Remember this summer when I was pregnant? Remember how I peed in a cup to do pregnancy tests every morning for weeks? Remember me taking pictures of them and calling Grandmar and my doctor and looking at my huge bloated belly in the mirror? Remember how I cringed every time you came near my boobs because they hurt so bad? We all thought it was funny that they were producing milk so soon.
I bet you at least remember me crying all the time because my doctor kept telling me I wasn’t pregnant. I had about 14 positive pregnancy tests, a few verified by other eyes and all clear as day to me. But the blood work kept coming back negative, and I continued to get two periods, but they weren’t really periods. They were light bleeding. And then the unbearable back pain and cramping started and I knew I was losing the pregnancy, or at least passing what had been lost weeks before.
But my doctor kept telling me I wasn’t ever pregnant to begin with. And they thought I was being ridiculous. They did not know that I was not trying to get pregnant; that this was a surprise. They did not know how in tune I am with my body, and how I knew I was pregnant the moment I conceived. They did not know that I am a doula and very familiar with pregnancy, birth and motherhood. They did not know that I am an avid researcher and knew an incredible amount about false negatives and hCG levels. They knew nothing about me, except that their test kept saying I was wrong.
But I was right, and I was losing my baby.
Do you remember when Auntie Christine passed away around that same time? I remember that night so well. I got another positive pregnancy test, and then received the news that she was gone. I cried as I cleaned up the toys scattered across the living room, and you, Lorelei, you came downstairs because you heard me crying. You asked me what was wrong and I told you, and you hugged me. You told me to go sit down so you could clean everything up, and then you brought me pretend tea from your toy kitchen. I drank it, then took you back to bed and snuggled for a bit. You slept peacefully, and my heart was so full. I still cried a bunch afterward but it was good for me to do that. I needed that release. You made it less intense, and I am so grateful for that.
After that night, I passed what was remaining of the pregnancy over the following days. I saw a different doctor who told me that it still wasn’t possible I was ever pregnant to begin with, but I did have high cancer markers that required me to get further blood work done to see if I had cancer. That week sucked too. I felt so betrayed by my body, and my life. With all of this going on I STILL had that damn headache I was telling you about before, and my entire body felt as though it was falling apart, piece by piece.
But, did you know that in the first trimester of pregnancy your cancer markers can sometimes go up? I learned that thanks to Grandmar, who found it out via Google. When the second round of tests came back the markers went back down, so, yeah. I was pregnant like I thought, and then I wasn’t. And yet I had this huge weight of doubt on me for those two months that had ruined all of the trust and belief and faith I had in my own body. I couldn’t hear it talking to me anymore. In fact, I hated it. I hated it so much. I was still super bloated, I was in so much pain and I was sad that we weren’t going to have a sweet baby by our sides nine months from then. I spiraled further, which I didn’t know was possible, but it was.
I’m sure you guys felt it as much as I did. I remember you, Isla, always asking about the baby. The fact that you both had to see me in my worst state ever absolutely breaks my heart. I try to tell myself that maybe it will benefit you in some way; that maybe seeing me fall apart and then eventually come back together would show you what it means to be resilient.
But the even bigger lesson was yet to come, as the symptoms that remained after the pregnancy loss prompted me to type every single remaining ailment I had into a WebMD symptom checker. That was how I figured out I have fibromyalgia, which was clearly connected to my headache, which I learned was being caused by fibromyalgia-induced TMJ. I solved a problem no doctor had been able to help me figure out for that past year-and-a-half, and it felt good. Really fucking good.
So every time you saw me on my phone instead of watching you play; every time I was reading a book and talking in depth about health and medical terms with Grandmar and dad; every time I was crying on the phone or dropping you off at someone else’s house for an hour at a time for appointments - it was because I was trying to fix my body, to understand what it was telling me, to make sense of the life I was now living. I did all of this to find a treatment that would relieve me just enough to be the mom I desperately wanted to be for you.
I wasn’t ignoring you because I don’t love you. I wasn’t leaving you places where I was not because I didn’t want to be with you. I wasn’t crying all of the time because you made me sad. I promise, and I'm sorry that my sadness made you feel sad too at times. All of this effort was made because I wanted the old me back, or to at least find a new me that would be a better mom than I felt I was currently being. A new me that could cope with this diagnosis and recover from the sadness that follows the loss of a pregnancy. A new me with better balance.
Although, something you’ll learn when you’re older is that balance is a really lame word that should never have been applied to life. There is nothing in place in American society that makes balance achievable for families like ours. My illness, which I self-diagnosed and then had confirmed by two other doctors so that everyone would believe me, is one that gets worse with stress. It’s sometimes brought on by PTSD or other physical events that take a toll on the body. For some women that’s childbirth, and sadly, Isla, my experience birthing you started out quite traumatically, as I was violated by my doctor.
After that event, which was followed by the toxic work situation I went on and on about in my last letter, I’d be more surprised if I hadn’t been attacked by shot nerves and an inability to regulate stress hormones in my body. How could I not be stressed? I felt tortured in so many ways, with the worst being my deep desire to be better for you but being unable to do so.
With this diagnosis, I was ready to move forward. For myself, but primarily for the both of you. I wanted to be there for you again without any distraction, and without questions and doubt about my body getting in the way of playing with you for more than five minutes at a time.
I felt peace with my diagnosis, until I learned more about fibromyalgia. Then I felt very, very hopeless and needed a lot of help to get me up on my feet and ready for the hardest battle I’ve ever fought.
But that, my loves, is a story I will save for the next letter - one I can dedicate to my village of family and friends who have helped us over this hellish time period. They deserve it, and so much more.