Most people come up with cutesy names for their babies while they’re pregnant. Button. Bean. Peanut.
We nicknamed ours Murph. Short for Murphy’s Law. The adage that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Morbid, I know – but true.
When I first came up with the idea, my husband was equal parts amused and horrified. I was thankful when our high-risk pregnancy doctor adopted the reference from our first appointment. He felt we should approach my pregnancy as such. No wonder he’s one of my favorite people.
On one hand, I was elated to be pregnant with Murph after two losses and three-and-a-half years of infertility. The infertile in me knew I should be grateful. But the pregnancy-after-loss mom and support group leader in me knew things could change at any moment.
I got pregnant for the first time after 20 consecutive months of negative pregnancy tests. I was pregnant for eight weeks before I started bleeding and cramping one morning. I was losing the baby.
A year later, on our very first frozen embryo transfer, I got pregnant again. We even used a genetically tested embryo to hedge our bets.
When we told our family, we warned them not to get their hopes up until we made it to the first ultrasound. Instead, we watched as my home pregnancy tests got progressively lighter that week and I miscarried before our eyes.
We were surprised when I got pregnant with Murph four months later, this time without IVF.
My first reaction was most certainly joy, but that was followed quickly by intense terror. Anything that could go wrong was going to go wrong.
That feeling followed me my entire pregnancy. In the early days, I checked for blood every time I wiped. I took pregnancy tests far into my first trimester.
The doom was there at my first ultrasound when they didn’t see a fetal pole or heartbeat – only a gestational sac. It was there when I saw Murph’s heartbeat, but started having intense cramping a few days later. I was put on modified bed rest and told I was a “threatened miscarriage.”
Needless to say, my head was a complicated place to live.
We decided to do early genetic testing, which also meant we could find out gender. My sister, ever the comedian, asked that I tell her by sending a picture of Murphy Brown (female) or Eddie Murphy (male). I sent a picture of the Nutty Professor and allowed myself to smile for a few fleeting moments.
Murph was a boy and he was still real (so far) and very much alive (so far).
My friends and family hoped I’d worry less once I made it through the first trimester, since that’s when most miscarriages occur. But the grief and worry only deepened.
Even at the 20-week anatomy scan, when I saw him in detail and could feel him fluttering, it still didn’t feel real. It wasn’t until my baby shower that I started to consciously shift from saying “if we have this baby” to “when.”
And then – I ended up hospitalized twice with unexplained elevated liver enzymes.
At that point, my husband was begging me to stop calling our future child Murph. But, in my warped infertility- and loss-ridden brain, it felt like I had to keep guarding my heart and using my twisted humor as a shield.
We had somewhat settled on a name if the child was, in fact, born. We’d call him Augustus, a family name, and Gus for short. I started affectionately referring to our fetus as MurphGus.
Truth be told, I was doing my absolute best to try to have hope. But between my own losses and my fellow loss moms I’d met in my group, I couldn’t escape the thought that being pregnant does not automatically equal a baby. And even labor and delivery doesn’t promise a baby who lives.
It wasn’t until the moment my son was laid on my chest and I heard him cry and the whole world melted away around me, around us, that I fully believed I was going to have a baby.
This wasn’t Murph. This was Gus. And I’ve been holding onto him for dear life ever since.