This morning, I woke up with a crusty and swollen eye. Three weeks from turning 34, and I get my first case of pink eye.
Not exactly what I need in my life right now.
I drag Benjamin to the Minute Clinic, where the nurse practitioner, confirms, yep, that's pink eye. She talks about how she'll prescribe eye drops to treat it and looks perplexed when I inform her that I'm allergic to penicillin.
Then I say, and I'm also pregnant.
She looks even more perplexed. She breaks out her phone and starts googling.
This cannot be good.
She decides what to prescribe me, and then says it's "Group B," which means that it's shown no harm to pregnant animals, but has never actually been tested on pregnant women.
I know, I know, this is often the case. You don't see a whole lot of pregnant women signing up for studies to see how damaging something is to their baby.
In the middle of this, she asks me if we know what we're having.
"A girl," I respond, hugging Ben, sitting on my lap, eating his Goldfish, tighter.
"Oh perfect, a boy and girl!" she responds.
And here we go.
Seven months and three days ago, Justin and I realized that the "How many children do you have?" question would always be a difficult one for us. That sometimes, questions that seem simple are actually very complex. That questions that seem innocent, can actually be very hurtful.
One week ago, when we found out we were having our second daughter, Justin turned to me and said, "People will think we have the perfect little family."
There's different ways to respond to this in the baby loss community. A lot of people judge in the moment whether the person who asks the question is someone who needs to know. Someone who they will encounter again. Someone who will be in their circle. In other words, when the grocery store clerk asks, you may just keep it simple. When a new neighbor asks, you may tell them the whole ugly truth. Some of those baby loss parents whisper up a prayer to their lost child. An extra: I love you. And I remember you. Some of them describe those moments as a way of protecting their child. That that stranger doesn't get to hear about him or her.
I've had those moments. But for me, those moments only happen when someone makes the assumption that Ben is my only child, or that I'm expecting my second child. I let them assume. I don't need to go there. But I find when they directly ask, I cause myself more pain if I don't tell the truth.
Other parents say they talk about all their children, no matter how uncomfortable it makes the other person.
So I took a deep breath and told this nurse practitioner. "Two girls," I responded. "Our daughter was stillborn... so this is a very high-risk pregnancy. And I need to ensure that I am not taking anything that could hurt my baby." Then I added, "One boy, and two girls."
She looked scared. She asked if I could call my OB.
Who I know, of course, doesn't work until Monday afternoon.
I called her office anyway.
And talked to the reception staff. When they asked if I'd like to leave a message, I told them no, I'd like them to ask a different doctor about this medication. They put me on hold for all of 30 seconds, and came back to tell me that medication is "absolutely fine."
I'm good, right?
Except I can't help thinking of how when I was pregnant with Lydie, my doctor suggested that I take melatonin to help me sleep.
And how after she died, and I delved deep into my research, I read that babies in danger of cord accidents often can't handle the melatonin that their mothers' bodies create during sleep. Dr. Collins in Louisiana seemed incredulous when I told him my doctor suggested I take additional melatonin.
So, part of me wants to ask: what happens if pink eye goes untreated?
That's the thing about pregnancy after loss. I no longer believe something because it's stated by a doctor. Pregnancy after loss is a "prove it" pregnancy. This medication is safe? Prove it.
It's still sinking in that we're having our second daughter. One boy, two girls. I can't believe that we have to come up with another girl's name after finding our perfect girl's name.
Yesterday, I went to the pool on my own while Ben napped and Justin stayed home. (Justin teased me about needing a break. Taking care of Ben full-time right now, I told him: "You need a break from your job on the weekends, don't you?" Thankyouverymuch.) I wanted to be alone. I wanted to relax. The pool was crazy busy and I finally found a chair and settled in. And then noticed that the mom next to me was named Heather. And then she called out to her daughter, "Over here, Lydia!" I wanted to vomit. Or scream.
Instead I just stared. I stared at this woman named Heather and her daughter Lydia and wondered if that was what it was supposed to look like.
I'm telling you, you can't predict the triggers.
So as far as names go, we've got some major brainstorming to do for Bowie. We are starting to talk about it, which seems like a huge step. It's a really hard line to dance: taking it day-to-day while recognizing that at the end of this pregnancy, we may just get to take Bowie home. Not in an urn.
But at 19 weeks, I realize this babe needs a name, one way or the other. Even if she dies, she still needs a name.
That fear is stronger than ever after finding out Bowie is a girl. I couldn't quite figure out why, until my friend Molly nailed it. She told me that it's totally normal to be more scared-- that I don't want to lose that dream
twice since I feel so lucky to have a shot at another chance. Aha. Thank you Molly. I need to stop paying for therapy and just continue talking with all my amazing BLM friends. They always know what to say and I don't have to do any kind of explaining with them. I'm really tired of explaining myself.
I don't think people know how to respond to our pregnancy news. People say things like "God will look out for this baby" and I'm dumbfounded. Do they realize what they are implying? That God favors one of my children over the other, that God didn't look out for Lydie, but he'll look out for Bowie? Let's just leave God out of this, please. I get a lot of "Congratulations, that's great news." And I tend to nod and reply, "It's very difficult. We really miss Lydie." I feel I have to explain myself, again and again and again. I feel like I have to remind people of the complexities of this pregnancy, if they don't acknowledge it themselves.
We still haven't talked about it with Ben. But the other night, he was sitting on my lap, and elbowed me roughly. "Benjamin! You have to be gentle with Mama right now!" I told him. He patted my belly. And then said, "I sorry, baby. I sorry Bo-Bo."
Last night, I felt Bowie kick. I think I've felt her a few times, inconsistently, over the past few weeks. But with this goddamn anterior placenta, it felt different than it did with Benjamin or Lydia. Last night though, last night was definitely Bowie. I grabbed Justin's hand and put it on my belly, and he felt our second daughter kick for the first time.
Those moments? I'll never take them for granted again.
She was alive as of last night.