For the majority of this pregnancy I tried my best to not make it real. When I gave myself permission to think about the pregnancy, I did so in a conceptual way, as if the pregnancy were happening to a future Mike and not this guy right here. I knew that once I accepted the baby was coming – and that this was indeed real – I’d be putting my heart on the line, and I wasn’t ready to do that just yet.

I had a similar attitude with our last pregnancy, so when Heather miscarried I wasn’t nearly as down as one might expect. Being all too aware that things could go wrong, I protected myself by not making it real, and when something did go wrong, I was able to handle it.

I’m in trouble now, though, because I’ve fallen in love with my son. Somewhere in the last few weeks – after seeing the latest ultrasound photos, after passing the twenty week mark, after feeling his little kicks – my son became 100% real to me. Now when I think about him my heart swells with love, and not conceptual love for a future child, but love in the here and now. And that scares me. Big time.

Last week Heather went to Labor & Delivery after feeling a few too many Braxton Hicks contractions, and I felt true fear for the first time with this pregnancy. Thankfully, everything checked out okay and Heather came home, but later that night, when we were talking about things, she mentioned something that unsettled me. She said that she’ll feel a little better about the pregnancy when we reach the point of viability (24 weeks), because if anything were to happen past that point our baby would at least have a chance.

“…at least have a chance.”

I knew it was a possibility that we could have another seriously premature baby, but until this conversation I hadn’t allowed myself to stop and really think about it. And while I agreed with Heather that if something were to happen I’d want it to happen when our son had a chance, the thought of watching another one of my babies fight for life was a miserable one.

Even more miserable was imagining what life would be like if we were lucky enough bring him home after an extended NICU stay. This time it would be much scarier than it was with Maddie, because then I had a naively positive outlook where I believed that, if we did everything right by Maddie health-wise and loved her to pieces, all would be okay. But I now know the world doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t matter if you’re a good person or have already been through hell, bad things can happen to you. That’s why, as a no longer naive dad who already lost a former preemie, I don’t know how I would sleep at night with another former preemie in the home.

The good news is that this pregnancy is moving forward as relatively normal as possible. We have a long way to go, though, before we have a healthy baby. I need to prepare myself for the possibility there are difficult days ahead, and not just with a conceptual pregnancy, but with a little guy I’ve already fallen in love with.