Anatomy Scan: The Night Before

I am currently living in limbo. Taking in the future about this baby as I am allowed to do, despite my inner voice. Yet, I was already planning not to return to work the following day because “Another Fetal Diagnosis Coming Right Up!” I realize how defeatist that sounds, but it’s just how I protect myself, I guess. We can be all so believing of others, but when it comes to ourselves, sometimes it’s nearly impossible! I prep myself for delivering the following week and no longer see myself holding our baby come February. Just like that, the future vanished in a moment with the words, “need more testing.,” followed by, “We’re not worried as you are low risk, but just to be sure given your history.” Of course, it will happen to us again. How can I be so ridiculous to at times think it wouldn’t?

I grabbed everything out of my locker at work, doing things differently than on a normal day. I then had to go back as I had now forgotten my keys in my locker because my mind was no longer there. It’s back with Kaia and Jude.

Things really can be different, and yet the routine every morning is the same. But now suddenly unfamiliarly familiar again.

Phillip greets me with a hug, saying, “Our life is wonderful, but it’s chaos!” I tell him what a patient said to me when she asked, “What number pregnancy is this?” “Life with 4 is the perfect number and will bring better relationships later.”

I go home to religiously read my Pregnancy After Loss Support Love Letters Book…trying anything to calm me:

1. Choose joy today
2. You have the courage to try again
3. You are fighting for this baby…for life
4. You have much love to give

I think about how my heart can’t take one more loss! But, I knew embarking on this pregnancy that loss was a real possibility. Each time, I reassess and again question what more we can take each time. I’ve said this so many times before, yet I armor up and keep going, still hoping.

How do I promote pregnancy loss better than going through another one? How do I stay hopeful?

To say pregnancy loss is just grief is definitely an understatement. It’s times like these, I remember the real trauma that we endured as it resurfaces it’s so much more than just baby loss. The toll it has on our minds is evident.

Anatomy Scan: The Morning Of

I wake up unrested.
I take my prenatal like I always do.
I open the backpack and look inside to find a pink and blue rainbow picture made by my daughter. I take note of this.

Carmen's daughter's rainbow she drew

Author’s Personal Collection/Carmen Grover

The kids wake up later than normal, giving me more time to write a letter to baby. I tell them all that they mean to me, light my candle, and pray everything within!

Sunrise the morning of the anatomy scan

Author’s Personal Collection/Carmen Grover

I walk outside to put the backpacks in the van and glimpse the pink in the sky, and think, “sailers warning,” while also taking in its allure.

Then I vomit in the front yard, not holding back all the nerves and reminders of this baby and the life inside that I’ve been taking care of while trying to not think about all intermingled.

I rub my belly and recount a friend saying, “Wow, that’s hard,” as I explained what they are looking for on ultrasound and blood work. “You’re so far along.”

This single realization, as I’ve gone through this so many times, reminded me of exactly that being five to six months pregnant when this has happened before and how pregnant we were, the trauma we’ve endured.

I come back inside and notice my youngest wiggling to the commercial music.
My son wants a back scratch, not just the normal rushed kind, so I really sink into it, into him and all that he is.
Maelie asks to hug the baby like she asks to do every morning, but I hold her so tight, not wanting to let go. The moment is so much sweeter. “Can I hold the baby when it comes out and hug it even when it is little?” her sweet voice asks.

Time slows down in these moments, and I’m grateful for that. I always know the purest miracles of my children, but when times are hard like this, it reminds me even more.

I drive them to school, soaking in more time with them. They are so precious.
Life should always be like this: cherishing them, ignoring the hustle and bustle, while I try to muster up all of my courage.

Sunrise - Carmen's 22-week bump day blog: Like a Grapefruit - A Bitter and Sweet Account of Our Anatomy Scan

Author’s Personal Collection/Carmen Grover

The sun went down, and away I went.

Time speeds up, I want to sprint past this. I jump in the car alone, but I’m not “really alone,” and am reminded how I’ve received bad news before and drove home before. I have “been strong” so many times.

I’m thinking more deeply and reflecting more purposefully to do things more meaningful. I put on my rhondite for protection and frankincense for trauma and head toward the unknown.

Anatomy Scan: During

I park my car and put one hand to my heart and one to my baby. I take a deep breath with my first step. I get to the intersection and spot a butterfly just hovering in the middle. It stays there despite all the passing traffic until I pass it to fly away (does anyone else even notice these things?). I take it as a message from my baby sending me comfort: we will be OK!

In my ultrasound, I realize I’ve stepped into the room where I had my amniocentesis with my first living son to confirm he was OK genetically. The tech is completely pleasant, saying he’s moving a lot, but that’s not a bad thing (I always believed it meant baby was in stress).

Ultrasound image from Carmen's anatomy scan - Carmen's 22-week bump day blog: Like a Grapefruit - A Bitter and Sweet Account of Our Anatomy Scan

Author’s Personal Collection/Carmen Grover

She ends by saying, We got everything we needed,” and allowed me to take pictures of the screen. She wasn’t weird about not letting me see the baby. Usually, once there’s “something,” suddenly this baby is not to be looked at.

Then the 5-hour wait. I sit, recounting the “signs.”

That morning, after dropping off the kids to kill time, I walked.
The apple I picked from the tree as I set out was perfect today!
I talk to my baby

The first thing I see, a dead mouse with its guts out.
Then, a ladybug holding onto a leaf for dear life in that wild wind.
I sit down next to it to see a shimmer in the distance,
So bright I couldn’t resist it.

I dart across the freshly harvested field to find what I always find in times like this, my babies’ helium balloon.
Right when I need it, seeming to go to the right places at the right times, they find me where and how I am.

Balloon Carmen found - a sign from her babies

Author’s Personal Collection/Carmen Grover

The balloon is a cut-up “Happy Birthday.” I collect all the pieces, trying to make it whole again.
I think about the plow bringing it up to the surface.
It was broken, sure (like me), but maybe that’s what brought it up for me to see!
One piece flew away. I ran goofily after it, grabbing it. I could not let it go.

This could all mean so many things or nothing at all.

“No, no, Carmen, not yet,” I think to myself. What if the dead mouse and broken balloon mean babe may instead die on its birthday?

This is pregnancy after loss. I can’t allow myself to be in the clear. It sounds completely insane!

Phillip says I think too much, and he’s right! This journey has changed me in good, bad, and somewhat comical ways. I can’t turn off the noticing!

Anatomy Scan: That Evening

I’ve been a wreck, wondering why it’s taking so long for my OB to see me. The people with bad news are the ones you want to put off as no one wants to deliver that news, and you need more time with them. I think of the missed phone call with no message.

My High Risk OB walks in, and says, “The NIPT was negative!”
She hugs me straight away, and I sob.

Waiting for the results - Carmen's 22-week bump day blog: Like a Grapefruit - A Bitter and Sweet Account of Our Anatomy Scan

Author’s Personal Collection/Carmen Grover

That’s it!

“Didn’t anyone call you?” she asks.

No! “What?!” She was so upset. Then you have to call them. I did, I tell her. No answer. I work in healthcare and totally understand overseeing these little things that are everything to me. A week spared of agony (the stress we cause on ourselves for good reason), and yet baby was ok today. I saw baby today. Come back in four weeks for the sugar test!
“Let’s do this right,” she said.

As my OB left the room, the resident asked, “So you don’t need counseling anymore?” That had been one of my questions, trying to find someone this time around. It is unfortunately the same with baby loss, as soon as you have your living baby you are suddenly fixed. We know this is very far from true as this experience showed me.

I’m crying and speaking all things to this baby,  how much I love them and my deepest desires to have them. Now I could say these words!

As I start celebrating, I hear someone crying next door to me. I remember that has been me several times, but their tears felt worse somehow. Why Me? Today, I get the good news!

I get what I always wanted, and it feels so bad…
It’s a complete whirlwind. I’m hurting for others–the previous me who was this same gestation when we lost Jude, how we made it out with my others but it was always such a blur, confirming things earlier for my nerves.

I’m excited again! I call Phillip!

He’s so happy he repeats, “Our life is going to be chaotic, but this is very good news.” I know he hasn’t been sleeping (ok like at least staying up past 10, which is very late for me and is up every time I go pee, which is a lot!)

I told Phillip never again after this!
He suggests we go for dinner to be together. It’s all I want, and he says I look beautiful tonight.

Dinner after the anatomy scan - Carmen's 22-week bump day blog: Like a Grapefruit - A Bitter and Sweet Account of Our Anatomy Scan

Author’s Personal Collection/Carmen Grover

In his car on the seat, there’s a new picture my daughter made at school–a filled-in rainbow. Our “Rainbow Babies” make our beautiful chaos complete!

Carmen's daughter's rainbow she drew

Author’s Personal Collection/Carmen Grover

Anatomy Scan: After

I’ve been resonating so much with mamas sharing “their stories.” This is our story and the only one we know, one that we hope will be helpful to those in a similar season. We can’t change it or wish it was different. It just is, and this is where we are, and what we share is the turbulence of getting here. It’s so common for us to apologize anytime we feel we are making someone uncomfortable, to automatically say, “I’m sorry,” when I feel I’ve shared too much about my dead babies, then feeling and saying, “I’m sorry,” when I share about my living ones. I hope to change this

My husband says it so simply. Some people are lucky and some are not. We were unlucky for a lot of years but got super lucky with our living babies. He’s right. Some people aren’t so lucky and that sucks and is so unfair. I hate it so much for others, but am also happy we got to be lucky.

I couldn’t have guessed one day we would get lucky, while knowing control is an illusion.

As I let it all percolate and sink in, sipping on it, I think so many things.

Carmen's 22-week bump - Like a Grapefruit - A Bitter and Sweet Account of Our Anatomy Scan

Author’s Personal Collection/Carmen Grover

I think about how my most beautiful birth stories that I never got to share out loud were my TFMR babies Kaia & Jude. This whole experience of waiting for this dreaded ultrasound reminded me so much of them. It was so hard!

Why not me? Though, I often feel my story is not “bad enough,” they are worth sharing as all of ours are.

I think of the miracle of my babies. I never forget this but do lose sight of this sometimes. Then I feel like the “annoying one who got her rainbows.” But our struggle to get here was still very real. I try to remember that our story is a hopeful one and that may bring comfort to some, but not to those still in the depth with no living babies. Little is talked about loss after living babies because you are now OK. You’ve got your living baby. I am completely blessed and know this, but the “Why me?”s can take hold of me. Yet, it used to be, “Why Me?” in another context. Why does this keep happening to me? What am I doing so wrong? Am I mutated in some way I hadn’t realized before?

Yesterday was the crash of the good news.

I was angered at my youngest daughter, my rainbow, as she wouldn’t stop asking for something, but in a super sweet way, innocent way. I gave her a little shove to get out of my space! It’s something I do with Phillip. There’s no helping me in those “outbursty” moments. But, to do it to her, I was mortified! She laughed and continued on. The thoughts come in: “Why am I losing it? I’m supposed to be happy!! I have everything I’ve ever wanted and more. How did I think it would be different? Is this how I’m going to treat my new rainbow? I’m going to be a terrible mom to this baby. How do I get to deserve this when others don’t?” The sleepless nights again, the inability to get anything done, all the things I want to do. I’m so grateful and yet scared that I won’t be grateful enough.

Carmen's 22-week bump - Like a Grapefruit - A Bitter and Sweet Account of Our Anatomy Scan

Author’s Personal Collection/Carmen Grover

I know I’m a great mom to my kids. I really do. They never let me go at drop-off for anything. But the constant toss between gratitude and grief is always tangled up in a ball, which reminds me how it’s all still valid. It’s always with us and why my story that often doesn’t feel “bad enough” to share is, the grief still hits us even in the “happy times.” Because our life is filling up in different ways, making the grief seem less, but it’s been the same all the time. We are just growing around it. That’s the scary piece. As I grow physically, emotionally, and spiritually, but always healing, and I don’t have to “feel sorry” for still feeling these really big emotions and “still” having these sways. Its because of never-ending love! Our babies aren’t growing with us, but they are growing us in ways we don’t always see until moments like these, where they aren’t and we are and we’re sorry for being happy but really are while still missing.

I grieve in a weird way, and it hits differently in the celebrations of it all.

In not having another loss (still not guaranteed), it means I get the happy ending that so many others don’t. Of course, I’m beyond excited, but why me? Why not you? All I can do is hope for you all and continue to share my 11 babies, 7 not physically here but always with us in our story of hope.

Read Past Bump Day Blogs from Carmen:

More on this topic:

Share this story!