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  • Ali Bair

Unexpected Pregnancy Journey

No one could have prepared me for our pregnancy journey. We’d started talking about having children for a while and finally made the decision to start trying in July of 2021. We conceived on our second month of trying and found out in September when green leaves were almost all golden. Everything felt perfectly ‘cozy’ about the pregnancy. 'Twas the season for warm socks, sweaters and hot chocolate. I waited to tell Christopher on the weekend when we could celebrate together. Those two days keeping it a secret felt surreal and intimate. I’d heard that the first snow fell up in Hatcher pass, so me, my babe, and Topo drove an hour where snow thinly blanketed the green mountainside. I went for a trail run, smiling giddily and talking to her. “Look babe, snow!” It was just me and her (even thought I had no idea if she or he was a her).

Friday finally arrived, and Christopher was home for the weekend from a longer-than-usual workweek. I asked him to go for a walk at one of my favorite spots down by the river. Wrapped inside of a gift for him was my positive pregnancy test. I’ll never forget his teary eyes as we both wrapped each other in our arms, dreaming of the next nine months together. Every day we dreamed. We talked about names on our hikes — the ones we liked, and the ones we didn’t. We decided to turn our guest room into the baby room. May 17th couldn’t come soon enough! I knew miscarriages were common but never expected it to be my experience.

Six weeks into the pregnancy, I began bleeding. A little spotting was normal, right? I had an appointment to get to, so I ignored the gut feeling that something was wrong for another hour or two. When I used the bathroom next, I just knew. I went to my car, wept, and then called Christopher who was on a flight without reception. I called the OBGYN office, and they advised me to go to the Emergency Room. In hindsight, I would have managed the miscarriage at home, but I hadn’t known that was a viable option. Christopher landed only to receive a handful of updates of the situation, and he came to the hospital right away. Mandates restricted him from being with me, so we both waited separately - him in the waiting room, me in a too-bright, cold room. My nurse was kind and offered warm heated blankets which I accepted every time she offered. I finished the book, The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah that day while waiting for the inevitable results, and the nurse told me she loved The Great Alone by the same author which I read shortly afterwards. Not everyone else in the emergency room was as kind, so I counted my blessing with having her checking in on me when she could.

I didn’t know that a miscarriage felt like this. I’d bought little booties and outfits. The dreaming came to a halt so quickly. I tried not to make a big a deal out of it. Fifteen to twenty percent of pregnancies end in miscarriages, so I let myself grieve, but also did my best to just ‘shake it off.’ Try again. It happens all the time. It’ll be okay. But deep down, I was in love with that little babe that my body gave life to even if only briefly. I didn’t know I’d feel so connected so early on, yet I was frustrated with myself for being so heartbroken. Funny how we do that to ourselves. Why do we minimize or fast forward grief?

We waited for a few months to start trying, and we got pregnant again right away. Being pregnant after a miscarriage is hard. I didn’t feel as connected. I felt fear and anxiety grip me over everything I ate, everything I did, and every symptom I did or didn’t feel. I chose to tell friends and family right away about this pregnancy, because I regretted not shouting my love for my first pregnancy to the world. I thought the joy of everyone else would help me feel joyful, but it didn’t. I felt numb to the pregnancy despite trying my hardest to feel joy and excitement. I kept telling Christopher that something didn’t feel right. I didn't know what a healthy pregnancy was supposed to feel like, but it wasn’t this. I chose to fight through the fear and prayed for a healthy baby. I prayed for peace. I prayed that everything would be okay and tried to force positivity.

When it was time for my eight-week scan, I went in both fearful and hopeful. The nurse had the screen turned away, and as she was examining, she had an undeniable look. She informed me that my pregnancy fit almost all the criteria for an unsuccessful pregnancy. “I knew it,” was all I said. She put her hand on my knee and apologized, and I simply said, “thank you,” and walked out of the hospital once the appointment was finished. She told me I would need to come back in ten days later to confirm the unsuccessful pregnancy, but she didn’t leave me with hope that the pregnancy would turn around. I sat in my car, stared straight ahead for maybe ten seconds, and then screamed. Tears rushed quicker than I could catch them. I looked around me to make sure no one was watching the pathetic sight, then I hit my steering wheel, screaming, “No, please no” through sobs. My head rested on the steering wheel until there were no more tears. I called Christopher and relayed the news to him. Masks were no longer mandated in most stores, but I put one on, went to Barnes and Noble, bought a book, and hoped my eyes would go back to their normal size.

The sliver of hope felt like torture for the next week and a half. Sure enough, ten days later, the doctor confirmed that it was an unsuccessful pregnancy. I was about ten weeks pregnant at the time and decided to have a D&C procedure since Christopher and I were going to Hawaii that following week. I had the procedure on a Friday, and we flew out on Monday and backpacked the 22-mile Kalalau trail where we named our second baby on Kalalau beach. The warmth on my skin was comforting compared to the deep winter chill in Alaska. The sound of the waves is what I think of when I think of our second baby’s name. Jordan was now with our little Spencer.

I had multiple tests done to see if anything was wrong that would cause two miscarriages in a row, but everything came back perfectly normal. I was happy and sad. Happy that everything looked great, and sad knowing I will never have answers for those losses.

Once we got the green light to try again, our schedules conflicted, and it took us another few months to get pregnant again, only this time, I had no idea I was pregnant. I started bleeding on Easter Sunday, the exact day I was meant to start my period. I wish I had taken a pregnancy test, but I didn’t. The bleeding was heavier and longer than usual, but I chalked it up to my body changing from the previous miscarriages. A week later, I flew to Canada and visited my sister in Quebec City where we enjoyed touring the city, drinking and eating together. I had no idea I was pregnant when I ordered wine with dinner. I later was angry with myself for this, but the outcome of this pregnancy wouldn’t have changed since the miscarriage had already unknowingly begun. We drove eight hours to New Brunswick where I visited with my parents, feeling mostly normal and fine.

A week after returning home in Alaska, I was in a work meeting where I used the bathroom and noticed bleeding again. It was too soon for my period again, and I knew something was not right. My heart rate had been unusually high with a few other tell-tale signs.

I left the meeting early, ran to the store to get a pregnancy test, and two bright pink lines showed immediately. I was pretty sure I was having an ectopic pregnancy. I called the hospital, and the nurse didn’t seem concerned at my symptoms and told me to monitor for a few days. I thought maybe I was going crazy, so I sat on the sofa and stared in a daze for what felt like a full ten minutes. My phone rang, and a doctor informed me she’d just read through the nurses notes and told me to get to the hospital immediately, but that I couldn’t drive myself. She didn’t diagnose me over the phone, but she didn’t have to. We both knew. I called Christopher, told him I was pregnant and that I needed to get to the hospital right away. He left work, and I showered and shaved my legs while I waited. I was oddly calm. No tears. Just…nothing. I was pretty sure I knew what was happening and that I would likely have surgery that same evening. The hospital room was full, but I got the first available bed. An ultrasound confirmed that my right fallopian tube ruptured. I required immediate emergency surgery. Nothing hit me even then. I didn’t cry, and I didn’t even feel sad. Shock. Maybe jaded, too. Before I knew it, I woke up with three incisions in my belly, a missing fallopian tube, and no baby.

I didn’t know how to grieve this baby at first, because I hadn’t known I was pregnant until the pregnancy was over. And how do you grieve a third loss when you’re still grieving the first? I was very sore and wasn’t able to exercise for a month which was the worst part. Solo trail running on mountaintop ridges is where I pray, process, reflect, and cry. I couldn’t do anything and just watched a lot of TV and slept for the first week. On my second week, Christopher had a trip planned with his brothers. They'd never done anything like this together, and I didn't want him to cancel because of me, even though he would have in a heartbeat. I felt okay to walk, so I took my dog, Topo, and drove to Homer for three nights where I walked slowly for hours on the beach. I ate ice cream, tacos, and had the most delicious wild honey latte from a local coffee shop that I frequented every morning there. I submitted my book manuscript that took me three years to write to three literary agents.

I prayed again for the first time while walking on the beach in Homer, and I felt my soul recharging. The next months wouldn’t be easy, though. When I was finally able to run again, I had little desire. When I did, my body was tired and sore. I wanted to disappear into a hole and not face anyone around me. Usually running in the mountains would bring joy, but even they didn’t. Nothing felt okay. I’m so thankful for my husband and my friend support through my church. I couldn’t have gotten through without the community around me. They sent meals, flowers, cards, went on slow walks with me, and checked in regularly.

I had been reading through the bible in a year for my first time, but I didn’t pick up my bible for a whole month after my ectopic pregnancy. I don’t think I felt angry at God… that wasn’t why. I just couldn’t seem to muster the strength to open it. Or pray. If I was honest, I felt forgotten. Abandoned. Why does He protect some people and not others? I felt like I slipped through the cracks of His provision, and more so, I felt that my prayers fell on deaf ears. How could I ever pray for a healthy pregnancy ever again? They were just cries that didn’t quite make it to Him or something.

Well, I finally decided to pick up where I left off, and the timing couldn’t have been more relevant. I read about David losing His firstborn son. He begged God and pleaded with God to save his son, but he died a week later. Do you want to know what David’s concern was? He wanted to remain a dwelling place for God. Instead of being angry with God, or pulling away from God, David wanted to make sure His life was a place where God could dwell...even after the death of his firstborn. Something shifted in me as I was slowly hiking up a mountain to slowly run the ridge on one of my first trail runs after surgery. Instead of feeling forgotten or abandoned, I wept. Do I go to God for what I can get out of Him? Or am I also a safe place for Him to rest? Do I blame him for the world’s problems instead of asking for wisdom to understand His heart? When I prayed like David did, asking that God would dwell deep within my soul, my grief shifted. I’m still sad about the losses I’ve experienced, but instead of blaming God for them, I invited Him into the grieving process with me. I realized that His Father heart was grieving with me. I’ll never understand why I went through those losses, just like I’ll never understand why awful things happen on this earth. But, if I focus on the ‘why, why, why’, I’ll drive myself crazy. If I instead posture myself in a way where my palms are face up, I can embrace whatever comes my way. I can experience a deep joy amidst sorrow. His peace floods my anxious heart and calms my soul. He hurts when we hurt.

With my second pregnancy, I was paranoid about everything. But the worrying and caution didn’t save my baby. I have to accept the fact that it wasn’t anything I did that caused the loss. I do know that the losses brought Christopher and I closer together. I’ve experienced a gentleness in him that I’d never known from him before. He experienced a vulnerability in me that he’d never known in me before. Our babies gifted us with a stronger marriage and a deeper love. They gifted me with a mother heart. They gifted me with gratitude despite tragedy. They gifted me with a love that I didn’t know I encompassed within me. Most importantly, they gifted me with a new understanding of my Maker. Spencer, Jordan, and Devin have blessed me with more than I could have imagined.

I’m now pregnant with our fourth babe due in March, 2023. We got to see a heartbeat for the first time at six weeks. I feel like the nurses have given me special treatment and offer scans more often to calm my nerves, and I feel blessed beyond blessed. I usually save the tears for when I’m alone…but when she turned the screen and reported, “Everything looks amazing!” I let out a laughter simultanesous with unexpected sobs. A little tiny bean with a fluttering heartbeat. Be still, my heart. Two weeks later, a larger baby with a fluttering heart. Be still, my heart. Two weeks later, we heard the heartbeat for the first time, and Baby was extremely wiggly. Be still, my heart.

My heart, be still. (But please, baby, stay wiggly)

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