On Wednesday, Bennett had a meltdown. Shortly after that, I had a breakdown.
It was fun.
On the way to school, Ben asked if we could stop at McDonalds since the cinnamon roll I gave him wasn't exactly a healthy breakfast. I wasn't sure whether or not I should be more ashamed of the fact that he was aware that his mother had not given him a healthy breakfast or the fact that he saw McDonalds as a healthy alternative.
While at school, the aide in his classroom came out to tell me he had a stomach ache because "his mom gave him a cinnamon roll for breakfast and it made him not feel well." For the record, he had fruit and milk, too. But whatever.
A few minutes later, the aide brought him out to me and said he still wasn't feeling well. It was only 30 minutes before class was over, so I just decided to pack up and take him home. He had been up with nightmares the night before, so my guess was just that he was tired.
This is where it all blew up in my face.
"I DON'T WANT TO GO HOME!" He kicked and screamed. He tried to run away. Several times, I sat him on the couch to tried and reason with him (because, of course, 4-year-olds are very rational, especially when they're running on little sleep). Ultimately, I had to gather all of my belongings and carry my flailing child out of the building.
I'm not even sure how to appropriately describe the level of noise coming out of my blessed child's mouth. I'm fairly certain the teachers were ready to go into lockdown mode, because surely there was a student being attacked in the hall.
As I'm carrying him out of the church, he starts yelling, "YOU'RE HURTING ME ON PURPOSE! YOU'RE HURTING ME ON PURPOSE!" Um, what?! I cannot explain to you how happy I was that I was in a safe place with people who know that I do not purposely hurt my children and not, say, the Target parking lot.
I'm so proud to say that throughout this whole thing, I totally kept my cool, was emotionally stable and handled everything with grace.
I did keep my cool, but I was fighting back tears the entire time. As soon as he started yelling, "You're hurting me on purpose!" I was weeping. Like, ugly sobbing right there in the parking lot. I was humiliated, frustrated and unsure of how to handle the situation. I was grateful that the preschool director and classroom aide were carrying my stuff for me so I didn't have to go back in.
Why do I tell this fairly typical story about fatigued preschooler behavior? I'm getting to it . . .
The next day, I dropped Jack at school, and took Ben and Claire with me on a full day of errands. We went to Ann Arbor and stopped at Trader Joe's, the mall, The Treehouse, McDonalds (for a healthy lunch, of course), and then a stop to browse at The Toy House while we waited until Jack was done at school. It was a FULL day.
It was also a GREAT day. They were both so well behaved, Claire napped in the car on our way home from Ann Arbor, and we all had fun. Every time I asked them to do something, they responded with "OK, Mama" and every time they were frustrated, they used their words and we worked it out. If you were to have followed me all day, you'd think I had perfect kids, and that I was up for the award of Perfect Parent.
On two occasions during our outing there were older couples who stopped and commented on how well behaved my children were and how nice it was to see how they used their manners. I couldn't help but laugh, because you know if these same people had witnessed the episode the previous day, they'd be muttering under their breath about the lousy mother who needs to get her child under control.
So this is where I get to the point: Judging a parent based on the little slice of life that I happen to see that day is just not fair. I can't know if the mom I'm envying, who seems like she might have memorized the script from a love and logic instructional video, was crying in a parking lot yesterday because her son was throwing the mother of all tantrums. And the kid I see throwing a royal fit for his parents, who seem like they don't have a clue? It might be because they're all exhausted from nightmares that woke them up the whole night before (combined with the fact that his well-meaning mom wanted to give her kids a special treat for breakfast).
You just never know.
The fact is that I'm a good mom. And so are the other moms I encounter. To the best of my knowledge, I've never met a mom who refuses to feed her kids or who locks her kids in a closet while she goes to buy drugs, or who abuses her kids. The moms I know aren't perfect, but they're really good at what they do. We're all doing better than we think we are at this whole parenting gig.
I feel like I have so much catching up to do. I haven't really written anything about this pregnancy. It had a rocky start, so I think everything feels a little different because of that. I think maybe the fact that I'm older (I LOVE it with the midwife refers to the "maternal age" as a thing . . . I'm 35, not 50) and that I'm chasing three kids around contributes to most of the differences.
I mainly just have a lot more pain this time . . . tendon and joint pain all around my belly. I had very little nausea with the first three pregnancies, but was nauseated constantly for the first 10 weeks of this one. Of course, I googled the heck out of what that could mean. As it turns out, it simply means that I'm pregnant. There were a few days I couldn't even get out of bed because I felt so sick. Apple slices were the only thing I could eat without feeling sick.
My belly is growing faster than the first three, which is to be expected. I also started out looking a little pregnant already, so that contributed, I'm sure. I've developed an aversion to bacon, just like I did with Ben. Even the smell makes me gag. I haven't gained as much weight as I had with the other three by this point, but that's bound to change here eventually.
We had our 20 week ultrasound before we left on vacation last week and it was wonderful! It doesn't matter that it was the fourth time doing this . . . it was still amazing to see the little person growing inside of me. She looked healthy and perfect.
We brought home cupcakes with PINK frosting to share the news with
the kids. Jack and Ben really wanted a boy, so we weren't sure how they
would react to another sister. Jack said, "We'll probably still love
her anyway." Ben pouted. They both recovered from their
disappointment quickly and are now excited. Ben even said it would be
"nice for Claire to have a little friend." They started making a list
of potential names, the first of which was "Claire, Jr."
Here's a rough photo of my baby bump at 20 weeks. Pardon the beach hair and blurriness.
And proof that I can still see my toes. This is the only photographic evidence that I was on vacation with my family last week.
A few shots of her beautiful profile.
The tech said she was laying weird and had her feet tucked back into the sac (or something like that). At first, we were afraid we might not be able to find out her gender, but she finally gave it up. Here are the best shots she could get of her feet and a few fingers.
This is a long post, but it's the true story of baby #4.
THE FIRST TIME:
About a year ago in March, I found out that I was pregnant with baby #4.
A week later, I learned that it was a false alarm. I won't go into details, because they are humiliating. But I was not, in fact, pregnant.
That week that I thought that I was pregnant, however, was an emotional roller coaster. I cried for the first two days. Kyle and I couldn't talk about it without me crying. I was panicked about where we'd put the baby, and how we'd afford a baby and what on earth we were going to do with four children.
But as the week went on, we started to figure things out. People have had a lot more children in houses a lot smaller than ours. And finances? They always seem to work out. Maybe only one of our children will be able to go to college. The others can learn a trade, am I right? We were figuring it out. By the end of the week, my fear had turned to excitement.
Then, on that Friday, I discovered it was a false alarm I was devastated. I didn't have a miscarriage. I didn't lose a real baby. But I did lose something. Everyone who's ever been pregnant knows that this minute you find out you're pregnant . . . even just a few weeks . . . you start to make plans. You start to figure things out. In your mind? That baby is as good as born. I lost the idea of a baby. Does that make me sound crazy? Perhaps. Still . . . it was rough.
I had only told a couple of close friends, and most of them laughed when I told them I wasn't pregnant. I thought that maybe I'd laugh at myself over it someday (I still can't), but all I could do for about 2 weeks was cry. March was a bad month. I was finally getting over the pneumonia, and this happened. April and May were kind of rough, too. I cried a lot and didn't want to be around people much. The whole thing really shook me and left me asking . . . should we have a fourth?
We weren't able to answer that question right away, and I knew it was unwise to jump into a decision like that right away because we were still emotional. So we decided to wait and see how we felt in the fall.
Fast forward to the fall, and we decided that we were going to see what happened. If you've followed this blog from the beginning, you might remember that I ovulate 2 - 3 times a year, so it's not like we can really "try." We just decided to stop taking measures to prevent pregnancy and see where we landed. In my mind, I had decided that if I wasn't pregnant by Christmas, we'd call it good and our family complete.
I don't think I'd normally share this story, but it's such an important part of getting to where we are now. If we hadn't had this false alarm, I'm not sure we'd have started thinking about having a fourth baby. During those months after the false alarm, and maybe even as a result of that week, our desire for another child grew.
THE SECOND TIME:
In December, Kyle was talking to a friend who works for child protective services. He was telling Kyle about how the foster homes in Jackson County are full and they were using part of the detention center in Pontiac as a foster care facility. Kyle came home and told me this, and we wondered out loud if maybe that was the route we should be taking. The very next day I took a pregnancy test (I hadn't had a period since August, so I took tests monthly just to make sure). Lo and behold, I had a positive pregnancy test.
We decided to tell the kids Christmas day, even though our first appointment wasn't until the day after Christmas. Kyle and I were both hesitant about this because we've always waited until we've heard the heartbeat to tell people . . . but Christmas seemed like the perfect time, and I've had 3 healthy pregnancies. What were the chances something would go wrong with this one? We put an extra stocking on the mantle for Christmas morning and when we pointed it out, Jack said, "Uh, is that for baby Jesus?" Once they figured it out, they were excited. We let them tell our families at family gatherings that day, too. Jack and Ben were really excited to share the news.
The next day, we went for our first appointment. The midwife did an ultrasound and saw nothing. She thought maybe she saw a shadow in one spot, but couldn't be sure. She sent us to the hospital to have another ultrasound done, and the ultrasound tech confirmed that the gestational sac measured 8 weeks, but there was no baby. They diagnosed imminent miscarriage. My bloodwork showed that my hcg levels were still going up, but that's not uncommon early in miscarriage.
During that appointment, I started bleeding, so they sent me home to let nature take its course. As is protocol, they scheduled an ultrasound for 10 days later to confirm miscarriage before taking any action to end the pregnancy, though the midwife thought it wouldn't be necessary since bleeding had already started.
We had to go home and tell the kids that the baby wasn't growing any
more. I beat myself up on the entire drive home from the hospital for telling them so soon. Jack cried with me and Ben just sat quietly. Claire had no idea
what was going on . . . it was actually her 2nd birthday. We ate cupcakes and did
our best to celebrate, but it just felt like there was a dark cloud over us.
I'd like to say that I was stoic and handled this all with grace and a grateful heart, but that would be a lie. I was a wreck. I stayed in bed for most the next week, and missed every Christmas gathering we had scheduled. I spent a lot of time praying and realizing how grateful I am to have three healthy kids. And how lucky my kids are to have parents as awesome as we are.
Kyle took care of the kids that week and attended all of the Christmas festivities with them, but he was hurting, too. My parents ended up taking the kids for us for a few days, which was probably the most helpful thing anyone could have done. It gave us a chance to spend time grieving and accepting everything, without having to put on a happy face for the kids.
During the time that the kids were away, my friend Jeanette sent us flowers with a heartfelt note. It was so nice of her, but the flowers had been sitting in subzero temperatures all day when I took them out of the box, so they looked like this:
When we saw them, Kyle and I started laughing hysterically. I don't know why it struck us as funny . . . maybe the juxtaposition of the dead flowers and the beautiful note . . . but we laughed SO. HARD. That laugh was exactly what we needed . . . even more than the flowers. It was perfect.
We went back for what was supposed to be a follow-up appointment a week later. I was still bleeding, But it was light enough that I didn't think I had yet miscarried. The midwife said that once they confirmed the miscarriage at my next ultrasound, they could schedule a procedure to end the pregnancy right away. I wanted them to do the ultrasound that day, but they wouldn't have been able to schedule any procedures until it had been at least 10 days from the first ultrasound. I just wanted it all to be done. I was constantly nauseated . . . more than I was with any pregnancy before that. I was hormonal and bloated. I had honestly accepted the miscarriage. I had dealt with the loss. I just wanted it to be over.
The ultrasound was scheduled for January 6. The night before the ultrasound, we had about 18 inches of snow dumped on us. We were snowed in. I begged Kyle to please try to get us to U of M anyway, but we ended up stuck in the road in front of our driveway for a good 20 minutes. I had to cancel, and they couldn't get me another appointment for 10 days! I was so upset. I knew there was no baby and I just wanted to stop feeling pregnant. The nausea and fatigue were overwhelming. Fortunately, the midwife got me in for Friday, so that I didn't have to wait over another weekend.
THE THIRD TIME:
So we went in Friday. Jeanette offered to watch Ben and Claire so we didn't have to drag them along, which was amazing. I was sad, but anxious to get there and get everything scheduled.
Before we left that morning, I was listening to the Rend Collective version of "10,000 Reasons" and this stuck out to me:
"For all Your goodness I will keep on singing; Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find" That verse played over and over in my head throughout the whole day.
On our way to the hospital, Kyle's Aunt Karen sent me this message:
"In the middle of running around and playing with
Uncle Jeff at our party, Ben came up to U. Jeff and asked if he could
tell him a secret. He then told him, "our baby isn't growing like he
should." Uncle Jeff told him that he would pray that everything would be
okay. Then they went back to playing. We wanted to respect your
privacy, but even more, we wish to know if we could pray more
specifically for you."
It was perfect timing. I needed to have more people praying for us. It was interesting, too, because Ben had very little to say about everything to us. It was good to catch a glimpse of his heart and his concern. At one point during the week before, he told me, "Mom, did you know that I pray for you in my head, like, all the time?" When we got to the hospital, we parked in the lot that we've parked at for every OB appointment, and for the birth of all three kids. We passed all of the hospital landmarks that have become so familiar over the last 7 years. I was so sad that I would now have this memory tied to those things, too.
A cheerful ultrasound tech came into the waiting room and said my name, and I followed her into the room. With a big smile she said, "Do you want to know if you're having a boy or a girl, or are we keeping that a surprise?" Through tears I said, "We're here to confirm a miscarriage and schedule an MVA." She was so apologetic and realized she had the wrong Sara. She promptly returned me to the waiting room where my name was called again, by a rather somber Fetal Medicine Specialist. He had a packet of information on MVAs and D & Cs that he set down next to the computer. He told us that after the ultrasound, he'd go over our options and we could schedule something as soon as possible. I closed my eyes as he began the ultrasound and within seconds said, "Well, I'd like to introduce you to your baby. And here is it's heartbeat." I sat straight up and said, "WHAT?!" And there she was. A sweet little baby, about 8 weeks along. I was stunned. Kyle was stunned. Quite frankly, the doctor was a little surprised, too. He said it's rare that he gets to give good news in this situation. I told him he was one of my top 5 favorite people.
We were given a due date of August 26, which is Kyle's birthday (the due date as also been reported as August 20 and August 13 . . . we're not really sure when this baby is due exactly). Kyle and I left the Fetal Diagnostic Center agreeing that it was one of the best days ever.
I've had a few friends and family members question whether the ultrasound was just too early, or if they were wrong to presume miscarriage. Just for reference, though . . . miscarriage is presumed when the gestational
sac measures larger than 2 cm, with no embryo. Mine was 2.3 cm. By the
time a woman's hcg level is 1000, they normally expect to see an
embryo. If it's over 5000, with no embryo, they presume miscarriage.
Mine was 67,000. On top of that, I was having bleeding . . . not just spotting. In retrospect, I think it was from the vaginal ultrasounds (even though I've been told they wouldn't cause as much bleeding as I had). There's still no other explanation for the bleeding.
Midwife and doctor agreed that this little girl might have been up against the side of the sac or in a shadow. She was definitely big enough to have shown up at that first ultrasound. This little girl is already giving her brothers and sister a run for their money at hide and seek.
I feel so incredibly lucky (and to be honest, a little guilty) to have my story turn out this way, because I know that for many people it doesn't. Why me and not them? When I think about those two weeks that we thought our baby was gone, my heart still aches. I know that there are people for whom that ache isn't a just a memory.
Our 20 week ultrasound showed a healthy little girl, developing just as she should be. I'm so grateful.