Chapter 22+2: Wherein Bree loses it repeatedly

10:30 am

Suddenly, I was awake. (Since I’m feeling ok at this moment, I’m quoting “The Office”). I awoke briefly when my husband got ready for work, but of course I slept as long as I wanted to because today is a very important day for self care. Also I finally went to sleep at around 5:30 this morning.

I haven’t gone downstairs yet. I’m trying to be kind to myself and right now that looks like reading the news in bed. I will get up soon. Part of me wants to lay back down, but the motivated part of me wants to make coffee (yep, still drinking coffee) and hype myself up to clean my kitchen. The very large roast that’s defrosting in my fridge might be ready tonight and I think I’m up to cooking it, so I need a clean kitchen.

Here I go. Getting up. Come on, Bree, get up. Put your foot on the floor, go downstairs, say good morning to the kitties. Make your coffee. Watch YouTube. Think about your kids- no, don’t think about your kids. Wait! Think about this baby, but not the last one? Cry for ten minutes?

What do you do when you’re 3 hours more pregnant than you’ve ever been, and you feel fine? My water isn’t broken, I’m not in labor. Is it guilt? Just get out of bed, Bree. You’ll figure it out. Just start with one foot.

11:30 am

I’m waiting for my coffee. My husband texted me to say that we will be heading out to the family farm when he’s done with work. He probably wants me to DD for him.

So today’s priority- get in the damn shower! I’ve been having vertigo, nausea and vomiting for about two weeks, so I’ll probably have to take a sit-down shower. And my bathtub is an antique clawfoot. I love it, it’s beautiful, it’s the tub I bathed in growing up (my parents own our house), but I have short legs and the tub is tall. It’s been a struggle to get in and out. Maybe I should just wait until tonight and use my mom’s shower.

And the kitchen. What a disaster. You dont realize how depressed you’ve been until you come out of it and look around your home. I’ve never been a particularly clean person, but I’m really not very kind to myself when I snap back from that fog and see the damage control I’m forced to do.

So coffee, shower, maybe dishes. Or, maybe the dishes wait and maybe I take care of myself today.

1:10 pm

I’m procrastinating my ass off. There are two things I hate doing. One is washing dishes. I already told my husband that he’s going to have to help me clean the kitchen, so today’s focus has to be something else. The other thing I hate is showering. I hate being naked, and I hate being wet. It’s not quite a phobia. It’s more of an aversion. But I really, really hate being naked and wet.

So I’m nursing my coffee, still, and cleaning up my Google photos. I just deleted 1,600 pictures from my account. Probably 1,200 of them were pictures of every pregnancy test I’ve taken since December 2018.

I have a problem. An obsession. But for now, that part of my life is over. I dont need the photos, they’re not serving any purpose. Those pictures are a reminder of the struggle we went through to conceive this baby. I don’t need them.

Last month, I threw away Terry’s medical bills. They were all paid by medicaid, so I was just keeping them as a record of how much his stay cost- about $250,000. It was a reminder of the fact that if we hadn’t been insured, we may have made different choices. The thought makes me sick to my stomach, and a month ago I was finally ready to let that go. Of course, they’re just sitting in a bag on my porch, waiting to go out to the farm for the burn barrel. One step at a time I guess.

So here I sit, waiting for the inspiration to hit me to finally get in the shower- maybe after this episode.

2:35 pm

I’m clean! I’ve got laundry going, too. I wanted to have something beside a tshirt and yoga pants to wear to my parents’ tonight. And I want my husband to wear something that isn’t his stained gray cotton shorty shorts.

I have not done the dishes. My excuse at this minute is that Barry has finally gotten out of the bed and had lunch, and now he needs mommy to cuddle him. And since he has the cutest little face I’ve ever seen, how could I possibly tell him the dishes are more important than cuddling him?

So Barry and I will cuddle until I absolutely have to get up. I’m restless, and I’m jittery, and I’ve got that empty manic feeling. Like I want something, but I dont know what it is. So I will read the news, or clean up my email, or maybe try to have a conversation with my mom. But I do have to remind myself, not everything has to get done this minute. And maybe cuddling my kitty for a while is the self care I deserve today.

3:47 pm

It finally happened at around 3:20, I lost it. I knew I would at some point today. I was watching a very emotional episode of a certain medical drama that involved taking a loved one off of life support. It was very sad, sure, but when they shut off the moniters and removed the breathing tube, that did me in.

When that finished, and as I sat on the couch clinging for dear life to my 1 lb kitten, I switched quickly to youtube, while I still had the momentum, and listened to a few songs from the playlist titled “Terry Bruce”. I ugly cried.

I mention the momentum because when I feel that grief about to hit, I’ve learned to lean into it, to cry for as long as I need to, to look at his pictures, and to validate my feelings as I go, reminding myself that he was my living child. A real person with a personality who could hear me talk to him, and I’d like to think, right at the end, looked up and saw me right before he went. One of his eyes did open during his last minutes. Probably from the stress of the chest compressions.

I spent 20 minutes in that grief, just me and my first son. I’m so glad my husband is at work today. I listened to the songs I’ve picked for my baby, and looked through my phone at every picture I have of him. I wish I had taken more, but I had hoped we would have more time.

I knew it was going to happen at some point today. And I’m glad it did, because once that grief attack passes, the relief from letting it out is just as overwhelming as the pain had been minutes before. And now that I’ve spent that time with Terry, I can turn my attention back to Raymond, who is here with me, physically, right now.

Legendary cool guy Terry Bruce, 13 days old, 1 lb.

6:15 pm

We are headed out to the farm. I’ve done my nails, hair and makeup. Neither of my parents, nor anybody else at the house, care what I look like. But looking good today was for me.

I dressed up a little, I’m wearing a dress and leggings- I don’t care how hot it gets this summer, I’m absolutely not shaving my legs. I can’t reach anymore. I just wanted to look good because I spent a good portion of the day not feeling great.

I talked for about an hour with a friend/former employer this afternoon. She wants me to return to care for my old home health client while her new caretaker goes on vacation for two weeks. I almost said no, but it will be really good to feel like I’m doing something.

We will be arriving at the farm in about 15 minutes and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone, but not so much looking forward to watching other grown ups drink beer. I really miss beer.

9:25 pm

This has been so complicated, trying to justify being happy about this pregnancy. It’s hitting me again tonight, hard, that this baby is still inside me and I just can’t bring myself to be happy right now.

I’m back in that first exam room in Des Moines when the doctor said he could save the next baby. And I’m back to the conversation I had with a girlfriend who told me to get pregnant again to feel better. And just feeling so intensely angry at people casually dismissing Terry because I can just try again.

I remember screaming that I didn’t want the next one, I wanted the one I already had. And of course I want this baby, more than anything- almost anything. I want both.

Will I eventually be thankful about the whole thing, since I wouldn’t have Raymond if Terry had lived? I get sick of that shit too. There are plenty of things you can say to a bereaved mother, and that really isn’t one of them.

So I come home from forcing a smile for my family. And I yell and cry with my husband about how unfair it is and how it hurts my body and my insides, and how I have to force food into my face because if I don’t I’ll stop eating. I wonder if it was fair for me to do this to myself, and if I was ready.

11:00 pm

I cut myself off earlier because I was going to become hysterical if I kept writing. I thought I would have a cute, inspirational ending to today’s record. That isn’t going to happen.

I took a seroquel and ate a bunch of fries, I hope to God that knocks me out. The second half of this day was horrible and I need it to be over.


Five kitties, one bout of mania, and a conveniently timed Netflix binge

Trigger warning: Baby loss, bipolar disorder

Spoiler alert: Grey’s Anatomy season 11 (come on, it’s been on Netflix forever)

My husband and I have a lot of cats. Too many cats. We love cats, we are cat people. When we have the morbid hypothetical conversation of who we would eat first if we were about to starve to death, we can never agree (and we make ourselves very sad- I don’t know why we keep talking about it). The one kitty that is very near and dear to both of us is young, and portly, and looks delicious.

We have Ruca, who is 6 lbs and old, she would taste terrible. Buddy is 17 lbs, but he’s 6 years old and, as my husband’s best friend, would be the last to go. Baby Barry weighs 1.1 lb at 8 weeks old and he is the cutest baby of all the cutie babies in this world. Galileo is 11 months old, and it would cone down to Gali and Rob Van Cat if we really had to eat one. Rob is also 11 months old, and portly, and he looks delicious. But he is unbelievably precious to both of us, and we might actually starve to death if we had to choose between our human lives and this one particular cat.


Buddy Cat

This morning, we took Rob and Barry to the doctor. Our Robin loves going to the doctor. He is so mean to mom and dad at home, but he is the sweetest kitty in the world at the vet’s office. Don’t ask me why, it’s a mystery.

Rob Van Cat

Rob and Gali were bottle babies that were brought to my sister at the same time, but they’re not related- people just dump cats at her farm. When I went out to just take a peek, little Broccoli Rob was under a pile of his litter mates, shivering and crying, smaller than the rest. I picked him up, and looked in his eyes, and I saw in his face the baby I had lost less than a year before.

We had tried and tried and tried to get pregnant again and it just was not happening. So I took Rob home and bottle fed him around the clock for 3 weeks. I felt as though if I could save him, if I could bring him back from the edge, I could get some closure for losing my son. And I suppose it did help take my mind off the grief.

My husband has always complained about our Robust Robean, calling him and Gali the Terror Twins. He’s loud, and he’s scratchy and rude, and he doesnt like me very much. He always has to be in the bathroom with us, he thinks he’s a great potty assistant. We didnt know how attached we were to him until he was gone overnight for his neuter last month. My husband was very distraught that night, and when we brought Big Boy Rob home, he didnt leave dad’s side for a few days. Obviously a cat can’t replace a baby, but this little kitty (who is now an enormous tom) was the first cat we raised together, and he does seem like an extension and an expression of our love and our time together. Rob is our collective favorite cat.

When I met Barry 7 weeks ago, I felt an immediate connection to him as well. There was no explanation, and my sister even mentioned to my mom how weird it was that I’d picked one out already. They were a few days old and none of them were special yet, but that was my kitty.

Barry and his litter mates are growing at the same rate my unborn baby is. Having that bond with Barry has helped get me through this very emotional few weeks of my second pregnancy. I can look at Barry and tell myself, that’s how big the baby is today. It’s a much better visual than comparing him to a vegetable.

We took our two precious orange sweetie babies to the doctor this morning. Rob weighs 13.3 lbs because he’s a big tiger. Barry weighs 1.1 lbs- about what Raymond probably weighs.

Rob and Baby Barry

I bring up the cats because, when the clock struck midnight a few hours ago, I hit 22+2. The last day I was pregnant last time. And I’m flooded with emotions and fear. I’m afraid I’m going to go into labor. Or that my husband won’t wake up in the morning. Or that one of my dear kitties is going to just fall over dead. I’m very aware that none of that is likely to happen, but my brain keeps reminding me that my chances of delivering a baby as early as I did was not likely either- anything can happen.

I’ve been diligent about checking their breathing for several hours. I’ve never seen Rob so lethargic. I knew that shots can make kitty a little sleepy, but my poor guy has just been snoozing all day. He slept through his 11 pm terror time with Gali, and he hasn’t been very good about Barry’s baths (it’s generally his top priority). Little Barry is also whinier than normal.

Another strange thing happened around midnight tonight- a switch flipped, and I went manic. I’ve been most likely depressed for about two months, and I’ve been waiting for this- my house is very, very disgusting. And I need to get it clean before I bring my baby home.

I’ve been putting off doing the most basic household tasks because I just know that when I start to get things in order, that’s the moment it’s going to go down the shitter. But I’m not sure that’s even the reason for the burst of energy.

If you’ve never heard the term “funeral mania,” it’s a manic episode triggered by intense grief. I did experience this when my first son died, after we came home from the hospital. It was a coping mechanism for me, and I’m glad it happened then. If I hadn’t gone manic, I would have become depressed. And I would be dead right now.

And so, right around midnight on 22+2 of my second pregnancy, I got off my ass and cleaned the living room. As a point of reference, and I wish I’d taken a before picture, it took me at least 30 minutes total to pick up just one room. That’s not including vacuuming or dusting, that’s just picking up the items on the floor, tables and shelves.

I’m grateful for this sudden change- I really need to get some shit done. This happens when I get depressed. My motivation is shot, and even a task like showering is absolutely impossible. So, as uncomfortable as the mania is, I’ve taught myself to harness that energy into cleaning up the literal mess I’ve made while depressed. And this happens a lot. Like, 3-4 times a year. Medication or no, I still have the cycle.

While I was cleaning cleaning cleaning, I was watching Grey’s Anatomy. I had tried to watch through 8 months ago or so, and it was just too emotional for me to 5 through. I gave up around the end of season 5.

I’m in the middle of season 11. And if you’ve seen the show (it’s been out for ages), theres a particular storyline that’s way too familiar to me. Kepner’s unborn baby is diagnosed with a terminal illness and she opts to induce labor, and hold her little guy until he dies.

I knew the gist of what was going to happen because I had looked up her character and read that her son was deceased (I HAD to know if she stays with Avery), and I knew the episode was coming up. I wondered if it might be cathartic for me to watch just one more episode. That was 3 episodes ago, and at 4 am I’m still up, but I did need to see it.

I have second guessed my emotions, my instinct, and my grief for over a year. I kick myself for not “being over” it already. I see the way people react to my grief, and it feels like I’ve overreacted. It feels like having gotten pregnant a second time, I should have moved on. Was he a person? In some places, he legally wouldn’t be. Is it really that big of a deal since he was so tiny?

Watching the Hollywood interpretation of losing a tiny premature baby was the best validation I could have recieved today, the worst day of this pregnancy so far. The entire hospital staff rallied around this woman, a new mom, who held her tiny child as he died. They felt her grief. I’ve asked myself, have my friends coddled me to my face, and rolled their eyes behind my back? All those people who said they cried when my son died, were they just being nice?

After watching that 44 minutes of television, I realized that my friends didn’t care for my son as deeply as I did- but they do care for me and my husband. They weren’t mourning the loss of my son as it related to them. They were having a genuine reaction to my pain.

All those people who told me, “call if you need anything” really meant it. Of course, they’ll never know what to say. I never did until it happened to me, as guess what? I still don’t. I’m not even sure what I want to hear now.

Since this particular grief attack- and the funeral mania that goes with it- happened right at midnight, I’m not going to bother anybody with it. Maybe after I sleep for a few hours, if I can, I’ll reach out to someone. 22+2 is a bad day for me, and I could that extra support.

Until that time, I’ve still got the cutest cutie baby in the world, little Baby Barry, who is pretty much my baby’s twin- and he’s here to remind me that I’m a good mom.

World’s Cutest Kitty

“Just have another one- it will help” (A dangerous promise)

Trigger Warning: Infant Loss, PTSD, depression

After I lost oldest son, I had several people tell me to just have another one. Maybe they were tired of hearing me talk about my baby, or maybe they hadn’t had the experience of losing an infant. But I kept hearing, “having another baby will heal you”.

Maybe after this one comes out it will help? Maybe. But it hasn’t helped yet. In fact, these last two weeks have been miserably emotional for me.

Going into my 20-week scan during my pregnancy with Terry, we hadn’t even considered something might be wrong. We wanted to know the gender (my husband is always right about that detail) and we were looking forward to sharing the pictures.

We enjoyed the news that we were having a boy for about 30 seconds before the (incredibly unprofessional) ultrasound tech announced that my cervix was wide open. I immediately went into a panic that I still haven’t recovered from, and I’m not sure I ever will.

I was sent to a specialist who told me I’d have Terry at home, he’d die, and that I should come back when I was pregnant again so I could have a stitch put in. I refused to accept that and ended up at a hospital that wanted to help save my baby.

My anatomy scan had actually been performed at 21+0 because they wanted to be very sure they could tell us the gender. If I’d been scheduled at the proper time, they may have caught my cervix before my membranes came out.

By 21+6, I was living in the hospital, I had gone into labor, which the hospital was able to stop, and my water had broken. I was stabilized at 22+0, but since his foot was in my vagina, past my cervix, we weren’t sure how long he would stay in.

On the morning of 22+2, his entire torso was on the wrong side of my cervix and I had to deliver him emergency, with no labor, no contractions, no help from my body. To save both of us, I had to just push him out. Just me, on my own. It took one minute.

For months after he was born and died, I lived through those 31 minutes between waking up and delivering my baby. I could feel his body coming out of my body. I could smell the delivery room and hear the doctor yelling at me that I was pushing wrong. I lived through that fear, not knowing if he was dead or alive.

I wasn’t given a choice by my brain whether or not I would relive those 31 minutes. I HAD to. It was compulsive need, 3, 4, 6 times a day, for months. I finally found a therapist who was willing to treat me for what she assumed was PTSD. I worked through those flashbacks for one hour a week, then eventually two. By 8 months after the traumatic event, I was having 1-2 flashbacks a month. It was still awful, but it was manageable and I was able to function again.

I’ve advocated for and supported other parents who have gone through similar losses. I advocated for my own needs, my own mental health. I said what I needed to say, when I needed to say it. I didn’t really care who heard me talk about my baby, because I would be talking about him when he was alive, so why shouldn’t I now?

I was strong enough to have those conversations. I think they’re important conversations for all of us to have, and I was proud to do my part in normalizing the topic. I was comfortable with all of it until 11 days ago.

We went to my 20 week scan on June 8th. We’re having a boy, Raymond. My cervix is large and in charge. The pelvic pressure and pain I’ve been having is just normal pregnancy stuff. I’m cleared to do yoga if I want to, and dishes, and laundry. I’m relieved, all of us are, but I can’t say that I’m happy. And I don’t have a good guess as to when I will be.

It’s about an 80 mile drive to my hospital, and the ride home was pretty quiet. We didn’t really celebrate, I kind of wanted to grab lunch but my husband just wanted to get home. Of course we were relieved that Baby Ray looks good, but it doesn’t erase the trauma we’ve been reliving since that ultrasound.

As we sat in the living room that night, watching TV and trying to relax, I chatted away at my husband. He stopped responding and when I looked over at him, he said, tearfully, “I would have done anything for him”. I started to tear up, too, and we sat together and cried for probably about an hour.

I have had 3 episodes since then that I’ve just cried hysterically, for 20 minutes at a time, off and on for an entire evening. I’ve told myself it’s just my hormones, but I know it’s grief. I feel so stupid. I tell other parents, you don’t ever get over losing your baby, but I feel like it should at least hurt less- and right now, it hurts more.

The amazing therapist who got me through those horrible flashbacks moved last year and I had to start the search for someone else. The woman I ended up with not only refused to talk to me about any topic besides my son, she also told me I shouldn’t still be so sad about it. I tried to tell her the grief hits less often, but it never hurts less than it did the minute he died. She basically rolled her eyes at me and let me know that I should be “getting over” it. And now, I just feel so stupid when I get sad about Terry.

On Wednesday, which was 21+6 for this pregnancy, I waited around for my water to break. I waited for labor to start. I felt Raymond move in a way he hadn’t before, and I thought, “this is it, I’m in labor. He’s coming now”. I have tried to avoid moving my body at all unless I have to- my water broke with Terry because I sneezed.

I’m 22+1 today, and I’ve cried several times since I woke up. I haven’t spoken a word to my baby boy today because I want to forget he’s in there. I want to go to sleep and not wake up until 24+3- that was the gestational age of my first son on the day he died. What am I going to do tomorrow? It’s not Terry’s calendar birthday, but to my body, it’s the longest I’ve ever been pregnant. To my body, it is his birthday.

How many days out of the year am I going to go through this? For how long? October 4 through 19 (his entire life), June 15 (the day I tested positive with him), September 22 (his anatomy scan), February 5 (his due date), and now these milestones during pregnancy. I should be thrilled that we’ve made it past the age that my hospital considers viable. We should be celebrating the fact that Baby Ray is a very big boy, measuring 1 pound at only 20 weeks. And the fact that my cervix is 42 mm and tightly closed.

But for someone to tell me that getting pregnant and having another one will help? In what way is this supposed to help? I’ve absolutely not enjoyed this pregnancy and I desperately hope that I’m in a better place when Raymond is born.

I hope that I can love Ray as much as I loved Terry. But at this point, I just can’t get it through my head that he wont be born at 7:31 tomorrow morning. I can’t accept that he’s going to be ok, and that’s just the reality of having a second baby when you’ve lost the first.

Bipolar BPD Infant Loss Mental Health parenthood pregnancy Uncategorized

Pregnancy test tweaking- vehicle for obsession

Trigger warning- infant loss

Disclaimer- I am not a medical professional or a scientist (although I have experimented a lot with pregnancy tests). I’m just a desperate woman that wanted to see those two lines on a pregnancy test. I’m only stating what my experience was, and my recommendations for what is and isn’t a good idea as far as messing with your pregnancy tests in hopes of seeing a positive- in my opinion, it’s best to just wait it out (sorry, girl).

Imagine this scenario. It’s been 2 weeks since that one-night stand after the bar. Your boobs are sore, you’re exhausted, and your period was due three days ago. You nervously pee on a stick (or in a cup if you’re cheap), and you set your timer for ten minutes. After googling early pregnancy symptoms while you wait, you check the test and see one pink line (blue dye tests are famous for false positives- don’t use them. Please.). So you throw the test in the garbage and wait for your period, which comes within hours. A close friend of mine calls this “buying your period.”

Now imagine a different scenario. It’s been 8 days since you confirmed ovulation with Fertility Friend, temping, or checking cervical mucous. Your boobs are sore, you’re exhausted, and you know that if you’ve done it right this time, there’s a chance you could show positive by now. You excitedly pee in a cup (if you’re obsessive like I was, you might be using just the test strips without the easy-grip handle) and set your timer for ten minutes. Sometimes you google early pregnancy symptoms for those ten minutes. But sometimes you stare, unblinking, at that test on the counter, for the entire ten minutes.

At the 10 minute mark, you see one pink line. But maybe you’re not looking hard enough. So you hold the strip up to the light. And you set it in the window sill for the natural light. You snap a photo. Why would you need to take a photo of your negative pregnancy test? You can take another one in two days, or you can wait until your period is late. You take the picture so you can do this to it:

Two months after my son died, we decided to start to try again. For the first two or three months, I tested maybe 10 DPO (days past ovulation), then again at 12 DPO, then waited for my period. Then I started testing earlier and earlier, 8 DPO, 7 DPO, then I started testing twice a day. But I just wasnt satisfied. I had stumbled across a method called “test tweaking” on some TTC (trying to conceive) boards I frequented, and I started to try it for myself. On every test I took.

The idea is that you take a photo and use photo editing software/apps to change the appearance of the image until you can “pull” a second line on the test. I used the PicMonkey app and a few others for this. You just play around with the settings until that second line pops out. Sometimes, you’re pulling out a shadow that you happened to capture on camera. Sometimes you’re pulling out the actual antibody strips that would have turned pink if it had been positive. Sometimes, the dye moving across the test can stick to the side of that antibody strips, and that should look slightly different from a true positive. And if you’re not careful in following directions, of course you maybe be seeing an evaporation line- more on that later.

Maybe, once in a while, you could pull out a true positive- but if you look close enough at the physical test with your eyes, you will probably be able to just see it. When I got my BFP (big fat positive) this time, it was extremely faint, but I could definitely see it.

So if you tweak a negative test and think you’re seeing a faint line (don’t rely on this, its probably negative, at least for now) it could look like this:

This test was negative. I know that because I had a blood test, which showed my hCG to be zero. I was never pregnant this time. I just convinced myself that I was. Because I was desperate.

There have been several times during my most recent TTC journey that I have been duped by this method and really, truly thought I was pregnant. And it was very untrue each one of those times.

Some women may find that playing with their tests to show a positive gives them hope- but it’s probably false hope. For me at least, I got attached to those “pregnancies” even though they weren’t real. And my heart broke every time when I took a second test, a day later, or an hour later, or dipped a second test in the same urine, and couldn’t pull a line from any other tests- or any other photos of the original test.

Another cruel trick pregnancy tests can play on you, which really boils down to user error, is an evaporation- or evap- line. This happens when the test becomes wet (with urine) and the antibody strip dries slightly darker than the white background of the test, but evap lines are colorless- even the faintest of positives will have a little bit of color. This is the reason you’re not supposed to look at tests after 10 minutes or whatever the directions on the package indicate. This is just as dangerous and heartbreaking as tweaking a test to look positive.

I’m not great about throwing my tests away after the designated time, so evap lines have happened to me. The issue is that when your lines are so light, you can’t really tell if there’s any color to them or not. Here are two evap lines I ended up with last year:

After going through 14 months of desperation and heartbreak, my personal recommendation (I’m not a doctor, I just have a lot of experience), is to just look at the test and throw it away. Don’t leave it sitting out, don’t dig it out of the trash (I’ve done it!), and please dont try to pull a line out of a negative test.

When you do finally get that beautiful second line, you’ll be able to see it. If you see nothing, it’s because you either took the test too early, in which case you won’t see anything with or without a tweak, or it’s because you’re just not pregnant.

When I did finally have that second line this time, I could see it with my eyes, I could see it on a photo, and the line continued to get darker each time I tested over the next week. I took this first test at 8 DPO, which is actually really early for a positive- I didnt really expect anything either way. This is my initial BFP and the tests I took afterward:

Finally, I would like to mention that I did have a full blown obsession with taking pregnancy tests. At the height of my obsession, I was taking 25+ tests per cycle. As in, up to 4 a day. This is absolutely not recommended, as hCG can take up to 72 hours to double. Every other day is fine- but when you’re as desperate as I was, waiting that long can feel impossible.

Mental Health parenthood pregnancy

Quarantine Baby

What shall we name our baby born in 2020? Khovyd? Masquen? Perhaps Pandemica? My first child, Terry Bruce, was named after my father and a favorite uncle of my husband’s. That’s what we told people, but I like to think he was named after Hulk Hogan and the shark from Jaws.

This baby’s name is picked out already. Raymond for a boy, Bernadette- Bernie- if we have a girl. Our baby was named long before he or she was conceived, but I can imagine some parents bringing a new life into this insanity may want to commemorate the bizarre circumstances surrounding the child’s arrival.

I’m sure plenty of babies will be made during this unprecedented time of couples living day after day literally on top of each other. I know my husband and I would have loved to spend our entire lockdown naked in bed, but unfortunately for us, I’m on pelvic rest and we can’t have sex, AT ALL, for another 18 weeks- and it’s already been 3 months.

But for many, many couples, this time is probably a perfect opportunity to do it like rabbits. There’s only so many movies you can watch, closets you can organize, and banana bread you can bake. Staying inside is boring.

And to quote Roz Doyle from one of my favorite sitcoms ever, Frasier, “birth control is only effective 99% of the time- I can’t beat those odds!!”

I got pregnant on the weekend of January 31, 2020. We had heard that there was a fast-spreading virus on the other side of the planet, but the reality hadn’t hit us yet that we may be affected in such a profound way. I had also decided to take a break from TTC, and I took the test that turned positive so I could make an appointment for birth control.

So what is it like being pregnant in the middle of a global health crisis? First of all, the hospital in my hometown in Iowa, the only one in our county, no longer has an OB wing. And the closest hospital I trust to care for me and my very important baby is over an hour away. So going to appointments is a whole damn thing.

For my first appointment in Iowa City, I was limited to one extra person. My mom and husband had both gone with me for my scans during my first pregnancy, and I knew I would piss someone off by choosing one of them, so I pissed off my mom (sorry, Linda).

Our governor shut down non-essential procedures a few weeks before my cervical cerclage was scheduled, so I wasnt even sure I’d be able to have the necessary surgery to save my child. We also didn’t know if we would be permitted to cross county lines to get there. Ultimately, I was able to have my surgery as scheduled, but again, only my husband was allowed to accompany me.

For my most recent appointment, I was to go into the hospital alone. My mom drove me that time, because I’m not really fitting behind the wheel of a car anymore -already, at 19 weeks! I was given a mask at the door, and, as at all other appointments, I was screened for fever, cough, etc.

It’s an absolutely bizarre experience to interact with the doctors with no physical contact, 6-foot spaces between patients actually enforced, and trying to communicate through a mask. Everyone in the hospital is wearing a mask. As a side note, I rely somewhat on lip reading when I talk to people face face, due to some pretty severe hearing loss I had as a child. Communicating through masks is a chore.

Some moms have had to give birth with no support person in the room- not even a partner. I’ve experienced a delivery without my husband (it was quick and dirty and we didnt know how urgent it was) and that really, really sucked. I don’t want to do that again, but I’ve had to accept the possibility that it might happen, depending on our state’s status when this baby decides to emerge.

On a more selfish note, and yes, I’m a pretty selfish person, this virus, this absolute garbage situation, has robbed me of a happy, normal pregnancy- on top of what my body has already done in that regard. Nobody is fawning over my baby, particularly not in person. My joy, my concern, my paranoia and my relief are nothing compared to what each person in this country, and around the world, is enduring right now. People are dying. People are losing work, and becoming isolated, and struggling with depression. We are all lost right now, and my little miracle is the last thing anybody is worried about. And again, yes I know that’s selfish, but I’m ready to admit that I’m a pretty selfish person, and that’s just how I feel.

I really feel for anybody who’s missing out on huge milestones because of this mess. Seniors who don’t get prom or graduation. Brides and grooms who have to postpone or cancel their weddings, stream them over the internet, or elope because there are no other options. Young party people choosing their favorite 9 friends to celebrate their 21st birthday with. And, yes, expectant moms who have been robbed of exciting, carefree pregnancies, baby showers, gender reveal parties, amd the opportunity to share their first scans and dopplers with those they love most.

I am NOT saying that missing these experiences comes anywhere close to losing a loved one, or losing work, or income, or even losing the contact they crave from loved ones. What I am saying is that missing out on these milestones is a loss to each of us that experiences one.

I obviously can’t tell anyone else what to do or how to feel, but I’m giving myself permission to feel a little bummed about the fact that I’ll have to break the news of my child’s gender to my husband when I get out to the parking garage, instead of learning together.

Bipolar BPD Infant Loss Mental Health

Not starting over. Not moving on. Just pregnant…. again.

Trigger warning: infant loss, PTSD, depression and anxiety

From December of 2018 to February of 2020, I took an average of 20 pregnancy tests a month.

I started with the expensive tests, the ones you actually just pee on. I was only taking 1-2 a month. When I started taking 5-6 (or more) per cycle, I realized it would be cheaper to buy the chemistry-lab style sets at the dollar store. After a few months I discovered, probably thanks to the hours a day I was spending on TTC (Trying To Conceive) message boards, that I could buy dip strips in bulk.

At the height of my obsession, probably around October 2019, I was taking 4-5 pregnancy tests A DAY from a week after I ovulated until I finally got my period. Sometimes I took them while I was actually on my period, just in case.

The wonderful counselor I was seeing at the time told me that 1) I really needed to stop, and 2) I was probably experiencing hypervigilance due to the trauma I had endured the year before, when my 15-day-old premature infant son died in front of my eyes.

I’d experienced flashbacks at the hospital, even when he was still alive. I had learned that a huge percentage of moms whose babies spent time in the NICU are eventually diagnosed with PTSD, regardless of whether or not they brought their babies home.

In February of 2020, I finally decided to quit testing because I couldn’t stomach the thought of peeing on 25+ sticks that would just turn up negative until I ended up getting my period, which would probably be a week late-again. I actually had planned to go to my doctor to discuss birth control and decided, for shits and gigs, to just take one more test. I was beyond done trying. Trying to have enough sex (which was now a chore), and taking my temperature at the same time every morning (nearly impossible), and obsessing over that second line. And don’t even ask about test tweaking (this is a heartbreaking nightmare that I wish I’d never heard of).

So I peed in the coffee mug, and dropped the pee in the window, and went downstairs to see my kitties. I almost forgot to check the test. On my way up the stairs to look at it, I noticed a baby sock in the hallway. The previous tenants of our house have triplet boys and my kitten, Rob, can find a baby sock that’s been in hiding for literally years, so I rolled my eyes at him leaving his toys everywhere.

The son of a bitch was positive. I laughed, then I cried, then I ran from room to room trying to find the best natural light for a picture of the impossibly faint line on the test. That was that, now I’m pregnant. Again. After 14 months of trying, I’m finally pregnant.

For the record, it took about that long to get pregnant with my son, too.

I’m 19 weeks and 5 days today. Halfway there. And as I close in on the halfway point and approach the very controversial age of viability, or what they consider viability at my hospital, I’m a complete wreck. On top of the nerves anyone would have in my situation, I’m diagnosed with Bipolar type 1, BPD, generalized anxiety disorder and almost, but not quite, PTSD.

Terry was born at 22+2, a week after I found out my cervix was open. Like, wide open, with my bags bulging. Too late for help. And even though I’ve been sewed shut this time, it doesn’t stop me from panicking about how fragile life is in the womb. And in my arms. And in NICU hospital beds, and on the playground, and away at college, and after parties.

After my telepsych therapy appointment this morning, after discussing the ongoing grief of losing a child, even during and after later pregnancies, I grieved the loss of my first child. I took out his scrapbook, and his little boots and his tiny diapers, and his hand and footprints, and I cried.

And I wondered to myself, as I stared at his urn on my bookcase, for the millionth time, how many other parents are feeling what I’m feeling. And I wondered, for the first time, how many of those parents also struggle with mental illness, and how babyloss hits us differently.

So I’m here, writing it down, not for the first time, but maybe able to help someone like me, for the first time.

Bipolar BPD Infant Loss Mental Health

Bree, Interrupted- A raw look at dealing with both mental illness and babyloss.

“People say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger… But it doesn’t. It breaks your bones, leaving everything splintered… Fragile and exhausting to hold together. Sometimes you wish it had killed you.” – Fiona Barton