When you get engaged, the first question you hear is “When’s the wedding?” Then you get married, and it turns to “When are you going to have a baby?” And when you’re lucky enough to get pregnant, everyone is quick to ask, “Are you going to find out?” (let alone, when’s the next one). I used to think that waiting to find out the sex of your baby was the best surprise in the world. Seriously, there are so few surprises these days, what could be better?
I would envision the moment when the doctor would hold up our beautiful baby and say, “It’s a ….!” Aaron and I would look lovingly at one another, and back to this beautiful child as we welcomed this bundle into our family and our arms. It was a fairy tale dream that was quickly wiped away like many other naive aspects of pregnancy as our losses increased.
It hit us after we lost the triplet (our fifth loss), that sadly, the actual surprise would be if I delivered an actual living, breathing baby. So we decided to find out the sex of the remaining twins: “B” was a girl and “C” was a boy. We were thrilled, and knew their names instantly. For us, finding out became a way that we could connect with our babies in a way we hadn’t been able to before. They were always real, but at least now we had this knowledge which took it a step further. We didn’t know what was going to happen, but for the moment, we knew we had our Sarah Hana and Benjamin Samuel.
You see, we had limited keepsakes and reminders from previous pregnancies. After we lost Baby Krueger, I deleted the only bump shot I finally allowed Aaron to take, and ultrasound pictures got shoved into the back of a drawer because it was too painful. But knowing who these babies were felt like a lifeline, in spite of not knowing what, or if that life would be. Each ultrasound we had, and we had lots, we were able to talk about our children as if we were looking what they were doing at school, with their friends or on the basketball court. Did it make it more painful when we lost them because we had opened ourselves up more, and gotten closer with them? Absolutely not. That pain is unimaginable and unbearable no matter what you think or do. There’s no preparation for losing your children before you actually get to meet them. And sadly, Aaron and I had much practice.
When I got pregnant with J, we knew we were going to find out right from the get-go. And there was no hiding it…let’s just say he was quite “proud” at every ultrasound. It took us longer to come up with his name, but the connection was immediate. We referred to him as the “Little Guy,” and with each weekly scan, we talked about our dreams, and hoped and prayed that we’d be able to see him grow and flourish outside the womb too. Thankfully, we got that wish.
There’s a strong need when PAL to try and protect yourself, not to mention distract yourself, in any way possible. There were so many ways in which I did this, including keeping myself in a bubble. I wanted to protect myself physically, and perhaps more so, to protect myself emotionally from the comments, questions and concerns of those around us, and my own. In earlier pregnancies, distancing myself from the pregnancy and detaching from the baby seemed like the only way I could get through. If I didn’t connect, I wouldn’t get hurt, right? But you know what? It didn’t matter. I still got hurt. Perhaps it was that knowledge that made me realize I may as well make the connection. And I’m sure on some level, I hoped that by making the connection that I could prevent anything bad from happening.
While I know from experience that isn’t the case, I’m glad we made the decision to find out when we did. After all, it was still a surprise, just an earlier one. I’ve often said that after loss, and also in PAL, you need to do pretty much whatever it takes to get through. Aaron and I may have been robbed of the innocence of pregnancy, but we made sure to figure out how to make the most of the time we had with each baby along the way.