I’m honored to have one of the most amazing women I know guest post this month. Anne Mashek has been more like a sister to me than a friend ever since our college days. It is my pleasure to have her as a guest blogger. ♥♥♥
Several times on this journey, I have been asked a different set of questions pertaining to pregnancy and infant losses, other than the usual. Questions like, “Do you think my miscarried baby is the same one I’m pregnant with now?” Those kinds of questions are fascinating to me, and I have wondered the same thing over the course of my life- even long before trying to have a family. I always had my own theories, and after our fourth pregnancy ended in April 2014, an IVF PGS one, I finally checked out a book that had been suggested to me for years. This book and the concept of it has opened up my world to see more than meets the eye.
If you are open to trying new things or are interested in the concept of Spirit Babies, check out Walter Makichen’s book Spirit Babies. It is “out there” to a lot of people, but I found a lot of comfort reading through it. Several friends had told me about this book, and I found many of the things Makichen writes about are beliefs I had already thought. He teaches people how to communicate with their spirit babies before and during pregnancy, amongst other things. You don’t have to be pregnant or trying to conceive to enjoy reading it. After I devoured the book, I loaned it to my mom, who also appreciated his unique perspective on babies, children, and people in general. Makichen covers all kinds of infertility situations, and he includes stories from people he has counseled over the years.
There are some meditations in the book, too, and I liked trying those out. I felt silly at times, but they worked to help me get started on recognizing my spirit babies and how they communicate with me. Each one has tried multiple times to get here in my arms, and their personalities are really awesome! One of our pregnancies, the aforementioned #4, was an angel. He is who led me to the concept of spirit babies and everything that has happened since that time. He told me his name was Austin during my acupuncture session immediately following our FET in February 2014, but I thought maybe it was just a delusional dream from the Valium. (I had had a nice nap! Haha!) He doesn’t come around very often- only once in a while to check in and encourage me. The main two, my longtime spirit babies, have shared themselves with me over time. I first “met” the boy with our fifth pregnancy two years ago. He loves rainbows, nautical things, the beach, and is a laidback but also very serious sort of chap. He first communicated in subtle ways, letting me know he likes music with a good bass beat like the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I met the girl with pregnancy #6, Mr. Right’s and my Layne Adaline. She is a book unto herself… She is an old soul and can communicate boldly. I’ll come back to her later. The third spirit baby is very new to me, and while I understand why he is around and how he came to us, I’m still unclear on how things may go in the future.
When our fifth pregnancy was ending, I lit a candle for him on a chilly November night, the night before my third D&C for a missed miscarriage. It is something a lot of us do at some point- light a candle intentionally for our child who is no longer growing. It brings a lot of comfort and light into a dark time. Most notably, there is October 15th, the date for the Wave of Light within the PAIL community. On this day, people all over the world light candles for their little ones, forever remembered with love. When everyone lights a candle at the same time in their local time zones (7pm), and leaves them burning for at least an hour, it creates a literal Wave of Light around the world.
Well, that night before my procedure, I lit #5’s candle and talked to him, telling him how much I had enjoyed getting to know him and how sad I was that we had to part. Much later that night as I was going to sleep, I heard a voice say, “Don’t worry! I’ll be back soon!” It was a female voice, sounded in a hurry, and it surprised the heck out of me! An updated visit with a fertility psychic (do not laugh- I told you this is all very odd and “out there!”) told me a girl would be next, and she would arrive in a few months. I hadn’t told the psychic about that little voice saying she’d be back soon, so I was even more intrigued by this whole spirit baby thing, especially because I was pretty sure #5 was a boy.
Fast forward a couple of months, and our miscarriage testing results showed an unbalanced boy, so we were correct in thinking #5 was a boy. So where did that leave us with a girl spirit saying she’d be BACK? We did not have to wait long before seeing those two pink lines again in February 2015, confirming that we were pregnant with #6. Let the rollercoaster begin (again). Sure enough, I soon got the feeling that this new life was a girl, falling into line with all of the signs/messages I had received.
It is difficult to explain how spirit babies communicate because they all have their own style. For Layne, it began with that voice, but it also goes along with feelings that come to me that are not my own. I “tried on” the names from our baby name list for her, and I would get a feeling, yay or nay (mostly lukewarm receptions and nays), that didn’t come from myself. Our main girl’s name got a very big NOPE from this spirit, and I was baffled. There were names on that list that Mr. Right and I had loved for over a decade. Seriously, these were names we had written down over ten years prior, yet this child was not having it- nope, nope, nope. I told her she’d have to let me know when she liked something because I was nearing my wit’s end.
One weekday evening in March, I was reading about the Lane Frost Memorial Rodeo, how it was beginning to get organized for the next year, and she got excited! I asked her questions- Did she like Lane Frost? Did she like bullriding? Because I loved Lane Frost. I watched him every weekend on television growing up and was so very sad when he passed away in 1989. He was like Elvis to me! I saw the movie “8 Seconds” several times in the movie theaters when it came out during my junior high years. I have a copy of it on VHS and DVD, and I still adore Luke Perry for doing such a good job in the movie. I got a “yes!” when I asked about her liking him, and I got a “It’s okay…” about bullriding. Haha! She liked the name Lane, and she also liked his spirit of toughness and kindness.
I asked Mr. Right, “What about Lane? Do you like that for a girl? I guess it could be for a boy, too, if we’re wrong on gender.” He thought about it and said it “wasn’t bad,” which means he’s not sold on it just yet, but that he kind of likes it. The name worked well with our main middle names, sturdy names that are easy spell and say, family names. I soon realized she was not too happy with Lane by itself. It needed extra oomph! Layne. It really, truly fit and felt good to both me and Mr. Right! Perfect. She has a name, and now all we needed to do was stay positive and hope she is a healthy baby. I (and Layne, obviously) went to see the “Age of Adaline” movie, a movie about a woman who mysteriously never ages, the next month. We both were enchanted with this chick flick, and Adaline became her middle name (again…shunning our decade old choices!). Layne means “from the long meadow; path or roadway,” and Adaline means “noble.” The stars aligned for this name, for this specific little girl growing inside of me, to be our noble path forward in our journey to being earthly parents. I had a good feeling about this.
We soon got news that our baby girl was not as healthy as we had thought… I had pressed for an NT scan (looks at the nuchal fold, amongst other things) with my local Maternal-Fetal Medicine department because I needed to see that everything was looking as it should be, that our baby was not unbalanced. Our precious girl had an NT of 10mm. A normal/healthy measurement is under 3mm. Our MFM doctor suspected she had Turner Syndrome, and he offered us to have a CVS on the spot (this is the test where a sample of the placenta is taken to be tested). We agreed, in shock, and it was all said and done within an hour. We were told we would get results in two weeks. Of all of the things we had worried about and discussed, Turner Syndrome- a chromosome abnormality completely unrelated to my balanced translocation, something that happens at cell division when an embryo is first formed and only affects girls- was not one of them.
I became a research machine, looking up everything and talking to everyone I knew about what was happening, what would happen, and what we needed to do, choices we had to make. A fellow BT sister has an amazing kid who also happens to have a chromosome abnormality completely unrelated to her translocation, and she told me how her doctor had said it was akin to being struck by lightning twice. That is how Mr. Right and I felt. We felt shell-shocked that we finally had a baby who was not affected by my translocation yet was saddled with this other thing, this thing that would most likely take her from us, too. 99.7% of Turner Syndrome babies diagnosed in utero do not make it through pregnancy alive.
We had two and a half more months with Layne Adaline, physically. She was born on a sunny blue sky of a Thursday, July 9th 2015, at 5:22pm. She was 23 weeks and 2 days along, gestational age, and did not survive delivery but was a rock star until the very end, and I am so proud of her. Our baby girl was 2lbs, 3.7oz and 11” long. She was a chunky monkey for her age, had the sweetest button nose, and had a bullish forehead that made us laugh. She looked exactly like her personality: solid, sweet, and stubborn.
We had spent the week leading up to her birth in the hospital to monitor a fluid leak I’d been diagnosed with (preterm premature rupture of membranes, or PPROM). I was not in labor at the time, but since I was leaking amniotic fluid, I had to stay at the hospital until she arrived, whenever that would be- we hoped to be there a long time. That week in the hospital was lovely, in all honesty. I was not scared. I knew the doctors and nurses were some of the best in the state. We stuck to our plan, and she is still with me in spirit form. I knew we were in good hands and good hearts at my hospital, and I think of those doctors and nurses often. They gave me strength during my weakness.
Layne’s pregnancy gave me confidence. She made me feel like Superwoman, like I could do anything. I always have a calm, peaceful outlook when pregnant with her. She is a very strong spirit, a Ye Olde Soul kind of gal, very sober/dry yet hilarious; she always has a good sense of humor about everything, very witty and sharp. She would only let me eat fried chicken for protein, and she hated apples and avocados. She loved butter and anything lemon (Lemon Oreos are very tasty!). She has a soft spot for ’90s country music, and she loves her some Dierks Bentley. Layne adores the color purple, especially amethyst. She has been and remains our sunset rainbow baby, guiding us through the storms and showing us beauty in the dusk, getting us ready for another day on this path to parenthood.
The friends who recommended the Spirit Babies book were from my online support groups. The members of these groups are as diverse as you’ll ever find, with many interests and backgrounds and located all over the world. Because of the time zones, there is always someone up who can talk. I could not ever do this journey without my balanced translocation (BT) girls and guys. I mean, I guess I could, but I would not be in this healthy of a mindset without them and their enduring support. If you’re struggling right now, I encourage you to find your people, your tribe or squad, the folks who understand what you are going through and how much it feels like hell. I promise, you are not alone. No superhero ever gets their job done without the help of their friends, and these groups have helped me develop my own strong sense of self, currently childless but certainly not hopeless.
Thank God for the internet! None of us would ever have met, otherwise. I thank my lucky stars that I have all of these amazing souls along for the ride with me on this rollercoaster, both here on earth and in spirit. My babes have given me new life and new eyes to see the miracles all around us. My BT sisters have shown me what true strength is and what part it plays on this rough road. I have learned more than I could ever say about how to live with grace from each one of them. They keep me going, they love my spirit babies, they love my Mr. Right, and their stories and beautiful children bring this Superwoman hope that one day Mr. Right and I will bring our own super children home, healthy, strong, and happy.