Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sharing is Caring

Earlier this month I decided to attend a meeting of Share, a pregnancy and infant loss support group. I just felt like I needed to talk, or maybe more that I needed to cry around people who understood why I was crying. It was a great experience. Prior to finding that local support group I had looked for some kind of support or understanding online. In my online searches I found several blogs and websites filled with stories. I decided to write my own story- in the hopes that it would be a cathartic experience. I submitted it to a site that was looking for women to share their experiences with early loss and first trimester miscarriage. I've only shared it with Ken so far but I've felt like I should share it here too. So here goes.

Waiting to hold my Angels

In March of 2012 I became very baby hungry. At the time our boys were 4 years and 19 months old. I had gestational diabetes when I was pregnant with our second son and the doctors had advised me to let my body and pancreas rest for 2 years before getting pregnant again. I had also been advised to lose some weight and get a little healthier and I was very proud that I had. Over the 18 months since I was given the okay to exercise I had discovered a love of running and I had lost 33 pounds.  My husband and I discussed my desire for another baby and we decided that I would have my IUD removed a little early and we would see what happened. It had taken us a little over a year to become pregnant with our oldest boy. I felt a little like maybe this urge to have a baby was helping me get a jump start on “the wait” to get pregnant.

I went in on May 2nd to have my IUD removed and long story short- it wasn’t easy. My doctor pulled on the strings and they broke.  He tried to pull the IUD out with forceps but he finally decided that it was embedded and that he wouldn’t be able, in his family practice office, to get it out. He gave me a referral to an OB whom he had complete confidence in……skip forward 30 days, 2 more doctors,  2 surgeries and one overnight stay in the hospital and I was IUD free! (It had been located via x-ray and later CT scan, in my pelvis). As I was talking to my new OB when he was discharging me from the hospital after that second MIRACLE surgery, I asked him when I could start trying for a baby, and he told me that my husband and I could start immediately. This made me very happy.

Two cycles later I knew I was pregnant and a Dollar store pregnancy test confirmed it. It was a light pink line, but it was there. That was Wednesday, July 25th.  I showed my husband the test and he was quite surprised, but he is always surprised when I tell him I’m pregnant.  I wasn’t expecting my period for 2 more days and my FP had encouraged me to come into his office for a free pregnancy test if needed and I felt the need for some reassurance so I went into his office on Friday the 27th and I was told that the positive result on their test was very strong. I was over the moon.  I was due the first week of April and if this pregnancy was anything like my last there was a good chance this baby would be born during the same week in March that my husband, my oldest son and I all celebrated our birthdays. I was excited at the possibility of our 3 birthdays in 4 days turning into 4 birthdays in 4 days.

I told my Mom. But, unlike my first two pregnancies when we pretty much told the world about our pregnancy as soon as the first test was positive, I decided I would wait until after the first trimester to announce this pregnancy. That weekend we had a family reunion and I kept my special little secret to myself- I wanted to tell everyone, just like I had at that same reunion, 5 years earlier, with my first pregnancy, but I didn’t. I kept my secret in my very happy little heart.

The next Monday I noticed some pink staining on the toilet paper as I used bathroom. I had had some bleeding at about 7 weeks while I was pregnant with my first son, I remember then praying, begging for a miracle, begging to keep my baby. I was given that miracle then and so I prayed for that same miracle this time too. On Tuesday I just felt off and then, exactly one week after finding out I was pregnant, I started to bleed. It happened in the middle of the night. There was way too much blood, I knew that I had miscarried and I was crushed. I cleaned myself up as best I could and went back to bed and cried myself to sleep in my husband’s arms.  I’d never experienced anything like that before and I was heartbroken. The next day I called my OB’s office and they had me come in for some blood work that confirmed the miscarriage. Because it was so early, just a day or so shy of 5 weeks; they told me that I didn’t need to wait to keep trying. I wasn’t sure if I ever wanted to try to get pregnant again. Could my heart take another loss like this? I never wanted to hurt this way again. But that urge to have another baby was still there and so we kept trying. I told people who asked how I was doing that I now knew I could get pregnant, much more easily than I had expected too, and so now my focus was on staying pregnant.

I was a week late the next month and I was once again over the moon. We had a family vacation planned for the week of my period (amazing timing! I know) and so I brought lots of supplies for that plus a pregnancy test- this time I decided that I would wait a full week before testing.  So on the 7th day of waiting with absolutely no signs of my period starting, I took the test. It was negative. I was so mad! I once again went back to bed and cried myself to sleep, (it was about midnight when I took the test) the next morning the cramps started. I was quite surprised the next day when my husband wasn’t as upset as I was, he told me that he really hadn’t expected us to get pregnant before September. I didn’t feel that way I wasn’t really sure how to feel, I really didn’t understand what was happening. I had been so regular for months, why had my body played this awful trick on me; you would think my body would like me. I had a few really awful down days and I didn’t know how to explain why I felt the way I did other than to say that I felt like God had dropped me in the middle of the desert and the only map I had was the one I had made for myself, for the life I had planned have over the next year or so and that desert was nowhere on my map. I was lost and I felt so alone.

I decided to keep trying and I was rewarded when the very next month a dollar store pregnancy test once again confirmed what my heart had already been telling me. I was pregnant. This time I called the OB and asked for a Quantitative HCG. I was scared a little when the nurse called after the first test, she said the results were good, I had an HCG level of 50 (I thought she said) lower than expected but that probably just meant that I wasn’t as far along as I thought I was. Considering that I had had a positive pregnancy test at 3 weeks 3 days with my second pregnancy- knowing early wasn’t new to me. So I went back in for the second blood test and waited. My doctor was the one who called with the results this time. My heart sank when I heard his voice. I steadied myself for what I knew was coming, he would tell me that the numbers had dropped. But no! He said that they had more than doubled, more than tripled really. He said my first result was 150 and the second result was 850, then he asked if there were any multiples in my family. The answer to that is no. Knowing that I had recently had an early miscarriage he invited me to make an appointment the next week, we could do an ultrasound and make sure that it wasn’t an ectopic pregnancy and maybe even check to see if there was more than one egg sac visible. It was the best day I’d had all year! I told my Mom, but once again we felt like we should keep this pregnancy to ourselves a little longer.
I went in that next week and saw one sweet little bubble on the ultrasound screen. My husband and I started to refer to our baby as bubbles. The doctor told me I could come back two weeks later for another ultrasound, I did and at 7 weeks I saw the most beautiful little heartbeat ever.  I told my sisters; sisters ought to know, at least that is how I felt. My doctor told me I could come back again at 9 weeks for one more ultrasound before I started my regular- only go to the doctor ever 4 weeks- prenatal visits.

And so on Election Day I was back in his office, I was proud to announce that I had a pretty good case of morning sickness and I quickly became even more sick when he couldn’t find a heartbeat. He told me that the particular machine he was using had been giving him problems and then he ran down the hall to their ultrasound room where the ultrasounds were done later in pregnancy. The tech there had just finished up with a patient and had a few minutes before the next and so I was hurried into the room. Her machine was much bigger and it certainly had a better picture- there was my baby, head, arms and legs, but no beating heart.  Size wise it measured slightly larger than my dates. The doctor told me this was normal that after the baby died the tissues tended to swell up a bit and then they would shrink. He walked me down to his office and we talked, my baby had died and eventually, sometime in the next few days, I would miscarry and physically lose my baby. I remember he cried, he knew how much I wanted a baby. I was in shock; I didn’t start crying until I was trying to make a follow up appointment for the next week.  The doctor had given me a prescription for some Misoprostol, instructing me to take it once I started bleeding to help speed up the process. I woke up at 3 AM the next morning with horrible abdominal cramps. I actually felt a little relieved that I knew it was coming. It felt like a tender mercy from the Lord- if I hadn’t been expecting to miscarry I think I would have been out of my mind that morning. Instead I got myself a heating pad and waited to lose my baby. The cramps eventually went away and nothing ever happened. My husband and I returned to the doctor a little over a week after that last ultrasound, Thanksgiving was just over a week away and emotionally I was a wreck. Never knowing when I would physically lose my baby was hard on me. I had been going through the stages of grief and I felt like I was stuck. Waiting.

We decided to schedule a D&C for the next afternoon and then try to get things going naturally that night in the hopes that we wouldn’t need to have the procedure. When my husband and I got home from the doctors the hospital had already called to say I scheduled for late the next morning and that they were very sorry for our loss. I don’t know if surgeries are ever happy but I’m guessing D&C’s are probably pretty high on the list of procedures nurses wish women never had have. Anyway, at dinner time I took 4 of the Misoprostol pills and I texted back and forth with the doctor that night about how things were progressing. I started to have some pretty strong cramping; I took more pills before bed that night. I woke up at about 2 AM and I had some light bleeding, I took some more of the pills. But by the next morning nothing more had really happened and the cramping and bleeding had pretty much stopped. I let the doctor know and he texted back that he would meet us at the hospital.

And so we dropped our boys off with a neighbor and headed back to the hospital for my 4th surgery of the year.  With my other surgeries I tried to look nice, but I don’t even remember brushing my hair that morning, I wore my pajamas, I probably looked exactly like the mess I felt.  It was a pretty normal check in process and eventually I found myself alone, lying on a gurney, outside a surgical suite.  My nurse came out and talked to me, and then the anesthesiologist came to talk with me. I remember he told me that it was perfectly acceptable for me to cry and that I shouldn’t be embarrassed. I was crying. I had been the whole time I was waiting there. I knew my baby was gone, but this was the end of my pregnancy and it was by no means the end I ever wanted to have.  I kept crying, and it was okay. Before I knew it I was in the surgical suite talking with the doctors and nurses and then I was waking up in the post anesthesia area. I think for the next few hours I was just numb. I didn’t have to wonder when it was going to happen anymore, when I would start to bleed, whether or not it would be painful or if I would hemorrhage.  I felt relieved. Sad, but relieved.
As I went to bed that night I prayed and I found that all I could pray about was how grateful I was for what I had. I was grateful for my sweet husband and for my precious boys. I was grateful that I hadn’t gone crazy during the past week and a half. I was grateful to be alive. I was sad, but I was grateful.  I couldn’t sleep, which was completely annoying to me because other than my anesthesia induced nap that day I had pretty much been awake for 2 days.  I went to watch TV but I couldn’t really paying attention; instead I was crying but they were joyful tears this time. I was sitting in my dark basement and thoughts kept popping into my head about how much I loved my husband, how amazing he had been over the past year, how he had taken time off work to care for me after each surgery and after that first early miscarriage. I felt so strongly the feeling that God had blessed me with Ken as my husband because he knew how much love and care I would need during this time of my life and Ken was just the man for the job. It was an amazing, wonderful feeling, even more so knowing just how low I had felt in the hours and days before.  I woke Ken up and told him all about it.

It’s been 6 weeks since my D&C.  I’ve had bad days and good day. I’ve had times when all I’ve wanted to do was erase the past and be normal. I’ve discovered that way more friends and neighbors than I ever knew had experienced the loss of miscarriage. I’ve felt empty and broken and I’ve had times when I felt like I was healing.  I dreaded Christmas coming. If I hadn’t had that early miscarriage I wouldn’t have been 26 weeks pregnant, but that wasn’t meant to be. If I hadn’t lost that second pregnancy I would have been 17 weeks pregnant.  I would have been feeling my sweet baby’s movements.  But I knew I wouldn’t. It made me sad; I didn’t want to be sad at Christmas. 

I’ve wondered a lot over the past few weeks about what I lost. I had miscarriages, I lost pregnancies. I love being pregnant, I love that I get to take part in creating a body for my child. I believe that our spirits exist before we are born, I even believe that out there, waiting for me are the spirits of some wonderful people who have chosen my husband and I to be their parents. So what did I lose, did I just lose the tiny body that I was helping to create or did I lose the chance to be a mother to that spirit, that child? I’ve wondered, I’ve prayed and eventually I really feel like I got an answer. I don’t feel like I’ve lost the blessing of mothering this child, or these children. I don’t know when I will meet them, but whether I meet them as a small baby in this life or as a beautiful glorious being in heaven, I have not truly lost them. In my heart I hope that I get to meet them in baby form.

I had thought that buying a couple of angel ornaments would help me to honor these lost babies, but as the month when on, and as I came to feel in my heart that I hadn’t truly lost them, my search for an ornament kind of changed too. I eventually found one that showed a little angle holding a heart- it said that it was for those who love and who are loved (it’s the Willow Tree “Angel of the Heart” ornament) and it spoke to me. I love my children, those who I can hold in my arms and I also love the ones who I’ve only been able to cradle in my womb for a short time, but who I will always hold him my heart.

And that’s where I am now.  We hope to be able to start trying to get pregnant in February. I have a lot of fear still, I’m sure that if and when I am able to get pregnant again I will continue to worry but I have had miracles before and I still believe in miracles. I know that someday I will have all of my children with me; I just hope that day is sooner than later.

1 comment:

angee said...

2 Oh, Kate! Your writing is beautiful! Thank you for publicly sharing so many of your tender, deep feelings. I've cried many tears with you before, and now, again while reading your story. You are an amazing woman, and I feel so blessed to count you as a friend.