On one of my first trips to Brooklyn I wandered around a flea market with my cousin and her husband, scanning antiques, homemade soap, action figures, and retro clothes. Coming across a woman selling homemade jewelry, I bought a small ring that she had made using a wooden game piece with a red number four on it. When I showed my cousin the new find she asked why I had chosen one with the number four.
I slipped it on my finger, “that’s my lucky number,”.
It wasn’t until later that night that she brought the subject up again, “Why is four your lucky number?”
I thought about it for a second, the silly truth behind a meaningless number. I could have made up a more interesting story but instead I smiled and told her, “because in middle school I took a quiz online and it told me my lucky number was four.” We both laughed at the absurd reason and even more so that x years later I still held on to this number as my own. Ask me today and I would still tell you four is my lucky number.
So as I sit down to write this I realize that it has been for the last four months that life here has felt both at its fullest and its most quiet, empty. A bonne nouvelle, some good news, arrived and along with it a surprising amount of anxiety and melancholia. Around the time that children are exchanging valentines and bouquets of roses are being slipped into vases, we will be welcoming our second child. Our son will step into the role of big brother (one he already seems very excited about)! But amidst the celebrating and the joy and the excitement surrounding the upcoming addition to our family there remains an undercurrent of anxiety, of what-ifs.
Many of you will remember that when our son was born two and a half years ago we discovered that he was lucky to have arrived earth-side with no brain bleeds, no internal bleeding, no long-lasting effects. Only small red splotches on his skin signaled to the midwife the problems that were going on beneath the surface. Throughout the pregnancy my body’s antibodies had been causing his platelets to disappear. Within a few days we learned enough about Neonatal alloimmune thrombocytopenia to know that we had been very fortunate to leave the hospital ten days later with a healthy baby. We had also been told that because of my rare platelet type, any future pregnancies would have a 100% chance of being affected by NAIT.
Over the last couple of years I learned some more about this disease and the protocols in place for couples that wish to have another child. I joined a group online made up of other moms who went through the same thing we had, many of whom had had more heartbreaking outcomes. But many in the group had gone on to have one, two, three more healthy kids thanks to the treatment that is available during a pregnancy. The thought still scared me though. I struggled with the thought of bringing a child into this world knowing there was a chance that he or she would still have to spend a few days in the NICU. That he or she would still have to be poked and prodded, maybe receive a transfusion.
All I could think about were those nights in the hospital, walking down the dimly-lit hallway to the NICU, and kissing my boy goodnight on a spot of skin not taken by an IV, or a heart monitor, or an oxygen tube. As his mama I was supposed to have created this perfect cocoon of warmth and safety to help him grow until he was ready to join us. Instead, that very cocoon created the first battle he’d ever have to fight.
Despite these memories, the stories of other NAIT families encouraged me. As our son grew and became more independent I began to miss the baby days. Both my husband and I knew we wanted more than one kid. Putting our trust in the doctors and the treatment plans they would one day put in place, we decided to have a second. We were giddy and overjoyed when we found out I was pregnant. I immediately wanted to take baby clothes out of storage to sort through. However, even as we began to imagine our lives as a family or four I could not help but think about what was ahead for me and baby medically.
On top of that the first few months of pregnancy were hard on me both physically and mentally. I was exhausted and nauseous from sun-up until sun-down. Having my sister here all summer ended up being the biggest blessing as she stepped up to help take care of Lewis, cook meals, change loads of laundry. Mentally, I didn’t have le moral, a French expression that basically means you feel down. I was in a fog, going through daily routines the best I could, at times feeling like I was watching what was going on around me without actually being an active participant. Whether due to pregnancy hormones or anxiety or simply being overtired, I was not myself. Messages went unanswered. Birthday cards sat on my desk unsent. For two months I didn’t crack open a book or listen to music, two things that have always played an integral role in even the busiest of my days. I could not find motivation and enthusiasm for much besides a goodnight’s sleep.
There were of course days when we would head to the beach and I would laugh as the waves crashed over my sister and I, sputtering as the saltwater made its way down my throat. At the dinner table we would laugh as Lewis corrected his aunt’s French accent, bidi-bulle, not bidi-boule. I would smile at the thought of Lewis and his new sibling sitting on either side of me as we read our bedtime stories.
As the second trimester arrived it was as though a switch was flipped. I found myself filled with inspiration and excitement. Projects that had been discarded since the early days of summer ignited me with renewed passion. The nausea more or less disappeared overnight (and just in time, too, before flying to MN on my own with a two-year-old). Every free moment was backed by a soundtrack of Gregory Alan Isakov, Bon Iver’s new album, First Aid Kit, Sea Wolf. And as I began my weekly treatments (more on that later), I was back to devouring a book in a day or two. I was reminded once again of how incredible the body’s transformation is during pregnancy. There are so many intricate things going on beneath the surface that can easily be forgotten when overcome with nausea or hormone-induced ennui.
This pregnancy will still have its particularities. Measures have to be taken to prevent NAIT-related complications, something I hope to explain more about in an upcoming post. But all that aside, we are ecstatic to watch our family grow. Lewis talks daily about the baby, which, as of today, we learned will be a baby sister! He is already setting aside things for her, talking about pushing her in the stroller, passing down his high chair while he moves into a big kid seat. Four months from now he will get to meet his little sister. And three will officially become four.