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OCTOBER 15 DAY

The first trimester is coming to an end, and I’m finally starting to feel a little more “normal.” Not completely – after all, I’m still pregnant. But daily naps are no longer a necessity, I’m no longer peeing every three hours, and what little nausea I did have is even less frequent.

I’ll be honest: physically, the first trimester wasn’t so bad. I’m pretty fortunate in that I don’t get bad morning sickness. In fact, I didn’t have much of it at all. It was the same with Lauren. The fatigue is really the worst, and that’s easily solved with a nap. It helps that I have a very patient, very attentive husband who is willing to take care of me. But, no, the worst for me is more mental. I had a hard time adjusting to being pregnant with Lauren, and it’s been no different this time around. I feel like my brain is working overtime, and it leaves no room for rational, every day thoughts. It’s hard to focus sometimes, to think about the things that need to get done. I feel distracted.

I think the early part of the second trimester is the worst part. The pregnancy symptoms have started to subside, yes, but at least they were concrete proof that a baby is growing in there. In these weeks before the quickening, that is important. It’s easy to start to wonder, to start imagining the worst. Fourteen weeks is not a “safe point.” I cannot relax and enjoy this lack of symptoms any more than I could relax and enjoy pregnancy with them. I can know that the risk of miscarriage is much lower now, but that doesn’t stop me from knowing that there is no guarantee. Experience has touched me; innocence has no place here any longer.

And yet, I believe that’s something instinctive within us. We know that death comes when it will. Even when we think we are safe.

When I was pregnant with Lauren, there were days, before the quickening, that I would lay on that futon in the apartment in Moriya and place my hand over my abdomen and think, please be alive. And she was. She always was, until the very end. But that would be the far future: there in Moriya, things were always well. But, still, I worried. I knew, even then and even though I didn’t want to believe it, that death could be like a thief in the night, slipping in and stealing away that most precious spark of life. It didn’t happen until I’d let down my guard, until I had begun to believe that she was safe and would be coming home. I had stood all those months in vigilance, and in the end, death came and took her anyway.

I’m trying to stay positive with this pregnancy. But now that I’ve entered into this period of being so unsure about everything, it’s hard. A few days ago, I caught myself with my hand on my abdomen, wondering, are you still there? I hope so. There’s still so much to learn about this baby, and I want to know. I long to know this baby.

This pregnancy is not a joyous, cheerful one. I’m okay with that. I don’t care how challenging it is, mentally or physically. Because, ultimately, it’s still a hopeful pregnancy. Some people don’t get second chances, and I feel blessed that at least have this chance, that I have this small promise for the future.

I haven’t given up on this baby yet. And I won’t. Not ever.

Now that Geordie and I are actively trying to conceive, I’m thinking more about what kind of birth I want to have and where I want to have it. I’m thinking about this because it’s what other – normal – women think about when they’re having babies. I’m thinking about it because I want to ignore the fact that I will not be having a normal pregnancy, even if there is nothing wrong with me or the baby or anything else.

My daughter was stillborn. That automatically puts me in the “high risk” category. Even though I had no problems with the three glucose tests I took. Even though I never had signs of pre-eclampsia. Even though everything was going perfectly until Lauren’s heart stopped beating. Obviously, something went wrong. Unfortunately, nobody knows what or why.

I understand why I would be considered high risk, I do. The last thing I want is to lose another baby. Nobody would want that. But it frustrates me that it means that I might not be able to make the decisions during pregnancy or delivery. Again.

See, in Japan, birth plans are pretty much unheard of. The doctor is in charge; what the woman wants doesn’t always come first. In fact, depending on the doctor, it doesn’t even factor in. My first doctor in Japan was awesome, but very Westernized. He had his own clinic and, being unaffiliated with a hospital, was free to allow his patients to make their own decisions. It wasn’t until later, after we’d moved and were looking for a new doctor, that we understood how incredibly progressive he was. We rejected a couple of nearby hospitals because they did not allow fathers (or any non-medical personnel) into the delivery room. We only heard of one clinic that offered pain relief during delivery, and they were no longer accepting anyone around my due date. Although I had a birth plan in mind, I didn’t bother to write it up, much less present it to my doctor at the hospital we eventually picked. We didn’t see the point. Nobody ever asked my opinion about anything or my preference. It was always, “This is what we are going to do.” And they only did that because we asked them. The first part of my induction with Lauren went terribly because I was never told what was happening. If not for Geordie’s presence, I would never have known what was going on.

That’s just the way it was. Given the circumstances, there was nothing to be done about it. But I believe that, even if I had been giving birth to a live baby, I wouldn’t have had much say in the matter. I almost believe they gave me a little more leeway – because I’m American, or because my daughter was dead, I can’t say. In the end, my doctor did the best he could, and I liked the staff well enough. Except for that midwife. I still think unpleasant thoughts about her.

The plain and ugly truth is that – according to “studies” – a woman who has had a stillbirth has a higher risk of having another one. How much higher is the risk? Twofold to tenfold, according to one. That seems like a pretty big range, right? If the risk of stillbirth is 0.4% for a first-time pregnancy, then it could be anywhere from 0.8-4% for subsequent pregnancies. It all depends on the cause.

So what if the cause was unknown? Lauren’s cord and placenta were fine and healthy. No knots or kinks – which is important, because cord accidents apparently can recur. The same thing with placental abruptions; those also have a possibility of recurrence. Bad news for mothers who have had those problems – but what about me?

I don’t know. I do know that I follow the blogs of at least two ladies who have given birth to healthy second babies after the unexplained stillbirths of their first children. I also know that I’ve heard the stories of at least two ladies who had two unexplained stillbirths before delivering a healthy baby. I don’t know where that puts me. All I know is that I’m terrified of losing another baby. I will do whatever it takes to be able to bring home a healthy baby.

But I also want to have some say in my pre-natal care. I love the idea of giving birth in a birth center, not a hospital. I just don’t know if that’s an option for me.

Tomorrow, Geordie and I are going to an open house at a birth center run by midwives. The woman who spoke to me on the phone warned me that I might be “risked-out” because of Lauren’s death. But she also said that they needed more information to make that decision. And she also said that, if I am risked-out, they might be able to offer some suggestions on where to turn to find the care I’m looking for.

So, I’m worried but hopeful, which is probably something I should get used to. It’s likely to be my most consistent feeling during pregnancy #2.

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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