Monday, August 29, 2005

I think we're going to do it

I think we're going to go ahead and move. We need to make a change and there's no point in putting things on hold for a pregnancy that may or may not happen when we expect it to (or at all).

I'm panicking. I've moved -- once, by myself -- to a new state (when I came here from New York City when I was 22) but I had hardly any stuff then. I didn't have to sell a house. I didn't have two cats.

What to do first??? I guess the first order of business is to look for a new job.


Pardon me while I ramble

We have a dilemma. We've talked it to death and we can't come to a decision. So I'm writing it down in the hope that that will somehow make the answer clearer to me (or maybe that someone in blogland will take pity and give me some advice.)

Right now, we live in Boston. We decided not long after J. died that what we really wanted was to move to Long Island, where I grew up. My mom and stepfather, my dad and stepmother, and one of my stepbrothers live there; my brother and his wife are relatively close by in southern Connecticut, and it would make the trip to visit Mr. NK's family an 8-hour drive instead of a 16-hour one. We talked over all of the reasons to do it and we couldn't really think of any reasons NOT to go. Somehow, after losing J., being near family seems like the most important thing in the world.

What we're having trouble with is deciding WHEN to go. We've already started making the necessary upgrades/improvements to our townhouse in order to sell it. We could start the whole process now, or we could wait until whenever we're lucky enough to have another baby.

Scenario #1: We would go through TTC and a pregnancy here. I'd leave my job when I would have anyway, we'd move during what would have been my maternity leave, and while Mr. NK would have secured a job prior to the move, I would wait to start looking until a few months after we arrived there, thus giving me more time with the hypothetical future baby. My father kept his house from before he married his wife - they hardly ever use it, and he's offered to let us stay there temporarily so that we don't have to simultaneously buy one house and sell another, so that makes things somewhat easier. But the issue I keep running into this this idea is that if we did it, we'd be dealing with a new baby, an inter-state move, new jobs, and a new house all at roughly the same time. That just seems like incredible folly to me.

Scenario #2: We start the moving/job hunting process now and move ASAP. Meanwhile, we stick to our plan of trying to conceive, starting this cycle. The idea of moving first appeals to me because we know we want to, so why not just do it? Also, because that way we'd be settled before a hypothetical baby arrived. However - if getting pregnant happens quickly (we conceived J. on the first try - and while I don't think that will necessarily happen again, it's always possible), I'd be faced with either looking for a new job while pregnant, or getting pregnant very soon after starting a new job. That would mean I wouldn't get FMLA leave - so I wouldn't even get the 12 weeks I would get if we stayed here (which seemed too short to me already!). And if I was already pregnant, would I have a hard time getting hired?

Scenario #3: We start the moving process now, but hold off on TTC. Once we get down there and start new jobs/start the house hunting process, we'll wait the three months so that just in case we got pregnant quickly, I'd be FMLA-eligible by the time the hypothetical baby came. It seems like logically, this option makes the most sense. But for both of us, the thought of having to put off TTC for a pretty long time - say it takes us 3 months to find jobs and move, and then 3 more months to wait for FMLA - just seems awful. We've waited for our baby for so long already.

The thing is, the whole plan right now hinges on when/whether we have a baby. And it sucks, because that's something we can't control. We could take the nice safe Option #3 and then it could take us a year or two to get pregnant and we'd be kicking ourselves that we waited. We could think we're taking a huge risk and take Option #2 and have everything work out beautifully with the timing. There's no way to know.

I know we're going to run the risk of giving SOMETHING up - whether it's starting to try right away, or a longer maternity leave, or a lower-stress move - no matter which option we choose. I just don't know which thing we should give up. All I know is that I want to live there, and I want a baby.

Friday, August 26, 2005

"Hey, didn't you have a baby?"

Possibly the worst thing about dealing with the fallout of J.'s death is running into people who knew I was pregnant, but didn't know the rest of the story. They get excited to see me and happily ask how the baby is -- and then we have to tell them that he died. It makes them feel awful, it makes me feel awful -- it's just generally awful all around.

I thought I was pretty much through it, that there was no one left who might ask me such a question. I hadn't heard it in a long time. And then, this week, it happened twice. The first time was an old boss of mine from The Crappy College That Shall Not Be Named -- we kept in touch for a while, so he knew I'd moved on, and he's now working for the same university. I guess he tried to call me in June and got the message my manager left on my voicemail saying I was on leave. She was careful not to say "maternity leave," but people just assume that's what it is.

Today, I got an email from a woman in another department -- I'm working on a project for her department, so she knew I was planning to be out. I'd sent her a message yesterday relating to the project -- for some reason I thought my manager had talked to her, but I guess not, because she innocently wrote "When did you have your baby? How is he?"

I hate having to tell people because even though I can talk about it now without crying, it makes them feel so guilty for having asked. But really, why should they? They had no way of knowing. What happened to me is so uncommon that it's not like people consider it before they ask such a question. I wonder if they should? I don't know. It seems like to do so would take so much of the joy out of pregnancy, and is there really a reason to? Yes, not everyone gets a baby at the end, and we shouldn't forget that, but I don't know if assuming the worst helps either.

Anyway, I am rambling. It's actually not such a bad day today. TMI here, but I'm finally getting my first postpartum period, after 13 weeks. I guess that means I really did ovulate when I thought I did, so that's decent news. In two weeks I see the doctor and we'll figure out where to go from there.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Things that make me happy

Because man, do I ever need to remember them today. So here, some serious, some silly, and in no particular order:

1. "Jeeves and Wooster" episodes on DVD
2. The fact that fall weather is coming
3. Sabrina the Original NervousKitty purring me to sleep on my pillow
4. My husband's cooking
5. Being able to fit into at least one (okay, only one) pair of pre-pregnancy pants
6. The story my brother told me today about dancing on a table during a wedding he was in last weekend
7. The geraniums I planted in front of the house (and the fact that I haven't killed them yet)
8. Jigsaw puzzles
9. Soap bubbles
10. Laughing at how freaked out the cats get by the aforementioned soap bubbles
11. Feeling closer to my dad since Joseph was born
12. Mystery Science Theatre 3000
13. When Mr. NK brings me flowers
14. Cape Cod
15. Bass Ale
16. Alton Brown
17. When my brother and stepbrothers and I get together
18. Feeling closer to my dad since Joseph was born
19. Pasta
20. 80s music

I think that's enough for now. Maybe tomorrow when I feel better I'll write about how much today sucked. Then again, maybe not.

Monday, August 22, 2005

I keep thinking about something Catherine posted a while back about feeling like Typhoid Mary in front of pregnant women. It's so true, and I really hate it.

This weekend I was at a birthday party for the 1-year-old daughter of a college friend. I was hanging out in the den with a group of people I went to school with, and because one of them is 37 weeks pregnant, the conversation naturally was revolving around pregnancy.

When people talk about being pregnant, it feels natural to me to be part of the conversation. My pregnancy with J. was textbook, so when people talk about, say, swollen ankles or having trouble sleeping or feeling a baby kick, I can relate to all of that, and I join in. I don't talk about J.'s death or anything. So I was feeling OK, and then another woman we didn't know, a cousin of the woman throwing the party, wandered in. She was hugely pregnant (she said she was due this coming Friday), so she and the other pregnant woman started talking about it, and it turned out they go to the same doctor.

This reminded me that someone had recommended an OB at Mass General Hospital that I might want to think about seeing next time. I knew that Jess, my pregnant college friend, also goes to this OB, so I asked if she liked him. She told me she did, and I started to say "Thanks, I was thinking I might go to him next time" -- and then I stopped myself. It occurred to me that this other pregnant woman, who didn't know me, might say, "Oh, when did you have your first?" And then I'd have to tell her that he died. I doubted she would want to hear that five days before her due date. So I shut up.

But it sucked, realizing that for the rest of my life, I can't talk to people about the most important thing that's ever happened to me. And it made me wonder if even people who know me think it's weird that I join in conversations about pregnancy and babies as though J. were alive. I'm not pretending that he is -- I'm just NOT pretending that he never existed. But then I think, did my being in that conversation earlier serve as a painful reminder to Jess that I had a perfect pregnancy just like she's having, and that she could still lose her own baby? I don't want to make other people uncomfortable, either. I don't know how I should act. Am I a mom, or not?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

I am a big fat liar...

...but there was just one of those stupid OPKs left in the pack I bought almost two weeks ago, and even though I'm supposedly in a self-imposed information moratorium, I figured what the hell.

It was positive. Whoa.

That means (well, hopefully) that after my next appointment with Dr. S. in three weeks, we can try again if we want to.

Is it wrong of me to be so happy about that?

Friday, August 12, 2005

Too Much Information

You see "TMI" used a lot online, especially when it comes to trying to conceive (for obvious reasons). I was thinking about this today and realizing how appropriate it is.

Information is a good thing. But sometimes, it's just not what you need.

When J. died, the neonatologist told us just a few hours after his death that they thought he might have had a condition called pulmonary hypoplasia. He didn't explain much about that was (or maybe I just missed it, being doped up and in shock at the time) and so a few days later, knowing I probably shouldn't, I typed it into Google. I got all confused because from what I was reading, it didn't sound like that was what had happened. Apparently, pulmonary hypoplasia tends to go hand in hand with a shortage of amniotic fluid, usually caused by kidney problems in the baby. But I'd had an ultrasound just five days before J. was born, and my fluid and his kidneys were both fine.

In the few weeks that followed, before we got the autopsy report, Mr. NK and I kept looking around for more information on what could have caused our baby to be unable to breathe -- if it wasn't pulmonary hypoplasia, then what was it? It's at times like this that I wonder if services like PubMed are a good thing. We kept turning up articles about rare conditions and getting increasingly worried that we'd passed some kind of genetic disaster on to J., and that we'd be at risk for passing it on again.

Ironically, itwas in the middle of yet another such discussion, one in which we'd actually started crying and discussing our options for donor eggs/sperm in case we were going to end up with too high of a risk to conceive again on our own, that Dr. S. called to tell us that the preliminary autopsy report had turned up no congenital birth defects. We could have saved ourselves a lot of worry and heartbreak if we'd just waited for the professionals.

After that was the Great C-section Worry Marathon. I was waiting for my 6-week checkup and wondering if the two doctors who told me we could try again after 3 months were right. I was glad they'd said it, but surprised, because I was sure they'd tell me to wait longer -- so I searched online for medical advice about how soon you could get pregnant after a c-section.

This was not my finest moment. Okay, not my finest three weeks. As it turns out, practically no two doctors agreed on this issue. I saw everything from "After six weeks your incision is as healed as it's ever going to be" to "Your uterus will EXPLODE if you even THINK about getting pregnant before two years have gone by!" Being the neurotic person that I am, I kept believing the latter. By the time I got to my 6-week checkup, I was bracing myself for the worst. But when I asked my doctor how long he thought we should wait to conceive, he said, "Come back and see me in the first week of September. After that, you can set your own agenda."

"September?" I said. "You're sure? That's not too soon?"

He shrugged. "Hell," he said, "I get women back in here for the 6-week checkup who are already pregnant. I just want to make sure you have enough time to heal emotionally."

So much for my uterus exploding.

If I were a smart person, I'd have learned my lesson from this. But oh no, not me! Instead, I started charting. I should have known better, honestly. I know I'm not the kind of person who can do these things and NOT get obsessed with them, especially when I haven't even gotten a period yet - there's no pattern, of course, and no real indication of when I would see one. All it did was get me increasingly anxious (and way too interested in my cervix, but, well, TMI).

So here's my decision. I'm just going to stop. I don't need any more information. I don't want any more information. I'm done. So in honor of this decision, here is a list of things I will not be doing for a while:

1) Taking my temperature every morning (which, I hope, also means I won't be waking up an hour before the alarm every day, wondering if I'm going to be able to go back to sleep and if not, should I temp now, or wait, etc., etc.)

2) Going to any unusual lengths to check for other fertility signs. If you know what I mean. And I think you do.

3) Googling for phrases like "first postpartum period." Or "pregnancy after loss." Or "pregnant again after c-section." Or "uterine rupture."

4) Doing Weight Watchers online. The last thing I need right now is MORE information to keep track of, enter into a software program every day, and then feel bad when it doesn't look the way I want it to.

If I think of anything else, I will add it.

Here's to blissful ignorance.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

I'm not really strong.

I keep hearing over and over how strong I am. I'll tell new people my story and they say I sound so calm and so strong. Or I'll be talking to my parents and they'll praise me for being so strong.

I don't think I am, really. Sure, I'm not curled in the fetal position on my bed crying every day (though I've had my share of days like that). I'm not refusing to leave the house. I'm working and seeing friends and functioning.

But inside? No, inside I am not strong.

Inside I am having horrible thoughts like that I don't want my brother and sister-in-law to concieve before we do - I don't even think they're trying, but I couldn't stand it if they had a baby before I did because I was supposed to have the first grandchild, dammit.

Inside I am seething about my stupid body and its stupid failure to ovulate and the stupid tease it put me through last week, and counting the days until I can call the doctor and beg for Provera (only 7 left!).

Inside I am getting pissed off when my mother tells me that her husband's sister-in-law was talking to a friend of hers who knows a pediatric nurse, and she said that what happened to J. is unlikely to happen again. I hate the idea of random strangers talking about me and my freakish situation.

Inside I want to cry when I hear that a pregnant acquaintance is uncomfortable around me because she doesn't want to upset me with her pregnant-ness. This is what I have become, that girl that makes everyone uncomfortable. That girl whose story scares pregnant women. That girl people feel sorry for.

If there's any strength in me, it's only in the fact that I've managed to hide all of this from other people.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Original NervousKitty

Just for fun I thought I'd post a picture of my cat, Sabrina. When I was trying to think of a nickname to write under, I thought of her because Mr. NK and I joke around that she's just like me - nervous, high-strung, and native to the East Coast (as opposed to our other cat, Trouble, who is just like Mr. NK - large, laid-back, and from the South).

She was still a kitten here, but this is what she does when she's afraid to come downstairs - peeks around the corner to see who's down there.

So if you were wondering how I came up with such a silly nickname, now you know. ;)


Temp went up a whopping .1 degree this morning. Woo hoo. Not. I guess my body was gearing up to ovulate and didn't quite make it. Oh well.

Anyway, I don't want this blog to be all about the vagaries of my chart. I'm still figuring this stuff out.

I got a raise today! They redid the salary structure for my entire office, so I wound up with almost a 9% raise. At a university, that's no joke. I think the biggest raise I've ever gotten here was 4.5%. (When I worked at The Shitty College That Shall Not Be Named in 2002, I got a 1.5% raise once. Gotta love academia.)

My job's OK, but I don't know how much longer we'll be here. Another reason I wanted a more anonymous journal than I had before was because we have a secret...we're thinking seriously about selling our house and moving back to Long Island, where I grew up. I have to laugh when I think about this, since I've spent the last 12 or so years swearing first that I couldn't wait to leave and then that I'd never go back. I had this idea that I couldn't be independent unless I lived far away from my family.

But after we lost J., all the reasons we never wanted to live there seemed petty. Suddenly having family close by, where they could help and support us not only in the bad times, but in the good ones, seems so much more important. And Long Island has other important things for both of us - we know people there besides my family, it's got the same career/cultural opportunities, if not more, than Boston does because of its proximity to NYC...there just don't seem to be many reasons NOT to move.

We're just trying to figure out when to do it. Part of me thinks it makes more sense to try to move first before we start TTC again, but then I have no idea when we'll start/how long it will take. It could happen sooner rather than later, and then I'd be stuck trying to find a new job while pregnant. So we may wait until whenever it is that we have another child, and then do it. In the meantime, I pretty much have to stay where I am job-wise, since it wouldn't be good to switch and then switch again in a year or so.

Too many decisions...

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Temp dipped again today instead of going up. WTF? However, I had no other ovulation signs today - so maybe I ovulated today and I'll see a rise tomorrow? I bought these ovulation predictor stick things last week and started using them last Thursday, but I have yet to see a line - let alone a line lighter than the control line.

I hate this.

Monday, August 08, 2005

I wish I'd started this blog sooner. It's 10.5 weeks since J. was born and I feel like I'm through the darkest part of it. Not that I'm "over it." I'll never be over it. But I feel like I'm living my life again and not sleepwalking through it.

Last weekend we went to visit Mr. NK's family down South. We hadn't seen them since J. was born - they offered to come up when we were in the hospital, but Mr. NK asked them not to. That might sound weird, but so much of my family was with us that we thought it might be overwhelming to have even more people, and it's not an easy trip for them since they live in pretty much the middle of nowhere. Flights from their city are hard to get and expensive. So we told them we'd be down later in the summer.

Mr. NK's Uncle A. is a Baptist minister, so we had asked if he would help us memorialize J. during our trip. We had him cremated and the remains put into six tiny urns. My mother, my father, and Mr. NK's parents will each get one to keep; we wanted one for the ceremony; and we'll keep the others. Maybe we'll scatter one or more of them, I don't know.

Mr. NK's family own their own little family cemetery on the side of a mountain, and we had the ceremony there last Saturday. His aunts and uncles and cousins came to be with us, and Uncle A. read from the Bible and gave a little speech. Then we scattered the tiny vial of ashes on Mr. NK's grandmother's grave. He wanted it that way - even though neither of us is religious, he likes to think of her watching over J. somewhere.

Something amazing happened while Uncle A. was speaking - in the middle of his sermon, two tiny fawns ran out of the woods behind him, skipped across the clearing, and ran into the woods on the other side. A moment later, they ran back the other way and disappeared into the woods again. I've never seen anything like it. I'm not religious or superstitious, but it was almost like a sign, like realizing that there were still beautiful things in this world waiting to happen to us.

It's funny how that day seemed to change things somehow. For a few weeks before it happened I'd been feeling more and more normal. The minutiae of everyday life - going to work, seeing friends, watching TV - were starting not to seem so alien. But as soon as we scattered those ashes and said our goodbyes to J., it was like a huge weight had been lifted. I feel like the process of moving on and starting over has begun. And finally, my body is cooperating.

After we had our 6-week checkup and were told we didn't need to wait very long, I started getting anxious for my period to come. I'd started charting on Fertility Friend about four weeks after delivery; I thought that a) it would get me in the habit for when we tried again, since I didn't chart when we concieved J., and b) I thought it might give me an idea of when my fertility would return.

I found charting kind of nerve-wracking. The first few nights I'd wake up way earlier than usual and lie there wondering if I should go ahead and temp or try to go back to sleep. The first few weeks of my chart look like a roller coaster. But I eventually got used to it...except that it started to drive me crazy. Not seeing a pattern to the temps drove me crazy. Not seeing any other signs of impending ovulation drove me crazy. As weeks went by with no sign of ovulation or my period, I started to get more and more frustrated. Dr. S. had said that up to 12 weeks was normal to go without a period, but it seemed like everyone I'd asked who had given birth, even people in situations like mine, had started theirs much sooner.

I was so angry with my body - first it couldn't keep J. safe, and now it was keeping me "broken." Even though we concieved J. on the first try last summer, with no charting (I was observing other fertility signs, so it wasn't a complete shot in the dark), I was terrified that I was going to have some kind of hormone imbalance that would prevent us from getting pregnant again. So I was incredibly relieved when I started to get signs of impending ovulation (er, I'm trying to be delicate here) last Thursday. That's still happening, but no sign of a temperature shift yet. I'm thinking today might be the day.

That means that in just four more weeks, give or take, we can start trying again. Dr. S. didn't say anything about wanting me to wait a certain number of cycles - all the doctors I asked, including him, said that waiting 3 months was fine, and it's already 10.5 weeks. By the time I ovulate again it will be about 15 weeks, so I'm assuming it will be safe to go ahead. I can't believe it's so close. In those first few days when we were so desperate to have another child, 12 weeks seemed like an eternity.

Some answers

I was a wreck waiting for our 6-week checkup, especially since right after it, we had a meeting with the neonatologist who took care of J. in the hospital. He wanted to go over the autopsy report with us.

But as it turned out, all the time I'd spent worrying - that I wasn't going to be healing fast enough, that he'd tell us to wait a year before trying again, etc - was for nothing. When I asked Dr. S about trying again, he said that as long as we felt recovered enough that the anxiety of a subsequent pregnancy wouldn't outweigh the joy, that was enough for him. So we're cleared to try as soon as my cycle gets back to normal! I asked about my scar giving way and he said he wasn't worried about it; I asked how many more C-sections I'd be able to have and he said up to 4 total (which would allow us to have 3 more children, should we want to). I was in shock - I'd been mentally preparing myself for all kinds of worst-case scenarios.

So, feeling much better, we headed to the hospital to meet with Dr. H., the neonatologist. I hesitate to say that what he told us is "good news," but I suppose it's the best we could have hoped for:

- they determined a cause of J.'s death, which is more comforting than having it be a complete mystery;
- that cause was not genetic;
- it is extremely unlikely to recur in future pregnancies.

Dr. H. explained that as far as they can tell, J. aspirated a large amount of amniotic fluid sometime during my labor. They don't know exactly why, but since there was a small amount of meconium in my water (also a sign of fetal distress), there was probably a brief interruption of his oxygen. That's not uncommon, and neither is it uncommon for babies to aspirate a small amount of fluid, but for whatever reason J. took in so much that when he was born and tried to breathe, his lungs were too overwhelmed to do it. There were no abnormalities found in any of his organs. Basically, a tragic fluke accident.

We asked if there were any machines or medications that might have saved his life if they had been available at the hospital. According to Dr. H., it wouldn't have been possible because they were unable to get J. stabilized - if they had been able to do that, he would have been transported to Mass General, but since they couldn't, even having the most sophisticated machinery right there in the room wouldn't have made a difference. At least there is no regret that we made the wrong choice of hospital, or that the doctors didn't do all they could.

Part of me is devastated that my baby was perfect - it makes his death seem so horribly pointless and unfair. This is such an incredibly rare thing; why were we the ones it had to happen to? I try not to dwell on these thoughts too much, though - the only way it doesn't seem overwhelmingly sad is if I look at it another way, and feel hope. Dr. H. says that for this to happen again would be akin to lightning striking the same place twice.

I was told that even though my risk for such a thing happening again is no more than anyone else's, any future pregnancy would be treated as high risk, which has some benefits. I would see the hospital's high-risk OB in conjunction with my own OB, and they would do anything they could to give us extra reassurance, whether that was more/more detailed ultrasounds, more visits to check the heartbeat, etc. I will also most likely have a scheduled c-section a week or two before my due date - which is fine with me. Even though the risk is low, since this happened during labor, there is no way on this earth I could go through labor again, wondering the whole time if my baby was going to make it.

So overall, it was a bittersweet day. I miss J. terribly and I always will, but I have more hope for the future than I've had since that terrible day. I think that finding out what we did will help us begin to move on.

The rest of the story

The four days we spent in the hospital after J.'s birth and death were some of the strangest of my life. I should have been so happy - spending time with my husband, surrounded by family and friends, and learning how to take care of my new baby. Well, Mr. NK was there - he pretty much never left my side - and my family and friends, and the room filled up with flowers and candy, like it would have for a normal person. But in spite of all that, I was having to learn how to live without my baby, a baby I'd never even held, never nursed, had barely even seen alive.

On Friday morning, I was allowed to eat solid food for the first time since Wednesday. That, combined with being moved out of the windowless room and into a normal room on the maternity ward, made me feel somewhat better. Later that evening was best of all - I got to take a shower. It's amazing what a shower will do for your mood when you haven't had one for nearly three days.

My family stayed with us almost constantly for the next few days - including my brother and his wife and my aunt, who all arrived on Friday. We had so many visitors. I never realized before how many friends we have.

Those few days were strange for Mr. NK and I. He was allowed to stay with me in my room, on the foldout bed next to mine. I've never felt closer to him than I did during that time - what happened truly made us realize how much we love each other. If I ever had any worries that our marriage wouldn't last, they are gone now. It was odd to feel such overwhelming love and, yes, happiness in the midst of so much sadness, but that's how we felt. Sometime in those few days, we decided to renew our wedding vows as soon as we could.

We talked a lot about trying to have another baby. It was the foremost thing on both our minds almost from the moment J. died. Does that sound callous? I certainly don't mean it to. It's more that we were so ready for this baby - we had prepared ourselves and our home so much for his arrival, and to now not have a baby made us feel so empty. And we'd never had the chance to bond with J. - we had barely even seen him.

Meanwhile, I was finding c-section recovery not at all that bad. Within a few days I could get in and out of bed and walk to the bathroom with surprising ease - I think even the nurses were surprised.

My dad and his wife left on Saturday evening; the rest of my family left the next day. By then, I was able to walk up and down the hospital corridor. I thought about going home on Sunday; the doctor had said that if I wanted, I could be discharged that day, but ultimately we decided to stay the full 4 days.

While we were there, we had a visit every day from my OBs while they did their rounds. Dr. S. had the weekend off, but two other doctors from my practice, Dr. M. and Dr. K., came to see us and were wonderful. Both of them were very encouraging about us trying again, and we were pleasantly surprised to hear that both of them said we could start after 3 months from the delivery.

All of that was over a month ago. We spent the first few weeks after J.'s birth at home, not doing much except talking and watching TV - we just needed time to be alone together. We did take a short trip to the Finger Lakes to get out of the house for a while, and I think it helped. I went back to work on June 22, a month after the day I went into labor. The first day was hell - no one knew what to say to me, and I just holed up in my office and cried. Since then, things have been a little bit better every day.

Three weeks after J. died, Dr. S. called us with the preliminary autopsy results. We had been driving ourselves crazy in the meantime looking up information about pulmonary hypoplasia and all of the other bad things that could have been wrong with J. We were terrified that we were going to turn out to have some kind of inheritable genetic issue. But the doctor's news surprised us - it wasn't pulmonary hypoplasia. In fact, there were no congenital birth defects found, no human error discovered - no cause of death determined. Dr. S. told us that in many, many cases this is what happens - the death is just "one of those things" with no explanation.

Is this good news or bad news? I suppose it's in how you look at it - when I told Mr. NK, he cried a little and said, "If there was nothing wrong with him, why did he die?" But on the other hand, that means that we didn't pass on some kind of genetic mutation that caused a terrible defenct. That's good news, because it means that it's unlikely to ever happen again. We're still waiting for the detailed autopsy report, but we're hopeful.

I have almost no pain left from my c-section - just a very slight tenderness above my navel that is probably the internal incision healing. I'm back to most of my regular activities, but trying to take it a little bit easy until my 6-week checkup next week.

We weren't sure what to do with all of the things we had accumulated for J. - all the clothes, the carefully decorated nursery, the toys, the baby gear. We left it there for a while, and then last week we dismantled the crib and packed away the toys and blankets. Because he never came home with us, we don't have memories of him wearing the clothes or sleeping in the crib or playing with the toys, so keeping them around makes us hopeful that someday before too long, there will be another baby here to use them.

Speaking of which, trying again has become almost an obsession. I was so glad when the doctors told us the wait was only 3 months. Since then, stupidly, I've done all kinds of reading and seen that many other doctors recommend waiting 6 or 9 months, some even a year. Because the doctors who told me 3 months, although they were from my practice, aren't the ones who will be doing my 6-week checkup (Dr. S. will do that), I am terrified that Dr. S. will tell me I have to wait longer. There doesn't seem to be any consensus among doctors about the reason for the wait - there's some concern about the c-section scar rupturing, but that's mostly only in cases where the mother tries to labor and delivery vaginally after a section. I have no intention of doing that - the next time I want the baby out as soon as possible. I don't think I could handle the anxiety of laboring for hours, wondering the whole time if my baby was going to make it.

So I'm just counting the days now until I see Dr. S., and praying that he doesn't make us wait. By the time I see him, the three-month waiting period will be half over. I can deal with that.

I worry sometimes that my all-consuming desire to try again is disrespectful somehow to my son. I hope not. I wanted him so very much, and even though I never met him, I loved him so much. It's because of how much I loved him that I want another baby. It won't ever erase what happened to us, but it does feel like there's a huge emptiness in our lives that only a baby can fill.

Mr. NK and I have said that in a way, some good has come out of the tragedy of losing J.. We realized how much we love each other - going through this together has strengthened the bond between us so much. And as much as we wanted J., this has made us see how incredibly important having a family is to us - even more important than we thought. We were forced to see what our priorities are, and our family is now the most important one.

Thank you, my son. I love you and I'll never forget you.

J.'s birth story

I left my 39-week appointment on Monday, May 23, convinced that I was going to go at least a week past my due date. I was barely dilated and only 50% effaced. But on Tuesday, I had more and stronger Braxton-Hicks contractions than ever before, and at 5:15 a.m. on Wednesday morning, four days before my due date, I woke up in early labor. I knew it was different - the contractions felt like Braxton-Hicks, but much stronger and beginning to get painful. I lay in bed and timed them; they were six minutes apart. When the alarm went off at 6 a.m., I told Mr. NK what was happening. We decided that I would get up and take a shower, just in case it was false labor. When I went to the bathroom, I lost my mucus plug...that's when I became fairly certain that this was it.

I called my boss and told her I wouldn't be in. Then we settled down to wait. And wait. And wait. By 9:30 or so the contractions had eased off to one every 20 minutes or so, and I started to reconsider whether it was a false alarm after all. We ran some errands - went to the library, stopped to get my hair trimmed, little things like that. I remember I had the urge to straighten up the house because I knew my parents would be arriving sometime in the next day or so. I ate - a lot - for some reason I was hungry all day long. I tried to read. I counted the intervals between contractions, which began coming every 5 minutes again at about 3:30 p.m. In our hospital class they told us to call the doctor if we'd been having contractions every five minutes for an hour. I didn't want to get to the hospital and be sent home, so I was determined not to call until I was absolutely sure. At 4:30, we decided to go for a walk, to see if that would slow the contractions, but it didn't for very long, so at around 5:30 I called the OB's on-call line and spoke to the midwife. She advised me to wait until the contractions were 3 minutes apart.

I tried to read some more but the contractions were getting painful, and were staying consistent at 5 minutes apart. Around 8 pm, I decided to take a bath to see if that would help. I had Mr. NK time the contractions for me - while I was in the bath, they started coming harder and faster. I remember getting on my hands and knees in the tub because it hurt so much. Mr. NK started to get nervous, because the contractions were now 3 minutes apart - he insisted we call the midwife, so we did, and she said to go ahead to the hospital.

I called my parents and they set out from New York to meet us at the hospital later that night. Before we left, we set up the Pack n' Play in our room for the baby to sleep in when we got home. It was 9:30 p.m.

When we got to the hospital, we had to go to L&D "triage," where you're evaluated to see if you're far enough along to be admitted. For some reason, the nurse and the triage doctor were skeptical that I would be. I had to be 3 cm dilated to be admitted; I was worried I'd be sent home, but the doctor examined me and said with surprise that I was 3 cm. We were led to an enormous labor and delivery room, where the nurse hooked me up to an IV and got me settled in the bed. I was starting to be in serious pain now, but I was determined to hold off on an epidural until I was much farther along. I tried to read for a while between contractions; Mr. NK dozed in the big chair next to my bed.

The long night wore on. Every time a contraction hit I would sort of arch my back off the bed. Sometimes this seemed to make things less painful; other times it didn't work as well. The nurse offered me Nubain, a narcotic that she said I could have before an epidural. I kept refusing because I was afraid of a narcotic's effect on the baby, even though she said it would only make him (and me) sleepy.

At 2 a.m. my father arrived, and about an hour later my mother and stepfather. I was exhausted by this time, but I couldn't sleep because of the pain and the excitement. It was sometime shortly after this that I let them and the nurse talk me into the Nubain; I couldn't imagine going the rest of the night without sleep.

The Nubain was wonderful. Almost the second the nurse put it in my IV, I could feel the delicious wooziness creeping over me. My parents and Mr. NK laughed as my speech began to get slurred. Finally I fell asleep, and my parents left for the night. It was about 3:30 a.m.

I awoke at 6:30 as the Nubain started to wear off. Mr. NK had stayed all night in the chair by my bed. Now that the pain relief was gone, the contractions were getting unbearable. When the doctor on call, Doctor S., arrived at my bedside and pronounced me 4-5 cm, I decided to get the epidural. There were some complications with it at first - for some reason, it only "took" on one side, so I could feel every contraction on my right side still. They had to call the anesthesiologist to come back and re-do it, and luckily the second time it worked.

I spent the morning dozing and talking to my parents and Mr. NK. My parents had come in for a while and we all had breakfast in my room (well, they did). I remember that my dad had brought extra donuts for the nurses. He was so excited.

Dr. S. would pop in and out at intervals to check my progress. An hour or so after I got the epidural, he was concerned that I was still only 5 cm, so he broke my water and started some Pitocin in my IV. I remember that he said I had some meconium in my water, which worried me because some good friends of ours almost lost their baby to meconium aspiration. I mentioned that to the doctor, but he wasn't concerned, although he said that it was standard procedure to have a neonatologist on hand for the delivery any time meconium was present.

The next few hours I don't remember much of - they're just kind of a blur. I dozed, I talked to Andy, I stared at the ceiling. I do remember that they stopped the Pitocin at some point because it was causing some slight heart decelerations in the baby, but no one seemed to be worried about it. It was 11 am when Dr. S. came back and, to my shock, pronounced me fully dilated and ready to push.

The nurse showed me what to do. It was hard to feel the contractions starting because of the epidural, so at first I had to rely on the monitor. Pushing seemed almost fun at first, if only because it relieved the boredom of the previous night and the morning. Then my epidural slowly began to wear off, and it got a lot less fun.

We were mostly being assisted by the nurse, and every once in a while Dr. S. would come in to check on me. After a while he said that the baby was posterior, or "sunnyside up" - he was poised to come out face up instead of face down, which was making pushing harder. He kept reaching in to try and flip the baby over, but the baby wouldn't cooperate.

Several hours into this ordeal, I had had it. I was pushing as hard as I could, with the doctor (now in the room for good, which I kept praying meant this would be over soon) and the nurse commanding me to push harder. They kept saying they could see the baby's head and they even gave me a mirror so I could see it too, but I couldn't see anything. I know at one point I screamed something like "Can't you just take him OUT?"

By 2 p.m., Dr. S. gave me the choice to do just that. He said we could either try the vaccum or proceed to a c-section. The vaccum, he said, had a slight chance of causing bleeding in the baby's brain, which terrified me, and Mr. NK and I both agreed that a c-section was a good idea. Andy went to tell my family in the waiting room, and I was prepped for surgery.

I was so calm all of a sudden. It was such a relief not to have to push anymore. As they wheeled me into the OR, I was filled with happiness and anticipation. They let Mr. NK sit by my side and hold my hand. The rest of the OR was filled with people - I couldn't see most of them because of the surgical screen and because I was on my back looking up, but I could hear them. There was a nurse named Mary stationed up by my head, and she was very kind to us.

I barely felt anything when they began the operation - just some poking and tugging in my abdomen. When Mary said to me, "Here he is, he was just born," I was surprised because I thought I would feel more than I did.

I heard someone say, "It's a boy." But then all I heard was the sounds of medical personnel. No crying. I said, "What's the matter - why didn't he cry? Is he OK?"

Mary kept saying, "He's pink, I can see that he's pink." I heard the sound of the neonatologist suctioning the baby's lungs - standard procedure when meconium was present, I had been told. But even after that, no crying. Mr. NK looked over the screen and said, "He's wiggling." But then I heard the neonatologist say to someone else, "He needs more ventilation. We're going to have to take him to the NICU."

At that, I burst into tears. I was deathly afraid all of a sudden. I wanted to hold my baby. I said, "Is he going to be all right?" I heard the neonatologist tell Mr. NK that they thought everything would be fine, that the baby just needed a little more respiratory support. They called Mr. NK over to take a look at the baby. Then they wheeled his isolette past me where I lay on the operating table.

That was the only glimpse I got of my baby while he lived. I don't know if I'm remembering this right, but as he went by me, I swear I saw his eyes look straight into mine. I will never forget those few seconds as long as I live.

Mr. NK went to talk to my family in the waiting room while they wheeled me into recovery. I was still crying and saying I wanted my baby, and asking how long he would have to be in the NICU. Everyone kept saying they didn't know. The next hour or so is a blur - I was so doped up that time didn't seem to be passing normally. I know that Dr. S. stopped by my bed to tell me that the baby still wasn't breathing on his own. I cried and asked him, "Is he going to die?" He said he didn't know. I should have known then by how worried he looked, but I was too out of it.

Mr. NK had gone to call his parents after he spoke to mine, and so he wasn't in the room when the neonatologist came back, along with several of the NICU nurses. When I saw him, I sat up and said, "Is he all right?"

The doctor was silent. He looked like he was about to cry. Then he said, "He's not. He's not all right."

I said, "Did he die?"

The doctor's voice broke and he said, "He's gone."

I don't know how long it was before I could talk normally again. I know I just kept saying, "He died?" over and over. Even in those first few moments, I remember thinking that I had to have another baby right away. I remember thinking "How am I ever going to go back to work...back am I ever going to do anything approaching normal ever again?"

The neonatologist said that something was wrong with the baby's lungs and he couldn't breathe on his own. He had lived for about an hour, the doctor said, but then they were unable to revive him.

Mr. NK came in and I had to tell him the news. He says that almost in the same breath with "He died," I asked him, "When can we have another?" I remember him crying and saying that even though he had always known he loved me, now he knew he would be with me forever.

He had to go tell my parents...a job I wouldn't wish on anyone. I don't remember much of the next few hours, except crying, and listening to my parents cry. I remember the nurses moving me out of the recovery room, but they didn't want to take me up to the maternity ward just yet. They put me in a small unused L&D room that had no windows, but at least it had a foldout chair/bed for Mr. NK and some privacy. The nurses kept asking me if I wanted to see the baby, and I kept saying no, that I wanted to just forget the whole thing had ever happened.

At some point the hospital chaplain came to talk to Mr. NK alone. He asked if we wanted to baptize the baby. When Mr. NK asked me if we should, I said yes; for some reason it seemed important to acknowledge the baby's existence. We had no name for him - we had narrowed our name choices down to two, but neither of them seemed right. The priest had told Mr. NK that nameless babies in the hospital are often given saint's names, and he suggested one for us. The moment Mr. NK told me the priest's suggestion, it felt right to me, even though it was a name we'd never even considered.

I don't know exactly when they baptized him. Neither Mr. NK nor I was there, but Mr. NK says my mother held him during the ceremony. The nurses were still asking if we wanted to see the baby, and finally I said yes. I didn't want to, but I knew that I would regret it if I didn't. So they brought him in - my parents were there, and Mr. NK, and what seemed like way too many nurses and social workers.

He was tiny, only 6 pounds 6 ounces. He was wrapped in a blanket but I could see that he had fuzzy dark hair. His eyes were closed. His lips were blue.

I touched his cheek with one finger. The nurse tried to hand him to me but I couldn't bring myself to hold him. Mr. NK started to cry, saying that it was like looking at one of his old baby pictures. I've never heard my husband cry like that. It broke my heart.

I remember my mother and father held him too before they took him away. And I remember that one of the nurses asked me if I wanted them to put him in a bassinette in our room overnight, so that we could have some time with him. I shouted, "JESUS, NO" in horror; then I regretted it and said, "I'm sorry, but no, no thank you." Can you imagine? I know she meant well, but NO.

This all must have been in the late afternoon, but it's a blur. At some point the neonatologist came back to talk to us. He said they didn't know why J. had been unable to breathe - I asked if the meconium had something to do with it, and he said no. He said that they suspected it was a condition called pulmonary hypoplasia, which, the way he described it, sounded like some kind of disconnect between the heart and the lungs. He asked if we wanted to have an autopsy so that we'd know for sure, and we said yes. We also decided to have the remains cremated, and I asked my parents to take care of the arrangements.

I remember I kept asking for something to make me sleep - all I wanted was for that day to be over. They let Mr. NK stay with me, and around 7 p.m. or so they finally gave me some Ativan in my IV and I fell asleep.

Writing this has been one of the hardest things I've ever done, but I still think that this will help me somehow, to get it all out.


I used to keep a different blog, one that my friends and family had the password to. Last winter, I started using it to journal my pregnancy with J., my first baby. (I'm paranoid about using names, I'm sorry.)

Then J. died completely unexpectedly after delivery at 39.5 weeks. I wrote about his birth in my journal, but as the first few weeks went on I didn't feel comfortable writing about it anymore. I have wonderful friends and family and I discuss what happened with them - but I wanted a place where I could come and get everything out without wondering what they thought.

Why not just get a paper journal and write in that? I could, but in the last two months I've discovered a whole sad community on the web of people just like me. Reading their stories made me feel like less of a freak and gave me some hope. If someone who doesn't know me in real life can read what I write here and feel less alone, that would make me happy.