22 August 2007

getting stronger

Arden's movements are definately - or at least, IMHO - getting stronger. Last night, Niek woke him up and was 'playing' with him (sort of stroking his back) and all at once, Arden gave such a mighty thrash that I jumped half out of bed from the shock of it! He bumped and banged around for a bit, apparently not best pleased about being woken from his sleep. LOL! That's my kid! :D It ended a rough day on a happy note. Yesterday, for whatever reasons, was not a good day. I snapped at the kids and just felt all out-of-sorts all day long.

I've been faking calmness by stitching Christmas stuff. I don't know who I'm stiching for or what I'll pick up next, but for some weird reason, as long as I'm stitching Christmas projects, I feel calmer. I spent quite some time yesterday puzzling this over and came up with the hypothesis that as long as I'm stitching my way toward Christmas, I seem to believe that I can keep everything safe and controllable and that when I stop, the holidays will be here - and so will Arden, safe and sound. Motherhood is so illogical. ;)

Foolish or not, I'll keep doing it. Anything that lends me a bit of calmness has simply got to be okay.

Tomorrow is the big blood test/monitoring day. Six-plus hours, and probably all of it spent at the hospital (because it's next to impossible to get a parking space there). I can just see me with my bottle of disinfectant handcream ... I have such a thing about hospitals! It'll be a true test ... of what, I'm not sure. I've sort of resigned myself to having diabetes - it seems the only explanation for my weight gain/bloating/nausea. Niek is slightly freaked out over the concept of insulin shots, but I'm pretty sure I can handle it. Heck, if it brings Arden out safely, I think I can handle just about anything. Even a full day hanging out at the hospital with sick people.

20 August 2007

scheduled appointment: 20 August/Schmitz

Today was our first regularly scheduled appointment with Dr. Schmitz after our discussion of how to proceed. She was really open and warm, and I greatly appreciated her efforts to put us at ease. We took the kids with us - it seemed safe, as we'd felt Arden moving regularly all weekend, and I do want them to bond with him.

Arden looks fine - we got another darling view of his face, with his little fisted hands partially blocking the view (as if saying, "Can't you see I'm trying sleep?!") and he's such a lovely looking baby. My proteins and blood pressure were also fine, but my fluid retention has gone haywire. In six days, I've gained 2 kilos (or approximately 5 pounds) and it's all 'bloat'. I've had to move my wedding band to my other hand, and even so it's cutting in painfully (usually it's loose). To be on the safe side, the doctor has ordered my glucose screening for gestational diabetes to be done a few weeks early, so I'll go in on Thursday for that. This is a new one for me - I need to have blood drawn every 2 hours for a six-hour period. Niek's going to stay home with the kids. Phew! Later today, doing housework, I also had some discomfort from that old foe, pelvic instability. I was seriously out of commission for awhile after Max was born due to it, and managed to avoid it during Nicky and Rowen's pregnancies ... but it's reared it's ugly head again. I'll schedule some appointments with the physical therapist once the kids are back in school and stop it before it gets too much of a start.

We are going to go ahead with our booked holiday - a week in Belgium - after discussing it at length. That means my next scheduled appointment won't be until September 4th, but I can go in before that if there are any worries or problems. I'm honestly pretty nervous about going away, but I also believe that the kids need some 'normal' family time together with us. Everything has revolved around the pregnancy for the past weeks now, and I can see signs that the kids need some downtime. We'll only be a couple of hours away, and of course there are hospitals in Belgium, too. ;) I can't shake a feeling of nervousness, but I'll do my best to make sure it doesn't interfere with the kids having a good time.

Last Friday we went in for an unscheduled appointment and had Dr. Wang, who I really liked. He's signed me up for grief counseling and hopefully the consellor will contact me this week and we can schedule an appointment for the week after.

14 August 2007

moving on

I've been preoccupied with the wait for today's appointment, dreading it, but now that it's over I feel a sense of relief. I don't like confrontational situations, and I was very worried that I'd yell or cry - or some combination of both. But we all managed to stay on track and focus on the issue at hand: how to handle the situation, medically, from this point forward. Dr. Schmitz is willing to see me weekly and to carefully measure Arden bi-weekly to ensure that he continues to thrive. She explained to us that until the 24th week of pregnancy, there isn't really anything more that can be done to ensure his health & safely beyond what I'm doing (following a pretty careful diet and all the regular pregnancy precautions). After the 24th week, if necessary, bedrest or medication or other measures may be brought into the situation to help him reach full term. She checked my blood pressure and weight (unsurprisingly, I've lost several pounds since the last appointment)and checked Arden, mainly his heart and his movements, by ultrasound. Given the breadth and depth of the tests and measurements done on Friday, there was no point in re-doing everything.

Immediately after the appointment, both Niek and I felt a sense of release. After dreading the appointment and worrying about what may or may not happen, it was a relief to have it behind us. Now, however, we're feeling exhausted. Living from one big emotional wave to the next is draining. I'd like to say that I'm able to concentrate fully on the future, but that's just not where I'm at yet. I'm mourning the loss of a baby that had already become part of our family, at least in my heart & mind. I can't help but think about how I'll never be able to walk him or her to school or read a bedtime story or .... And of course we are worried that we may still lose Arden. But I'm trying, really hard, to focus on the gift of the time we do have together. We feel we're really getting to know him, even if it will be awhile before we (hopefully) meet face-to-face. I'd like to be able to simply be excited about the birth of a new baby, like I was with our other children, but I'm afraid to give in to that sort of unlimited optimistic thinking again. So it's a balancing act between caution & fear and hope & love.

12 August 2007

taking the minutes as they come

This is hard. I was going to delete this blog, but that didn't seem right. It's like claiming that none of this has happened, but it has happened - as horrible and unfair and rotten as it all is. So last night as I was talking to Arden in my mind, something I do throughout the day and especially at bedtime and waking, I realized that the right thing to do would be to go on writing here, as honestly as I can. Hopefully someday he can read it. Maybe someone will stumble across it and find some tiny bit of solace. Maybe I can keep the darkness from building up inside me. Plenty of potential for something good to come of it, anyway.

I'm not really ready to be totally honest about everything. I still can't quite face what has happened full-on. So I'll deal with what I can, when I can.

When we came home on Thursday, I thought I might just cease to exist from the sheer mass of grief that was consuming me. I was scared that there was something so fundamentally wrong with me that anyone who came into contact with me might die. This is what drove me into therapy last year when we lost a baby at 12 weeks. I was absolutely convinced it was my fault, a punishment or something. I felt I should leave Niek and the kids, and I was totally convinced that the shock of seeing the dead baby had killed the surviving twin, too. And I was nearly mute from the shock and the pain of it all - I couldn't tell Niek what I was feeling or thinking. When I was a kid, I had such a hard time talking to people that I used to write notes instead, so I reverted to that. I guess what I wrote worried Niek because he didn't leave my side for the next few days and he let me use his energy and strength while I had none of my own. It's brought us a lot closer.

When we had the ultrasound tests run on Friday and saw that Arden is indeed still alive and apparently thriving, I could turn my despair to a purpose. I have to take care of myself for him, at the very least. It's basic, but I couldn't grasp much more than that. So we came home and I ate a sandwich. I still cried all day, but I ate my dinner and I went to bed and I tried to go to sleep. We and the kids talked to Arden and everyone began doing what they could to add their own will to his will to survive.

On Saturday, we didn't go anywhere or see anyone or do anything. Okay, it can be seen as denial, but our wounded souls needed some time off to begin the slow process of accepting what has happened. I woke early - around 5 am - and listened to the ducks or swans splashing in the pond under our bedroom window and feeling Arden move. He seems to like the very early morning hours. He went to sleep that night tightly pressed against Niek's hand on my belly. I think he's lonely.

When both babies were doing well and we had all the ultrasounds to ensure they were thriving and healthy, we'd see them pushing against the barrier between them. They'd only stop when the other pushed back, as if they needed to know that the other was still there. Now that his twin is gone, Arden nestles against our hands when we place them on my belly. It's heartbreaking for me, even if I do keep telling myself that I'm reading too much into it all.

He moves differently than any of the other children did in the womb. Max, I remember, tried to burrow his way out via my ribcage on the right side. He wanted to spring, fully-formed, from my chest. Pain? I'm certain that my ribs on that side are permanently dislocated. Nicky and Rowen liked to kick - with Nicky, I remember being able to easily watch my belly ripple as he sought the perfect position - and he was the smallest of the babies! Rowen started moving very actively around the 13th week and she let us know from that point forward that she was a force to be reckoned with. Arden moves, but with very small, almost tentative movements. We've also noticed this on the ultrasounds. He'll move his hands a bit, or shift position, maybe stretch out a leg or two ... but he doesn't kick or flip or bounce. I try not to drive myself crazy worrying if this means something bad. Instead, I try to assume it says something about his character. He is, after all, the smallest little creature in a loud, busy, chaotic household. Maybe he's someone who doesn't rush into things, who prefers to take gentler measures to meet his aims.

I feel such a different bond with him. I'm terrified of losing him, but I want to enjoy whatever time I have with him rather than to live under the shadow of fear. He is the last chance I'll have to have a baby. Our bond is made heavy by its fragility.

10 August 2007

no easy words

For several weeks, Niek and I have noticed that the twin on my left, the active one we'd dubbed the 'acrobat' in my sidebar, had not been moving the same way. Actually, there didn't seem to be any movement. When I told the hospital, they sort of poo-poohed me, saying that it was very unlikely to feel any movement so early in a pregnancy. Finally, I couldn't stand the uncertainty any longer and went in for an unscheduled ultrasound last week - my GYN is still on vacation, so I had to go up to the delivery wing in the hospital and wait. And wait. But it all seemed worthwhile when the midwife who did the ultrasound assured me that everything was absolutely 'perfect.' She repeated what we'd already been told, about movement being unreliable under 20 weeks. Apparently most of the medical profession seems to believe that pregnant ladies simply have a lot of gas.

I'd had fears of going into the gender ultrasound with the whole family only to find out that something was wrong. It was like a daytime nightmare or something. But with the hospital's assurance that the babies couldn't be better, Niek and I went ahead with the ultrasound with all the kids present. It was meant to be the first of many 'welcome to the family' parties.

But the moment the technician put the sensor on my belly, we could see that the first twin was dead. Thankfully, we had a very gentle and sympathetic technician, who was able to perform the necessary measurements in a respectful and caring way. Twin A, as she or he had been known, had stopped growing between 14 and 15 weeks. The ultrasound at the hospital only days before remains a mystery - it is clear that the baby had died weeks previously.

Twin B, who we have been feeling more & more often, and who is the first of all my children to be a morning baby (rather than a night owl), was growing on schedule and even slightly ahead of schedule. The heartbeat was strong and regular, and no problems could be spotted during this exam. The technician called my hospital and argued an appointment for us - whomever she was talking to wanted to put us off till after the weekend! - and we dazedly made our way home.

Today we went to the hospital to have a full medical work-up. Twin A's measurements were confirmed at approximately 15 weeks. There is no indication of why he or she died - everything seems absolutely perfect. The situation is eerily like what we went through last year when we lost Pepper, who was also absolutely perfect.

After checking all that could be checked, the exam moved on to the surviving twin. All measurements check out perfectly for 19 weeks. If not spot-on, the baby is slightly (but not abnormally) large for the age. And they measured everything! The motor cortex of the brain, the blood flow through the umbilical cord, the heart chambers and valves, the blood flow through the main arteries ... we were pretty amazed at what they can see and measure! There is absolutely no indication of a defect or abnormality. The technicians were remarkably sensitive and caring. I'm sorry I didn't catch their names - I have the feeling that I just sort of fade in and out of normal conversations and stuff right now - but they were really wonderful.

After that, we waited for a talk with the on-call GYN. That was rather less: the woman's very brusque manner had Niek and I wondering - is it part of some misguided medical training? We noticed the same behavior & mannerisms when we lost the baby last year, though we were at a different hospital. In short, the pregnancy will now continue as a singleton pregnancy which sort of places it at lower risk, but not really since we don't know why one twin died. There's no way of knowing if whatever happened to the one will happen to the other. When my GYN returns from holiday next week, we'll also meet with her.

I'm having some issues not only dealing with the staggering grief ... I don't believe I'd have made it through yesterday without Niek's constant support ... but also with anger. I go through these waves of fury. Furious with a doctor who left me for over 7 weeks with the comment that 'nothing much happens during the next couple of months'; furious with the midwife who totally and unforgiveably botched the ultrasound last week and left us to find out in the most unfortunate manner possible, turning a family celebration into shock, sadness, and confusion; furious at the medical profession which dismisses the genuine feelings of a pregnant woman because they're the doctors and they know better (who's going to know my body better - me, who's lived in it nearly 40 years, or a doctor who has spoken to me once or twice?). And then there's an anger that just doesn't have anywhere to go.

For the past two days, I've been sort of staggering from one minute to the next. Seriously, if it weren't for Niek, I'd be totally lost. And my kids. My heavens, they are some serious little lifelines. And we do have a healthy - for now, at least - little boy who needs us all to focus on the postitives, to will him through the next 20 weeks so he can get kisses from his brothers and sister and feel the arms of the mom and dad who have hoped and cried and dreamed of his arrival.

01 August 2007

too quiet!

After a couple of weeks of wondering about the change in activity, especially the sharp decrease in activity of the 'left side twin' I went to the hospital today to have the babies checked. It was a quick appointment, after a long wait, but well worth the effort when we could see both babies were fine. It was also Max's first time seeing the babies and seeing where they'll be born. The midwife who checked us out said that it wasn't unusual that the twins' activity levels have changed, but it was very unusual that we've been able to feel them regularly for as long as we have. I know it's not just my imagination, though, because Niek's also felt them. Anyway, both of the wee travelers seem fine and we are still set for our gender-screen next week.

Today we were visiting with a very good friend who has generously given me free run through her outgrown baby stuff. Thanks to Anja, we now have a baby swing, the second car seat, a 'wipstoel' (a sort of infant chair), two winter infant suits, and an incredible array of infant clothing in the smallest two sizes. Amazing. I felt really guilty taking so much, but she kept assuring me that it was fine, that they won't have any more kids and that she doesn't have any other friends or family who are planning on kids. The only stipulation is that when we are done with them, we find someone else who needs them. No problems there - when we were told 2 1/2 years ago we couldn't have any more kids, I found an organization right here in Gouda for unwed mothers that is in constant need of newborn clothes.

I feel so relieved (not to mention thankful and grateful!) that the babes are fine - there aren't words that encompass such a vast emotion. And perhaps the change in activity is due to the right-side twin 'catching up'. This is the one that was smaller in the beginning (the one the GYN initially missed) - perhaps s/he is larger and more active now. Time will tell....