I’m 26 weeks pregnant with my third baby, and I absolutely cannot wait to hold him in my arms. After experiencing preterm labor with my first two children, my doctor warned that this baby may try and come early as well. When I ended up in the hospital at 21 weeks contracting regularly, I still felt shocked; my son wasn’t even viable outside of my body at that point.
Thankfully, five weeks later, he is still safe inside my womb. I spend my nights frantically searching for his heartbeat on my home doppler. I fixate on the words the doctor used when she said this little boy could still be coming much sooner than his due date.
My husband is in panic mode, wanting to buy everything our baby will need and get it all set up. But I … I just can’t. A crib stands alone, put together by my beaming husband over the weekend. Inside of it are the baby items inevitably making their way into our home. It’s messy looking and not at all organized the way a nesting mother would like, but I can’t bring myself to disperse them around the house as signs that a new member will soon be joining our family.
I can’t bring myself to do much of anything when it comes to my baby because I am scared that after all these months, there might not actually be a baby coming home in the end.
I have a genetic condition that makes this a high-risk pregnancy with complications that could potentially extend far beyond preterm labor. It’s the same condition that my mother has, and the very reason she gave birth to a little girl who never came home.
I know that babies don’t always come home. I’ve seen what that does to a family and the mother who birthed them. I know that some babies might not need that car seat that I should have probably bought by now. And I know that when I say it out loud, it makes me sound depressing and unstable, but I can’t help that it’s all based in truth.
I love my baby and want nothing more than to hold him in my arms, but I’m scared that all my hopes and dreams won’t be enough. So in an attempt to protect myself, I don’t think that far ahead. I can’t bring myself to buy a car seat for fear that my baby may never need it.
Mother of three, Katie Vande Guchte can relate. “I lost my daughter Hannah Jo when I was 26 weeks pregnant with her,” she says, speaking back to a time almost two years ago, when she was as pregnant as I am now. “The night before her birth, I was sitting on the couch watching A Charlie Brown Christmas with my toddler, and I remember thinking I have it all. A daughter in my arms, and one in my belly. But the next day, I learned that her heart had stopped beating.”
It wasn’t long after Hannah’s passing, that Katie learned she was pregnant again — this time, with a son.
“I struggled to attach myself to the idea of a living child and a baby in my arms,” Katie explains. “I loved him, but I didn’t think ahead. I lived hour to hour, breathing a sigh of relief with each kick I felt. I savored each moment that I knew he was alive, because those memories are all that I have of Hannah. She lived her entire life inside of me, and so I clung to those moments with my son because I wasn’t sure that I would get any more than that.”
Struggling to navigate her grief, Katie never made a pregnancy announcement. She only began telling people about her new son Travis several weeks after he was born. “I regret not announcing it sooner,” she sighs, “but it was what I needed to do in that moment. I needed to keep the experience close to my heart while I processed my feelings. I had lost a child, a life, and a future, and I needed to learn how to get through that, at the same time as I was learning to embrace a new life.”
Listening to Katie share her story, it became clear to me that there is no right or wrong way to feel about a high-risk pregnancy. “Everyone processes difficult situations differently, and I wish that people understood that,” Katie shares when I explain how torn I feel between embracing the joys and understanding the risks of pregnancy and birth.
As I sit here typing this, my arms ache to hold this child growing inside of me, yet my heart tries to protect me. I know that babies don’t always come home, but if I’m being honest, I can’t help my soul from begging that this one will.
I feel the little boy growing inside my womb, so I will do the only thing that I can: enjoy knowing that he is with me … moment by moment, until I can finally buy that car seat.