One Year of PALS

IMG_1971It’s 4 a.m. and I am rocking my three-month-old daughter, who has a slight temperature and congestion. My two-year-old daughter is asleep, as is my husband and our dog. I’m the only one awake in the darkness, save the streetlights. This is how she will sleep, so I will take this watch.

A year ago, this sweet creature was just beginning, though we hadn’t had a positive pregnancy test yet. A year ago, I also started writing for PALS, hopeful I would get to chart another pregnancy after loss that would deliver a live, healthy baby. I got through the month-after-month of waiting partly due to this community, both in terms of summoning the bravery to share my pregnancy as it progressed and in the words of encouragement and solidarity I read of yours. Thank you.

These markers of time ask us to take stock, don’t they? Four years ago, I delivered my son stillborn. Three-and-a-half years ago, I miscarried. Two and a half years ago, our first daughter was born. Three months ago, this littlest sister joined our family. And here, a year after introducing myself to you, I can introduce her.

Every moment of her arrival was peaceful. It was a scheduled induction, which I haven’t yet shared the details of, but a recent piece here on PALS posed the question of whether or not to induce our babies after loss. I would like to take this opportunity to answer.

Somehow, with our first daughter, I was able to wait until five days past due for a doctor recommended induction. (I was also induced with my son, though under entirely different circumstances, more than three months before his due date.) In both cases, my body responded well. This time, I had no medical reason to be weary and every emotional reason to want her safely in my arms.

This time, I also knew I could not wait past due. The longer I grieve, the more stories I know that are like mine in terms of losses, but not like mine in terms of causes. While I have drawn strength from them, they also made me want to get her out safely as soon as possible. I simply know too much about what can go wrong. That knowledge is not without some inner conflict. After so much has proven beyond our control, we still might hesitate to pick the birthdates of our children. My husband wanted us to wait, to give this girl a chance to come on her own. I also wanted to capture something of the unpredictable this time around, to let him enjoy the office birthday pool like any “innocent” dad. But implied in waiting and in the unpredictable is a trust in nature, in my body’s ability to prove to be a safe home.

I can assume most of us have a devastating reason to no longer trust nature or our bodies, though I told myself to nightly as I fell asleep those final weeks. Once the induction was scheduled, some of that anxiety abated. Due to the prevalence of large OB/GYN practices, picking my child’s birthday in fact meant picking the doctor I was most comfortable with—by a mile. She is the doctor who hugged me at every visit, took clear joy in my toddler’s presence at most appointments, and reassured me as I read off the list of questions I might have about the safety of the pregnancy.

Once the day arrived, as contractions built and my epidural kicked in, I breathed even deeper. I closed my eyes. I relaxed, our baby’s heartbeat on constant monitor, and an exceptional nurse continually checking our vitals and progress. After so many weeks on our own, after monthly essays about hope, courage, anxiety, and more hope, I was finally nestled in a bosom of care I trusted. When it was time for my doctor to coach me through active labor, she made me feel like I was already a champion, a mother doing exactly what needed to be done.

V.’s arrival confirmed the sense of peace I had during her delivery. She has confirmed it each day since. These days she is cooing and rolling over. Her fingers hook onto my shirt with such intention when we nurse. She watches and seeks, smiling with such trust and purity. We loss moms often talk about the destruction of our innocence, but here in my arms is proof that we can still yield it.

As I reflect on this past year, every step of the grief, of my heart’s ongoing recovery, of the bursts of joy our daughters inspire has landed me right here with that innocence in my arms, in a nursery in the wee hours of the morning.

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About the Author:

Jennifer Massoni Pardini
Jennifer Massoni Pardini is a longtime magazine editor and contributor who earned her M.F.A. in English and Creative Writing from Mills College. In 2012, she joined the pregnancy and infant loss community when she lost her first child, Lorenzo, when she was nearly six months pregnant. Her much-loved, much-wanted baby boy was diagnosed with a fatal heart defect, and she and her husband chose to spare him the pain of the extreme measures he would have had to endure upon being born. She met him still over an hour that changed her life. Five months later, she miscarried. Her greatest forms of healing have been found in writing about her son, in solidarity with other loss moms, and in her own arms when her daughters were born safely in 2014 and 2016. She has written about Lorenzo in The New York Times, The Washington Post Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle, Literary Mama, in the anthology Three Minus One: Stories of Parents’ Love and Loss, and on her website, which she has dedicated to helping other loss parents through their grief and healing. She is also completing a memoir about her journey. Today, she is honored to contribute to Pregnancy After Loss Support’s team of Courageous Mamas and share what pregnancy and parenting after loss have meant to her. You may also follow her on Twitter and help her collect hearts in her son’s honor with the Chain-Link Heart Project.

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