Saturday, August 23, 2008

A little more...

I've received several messages directly from some of you, and I'm so sorry to not have had the chance to respond properly yet. Matthew was born Monday night, August 18, at 9:10 p.m., healthy and vigorous. And large, too: 8 lbs, 15 oz!

Like his big sister, he has a full head of hair, and long fingers and toes. It's impossible to not see Katie when we look at him, and it hurts so badly; we will never understand why we lost her. There are mysteries in the universe, and I suppose some questions simply do not have answers. But Matthew's healthy arrival has helped to restore our faith and hope, and that, to me, is what's beautiful about life: it can be so tragic and senseless, and glorious and beautiful all at once. Matthew is, in many ways, a gift from his sister. She changed our lives, and her death sent us to some dark places. But because of her, we know so much more about love, and that love, I think, has made us better people, and will make us better parents to Matthew.

I went in to the hospital for an induction on Sunday night (Cervidil), really unsure if it was the right thing, wanting to trust the natural process; my midwives did not want me to go past 40 weeks — which was Monday. I didn't sleep at all on Sunday night, stressed and scared, and figuring for sure, this medical intervention would lead to others and I'd wind up in some horrible situation again. But, I went into labor on Monday morning, though, unfortunately, it stalled around noon. I slept for a bit and then fretted and debated about what to do next; my midwife suggested that we rupture my waters, and after some debate, and dealing with the real issue (fear, mostly of losing another child), we decided to proceed with artificially breaking my water, around 4 p.m. I went into more active labor around 6 p.m., ramping up around 7:30, and the baby was born just after 9. I did it without painkillers, and while I wouldn't necessarily push that philosophy on anyone, I'm proud of myself. It HURT! But it's so doable, and so worth it. And, I found there was great peace in between those illogically painful contractions, which helped me to find the emotional strength to get Matthew born.

A couple of technical notes I'm still grappling with: with my pregnancy with Katie, it was really important to me to do the natural thing, because I wanted to bring my baby into the world in the most gentle way possible. Losing her, of course, shook my foundations; and it left me open to a more managed pregnancy, since as long as there's a live, healthy baby at the end, HOW I got there didn't matter that much. I tried to find the right balance for us, though...I had committed to the pregnancy, and the person growing inside of me, and I would be that person's mother, no matter what, so I wasn't interested in all the genetic testing, or finding out the gender. But I opted for more ultrasounds, and non-stress tests to keep an eye on the baby's well-being, and as importantly, to make sure the non-baby parts were working properly. Around 30 weeks, all of that geared up, and we went up to a radiology center in Princeton, specializing in maternal/fetal ultrasounds: we always, ALWAYS, told them we needed them to really keep an eye on the cord (Katie's presumed cause of death), the placenta (Katie's was on the small side), and my fluid levels (when Katie was born, we found my fluid level had dropped off a lot).

Matthew did not scream at first when he was born, which can happen, I suppose: he was monitored right up until he was born, and I could hear his heartbeat through it all, which was so reassuring. And my midwives cleaned him up, suctioned out his mouth and nose, and he was fine in a few seconds. But the silence again was incredibly distressing, for those very long seconds. The cord was torqued, AND it was around his neck, AND — most upsettingly — there was a true knot in his cord. I know some of this can happen during delivery, but one of my midwives suspects the knot was there for at least 4 months, and just pulled tight as I pushed; she said it looked the same on both sides of the knot — good blood distribution, healthy tissue, etc., which is why she thinks it tightened in the last minutes before he was born. We, of course, are befuddled and angry, amid our delight in Matthew's safe arrival, that a supposed specialist could miss this. How many times have we all heard that lightning doesn't strike twice? It was SO very hard to dig deep and find the strength to do this again, and then to have lightning strike twice just makes you doubt everything. In our case, I can be thankful that the second lightning strike did not yield the same results, but it's scary stuff. We're gonna settle in to our new routine and focus on our Matthew, and think about the issue with the specialist next week. I know ultrasound is an art as much as it is a science, but we rely so heavily on it. An aside: I was in late last week for my last scan, and the baby was estimated in the 7 pound range, but he was nearly 9 pounds at birth. Ow. (I now have no regrets about the induction, anyway!) If nothing else, if there's anyone reading this who might have recently received unsavory news from an ultrasound tech, try to remember how off they can be.

This blog was started as a way for me to prove to myself I could focus on something other than the immense grief I had over the loss of my baby, and it blossomed into something I never expected. It is because of Katie, I'm sure; and while it's not like I have a huge readership, it's just been good for me to have an outlet, and to occasionally connect meaningfully with people. The internet and computers can be so unfeeling and clinical, but it's helped me process the loss of my first child, and then, later, the loss of my dog, the loss of my mother, and the terribly complex emotions that went along with my pregnancy with Matthew. I am so grateful for those connections and inspiration and support. It has made a difference. Thank you for reading.

I'm not going anywhere, and hope — perhaps na├»vely — to raise my kid in a better Trenton. Failing the better Trenton scenario, I'm sure you can count him in as one of the good guys.


Matthew's arrival was attended by his father, Glen; two maternal aunties, Karen and Jenny; a paternal auntie, Brenda; two midwives, Pam and Louise; and several hospital nurses. It was wonderful to be surrounded by that much love and support. I know I couldn't have done it without the love and commitment of these people. Matthew's healthy arrival helped us all to continue a journey we all started in our own ways, back in 2006. It has gone so different than what we expected; taking such complicated and tragic turns, and yet, it has been so remarkable as well.

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