby wiggle, gain peace of mind, and get pictures. But we are anxious because this is where they will be checking how the baby has developed. After hearing so many baby loss stories, I now know what can happen at these appointments. I will probably have a pocket full of scriptures and hesitate to look at the screen. But no matter what the outcome, we will get through it. I’ve never felt braver. 

High Risk

Just a few hours before we found out we were pregnant again, Daniel and I were talking with a wise friend after church. We were talking about losing Ginny and how it can be difficult to hear of others giving birth to living babies. She said that as a community of friends, we agree to walk with each other through the good and the bad. She described how she recently attended a Jewish wedding. In the Jewish tradition, the bride and groom break a glass. Breaking the glass is acknowledging that they are forming this covenant in a broken world. The world is full of pain, suffering, and risk, but they choose to take the risk and support each other – with the help of God. 

Later that day, I took a positive pregnancy test. I remembered our friend’s story of the Jewish wedding. Daniel and I discussed it; we have chosen to bring a child into this world, knowing full well it is broken. Unlike the last pregnancy, we know there is risk and there is pain and there is loss in this world. We acknowledge it, and we still took the risk. But we will be there to support each other and our children – with the help of God.

My pregnancy has been classified as “high-risk”. After all the test results were evaluated by a few different doctors, the true cause of Ginny’s death is still unknown. All we know is that Ginny had intrauterine growth restriction (aka she was small) and the placenta was small and unhealthy. All the conditions that Ginny and I were tested for came back negative. We don’t know exactly what happened. Because of this, there is a “high” risk that it will happen again. The doctor explained that “high” means 1/100, so most likely I will have a healthy living baby. The statistic doesn’t mean much to me. Once you realize it can happen to you, you are always aware it can happen to you. 

Since I am high-risk, I see special OBs called Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) doctors. I will get much more monitoring. My ultrasounds will be more frequent and a lot more thorough. I take low-dosage aspirin daily. The doctors won’t let me go past 39 weeks, and they said if I am really anxious, they will induce at 37 weeks. That’s why my due date (40 weeks) is July 28, but I know I will deliver no later than July 21. I feel good about this plan.

If only I had more monitoring during my pregnancy with Ginny, maybe they would’ve noticed she wasn’t growing, maybe they would’ve seen the placenta wasn’t healthy, maybe they would’ve induced me, maybe she would’ve spent a little time in the NICU and then come home, maybe she would be in my arms right now. 

I hate to have regrets, but one of my biggest is not getting a third trimester ultrasound. When my mom visited to help set up the nursery in mid-February last year (two weeks before Ginny died), she offered to take me to a private ultrasound clinic to get pictures of Ginny. I knew that would probably cost a few hundred dollars. “We will see her in person in just 6 weeks. We shouldn’t spend money on that. Plus she is so big and smooshed in there; we probably wouldn’t get a good face picture.” … Worst case scenario, we would’ve had more pictures of Ginny – pictures that I would’ve treasured forever. Best case scenario, they would’ve caught that she was small and sent me to the doctor. We could’ve saved her! Oh, what I wouldn’t spend on that ultrasound knowing what I know!But of course, I didn’t know any of this then. I made what I thought was the smartest decision.  

As painful as that “what if” is, it does give me some comfort for this pregnancy. The doctors say that what happened to Ginny didn’t happen overnight. Even if the same thing were to happen again, we would hopefully catch it in time! When I get to a point, I will be getting weekly ultrasounds and non stress tests. If I get far enough along for viability, it is likely that this baby will survive. I hope. 

It is worth the risk.