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The BoldHeartMama desires to enjoy living out the choices that she’s made for herself and for her family. She is a relentless learner: curious, inquisitive, and open to the possibilities of her life and of the human condition. She understands that there isn't one right way—she asks questions that dig deeper to make sense of it all and to find her own path.

She pays attention to and nurtures whatever it is she really cares about, letting go of the rest (for now) knowing she can't do and be everything all at once. She embraces her imperfections in favor of "good enough"—her imperfect self, her imperfect home, her imperfect mothering, her imperfect desires—and she never stops evolving as a woman and mother. She is a BoldHeart, authentic and true to herself.

The BoldHeartMama knows there is only this one life and she's all in. She is present and engaged and making things happen. Her intuition is her guide. She seeks to be inspired and relies on her creativity and her resourcefulness to solve the big and little challenges that she and her family face together as they navigate their relationships and their world.

The BoldHeartMama is willing to take calculated risks to make her biggest dreams come true. She is living out her BoldHeart in the moment, making small moves and taking little steps that add up, and she's cultivating a good life for herself and her family in the process. Read More!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Claiming Winslet: loving my baby in the face of uncertainty

Melted crayon valentine hanging

Into this pregnancy I carried my best intentions to be bold and brave in the face of deep-seated worry for another baby born early, or worse. When we found out I was pregnant on the night of the super blood moon at 3 weeks and 4 days I couldn't keep it to myself, and I didn't want to. I shared our joy with friends and family, the boys told their teachers and their friends' parents at preschool. Word was out before I had even missed my period and while it felt a little eager, I chose to embrace our great happiness in that moment without pause for worry that something could go wrong or that our path might at some point change course. It was a choice I made because I wanted this third pregnancy to be different. I wanted to put to practice what I hadn't known when pregnant with the boys and liberate myself from some of the anxiety and unrest I had experienced in past antepartum and postpartum periods. I wanted to fully feel this "redemption" pregnancy. From start to finish I wanted to feel it all.

Though my heart was all-in those first few weeks I was soon in survival mode, suffering in my own ways through a long bout of morning sickness, and questioning the decision we'd made to catapult our lives back into the unknown. Sitting with the discomfort that change sometimes brings I was disappointed and unhappy about the way that our days were compromised: our adventures, our homeschool, our time spent alone and together; and with five years between pregnancies I was apprehensive about returning to that place of high physical demand mothering after having finally learned how to carve out my independence. I even wrestled with the idea that if the spotting and bleeding made a turn for the worse and we lost the pregnancy, that it would be ok—maybe even more than ok as everything could return to a familiar normal.

Beneath all these normal emotions flowed an undercurrent of anxiety. Loss and grief remain a part of my mothering story—even all these years later—and while I had every indication at the time that this pregnancy would be different, not knowing what to expect made it difficult to feel settled and to connect with this little person for whom I carried a huge burden of uncertainty. How far into the pregnancy would I make it before giving birth? Would my third baby have to endure a NICU beginning too? Would my baby be healthy and whole despite an early arrival?

To cope with these feelings of vulnerability I kept a safe distance from the emotional call of the experience. I focused on the physicality of pregnancy and maintained family life as close to normal as possible. The baby remained an intangible possibility and the pregnancy a surreal state of in between.

At 10.5 weeks we found out I was carrying a girl. I began to dream a little about all the yet to be discovered aspects of life and of my being that I wouldn't have realized had I only mothered boys. The pregnancy itself still felt otherwise precarious with first trimester spotting continuing. But still. A daughter. A baby girl who would grow and one day get a period (!), maybe even have a baby of her own. I felt more connected to her just anticipating the mutuality of shared life experience.

At 17.5 weeks, emerging from the depths of morning sickness and clinging to my perinatalogist's new optimism for a term pregnancy, I began to feel at ease and even enthusiastic. In hindsight we had made it through the fall intact, and hey—maybe in a few years I could even do this a fourth time! I was hopeful that we would realize home birth again and finally looked forward to a postpartum done right. 



We named our daughter Winslet Amaris Lee. I bought a tiny banner in felt and canvas to hang over her small nook in our bedroom. Halfway through the pregnancy (by my own count), I was feeling energetic, and getting organized again around the things we'd let slip in the fall. I was looking forward to the rest of winter and then to her arrival in late spring.

These small acts of preparation brought her more fully into my conscience but it wouldn't be until a few weeks later that I would feel compelled to let down my guard entirely.

***

20 weeks.

On the morning of my emergent cerclage I ruminated over recent conversations with my provider as bright snow fell in silence outside my window.

"We'll be lucky if we can get the cerclage in, there's so little tissue left." 

"If I can't place the cerclage it is your legal right in VA to disrupt a pregnancy through week 24."

"If it buys you only three or four weeks I won't have done you any good." 

There was a chance the cerclage could not be placed—we wouldn't know until they assessed on the operating table. There was the possibility that my bag of waters could rupture during the procedure or in the weeks that followed. My amniotic sac was funneling too, which wasn't a great sign. My provider felt that if we did nothing the baby would be born in 2-3 weeks and die. Earlier that morning Andy and I had cried together, wondering to what lengths we were willing to go to intervene for her life in a very early birth.

In the hours leading up to the procedure I lay in polar bear with my hips high in the air and my head to the hospital sheeting. David Bowie's Space Oddity played softly in my ear. With my city in a snow globe and I in an unfamiliar microcosm of my own—Winslet dancing inside my belly, oblivious to all of it—I realized then that I couldn't keep her at a distance for fear of losing her. Not wanting to feel that space between us anymore I understood it was time. I needed to truly claim her. I needed to tell her. I needed to deeply feel that she was mine and ask her to stay.

So I spoke to her. Winslet, I love you. You belong with us. Please stay inside. I'm your mama and I'm going to do everything I can to keep you in as long as I can. You need to stay put. It's snowing outside. Stay cozy. Stay warm. I want you to join us when you are truly ready to be born. Move away from my cervix.

To my cervix: Cervix, you stay closed. Do not let her out. She's not ready.


***

In those hours leading up to pre-op I found clarity in the complexities that thrive in the grayest shadows of life as we know it, and it marked a turning point for me in my relationship with my daughter, a softening that rippled change into my being forever. A shiny new layer in my mothering journey.

Did it work? I'll never know, but the cerclage was successfully placed and we are still here at 22 weeks 6 days. I'm moving forward with every intention that she will live because I don't want to cheat myself of my own daughter, however this story plays out.

Winslet at 22.5 weeks. I think she looks like Merritt. 

I've assembled a small registry for a handful of things I would like to have before she arrives. I'm looking forward to a blessingway celebration for the two of us when we reach 27 weeks. I think about her skin, and the way she will smell, and how long her fingernails will be, and what color hair she'll have. I think about the weight of her little body in my arms, curled up close. I think about nursing her. Right alongside these details I'm also embracing NICU wires and sensors, and the look and feel and sounds of the hospital: plastic isolettes, hand sanitizer, white walls, and of weeks spent without sunshine just staring at her and holding her skin to mine, watching the monitors, and discussing her care at rounds. I imagine the first meeting of the boys with their little sister. I'm reading up on NICU life, re-familiarizing myself with the latest data and best practices, and planning for the ways I will care for myself while caring for her after she is born.

For every week we keep little sister inside we celebrate by lighting another candle. Tomorrow we will have 3!

At home we talk about Winslet a lot. At first I wasn't sure how far to take it with the boys, but for the same reasons I must make her real for me I must make her real for them. We are all in this together and everyone is working hard to keep her close for as long as we possibly can.

By fully embracing her in this way, a quiet acceptance for the unknown has also emerged. In allowing myself to love her right now I don't have to wait for answers. Loving her isn't contingent on knowing.

I will love her with certainty for nothing else.

An altar of our weekly candles, and flowers and blessings left on our doorstep by a friend. 

11 comments :

  1. Well that was an emotional ride. I'm so proud of your and k ow how strong you are even in 5his type of situation! I love you J and Winslet, my little niece! :-)

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  2. This is such beautiful writing and you are so brave. I am lighting a candle for you both.
    Melissa

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  3. I'm so glad you connected with little Winslet before your cerclage. Love and light to both of you.

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  4. This is beautiful. Saying a prayer Winslet stays put.

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  5. You are so strong! I'm praying for you guys. Hang in there!

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  6. Sending prayers for you and sweet Winslet! I'm so glad that you've been able to celebrate her little life so far.

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  7. Such intense and beautiful writing.

    And I know I mentioned it briefly via email, but I think talking to your body is a really powerful thing. I tried to do that a lot with my last pregnancy in terms of trying to prevent a bad hemorrhage (like I would mentally talk to my uterus about clamping down when it was time after giving birth and then I did it again post delivery). I probably should have even said stuff out loud because that is supposedly even more powerful. I know it's so woo woo and out there but the mind-body connection is a fascinating mystery and it certainly can't hurt to try to empower yourself that way!!

    Continue to keep you guys in my thoughts. XOXO

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    1. I remember reading about that in L's birth story, too, I think, but YES, the mind body baby connection does feel powerful now and I wish I had been able to get to this place when I was pregnant with the boys, but I guess that is all in the journey!

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  8. We've never met and we must have a "mutual" friend on Instagram when I was drawn to the picture of your daughter and know all too well what an 20 something week delivery means. I just read this post and love that you embraced your daughter even when it was so hard to do and drove out fear by doing so. And then the word cerclage. My journey may be different but oddly the same. I am schedule for a transabdominal cerclage in April. I never knew about it until some random stranger told me. Praying for you as you recover and that little Winslet grows and stays healthy. www.allthedelightfulthings.com

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