Overcoming High-Risk Pregnancy Fears

Pregnancy is scary.

I always thought I would be one of those unicorn women that handled maternity like a boss. Those women whose bodies were just made for baby-making and who a few hours after sneezing out their newborn babes are jumping out of their birthing pools and whipping up a meal for supper. Kind of like Brooklyn Decker pregnant with twins in What to Expect When You’re Expecting when she’s wearing 4 inch heels while talking about how she’s full of energy and always super horny.

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I know that’s Hollywood, but we all know some magical unicorns like that, right?

To be honest, I’ve had to work through a lot of uncertainty and fear. I’m impressed by my friends that have had their babies at home or in a plastic pool, but after what happened with Mariah, you couldn’t pay me enough to have my baby in any place that doesn’t have a state of the art NICU down the hall.  Given, my track record isn’t exactly stellar. I had a miscarriage at the beginning of our marriage and then another miscarriage between Mariah and the baby I’m carrying now. I went into labor with Mariah at 33 weeks and she eventually came at 34 weeks and we almost lost her to a horrible Strep B infection.

When I found out I was pregnant with this baby, I was terrified. God and I had to have a serious conversation because I was literally crippled with fear about having another miscarriage (maybe someday I’ll post about that convo). I am 26 weeks now and I’ve wrestled hard with fear. Fear of miscarrying, fear of preterm labor, fear of babies hooked up to monitors and filled with tubes in the NICU.

Then, this past Tuesday, I had to face my fear again. I am in the high-risk pregnancy program and each week I receive a Progesterone shot and either see a specialist or have a cervical length ultrasound. So far, I’ve been measuring great with no issues. This week, however, my cervical measurement had decreased by 50% and then I started having some cramping and discomfort.

I was so very discouraged. When the ultrasound tech left the room and said she needed to talk to the doctor, I barely kept it together. I mean, this baby is supposed to stay in there for three more months!

It was just scary. I was sent up to be fit into the high-risk doctor’s schedule and he checked to make sure I wasn’t dilating. Then he sent me home to wait two days to see if things progressed. Those were some long days.

Finally, one morning as I was praying, this thought came to mind: If you really trust God, why are you so afraid? 

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I know that God is perfect love and that perfect love casts out fear. If God loves me perfectly, there is no room for fear. I know that He is always in every detail, whether something goes the way I want it to or not. I became incredibly aware of the fact that our every breath is in God’s hands when He decided to inflate Mariah’s lungs that night despite what the doctors were saying. I also became incredibly aware that He could have chosen not to inflate her lungs and that I had no control over that.

The same goes with this pregnancy. I can do everything in my power to have a healthy pregnancy and the doctors will do as much as they can, but ultimately, it’s out of our hands. If God wants this baby to come at 26 weeks, then he’ll come at 26 weeks. I may not be in love with that idea, but God loves me perfectly, so I can trust that He will see us through and that His plan is far better than ours.

That is freedom from fear.

Knowing that something is scary, but acknowledging that the One who loves us perfectly has it in His hands.

Friday I went back to the hospital and had a bunch of tests done. I was extremely relieved to find out that as of right now, everything is holding tight. My cervix hasn’t thinned anymore and the cramping is due to the baby’s head being right on the cervix and surrounding nerves. So we wait and try to keep that baby cooking for as many weeks as possible.

Obviously, we are overjoyed that all is well for now. But I’m also resting in the fact that even if I do have this baby tomorrow, it’s not a scary surprise for my heavenly Father. Every time fear starts creeping in, I try to focus on His perfect love and that He cares far more about my babies than I ever could.  I can remain steadfast because I trust in Him and His perfect love for me and my family. I’ve found that true freedom is being able to say “I trust you Lord, do it your way.”

Job 12: 10 In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.

1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Psalm 31:14-15 But I trust in you, Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My life is in your hands… 

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Our Second Miscarriage

Life can feel unbelievably out of control sometimes. The trials of the last week arrived fast, unannounced, and unwelcomed–disrupting a somewhat peaceful season we were enjoying. It reminded me of swimming in a calm ocean when suddenly a dangerous undercurrent comes along and attempts to drag you away from the shore. When you try to stand up or swim to the safety of the beach, another wave comes and you barely have enough time to catch a breath before the next rolling wave threatens to pull you under. And then, just like that, it’s over and you’re left panting on the beach wondering what the heck just happened.

Ever since we received our newborn foster baby, I’ve suspected a milk allergy. Long story short and fast forward to four months later, I finally got a reference for him to have an appointment at the public children’s hospital. That day I went to pick up the reference and expected to quickly (well, as quickly as you can run an errand at a public healthcare institution in CR) make an appointment with the specialist for later in the week. After waiting in lines for about two hours (because you can’t call and make the appointment), a receptionist told me they had spoken with the doctor and felt the baby’s condition was serious and that he needed to be admitted. I was a little more than surprised and suddenly really nervous since they took him from me immediately for testing. The pediatrician had been telling me I was overreacting for four months and suddenly his condition was serious? Hours later, after explaining and re-explaining that he was a foster child and what that meant (fostering is very uncommon here), then filling out paperwork, he was assigned a bed and I called Albin and our social worker to tell them what was going on. I was so completely overwhelmed by the public hospital, the millions of questions in my second language, and the fact that I hadn’t had a chance to pee or eat all day. I was also a little concerned because my period was several days late and I was starting to feel a little “off.”

I had to go home that night, so I picked up a pregnancy test and we got a positive result. We were so excited but that literally topped off my emotional overload for the day and I passed out in five minutes. The next morning we were back at the hospital early and found out that the baby did have a milk protein allergy. Later in the day, he was discharged. Thanks to Socialism, our taxes covered his care and a prescription for 10 cans of extremely hypoallergenic formula that they will provide us with each month, which is a huge blessing because each small can costs roughly $50 each. We left tired and happy, and mildly concerned because I had experienced some light spotting that day.

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$50???

A few days later, the spotting had become more pronounced, so my doctor sent me for a blood test. As I am getting the blood drawn, Albin called and all I could hear him say above the sound of screaming babies was that our bathroom tub was leaking everywhere onto the laminate floors and concrete walls and that the plumber was taking a jackhammer  to the tub in order to be able to get to the leaking pipes. I rushed home to water and mud all over my floors, screaming kids, the insurance company calling, Albin running out to get something the plumber needed … all the while bleeding and fearing the worst.

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The black hole that was our bath tub…

The next day I received my blood results and my pregnancy hormone was low. My doctor said that either I was earlier in my pregnancy than I thought and experiencing implantation bleeding, or I was going to miscarry. She said there was absolutely nothing I could do.

That night, the mild labor pains started. My first miscarriage was before I had Mariah, so I didn’t know the pain I had was like labor contractions, but this time, there was no doubt. They started in my back, wrapped around my abdomen and pulsed down my legs. I sobbed in the shower as the pains gripped me and warned me about what was to come. The next morning, we lost the baby. Watching life pour out of you is absolutely crushing. Each contraction brought a rush of loss … physically, in the loss of blood and tissue, and emotionally, in the heartbreaking reality of death. While it was again an early miscarriage and my body was just doing what it was supposed to do with something needing to be expelled, I felt like my body was traitorous and I was devastated by its betrayal.

The next few days were foggy and I’m thankful that my mother-in-law could come and stay with us while I rested. A few days later, we had three appointments that were obviously providential in the way they were timed.

The first was a previously scheduled check-up for Mariah with the doctor who had attended her while she was in the NICU at birth. The doctor was gushing about how healthy Mariah was and how amazing her recovery had been. She reminded us how miraculous it was that Mariah has no residual side effects of that experience (thank you Father). I reflected on the night when I was told there was nothing we could do for Mariah and that we could possibly lose her. The situation was out of my hands.

The second appointment was for another blood draw to make sure my pregnancy hormone was gone and that my body had gotten rid of all the tissue. I reflected on how my doctor told me there was nothing I could do to save my unborn baby. The situation was out of my hands.

The third appointment was with the baby’s caseworker and we discussed the hospital stay, allergy, and also the status of our foster son’s case. I reflected on how God protected Him from a dangerous living situation, possible complications from a severe allergy, and how I had no control over his family, what will be decided with his case in the future, or over his health. The situation was out of my hands.

I felt those three appointments being on the same day was providential because all three situations clearly proved that I am not in control. As I thought through these things, I was overcome with a peace that can only come from God as He whispered to me: “These situations are in my hands.” Whether it’s my 16 month old daughter, my four month old foster son, or my tiny embryo just beginning to form, He holds them all in His hands.

Through my tears last week, God led me to a verse that I can’t remember reading before but I’m sure I have. It reads:

“But I trust in you, O LORD; I say “You are my God,” my times are in your hands … ” (Psalm 31:14-15)

I love this. This is peace that surpasses all understanding. My times are in God’s hands and I can completely trust  in Him. I also love the Spanish translation of this verse which says, “Mi vida entera está en Tus manos” which means, “my whole life is in your hands.

We are hurting and exhausted, but we are finding complete peace in the fact that God is trustworthy. We don’t need to despair, we have complete assurance that He is our God and that any wave that threatens to pull us under cannot stand against a God that holds our times in His hands.

 

 

A Miscarriage After Our First Month of Marriage

Positiva.

Even though my Spanish wasn’t excellent, I couldn’t mess that up. It was clearly positive. When I opened the email containing my blood test results, I skipped over everything else and went straight to the part that showed my hCG hormone levels and arrived at that one word that started a ripple effect in my life.

Positiva.

It took my breath away. Like the time I fell out of the big tree we always used to climb in my grandparents’ backyard as kids. I landed on my back and for a few moments the impact left me breathless for what seemed like an eternity. On the day I read my pregnancy test results, it was very similar. It hit me with such an impact that I was stunned. I wasn’t expecting it at all and I was left gasping for some sanity.

This is an intimate blog. I want to be vulnerable because I know I’m not the only one who has struggled through this. Some of the following is very personal, but it is heavy on my heart to share it openly and honestly.

About two and a half weeks into our marriage, I felt a little out of sync and suspected a UTI or a yeast infection, so I went to the doctor. He confirmed my suspicions and then asked if I was pregnant. I nervously laughed and said that we had only gotten married two weeks ago. He put me on medicine and said no sex for at least a week. Exactly what you want to hear your first month of marriage … after you’ve just had a long-distance relationship for 17 months.

After a week of abstinence and medicine, my infection started getting a little better, but I was still feeling a little odd, so the doctor sent me in for a blood test to check out my cell counts and other medical things I didn’t understand. The thing I did understand was that he also asked them to check for the pregnancy hormone. I was panicking. I hadn’t even been married for a month, I was still dealing with culture shock from my mission trip, still getting to know (again) this man I married after a ridiculous long-distance relationship, still getting accustomed to moving back to Costa Rica after being gone for almost two years, super emotional from all the changes, and frustrated that we couldn’t have sex for two weeks during our first month of marriage. Everything was out of control.

Then I received my results. Positiva. I was pregnant. Two days before our one-month anniversary, I found out we were expecting and I literally could not handle it. I’m ashamed to say it, but honestly, I was devastated. This wasn’t what I had planned and I didn’t feel emotionally stable enough to take yet another change on top of all the madness. It was so overwhelming, I just shut down.

I spent a few days in survival mode. Albin tried the best he could, but I would just lay in bed and cry. I felt lost. I was thousands of miles away from my family and my best friends, and my poor husband was at a loss. Finally, a couple of days later, he sat down and told me that we needed to accept that I was pregnant and that he wanted our baby to be “wanted.” Completely valid, and again, I felt completely ashamed. It wasn’t that I wasn’t going to love or want our child, I was just too overwhelmed to fathom that we were going to have a child. Albin’s comment struck my heart though, and that day I decided that I was going to accept that I was pregnant, embrace this new life inside of me, and move forward.

Over the next few days, we began working through this new situation and I started coming to terms with the fact that things were going to be different and that was okay. I knew God had a plan and it’s not like we were unwed teenagers with no means to support ourselves. I was 26 and Albin was 30. All my friends were on their second child. It wasn’t the end of the world by any means.

Then I started having some back pains. Then stomach cramps. Then spotting. I was so confused. We had just started to embrace this baby and move forward. Albin took me to the doctor. I can’t adequately describe my emotions at this point. I was in a daze. I remember sitting in the cold, white examining room and trying to answer the medical questions being fired at me in Spanish, but instead just wanting to be at home in bed. At one point, the nurse asked me something I didn’t understand. I looked to Albin helplessly, but he didn’t know how to translate her question. After a long and grotesque description of the word they were using, I realized she was asking if there were many clots coming out in my blood. I affirmed that there were and she tried not to show her dismay. I could see in her eyes what I already knew. I was having a miscarriage. The doctor drew blood and checked my hormone levels again. My hCG levels were dropping and I was losing our baby. Again, I was left speechless.

One of the worst parts of that day was that they kept referring to the miscarriage as an “aborto.” In my mind, aborto= abortion. Being adamantly pro-life, I kept trying to correct them and tell them that I didn’t have an abortion. Albin gently explained to me that “aborto” was the medical term they used also for when a woman’s body rejects a baby naturally. It seemed too harsh. All I was hearing was, “Your body is aborting your baby.” Like I had chosen to lose this baby. Like my body wasn’t good enough to keep the baby in. It’s almost too painful for me to write about. I felt like my heart was being ripped out.

I went home and was paralyzed with shock. A little over a month ago I was in a white wedding dress with a beautiful adventure in front of me. It wasn’t supposed to look like this. The next few days were miserable. If you have ever had a miscarriage, you know how excruciatingly painful it is for you to see those “clots” and all the blood. Part of you is seeping out slowly and there is nothing you can do about it. It was absolutely sickening for me to flush the toilet because I knew. I knew it wasn’t just a normal period and that fact left an internal wound somewhere in me that I didn’t even know existed.

Then it is over. You’re left empty. Lost in your own thoughts. Overwhelmed with regret, shame, grief, confusion, leftover hormones, and shock. It came in waves. Waves that threatened to pull me under with each fresh swell. If I’m brutally honest, I was so afraid. I was terrified that it was my fault we lost our baby since I had cried so much about not being ready when I first found out I was pregnant. I was devastated all over again.

Those were some of the darkest days I’ve ever experienced. Because of the miscarriage, sex was off-limits for another two weeks. I mention that because not having sex for a month during your first two months of marriage creates a lot of unwanted distance. On top of that, I was so utterly wrecked that I didn’t even want Albin to come near me. One of my biggest mistakes was not sitting down and working through everything that had happened. I tried to move forward and forget because I felt like I couldn’t handle the burden of everything. My family and friends felt a million miles away. I didn’t tell many people about our loss because it was too painful and too abrupt. Several people that I did tell tried to comfort me by saying “at least it was an early miscarriage.” I stopped telling people I had a miscarriage after I heard that a few times. Does the fact that we lost the baby in an “early miscarriage” make that baby’s life any less valuable? I felt as though my grief was unjustified when people said that. I understood what they meant. They were relieved that I wasn’t far along enough to have to suffer through the D & C procedure, relieved that I hadn’t told all of Facebook and started purchasing baby clothes. I truly did understand, but in my head all I heard was that I had no right to mourn like other women whose situation was “worse.”  People who meant well were incredibly hurtful and I tried not to be offended, but we had lost a part of us. How could I not take it personal?

It took months for my body and hormones to get regulated again. I wish I could say the same for my heart and my mind. I had been through so much in such a short time, I was literally reeling. We went through several very difficult situations after this as well (future blogs to come) and I felt like a trapeze artist tottering on a high wire, afraid that one misstep was going to send me into an abyss of depression that I couldn’t get out of. I was overwhelmed with confusion. I kept asking God why He allowed that to happen so soon after getting married and during a time when I was going through so many other things. Why did I have to even find out I was pregnant? If I hadn’t received the blood tests saying I was pregnant, would I have known? Would I have just thought I was having a late and abnormally heavy period? Was all of that necessary? I wouldn’t say I was angry, but I was shaken to the core.

There are a lot of questions that are still unanswered, but one thing I can say that I am certain of now: God was there in the midst of that situation. Just as He has been intimately involved in every aspect of my life since day one. None of these things were a surprise to Him. He holds our lives in His hands and He cares. He knew and created that baby inside of me even though it was just starting to form. He held that little life in His hands.

For a long time, I had almost pretended that the miscarriage didn’t happen, like it was just some bad nightmare. About a year and a half after it happened, I wasn’t able to sleep one night and I heard the Lord whispering to my heart. He told me many personal things, but I want to share something that set me free in a lot of ways.

Tricia, that baby was real. All of that really happened. It’s okay to acknowledge that and grieve your loss.  Someday you will meet him in heaven, but for now, I’m taking care of him for you.

I can’t even begin to describe to you the release that I felt in my heart. The permission to truly grieve and to be reminded that the Creator was intimately involved in the situation gave peace to my heart. The Lord started to heal those deep places of my soul that were wounded from our loss, and also began to heal the pain from the cutting words people had unknowingly pierced me with.

Healing, as always, has been a process. I had to work through the thought that maybe my body was defective in some way and that I wasn’t able to do the one thing women were supposed to be able to do. I had to work through mixed feelings when friends found out they were pregnant. I had to surrender the paralyzing fear of having another miscarriage when I was pregnant with Mariah. Oh, and I still hesitate when people ask me if Mariah is my first child. Yes, well no, but do I really want to explain?

The ugly truth is that a miscarriage is a heart-wrenching experience and the healing process isn’t easy by any means. The beautiful truth is that our Creator is intimately involved in every moment of our lives, from conception to our last breath.  He knows that there is a time to grieve and a time to rejoice and is there in the midst of it all. He is there with us when life knocks the wind out of us and He is there in every positiva that comes our way. He is not surprised, not confused, and never uncertain of the next step. I can rest in the fact that since He created the depths of our souls, He is more than capable of healing them too.

I would love to hear from you on this one, especially if you’ve gone through a similar situation. It’s always encouraging for me to hear that I’m not alone from people that understand.

Psalm 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Psalm 34:18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalm 139:13-16

For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.

I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;

Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.

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