Monday, January 29, 2007

At Preschool

When dropping the Child off at preschool this morning, I notice that the mom of one of his classmates, hugely pregnant last time I saw her, is no longer sporting a belly. Sure enough, behind her is a baby carrier with a brand new (and amazingly cute) baby. The Child is stalling and not wanting to go into his classroom, so I try to redirect his attention: “Look, Child, J has a brand new baby brother—do you want to see him?” The Child begins to sob, “But I don’t have a baby brother!”

We never told him about baby-not-to-be, and I don’t know if he sensed anything about the pregnancy or the loss of it. This particular instance was nothing more than a three-year-old seeing something he doesn’t have and wanting it because his friend has it. But it just about ripped by heart out.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Dear Body

Dear body,

Please stop fucking with me. It has been seven weeks and one day since the D&C. Roughly nine weeks since the baby stopped growing. Day 51 of my cycle. And still no period. I would have had two periods with my usual cycle by now. I’ve finally gotten to the point where this loss wasn’t occupying my every thought. But now you make me remember it every time I go to the bathroom. For the first time in my life, I am begging you for a period. Because I am beginning to lose my faith.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Next 48 Hours (Dear Baby Not To Be, Part 2)

[This was written in mid-December, about two weeks after the D&C]

And then there were the next 48 hours. Coming home at night after the ultrasound and seeing my sweet boy and feeling these overwhelming waves of grief and of joy. I don’t think I have ever felt such powerful, my-heart-will-jump-out-of-my-chest love for him or been so thankful for having him in my life. But seeing him also reminded me how much we will be missing because this baby won’t be a part of our family.

Then there were hours of pretending that everything is OK, eating dinner, putting the Child to bed, ordering tickets for a musical in late December, talking on the phone with my family about Christmas travel plans. It feels normal. Maybe nothing bad happened. Maybe it was all a dream.

And then there were hours of unstoppable crying while I lie in bed, with the Child and my mom (who happened to be visiting us during that time—not a good coincidence, but that’s a subject of another post) already asleep.

Then there was a visit the next morning to the heartless, old-school curmudgeon OB. “So you had an ultrasound yesterday,” he says while looking at my charts, “and what did they tell you?”, making me utter those words, those horrible, chilling words that no woman should be forced to say: “My baby doesn’t have a heartbeat.” And then I break down again. And again when he tells me that he recommends a D&C because my cervix is still completely closed. And again when I have to pay the damn co-pay (can’t they wave it, just once?).

And then going to work, telling my boss that I need to be out, thinking how odd it is to carry a dead baby—something that was so loved and cared for, now just a foreign object in my body. Then once again feeling that everything is normal, finishing some projects before leaving, going to a staff meeting. And then completely breaking down again, in my cubicle, knowing that next time I come here, I won’t be carrying this baby.

Then another exhausting sleepless night filled with tears. The morning shower, sobbing. Wearing the same loose sweat pants that I wore home from the hospital when we brought the Child home. Driving to the hospital, thinking how ironic it is that exactly three years ago tomorrow, I was coming to this same hospital to have the baby. Now, I am coming here to lose a baby. Talking to the cheery receptionist, who jokes and smiles and then stops after reading “missed abortion” on my chart. Talking to a sweet, compassionate nurse, a pretty girl, someone who should be on “Scrubs.” Telling her that no, I am not wearing any jewelry, except for my wedding ring, and then breaking down again when asked to take it off (I’ve already lost a baby, don’t take my ring--my connection to the rest of my family). Then changing into the hospital gown, the one I remember so well. Talking to Suzanne, a sweet, eight-month pregnant anesthesiologist who says so genuinly “I am so sorry you are here” and brings me a whole box of tissues. And then loosing it again and again and again as I lie there, waiting for my doctor who is an hour late. Overhearing conversations of other patients and doctors, wondering if they hear my sobbing. Then getting an IV started, except that they can’t find a vein, then they blow another one, and next thing I know, there are four anesthesiologists around me, poking my arms with needles. Finally, success. But it is only water, not drugs because I have to wait for the doctor to sign a waiver before I can have something “to take the edge off.” Finally, seeing the doctor, except it is not the one they told me it would be, not the one I adore, but another one, whom I have never met. Who says those heartless things again. And then finally, the pregnant anesthesiologist injecting something she calls “a margarita” in my IV as I continue sobbing as they roll me away from my husband. Being so scared without him. Seeing those white bright lights of the OR.

And then finally waking up still sobbing. God, please, God, was it a dream? But I am still on the stretcher, in a gown, my husband finally with me. And I continue to sob, but I know that it is over.

Dear Baby Not to Be

[This was written in mid-December, about two weeks after the D&C]

I honestly don’t know where to start. I have been thinking about writing for two weeks, and all of the thoughts are circling in my head so fast that it makes me dizzy. But where do I begin?

Dear baby not be,
I would have really liked to have known you and have you be part of our family. I don’t think I can ever get over the loss of you, but I do know (or hope) that it will get better and that I won’t come undone every time I think about how much I miss you. My thoughts and feelings run the gamut. Sometimes I am raging mad, wanting to shake my fists at the sky and demand the answer of why this is so unfair. We wanted you so badly, we waited for you so long, we would have given you a nice home and millions of kisses and overwhelming love. How can you love and miss so much someone you have never met—nor will ever meet? Sometimes I am mad in a different way—the screw you way, the way that makes me want to drink to oblivion, smoke cigarettes, eat raw fish—a revengeful kind of mad. Sometimes I refuse to believe it. I feel a rumble in my stomach and wonder if it’s you moving around. I put my hand on my belly and hope that you can feel my touch. These moments are not long-lasting, but they are short glimmers of hope that I know can not come true. Sometimes I am numb. I think about you and almost didn’t feel anything. “Oh well, this is life.” And then immediately I feel so guilty—that I should be missing you more and grieve more. But most of the times, I have this overwhelming sadness, this grief that chills me, makes me sick to my stomach.

You were just too good to be true. After a year of charting, trying, crying, hurting, diagnosing, agonizing, I saw a plus sign on the HPT. How could it be? October was a crazy month, so full of travel that we literally had one chance, one shot of having you—the night Daddy came back from a trip and I left for my trip the next morning. He was on travel again when I peed in the stick and was so dumbfounded with the result. How could it be? I spent the entire afternoon looking for creative ways to tell Daddy about you. I didn’t even call the doctor. I was obsessed with finding the right way to tell him, something better than spurting out “I think I am pregnant” while he was making himself a PBJ sandwich, as I did when I found out your brother was coming. I ended up putting the HPT in a baby bottle, writing a note on it: “See you in July” and wrapping it in a box, pretending it was a late birthday gift. He could not believe it. It was nearly impossible to be true. And it was.

After the first week or two, I knew something didn’t feel right. I wasn’t very sick. I wasn’t very tired. I did not have much of an appetite. Later on, shortly after we found out that you were gone, Daddy said something about mother’s intuition. I somehow knew all along that this was not meant to be. But I dismissed it—and everyone else I told this to dismissed it. It was jitters. It was the worry because of M’s and SD’s and ST’s and J’s experience. But it was not going to happen to me. I should not complain, I said to myself. I should be lucky that I don’t feel sick. Every pregnancy is different. I should not compare.

Early on, I told my friend S that I was worried about this. And she said that all of us are allowed only one heartache with babies in utero. For them, it was preterm labor. For us, it was the infertility leading up to this pregnancy. I have fulfilled my heartache, I have passed the challenge—so I was in the clear. I liked her logic.

And then I started feeling a bit sicker. Every time I would eat, I would feel nauseous. I hated it, but I also loved it. I commented how strange it was that with your brother, I would get sick when I was hungry, and with you, I got sick when I ate. I still don’t know where the nausea was coming from. You were already gone at that point…

Then there was spotting. Just a little bit. No cramps. I already had an appointment with a midwife later in the day, so I didn’t bother calling. I was doing a co-op at your brother's school. The teacher asked me if I had only one child, and I said yes. “And another one on the way,” I thought to myself. And a new thought immediately entered my mind. Maybe I am having a miscarriage right now. I brushed it off. Stop being so worried.

Midwife did an internal check and said, yes, there is bleeding. She even showed us the giant q-tips with blood and said my cervix looked swollen, and that’s where the blood was coming from—but that was because of all of the hormones. She said we should get a sonogram to put our fears to rest. “So you think there is a 50/50 chance that things are not OK?” I asked. She said, “I would not even come close to that line to suggest that something is wrong.” I felt like a million bucks.

I was nervous waiting at the OB office, but once we got to the ultrasound place, my mind felt at ease. I told myself that I was prepared for the worst, but I was not. I felt positive. I was excited for Husband to see that little heartbeat. How cool that we get an ultrasound so early again!

We waited for over an hour. We were the last patient of the day. I didn’t see you right away, but I saw you within the first minute. There you were. Looking bigger that I remember your brother being, although it was roughly the same time. But there was no flashing dot. I kept looking for it. I remember seeing that flashing dot so clearly with your brother—not knowing what it was at first, but when I was told, I burst into tears. That was my baby’s heartbeat—I could not imagine being more excited then. But there was no flashing dot this time. The sonogram technician kept moving the instrument around, trying different angles. And then I knew. That’s when I knew. I wanted to say it, but I didn’t want to be the nay-sayer. Maybe she will find it. It seemed that an eternity went by. “I am so sorry. But I can’t find a heartbeat,” she finally said. I heard your Daddy gasp. He hasn’t seen this before, he thought she was looking at my cervix, trying to figure out why it was swollen. He did not know this was the baby on the screen. I remember covering my eyes and crying. I did not want to look at the screen anymore. I could not stand to see it. Now, looking back, I wish that maybe I should have. Just to have the last peek at my baby. The baby I will never see again. I wish I would have asked for a picture. Something to hold on to. Something to remember you by. But maybe that would be too painful.

She asked for a couple more minutes to take some measurements. She said you measured at about 7 weeks, even though you were 9. When she was done, she called the nurse at the doctor’s office. A cold, compassionless person who scheduled my appointment for the next day to “discuss options” and told me to go to the ER if I were to have heavy bleeding tonight. Oddly, I had no bleeding after that. Not that night. Not the entire next day. Not the morning of the D&C. They asked me at the hospital if I needed a pad and disposable panties. I didn’t. There was not a drop of blood. You weren’t ready to get out.

Something to Hold On To

[This entry was written on December 27]

I have been struggling with the fact that I am not carrying anything tangible out of this experience. I have nothing to prove that this baby was ever here. All I have is this raw emotion, the devastating grief. I wish I had something to clutch in my hand and cry over. Something to lift to the sky as I ask, “Why, why did this have to happen?” When you lose someone, there is a service and a grave and the clothes and the pictures… There is a public display of grief and just as public, the overflow of support and care for the people who lost someone. But for me, losing this baby feels like a big secret. I am not saying that my grief is more difficult handle (I do not dare to image what it is like to loose an actual child), but it is just different. I feel like the loss is so big, and yet there is nothing I can show for it. I have to go on with my life pretending that nothing happened. Because as far as most people are concerned—nothing did happen. I was out sick for a few days, and that’s that. So in a way, I feel like I am living a lie. Living with this horrible secret that I can’t share. Watching everyone’s life go on while mine is a big dark hole. Going through the motions and pretending to be fine when I feel so hollow inside.

I debated whether I need to have something tangible to make me remember this experience. Would it give me closure—or would it just constantly remind me of the pain?

I saw an angel figure holding a little child—“An Angel’s Embrace”—and I broke down, right there in the Hall.mark store. I felt so mad at this angel for taking my baby away. I was so jealous and so sad that I couldn’t give my baby this embrace, that I couldn’t hold my baby close with his/her arms draped over my shoulders. So I didn’t buy it. I didn’t know if I wanted to have something that would make me cry every time I looked at it—but more than that, I didn’t want something that would make me angry. I cried every time I pictured it.

Yesterday, I saw a bracelet—a silver band that said, “Expect Miracles.” As soon as I saw it, I knew that this may be the tangible object I was looking for. Not a figurine to place on a dresser, but something that I can have with me all the time. Something to remind me of what happened. Something to give me hope. “Children are miracles,” wrote a friend of mine—and this bracelet reminded me of that. This last pregnancy was a miracle, and losing it was equivalent to losing faith. It seemed so unfair—we went through so much just to get pregnant… How could we lose it? Couldn’t we have a “get out of jail” card because we’ve already encountered so many challenges? Lying in the hospital bed before the D&C, I thought that there was no way I could ever go through this again. It would completely break me. I simply could not handle doing this again. And that made me think that perhaps we would not try again. To make sure we never have to go through this again. That’s the only way to make sure—because if I didn’t get a get out of jail card this time, why would I get it again? Who can guarantee that this won’t happen again? And for weeks, that’s how I felt. Completely terrified of the thought of trying again. But when I saw this bracelet yesterday, I realized that I am no longer afraid. I am ready to expect a miracle again, I simply have to expect a miracle again—or I will never find my way out of this black hole. I am still terrified of the thought that it would take another year—or more?—to get pregnant. I am sure the first time I get my period after we’ve been trying, I will be disappointed. But at least I am ready to try. I am looking forward to my period coming in the next few weeks, and I am ready to start trying. And when we do finally get pregnant—whether it is in two months or two years—I will be cherishing my miracle. I will be protecting it. I will be praying for it. And one day, I know I will carry it in my arms—not just as a bracelet on my wrist.

And I will get the “Angel’s Embrace.” Because I am not angry anymore (although may still a bit envious). I think I can find peace in knowing that an angel is taking care of my baby. I am getting closer to finding the peace within—and recovering my faith.

What Not to Say

[This post was written in mid-December]

I have a friend who had a miscarriage at 12 weeks and a subsequent D&C. It happened a few months ago, and I was devastated for her. She said she needed to lay low for a while, so I didn’t call. I didn’t write. I thought I was respecting her wishes. But I also didn’t know what to tell her. I finally composed a note to her. I think I struggled for hours figuring out what to say. I wanted to be supportive but also sensitive. I didn’t want to tell her things that weren’t true or things that I didn’t know. Now that I have gone through this myself, I really wanted to find this note to see what I said. To make sure that I didn’t say something stupid and something hurtful. I am glad I didn’t--at least, from my perspective I didn't. Only being on the other side of it can you find the right thing to say. Or maybe it’s that you know what not to say, even if the “right thing” escapes you because it is different for everyone. So here is my list of what not to say when your friend has a miscarriage.

Don’t tell me it is nature’s way of taking care of a nonviable pregnancy. I know that. It doesn’t make me feel any better though. I lost my baby, and the nature is just too fucking cruel.

Don’t tell me that this is common, that the percentage of miscarriages is quite high. I know that, too. I read the books. I knew my odds. But just as you would, I didn’t think it would happen to me. A person going through divorce doesn’t hear, “Well, there is a 50% rate of divorce in this country, so you didn’t have much of a chance anyway.” So don’t give me the statistics. I lost a child.

Don’t tell me that I will get pregnant again. If you are not God, you don’t know. And most likely, you don’t know what a long and painful road it’s been to get to this pregnancy.

Similarly, don’t tell me everything will be OK. Seriously, what the fuck? How is this going to be OK?

Don’t tell me, “at least you already have a child.” I know I do. I love him more than you can imagine. But that doesn’t diminish my loss. I wanted another baby—and I lost it. You wouldn’t tell someone who lost a parent, “Well, at least your other parent is still alive.” So don’t tell me that because I already have a child, I shouldn’t grieve the loss of another.

Don’t imply that there was something I did to make this happen. I have looked at every scenario. I have blamed myself for many things. Over and over, I have retraced my every step and wondered what I may have done. You have no fucking idea how much I wanted this baby, so don’t you dare to suggest that I did something to jeopardize his or her well-being.

Don’t tell me not to be sad, not to look back or look only toward the future. I have the full right to be sad. I lost my baby. I will be sad, and I will keep looking back, and I will fear the future. Let me have my time to grieve. Let me be sad. Let me fall apart. Don’t ask me why I have tears in my eyes. You know why. Yes, I am still sad. No, I will not get over it in one week. And yes, I will fall apart unexpectedly. You are not in my head, and you don’t know that seeing a maternity store or going to a Christmas party where I expected to be “hiding” my pregnancy breaks my heart. Let me be.

If you do know what I have been through, don’t pretend like nothing happened. Ask me how I am. If you are afraid to hear the answer, then just tell me you are sorry. I already feel like I am living in my own, very lonely world, the world where everyone’s lives go on while mine stands still. So don’t make my loss a secret when it is just you and me. I have already been robbed of the chance to grieve publicly, so I count on you to be my shoulder.

P.S.: I just came across this wonderful resource on helping someone with miscarriage on another blog. It relates a lot to my rant, so I wanted to add it to this post.