I’ve debated for a long time whether to post my children’s birth stories. On the one hand, it feels a bit narcissistic to publish them, but on the other, aren’t all of my posts a bit narcissistic? It does seem from what I’ve read elsewhere that many people enjoy reading birth stories, so in honor of Sarah Kate’s 10th birthday coming up next week, I’ve decided to go ahead with a multi-part narrative. Part 1 is below; I’ll pick the story up again next Wednesday.
Our journey down the road to parenthood began in 1995.
I think somehow I knew then, even before Mr. Andi and I were married, that I wasn’t destined for an easy ride through maternity. In the early stages of our dating relationship, we talked about the possibility of children in our future. We both wanted children, but even then I didn’t presume fertility. When asked about children, I used the phrase “if I am so blessed,” which I think touched my husband deeply at the time. He was impressed, I think, by my acknowledgement of God’s hand in the process. I can’t say whether that statement was driven by faith or by fear, but there it was, nonetheless.
We married in 1996, but for various reasons didn’t decide to increase the size of our new family until 1998. We were overjoyed to find that it took us only a few months to get pregnant, and, in anticipation of our expanding family, purchased a four-bedroom home in the suburbs. We hadn’t yet closed on the new house when our first angel left us just one week after hearing the heartbeat. We were both deeply disappointed and, like most parents who have experienced a miscarriage, a little fearful to try again. The desire for children, however, was stronger than our fear, so we pressed on.
In the spring of 1999, we became pregnant again.
We both held our breath through the first trimester, expecting that after those initial thirteen weeks we would be “safe.” I didn’t look well, and felt even worse, as I moved into my second trimester, but without any previous experience for comparison, I was too ignorant to be concerned. An abnormal AFP screen caused my doctor to refer us to a geneticist, but we were only mildly troubled – after all, I knew that sometimes babies weren’t perfect, but I didn’t have any of the risk factors that I’d read about in my pregnancy books. I wasn’t too young or too old, and I didn’t smoke, do drugs, or participate in “risky” behaviors. We did discuss the possibility that we could have a baby with Down syndrome, one of the few problems we had any knowledge of at the time, but we were pro-life and didn’t consider aborting an imperfect child to be an option. In fact, we initially resisted the doctor’s suggestion that we have amniocentesis, but he eventually swayed us with the declaration,
“Something is very wrong with this baby. It is almost certainly not going to survive, and if you continue to carry it, you will die, too.”
For almost two weeks, as my blood pressure began to rise, my feet began to swell, and my eyes began to take on the grayish hue of the very ill, friends and family members recited tale after tale of people who’d had a scare like ours, only to have healthy babies after all. I tried to smile bravely, knowing in my gut that this pregnancy would not be one of those happy endings, and asked everyone to please pray not just for a positive outcome, but that whatever decisions we had to make would be clear-cut. When the call did finally come, the findings were conclusive: triploidy, a condition that is, as they say, “not compatible with life.”
Our second angel died at some point during the agonizing wait for the amniocentesis results and was delivered on Tuesday, July 13, 1999. We chose not to name her or hold her (a decision I now regret), though we do have a handful of photos tucked away in an album. The delivery was difficult in many ways, and dangerous for me, but we moved on with life. Hardships, particularly when they involve children, become the crucible for a young marriage.
Ours not only survived the fire, but thrived.
Having lost twice and suffered a lot of physical strain, I wasn’t eager to jump onto the mommy bandwagon for a third time. Although the doctors dismissed both problems as bad luck, we were both emotionally drained and fearful. The desire for children, however, eventually won out again and we went back for a third ride on the pregnancy roller coaster. After a period of infertility, several rounds of Clomid, and numerous discussions of adoption, we became pregnant for the third time in what we had decided would be the last month of trying. This time, we were older and wiser, and we held our breath even as we celebrated. Another second trimester trip to the geneticist gave us cause to relax a bit, and confirmed the sex of the baby, and we settled into the tasks of waiting and counting down the weeks. Other than the typical complaints, I felt great. We chose the name Sarah Katherine for our baby girl, and Mr. Andi, like a child waiting for Christmas, said over and over that he couldn’t wait for her to come.