I slip a blue gown on over top of my t-shirt and carefully climb up onto the hospital bed. The sterile sheets are stiff and scratchy under my legs as I pull my sleepy toddler up onto my lap. He doesn’t understand why my husband and I had to wake him up in the middle of the night, why we toted him to the hospital in his yellow dinosaur jammies and winter coat. I try to rock him back to sleep but he is transfixed by a box of rubber gloves by the sink; he thinks we’re on an adventure.
They’ve given us a private room. Nurses come and go: they check my vitals and a technician pulls a line of slippery, red blood out of my arm. I look away and try not to think of white sheets spotted with burgundy stains, my unwanted middle of the night wake up call. There has been too much blood today.
I am losing another baby. I know it and the nurses know it but still they paste stretched smiles across their faces and try to reassure me with statistics. With calm voices they tell me that, “Twenty-five percent of women bleed during pregnancy” and “Just because you’re bleeding doesn’t mean you’re miscarrying.” But their eyes betray their words; I fit under a different statistic.
My son pulls at my hospital gown, “Mommy pants on! Mommy go!” It’s three am and the adventure is wearing thin. Patience is not his strong suit and right now, it’s not mine either. I just need someone to tell me that this is over. It hurts too much to cling to false hope.
The doctor finally comes in, only to tell me that the results are inconclusive. Her speech is clinical and she does not acknowledge the fact that I’m losing my baby. I shrug on my jeans and shuffle out into the parking lot. The clock starts to tick and I count down the hours until I return for my second round of bloodwork and a conclusion to this nightmare.
I’ve been here before.
Two years ago, I lay on a similar hospital bed, waiting quietly for a nurse to bring me my firstborn. A thick scar marches across my abdomen and my stomach skin sags wearily against the faded hospital gown. These are the few remaining traces of the twin boys whom I had carried in my womb only hours before.
The nurse carries one of my sons into the room and fights back her own tears as she lays him gently in my arms. He is bigger than I expect a 31 week preemie to be. Carefully swaddled in a pale green hospital towel, I hold him and whisper how much I love him. I cuddle and sing to him until his body begins to cool and my tears soak his blanket. I’d waited seven months to meet him but now I would never hear his cries, never see his eyelashes flutter against soft, rosy cheeks.
They wheel my recovery bed across the hospital and into the NICU where his twin brother lay clinging to life in a tiny incubator. I press my fingers up against the glass and watch as his tiny chest heaves and shudders, his lungs fighting for air. I too struggle for breath, the weight of my sorrow buries deep into me.
I pray that I may keep this child, and I wait.
The first time they let me hold him, I finally feel like a mother. Laying him against my chest, the nurse carefully adjusts his breathing apparatus, feeding tubes, and monitor wires. We lay together in a reclining hospital chair, our skin sticking to one another, and listen to the sound of our hearts beat.
His brother’s funeral takes place a week later on a wet July morning. Surrounded by red roses and the smell of damp earth, we watch the casket slowly lower into the muddy ground. We mourn and we grieve and we celebrate the lives of two beautiful boys: one in our arms and one above.
Another month passes before we get to bring our twinless twin home from the hospital. We’re impatient and delirious with delight; our house is full of simultaneous joy and mourning. We watch as our baby grows and we wait for time to soften the intensity of our grief.
Time marches slowly on, and strangers passing me on the street begin to question whether or not it was time for me to give my son a sibling. I never thought that I would get to the place where I was ready to be pregnant again; it hurt too much. But I waited until my heart began to sing louder than my fears; I waited for the day when I was ready to build upon my love, no matter the cost.
When the pregnancy test came back positive, I thought my heart would burst. A month later it was bursting again, but not in a good way, as I carried a sleepy-eyed toddler to the hospital and held onto the desperate hope that we weren’t going to lose another baby. All weekend I waited for the results of my bloodwork, but it wasn’t necessary to tell me what I already knew. Another little one had slipped from my womb too early.
And here I am again, waiting on another baby: waiting for another pregnancy, another child. I wait for the month to end and hope for two pink lines on a little white stick.
I know that all too soon we’ll be waiting on other things: my son’s first wiggly tooth to come lose, his high school graduation ceremony, the results of his first real job interview. And so I cherish these beginning moments, knowing that for two of my children, these are all the memories I’ll ever have.
A stray pack of pregnancy tests sit underneath my bathroom sink and I wonder how many I’ll go through before I meet you. My days are riddled with impatience and hesitant dreams for round-bellied tomorrows but this time around, I will remember to take things slow. While I earnestly long for arms filled with the soft weight of your newborn body, I will first embrace the wait. Nine months or nine weeks, I will hold tight to each moment with you.
You’re worth the wait.
Guest post written by Liz Mannegren. Liz lives in Vancouver, Canada with her husband and son. She is the mother of three beautiful babies: carrying one in her arms but an extra two in her heart. You can read more of her writing at www.mommymannegren.com.