the past three july's have felt a lot like groundhog's day for us. hospital stays, career transitions, and a genuine feeling of upheaval, chaos and the deepest sadness.
july 12th, 2013, i lost roo, a baby i had been carrying for 19 weeks. it was an incredible shock, and something that took a very long time to process and begin to heal from, but in the end, jeff and i both understood this loss was meant to be part of our life's journey. as difficult and heart breaking as it was (and still is), we came out on the other side feeling much softer and grateful for all we have been given in our lifetime.
after roo's passing, we found out two things. first, that he had trisomy 21, also known as down syndrome. jeff and i both went through further testing to see if we were genetic carriers for chromosomal abnormalities, and were told neither of us were. roo's condition was completely random and by chance. the second thing we learned was that i had an aneurysm on the artery of my spleen. the surgeon explained that the size and location of my aneurysm likely wouldn't have caused me problems EXCEPT during pregnancy. your blood volume increases so much that my small aneurysm suddenly went from having a risk factor of less than 5% chance of rupture to over 70% chance of rupture. long story short, losing roo may have saved my life.
fast forward to july 11th 2014- exactly one day shy of roo's passing, and i was back in the hospital having my aneurysm repaired. it was a long and painful recovery, but one that eventually worked out, and now my spleen is a-ok.
after impatiently waiting for my spleen to heal, in early march of this year, we found out we were expecting a baby again. we were overjoyed and of course, completely terrified, but we worked hard to remain positive and optimistic. we found out my due date was december 1st- roo's due date was december 3rd, so venturing along an almost identical timeline was both nerve wracking and healing.
at my first midwives appointment, they detected my blood pressure was high. too high to ignore, so my care was passed off to the doctors of internal medicine at BC womens hospital, and an amazing and kind obstetrician, dr. steele, who we had met two years prior during roo's loss. i was comforted in knowing he had been with us from the start, and knew all our family had gone through.
those first few months of pregnancy were really emotional and stressful for me- i found myself sad, angry, even a little resentful. after all we had been through, this was supposed to be EASY, and it was not starting off that way. i was put on medication to help control my blood pressure (a decision that for me was incredibly difficult to agree to), and was faced with endless doctors appointments to make sure things were stabilizing and going as expected.
july 12th marked the two year anniversary of roo's passing. i think for me, getting to this anniversary signified a huge emotional hurdle- if we could make it past then, i could worry less and feel more secure moving forward. everything WOULD be ok. we ventured to the beach to skip stones into the ocean, like we always do for roo, and spent a special evening together as a family. it was a difficult day, but one that was made a little bit softer knowing finn and roo had another sweet sibling growing inside me.
a few days later we were scheduled for our first real ultrasound. i was all kinds of anxious going into the appointment, but kept telling myself it would be ok. the technician did measurements (and told us we were having another boy!) afterword, she left to go consult with the doctor. when they both returned and the doctor took over with the imaging, i immediately started to panic- i knew this wasn't a good sign.
after what felt like an eternity, the doctor finally broke his silence. they had noticed some issues with our baby's development. it looked as though parts of his brain weren't entirely formed, that his heart had some abnormalities, he likely had a cleft pallet, and that overall, he was measuring small in growth. i could feel my whole body go numb and immediately tears poured from my eyes. jeff asked what the doctor thought this could mean- he explained that all these issues combined suggested a chromosomal abnormality- likely trisomy 18 (or edwards syndrome.)
my panic immediately turned to complete disbelief. how could this possibly be happening to us again? after all this time- all we had been through. all the hoping and pleading and longing - how could we possibly have another chromosomal issue?
we got home from the hospital late that afternoon. both of us completely devoid of any feeling. i reluctantly started to google trisomy 18, realizing a diagnosis would almost guarantee to be a fatal one for our sweet boy.
but we were united in our belief that all we could do was remain hopeful. we had to stay positive and hope for the best.
stories flooded our way of ultrasounds not being accurate, of doctors speculating things, but everything turning out fine, of people going through similar experiences but it all ending positively. i struggled to find a balance between hopefulness and the reality of the situation. feeling immense guilt over my tears and heartache. trying my hardest to make the best of our long days and even longer nights, all the while reminding myself that nothing had yet been confirmed. we carried on planning and hoping for the best, but each little flutter or baby kick suddenly opened a giant hole of sadness my heart knew all too well.
july was continuing it's reign as our most difficult month.
we returned from a few weeks of visiting family in calgary - something all the doctors and specialists and counselors agreed would be a wonderful idea- surrounding ourselves with family, friends and support. the day after we got home, we had an echocardiogram done of the babies heart to get a clearer idea of what his defect really meant. we were saddened to learn the hole was a very large one between the left and right ventricles, along with a leaky valve. both things that could potentially be repaired with surgery after birth, but coupled with his other concerns, and the possibility of trisomy 18, was one the cardiologist would not feel comfortable operating on. we met with more doctors and specialist on that very long day, each meeting looking more and more bleak. we finally headed home after having an amniocentesis that would tell us definitively whether or not it was trisomy 18.
the weekend seemed to take forever to pass. waiting for the results was heart wrenching as i flipped back and forth between wanting and not wanting to know. i hoped harder than i had ever hoped to get some positive news, pleading for a miracle. desperately hoping this was not trisomy 18, and that somehow he could be ok. it would be an uphill battle, but one we were desperately willing to accept if it meant our sweet boy could survive.
but when the genetic councilor called on that quiet tuesday morning, i knew immediately from the tone in her voice that the news wasn't the answer we had desperately hoped for. our baby had trisomy 18.
the next day we faced another full day of appointments. the conversations immediately took on a different tone. no longer were there hints of hope or survival or possibility. things shifted to what our wishes were, various levels of intervention and inevitable outcomes. my health became the center of it all, something i hadn't even considered in our previous meetings. it had been a difficult few months with my blood pressure, and although things were ok in that moment, there was no knowing if and when pre-eclampsia could hit. i had also started to show signs of ketones in my urine. something the doctor said could be early signs of gestational diabetes, but in all honesty, i think was likely caused by my stress-induced lack of eating.
as much as we thought it wouldn't, knowing he couldn't survive changed things for us. realizing he would not be able to have his heart repaired meant it was no longer a matter of if, but when. we were of course scared how this would all play out without family near by, readily available to help with finn when we needed it. we had already relied so heavily on our friends and support network in vancouver these past three summers - so many favors had been called in, so many requests to watch finn during the revolving door of appointments. it all just felt like so much.
after a lot of soul searching, long conversations, tears and desperately hoping for a sign of what to do, with our doctors, we made the most difficult decision to induce labour.
the next morning, we arrived at the hospital at 7:15am. they started the induction, and at 10:43pm on August 20th, our beautiful son, eli forrest thorburn, was born quietly into the world at 25 weeks.
it was an experience we were paralyzed at the thought of going through, each next step feeling like it would be the absolute hardest part, but to our surprise, it was incredibly peaceful. we were so fortunate to have had the most wonderful nurse by our side. the moment she walked into our room, i looked over at jeff and sobbed- i knew immediately she was exactly who we needed to get us through- so kind, gentle, genuine and respectful. holding our hand through each step, guiding us when we were too terrified to carry on. she lovingly gave us every opportunity and experience new parents would hope for, all the while treating both of us and eli with the deepest kindness. we truly could not have done it without her.
after eli was born, we stayed up until the early hours of morning holding, loving and memorizing every tiny detail of him. it was an incredible gift to get have him with us. he had finn's little nose and light eyelashes- jeff and i couldn't help but smile each time we stared at his sweet face- he looked so so much like his big brother.
this time in our lives has obviously been so incredibly difficult. where we were full of understanding and softened by the loss of roo, i struggle with the flood anger and resentment this time around. i'm constantly plagued with thoughts of how i should be mothering three little boys, but instead, i'm here- once again trying to keep afloat as i navigate the deepest of grief. the hardest part feels like my loss of faith. faith that good things happen to good people, faith that desperate cries for a miracle can be answered, faith that perhaps i'm not as good of a person as i once believed i was. i know these feelings are LARGELY untrue and with time, will dissipate. i will get back to a more stable and understanding place, but right now, in the thick of it all, it feels endless.
i hope that we can be stronger, softer and kinder when the tears begin to dry and the dust starts to settle. i want to be a better person for all my boys- to have this heartbreak manifest into something much bigger and more meaningful than the hurt that buries us right now. but i also so desperately hope that this third summer of hell marks the last of my cursed '3's'; that for once, my unwavering belief that good things are right around the corner for us can finally be true.
and i think deep down, i know that they are. our blessings are immense despite our struggles. i'm just hopeful our weary hearts can rest a while.
and my dear, sweet eli- you are loved beyond words. forever and always.
* thank you from the bottom of our hearts to everyone who has helped carry us through these past few months (years). i truly do not know where we would be without the love and endless support of our village.