We are all very excited about our newest family member. Elliot’s due date is August 6, which means I’m now only a few days away from the third trimester. Mostly, this has been a joyous and exciting pregnancy. Mostly, the typical pregnancy symptoms have been manageable and not too problematic. Mostly, we are filled with excitement to meet this little guy.
It turns out, though, that we still have some residual trauma from Gracie’s pregnancy and birth.
With Gracie, we found out there were problems at the 22 week ultrasound. I very much remember being so excited that she was a girl – the lack of “outdoor plumbing” was obvious with her. I remember the tech going over all her other measurements, and I remember saying something like, “oh look, there are her kidneys – you can see them really clearly – how cool!” After the ultrasound, the tech asked us to wait in the lobby until we could see the midwife again. I still didn’t realize anything was wrong, even though I wondered why we needed the midwife. It wasn’t until we were in the room with her that we found out that you’re not supposed to be able to see a fetus’s kidneys that clearly. Gracie had echogenic kidneys, and we would have to follow up with a neonatologist to find out more about what that meant for her.
From that point on, nothing was easy. We saw the neonatologist every month after that. Gracie’s kidney issue resolved by the time I was 7 months pregnant, but then she turned and was breech. I remember the neonatologist lamenting, “What am I missing?! That is such a classic sign of developmental problems, and yet everything seems normal.” She was the first doctor stumped by Gracie, but certainly not the last. I like to say that Grace has been puzzling doctors since before she was born.
Grace was also very active in utero. She was transverse breech, which means sideways, and she would flip from one side to the other quite frequently. The day of her birth, we scheduled a version and a c-section. If the doctor could not succeed in turning her with the version, we would go ahead with the c-section. It turned out that the doctor did succeed in turning her, but the moment he moved his hands she turned right back. I distinctly remember him remarking that he’d never seen a full-term baby move so much. At one point, her knuckles were clearly outlined as she grazed her hand across my stomach.
After the c-section, Gracie was breathing very loudly. I knew that c-section babies were more likely to have lung problems, and pointed it out to the nurses. They quickly whisked her away to the NICU, where Chad followed, and I was left alone with the medical folks while they stitched me up and wheeled me to recovery. That was the longest couple of hours I’ve ever felt in my life – I remember trying to will my toes to wiggle so I could go see my beautiful baby girl.
The rest of the story continues in much the same way. Grace was diagnosed with tracheomalacia at birth, which is a weakness of the trachea. She was breathing loudly because her trachea wasn’t strong enough to support a full breath. (I often wonder if she would have survived a vaginal birth – it seems that maybe her trachea would have been completely crushed under the pressure of the birth canal). She eventually outgrew the tracheomalacia, but then she started getting pneumonia, which she had five times in a year. She also didn’t meet her gross or fine motor milestones until she started physical therapy at 7 months of age. Every time one thing resolved, another cropped up, and that pretty much still continues to the present day.
All of that trauma from Grace’s pregnancy and infancy seems so distant, and yet so fresh still in our minds. Even though everything has gone perfectly with Elliot’s pregnancy and all signs show that he’s totally healthy, I can’t help but worry. It was hard to be excited about the mid-pregnancy ultrasound until the tech assured me that everything was completely normal – even his kidneys. I find that the only thing that reassures me is hearing his heartbeat once a month at our regular midwife appointments. For those few moments, I can breathe easy – I know he’s okay. But the in-between is painful; I can’t shake the worry that maybe they missed something, maybe there is something wrong, maybe maybe maybe.
It turns out that Chad is worried, too. I made a comment about Elliot being active the other day, and Chad shot back, “like Grace?” I totally understood. It’s hard to enjoy the little things when they turned out to be big things last time around.
The kids have their worries, too. (Grace is less worried than the rest of us. Of course, she always is – that kid is the queen of adaptability.) Jackson is worried that the baby will take me away from him even more than Grace does. He is worried that everyone will completely forget about him once someone newer and cuter comes along. Grace’s concern is similar – she seems to be worried that I won’t have time for her once there’s a new baby in the picture. I have tried to assure both of them that they’ll still be my special buddies, but neither is convinced.
We all know that adding a child to the family will change everything. Our whole dynamic will change. I am trying to maintain perspective that it will only increase the amount of love we all share. After all, everything that we’ve been through with Grace has strengthened our love for each other. Yes, it’s been traumatic. Yes, it’s been hard. But our lives are all richer because of her.
I’m sure that will happen with Elliot, too. I can’t wait to meet this cute little guy. I know we’re all going to fall head over heals in love with him once we meet him in three months or so. And until then, we will continue to work through our trauma so that we’re ready to give this little person all our love.