Today I am 28 weeks +2 days pregnant.
Today I walked the hallways of the labour and delivery floor for the first time since September 7, 2015.
Today I told my story to at least one nurse who asked, "What brings you in for the Non-Stress Test today?"
"Oh. Um. My first born was stillborn..."
Today I laid in a hospital bed.
Today I held my breath as a nurse strapped a monitor to my belly to find my son's heartbeat.
Today it came through loud and clear. I breathed again.
Today was scary and gave me a glimpse of the next 10 weeks.
Hello, Trimester 3. We meet again.
This time it's going to look a little (a lot) different. Last time was eager anticipation. Counting down the days til we met Ryan. A flurry of home reorganization. Making room for baby. Installing car seats. Finishing touches on the nursery. Putting my oh-so-swollen feet up on the hottest days. Waddling down the street to the park with Chase on the not-quite-as-hot days. Mix in an appointment with my OB every other week or so. Maybe an ultrasound here and there. One "emergency" trip to labour and delivery because I was "leaking." (Nope, just wet myself, apparently. Pregnant lady problems, I'm told!) It was blissful actually. I remember those days with a real fondness. I don't recall being overly worried about anything.
Fast forward 11 months. I'm somewhere else entirely. It's like the moment my calendar "reminded" me my 3rd trimester started on Sunday, a switch has gone off inside me. This is the trimester in which Ryan died. Now is the time to be hyper-vigilant. Now is the time to take nothing for granted (as if I've been taking anything for granted the past 7 months). I knew coming into this pregnancy that my OB had planned to take extra precautions during my third trimester -- weekly non-stress tests (NSTs) for baby, two additional ultrasounds (more if deemed necessary), but I never anticipated how it would affect me. My religious kick counting. My fear of dancing and Hawaiian pizza (maybe I'll explain these another time). My seamless ability to slip into the past and relive it in full colour.
Today was one of the most difficult days of my pregnancy so far. I was scheduled for my first of my weekly NSTs. A simple test where they monitor baby's heartbeat and movements for a certain length of time. The minute we started our drive to the hospital I was back there. September 6, 2015. Driving to the hospital to see if everything was okay with my baby. Today I held my belly like I did that day. This time, baby wiggling inside, not like his too-still brother, Ryan. I should have felt reassured. I didn't. Instead I relived the anxiety of last time. I told Richard, "I'm so grateful you came with me today." I'm not sure how I would have handled the morning without him.
Walking into the labour and delivery floor everything felt the same. Same walls. Same turns. But I felt lost at the same time. Like I could barely remember any of it. Again, I thanked Rich for guiding my way there.
I checked in at the desk. Saw dads moving in and out of delivery rooms. Changed tactics and stared at my feet instead. I just needed to get into a room.
We made it to the room for NSTs. I was asked why I was referred for weekly testing. I explained that Ryan was stillborn. The nurse said no more about it. She handed me the elastic band that would hold the monitors to my belly and asked me to lay in the bed. I wished she would have said something else. Something reassuring. Some kind of condolence. Anything. But now I was getting into a hospital bed with a strap around my belly. Thinking of Ryan. She put on the monitors then said she'd be right back. She had to put me into the computer system before turning on the machine, And there I was. Laying in a hospital bed, with heart monitors on my belly. No sounds. Just me and Rich. Yes. This is what a PAL nightmare looks like. My breath and pulse were quickening. I tried to crack a few jokes to Rich. No. Too much like last time. I knew the monitor wasn't on. But it didn't matter. I had been here before. It didn't matter that 5 minutes before I had felt baby's kicks and wiggles. I had heart monitors on my belly and was listening to nothing but my own breathing, and the heartbeat of the baby in the next curtained-off room. Not my son's. It was too familiar.
The nurse came back. She turned on my monitors. Found his heart beat almost immediately and the test began. I breathed again. I just had to lay there and let the machine collect information about his heart and movements. Easy enough. I guess. I managed to find some calm. Until on the other side of the curtain next to mine the nurse had a hard time finding the heartbeat of some other woman's precious little one. I held my breath for her until the galloping of her baby's heart was picked up. "There it is!" I breathed again.
About 40 minutes later, I was done. "Everything looks good. See you next week. Make your appointment at the desk on the way out."
We stopped by the desk. A new nurse. "And why are we booking for next week?" "Um." "Oh wait. Never mind. I see here. Okay." Awkward smiles. Avoid eye contact. Appointment made.
I waited in the car while Rich paid for parking. I cried a little. It was scary. There were too many "first-time-since-Ryan moments" in the span of an hour. There was a lot of vividly remembering the worst moments of my life. Yes, it was different this time. This time my baby had a heartbeat. My baby tried his best to kick those monitors off his mama's belly. My baby came home with me. Still safe inside. And I will do this every week for the next 9. Only 9 more times. It's got to get easier than it was today.
Oh, Trimester 3. We are going to find a way to make this work.