So many cliffhangers lately, eh? But if you’re here, reading this, two wonderful things have happened: one, you’ve subscribed (thank you!) and two, you’re finally about to learn the truth.
Have I been lying to you, sweet reader? Never. Have I been leaving one huge part of our life out?
Here’s where we left off: In Smithers BC on Canadian Thanksgiving after a day of rest yet still not feeling so hot with nightfall fast approaching. The choice was ours to weigh: doctor or no doctor?
As with any decision, it’s difficult to decide without the facts. So, here they are: While I had been feeling less than tip top for over a month at this point the symptoms had remained tolerable. However, there was a new symptom now: I was bleeding and I had been for going on three days. Fun, right?
The bleeding had begun in Nugget City. We had cozied into our home for the night and settled in for the evening. We were fed and watered and showered and happy as clams to have made such a good decision to stay put. And just then, as calm settled upon us, I started bleeding. We looked at one another as we have so many times over the past few years knowing that we weren’t in control of the outcome and recognizing how deeply we each wanted to be in order to save the other from further heartbreak.
You see, we were pregnant again.
Almost exactly one year to the day that we found out we were pregnant last time, a tiny line appeared on a pregnancy test I wasn’t quite sure why I was taking. Something whispered to me in the 4 am haze of nature’s morning call to try. It was early yet, too early to know, but in the darkness of the wee hours, I saw the faintest second line. I took the test outside to see if my eyes were simply playing tricks on me (if you’ve ever desperately wanted to be pregnant you know your mind can fool you into thinking there’s a second line indicating your hopes have come true. Line Eyes, I’ve heard it called).
My eyes weren’t faulty but they certainly couldn’t believe what they saw: the lightest, most delicate line of hope lay before me. I crawled back into bed unsure of what to make of it. In my dreams of this moment, I’d hoped I’d be celebratory, wake up The Chief, and erupt together in a roar of happiness. At that moment though, I needed a moment. An hour or so later when we both were up for the day, I told him what I saw with trepidation. I had, inconceivably, thrown the test away but vowed to test a few days (read: a freaking eternity) later, hoping for the line to darken, indicating my pregnancy hormone levels were rising. A line, any line no matter how faint means you’re pregnant but would I stay pregnant this time? Could I dare to be excited?
A few days later, we both confirmed we saw a clearer line but it still wasn’t dark and strong.
Still, it was early. After testing and retesting time and time again for ovulation and never getting a positive result over the last few years, the test strips and I already had a rocky relationship. I needed to know for certain so, at the behest of one of my best friends who also happens to be a doctor, I went to Anchorage for the umpteenth time that month to get a blood test and learn the truth. Would this be a viable pregnancy? I hoped beyond hope while simultaneously fearing my optimism.
The hurt of our last experience, while time had made it easier to manage, still created a deep-seated fear within us both. The test, however, came back positive and my levels looked great. I also picked up Progesterone (which, if you are newly pregnant and ever so nervous as I was that your hormone levels will drop and you will miscarry, I cannot recommend these enough for peace of mind) and finally felt that I had done everything I could to confirm we were indeed pregnant and to support the pregnancy. The outcome was out of my control (Goodbye control. Hello feeling completely out of my comfort zone!).
And so, that’s how we continued. Moving forward, day by day, knowing it was out of our hands.
The ease of very early pregnancy gave way to the storm that is “Morning” Sickness (which for me was more like 24-hour sickness relieved only momentarily while eating) and my body started changing immediately, all of which are good signs, but still, fear held my heart. And so, that night, tucked away in our little cabin in Nugget City, I saw the blood appear and felt my heart sink. It was at exactly this time in our last pregnancy that the bleeding had begun and light as it was that time, it had marked the end of our child. The parallels were eerily similar and yet my serviceless phone and wifi-less location allowed me to do one thing and one thing only: to pray. I’m not a traditionally religious person but I have a deep faith in the Universe. That night, in the safety of the spoon of my husband’s body, I recited the mantra that had come to me immediately as the fear had first set in weeks before:
My baby is safe. My body is wise.
This mantra to me said two, seemingly contradictory things: All is well, even if it isn’t. Our baby was safe and sound unless being in this world wasn’t deemed for them, in which case, my body would know what to do. The second part was perhaps the hardest part to trust. When my body refused to let go last time – even when given medication that was meant to induce the miscarriage my body had missed – when every sign my body gave me still promised I was pregnant, even though I knew our baby no longer lived, I grew to distrust her, to ignore her signs. In the last year, I’ve begun to build back that trust, that knowing, that love. So, I did my best to lull myself to sleep knowing I’d done all that I could do and it was (still) not in my hands.
Arriving in Smithers, BC (the locale of Doctor Do We or Don’t We Debacle), I finally had service. I phoned our midwives in Anchorage but couldn’t get through until the afternoon. The day of “rest” was filled with work and worry until I finally got the call. They agreed that I should indeed go in for a shot.
A shot? What the what?!
You see, one thing I found out last time was that like my grandma Gam, my blood type is O-.
O-, the Universal Donor. Cool, right?! In a way, yes. In the way of giving blood, yes. In the way of giving birth, less so. When you’re O-, your first pregnancy isn’t affected, but every subsequent pregnancy thereafter is subject to being attacked by your body if there is any mixing of blood. My grandmother’s OB was furious with her for becoming pregnant again due to the risk it posed and when my Uncle was born, her third child, he had to immediately have a complete blood transfusion at birth. Thankfully, since then, science (how I love thee!) has been able to create an antidote, a shot to be given if there is any mixing of blood during pregnancy and later on in pregnancy when there certainly will be (during birth).
While the chances of our blood mixing were still small, I continued with the path we’d been on: do everything you can to help the pregnancy along and then, leave the rest up to fate. I had to do something if something could be done and so, we headed to the ER on Canadian Thanksgiving. As we were and are still in full-Covid protocol, The Chief could not come in for the appointment with me. I waited anxiously, repeating my mantra ad nauseam.
My baby is safe. My body is wise.
My baby is safe. My body is wise.
My baby is safe. My body is wise…
Finally, the doctor arrived and said that the shot wasn’t standard protocol in Canada but they would instead determine viability (a nice way to say they determine if your baby is still alive). I waited for 5 minutes as she searched with the sonogram machine for our little nugget. She was breathless, saying nothing, her face utterly unreadable. I felt my stomach drop. Finally, she showed me the screen. I steeled myself for the pain to come again of seeing our babe no longer but instead, there it was, this tiny heartbeat, fluttering inside of me. Magic. I sobbed.
After the most Canadian experience of a hospital worker apologizing that I would indeed have to pay for the services today (“I’m so very sorry, this is awkward to say…”), I rushed out to The Chief. All was well. I hadn’t gotten the shot as I had hoped for but I had gotten the reassurance I needed. We spent the rest of Thanksgiving doing just that, giving thanks for our little heartbeat, for the magic inside of me we together had made. We went on a hike to walk out the stress of the day, me steadily pulling up the rear in my “Morning” Sickness slowness instead of being the front of the charge as per usual, then turned in early for the night.
All was well.
We cruised through the rest of Canada, from Whistler to Vancouver, discovering Canadian gems along the way both natural and man-made (hello Tim Horton’s! So fun). After making it through the snow, we basked in the calm of two-lane roads, few, if any cops and nonexistent road rage.
We even made a quick detour to say “Hello” to a little reminder of our dearly departed friend.
It was calming to be on the road (even if working from the passenger’s seat + “Morning” Sickness + motion sickness about took the wind straight out of me).
Then, we crossed the border. Hello, law enforcement! Hello, speeding drivers! Hello, road rage and the Me First attitude. Hello, America! We both laughed as we crossed the border, this time with an expired passport for The Chief. What a journey it had been and we still had two states to go. The first state, Washington, was a place of firsts. I had my first in-person meet and greet with some of my co-workers (one of whom I’ve worked with for the past 5 years and never met!).
It was great to get to know some of the team in real life (we are a worldwide team so obviously not everyone could make it).
The second first was getting to meet our dear friends’ child. He’s a dream. We spent a few days in coastal Washington, soaking in the beach life vibes and spending time with our friends eating oysters and walking the shores.
Leto experienced the ocean for the first time and it was love at first sight.
The next state, Oregon, was the last locale before our final destination. It was one of reunions. We spent the week staying with a dear friend I’ve known since our days in Italy and her lovely roommate and pooch. We also got to visit with my long-time friend (who was the one who had helped me decide to get the early blood test and Progesterone. She’s been such a support. I love you, H) just before she gave birth.
It was so nice to reconnect with old roots in this time of rebirth. On the way to Portland, where our visit took place, the bleeding started again and this time, I knew the shot was a must. Again, The Chief sat by his lonesome in the parking lot, this time for 5 hours while they ran tests to try to decipher why the bleeding was happening. Then was the moment of truth (again): viability. Again I steeled myself for bad news, all the while whispering my mantra: My baby is safe. My body is wise. Again, it felt like an hour before the ultrasound tech looked up. Nothing. “Is the baby OK?” I finally asked. “Oh, yea, the baby looks great! Sorry, I forgot that you would want to hear that first. I was just over here measuring.”
I cried tears of relief, tears of joy in long sobs as the image of our little tadpole bounced around. Finally, deducing nothing altogether about why the bleeding was happening but agreeing that indeed a shot was (finally) in order, the nurse gave me the injection. “Ouch! That was a huge needle. That hurt me to give to you!” Did it? Did it hurt you?! I laughed to myself. Hell yes, it hurt but I didn’t care, the baby was OK. I rubbed my sore glute (a glute that would stay sore for 6 weeks afterward) and finally left the ER, back to the comfort of The Chief with a little picture of our Jaba the Hut in tow. All was well.
After leaving our friends in Oregon, we jumped on the coastal route to our new home: Northern California. We had so been looking forward to the warm weather. Every day my Mom told me about the endless Summer we’d be returning to. I couldn’t wait.
Apparently, the rainstorm couldn’t wait either. Classically, comically, we drove to our new home in the largest storm of the century. Whole trees, uprooted by the sudden deluge, rafted the rivers below us as The Chief expertly navigated the flooded roadways (as he had expertly navigated 99% of the drive. Trooper). I, on the other hand, did my best to sleep or work as much as I could in the car to avoid the inevitable and highly audible gasps I’d emit whenever I looked at the slalom course of chaos in front of us. Somehow, without incident, we arrived safely at our new home away from home: Sonoma County.
To what did we arrive? No power. No lights, no shower.
None of the conveniences we’d traveled over 3,000 miles to enjoy at our whim. Thankfully, we (read: The Chief) were fully prepared with headlamps and flashlights bright enough to illuminate our new digs. We’d lived in harsher conditions in the best of times, we would certainly make do, and…we did. We settled into our new abode, grateful to be off the road for the first time in weeks, and settled for the first time in months with our growing family of four.
We had made it.
All was well and we were finally, for the first time ever, about to enter the second trimester…
Until next time, with love,
P.S. Happy New Year to you, dear reader! Thank you again for subscribing. Please feel free to share BTB with your friends. See you in two weeks!