My pregnancy, from the beginning, was both hard and miraculous. Nearly 8 weeks in, I started bleeding heavily in the night and thought I was having my third miscarriage. Bri and I stayed up all night begging God to save her, to change his mind, to give her a chance. We went into see the doctor first thing the next morning and she confirmed our worst fears. That I was indeed losing her to a miscarriage. My doctor pulled a bloody thumb sized lump off my cervix believing it to be the placenta. We were devastated. I was in shock that it was happening again. Angry that even after the joy of seeing our baby’s heartbeat mere days earlier, all was now lost. My doctor proceeded with the ultrasound to make sure everything was out, and a mere moment later, gasping with unbelief, said, “wait a minute…..there’s a heartbeat…..and there’s your baby. Your baby is ok. Your baby is alive.” Dumbfounded I turned to look at the ultrasound machine and there she was, sure enough, heart pumping fire and life into her tiny but strong body. Our tears of mourning literally turned to tears of joy in a wondrous instant, and I knew we were in for quite the journey.
And quite the journey it has been. Days after our that life changing experience, I was hit hard with extreme nausea and morning sickness. Or all day sickness is a more apt description. The throwing up and nausea lasted 7 months. I was put on bed rest during my first trimester and lost over 10 pounds. Despite the miracle growing inside, and the miracle of our little girl’s life, joy was dampened by sickness and depression and isolation. It was difficult even to get out of bed at times. But as always, there were glimpses of grace in the pain, grace found with each beautiful ultrasound picture, each beautiful beat of her heart, and feeling her kick and move.
When I finally got over the nausea and throwing up and started feeling better, our baby was diagnosed with Intrauterine Growth Restriction or IUGR. Basically, our little girl’s belly was growing at a much smaller rate than the rest of her body and over all she was small. There’s nothing a person can do make it better. You can’t eat more to make it go away, or rest more, or exercise less. Doctors aren’t really sure what causes it, but there was fear that she wasn’t getting all the nutrients she needed and had to be monitored closely with two non-stress tests and a Doppler every single week. If she didn’t catch up on her next genetic scan, I was going to have to deliver at thirty-four weeks.
But again, miracles happen. After a month of hospital visits, tests, ultrasounds (and worry and prayers) little babe hit a growth curve and completely caught up! The IUGR diagnosis was reversed. And I got the awesome news that I can carry her to term. Our little girl is such a fighter, from the very beginning when we were told she was gone and up until now as we wait patiently through our final days.
I have felt so weak throughout this pregnancy, but reflecting back, I realize that she makes me strong. In fact, there are times where I can feel her strength and beauty inside me, and it is both humbling and overwhelming. I couldn’t have done this pregnancy without her. I couldn’t have done it without her kicking me into shape quite literally as she does all day and all night. And I know that I can’t deliver without her either. Her fighting spirit inspires the fighting spirit in me.
We named our daughter Lila Vienne. Lila after my grandmother who is tiny in stature but exudes grit and grace, fortitude and wisdom. And we named her Vienne which means “alive” because we were told she was dead and then she was alive.
I wanted my maternity pictures to show how extremely beautiful and miraculous this pregnancy has been, so we did the first set all color. My hope is that it reflects the strength I feel with Lila Vienne growing inside me, heart beating strong, regardless of all we have been through.
The second set is in black and white, because I wanted to find a way to authentically and tastefully celebrate the struggle we’ve had for the last 9 months. For so many mothers, pregnancy isn’t this gorgeous, airy, light-filled, picture-perfect reality. It’s difficult, hard to get out of bed some days, and scary too. But we all pull through and celebrate the miracle that comes.
Lila Vienne, you are our miracle.
All photos shot by Brian. Location is at Korakia Pensione in Palm Springs where we baby-mooned, a welcome, quiet, and safe place that allowed us the chance to process the IUGR diagnosis we received the day earlier. We are so grateful for their hospitality during our stay.
Love to you all, Johanna (& Brian)