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It seems most babies get a nickname while in the womb, sometimes long before their real name is decided upon.

That’s how it went with Lauren. Though we decided on a girl’s name fairly early on and prettily easily, we never called her by that name, even after we found out we were having a girl. For the entire pregnancy, she was known as Lucky. A very short time after we learned I was pregnant, Geordie just happened to randomly say how lucky our baby would be. It stuck. Sometimes we wondered if we’d ever be able to call her by her real name after she was born.

For the record, we call her Lauren. Lucky seems to belong to those long weeks and months of pregnancy, when we were uncertain at times but happy and innocent. She was Lucky when she was ours. At times, now, it hurts to even hear that word.

Even a short time after losing Lauren, we knew that we would eventually try for a second child. For a while, we called this child Number Two. We both agreed that this was not a great nickname and that we’d probably want something else when it finally came down to it.

Geordie to the rescue: he suggested Niko, which for the sake of brevity I’ll just say essentially means “second child” in Japanese. It’s short and easy to say/remember, and it’s what we’ve been calling this child since we found out about the pregnancy. It’s also the name I’ll use to talk about this baby in future posts (hopefully the next one won’t be in another two weeks, I’d like to get myself back on a regular posting schedule).

As for “real” names, we haven’t made any decisions. We have a couple of options picked out but nothing we feel very strongly about. That’s going to take a little more time.

In appointment news, the 16-week check-up will be on Wednesday. We’re hoping to have the anatomy/sex ultrasound in early August.

And, well, that’s about it. Starting in July, I’m going to try to make more of an effort with postings, but there will be a two-week break in the middle while I travel to Florida and visit family and friends without the company of my laptop. So, it might be August before the posts pick up again.

We’ll see how it goes.

In the nearly two hours I’ve been awake, I’ve been going over things to write today. All kinds of random stuff that I won’t get into now. Because ultimately, they were nothing but half-thoughts. Distractions. Something to keep my mind off what happened in the last week of September last year.

Last year on the 25th, I was doing the same thing, trying to distract myself. I tried to make a batch of peanut butter cookies. I baked about eight of them before I gave up and went back to bed, miserable and confused and frightened. All of my instincts were telling me that something was wrong with my baby, but I didn’t want to listen because that doesn’t happen. Babies don’t die.

Obviously, we know better than that now. At the time, I was unable to wrap my head around it. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that nothing was going right. I had been fighting that feeling all weekend, turning myself into a completely useless blob of tears and terror. By Sunday, I was wishing we had gone back to the hospital on Friday or, at the very least, Saturday. I felt nothing from the baby on Sunday. If I’d been capable of any kind of rational thought at all, I would have demanded that Geordie take me to the hospital after he got home from work.

Instead, I cried and slept and cried more when I woke up. Maybe, on some subconscious level, I already knew it was too late.

These are things I can’t talk about today. I thought I might be able to, now that a year has come and gone, but I can’t, not without crying. Not without feeling that impossible weight of guilt. It feels like I’m back in that little hot room in Susono, trying to deny the truth I dreaded so much. These are not moments I want to relive, the moments of unknowing, the moments of panic and uncertainty.

The moments of powerlessness.

There are so many lessons we learn from the loss of a child, and this is the one I feel most of all today: I am powerless. By the 25th of September, I was powerless to save her.

A year ago, I made all the wrong decisions. Today, that’s all I can think about.

And all I can say is that I’m sorry. There’s nothing else.

One year ago, I took a pregnancy test, and my life changed.

I don’t know why made me decide I was pregnant. I was still three days away from the expected start of my bleed. I had all of my normal symptoms, but I also knew that all of those symptoms could also point to pregnancy. How weird is that? Why do monthly bleeds and pregnancy have the same signs? The only thing that was different was that my body felt just a bit . . . off. Not wrong, not outright weird, just off.

And my temperature was still up. I’ve kept track of my basal body temperature for years, and for my January cycle, my temperature never took the typical post-ovulation dip. It went went down the tiniest bit and then rose again and stayed put. We’re talking fractions of a difference here, but that had never happened before. I didn’t have to ponder what it might mean.

Geordie and I tried to think of reasons I might be wrong. He suggested maybe I was getting sick (I felt fine). He pointed out that I was very stressed about work (I was – I had arranged to quit my job in March and I was in the midst of a job-hunt). I wondered if it was because I bundled up so much at night (close-to-freezing temperatures, and I don’t like turning the heat on when I sleep). But, really, I didn’t think it was any of those things. I didn’t want to say the P word, but it was in our minds.

We bought the test almost a week before I used it. Geordie was leaving the next day (Sunday) to go back to work in Hitachi-shi, and he would be gone until Thursday. Friday was a holiday, but I had to work all weekend, and he would be gone, back to Hitachi-shi, for Valentine’s Day. We had decided to do our romantic dinner on Thursday evening. We planned on doing fondue, a full three courses: cheese, oil, and chocolate. I imagined a romantic evening.

Except for that great worry over our heads. I couldn’t keep it off my mind all during the evening. Finally, in the middle of the main course, I leaned against Geordie and said, “I think I want to take the test now.”

He didn’t try to talk me out of it, he didn’t force me to do it. He just said that I should do what would make me the most comfortable. If I wanted to wait, okay. If I didn’t want to wait, okay. He would be there, no matter what.

I thought perhaps I was being silly. I tried to tell myself that I was being foolish, that I wasn’t even late yet. But if I was pregnant, I wanted to know. I wanted to do things right and not live in denial.

We went over the directions together (they were in Japanese), and it was pretty self-explanatory: no line = not pregnant, line = pregnant. I went into the bathroom and did what needed to be done.

The line appeared immediately. No waiting necessary. I waited anyway, hoping that it would start to fade. It doesn’t work like that. I tried to figure out what I would say to Geordie. I wanted to stay hidden in that bathroom, but I knew he would start to worry. After the two minutes had passed, I packed myself up and prepared to face him.

The bathoom opened into the hall, which opened into the kitchen, where he stood waiting for me. I didn’t know what I was going to say. He turned around to look at me, and I blurted, “I’m sorry,” just before I burst into tears and threw myself into his arms. He stood there holding me for a while, asking no questions, saying nothing, just stroking my hair. After a few minutes, he took the test from me and studied it and held me tighter. I had no idea what he was thinking.

Geordie led me over to the couch, and we sat there for a long while. I cried, and he held me. I cried a lot that evening, a precursor to all the crying I would do later in the year, during the pregnancy and after. Geordie held me all through it; he has been my rock ever since that moment. When I had calmed down some, he said to me, “Whatever happens, I’m here for you. If you want to raise this baby, I’ll help you. I’m not going to leave you.”

I have never loved anyone as much as I love this man.

After I had calmed down enough to carry my side of a conversation, we talked about what we were going to do. It never came into my mind to terminate the pregnancy. I didn’t even mention it to him. I am pro-choice, but I have always suspected that it wasn’t a choice I could ever make, not without extreme circumstances. Telling the parents was the first thing that came to mind; finding a doctor was second. I worried about the doctor, and Geordie worried about the parents.

Honestly, telling my parents was the least of my concerns. I knew they wanted grandchildren, and my younger brother was not in a relationship and in no hurry to be in one. I’m pretty sure my mom thought she would be hitting seventy before she became a grandmother; torture when you consider that a lot of her friends and co-workers who were younger than her were already grandparents. She always told me that she wanted me to be happy, and if that meant I decided not to have children, she would accept it. I believed that, but I didn’t think she’d be happy about it. Geordie was half-convinced my father would want to track him down and do terrible things to him for knocking up his little girl. I knew better. Mom would be thrilled, and Dad would be right there with her.

I was right. His parents were thrilled too, as I thought they would be. After all, it wasn’t the best of circumstances, but it certainly wasn’t the worst. We could support a child, we could take care of ourselves.

And we loved each other. We loved the baby.

Never did I imagine how our lives would change in the following twelve months. I knew things would be different, and they are, but not how I expected. Not how I wanted them to change. It took me a while to accept the role of mother, but once I saw our child on the ultrasound, I knew I would do whatever I could to take care of her.

A year ago today, I found out I was a mother. I still am a mother. I’m Lauren’s mother, and I always will be.

Sara

I am a daughter and a sister, a wife and a friend. I am a reader and a writer, a dreamer and a realist, a teacher and a learner. I am the mother of a baby born sleeping. I am on a journey of healing, walking a path paved with tears and grief and hope.

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