Janine, Chester MD (USA)

Janine, Chester MD (USA)

ED: This is the second time I have the honor to interview Janine. Two years ago, she told me the story of her two angel babies born still, Maria and Jonah, who passed respectively at 26 and 37 weeks. I sat with her again last week, on the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day of all day, to talk about her third child, a thriving one-year-old baby boy named Kent. He slept tightly for the two hours our conversation lasted and decided to skip the photoshoot. You can read the first part of Janine's story here.

We lost Jonah at the end of June, and I got pregnant with Kent in February. My doctor wanted me to wait a year because of the two previous c-sections, but she said that six months was the soonest I could start trying. I went on Clomid because it got harder after every pregnancy. It worked the first month I took it. We were happy, of course, but it was also very scary. The pregnancies themselves were difficult. I had to do the Lovenox injections, the fears were coming back, and life felt like it was frozen. We never set up daycare, never bought anything for him. We already had what we needed anyway because of Jonah, so we just took this one day at a time and hoped that things turn out in our favor. I did end up changing the nursery right before he was born because I couldn't have it exactly how it was for Jonah. Kent eventually came six weeks early. My c-section was planned for 34 weeks because we never really knew what happened with Jonah and why he passed at 37. To this day, I still run those last couple of days in my head. We worked with this specialist, Dr. Sweeney, who had been with us for Jonah and was such a caring person. But partway through the pregnancy, he suddenly died of a heart attack... So we had to deal with the pain of losing him, of course, but also of finding another specialist. Luckily he worked closely with this nurse, Brianna, who we'd seen regularly. She took charge and made sure the new doctor stuck to the plan. She gave me her cell phone number and cried along with me when he passed. At the 32 week appointment, we did a nonstress test. It was normal except for one anomaly, so they sent me to the hospital to get monitored for a couple of hours. I didn't have any more variations, but the machine picked up contractions. If it had been any other pregnant woman, they would have told me to go home and rest, but given my two previous c-sections, there was this fear my uterus would rupture. I think my doctor also felt bad about what happened last time in terms of not delivering sooner. When we realized the contractions wouldn't stop, she just said, “Let's do it,“ and we decided to deliver him that night.

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The delivery was scary. You're holding your breath, waiting to hear the cry that we didn't get to hear the two other times. But it was good, you know. Good to have them bring me a live baby. He was only four and a half pounds. We got to hold him for a second, and they took him to the NICU. When we saw him again, he was all hooked up. He had some issues but nothing out of the norm of being a 32 weeker. They were big on the skin to skin, and there's a push for nursing as fast as possible. They were on me like white on rice: whatever I could give him they'd take. So I pumped, and they'd tube feed him. I was released after four days, but he stayed for two weeks. It sucked to come home without a baby for a third time. It's one of those things, when you go through something like losing babies, you have this feeling you're not allowed to complain, that you're supposed to be grateful that it worked out this time. We brought him home on October 2d. I remember because it would have been Dr. Sweeney's and my brother's birthday. My mom lost a baby boy in between my sister and I. Weird coincidences, you know. He came home with a heart and lung monitor. He was on it for almost six months. We didn't leave the house because he couldn't get sick and had to be plugged into a wall pretty much at all times. I didn't sleep. The monitor would go off 25 times a day. Being so premature, he also had bad silent reflux. He hated being on his back, but you can't put him on his stomach. Most nights, he would sleep in the rock and play, which then got recalled. It was intense. He did well with the nursing, which was nice. Breastfeeding never was important to me. Also, pretty much all my friends at that point had kids, so I knew that it wasn't easy. But they made it very clear at the NICU that breast milk was crucial to him thriving. I also had a little-known condition where I would get extreme anxiety whenever I pumped. Nursing wasn't as bad, but I wanted to crawl out of my skin and had panic attacks. There's nothing you can do about it, so I pumped for five more months. I'm still nursing. And he thrived. He's huge now. Blown through the preemie growth charts.

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The first few months were hard. It was winter. It was so depressing. We couldn't go outside, and I was confined at home, panicked all the time because my husband's at work and the monitor is going off. I didn't feel capable or prepared in case of an emergency. He was crying a lot because of all the wires and the reflux. My mom would sometimes come to bring me food and keep me company, which was helpful, but none of us was comfortable with the situation. The anxiety was very high. It still is. I had cut my dosage of Zoloft in half when I got pregnant, and I definitely would benefit from going up, but since I'm still breastfeeding, I want to wait. We only got to take our first sigh of relief when he was six months old and the monitor was gone. We saw a heart and lung specialist at Hopkins, and everything looked good. Then, it's a matter of keeping this child alive, which the older he gets, the more difficult it seems! They get into everything. It was also a hard transition going from having a pretty high stress 10-hour day job as an attorney to being a stay-at-home. It took me a while to decide that I wouldn't go back. There was always some stigma, at least for me, about women who chose to quit their job. My mom was of this generation who did it all. But I had taken so much time off work over the last couple of years, and I knew that my boss was getting frustrated. I'd also been at this firm for a while, only starting to get my legs under me in terms of my career, but I couldn't do it. And then, here I was, at home, and it's like... Huh?! Losing Maria and Jonah completely changed the mom I ended up being, and for the better. I would have been much more focused on work, and I don't think I would have appreciated it as much as I do now. I remember when my friends started to have kids, and they'd tell me they coslept, I would think “What are they doing? Are they crazy?” Now I'm exactly like them: cosleeping, still breastfeeding, and totally obsessed with him.

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I don't want to miss anything. It's hard to be away from Kent for more than three hours. Brad and I need some “us” time, but I have anxiety thinking about leaving him. We have an event coming soon to honor Dr. Sweeney, and we'll have to hire a babysitter for the first time. I'm dying on the inside. I'm at least getting some 'me' time in the morning. I go to the gym. I'm doing well physically, considering you're not meant to get pregnant every six months for three years in a row. I'm pretty proud of my body for surviving all this. Going to the gym also helps me to cope with the 24/7 of being a mom. I'm not used to that role. Brad comes home and asks me, 'What did you do today?' and I become sensitive. 'What do you mean what did I do? I took care of your son!' That model of the perfect housewife is so hard to live up to. And you never realize until you do it. I feel wrong about all the judgments I have passed. I had a challenging job before, and staying home blows it so far out of the water it's crazy. It's stressful and grueling, and it's non-stop. Working outside the house can be an escape. You get to bullshit with your coworkers and take breaks whenever you want. You're not at the mercy of somebody else's nap. But then I put Kent down, nurse him, and most of the time, I'll just lay there. It makes me happy. I'll be very sad when he sleeps in his crib. He's fun, and I enjoy every stage, but I wish I could freeze time, especially because I'm fairly sure this is it. I remember thinking, 'If I could just have one baby.' But now I'm enjoying it so much, and all my friends are on their second. There's a part of me who's like “Why can't I have two?” But we don't know what caused the issues and we can't say for sure if it would be ok or if we just got lucky this time. Seeing how wonderful being a parent is and how much I love Kent, I'm also sadden when I think about Maria and Jonah. How much fun would it be to have a four-year-old little girl right now? Or for Kent to have siblings? But I'd be lying if I didn't say that I think about them less often. Kent fills my days and a lot of that hole. Not completely, of course, but a lot of it.