Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Two Precious Losses


Two lost children in 40 weeks.

The water is silent, it engulfs every part of you, it makes you feel weightless, powerless, small and one with the world.  Looking around underwater, you will see beautiful hues of blue and green  with wild dances of light fluttering about, a window into heaven.   The magnificence of the water is at its greatest near a coral reef.  The beauty of it, the mystery of it, consumes every part of your being.  I decided I was going to scuba dive and after that, I would be ready to start a family.  

Husband was apprehensive but eventually he jumped on board with my desire to dive.  We had no idea the experience would bring us so close.  We are not exactly the Mountain-Dew commercial types.  We wear bike helmets at all times, so the dangers of scuba diving were very real to us.  We discussed our plans, over and over, in the event something would go wrong.  We would hold hands at all times, so we could communicate quickly with a simple squeeze of the hand.  I put my trust and life in his hands and he did the same.  And together we shared the awe, wonder, beauty and thrill of breathing underwater, swimming over a ship wreck, seeing a moray eel and watching a sea turtle swim up to us with the curiosity of an excited dog. 
After that, we agreed that we would no longer use birth control.  When curious friends and family asked whether we were going to have kids soon, we said we weren’t trying, but we weren’t “not trying”.  We didn’t want to be one of those couples consumed with ovulation dates and basal temperatures (at the time, I didn’t even know what a basal temperature was but I knew women took their temperatures).  We would live our lives, have fun, and it was meant to be, God would bless us with a child.  We were madly in love and innocent from loss.  

Well, ten months passed and we still weren’t pregnant.  My doctor off handedly suggested fertility testing.  I was in shock.  We had not even tried – shouldn’t we at least TRY before I see a specialist?  I shrugged off the suggestion, but within a few days I was determined that I needed to know – could we make a baby if we tried?  

And so the nutty wife went home and told her husband that she wanted to try to have a baby.  This would mean a strict schedule of intimacy and of course, he was up to the challenge.  The first month of trying was fun and after a few weeks, when my period was late, I peed on a stick.  It was morning, and I was brushing my teeth as I saw the test stop flashing and “pregnant” read on the screen of the test.  I could not withhold this information from Husband for a second, so I picked up the test, with a toothbrush in my mouth, and ran out to the kitchen to show Husband our news.  Husband said, “holy shit!”  He was thrilled and terrified at the same time.  Holy shit was right.

I went into work and shared the news with my best friend, who was also pregnant at the same time.  How exciting – we were going to have kids together!  She was about eight weeks ahead of me, and she knew everything my body was about to go through.  We discussed how we were feeling every morning.  We talked about how excited we were, and how scared we were, everyday at lunch.  

I bought magazines, books and ready about pregnancy morning, noon and night.  I even read, “The History of Birth,” which summarized the last 500 years of midwifery, obstetrics, superstitious and  cultural trends.  I read a lot about giving birth in water, and was leaning towards a more homeopathic approach, but at the same time, I was seeing a board certified obstetrician.  He told me it was too early to choose a birth plan. 
I started planning the nursery.  I wanted an underwater theme.  Surprise surprise.  That would be the first time I transferred my dreams and desires onto my child.  I looked up stencils of coral reefs and had decided on an elaborate stencil that would cost over $400.00.  No d├ęcor was too pricey for my baby to be. 
We started talking about names.  I wanted an unusual name because we have such a common last name.  I liked Elizabelle for a girl, and Liam for a boy.  I knew Liam was common, but I liked it.  Husband liked Elizabelle, but we were not settled on a boy’s name.  

It wasn’t all superficial.  I felt like a different person.  I felt like an alien had invaded my body.  But I also tenderly felt like a mom.  I had a child in me and it completely changed my point of view.  I started to picture my husband as a father.  I imagined him with a baby strapped across his chest, walking around like the proud daddy I knew he was going to be.  I saw him throwing a toddler in the air, to show me how strong he is, how well he can catch, and to make our child giggle, while I gave him a stern panicked look and told him to stop right now!  I saw him waking up in the middle of the night and telling me not to worry, he would get up this time, because that’s the way Husband is – always cheerful.   We talked about the kind of parents we wanted to be – picking and choosing our parent’s techniques and analyzing what we thought it meant to be a good parent.  

We were suddenly more than we were before.  

We took a walk in the cold winter after a blizzard.  I put on layers and layers of clothes – including Husband’s new ski pants.  We walked around for hours – hand in hand, elated that we were going to be three.  

We planned special elaborate ways to tell our family and friends.  We videotaped everyone’s reactions.  We would show our child how excited our family was when they found out it was going to come into their world.  Husband liked to joke, “I wish I would have had a few more months of trying!” and all of the men would hardy-har-har.

I selfishly welcomed the attention.  Everyone wanted to know everything about me and eagerly asked questions with an excited smile.  How was I feeling?  Everything I did was cute and funny.  Aw, I fell asleep at 7:00 again.  Oops – you were three hours late- ha ha!  I was being inducted into a new club.  I was more important.  I was beautiful because a miracle was happening in my body.  And everyone wanted to share in that joy.

Husband had a business trip to New York.  It was over the anniversary of when we first met.  I sent him an email wishing him a happy anniversary and also, happy eight weeks!  He told me that he was touched when he received the email and could not believe how far our relationship had come.  He was so happy to have met me and was so happy we were having a family.

At ten weeks, we went into the doctor.  He told us that sometimes you can hear a heartbeat and sometimes you cannot.  Did we want to try to hear it?  It could be upsetting if we didn’t hear it.  Well, we didn’t hear the heartbeat.  The doctor told us to come back in a week for an ultrasound.  He wrote a script and put it in my hands.  The reason for ultrasound ultrasound simply said “viability.”  

That week, I made a lot of bargains with God that I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep.  

I went to a pre-natal yoga class.  I was the earliest along – only at ten weeks.  The other ladies had bellies.  At the end of class, we were supposed to meditate with the baby.  “Imagine a light connecting your heart to the baby’s heart.”  I couldn’t imagine the light.  

At 11 weeks, we went in for an ultrasound.  First, she put jelly on my belly.  After a second she told me to get dressed and empty out my bladder.  When I came back in, she had a scary vaginal probe, wrapped up in a condom with a lot of goop on it.  She explained that she would see more with a vaginal ultrasound.  My mortification that my husband was sitting next to me as this probe was inserted into me quickly dissipated when she said, “I’m sorry there’s nothing there,” and my world came crumbling down around me.  I felt a tremendous wave of sorrow and pain that flooded out of me through tears and wimpers with my feet up in stirrups and my bottom wrapped in a paper gown.  

I was whisked into a doctor’s office and told that it wasn’t my fault.  It was nothing that I did.  This is common and I would go on to have a normal pregnancy.  They wanted to take some blood tests and while I was feeling such profound sorrow, strangers were poking at my veins and sticking needles into my arm when all I wanted was to be in my husband’s arms.

Husband and I got on the train home.  We had to stand.  I leaned into him and cried the whole way home.  When we got home, he broke down too.  We layed in the bed in the future nursery, crying and thinking about everything we had lost.

We broke the news to our friends and families.  Grandparents and aunts were crushed.  Cousins were sad.  Friends got teary eyed.  

I spent an entire afternoon with my dad.  Normally he’s the first to leave the room at the mention of a tampon.  But this time, he spent hours talking with me as I decided whether to have a natural miscarriage or medical intervention.  He listened to me ask the spiritual questions.  He assured me that my baby was in heaven. He listened to me talk about how I wished I would just start bleeding.  He was there for me and while it wasn’t the best of circumstances, it was the closest I’d been with him in a while.

I spent another afternoon with my mom.  She cried when I cried.  She fell asleep – it was emotionally too much for her.

My brother sent me a sign that he had met my child in heaven.

I was at a Vietnamese restaurant with friends, in a dingy part of town when I started to bleed.   I came back to the table and whispered to Husband.  We ordered food and drank wine and pretended to be merry.

I decided to go with the recommended surgery – a D&C.  It was the first time I would have a medical surgery and I was terrified.  Our nurse reminded Husband of his grandma, and he said he thought she was sent to us from heaven.  I had to decide what to do with the baby’s remains.  I did not expect this and a wave of sorrow overcame me and I saw tears drop down onto the paperwork.  The nurse gave me a lot of hugs and even kisses.  She told Husband and I that we have to stick together through this and be understanding of each other’s grief.  The IV was terrifying, but they got it in.  I could not wait to have that damn IV out.  Each person that encountered me in the pre-surgical room had to confirm with me that I was having a D&C.  I had to sign several waivers because it was a religious hospital.  Each person inquired about my miscarriage as I sat uncomfortably naked with an IV in my hand – and all these strangers reassured me that the next time would be a success.  

I was feeling good after the surgery.  I felt good the day after surgery.  But on the third day, I was not feeling so good.  In the middle of the night, I was writhing with pain in bed.  I got up to go to the bathroom and felt blood rushing out of me like water out of a faucet.  I screamed and Husband woke up in a panic.  We called the doctor and got medication to stop the hemmoraging.  We stayed awake all night, monitoring my bloodflow, terrified of the possible complications of the surgery.  

I had to have a second D&C and be hospitalized overnight on IV antibiotics.  Another IV.  Another round of strangers reassuring me everything was going to be okay.  A night alone in a dark hospital.  The woman next to me was struggling for her life.  She just had heart surgery.  She had difficulty breathing.  I felt her battle through the curtain.  We never exchanged words, but pivotal moments in our lives intersected, and the world seemed to stop at the same time for the both of us.

When I left the hospital, I made promises to myself and Husband that I was never going to be in a hospital again and neither was Husband for that matter.  We were going to make lifestyle changes.  Instead, we both gained ten pounds of emotional baggage.

I cried in the shower every morning for weeks.  I transitioned into a happy person every day by the time I got to work.  For the people who knew, a few awkward “I’m sorry”s were exchanged.  And then it was back to business.  My friend started showing.  Everyone fawned over her tiny bump and had endless questions.  I was excited for her, from the bottom of my heart, but every time she smiled with excitement, I was reminded of what I had lost.

Another one of my best friends called to tell me she was pregnant.  I was thrilled for her.  She had been talking about wanting a baby since I met her in law school.  She told me that when Husband and I told them we were “not not trying,” they decided to as well.  When I got off the phone, I had to leave the office.  I was hurled over on the sidewalk trying to get myself together, in bright daylight amongst businessmen in their fancy suits.  I called a therapist that evening.

We spent a week healing in the British Virgin Islands.  We weren’t going to “try” again, but secretly, I was hoping that ovulation and vacation would overlap.  Vacation was heaven.  We snorkeled for hours.  We drank champagne on the beach.  We enjoyed that exact moment, not stuck in the past nor in the future.  We were going to make it through this.  We were able to smile again.

My period came and I was a little disappointed, but at least I would not be pregnant at my sister’s wedding.  My cousin had a baby.   In June my friend from work had her baby.  She sent a picture to me by email.  She was so precious.  That night, after a Pink Floyd concert that we could not enjoy, Husband and I cried together in bed.  My sister’s wedding came and we had a great time.  Husband and I boogied on the dance floor and didn’t have a worry in the world.  We were ready to try again.  I thought it would be stressful, but to my surprise, trying again was fun.  

My period was a little late and I took a test.  Not pregnant.  A few days later, I had a light period.  I was bombarded with pregnancies.  An estranged friend from college had a baby and news trickled through the grapevine.  Another cousin was pregnant.  Could I have one FUCKING day where I’m not reminded of everything I had, even though I only had it for a split second, not even long enough for it to be acknowledged by others at large, but long enough to have changed my life forever.  One FUCKING day, please!  My therapist told me that I hide my feelings well don’t know when I’m fragile.  I think some know, but many just don’t listen.  I started researching how to chart my temperature to determine when I was ovulating.  I bought three thermometers but found out that they were not “basal” thermometers.  I searched every pharmacy near work and home and they were all sold out of basal thermometers.  Apparently I was not the only girl in Chicago who was going to start charting.  What if it would take another year to get pregnant again?  My temperature was not going to be enough.  I would also track my cervical mucus.  I didn’t know if I would have the stomach to do it, but I read everything there was to know about cervical mucus.

I broke out in hives.  I thought it was work stress.  My buddy was on maternity leave and I was handling twice the caseload.  Then my breasts felt sore.  A day after my period ended, my breasts were tender.  I took a test.  It was positive.  I was panicked.  A period and hives could not be a good sign.  I realized I was probably going to have another miscarriage.  

I told close family and friends right away.  Husband didn’t want to tell anyone, but he agreed that I needed the people around me to be there for me.  I was anxiety ridden.  I knew something wasn’t right.  Husband and I didn’t get too excited this time.  We talked about names a couple of times, but not for hours like we did before.  I didn’t buy maternity clothes or look at nursery themes.  I didn’t even open a book.  

I met my friend’s baby and fell in love with her.  My friend said she couldn’t come back to work.  She could not leave her baby and I didn’t blame her.  For the first time ever, Husband told me that if I wanted to, I could stay at home with our baby too.  We would make it work if that was what I wanted.

The doctor did not place much weight on the week of bleeding or the hives.  We would just have to wait and see.  Finally, the first ultrasound came.  I was maybe eight weeks, but it was difficult to know since I had a week of bleeding.  Was it a period or wasn’t it?  No one knew.  Miracles are mysterious.  We saw a little something on the ultrasound – that was more than we saw before.  The doctor said I might be earlier than eight weeks – maybe only five or six weeks, but she also warned we might be having another miscarriage.  She sent us to a high risk doctor with a better ultrasound machine.  He told us it looked like I was only five or six weeks along.  We would come back in a week and at that time, the baby would double in size and we should see a heart beat.  Another week of wait and see.  We really started to hope.  The next week came, and the ultrasound showed nothing.  We had seen it before.  We knew before the doctor told us.  We scheduled the D&C immediately.  We wanted to get this over with so we could move on.  The doctor told us that we are now “high risk” for recurrent miscarriages.  Two in a row means our odds are increased for a third, a fourth…  We start being told about patients who have had eight or nine miscarriages before a successful pregnancy.  We are completely overwhelmed.  

We get to the hospital.  We’ve been here before.  The same sweet nurse, the same hugs and kisses, the same sad paperwork.  The same IV.  The same assurances that everything is going to be okay.  Surgery was on a Friday.  The due date for my first baby was Saturday, the next day.   Two lost children in 40 weeks.

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