(First, let me say this may be a trigger for some, if you can’t make it through it, I understand, because there are days where I wonder if I will, too. I have no choice, but you do. If you do get through it, God bless. Also, I really do hope to have more joy in this blog soon, I swear.)
August 14, 2013
As my last post talked about, last spring/late winter (I mean, in Texas, who can really delineate), we had a miscarriage that resulted in a D&C. We (I thought) handled it as well as can be expected – maybe better, I don’t know. Maybe our grief was tempered with the hope and belief that surely it couldn’t happen again, that our fairly (looking back) glib OB told us there was nothing to do differently the next time – this was a complete anomaly.
My gut was murmuring differently, but he was the one with the medical degree and the job of being an expert on lady business. So I began my regimen of taking herbal supplements and certain vitamins again. I continued to avoid alcohol, caffeine, and anything else that might inhibit something or screw with egg growth.
And then it happened. June rolled around and my period was absent. I took a test. It was positive. I took another, and it was, too. And then I cried in the bathroom a minute because – get this – I was afraid to tell my husband. Not because he wouldn’t be thrilled, but because I was terrified to acknowledge it. It became in that instant a conflict inside me. A large part of me wanted to treat it like a newborn that suddenly sleeps through the night. Don’t talk about it, because you’ll jinx it. My pregnancy became Voldemort. That big part fought with a smaller part of me – my heart – which wanted to be giddy and mentally compose the pictures of John meeting his baby sister or brother for the first time and start pulling out the baby clothes we carefully saved. Both parts were pretty angry at each other.
I took a deep breath and went out to tell my husband. I could tell he was happy but terrified, too. We made a pact not to say anything until I was safely in my second trimester. I inwardly winced, because it felt like courting danger to say we could ever reach the second trimester.
Because my OB point blank told us to wait to come in to avoid the weekly sonograms that would inevitably result from coming in too early, we didn’t have a sono til 11 weeks. I shook as I walked back to his exam room. I’m shocked my blood pressure was normal, because inside I was terrified.
As I laid back and he readied the machine, I began telling myself that we had no hopes or expectations. But that was a lie. We had already begun grinning and planning to tell the family at T’s birthday. We had begun to get cocky.
The wand inside me, I watched on a big monitor as it found my right ovary. Then my left. Then my uterus and a gestational sac with a baby in it.
A baby that had died four weeks earlier. I sat up numbly as my doctor told me it didn’t look good, but to come back later this week for a second ultrasound. I was no dummy though – this baby looked like a tiny 7 week bean, not the one inch alien baby an 11 weeker should look like. I managed to pull on my pants and shoes, walk to reception to make an appointment, and then out the door to my car. I just wanted to get home and cry.
Instead, the stupid parking kiosk wouldn’t take my credit card, my cash or my debit card. I sat hysterically crying, digging through my purse and car for enough coins to get out. I yelled profanity at the machine, and several cars behind me backed up and headed for the other exit. I thought about just ramming the arm keeping me inside the parking lot. I finally did gather the $2 I needed, and cried all the way home. Huge gulping, face flooding tears. My husband (who had stayed home with John) met me at the porch, and his face fell.
We cried together, then separately, then numbly went through the rest of the day. That night, I began to spot. I did so all week. Wednesday, I began running a low grade fever and had a headache and backache so painful I couldn’t sleep. I called my OB, but nobody called back. I called again Thursday and was told that was all normal. Friday we went in for our second ultrasound, which confirmed everything we knew from Monday.
It was that day I knew I was going to have to fire my OB.
After the sonographer finished, he met with us in his office. His plan, he said, was to let the miscarriage continue and monitor my hormone levels until they were back down to zero. I burst into tears. My husband explained that I was in a lot of pain and hasn’t slept. I whisper screamed, “I just want it out now.” He looked at me like I was crazy, and my husband said, “I think we need a D&C.” He finally agreed to it. I asked what I could do about the pain and insomnia. “Take ibuprofen,” he said. “I am,” I gritted out. “Take it every six hours,” he threw over his shoulder as he escorted us to the surgery scheduler, and disappeared.
On our way home, T said what I has been feeling for a few months now – this doctor (who my friends have since dubbed “Dr. Asshole”) just didn’t want to have to treat me. After the D&C, we decided, we would never see him again. We went home and made arrangements for John’s care for Monday. I took a trazadone and some Advil and laid down. “I’m not sure I can make it til Monday,” I whispered to my husband. “I know,” he whispered back in the dark.
Saturday I tried to manage my pain and play with John. No part of me wanted to lay in bed – I needed to be around the perpetually happy toddler. But Saturday night, I quit spotting, and began bleeding in earnest. Everyone was asleep, and I was bleeding heavily and having contractions so painful I was also throwing up. I stubbornly waited til morning, because I didn’t want to inconvenience anyone, and I hoped it would let up. My husband took that decision from me (wisely – I hadn’t slept but maybe 4 hours total in several days and was doubled over in pain and dizzy), and took John to my mother-in-law’s and me to the ER.
I was worried about my reception at the ER. I had read horror stories about callous treatment, and if my own OB wasn’t busting ass to help me, why would people who have to deal with far worse trauma on a daily basis do much?
I’m so glad I was wrong. Within 10 minutes of being at the ER they were taking vitals and blood (something my OB didn’t do at all the entire week). Within 20 I was in a room and had seen a doctor, who outlined a course of treatment that started with an IV for dehydration and drugs for pain and nausea. A sono revealed that my uterus had pretty much shed the pregnancy, but my cervix was closed so nothing could really get out (lay men’s explanation). The doctor offered a drug called Cytotec to help open the cervix, since he could actually see the gestational sac.
Within 45 minutes I delivered the baby, inside its sac. A nurse carefully collected it, and told us it would be autopsied and tested. Then I was discharged with a prescription for more pain medication.
It is Wednesday now and a few days have passed, and every day we try to move toward normal. It’s not terribly difficult to get out of bed – when you have a toddler it’s pretty much mandatory. I still cry every day – a diaper commercial, a certain smile from my toddler, the empty spot in the back seat of the car where I’d love a other car seat to be. A large part of that is the pregnancy hormones still coursing through my blood, I know. I’m not a weeper, so part of me feels extremely irritated with the fact that it feels like I cry all the time.
It does seem so weird to do normal. Today during a trip out with John to grab some groceries and hit happy hour at Sonic I sat at a light, getting teary-eyed that I was doing something we do at least once a week, just days after the traumatic events of Sunday. It seemed like everything I did for the first hour we were out was done with my left hand, and blindfolded. I pulled into the parking lot at the store and sat while it rained, talking to John and breathing in and out. The moment passed, and we ran in. Maybe I’d be ok with all this, in time.
As the title of the post said, it’s taking a while to hit publish. Each week I do better, and then suddenly something will trigger a crying jag. Groups of people are a minefield. I’m setting small goals for myself – make it through a church service, maybe next week Sunday school and the service. Today I rushed from the room when Sunday school was over, in tears over the stupidest thing. It’s been more than six weeks, and I’m assuming this new wave is all about the fact that if I hadn’t had that first miscarriage, we’d be anxiously anticipating a baby and in the home stretch of the third trimester. October may be rough. February (when this baby would’ve been due) may be rough, too. Hopefully, we will have more answers then.
But despite the waterworks, I really have made my peace with this, as well as I can. We have a plan now that will mean quality time with a reproductive endocrinologist. We want to at least try to get answers for why we can get pregnant easily – but can suddenly not stay pregnant. We know we might not get them, but we feel confident there is a specialist out there who will try to help us. I know for certain I only have one more miscarriage in me. I know women who have had far more than me, and I admire their strength. I cannot. My family cannot.
But more than anything, I remind myself that the Bible (and please don’t mock my beliefs) says that God will not allow us to suffer beyond what we can bear. At times it feels like I will never be able to quit bracing myself for a sudden wave of sadness, but I try to remind myself that humans think in the short term, the finite. God believes I can make my way out of this, and I am choosing to believe him.
And I have also made a promise to myself. When my body and spirit have healed, and we have a better idea of how John’s sibling will be joining us (becoming foster parents and adopting is something that was on our list regardless), I am going to do something to show I have learned from this. Late one night, I found this – and I believe that there is a tremendous need for compassionate, empathetic people that do nothing more than help prepare people for what to expect when they are miscarrying, to grieve with them, to advocate for them, and to hold their hands. Not everyone has the wonderful friends and family that I do. Not everyone is blessed with a husband whose boss encourages him to take time for his family in times like this.
That is my goal. And in the meantime, if you are wondering what to do if a friend is suffering through this, it is simple. Be there. Listen. Hand over the tissues. It’s OK to not have some flowery, uplifting response. It’s OK to not have the wherewithal for anything more than a “I’m so sorry this is happening to you. I love you and I’m thinking about you.” It’s really as simple as that.
And if you have found this because you are up late googling things because you just got horrible news, I am so sorry. If you need to talk, and are reluctant to talk to others, please email me. But tell people. Do. Let them help you. You will be surprised sometimes by where the compassion comes from – and from where it doesn’t. You do not have to be alone in this – you did nothing wrong, and there is no reason to keep it a secret. And if you feel that you are in a pit you can’t get out of, talk to your OB about a referral to a therapist, or join a support group. You WERE pregnant, so all the attendant postpartum complications are still possible, including postpartum depression. And talk to your partner, if you have one. Be open and honest. Encourage them to be so. If you notice your significant other’s depression is lingering, encourage him to seek counseling, too, or see someone together.
And partners, your wife/girlfriend/etc wants to know how you are feeling. She needs to know that you are sad, too – especially when it is obvious. If you respond with a “yeah, I’m fine” when you obviously aren’t, you are telling her that she should be shutting away her feelings, too. You have experienced a loss, too. You might have even witnessed something pretty traumatic. There is no shame in seeking out someone to talk to about that. There is no shame in being open about your feelings to your wife. We want someone to cry with, not on. And in my case, I feel guilty taking time to grieve if I know my husband is hurting and not saying anything. So grieve together, and openly, and save everyone some major heartache down the road.
And one more thing (because I see well-meaning people do this often and it made me cringe even before we started this journey), don’t ask couples when they are going to have a baby, or when they’re going to give their only child a sibling. Statistically, you probably know many people who have had a miscarriage or are suffering from infertility, but who chose not to share this. The likelihood of you tossing that off to a couple who would very much love to have a child is high, and the words are like a dagger. And really, is another family’s family-planning something that everyone should weigh in on?
If you got to the end of this, you are awesome. I promise the next post will be about puppies or toddlers or brand new fences or potty training.