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Entry Six, August 16, 1997

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The Gift of Nicholas

People teased me, telling me that they had never seen anyone so happy to be hugely pregnant. (And I was huge. People used to ask me if I was carrying twins. I used to joke that my baby was laying horizontal in the womb, with his feet sticking straight out. My husband used to joke that I needed to register my stomach as a lethal weapon. All I needed to do to seriously clobber someone was to turn sideways). I was so in love with my baby, and so happy to be pregnant after so many years of trying. I sang to my baby, I read stories to him, I talked to him all the time. I signed up for a developmental toy of the month club, and a baby book of the month club. I made plans for his college fund. I decorated his room, and got him books and toys and mobiles. I had everything ready to change his first diaper when I was barely into my third trimester! I would sit by his baby swing, and wind it up, and watch it, thinking about him actually being in it. Oh, I had my share of physical discomforts, but it was so wonderful to have that time with my baby. I told people it was one of the happiest things that ever happened to me.

I was induced at 42 weeks, since I was overdue. My pregnancy had gone well, and everything looked good, except that I had not started labor yet. There were some complications with my labor, but nothing that looked serious. After about 20 hours, the situation started looking odd. My OB/GYN, being one of the best in my city, thought it would be prudent to move towards a C-section as soon as we could. There was nothing that indicated a critical medical emergency, but there were a number of clues that things were not going well.

We prepared for a C-section. When we disconnected the fetal monitor to go to the operating room, my baby still had a strong heart beat. By the time we got to the operating room, the heart beat was gone. Nicholas was delivered as quickly as possible. He was delivered alive, but critically ill. He had a defect in the umbilical cord, called Vasa Previa. This defect usually goes undetected until it is too late, and usually results in neonatal death. He was resuscitated, and transfused, and initially responded to treatment. But he had lost too much blood from the umbilical cord defect, and was pronounced dead one hour and nine minutes after delivery.

I did not see how I would survive the loss of my baby. I did not see how I could live the rest of my life without my son. I knew that I could do it, my life experience told me that. But I did not know how. Some of my other personal losses include losing my parents in a tragic house fire when I was in college. The loss of my son was even more painful than that. I struggled through it, availed myself of all the support I could find. I knew from my previous trauma experiences that the way through grief is to feel everything, square off with it as honestly and as courageously as possible, get support, and take one day at a time. And so I did.

And I realized something incredible. All of my life, I had been so cautious, and I had thought that my area of risk lay in opening up too much, and getting too hurt. It was suddenly clear to me that all this time, the risk lay elsewhere! The risk lay in having opportunities to love and to connect, and losing those precious opportunities because of fear. What if I had waited to emotionally invest in Nicholas until I had the certainty that things were safe? What if I had chosen that way of caution that I have chosen most of my life? I would have lost all the time I had with him. I would have lost it all. This experience has totally changed my heart and life. Although Nicholas' death is a tragedy, and the most painful thing that has ever happened to me, I am again reminded of the green plants breaking through the concrete sidewalks. Life and goodness and healing and love break through, time and time again, no matter what the circumstances. Nicholas' brief life has transformed me into a different person, and I am grateful for him.

It has been a long healing road, but I am finally transitioning into a state of peacefulness and acceptance about this loss.

The next step in my journey towards Egg Donor Zift was learning I could not have another genetic child. The progression from grief over this fact, to joy over the prospect of having a child through Egg Donor ZIFT, is an important part of my story. I will look forward to sharing that with you next time!
Kay Grames

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