The Last Day That Was

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

**NOTE: Pregnancy mentioned**

Today, I am 15w6d pregnant with Michael.  I can see what he looks like whenever I glance at the photos on the wall or my dresser, when I look at Nicholas.  Perhaps not the features of his face, since all of the children look fairly different from each other, but his size, the way his body is proportioned, those things.  This was the end... This was the last day that I held Nicholas on the inside, the last day that he lived in the womb and out of it, the day that life changed forever.

15w6d seems so early in this pregnancy yet when I look back on Nicholas and Sophia, it seemed like forever.  Was it the scewed time frame that years and years and years of infertility gave?  Was it because of the injections and the ultrasounds and the constant monitoring of the first two weeks of the cycle, when it wasn't just my body or even just Peter and I, but included a medical team?  Was it because the two week wait in between IUI and pregnancy blood test seemed like F-O-R-E-V-E-R?  I don't know, but back then 15w6d seems like my pregnancy was long and getting longer (in a good way).

I've wondered if it was the surprise factor in Michael's conception.  I was so busy leading up to the marathon that I knew when I was due to ovulate but it was just a day on the calendar and, frankly, Peter and I didn't plan to have (or not have) sex around O day, so it wasn't a notation in my mind.  We'd been intimate in the past around ovulation and, two weeks later, my period came.  What would make this one different?  But I knew earlier (or at least at the same time) as my other pregnancies.  I took a HPT the day before my period was due, with the blood test the day it was due.  So, time wise, I've known from the start, just as with everyone else, and yet... 15w6d seems so early.  So new.  So young in this journey.

I've blogged so much about the night Nicholas was born, including in his 5th birthday post, that I wont write the details out again.  Writing them doesnt numb them in my memory and I only need close my eyes to see it like a movie, playing out in my head in real time.  But was he really born this early?  This soon?  Was that part of normal/textbook pregnancy really gone in what amounts to a whisper of time?  I'll complete what's considered 4 months of pregnancy tomorrow and begin the 5th month- for a 38 week pregnancy timeline, that's 42%... Less than half.  Even if I thought I'd have a 36 ot 37 week pregnancy with Nicholas and Sophia, it's still not quite half.  And yet, back then... Back then, it wasn't so soon... It wasn't so early...

It wasn't too soon for Nicholas to try to breathe...  To try to reach out and try to cry... To have an APGAR score... To try to live.

And yet, it was.  It was far too early for his lungs to suck in air, for his body to even have the basic ability to cry.  To score more than a small little 2 on the APGAR scale... Far, far too early for him to survive.  Knowing that, especially now, brings it home all the more.  We look at 24 weeks as this great line in the sand and, from a medical point of view, that special viability day for those of us who struggle to hit that milestone, is a huge deal.  They can at least do something.  There is at least a 50/50 shot.  But who wants to be the 1 in 2 that doesn't bring their child home?  Who wants their child to be the 1 in 2 that doesn't make it?  And, if you're on the other side of the coin, who wants their child to suffer as they struggle for each breath in the mechanical womb of the NICU?  And, we all know... We know the 25 and 26 and 27 and 28 weekers who, even now, aren't able to survive.  Medical technology has bought us so much time and has given us so much hope, and so many chances, but it isn't perfect.  It can't save everyone.

But to know, in real time, in real memory, what life for Michael would be like, on the outside, today... I shudder.  Thinking of Nicholas's birth and life, while sad in its outcome, is still a happy memory... It's the moment my son entered the world, it's the culmination of our wants and love for him.  It's having him hold my finger and kick against my hand, of being able to kiss him and hold him and tell him how much I love him.  These are beautiful, wonderful memories.  I look at his image, forever stilled in the few photographs we have, and I can't help but smile.  He is my son: perfect and wonderful, a saint who was too brave for this world to bear.  But...

But...

But...

There's the dark side, the other side, the side that brings more pain than is physically imaginable.  The side that wonders how his body struggled and ached as he begged to breathe...  The side that wonders if each pulse of his hand was his tiny voice screaming out, "Mama, help me!!!"... The side that wonders if each kick of his legs was a struggle against the smothering, strangling presence of air crushing his immature lungs.  Those thoughts, that knowledge of what life could- would- be like for Michael if he were born today...  Those thoughts of how his life, if he lived at all outside the womb, would be so mercifully short and so painfully long for him...  I cringe.  I ache.  I beg and plead for a different outcome... For July... For his safety and his health and for a life of as good as can be, in this world, with his father and his big sister and his big brother and I... In this world, with his oldest brother and oldest sister, and older brother, watching over him.

As Sarah said in her letter to Nicholas, I don't mourn Nicholas's life.  Without it, there wouldn't be this life, there wouldnt be Bobby and Maya (at least not as they are) and there wouldnt be a baby Michael.  Life wouldnt be this.  Each of us has a time on earth and to mourn the life we had is, in my opinion, to diminish it... To try and make it our own...  I mourn not having him here with me- I always will ache to hold my children who have died and to watch them grow in this world- but I love who they were here, and who they are now, in an ethereal realm far beyond and yet so close.  Sometimes I mourn the innocence of not knowing; I'm grateful, mind you, for all that we've learned on the journey, for all we've met, for all we've been helped by and that we've helped... But, no mother should know what her not-quite-16 week old son feels like in her hands... Because he should still be growing inside. 

I know the next few weeks, especially in the time line of Nicholas and Sophia's pregnancy and with their birthdays, will be tough... I know the milestones for February- 15w6d, 17w, 18w- are going to be some of the harder days to come through.  Having a new baby become gestationally older than their older siblings is something in pregnancy that is a struggle, for me at least.  I remember when Alexander was "older" than Nicholas, and when Bobby and Maya surpassed all of them gestationally.  It was tough- happy, but tough.  When I see 20w5d (in March, which is when I went into the hospital with Bobby and Maya) and 27w5d (last day of April, when Bobby and Maya were born), I know those will be interesting, from an emotional standpoint.  And May through July?  I can't even imagine being pregnant then... I've never known the third trimester.

But today... Today is another day for remembering Nicholas and the joy... the pain is there, but the joy is stronger.  Remembering, and prayng that he will watch over little Michael as he crosses this threshold and grows stronger each day.

Nicholas's 5th Birthday Cake - Feb 1, 2013

5 comments:

sonja said...

**hugs** Thinking of you and Nicholas.

Amy L. said...

Beautifully written. It all resonates so much. My babies came a little earlier than Nicholas and weren't alive when they delivered (I know my daughter wasn't, and assume my son wasn't, either, but left my body and didn't check), but I still knew them, and loved them. I'm already further in this pregnancy than I've ever been. Some people point out how quickly 24 weeks will be here, and while I know that at least medical professionals would *do something* to save him if he comes then, it's of little comfort to me and my husband. We're aiming for 28 weeks because those stats are so much more reassuring (even though we've already fallen in the 1-3% of the bad side, so 15-20% is still huge). Any days or weeks past then will be a miracle and a bonus.

Hugs, Mama...

Ms. J said...

Tears...prayers...sniffles...hugs...

I'm patting your back and gently running your back from afar. And thinking about all of your much loved children.

Catherine W said...

So beautiful.

Time seems to do strange things. I also thought that 23w4d seemed SO early in my pregnancy with R but like an age in my pregnancy with the twins. And I don't know why.

Your dear Nicholas. Such a strong baby - to try at such an early point in this life. He was perfect and I can't help but smile at your description of his life, holding your finger, kicking against your hand, his perfect face.

But I know that there is a dark side. I wonder about those screams, that struggle. Mercifully short and painfully long. That is a perfect summary of the lives of these dear children.

My dear, I am hoping that you get all of this time with Michael, 20w, 27w and all the way into the third trimester. That everything is. . . . more conventional, just fine.

I know that my pregnancy with R did not heal all the wounds, it never could. But to cross those thresholds, to feel him growing stronger, to hold him in my arms after birth. That is something I would wish for every single mother and every single baby.

And I wish it especially for you my dear friend. I have been absent lately, my words seem to have dried up but you and all of your dear children are often in my thoughts xo

Anonymous said...

Very moving.