Yesterday I went to my doctor's office for an ultrasound. I have been having some cramping issues and they wanted to check things out. I woke up feeling good, I had a string of good days and was feeling strong. I didn't dwell on my appointment beforehand and didn't anticipate how I might feel. When the ultrasound technician called my name a wave of emotion washed over me. It is a small office, one technician, one ultrasound room, it was all the same. The only difference is the last two times I had been there Koen was there with me. I could barely speak. Tears fell down my cheeks, so hard that I could hear them hit the pillow. I leaned my head to the side, and stared at the wall. I couldn't bring myself to look at the monitor in front of me. The monitor that I was glued to and couldn't take my eyes off during every other ultrasound I have ever had. No precious baby this time, just an empty womb.
The good news is that all seems well and my body is slowly returning back to its "normal" self. I am also able to return to my "normal" self quicker. I have a moment, shed tears, but move forward. I am still hurting, still broken, but in awe of my healing. I can feel God holding me up each day and that gives me hope. Hope that one day I will make it through the day without crying, hope that I will laugh without it being followed by thoughts of guilt, hope that I will find peace, and hope that one day there will be another Soper baby. I have never doubted my love, this mama's heart has so much love, without love this wouldn't hurt so bad. I have made the decision to cling to my faith, even when things didn't make sense. This week my hope has returned.
1 Corinthians 13:13
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love.
Two weeks after Koen's birth we learned the cause of his death. There was E. coli present in the placenta. They took a swab sample of Koen and found E. coli there as well. My body made my baby sick. It was not anything I ingested, because it would have shown in my blood and I would have also been sick. E. coli is present in our bodies all the time. The colon, bladder, and uterus are all closely related. There was E. coli present in my bladder, but not at high levels. Another tests supports that I did have a UTI (urinary tract infection) even though I had no symptoms. Somehow in my body it made its way into my uterus, through my placenta, and to Koen. The specialist, Dr. W, assured me today that it was nothing I did and tears streamed down my face. I took on responsibility, fearing that possibly I had done something. My OB/GYN had given me the same assurance, but it is difficult to believe. It sounds like such a dirty cause of death. Here I am an avid hand washer and germ freak and a bacterial infection stole my baby from me. Dr. W said that he has seen women with STDs and others who don't bathe, and they still have healthy babies. There is really no rhyme or reason, sadly just something that occurred in my body. An infection that made it all the way to Level 4 (making it to Koen) without warning.
My blood pressure was high today, not surprising given that my anxiety triggers it. How could I not be anxious? We were given information about Koen's death and also told the prognosis for our future. What a mix of emotions. Horribly sad news, and praise God it was followed by hopeful news. I still feel uneasy as I am trying to process all this information today.
The good news is that Dr. W sees no reason to not advise us to move forward to grow our family. Will I get another infection? Maybe, maybe not. What will be different this time around is that I will be monitored closely and they will know what to look for. I will go for urine tests every two weeks. If bacteria is found I will get a large dose of antibiotics to treat that infection and then for the remainder of my pregnancy I will take antibiotics every day to ward off the infection from returning. We don't want to treat prior to detection for fear of immunity to the medicine. Starting at 26 weeks I will go in for 30 minutes a week and be hooked up to a fetal monitor to track the baby's heart rate. If they notice a drop in heart rate they would then make the decision to take the baby early. I will have monthly ultrasounds after 20 weeks to monitor the baby's growth. Our Big K was growing beautifully, he was above average size for a baby at 27 weeks, so while growth is not a concern it is something they will proactively watch. Their mission is to not have us lose another baby for any cause. If all is well throughout the pregnancy they will have me scheduled for a C-section at 38 weeks, or possibly earlier if the baby's lungs and development look good. Again, to be proactive. Towards the end of pregnancy if I am nervous, I can be admitted to the hospital to have the fetal monitor on at all times for reassurance. My OB/GYN will walk us through the pregnancy and Dr. W will be there to support him along the way.
I feel like we will be supported and cared for medically. We have been given the green light to start trying. Sad, scary, and exciting. I have such a mix of emotions. I am anxious. I concerned about my anxiety, its impact on getting pregnant and on my blood pressure when we do. I am asking for prayers. Prayers for peace as we make decisions. Prayers for a little Soper baby that is only a hope and dream right now. Prayers for protection. Thank you for walking alongside us in this journey, allowing me to bare my soul, and for your prayers.
My emotions and anxiety are running high today. Tomorrow we meet with the fetal/maternal specialist. Our case does not seem to be common. My OB/GYN has given us some hope, but cautiously. I have been clinging to that hope, but fear starts to sneak in and I wonder what the specialists recommendation will be. I am anxious about the answers we will get. Will there be another Soper baby? If it is okay to try again, what will the treatment be during my pregnancy? What is the likelihood that we could lose another baby? Has he even come across a case like ours before? Is there more going on with my body?
I have been experiencing cramping on and off. My doctor is aware of this and initailly it made sense, then we thought it was due to my cycle resuming, and I also thought it may just be me being hypersensitive. I am so acutely conscience of everything occurring in my body. After having something go so horribly wrong (and with very little warning) it is as if I am waiting for something else to come crashing down. I called the office yesterday to communicate the persistence of my cramps, because my cycle has not resumed and I really don't think it is all in my head.
While at Hackett's swim lessons today I went and sat a bench to watch. A father brought his one week old twins and placed their car seats RIGHT next to me. I never looked at the babies, not even a quick glance in the general direction, nor did I acknowledge the parents. I am quite sure I was the only one. My focus was on looking away and not crying. During my intense focus to hold it together, my doctors office calls my cell. I walked away to take the call. They were ordering blood work, to check for an infection and anemia, and also an ultrasound. Here I am continuing to face the aftereffects of this loss, not only the emotional effects, but also the physical ones, and there is a family with two healthy babies just steps away. I am thankful that they are not experiencing my same heartache, but it doesn't make it easy to have it right next to me. Everywhere I go there are precious little babies, pregnant bellies, and baby products. These past few days the whole world is talking about the royal baby boy's birth. Some of my friends are expecting or have just had babies. I am truly, genuinely happy for you ... there is no greater gift. But even on Facebook I have to look away, hiding some of you temporarily from my newsfeed. Please forgive me. I feel like that little girl in the movie We Bought a Zoo when she says "their happy is too loud". I want you to be happy, so happy, and to thank God for your miracles. I won't look away forever, I can't, but right now it is what I have to do to get through the day.
I am asking for prayers for our appointment tomorrow, the tests being run on my cramping issue, and for some peace. I thank you for loving us, praying for us, encouraging us, and supporting us. I can't even begin to explain what it means.
My bleeding had slowed down and things seemed to be calming down. I still had an IV attached to one arm and a blood pressure cuff on the other. Kevin and I decided that we were ready for our nurse to bring Koen to see us. Would we ever be ready for this moment? One that would grieve us and give us joy? The only physical time we would be with our second son. Our nurse brought him from the nursery - where he had been weighed, measured, pictures taken, foot and hand prints made, and dressed - and placed him in my arms. Kev stood over Koen and I, cradling us, as we both cried out from a primal place.
I have spent my week trying to stay busy. I am not a fan of the process of organizing things (but I do like the end product) or of gardening. This week I busied myself with both of those things. Not actually gardening - it's way too hot - but planning and ordering things to keep me busy this fall. I am busy making sure I am busy. Taking longer on tasks than necessary just to make sure that the time is filled. I can endure this grief in small doses, but facing it all day is just too much.
This Tuesday I would be 35 weeks and I feel my due date approaching. Instead of going in for a checkup, I go to see the fetal/maternal specialist this coming Wednesday. I am anxious and scared. I am excited and heartbroken. I am all over the map. When Koen died he left a hole in my heart and in our home. Our family of three that seemed full before now feels empty. I feel Koen's absence even though he never spent a night in his crib. My arms ache for him. Watching Hackett play by himself makes me feel a void for him as well. Kevin feels this same enormous emptiness in our lives. Another baby will never replace Koen, but we would be able to pour this love in our hearts on a new little gift and be able to fill our house. The hole will always be present, but my hope is that a little Soper baby would help us all heal. This future is all unknown. We don't know if pregnancy will be recommended. If it is, we don't know what the treatment will be to help assist in us not suffering this same heartache again. There will be no gaurentees and that is petrifying. One of things I busied myself with this week was choosing baby names. I know it sounds completely crazy, but I need something to hope for and pray for. I want to believe that I will have three kids someday and that two of them will be on this earth with me.
Everything has made my eyes well up with tears today. This is where I spent my alone time this evening. It just shouldn't be ...
This week Kevin and I have been tag teaming repainting our deck. Not a project I had planned on helping him with had I still been pregnant. I attempted the power washer a few months ago, but the kick back threw me off balance with my pregnant belly. We had been doing some indoor painting projects earlier this year, but were careful and only used paint with no VOCs. That not being a possibility for the deck paint meant it was off limits for me.
Earlier this week we had a day that was a bit cooler, so I went to work. Working, keeping busy, and accomplishing tasks has felt good to me lately. As I began to paint I was so happy to help Kevin out with this big chore and surprise him with the progress. Sometimes, I forget for small periods of time, and briefly life feels normal and good. I was in the middle of painting thinking about all the things we had done around our new house to transform it to be our own. I thought, "Man, Jackie, you really didn't get done everything you had planned this year". Then reality hit me. I didn't accomplish as much as planned because I was dealing with nausea, low energy, and taking care of myself ... because I was pregnant. The painting project I was happily working on was only happening because I no longer had Koen in my belly. Sometimes I forget, sometimes life feels normal and good, and then I remember and feel like I am being kicked in the chest.
The grief process brings about such a weird range of emotions. In order to move forward I have to let go of the constant thoughts, but when I let go - even for brief periods - guilt and sorrow seem to strike with a vengeance. The reality is I don't want to let go, I don't want to ever let go, but I have to because as much as I would like to I can't bring him back. Koen will always be with me, always have my heart, will always be in my daily thoughts, will always be missed and loved, but life still has to continue on.
Kevin and I had been excitedly working to prepare Koen's room for him. We remembered that with Hackett the last few months seemed to pass so quickly. Knowing that summer would fly by our plan was to have it done in June.
Koen's room has had many names in our short 18 months in this house. When we first moved in it was the junk room and was the dumping ground for boxes that I didn't want to unpack or things that still needed to find a home. I made it my mission this past fall to tackle the junk room and I conquered it. We decided that it needed a new name now that it was clean of clutter, so we decided to throw some good karma at it and renamed it the clean room. As soon as we knew that we had our Little Muffin it was the baby's room. The weekend after we learned that we were having a boy the painting began on Koen's room. When I was pregnant I would often go to Koen's room, sit in the rocking chair, play one of my favorite lullaby CDs, and dream about holding him in that very place. I was so excited to cozy up with my snuggly little guy, pat his bottom, and kiss his head.
The walls were painted. The crib was assembled just days before Koen's birth. I had gone through all of Hackett's old clothes and onsies, removed stains, washed, organized, and hung them in the closet. A changing table was assembled and on our main floor, baskets already filled with all the necessities. Koen's crib was filled with the newborn clothes I had just washed in Dreft and were waiting to be folded and put in his drawers. We had just cut new foam for the window seat. I just needed to finish some sewing projects. A window seat cover, curtains, wall hanging, a few blankets, and burp cloths - all are prepped and waiting for me in my craft room. We were getting so close to be ready for Koen's arrival.
When I got home from the hospital I sat in the rocking chair again, listened to my favorite lullaby CD, hugged the teddy bear fiercely, and sobbed like I never have before. All those dreams I had would not come true. I told Kevin that I had to finish Koen's room. I couldn't just leave it undone. Having it be so close hurts worse - a reminder of the reality of being so close. I started to fold the sweet little clothes a week later. I worked so slow, not wanting the job to end. It is still left undone, but it won't stay that way. Just this last week we hung some of the pictures on the wall. My maternity clothes now hang over the crib and need to be stored away, but removing them from my closet was hard enough. I will finish Koen's room with a broken heart that it won't be him to fill that space with his sweet little face, but pray that someday I will snuggle a sweet little baby in that rocking chair in that room with yet another new name ...
My view from the rocking chair.
This is where Hackett planned to hang out with Koen and Mommy.
At the time of Koen's birth we had no idea what caused his heart to stop beating or when it had occurred. We had the option to see him right after the birth or wait and have the nurses clean him up in the nursery first. We were fearful of our memories being clouded with a potentially disturbing image I have mixed feelings about that decision, when I stop and think about just sending him away it hurts my heart. Now we know he was cute as a button and it would have been okay, but we were unprepared for that day and didn't have the luxury of thinking through all the details and didn't have the information we have now.
Physically I was not ready to meet him right away, my doctor wasn't done with me yet. The delivery of my placenta didn't go smoothly. My bleeding was more severe than they would have liked. I stared at a table behind my doctor that was full of bowls and it looked like a horror movie. As my doctor was trying to clean out my uterus and stop my bleeding, I laid there in shock wondering how I had gotten here in just 12 hours. They were trying to talk calmly, but I sensed their concern. I kept asking, "what if you can't get the bleeding to slow down?". My doctor told me he was hoping we wouldn't end up in the OR. I didn't know what that would mean and immediately went to the worst case. I thought am I going to lose my uterus tonight too? I didn't even want to ask for fear of the answer. They worked on me for quite some time, and praise God, my bleeding slowed to an acceptable rate. I was able to begin to collect myself and prepare to meet my second son.
My contractions continued with great frequency. I had been given Pitocin to assist in speeding up the delivery process. I was given some sort of pain medication through my IV, but it was no longer cutting it. I felt clueless in the whole labor and delivery process. I made that clear to my nurse and doctor. I never took any sort of birthing class when I was pregnant with Hackett, we knew he would be a C-section so we never bothered. Koen was planned to arrive on August 22 via C-section. The word epidural I was familiar with. When I was done feeling the pain I asked for one of those.
The epidural gave me relief from my physical pain. My emotional pain also seemed to take a rest during this time. I think the physcial demands being put on my body, combined with the drugs in my system, trumped my emotions. It was necessary to put them on hold. Time passed. I was fully dilated, but had no urgency to push. I couldn't feel anything, so they decided to dial back my epidural. I started to shiver and my whole chest was shuddering, but I was still not feeling my contractions so my epidural was turned off. The pain of my contractions returned. My doctor asked me if I was ready to begin pushing. How do I answer that question? I didn't feel the need physically to push. If I began pushing that would mean I would lose Koen. I believe part of the peace I experienced that day was because I still had Koen. Even though he was no longer there, he was still inside of me. Making the decision to push, was making the decision to say goodbye. I pushed for an hour and a half before my sweet little boy was born. It was the most surreal experience. Beautiful and heart wrenching.
I am Jackie.