Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Woods

Is it a universal instinct of cautiousness that pregnant women feel during their first trimesters? Although there are certainly women who never give a thought to having a miscarriage, it seems the majority of women are quite careful about getting too excited during those first 12 weeks. Many of them don't even share their news with family and friends because they fear a miscarriage, and wouldn't want to have to retrace their steps and tell everyone that they lost the baby after all. With my oldest son Silas, I worried a lot about having a miscarriage, but I didn't have one. With the next two, George and Van, I worried very little about miscarriage, and--again--didn't lose the babies. With my fourth, Hjarta, I worried about miscarriage almost constantly. I experienced a lot of cramping throughout the pregnancy, and I breathed a sigh of relief every time I didn't see blood in my underwear--and with every week that passed. Three days before we learned we had lost Hjarta, I commented to my sister, "I'm starting to feel good about this pregnancy. I'm starting to feel like we're out of the woods." Those were the very words I spoke, and she was shocked to hear them because it had never occurred to her that I might miscarry, and I had not fully shared my worries with anyone. Three days later I saw the blood, and I knew. My body had been preparing my mind all along.

With the loss of Hjarta, BJ began introducing more upbeat, energetic albums into our family music playlist. We often listen to music as we're messing around the house, and impromptu family dance parties are not out of place. The four boys tend to enjoy the music more than I do, but I'll admit that sometimes you just can't beat a tune to dance to. The influx of happier music in our house has most notably consisted of Taylor Swift's "1989" and Alabama Shakes' "Sound and Color," though Weeknd's "Can't Feel My Face" is a favorite, and we also delight in Whip/Nae Nae on occasion. Undoubtedly, the boys adore Taylor Swift and request her music daily. Coincidentally, their favorite song on the album is number four, entitled "Out of the Woods."

The first time I ever heard "Out of the Woods," the loss of Hjarta was fresh and it stung me to listen to the lyrics. To repeatedly hear the question "Are we out of the woods yet?" vocalized was painful, as it was the exact line that had reverberated through my mind for all the weeks of my recent pregnancy before it ended in the death of a baby and a dream. In particular, the second verse speaks to me and makes me think of Hjarta:

"Looking at it now, last December
We were built to fall apart, then fall back together
Your necklace hanging from my neck,
The night we couldn't quite forget
When we decided
To move the furniture so we could dance
Baby, like we stood a chance
Two paper airplanes flying, flying, flying
And I remember thinking,

Are we out of the woods yet?
Are we out of the woods yet?
Are we out of the woods?
Are we in the clear yet?
Are we in the clear yet?
In the clear yet?"

Sculpture: "Memorial for Unborn Children" by artist Martin Hudáček

Taylor Swift said the song is written to reflect a fragile relationship of which she was once a part, a relationship that ended but which she considered special. It felt like something similar to me--parts of it echoed my fear during my own time with the child I never met. It felt like I was hearing my own voice asking BJ, "Are we out of the woods yet? Are we out of the woods? Are we in the clear yet?" At the point that I first heard the song, I wasn't even out of the emotional woods of the miscarriage. At that time I could see the light between the trees but my footpath was still unsure and winding. I have since cleared those woods, but find myself back in a whole different set of woods again. This time I am pregnant with a fifth child, once again immersed in the woods of the worrisome first trimester.

I knew I would write this post tonight, and completely by coincidence Silas asked BJ at dinner this evening, "Are you afraid of the woods?" BJ responded by saying, "The woods can be scary at night, but there's not really anything to be scared of." He was right, for the most part. Usually the scary part of the woods is the darkness when the sun goes down, the amplification of unseen noises, and the confusion of one's own worries. I'm in the woods in a first trimester, but I have mostly kept my eyes closed to keep out my fears, putting one step in front of the other, one day after another day, until this baby makes it or doesn't. A friend who has been in these shoes before shared her mantra: "I'm pregnant today, and that's all I can do." I have my doctor appointments lined up, and I am taking care of my health. There is hope and there is dread. We don't know what happened to make us lose Hjarta, and we don't know that it won't happen again. We do know it is worth the risk to try though.

Nowadays, the song only hurts a little. The version I linked to below is a pretty one, but it's not the upbeat version from her album. I'm grateful to be journeying through these woods again. I realize that many women have their metaphorical hiking boots laced up, ready for the journey, and haven't yet received--or won't receive--the signal to begin the expedition. The journey of pregnancy starts with the woods. Maybe this time, with this baby, I get to add in the last word of Taylor Swift's song because the pregnancy ends in a baby and not a loss: "Are we in the clear yet, in the clear yet? GOOD."

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