The Other Side of Worry
Ten years ago I married my high school sweetheart, moved into a van, and set off on tour with our rock band. For the next seven years we moved around a lot, saw most of the US states and met lots of friends along the way. Every time we would get back for the holidays, our families would ask the dreaded question.. “so when are you guys going to settle down and have kids?”
Sure, I always knew I wanted to be a mom, but the idea of “settling down” seemed so far from everything I had worked so hard for. I wanted to write music and travel, so where did kids fit into that equation? As time went on though, I saw more and more influential women and songwriters having kids and the idea didn’t seem as daunting. Maybe I didn’t necessarily need to “settle down” to have kids. Maybe I could still keep my identity AND be a mom. The idea slowly started growing in my brain.
Three years ago on a trip to Alaska, Jon and I set out to climb Mendenhall Glacier. Going to Alaska was something we had wanted to do for a long time and something about realizing that goal left us thinking.. what’s next? On that trip we decided to finally go for it, let’s have a kid! It will be easy, we are both healthy so what could go wrong?
Fast forward almost three years of countless baby showers and friends getting pregnant easily (or at least appearing to) and we were left feeling like maybe it was never going to happen for us. Did we wait too long? Was there some other path we were supposed to take? This time last September we decided to look into adoption. I dove head first into the idea and was so excited at the thought of this alternative birth plan and how it fit so well with our less than ordinary love story thus far. One month after finding an adoption agency and beginning the process, we took a trip to Maine. It was the perfect trip to unwind from all the stress and celebrate the idea that we finally had a plan, we were going to adopt! The week we got back though, I felt…different. The idea of taking yet another negative pregnancy test was the last thing I wanted to do though, so I waited out the weekend and Monday took the test. To my surprise it was positive! Cautiously optimistic, we went straight to the doctor’s office to make sure. The doctor left us with a “congratulations!” and we felt like it was okay to finally exhale. All the waiting had finally paid off and we were about to become parents! The idea was short lived though, and our hopes were shattered a week later when our pregnancy ended in miscarriage.
That roller coaster month should have broken me down, but it pushed me to write a new album. I wrote furiously, anxiously anticipating our time in the studio where I could unleash all of the feelings I had pent up inside of me. “Gray States” EP by our band The Material is what was born from that period of time. The song “Give Anything” was written about these experiences and allowed me to slowly shift focus away from the thought of kids, and back into a creative mindset. I didn’t have control over where my life was going next, but I did have control over what I could create musically.
In January, the week we got back our final mixes of the EP, I felt that.. feeling again. Terrified, I waited a few days again until I got up the courage to take another pregnancy test. I think I knew it was positive before I even looked at it. I poured Jon a cup of coffee in the “#1 Dad” mug that I had kept as a memento from my Dad who had passed away, and carefully tiptoed to our room. Jon woke up and I could tell by his face that he had the same mixed feelings that I did. Excited, but afraid to be. The next few weeks were a mix of excited, scared, relieved, and numb emotions. I didn’t want to allow myself to get excited because at this point, of course something bad would happen right? Seemed to be the trend.
Once we passed the first trimester everyone assured me I could exhale again, the scary part was over. The second trimester was easier as we took some trips and even planned our 10 year wedding anniversary bash. We renewed our vows in front of family and friends and it seemed like we had finally gotten to the other side of worry.
The week before our party I found out I had gestational diabetes, which was disappointing because I had worked so hard with a nutritionist to actually gain weight during my first trimester and now this? However I remained optimistic that I could still have a relatively normal pregnancy. My little sister had it too with her pregnancy, and had already explained it was genetic because of our Dad, and there wasn’t anything I could really have done to prevent it. I got into a routine of taking my blood 4 times a day and changing my diet so that I could keep my blood sugar in check. I exercised a ton and did what I could but I couldn’t keep my fasting numbers down, no matter what I did. A few weeks later I had to start taking insulin shots (which I didn’t feel qualified to be doing!) but I knew it was all for our little boy, whom we had named Maddox.
The week after my baby shower I was feeling good. I was officially in my third trimester and soon would be meeting our little Maddox! The only thing that was off is that I started to feel very, very itchy. Of course I googled it and started worrying that it could be this scary liver disease called ICP — Cholestasis of Pregnancy. My doctor practically laughed at me when I brought it up, and I knew I sounded like a hypochondriac because it was rare, and I didn’t have the typical symptoms. Either way, I felt.. different. I knew my body and I knew I needed to fight for the test. Luckily my doctor ordered it for me and I just missed the cut off for a diagnosis by one point. During that time I started looking into forums about the disease and saw that most women had the same experience as I did, and advocated for more testing. I asked for the test again, and again, and the third time I was right. I got diagnosed with mild Cholestasis at 33 weeks. The disease which results in high bile acid levels scared me beyond belief. The risk for a stillbirth baby increased as time went on so instead of me counting down the days to meet our baby, the closer I got to my due date, the higher my anxiety level went up. What else could life throw at me? Had I really come this far to ultimately never be able to hold my baby in my arms? First my pancreas and now my liver? What was God’s plan in all of this? Crazy with emotions, Jon reminded me of the time we had gotten stuck in a hurricane on tour and how nothing in our marriage had really followed an “ordinary” plan. So maybe this was just another weird part of our story?
Either way, I became obsessed with doing research because I didn’t know a single person who ever had this rare disease. My Dad had died of liver problems and even though they were from entirely different circumstances, each day I looked in the mirror, I thought I was looking yellow.. the same sickly yellow my Dad had become before he died. The thought terrified me. And the more information I found, the more scared I became. The doctors told me to stop looking it up and to trust the NST tests and medication, and that I would be okay as long as we delivered Maddox before 38 weeks, but I felt like I needed one more test to make sure the timeline for delivery was right. The Saturday before our little guy was born, I got a call from the doctor explaining that despite the medication, my bile acid numbers had risen into a severe case of ICP and that we needed to get the baby out ASAP this week to ensure his safety. Five days later (which felt more like five years) I was heading to the hospital, terrified for our baby to be born at 36 weeks but relieved that he would be safer out of my body than in. It’s a strange feeling, to know your body so well, but to not be able to trust it.
We settled on the quickest way to get our boy into the world and as soon as we started the C-Section, I heard him cry and I knew he was going to be okay. In typical Moreaux fashion, everything did not go according to plan. The doctors had a hard time getting my bleeding to stop in order to sew me back up, I had a crazy allergic reaction to the prep, and Maddox was rushed to the nursery for low blood sugars…but ultimately it could have been worse, and I knew we were going to be alright. We were reunited that night and I held my baby for the first time. The sweet relief cradling his little 6lb body in my arms was something that I can’t describe. All of the waiting and worrying had finally paid off in this single moment. I cried tears of joy as I thanked God for finally getting me to this point, and am still in awe every day that I can finally call myself a mother.
I know that a parent never stops being concerned for their child, and as I lie awake, now 13 days later watching him and listening to every sound and breath I know it’s true. Either way, I thought it was time to share my story to hopefully inspire other women who are going through something similar. I know many other women who are stronger and more resilient than myself who have been through much, much more than I have. So why do the movies make it look so easy? The truth is that the path to motherhood can be a very long and winding road. Just know you are not alone in the struggle, and my wish for you is that hopefully you too will soon be on the other side of worry.