“…It’s very obvious that my body has no freaking idea what it’s supposed to be doing, or otherwise it wouldn’t be trying to kick this baby out of me. ” [The Stuff That Never Happened, Maddie Dawson]
There are so many themes in The Stuff That Never Happened that struck a chord with me, but none more than the plight of the main character’s daughter, Sophie. Part way into her first pregnancy, she goes into a bathroom stall and sees blood everywhere. She panics, assuming that she’s losing the baby. And, although this does not happen to the main character, it is a catalyst for everything that follows.
I was only 6 or 7 weeks pregnant with Bug when I came home from work to find that I was bleeding heavily. I was devastated. Although I wasn’t very far along, I was excited to be pregnant and already beginning to anticipate the type of mother I would be. There was so much blood that I was certain that I had already miscarried. I called my husband and then my OB/GYN in tears. I was sure that the ultrasound they scheduled immediately was a routine measure to prove that I was no longer pregnant.
It was so early in the pregnancy that they weren’t sure they would see anything, even if there was something to see. But my Bug wanted to send me a message, and he did, via the tiniest flicker of a heartbeat on the monitor. We dubbed him “Flicker” and waited and hoped. The next few days and weeks are a blur to me now. I remember ultrasounds, more than a half dozen of them, and lots and lots of blood. Worse than the blood were the clots, which over and over again convinced me that the pregnancy had ended. I had a subchorionic hematoma (or sub-chorionic hemorrhage), which is a tear between the uterine wall and the placenta. The blood would pool, clot and then tear free again in what seemed like a never-ending cycle of blood and tears.
Sophie’s diagnosis was placenta previa, a condition which is dangerous to the mother as well as her unborn child. In that way, we were lucky. A subchorionic hematoma can be problematic for the pregnancy, but not usually for the mom. Still, I was anxious for my pregnancy and the little baby we hadn’t even met. During my several-week stint on bed rest, I made a commitment to my little guy. Although a large part of me wanted to hold back so I wouldn’t hurt as much if things went wrong, I decided that I was going to love this baby as much as I could for as long as I could. I wrote letters and sang songs. I read stories and made promises for trips to the zoo and Disney World. I left my job and focused all of my energy on having a healthy baby.
And then one day the bleeding stopped. Ultrasounds showed that the tear was gone (they more often than not resolve themselves) and I was no longer on bed rest. We found out we were having a boy and started all of the normal preparations to become parents. My mom and I, much like Sophie and her mother, had an almost ceremonial moment where we started to buy things for the baby. My heart started to heal.
Many mothers are surprised by how long it takes to bond with a newborn baby. It’s not always as easy as it seems on TV or in movies. But in my case, Bug and I had bonded months before with a promise of unconditional love. In fact, we were so closely tied together that I would wake up in the middle of the night and, as if he could hear me calling him, Bug would wake up just a few minutes later. It got so bad that I had to work to think about other things just so he wouldn’t wake up as well. LadyBug started with an at-risk pregnancy as well… more bleeding but with unexplained causes. But with a demanding toddler on my hands, I wasn’t able to devote all of my energy to her in the womb and our bonding process has been much slower.
I am sometimes jealous of mothers who have those picture-perfect pregnancies where they are glowing and happy. And I am a bit resentful of moms who take their healthy pregnancies for granted with risky behavior like skiing and horseback riding. On the other hand, Bug and I took a journey together that was difficult and uplifting all at once. I don’t think I’d trade that now for a simple, no-worry pregnancy. Even though he doesn’t remember, it was something special we shared, just between the two of us. Those are the things that make us who we are. It’s the stuff that did happen that counts the most.
This post was inspired by The Stuff That Never Happened by Maddie Dawson, which I received complimentary as a part of From Left to Write Book Club. See how other bloggers were inspired by this book.