Giving Thanks with a Full Heart, Three Years Later – Part I

I can’t believe it’s been so long since my last blog entry. SO much has happened since February when we announced our family was growing from four to five. We went from this –

To this –

And then to this –

Our sweet little Isla was born at 37 weeks via elective C-section on August 9, 2018.

The original plan was to wait until 38 weeks for delivery, but as I approached the last few weeks of my pregnancy, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that we were not meant to wait that long. I didn’t want to put Isla at risk for complications, but I also didn’t want to wait too long and risk losing her. Everything was going well with the pregnancy, but that’s how it was with Elliot, too. Right up until the end.

My primary MFM specialist was on vacation at the time, so I met with another doctor on her team to revisit the plan. Going into the appointment, I didn’t really know if I was going to ask for a 37 week delivery. I just needed to tell him I was scared and wanted Isla earth-side as soon as possible – and as healthy as possible.  He helped advocate for a 37 week delivery with Brynn, so I knew he would hear me out this time around. After an emotional appointment with him, we agreed to move forward with the 37 week delivery. If I felt good about waiting a little longer when 37 weeks came, we could move the delivery date out a bit. We both knew that was highly unlikely.

There was some hesitation on his part. Scheduling a 37 week delivery after having a previous complication-free, live birth is a little more difficult. His concern was that the hospital and his peers would frown upon a 37 week delivery after having a successful outcome with Brynn. Their goal is to get the baby as close to 40 weeks as possible, but will bend under certain circumstances – previous loss(es), current complications, etc. More importantly, he wanted to make sure Isla arrived earth-side safely. He understood my concerns; he shared them as well. He knew all too well how I was feeling, from personal experience and caring for patients that share a similar history. The big question was how do we get Isla here safely? How do we make sure we’re making the right decision for her? There are risks involved with an “early-term” delivery. HOWEVER, there are risks throughout pregnancy from 0-40 weeks and beyond (after all, Elliot passed away at 41 weeks). There are risks associated with C-section deliveries. There are risks associated with vaginal deliveries. There are always risks. And yes, I am well aware they are higher depending on gestation.

For Ben and I, as Isla’s parents, the benefits outweighed the risks. The goal of having our living baby earth-side was all we could think about. We were concerned about Isla having complications, of course. But as Ben reminded me, the doctors would not agree to do anything that would put either of us at a significantly higher risk for complications. We had to agree to a NICU consult in the event that Isla needed assistance. The consult was quick and went well. We already knew what to expect having gone through a 37 week delivery with Brynn. We were well aware of the risks. The NICU doctor was very kind and reassuring that most babies are okay at 37 weeks. It is also helpful to have a NICU doctor in the family, who was also reassuring and supportive (as well as our entire family who supported our decision to move up the delivery date).

Two steroid shots and one week later, I had Isla in my arms. Her birth was complication-free, and she did not require any assistance. I can honestly say that even though I had gone through it with Brynn, I wasn’t any less scared or anxious going into the OR. You never know what will happen. The risks to my own health were not lost on me either. I worried for my own life. C-sections are routine, but they are also considered major surgery. Something could have happened to either of us during Isla’s birth. I am so thankful it all went well. Beyond thankful, actually.

It seems that this has turned into a birth story post, but that was not my intention. I really wanted to write about the holidays, my grief, and how those things feel different this year, especially as we approach Thanksgiving.

I re-read my  Still Mother’s Thanksgiving post a few days ago and it brought me right back to that first year. The grief sometimes feels so raw still, even 3+ years later. It feels raw but a little softer. Old but new. The same but different. Complicated.

It’s all connected though. I’m thankful we made it through another pregnancy and birth with a living baby in our arms.

I have so much to be thankful for. Three beautiful girls. My forever-baby in Heaven (who should be turning 4 in March) who made me a mama and opened my heart to new experiences and infinite love. A sassy 2-year-old (as of next week) who keeps us on our toes. A happy 3-month-old who makes middle of the night wake-ups so much sweeter. A husband who loves us all unconditionally and does what he has to to support us. Beautiful nieces and nephews for our girls to grow up with. Loving family and friends who are always there for us. My own health, especially after three full-term pregnancies. And so much more.

Writing is so cathartic. Hopefully I can continue this later…

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