My husband and I have been together for almost nine years, and married for nearly seven. Having children was one of the first things that we talked about when we first met. I naively assumed that it would be easy, being that both sides of my family are very prolific. How wrong I was.
Our first loss occurred in March of 2004. I wasn’t even sure that I was pregnant. I just knew that I was ten days late (my cycle is like clockwork) and I started bleeding. A visit to the doctor confirmed that I had been about six weeks pregnant.
The second loss occurred nearly a year to the date later. I was late, took a test, got a positive, and started bleeding the next day.
The third loss happened in July of 2005, just four months after the second one. I carried this pregnancy for four days beyond my missed period.
The fourth loss…I got a positive, after trying one time, in September of 2008. Even though I cringed every time I went to the bathroom, expecting blood, there was none. Everything was going great. I heard the heartbeat and saw the baby in several ultrasounds, and I’d never felt better. I was growing and glowing. Then on December 11 (the day after my birthday), we went for our sixteen week checkup. They put the doppler on my belly, and we were excited to hear our baby’s heartbeat. There was nothing but silence in the room. They decided to take me to ultrasound to see what they could find out. As soon as they put the probe on my belly, I knew. I looked at the screen and my baby was there, but so still. I looked at the doctor and said, “My baby’s dead, right?” She apologized and told me that yes, it looked like the baby had quit growing at twelve weeks. I didn’t understand. I couldn’t keep a pregnancy before that…now this one kept going for a month after it should have. They called it a missed miscarriage. I had a D & C the following morning.
Loss number five was the following July. Once again, positive test, and then the bleeding started the next day.
Now the tests started in earnest. Nobody could find anything wrong. The good news was that I could get pregnant, and quite easily at that. We just had to find out how to keep me pregnant. My regular endocrinologist sent me to a reproductive endocrinologist, and they diagnosed me with a luteal phase defect…a progesterone deficiency. That’s IT? Don’t get me wrong, I was happy that the condition was treatable, but seriously, that’s something that should have been caught YEARS previous. Anyway, I was prescribed progesterone suppositories, to be used for the fourteen days following ovulation, and until twelve weeks if I fell pregnant. The low progesterone was making my uterine lining incompetent, and that’s why the fertilized eggs weren’t “sticking,” so to speak. I started the suppositories in November of 2009, and those were supposed to bulk up the uterine lining, making it nice and nutritious for a fertilized egg to stick to. I took an ovulation predictor on March 23, and it was positive. We hoped for the best. All the while, we were in the process of buying our first house. Now, I’m the kind of person who may as well have bought stock in pregnancy tests and ovulation predictors, and I can’t stand to have them laying around, unused. On April 7, we closed on our house. On April 8, I noticed that I had an unused digital test. It was only a day before my period was due, and I hadn’t had any symptoms or anything, but I thought what the heck. Usually, when I’d take a pregnancy test, I’d sit on the floor, hyperventilating and shaking, waiting for the lines to show up or waiting for the word “pregnant” to show up. This time, though, I took my time, finished going to the bathroom, zipped up, and glanced casually at the test sitting on the bathroom counter. There it was…a big fat PREGNANT. Ultrasounds to confirm a gestational sac and, ten days later, a heartbeat, all confirmed that things were fantastic.
I started wearing maternity jeans at seven weeks. I really did start to show that fast. I had many people ask me if I was carrying multiples, and I can’t say that the thought didn’t cross my mind. Our twenty week anatomy scan came and went, with the tech and the doctors remarking how perfect our baby was and how everything was measuring right on schedule. They gave me a due date of December 17…one week after my birthday. And every day, I grew bigger and bigger. Seriously. I was huge. Enormous. I gained 52 pounds, probably because the baby had me eating hot fudge caramel sundaes and drinking gallons of milk every night. (I hate milk, by the way.) Around thirty weeks, I was so big that I was already having trouble breathing. And walking. And getting out of the bath tub. And shaving…everywhere. But my roly poly little baby was kicking and punching away, all day, every day. And all night. I never got morning sickness (though everybody who was around me in the first few months of pregnancy got it for me…including my grandmother, who hadn’t thrown up in fifteen years. My father and my husband were sick, too. It’s called couvade. I thought it was hilarious.) I had no heartburn, no glucose troubles, nothing. As a matter of fact, it was like pregnancy fixed everything for me. I had bad acne before I got pregnant. It completely went away. I had terrible anxiety. During pregnancy, it was gone. And I was the opposite of constipated, which was awesome, because I had always been a once-a-weeker, if I was lucky.
Months went on and I grew and grew. I was afraid, like any pregnant woman, of the body changes that could and would happen. It made me feel ungrateful and horrible, though, when I thought about wearing a two-piece this coming summer, and wondered if I would be able to. I mean, we had struggled with having a baby for the better part of six years. What kind of jerk was I, worrying about what the baby was doing to my body? I should have been focusing on what I was doing to the baby’s body, and that was being its support system, the reason my baby was alive. So I did. But I won’t lie…every day, I asked my husband if I had gotten any stretchmarks on my belly yet. I was sure that it was only a matter of time. After all, someone can’t grow as huge as I did and not have a few battle scars. But I never got any at all, except two on my breasts (which turned into two hundred when I started nursing). I chalk that up to good genetics. Neither my mother nor either of my grandmothers got them on their bellies, so I guess I’m just stretchy.
We planned on a completely natural birth, attended by midwives, but I ended up having to be induced because they suspected he was big and I was a week overdue. I progressed quickly, with no epidural, but when they broke my water and found meconium, the contractions became unbearable and they advised me to get the epidural so they could speed things along. I got to ten centimeters in nine hours, but the baby wouldn’t drop down. The doctor said that she could crank up the pitocin all night, but he probably wasn’t going to get through my skinny little pelvis, so we decided on a C-section just to have it over with. It was Christmas Eve, anyway.
Once I was in surgery and the baby was coming out, I heard cries of “Oh my god, how beautiful!” and “It’s a boy!” They started trying to guess how much he weighed. I heard somebody say “Nine pounds six ounces,” and I laughed out loud. There was no way a baby that big just came out of my body. But the scale told a much more horrifying and impressive number…ten pounds and twelve ounces. Really?? No way!!! That was more of a shock than anything else in this entire experience. As the doctor was stitching me up, she said, “Well, your belly is gone now.”
I’m now 15 weeks and 4 days postpartum. These pictures were taken when I was 10 weeks and 5 days postpartum. The pregnancy photos are of my belly at 39w5d (black sweatpants) and 40w6d (teal tanktop, looking way past rough). I’ve also included a picture of my (not so) little guy, who is everything I’ve ever dreamed of and more. The white background is him at two weeks, there is one of him nursing, and the other is him at 9 weeks. The one in the paisley tank top is me before I got pregnant, and I’ve included a recent one of both of us, taken on March 31.
Believe it or not, I like my scar. You’d think that since it’s a reminder of how botched our birth plan ended up being, that it would signal failure to me. Actually, I think the opposite. I got to experience contractions and hard natural labor, contractions with an epidural, and a surgical birth. I got to experience a little bit of everything in Julian’s birth. My mother isn’t here anymore, but I have a scar just like she did. I came into the world through her belly, and it’s sort of appropriate, I suppose, that her grandson came into the world the day after her birthday (he was born on Christmas Eve, she on the 23rd, the day I was induced) via the same route that her daughter did. I refuse to look at my scar as a sign of failure on my part to not birth my son the way I had planned. He was huge! I don’t think he would have come out vaginally if I had stayed in labor for a week, and certainly not without me needing a few hundred stitches. I’m glad it happened the way it did. I weighed 142 when I got pregnant, and when I delivered, I was close to 200, and probably over it by the time they pumped me full of fluids. I’m back down to 155 now, but honestly, I don’t care if I don’t lose another pound. The weight that has come off (other than nearly twenty pounds of baby, placenta, water, and all that stuff) came off because of the breastfeeding, I think, because I haven’t done anything. It’s too cold to go running, and I don’t want to leave this perfect little creature anyway. It seems like pregnancy has redistributed my extra weight into sexy places that I never had it before. I’ve always had skinny hips, no butt, and no waist. I was always kind of straight up and down. Now I’m curvy. None of my pre-pregnancy clothes fit me yet. My thighs are a little meatier and I still have some extra skin. I don’t have any stretch marks, but my skin certainly stretched, and my pants won’t button over it even if I can manage to get them past my newly acquired thunder thighs. Yeah, as the weather gets warmer, more of the weight will probably drop off, but I’m happy the way I am. My body, this body that I thought would NEVER carry a baby to term, went above and beyond this time. I grew him on the inside and I continue to nourish him on the outside. It turns out that I was pretty good at this baby growing business, after all.
I think that we focus too much on the physical “shape” of a mother. What about the ways in which we transform emotionally? What is our “shape” once the empty areas have been filled in with the senses of accomplishment and pride and unfathomable, bottomless love that come along with having a child? Where there was a dull and aching void, now there is the warm fulfillment of wishes granted, of dreams brought to life. If our bodies have been changed, we should see those changes not only as humble sacrifices, but the same way as we view our emotional experience…to love someone more than you love yourself, your emotions have to go through a tremendous amount of expansion or stretching. Just as our bodies twisted out of the American society’s “ideal” shape, so did our lives, in ways more complicated, hard, and beautiful than I could ever have imagined. And if you’re truly honest with yourself, at the end of the day, what would you rather have? I’ll take the physical reminders that I grew a life inside me every single time as opposed to the emptiness and the sense that something was lacking that filled me before I had my son.
6 pregnancies, one birth
15 weeks 4 days pp today, 10 weeks 5 days in the pictures
I have a website with chronological pictures of my belly here.