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I have been blogging at Live Journal for years, so I plan to continue that and cross post the entries that have to do with this experience here.
Technically the first entry that I wrote concerning the miscarriage was written on 7/6/06 at about 2:30am when I couldn't sleep and posted to relieve some nervous energy...basically because I didn't know what else to do. Its in the LJ if you want to see it. I will start here with the first entry I wrote after the loss.
That is hardly an adequate subject for this entry, but one day for reasons that I can not comprehend now, I may want to come back and find it and a title seems necessary. Maybe I will remember sitting at the computer during my 5th sleepless night in a row trying to come up with some way to describe what has happened.
Knowing that I am in no way ready to write anything about this.
Knowing that what is written will ramble with confusion and overflow with my grief.
Knowing that there are, in fact, no words.
On Thursday, July 6, 2006, I lost our baby at 16 weeks and 1 day.
In the middle of the night on Wednesday, I posted the first entry in a long time that I marked for friends only. Something had happened that I didnít understand or expect and I was trying to decide for myself what course of action to take. A month earlier when Iíd had a terrifying amount of bleeding, a notorious and universal sign of disaster in pregnancy - everything turned out to be fine. I had a week of bed rest to contend with and a new medication for my blood pressure. I had two ultrasound pictures - 12 weeks & 13 weeks - that showed a happy little baby, right on target for her age. At 14 weeks, I had a healthy heartbeat, the first one we had been able to actually hear, not just see blinking on the sonogram screen. At the 14 week appointment I was scheduled for another appointment a month away - not uncommon for pregnancy, but uncommon for me; up until that point I had needed to be in the office nearly every week for one crisis or another. I was thrilled that they finally had confidence in my pregnancy. That day they changed my chart to read "est. OB/14 wks" instead of "est. patient/new OB". I had become more than a woman who had missed a few periods, it was an indisputeable fact - a baby. Still...I was concerned. In the car on the way home I asked Willis how I was supposed to get used to not hearing from my baby every week? How will I know that everything is ok?
The incident at 12 weeks was so dramatic, Wednesday night seemed almost benign in comparison. I knew I needed to call the doctor, but decided against the 2:00am call. I stayed up the rest of the night, paced, and waited for the clock to reach 9:00 am. I took a shower, shaved my legs and straightened up around the apartment - I just had this gut feeling that I was going to the hospital and that I would probably be there for a long time. This was what was going to put me in bed until December, right in line with my mother at 4 months. I called the office at 9:01. Calling earlier would not have changed anything about what happened (in truth, calling earlier would have certainly adversely effected the events of the day) but I will probably regret my lack of action, my complete lack of understanding of what was taking place, for the rest of my life.
What I know now is that my water broke that night, and that the intense cramping I experienced had been contractions, increasing in strength. Since I was asleep when my water broke, the preceding symptoms were extremely vague - it wasn't until we were waiting at the doctor's office that I started to piece them together and I began to realize that something was very wrong. My 10:00am appointment was late - more like 10:45 - and it lasted less than 5 minutes. My doctor looked for a heartbeat and couldnít find one. She did an exam and said "OK, not good. Not good." and things started to move quickly. She told me that I was probably going to lose the pregnancy, she didnít know why. She quickly gave us instructions on getting to labor and delivery and what would happen there, but I was lost. The words were flat, dead things in the air. I could see them more than hear them, I couldnít put them in order. The minute she left the room I felt my heart tear into pieces. I was alternatively stoic and hysterical and must have looked utterly insane. I sat covered in that awful paper sheet and sobbed in Willis's arms.
The rest of the day is a horrifying blur. Because I was 4 months along, I needed to go to labor and delivery and deliver my baby. I was set up in one of the beautiful rooms I had seen on the Reston Hospital website, and tried to forget how just days before I had imagined having a baby in one of those rooms - how Willis would sleep on the terrible fold out couch and be wickedly uncomfortable but never complain, and how proud my mother would look sitting in the rocking chair with her first grandchild. The hospital would have been decorated for Christmas.
When I describe the specific events that followed in real life I feel mechanical and detached, like I am describing the events from someone elseís story that I read in the paper. I wont post those things here because I donít know how I could ever cope with reading them, or even seeing them written down. It was the worst day of my life.
I signed a paper listing the time of death as the time of delivery, though I know in truth it happened before that. I tried to focus on the date and time but couldnít make sense of the information on the page. That morning weíd had a baby and a future, now we had callous piece of paper and minutes to make decisions about the remains of what was, more than likely, our little girl. I only remember the date, Willis remembers the time. One day I will probably ask him what it was.
There are still so many questions to be answered, the most obvious being...why? Why did this happen, and happen so late?
The thing is, as hopeless as that question seems to be, its the thousands of smaller questions that pull me apart.
What am I supposed to do with my Babies R Us gift card from the youth group?
When will something other than my maternity clothes fit and, until they do, how can I go into public looking like I am still pregnant?
What am I supposed to say to people who want to help me, when I know that I am so far beyond help? How can I answer people who ask how I am, when I know that they donít really want to know the ugly truth?
How long can I go without sleep?
When December comes and goes without a baby, how will I cope?
How can I go on living in this apartment knowing that we moved here just months ago to accomodate our baby? Will filling the nursery with music fill up anything but...space?
How will I ever go back to living my life?
How do I convince myself to continue breathing.
When I found out I was pregnant I felt like I was in a race with December 20th. I didnít know how we would get it all done - the weeks flew by and the remaining 5 months seemed impossibly small to prepare for a new life. Now I feel like the year has stretched out before me, a minefield of birthdays and holidays that will now be missing the promise of a child - a family. I feel so indescribably hollow - as if my soul is lying in pieces all around me but I cant remember enough about what it should look like to put it back together. The hurt is so deep, so thorough and complete, that it allows no spare part of my being to feel anything else.
I have been told that there will be good days and bad days, so we are taking it one day at a time. When there start to be good days we will take it one week at a time and hope for good weeks. In the mean time, if I tell you I am OK, Iím just...not. I need time to learn what OK means in this alternate version of my life I that I must come to accept. I know that time is a healer and that eventually we will both get through this and will be stronger and better people for it. I know the things that need to happen before I can try to get pregnant again and that proactively pursuing these things will give me a purpose to rally my strength behind. I know that I will never forget my baby - how she surprised us, how we loved her so completely from the very beginning, or the spectacular failure of my womb that did not allow her to come into this world.
I know we will survive.
But for the moment I have not found a way to salvage my heart and, until I do, it will ache and throb and bleed everyday for the precious life I never expected, for the life I must now somehow learn to live without.
my sweet baby...I'm so, so sorry
(I should start this entry by acknowledging that 8 years ago today, Willis and I went on our first date. Last year on this day, I wrote this. Willis - it is a terrible thing that this anniversary will never pass again without us remembering the little girl we lost, just barely a week ago. I hope you know how much it has meant for me to be able to grieve with you, not silently and alone the way so many women do under these circumstances. I hope you can understand how you are healing me by loving even this wreckage of me, in spite of how defective and unlovable I feel. That is what this entry should be about, but I just don't have that in me yet. I wrote this instead - I know you will understand. I love you, I love you, I love you.)
So far, we have made it through one week. A lot has changed, much more has not.
Last weekend was difficult. Several weeks (months?) ago we made plans for my friend Lexi (who had her baby last December - he was born 12/20/2005 - a year exactly before my due date) to come and stay with us. She was flying in at an absurd hour Friday night and I had not planned to actually see her until Saturday - as it turned out I was awake when she arrived and for hours after. She had some business to tend to and I was looking forward to going with her and being a distraction from the parts of her task that were unpleasant. I was showing enough to feel comfortable making my first trip to Babies R Us and we made plans to go as it was the only chance for us to go together before the baby was born.
Needless to say the weekend didn't quite go that way. While I was in the hospital, and everyone was desperately looking for something to talk about other than the obvious elephant in the room, the fact that she was coming for the weekend was a popular topic of discussion. The general consensus was that her coming would be a welcome diversion and I was convinced. What I did not expect was that as we rounded the 24 hour mark Friday evening, I was as distraught as I had ever been in my life. The events of the previous day came out of nowhere and hit me like a truck. Though I was asked repeatedly if I was OK with the arrangement, and several offers were extended to change it, I was sure it would help more than hurt. In retrospect, I am not sure I did anyone any favors by insisting she stay with me.
The date on the previous entry is the Monday the 10th, but it feels like Sunday night. I started writing at 3:00 am after waking up from a horrible, red faced nightmare for about the 4th time. The entry took me about 3 1/2 hours to write, and I was immediately glad that I was able to write down my observations of what I assumed would be the lowest part of my despair. Later that day I entered the eye of the storm. I was extremely encouraged but by Tuesday morning it had regrouped and it seemed to be swirling around me as I woke up. Since then I have been making slow progress; two steps forward, one step back, occasionally finding myself back at the beginning - fortunately not as often anymore. With a little assistance from total exhaustion, a prescription for Ambien has helped me get some sleep and that has helped a great deal. Enough of my appetite has returned for me to eat a meal and actually feel full, though meat seems to be out of the question (I think I have figured out why, please don't ask). I have managed to take a shower every day, which is something I am fairly proud of considering how little I have left the house. I force myself to do it, even it I cant make it happen until 9:00 pm - in the litany of "don'ts" included in my discharge instructions taking a shower was one of the things that was perfectly safe, perfectly human.
Of all the stages of grief, the guilt has been the most pronounced. I knew it was coming, of course. I feel guilty about the loss of the baby. I feel like it was my fault. I feel like I should have tried to correct the problems with my uterus before getting pregnant, like I should have known, though the doctors did not, that it would cause the placenta not to develop properly. I feel guilty that the baby did not live long enough for her father to get to know her, if only through kicks and hiccups. I feel I should have known that the baby had died, instead of playing my iPod for her because the email newsletter said that she was starting to be able to hear me. I feel like I should have known something - I was her mother...how could I not have known something was wrong?
But these feelings are not surprising, even to me.
What is surprising is the paranoia - this intense fear that the rest of the world is tapping their foot waiting for me to get over this and get on with life. On Monday someone from my office called while I was taking a nap, probably to ask something inane. I immediately freaked out because I felt like that was a sign that they clearly didn't understand why I was out - why I needed the rest of the week off. My mother called earlier this week and asked what I had done that day - I had no answer to that, and I felt guilty about not having an acceptable accomplishment for the day. Why? It has only been a week, surely I am entitled to more time than this to find myself again.
As bizarre at it may seem, I am searching back in the past for the secrets to pulling myself out of this depression. There has only been one other time in my life when I felt this bad, this hopeless. Until now I really couldn't remember specific things about how that felt, all I knew was the way that I have described it to people since- waking up every morning with nothing to look forward to. The other day I realized that I could say the same thing about my feelings now and I realized how similar things are now to that dark time before. I had suffered a profound loss that I could not make anyone else understand, and I believe the same is true of my situation now.
I know that several of you who read this have known me a long time and are familiar, at least on some level, with the events to which I refer. I am not looking for anyone's opinions on this comparison - I know that aside from my sense of loss the two situations are completely incomparable. It doesn't matter because, believe it or not, this association makes me feel better. It is comforting to know that when I was faced with despair before, I was able find my way out of it. In fact, eventually I was able to do a lot of things that did not seem possible at the time. While I was going through it I could not foresee a time when I could ever be happy again or go a day without remembering the hurt - I was wrong. I hardly ever think about that time anymore, and I have certainly been happy - so, very happy...and I will be again. I know it will take time and I know this hurt is different. I know this is something I must incorporate into my life and that I will never look back on this, as I do the other situation, and think that everything that happened was for my greater good. I will never gain enough perspective on this to believe that it happened for a reason - it just happened - and surely, life goes on.
On Monday, I go back to work - back to reality. I think I will be ready, but I am giving myself permission not to be - we'll just see how it goes.
On Tuesday, I go back to the doctor and frankly I'm not sure what to expect. This is a somewhat bittersweet appointment because this was scheduled to be my 18 week appointment - I should be hearing a heartbeat and talking about fetal movement. Instead, I will be going back on birth control because I can not risk another pregnancy until we can fix...me, I guess.
I wish I could say that this journal was going to be about anything else, anytime soon. I feel like when I can write about it, I should - and maybe one day I will sit down to write something snide and snarky about my job and know that things are almost back to normal.
I went for my first "postpartum" appointment today.
Why do they call it that anyway? Why not just call it what it is in cases like mine: "the appointment after everything went to crap".
The appointment should have been at 3 - it was at least 3:30 before I was taken back, and on the way back to the exam room the nurse told me that my doctor might need to run over to the hospital and that they may need to reschedule my appointment. In the 20 minutes it took for my doctor to come in to see me, I got to hear her through the wall taking another woman through her 18 week exam. Apparently, everything was perfect - good heartbeat, good fetal movement, good weight gain. As I sat there listening to the doppler echo through the wall I was flooded with every single emotion that wrecks me...that should have been my appointment - my baby. My little girl would have been 18 weeks old tomorrow.
When she did come in I knew I wasn't going to have the nice long discussion about my situation that I was hoping for. She asked how I was and I told her the truth - better than yesterday but so much worse than I was on July 5th. I told her that the blood pressure medication that she put me on had dropped my blood pressure down to around 80/40 on several occasions and that I didn't want to take it anymore, but of course the reading they got on me in the office was 140/92, so I stay on it. She quickly gave me the last name of an ob/gyn at Virginia Hospital Center and said that physicians who specialize in surgeries like the one I need don't always accept insurance. Even if they do, the insurance company may not cover any treatment at all with only one (only one???) loss under my belt.
Then a nurse knocked on the door and told her that she was desperately needed over at the hospital to deliver a baby. I tried very hard to remember that it was not that long ago that she was running out the door to meet me at the hospital, how grateful I was for her attentive care that day, and how many women probably had to sit and wait and be rescheduled. But I couldn't, I felt so abandoned. I asked her quickly about going back on birth control - she looked at me like I had a third eye and shoved some samples into a bag. I immediately felt guilty because I felt like the urgency with which I had asked her about the pill made me sound like I didn't want another pregnancy, or that I was relieved that this one had ended.
If I'd had another minute with her I would have explained that I can't be trusted with birth control that I can make snap decisions about. I wanted my December baby with every fiber of my being and I want another pregnancy...I just know that if I get pregnant again before addressing the problems that resulted in the death of this baby I could come back to this dark place all over again (assuming that I ever leave it). I know that eventually the thought will occur to me, as it has at least once before, that if I am meant to get pregnant God will protect me and our baby and that we should let nature take its course. I need to know that I cant decide last minute, that it will take months of planning. I am scared that my sense of emptiness will put a future child at risk, afraid that I wont be able to repress my selfish need to be pregnant again - right now. I wish I had been able to tell her all of that.
I didn't get a chance to mention that I still cant sleep. She never did an exam.
I feel more lost than ever. After months of getting almost undivided attention from the staff of this office I feel like I have been shoved aside - like I have been pushed out of a vehicle and now I donít know where I am or how to get back to something I recognize. I realized today, as the receptionist asked me if I needed to make another appointment - and I didn't - that I am just a patient again.
Sometimes I feel like I am losing my mind, like the last 4 months didn't happen to anyone but me. At work everything goes on normally, my doctors are business as usual, the pregnant women at my church get closer and closer to their due date, my family is celebrating birthdays and anniversaries...and I donít know where I fit in with any of it anymore. It didn't happen immediately, but it didn't take long for me to surrender my life plan to the little one growing inside of me. One day I didn't know what I was going to do, the next day it didn't matter. Everything about me changed overnight - I was going to be a mother. Everything about how I saw the rest of my life was tied up in this little girl, and every time we had a crisis and ran to an ultrasound just to see her waving and bouncing around I allowed myself to believe that it was really happening - she was really going to make it.
I know, I know Ė its been a long time. It isnít so much that Iíve been busy, just that I havenít been motivated to spend time on my thoughts and feelings here. I am a little disappointed in myself for that Ė in the beginning my grand plan for healing was to blog as much as possible. Around the time of my last entry I began to feel so lost that, to me, what I could not make others understand I would keep as my own private property. These are just random thoughts I have been mulling around for a few weeks...some of them are pretty raw. I couldn't really stand to turn any of them into their own entry.
On the whole, I feel better. I still suffer the wrath of hormones surging in and out of my body, and wish I felt a little more stable. I still keep track of what would have been my progress - 20 weeks, 3 days - and visit message boards I used to frequent to see how everyone elseís pregnancies are going. I still have to remind myself to stay on task at work. I still struggle to remember that while the wounds are fresh for me, most everyone else has moved on and that I cant justify my irrational feelings forever.
But like I said, I feel better. I laugh more, I cry less. I spend less time reading loss stories on the internet. I am taking on new job responsibilities at work, and I am actually looking at youth musicals for next spring. All in all, very good things.
I wish could see to a point in life when I will start to see myself in current tense.
I wonder if I will ever grow out of grieving the experiences I wont have, or resenting the things that are now possible in my life without a child.
spin me round again
and rub my eyes
this can't be happening
Iíd heard that experiencing this particular kind of loss gives you a deep sense of mortality. Iím not sure how I have been effected on that level. I have experienced loss before, and I know I will again. I am all too aware that our lives are fragile. I believe with all of my heart that my angel was born into heaven Ė I rejoice that the horrible things of this world will never touch her. Still.
The days weigh so heavy on me. I feel time in a way I never expected, like my life has been measured out so specifically that I can sense each moment chipping away. Every morning I wake up keenly aware that I have less time ahead of me than I had the morning before, and yet I feel no sense of urgency from that awareness.
On a family vacation once, I fell off of a merry go round when the ride was just starting. My cousins were encouraging me to get back on - the ride wasnít spinning all that fast and I wasn't hurt that badly. I stood there on the side trying to devise a strategy to get back on but instead I just ended up watching my empty horse go around and around thinking that I would grab on the next revolution, knowing that with every turn the ride was closer to ending.
In the past weeks I feel like I have been bombarded with news of people terminating their pregnancies for a variety of reasons. I have been pro-choice all of my life and yet...my ears ring when I hear these stories.
mm what d'ya say?
that you only meant well (well of course you did)
mm what d'ya say?
that it's all for the best (of course it is)
mm what d'ya say?
that it's just what we need (you decided this?)
I know this song that I am quoting has nothing to do with me, but it seems to. These lines above - they remind me of the conversations that I seem to have with everyone these days. Specifically, about 3 days after the miscarriage I had a conversation with my mother where she tried to convince me that things donít happen without reason - that there was a purpose behind my loss, that it was "all for the best". I was so mad at her, even though I knew that it was her own defense mechanism. I knew that she needed to believe that to pull through her own grief. I am still mad at her for forcing me to acknowledge anything positive about the loss, I know that is probably a defense mechanism of my own.
I didnít mention it here before, but the process of delivering the baby was the most physically painful experience I have ever endured. When I first got to the hospital they were going to give me an epidural so that I wouldnít have to endure the physical as well as the emotional pain. I was planning to take the shot but in the end, there wasnít time. I am grateful for that because I feel like it needed to hurt - it should have hurt.
Today I bought a ring with the December birthstone. As hard as December will be, I would rather remember a season that should have been her birth instead of dwelling on the date of her death. I donít need another reason to hate the summer anyway.
My mother will tell me that I didnít need this jewelry, that it will only make me sad to see it, that it will keep the wound fresh. Well, OK, maybe it will. Whenever I heal, however long it takes, I want to heal properly. I donít want to heal over infection - I want the wound open until it is ready to close and if there is a scar, so be it. It is a beautiful scar.
I sit here and read your story, with misty eyes. I am glad to hear that you are doing better (laughing more and crying less anyways).
I would be remiss if I didn't comment on how truly eloquent and well-spoken you are. I can feel your emotions through your words, and thank you so much for taking the time to explain your journey so far.
I wish you happiness, peace. Strength is something you clearly have, so I will not wish that for you.
I still can't get over how beautifully you wrote such a difficult thing. I truly am awed.
Thank you again so much, and best best warmest wishes for you and Willis.