Finding My Way to You
Angela Williams Glenn
Part I: All in Good Timing
I looked at the second negative pregnancy test and felt the familiar conflicting emotions. We always said we wanted at least three children, but after the rough transition to two with a colicky baby and year of depression followed by two miscarriages I wasn´t sure what I wanted anymore. I finally felt in a good place in my life again. Would a baby disrupt all of that? That last miscarriage was such a devastating feeling could I handle a third one if it happened again?
Then I remembered that 25 year old girl that stood at the altar with her soon to be husband that imagined and wanted a future with three or four kids. I thought about the 27 year old woman that welcomed that first baby girl who still envisioned that she´d experience that surreal moment of meeting her baby for the first time at least two more times. Last I thought about that 30 year old mother who welcomed her second baby girl who did not see all that baby´s firsts as her last because she still imagined the bigger family of at least three kids. But here I was now as that almost 34 year old mother of two who wasn´t sure what she wanted anymore. Would I be letting myself down if we didn´t have that one more kid we always thought we´d have?
As I stared at the pregnancy test I wasn´t sure if I was relieved or disappointed. Did I feel relieved because it was easier than facing the disappointment? Did I feel relieved because maybe deep down another baby isn´t really what I wanted but what I thought I wanted because others wanted it for us? Did I feel relief because for another month I could avoid the daily fear of worrying if I was going to miscarry again and that not just me, but the girls and my husband, were going to get their hopes up to just end up disappointed again? Did I feel relieved because I´m scared and not ready yet to take on the emotional rollercoaster that I anticipate coming with the change of another baby?
I was disappointed too though. My newsfeed was overloaded with the births of everyone´s babies. I was happy for my friends and family but couldn´t help feeling disappointed for myself. Why do they get to have more children and I don´t? Was I really not ready? Will I ever be ready? Am I disappointed because I couldn’t be what my younger self envisioned?
I couldn´t abandon the hopes and dreams I once had, but that nagging intuition that left my stomach uneasy wouldn´t leave me either. It started before we even had the two miscarriages but I dismissed it as my own fear of bringing another baby into our life after the rough transition last time. Now I was haunted by a dream that followed my last miscarriage in which I felt my grandfather was leaving me a message about this final baby. That dream left me even more uncertain and worried about what we faced with a third. But my intuition had been screaming at me for so long I was starting to convince myself we were only supposed to have two children, and then my anxiety got even worse with this irrational fear that if we had more than two in the end we would still only end up with two so I prayed. I prayed that if it was only meant to be two it’d be the two I already had, and I guess in some weird way my prayers were answered because I lost the two pregnancies that followed. Like any other tragedy I’ve been left with wondering why and feeling like there’s some explanation I’m missing. I’m a firm believer everything happens for a reason. What was I not seeing? I always imagined the third baby being a baby boy, and how that moment after his birth with his two older sisters would be like that happily ever after moment I had imagined for my future.
Maybe that was why my grandfather had visited me. I had spent my whole adult life reaching towards each new milestone or goal that would bring me to my happily ever after, to the happiness we all seek. Even though I had stopped and slowed down in the last year or so to smell the roses so to speak I was still doing it. I was still thinking my sense of fulfillment and completion laid around the next corner with the next goal checked off my ambition list. Maybe my happiness was right in front of me. Maybe that’s why in the dream it appeared he met me on a warm summer day at what looked to be an abandoned ball park, the place I always felt complete as a child, the completeness that seemed to elude me as an adult. Maybe we were only meant to have two children or maybe God needed me to find the happiness and contentment with right where I was before there could be a chance of a third final child. Maybe he was telling me it wasn’t time.
Part II: Facing the Darkness of the Unknown
There it was. Two clear pink lines. We were pregnant again. It was finally time to face the uncertainty that laid ahead. I wanted this. I did. I wanted a third baby; I wanted the bigger family. I was scared though of so many different things. I didn’t want to lose another baby, I didn’t want to lose my sense of self like I did after my second baby, I didn’t want to lose the sense of balance and contentment I had finally found as a working mom in the past year.
So began what I thought was the most anxious ten weeks of my life. Even though I had shared my miscarriages with family and friends and would if it happened again we didn’t tell anyone we were expecting. After having put our two daughters through two pregnancy losses with us we didn’t tell them either. We took the girls with us to the ten week appointment. It was when we all got to see the little heartbeat together on the screen that they knew they were getting a little brother or sister, and I started to breathe a little easier thinking this was finally the baby we had been waiting and hoping for.
I thought it would be easier now but as we approached the twenty week anatomy ultrasound the anxiety I thought I had experienced in waiting to get pregnant and in those first few weeks was nothing like the griping fear that would claw at me in the dark of the night. The feeling as if the walls were closing in on me consumed me some nights. Something wasn’t right. I could feel that nagging intuition again and it was choking me. I made it past the first trimester. My thyroid which the doctors felt was what contributed to my two miscarriages was in control. What was wrong? Why was I having this crazy irrational anxiety now; I thought I had made it past the worst part. It´s like there was this dark cloud hovering over the horizon, ready to consume my hope and wipe out my family dreams once again. I couldn’t shake the impending feeling something bad was going to happen. I prayed every night that maybe I´ve just finally lost my marbles and this was the worst case of anxiety I´ve ever experienced in my life and not some horrible intuition of something that was to come.
We decided to do a 3D ultrasound so we could find out the sex to share with family at Thanksgiving. A few nights before the ultrasound I dreamed again. After the dream with my grandfather months ago after my last miscarriage I had asked for some kind of clarity about the unsettling message I felt he had left me. Almost a year later, eighteen weeks pregnant, I got what I so desperately needed. I saw myself sitting in that aging rocker in the corner of a dark nursey smiling down at a precious baby boy. It was all okay. I picked up from that dream though that there were scary and concerning moments to get that point but in the end I was okay and he, our baby boy, finally made it to us.
I woke up telling my husband I thought it was a boy. I didn’t want to tell him I still sensed something was wrong but that it would be okay. However as we cut into that cake Thanksgiving night with family to reveal that the baby was indeed a boy I told him I had not only dreamed he was a boy but that something concerning was still ahead but not to worry because we were both fine in the end. I told him I thought I might have some complications at the end but it would be fine, trying to reassure us both that the problem was likely with me, not the baby.
Two weeks later we waited anxiously for the doctor to report back to us about the anatomy scan. He walked in with a friendly smile and sat down beside us. “His weight and size are right on track. Everything looks great except there’s one little concerning thing.” I felt my heart drop. This is what I had been fearing along. “We’re seeing something with his heart. The ventricular spectrum is thicker than normal. This could be nothing but we want you to have an echocardiogram at cardiology. The sooner the better. I’ll send you with a referral and the woman at the front desk can help you make your appointment.”
We walked out together, our usual excitement we experienced with our other two children from these appointments deflated. The receptionist had made us an appointment for next week. Eight days of waiting to see the heart specialists to see what we were facing with our little boy. I knew the doctor had said it could be nothing, but I think I knew long ago it wasn’t nothing.
Part III: Hope Is Our Greatest Strength
Today was the day I would get some more definite answers, though not the ones I was hoping for, but all the events of the past few months gave me hope. I think the message my grandfather brought me in that dream that kept nagging at me was to warn me this pregnancy would emotionally and mentally test me, possibly even more than the miscarriage that broke my heart. I think he came to mentally prepare me. I think the nagging anxiety prior to getting pregnant and in the recent weeks from the end of the first trimester up to last week was because I knew in the back of my mind what I´d been worrying about for almost a year was coming. But because I let my anxiety get to such a choke holding moment, I think the dream with my little boy was the reassurance that whatever was coming we would get through it with him and be fine in the end. Oddly enough once I found out about the concern with the baby´s heart I actually started sleeping better. The weird anxiety and panic attacks disappeared. The moment that all the warnings had predicted were now finally here and I was more ready to face them than I realized.
Even though I hoped for an all clear with the follow up appointment with the pediatric cardiologist I did not anticipate getting it. In fact we pretty much got the exact answer I told my husband beforehand that I thought we would get. The baby had what the cardiologist believed was a benign tumor on his heart. There are a few concerns with this. Depending on how the tumor grew it could interfere with the functioning of his heart causing it to not work, which as anyone can imagine is not a good thing. He could develop hydrops, a building up of fluid, outside the heart, that could also be deadly. She believed she also saw other small tumors which would indicate it’s a type of tumor that will shrink after birth so as long as it continued to not interfere in the functioning of his heart there should be no problems or interventions needed to treat it. However, if there were other small cardiac tumors they were about 90% likely to be connected to a genetic disorder called tuberous sclerosis. With TS as they call it tumors will grow on his other organs throughout his life. Sometimes they can cause problems and sometimes none just like with his current heart tumors. The next most likely place they would grow would be on his brain which can cause seizures as early as two months of age and the seizures in turn could lead to developmental delays and problems. The seizures and developmental delays were the most common problem of TS.
So it was all still a little scary or a lot scary depending on how you looked at it. But I truly believed all those signs that occurred in the last year were put in place to reassure me at that exact moment. It was going to be a long four more months, but I truly believed in the end the baby would be fine. Getting him here was not going to be an easy road emotionally or mentally for me or my husband, and I anticipated it being a little rough and bumpy when he finally arrived. But we would all be okay. I had faith because that´s what I chose to see in everything that led up to that point.
Most days I did well. Way more days than not. But there were some days I let the fear and doubt sneak it. The worst case scenerios filled my mind and kept me awake in the dark of the night when everyone else slept. A fear a mother has for her child is a fear like no other. One that can choke us and consume us if we let it. As someone who has to have control of everything, who plans everything out well in advance, I surprised myself with how well I handled the unknown, but I believe that was because I reached a point where I just turned it all over to God. He spoke to me. Twice. First with the message my grandfather sent and second when he sent my little boy to me in the dream. I had to trust Him.
On that day that I could have drowned in my fear, I learned we can have our fear, we can voice our fear, we can confront our fear, but we cannot let our fear consume our hope. It is what will see us through; it is what will see our children through. Our hope is our greatest strength and so that is what I clung to in the months and eventually years it ended up taking me to finally meet my baby boy.
Part IV: Right Here, Right Now Is Where We Live
My husband and I had three numbers that kept showing up in our lives. They were 3, 7, and 11. We met in 11-03. We started dating 03-11-04. We were married 07-14-07. Our first daughter’s due date was 03-03. However even though I went into labor with her early the last morning of February she wasn’t born until 03-01. Our second daughter’s due date again was in November, the 11th month of the year. However, she was born on 11-03-11. Our third child, the one we had been waiting almost two years for now was due in April so the superstitious person in me worried about him not following our number pattern. To me all these numbers were always signs from God that our individual fates were aligned as a family. My due date with him was April 28. However on the morning of April 11 I woke up at 3 in the morning to contractions. I wasn’t quite convinced they were it, but by 5:00 in the morning when I woke my husband I was sure we were going to have our baby boy on April 11. I took it as the final reassurance from God that we were going to be okay.
My first labors took forever at 30 and 16 hours so even though I was having regular contractions and an hour from the hospital this time I wasn’t in too big of a hurry to leave. However, we should have left sooner. By the time I was walking into Labor and Delivery at 8:30 I was definitely in labor. Whereas I felt I spent a whole day (and night with my first) with my other two children in labor, he was born within three hours of arriving at the hospital. Our baby boy, who we named Lincoln William Philip after my two grandfathers, was finally here. The third child I almost gave up on and didn’t know if I wanted was finally in my arms. The bond I felt with that child was so immediate in a way I don’t recall with my other two. I wondered if it’s because he’s my only boy, my baby of the three, or because I met him before he was even here and I had to go through so much to finally meet him. But I knew in that moment it was all worth it. The pain of the two miscarriages, the intense anxiety and self doubt I put myself through, the stress of making it through the first trimester with him, the uncertainty and lack of answers we faced with his diagnosis in utero. I’d put myself through the fear, anxiety, and stress all over again to have this boy here with us now.
I knew the moments and days following his birth would be a completely different experience than with my two girls due to his heart concern and the possible genetic disorder connection. Over the course of the three days we spent in the hospital he underwent an MRI, a kidney ultrasound, an EEG, and an EKG and ECG, an eye exam, as well as an evaluation by a dermatologist. All this on top of the usual procedures with jaundice, shots, and hearing tests newborns have before they leave the hospital. Along with all these tests came a parade of specialists in to speak to me and my husband about all the different ways TS could impact him and his development. By the end of the second day when I was sitting in the darkening NICU room with him as he came out of the anesthetic from the MRI the floodgates just opened. Since the miscarriage that had halted my dreams on whether we should even keep trying to have a third or not I had rarely lost my emotions to tears. It was like that firm grip I had on my fear and my anxiety succumbed to the mental and physical exhaustion I had faced the last two days. I sat in that stiff hospital bed and held my sleeping newborn son, praying I wouldn’t have to see him connected to all these wires and medical equipment on and off for procedures and tests throughout his life.
By the time we left at the very end of the third day all of his test results came back normal which was great but what did it mean? We learned that though he did definitely have the cardiac tumors as the EKG and ECG on his heart did confirm, those tumors were the only major marker presenting at the time for TS. He needed another marker, a tumor or lesion somewhere else on his body, for them to officially diagnosis him with TS. Even though with several cardiac tumors the odds of him having TS were about 90%, there was a small chance that the cardiac tumors were an isolated occurrence. The tumors on his heart would gradually shrink as he got older and since they did not cause any problems at their peak in size in utero there was little reason to worry that they now would. As for the TS he would have to have normal test results with no evidence of tumors on his brain, skin, eyes, or kidneys for the first two years of his life for them to confirm that he did not have the disorder. Though we could do a genetic test it could only inform us if he had it, not rule out that he didn’t. So the already almost two years of anxious waiting and worrying was not over. Modern medicine just gave us an additional two year sentence. I knew right then I could not let the anxiety of waiting any longer consume my life in any way anymore. My baby boy was finally here. He was only going to be a baby for a short time, and I couldn’t let this two year sentence steal this precious time from us.
As I thought about the past almost two years with the miscarriages, the anxiety with the unknown I had faced throughout this whole pregnancy, and now this barrage of testing on my poor, helpless baby with unclear answers, I thought how maybe that had been the easy part. But maybe it was the hardest part. How do we really ever know whether the struggles we face in each moment in time are the easy ones or the hard ones? They may seem hard right now but who knows what’s around the next corner. What I think is hard today may seem like the easy part tomorrow. I knew for months now we faced an uncertain future with him, but really how is that any different than any other child’s life. We can know the hard is coming or we cannot and the next day, next moment can be just as hard as the hard we knew was coming. I started to learn. What did worrying about the unknown really do for me? Could it change what was to come? No, it couldn’t so what did worrying about something that may never really happen accomplish? All it would do was take away my joy right now. What all would I miss while I spent so much time worrying? What guarantees do any of us really have? Now is all there is. Now is all we can truly know.
I knew in that moment I had to step away from the what ifs. I had to step away from the worst case scenarios. I had to let what we couldn’t control or change at the moment go and put my faith in God to lead us through. Today may be the harder day or maybe it´s one of the easier ones. Sometimes we may not know which is which, but I wouldn’t make it harder than it had to be with all the what ifs. Right now is where we are; right now here with my precious baby boy to complete our beautiful family is where I would live. And live there we did.