Thursday, August 6, 2015

Uncertainty, Hope, and Waiting

This is a somewhat graphic, quite long, and emotionally charged post. 

It was drafted as I traveled this journey over the course of several days. I am baring my soul in this post, and this is part of how I work to heal. My pain is not unlike almost every other woman's in the world. There are millions suffering in silence. I refuse to be one of them. I will use my big mouth to help others. The world needs to know how this affects those around them, and that certain comments are best left completely unsaid. Be respectful in your comments, and if you have a point of disagreement, choose your words carefully.   

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All I am able to do at this point is pray, hope, and wait. And repeat.

As I type this while lying down, I am completely uncertain. I think my brain knows more than my heart wants to admit. And I hate that this is where I am.

I am on doctor's orders for rest, and a follow up with my regular doctor in a few days. I am home from the emergency room because of spotting. I thought it was just because I overdid it on Sunday after church, shopping with 2 kids in tow while wearing wedge heeled shoes. Seeing it when I went to use the bathroom made me gasp loudly, and Devildog came to check on me. It was brown and it subsided after several hours of rest and plenty of water. Spotting is considered a normal occurrence in this situation, and as long as it's not red, and cramping is not involved, it could just be a slight swish in the cycle. And then today, it resumed, increased, and at some moments blood-tinged. Plus there has been some cramping that feels like dull pressure. I was advised to go to the E.R. because all diagnostic tools were there, and if this was an ectopic pregnancy, I would need to be there anyway. It's not ectopic. But I didn't see a heartbeat in the ultrasound. I don't have a trained eye, but having had 5 children before, I know what to look for and where. To the best of my ability, I was unable to see what I'd hoped to see. Every ultrasound tech is quick to point out fetal heart rate. There was no such point of conversation today. That doesn't mean it doesn't exist. It just means my fears were neither confirmed or denied. But I still didn't *see* a heartbeat. According to what is known as LMP dates, I should be 9 weeks 4 days. According to charted details, that's farther ahead than my potential actual dates. My HCg beta levels are measuring 7-8 weeks. But even this early, a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Sadly, I am only clinging to a thread of hope here. And as the pressure has increased the last few minutes while typing this, I'm losing my grip on even that.

I'm fairly attuned to my body, and when something isn't right, I can usually tell. I haven't been feeling the same way this pregnancy as the others. People ask how I'm doing, and I feel normal. I don't feel exhausted, nauseated, or have sore boobs. I was still nursing when I got pregnant, and I weaned shortly after discovering that I was pregnant because the vasospasms were really problematic for me. Between the hormonal dump of that, and the hormonal surges of pregnancy, I figured it was just balancing itself out. But it was always something in the back of my mind that felt different. I know every pregnancy and baby is different. So I just chalked it up to being different.

This was something that we did not look for in our journey, but having it happen is not a bad thing. We were growing excited about this new baby, and joking about how to reveal the pregnancy, and deciding when to do so. My sister-in-law is due in a few months with their first, and some of my hesitation was a worry about stealing some of her thunder. Other issues are the opinions of others who differ from ours about this, and have said things to us in the past about our family size. I opted to wait because I did not want those opinions to spill over in conversation in earshot of my 13 year old daughter while traveling with relatives to and from camp. She doesn't need to hear that commentary, nor does she deserve it. She is one of my children, and criticizing our family in front of her, means she too is being criticized. I needed to spare her that nonsense. Right now, I am kind of regretting the decision to wait to share the news, only because I want so desperately to have support and prayers from those who know us. Right now, only select friends who we trust and who we know will not make backhanded comments have been told that we are pregnant. Some people we do trust still don't know because we haven't gotten around to it. So if you didn't know, please don't take it personally.

And if this pregnancy does end in loss, do us and every other parent who has lost a child a huge ass favor. Shut up. Don't say a word about "at least....", better places, better off, you have enough kids, you're young, you can try again, God has plans, etc. Don't. Just  Seriously. I don't care that you think things will be better off this way. I don't care that you think I have enough kids. I don't care. I don't want to know your opinion. All you have to do is say "I'm sorry. That really sucks." and leave it at that. That is a million times better than some of the other stupid crap well-meaning people say. It does not help assuage the pain. It hurts. It jabs the knife deeper and twists the blade. So shut up. Never say those things to me, or any of the others you know who have had a loss, are experiencing a loss, or will experience a loss in the future. If you say it to me, you are seriously at risk for having a new butthole drafted for you.
(July 27, 2015 - 5pm)
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Here it is, a couple hours later, and the spotting has become red. I am fairly certain that I am in the early stage of losing this pregnancy to a loss. And I am in tears. I want to go cry in my husband's arms but he's asleep, and I don't want to wake him. He would hold me, and let me cry. But I'm on the couch for now. I will probably go cry with him later. Right now, I want to let him rest. He's been dealing with a lot outside of home and he's exhausted. I will call on him when I need the extra support. For now, I am chatting with friends online and getting support that way. He too, will mourn his own way, and we will walk this leg of this journey together. In the meantime, I retrieved the old chuckpad I swiped from the hospital when I gave birth to my eldest and put that under me on the couch. This thing has seen 5 kids' fourth trimesters, potty training, sick nights of pukey kids, and a few hefty visits from Aunt Flo. Somehow there is a measure of comfort in its presence beneath me. (7 pm)
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And an hour and change later, I got up to pee, the bleeding has increased and clotty tissue has started releasing.  I crawled in bed with my husband, woke him up with my crying, and he did all he could do. He held me as I cried. An incredibly amazing friend took the kids so we could go to the ER and is keeping the 2 youngest kids overnight to allow us uninterrupted time and space. She just left with a bag of clothes for them, and to drop off a jar and saline solution. She is sadly all too familiar with this experience. I want to help my husband in his mourning, but I don't even know what I'm going to do to get through this, much less help him. I am regretting that I didn't ask for a printed picture of the ultrasound. I'm not even sure I would have been granted one.
And another wave of abdominal pressure is starting to appear. I don't want to go pee even though my bladder feels full. I would rather not be in this situation. (8:40pm)
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As the night has progressed, my butt was growing sore from 2 days of couch surfing. I got up to clean my tub around 10:30 or 11. Some of it was because I needed to just DO something instead of laying on the couch waiting with dread. It was also that I'd rather not reach into the toilet to reclaim my child's remains. I've been peeing in the tub and washing it out instead. I was using the hall bathroom earlier, but my tub has this divot where water pools in it. I decided that this one was going to enable me to catch anything I don't want going down the drain. But it was in dire need of cleaning. And especially in this situation there is no dignity in a gross tub. I have decided not to return to the ER unless it becomes emergent. I don't want that experience. I don't want the sterility and cold and strangers. I had called a new OB's office on the way home from the ER and booked an appointment for a follow up check. At that earlier hour, I was still holding hope for viability. That appointment will be altogether different now. As I started scrubbing the tub, the tears began to flow, and my body heavy with the sobs. Here I was on a perfunctory level, just cleaning my tub. In reality, I was preparing the place where my child's person would land for me to collect. In essence, it felt like I was preparing a coffin of sorts. My husband found me several minutes later, half scrubbing, half sobbing and unintentionally startled me. He listened to my lamentations of how unfair it was that people fight and struggle to get pregnant and can't, yet I seem to get pregnant just looking at him sideways. Or people who harm their children get to keep them, and people who would make amazing parents have empty arms. I later apologized in advance to him for any unexplained emotional outbursts or upsets. They are bound to happen. The cramping is more like a dull pressure and ache at this point, and I feel the bleeding. I occasionally get up to use the bathroom or check things. My husband is worried about me. I know this is weighing on him, and his primary concern at the moment is me, how I'm doing, and how I'm handling this. But I know his heart is breaking too.
I got a text from a best friend checking on me. Then another from the best friend keeping the kids for me. I laid out the tub story for her. This loss of mine is churning up deep pain for her own 9 losses. I am glad for her support, but heartbroken for her that I am part of a painful experience for her. She said she was knitting a hat and a blanket. She is always knitting. Last month when I'd told her I was pregnant, she'd found a heart lace blanket pattern to make for this baby. One of the things in her projects includes finishing projects for others who can't complete them. I thought when she said she was knitting, that it was for one of those things. I said "well I suppose this helps shrink your queue." She stunned me silent with "they're miniatures". I don't even have to ask. (July 28, 2015 - 12:30 am)
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After finally crawling into bed at 2am, I drifted off to sleep, albeit lightly. My husband's bi-pap machine often disrupts my sleep, but it's nothing like his snoring. He and our oldest left for work at 5:45, and I crawled back in bed with my laptop and a bowl of cereal to try to get something done but the printer wasn't working. I eventually tired again and fell asleep for a few hours. I have been getting texts, and messages on facebook checking on me. That comforts me, and I am thankful for this circle of support around me, virtual and real. I can not imagine doing this unsupported in the physical or the emotional aspects. In my reflections and hindsight, I suspected that the feeling normal was not normal, and the sixth sense I have, I knew before I knew. I also had a weird loss of hair last week when that much hair loss only happens postpartum. At the time, I chalked it up to stress from another big life storm brewing outside of this pregnancy. I now suspect that was when this baby actually died, and my body has finally responded to the cessation of life within my womb many days later.  (11:00 am)
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I had to go register my girls for school, and that was an exercise in fortitude on a day I didn't want to face people. In the activity of getting myself ready to leave, I began crying again, lamenting aloud while alone. It took me a while to muster the energy to get back up off the couch and go, but it's mostly completed save a trip tomorrow to collect grade and test reports and take to the new school. That two and a half hours has exhausted me. I'm nauseated, partly due to insufficient food, and partly due to being part of this process. I'm hoping my husband is able to leave work on time. He is always a comforting presence to me, even at those times when I'm upset with him. At this moment, I just want him near me for solace, and to sense his own grief. It might be weird to some, but I can feel his energy, and he needs comfort just as much as I do. (3:45 pm)
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I've been bedsurfing most of the day. Too much activity is wearing on me. I find the waiting game to be wearisome and am ready for it to finish its course. It's not unlike any other labor where I await it to commence and get annoyed that my body is taking its time like it is. I'm still bleeding, and clots are more frequent. I think I'm starting to see bits of tissue and I feel a bit like a weirdo sifting through this gross stuff in my tub when I go pee. But this is how I am processing this loss, and I need to do it this way. Around 5pm, I found in a Facebook group the midwife who I have the follow up appointment with on Thursday. I asked if I should keep the appointment considering the progress and she said it was my call. I answered her questions with what I know or suspect, and she was very kind. I felt that I was intruding on her mom-duty, and told her deal with mom stuff first. Work later. I know she has a difficult job sometimes, and her family needs her. She would have kept talking to me if that's what I needed. I felt her kids needed her more. I have other support, her kids may not. But I later asked if she could get me a picture from the ultrasound. I wanted to ask for one, but felt that I wouldn't have been able to get one. She told me that she could. As the evening progressed, I dozed off and on, my husband made dinner for me, and sat with me. Then nausea crept in and hung around like a drunk acquaintance, annoying but not enough to get to me. It subsided after I took my allergy med and nixed the post nasal drip that was probably a culprit. I still have the headaches. I think its related to the BP or slacker bun, or both. My husband eventually found me in the bathroom, and asked if I was ok. I find myself wanting to shield him from the imagery of what leaves my body, because I don't know how he would handle it. He tells me it wouldn't bother him. Some of it might be my fear of being considered weird or crazy for sifting through this stuff to find the pieces that do not deserve to flush down the drain. My husband and I crawled into bed around 11pm and he held me, we talked, I cried, he said some amazingly beautiful things, and apologized for making me cry. He's worried about me, and his wish is to take away my pain. I brought up the idea of naming this child, and why, and the names I was considering. I have felt this child was a boy, and have been looking for names that have good meaning. I am careful about the names we give our kids, because the meaning is important to me. (July 29, 2015 - 12:13am)
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I laid in the bed from the time I woke at 8 till after 10, when a caffeine withdrawal headache and a high-metabolism-starvation dragged me to the kitchen to get breakfast. I felt a hair tickling my arm, and couldn't catch it, so I grabbed my comb, and stood over the trash can, combing, and combing, and combing. I got pissy. I told myself that it was just hair. But it wasn't the hair. It was what the massive hair fallout represented. And then I got angry. My anger was because we hadn't told our parents yet. And instead of sharing exciting news, we will share heartbreaking news instead. I am angry at how we let the reactions of others cause us to hide the last 3 pregnancies, even though we were married and over 18. I am angry that people were doubly robbed of this joy. I am angry that we felt shamed, as if we were still 17 and in high school. I was angry that we have not been granted the same joy and dignity at the news of an impending child that other people receive. I told my husband that we will never hide another pregnancy, should one happen. "We will not hide God's light under a basket." were my exact words. I updated the handful of friends walking with me through this virtually, and my best friend who has my kids - still, 3 days now. And I talked with a friend who is on my team to share the news with her. I only left the house because I needed to collect my daughter's report card and test history to take to her new school, and find remaining pieces of uniforms I needed for the girls. I was up and moving another couple hours. I stopped at the grocery store but forgot the debit card, so I was only able to get some raspberry zinger tea that I needed to steep with the red raspberry leaf tea. Up to that point, things were not progressing much more than the pace already in motion. My plan was to drink the tea to help my uterus do its job. Which by the time I got home, it was starting to do on its own. Kinda like taking the car to the mechanic, oh look, it behaves. My husband called at 4pm to update me on his whereabouts due to work. I came home, steeped tea, chatted with friends to update them. I've been sitting at the table because the thought of laying in the bed or on the couch another day was not where I wanted to be. And in the last 2 hours since getting home, things have started moving faster and getting messier. I don't wish this on anyone. I'm having back labor again, like I did with my 5 previous live births. I've grabbed my rice sock and heated it so I can try to ease the discomfort. TENS unit is another option if I need relief. And my husband is finally home so that I'm not alone. My best friend was about ready to come over here if he wasn't going to be home soon. She really worries, and wants to make sure I am safe. I am forever grateful she is helping us. It is truly a gift. (July 29, 2015 - 6:15pm)
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It's been a few hours, and the pressure and discomfort has been in varying waves and extents. I've been back and forth to the tub, changing the pad almost hourly at some points. My husband has gone to bed because he's exhausted (I can see it in his eyes), and he needs to go to work in the morning, barring my needing him. I was instructed to call upon him if I needed him. It's been 4 days, and the wait is wearing on me. The tea helps encourage things along, it just tastes awful. Some of the contractions are gaining intensity. I am hoping for this to complete soon. It's dragging on for days, I want my younger 2 kids home again, and my husband is having a hard time with their absence. I just know I can't get through this with a toddler in the house who is prone to getting into EVERY thing he can. And I need to hug my babies. Like many labors, mom's body often waits till the house is quiet and everyone has left her in peace to progress. I wonder if that is what is happening with me. (11:10 pm)
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I ended up falling asleep on the couch, and after waking up and crawling into my bed in the morning I wished I'd slept there instead. I was so tired the night before that I was afraid moving to the room would wake me just enough that I'd have a hard time getting back to sleep. I lazed in the bed for a while till hunger dragged me to the kitchen. I asked my husband if he was interested in or able to get off work to come to the follow up appointment. He's been so focused on me that I am not wanting him to be left out of anything if he can be part of it. He can't take away the pain. But he's setting his own aside to help me with mine. And if there is a step in this journey that he can join, I invite him to do so. He couldn't get off work early enough to come, so I told the doctor's office that if they nudged another patient ahead of me, to allow him time to come, I wouldn't have issue with it. The midwife who had already been awesome as it is said she would move my appointment to later so he could join us. My husband left work a little early and was able to be there. While waiting, I started having cramping and it was getting stronger. Then in the exam room they were getting downright unpleasant. I needed my husband to apply counter pressure on my back. Really? Even in a loss, I freaking have back labor? I drew upon the hypnobirthing lessons from my 5th birth to get through it. After answering the nurse's preliminary questions, she left to get the midwife. The midwife came in, introduced herself, told me what the ER records indicated from Monday's visit. The ultrasound measured 6 weeks 3 days, and registered no heartbeat. I was 9 weeks 4 days at that point. I *knew* there was no heartbeat. I should have been told, instead of being allowed to leave the ER with a thread of pointless hope. She said it infuriates her that it happened that way. She then had me get on the exam table so she could see what was going on with me. And as she started, her tone got very subdued and you could tell she was affected by what was happening. The placenta and sac were passing through my cervix, and she was witness to it. She asked if I wanted it sent for genetic testing, and I declined. She carried it like precious cargo, asking if I wanted to see it. "This is what I've been waiting for?" came out of my mouth. I asked for gloves so I could get a closer look. The midwife gingerly set it on a chux pad and began to separate the clots to find the sac. She stopped, realizing that wait...she was leaving me in a bit of a compromised spot, went back to complete the exam and do an ultrasound to check for retained tissue. She gingerly resumed her search and asked me if I wanted her to open the sac to find the baby, telling me that if she did anything to upset me to say stop. She was intrigued by this on an intellectual level as much as I was. But she was reverent and respectful about it. She felt honored that we would indulge her curiosity, and allow her to be part of something so intimate. She had never seen a baby at that early gestation. The earliest she'd seen was 14 weeks, and here she was witnessing a 6 weeker. We were both in awe of it. It may seem gross or weird to some, but I had my husband take pictures. I think it bothered him a bit, but this is how I've been processing it as it happens. I didn't get an ultrasound picture, and I may not be able to get one. If I'd kept the earlier appointment I might have, but then, we might not have been granted the opportunity we were as things ended up unfolding. The midwife hugged me, saying she was sorry we had to meet under such circumstances, and thanked me for allowing her to be part of it. She was so careful and respectful in honoring everything, I am grateful for her role in this journey over the last 5 days.
Francis Anthony
born 9w3d gestation
Thursday July 30, 2015 approximately 4:18pm
Into the hands of the midwife, and laid on mom's stomach.
His names mean Free and Peace.

Having spent the last 4 days in lamentation, reflection, and tears, I have gotten a lot of catharsis out of it. I know reading this has yanked hard on your own heartstrings, and if you are part of this club, they get yanked harder. I will be forever changed by this. As much as it hurts, I do actually have peace. I've worked through some of the immediate emotional stuff, but I know there is a lot more coming. I'm mentally at ease because I'm no longer waiting for things to culminate. I can pee on the commode again! Physically I felt better immediately, with some residual soreness and tiredness from the whole experience. Based on the lingering dull pain, I'd venture the placenta was attached at the top left side of my uterus. I can now put my life back in gear and move onward. In serving me, my friend was helped with her own healing. She was able to give me the support those around her were unable or unwilling to give her. I am forever grateful and I have been given a gift that most do not receive. I have been supported near and far, prayed for, listened to with a wide berth, hugged, and loved. I know I have been blessed with amazing friends, and I have never taken any of it for granted. It is times like this, you discover just how much people really do love you.
(July 30, 2015 - 11:39pm)


Rachel Bonitz said...

I am so very sorry for your loss. The name you chose is beautiful. <3

We've met in passing online, and your knitting friend was a great support for me, albeit in a more virtual sense, through my loss. I'm not sure if you know, but she called me in tears on the way to the grocery store to pick up your bottle and saline. I cried along with her because another woman was losing a precious baby. It was the first time I felt as though she was the one accepting comfort rather than giving it. She just has that way, doesn't she, always the caretaker?

Much love to all of you, and yes, so much, in regards to the paragraph about what NOT to say. Yes, maybe we can have more children, but they don't replace the one that we didn't keep and there are times that seeing the baby(ies) born after twists the knife somewhat because they make you wonder even more about who the lost one would have been.

I'm glad the midwife was respectful, instead of treating the baby as merely a medical thing. A person is a person, no matter how small.


Feisty Irish Wench said...

Rachel, she told me that you have been impacted by the news of our loss, and that means a lot to me. I have heard a bit about you from our friend, and she has shared some of your story with me. She has been an amazing support to me over the years, and I always feel indebted to her for everything she's done for my family. I would not have survived those agonizing 4 days of waiting and mourning if I had to tend my children. I would have gotten through it, but I would have had to stuff aside my pain for the sake of my role as their mom. Being free to mourn as I needed to without the tasks required of me, and being able to rest when my body screamed for me to do so, made it a little easier to process everything I was going through, and move forward a tiny bit sooner than others might have. And I don't know if you have read other posts in my blog, but if you search for the one titled "Originality and Humor", I addressed the topic of verbal knife twisting when people commented on my family size.
I too, am immensely grateful for how amazing the midwife was about it all. Because she didn't treat our situation as something so overly clinical, and because I had processed a LOT of the emotional and mental stuff, I had no issue indulging her curiosity, because seriously, *I* was just as curious.

Matushka Anna said...

Thank you for taking the time to write out your story and share it publicly. I totally get what you're saying about being angry that you had felt shamed about sharing previous pregnancies and waiting to share this one. I've done the same thing and had the same resulting anger when I miscarried. I hope this is your ONLY miscarriage. May the memory of Francis Anthony be eternal!

Andi said...

Much love and hugs my dear friend. Thank you for sharing. I'm very sorry for you and your family's loss.

Amy B said...

Thank you for sharing your story and sharing your little one with us. It does bring back many memories of our loss at 8 weeks and then again the loss of our three boys at 23 weeks, 3 days. Each life is meaningful to the families of those babies. V loves listening to the story, "Someone Came Before You," and she speaks of her three older brothers often.

Mrs. A. said...

Francis Anthony, your life was short, but I believe you knew you were wanted and loved dearly. Before God formed you in your no-nonsense/hilarious/extremely thoughtful mother's womb, He knew you. If I make the cut, I look forward to meeting you in heaven. I'm assuming your presence with God grants you a little more clout than my prayers, so please have some extra comfort sent to your mom and dad.