October 10, 2016

Everything They Didn't Tell You

Today is Monday and I've just dropped the kids off at school.  Today seems like any ordinary Monday in the Fall.  Emeryn argued over what to wear to school.  Havyn was late to Latin after a spirit wear debate thrown at me 15 minutes before we were supposed to leave.  I just finished my morning workout before starting a week long to-do list.  But, I'm hiding something and leaving out a lot.

I woke up this morning at 4:30 am after dreaming about a baby.  It was small and sweet and I was struggling to nurse it.  I touched my stomach, sighed, and tried to fall back asleep. Over an hour went by and a million thoughts were flowing through my mind.  At 7 am, Emeryn woke me up again and we rushed off to school in a hurry. My emotions were maxed out from the argument earlier and I was upset this is how we were starting the week.  Once Havyn was out of the car and into the school building, Emeryn and I sat in the car quietly.  I started by apologizing and tried to reason with her explaining that it's not fair that she makes Havyn late all the time and that a person's exterior doesn't define who they are.  I told her I was saddened by her recent attitude with me and that an obedient child doesn't yell at their Mamma and says "yes Ma'm" and does as they're told.  I started crying just a bit when I said what hurts me the most is that if her sister and brother were here right now, she wouldn't even care about what she was wearing for spirit day.

Today, I would have been 40 weeks pregnant with my third child. There are so many things I didn't know I'd be thinking about for the last 9 months. My intentions of this post are to share what I've been feeling so that if you have been in my situation, or know someone that shared a loss, then you can relate to or understand the complexity of emotions you deal with daily.  This is my story...

For starters, if you don't already know me, let me tell you a bit about myself.  I'm 37,  I have two girls aged 9 and 7, both of which were delivered naturally without complications.  My profession is holistic healthcare and I practice what I preach.  I am fit, athletic, don't drink or smoke and I'm very mindful of my health and body.  I conceived in January of 2016 after swearing  I'd never have anymore kids when my girls were much younger.  But, for the past few years, I've been wavering on that decision and had finally talked my hubby, Jeremy, into trying in December one last time.  I was elated and extremely excited to see the positive pregnancy test!

Being pregnant with my other two was very stressful.  I was young and selfish and newly married. We had tons of debt from school and Jeremy was still in school acquiring more debt.  About all we had then were four walls, a lot of stress and no money, but we made it work.  Where I had complained about weight gain and was very negative with my two previous pregnancies, I was ready to face all the good and the bad parts of being pregnant with nothing but positivity.  This time, I knew what to expect, I had plenty of space and we both had good jobs.  Not only that, but we were stronger as a family and the difficulty of having a new baby would be managed better than before.  But I wasn't ready for the negativity associated with friends and family upon the discovery of my third pregnancy.  I forgot about the idiotic diarrhea of the mouth...
"Should I say congratulations or uh oh?"
"What were you thinking?  Two are expensive enough!"
"Don't you have to get mandatory genetic testing at your age?"
"I thought you said you were done! Was this on purpose?"
Those are just a few of the comments I dealt with.  On the other hand, the girls were ecstatic!  I took a video of them finding out.  I haven't watched it since I told them back in February.  I'm sure seeing it will be difficult since I feel anxiety just thinking about it.

Since I never dealt with serious complications before, I wasn't worried about a loss.  My sister and sister-in-law had just announced that they would both be due with their first children at the end of June this year and I was excited to be in their little circle.  After I told my sister, we started stocking up on diapers together.  I went through all my old baby clothing and started pulling neutral items since we had decided we weren't going to find out the sex until birth.  I packed away all my winter clothing items since I knew I would't fit into them by October and I separated all my baby toys into three piles to distribute between my sister, sister-in-law and myself. I started on a prenatal regiment way better than I was on with the girls and I was the happiest I had been in a long time.

8 weeks
The girls were so much fun too.  I describe being pregnant while having older children like seeing something for the first time again.  It's like having been to Disney World before, but going to Disney World with your kids.  You see and feel and experience things for the first time through their eyes.  This was no different.  I loved this little baby inside of me only a fraction of how much the girls loved the baby.  Havyn wanted the baby to have her room so she had started moving her belongings into one of the guest rooms before I could say no.  They drew the baby pictures to hang in its room and wrote notes to give it after it was born.  They started lists for names and were even sweeter than normal.  My house was so full of love that you couldn't help but feel like you were living in a fairy tale.

I always gain a lot of weight in the first trimester of my pregnancies and this time was no different.  I had already put on 15 lbs by the 12th week and was wearing maternity pants.  This baby was all belly where the girls had caused me to gain the weight in my hips.  I was taking maternity photos every couple of weeks and I felt really good still.  The midwife said the baby's heartbeat was in the 160's and I wasn't sick at all. Havyn never gave me morning sickness and this baby was being easy on me too.  I was tired but so full of joy and feeling blessed that I didn't mind how everything seemed a little harder rushing the girls from practices and keeping up with their school.

10 weeks
12 weeks
At 14 weeks, everything changed.  I had been really sick the week before and didn't even manage to get out of bed for a coupe of days.  I felt like I had the flu and didn't take any prescription medications because that's not something I would ever do.  I even swore I felt some movement so I was thinking twins after taking to a friend of mine that is an OB.  She suggested I get an ultrasound and come in to see her so I scheduled one the next day.  Jeremy met me at the girls' soccer practice and we went as a family to "see the baby".  I laid down on the US table and was so so excited to share this experience with the girls.  The tech asked the kids to go get me a cup of water a few minutes later and as soon as they walked out of the room, she said, "I'm sorry.  There's no heartbeat."  I can't even begin to describe what was going through me after hearing those words.

I kept my composure, mainly because I was in shock.  As a family, we walked out to the car and the kids were giggling back and forth and asking to see the images in the car.  Once we were loaded up, I turned to face the kids in the rear and said, "I have some bad news about the baby."  Havyn looked at me with tears running down her face like she knew what I was going to say.  She's such a sensitive kid and barely cried as a baby and it hurt so bad seeing her heart broken.  As the words spilled off my lips, the car filled with screams from Emeryn.  She was kicking the seat and thrashing about and shaking her head screaming "NO, NO, NO!!  This was all for NOTHING!!!".  The car ride too and from the office were radically different.  I walked in the door, and started emailing teachers, soccer coaches, work and called my OB as well as my midwife and family.  I was in GO mode and it's what kept me calm through the night and into the morning to drop the kids off at school.

When I returned to a quiet empty house free of children and a spouse, I lost it.  The silence and being alone was too much for me to handle.  I arrived to work late and pushed through the day seeing patients until my OB appointment because I needed to keep my mind busy.  As I sat in the waiting room waiting to be seen by the doctor, a woman returned to the office with her newborn baby for a post delivery checkup.  The baby let out a small cry, a sound so different from an older baby, and I became overwhelmed with emotion.  I literally began sobbing and couldn't pull myself together, no matter how many people were staring at me wondering if I had gone crazy.  The next few hours went by quickly.  I was called back, the ultrasound findings were confirmed, I was labeled as missed abortion, they scheduled for an emergency surgery the next morning and I drove home.  I remember nothing from the rest of that day other than eating a salad with blue cheese that evening and crying over how I may be infecting the baby with listeria because it couldn't really be dead.

The next morning, Jeremy took me to the hospital and I sobbed again for the last time while pregnant as I dressed in a hospital gown.  I recalled the last time I had worn a hospital gown was when I was giving birth to Emeryn.  I said goodbye to Jeremy, stared up at the lights in the operating room and when I woke up, I was no longer pregnant.  And that... that was the least difficult part of the entire pregnancy with baby #3.

I wanted to know whether I lost a boy or girl.  I had asked the OB and ultrasound tech but they were unable to tell.  I struggle with that daily.  I wanted to give my baby a name instead of calling it "It" or "the baby".  I wanted to know if my intuition about it being a boy was right or if I was going to have another sweet girl.  I read through my medical records and read how the baby had all ten fingers and toes and that it's foot measured 1cm long looking for clues.  Yeah, that pretty much was just as bad as hearing the baby had no heartbeat. I still looked pregnant on the outside and often, Emeryn would get mad and start crying when she saw my belly.  The girls were both in counseling in addition to talking about it often at home.  I mean, we had just started telling more friends and now we were having to retract everything.  I was embarrassed because I was putting my personal life out there for everyone to know and grief stricken, but had to stay strong for the girls.  My sister-in-law had a baby shower 3 days after the surgery, which I didn't attend for a few reasons.  I recovered fine thanks to several neighbors and friends that brought dinner for my family.  Being on bed rest was awful because I felt fine until I would stand up.  I had lost a lot of blood and got dizzy very easily for the remainder of the week.  It was late April, the weather had turned warm and I couldn't be outside with my family enjoying the sunshine and their company.

A week went by and the grief was really sinking in deep. I called a friend who had several miscarriages and told her how bad I felt for not being a better friend to her through her miscarriages.  I didn't understand then, what I understand now, all too well.  So here's where I start explaining all the things they don't tell you about losing a baby.  I read a few miscarriage books to cope and read several articles.  I've talked about it repeatedly instead of bottling up my emotions, but this is mainly because I had to for the sake of my other kids.  First, something that no one will tell you is that every day is an emotional gamble.  You could relive the same same day everyday and your reaction and thoughts will be different.  For example, my sister would send me selfies of her pregnancy every Monday.  Some days, I was happy for her and other days I wanted to punch her in her pregnant face.  I was trying to still be happy for her and my sister-in-law but I was sad for myself.  One day I can talk about babies and all the pregnancies woes and the next day, I was thinking, "Shut your pregnant mouth and just be thankful you're still knocked up."  You are bipolar every day after losing a baby because you don't know how sensitive you will be to certain stimuli.

Second, no one really understands losing a baby unless they too have lost a baby.  I used to think there wasn't this huge emotional attachment to someone I never knew.  I guess it's more the potential of who they could have been.  I think this is worsened by having other children. It's hard not to wonder if the baby would have been more like Havyn or more like Emeryn or someone completely and unexpectedly different.  When I would try and explain how I was feeling to someone who hadn't experienced a loss, they didn't get it was part of my healing.  Someone even suggested that I "talk to someone" and I couldn't help but look at them bewildered and think, "You are my family. Aren't I talking to you now?".  I don't believe in suppressing emotions with drugs and I had just seen my OB who said that she wished all her patients dealing with a loss of a baby did as well as I was doing.  I'm not crazy!  I'm just sad.  Not inexplicably sad, reasonably sad... sometimes... some days.  You would also be extremely surprised at the number of people who share they have lost a baby when you tell them you have too.  The statistics are 1 in every 5 women loses a baby.  Friends I have known for a long time have just recently shared their loss with me.

Third, you can not control the ridiculous comments people make when you're pregnant and you definitely can't control or predict the absurdities said when you lose a baby.  Things like:
"Now you get to sleep in at least."  to which I say, "I have kids. I quit sleeping 10 years ago."
"You can drink again!" - I don't drink.
"You can always try again."  -Good to know.  I'll just start now. Whoopee.
"It's never too late to try for another."  -Weren't you the one who thought I was "starting late"a few months ago?"
"Well, two is hard enough.  This should be easier for you."  -Yep.  I'm having a party over here.
Stupid.  People are just stupid.  And then there's the whole other opposite end of the spectrum in which people just start ignoring you because they don't know what to say.  Or those that don't want to bring it up so you're just sitting there with this uncomfortable tension between you.

You also don't expect the guilt related to losing a baby.  Tons of guilt.  Guilt over things you didn't know you could even feel guilt about. I took a pregnancy test 11 weeks after losing the baby and it was positive.  I thought I was pregnant again and I had finally accepted Summer was coming and we were making plans at the beach. I was still carrying around an extra 15 lbs that I couldn't seem to lose and wasn't sure if I wanted to be pregnant again.  Two days later, I started my cycle but, simultaneously, felt horribly sad I wasn't pregnant. I still had traces of HcG from the last pregnancy in my system when I took the pregnancy test which gave me the false positive.  I just didn't expect any to still be in my system so long afterwards.
 I did spend several weeks escaping reality at the beach where I did a lot of body surfing. There was guilt over enjoying my time in the rough surf instead of pregnant in the sand, extra miserable from the heat.  There are days when the kids are being more difficult than usual and I doubt my ability to care for another baby.  I was just thinking last week how nice it would be to take a break from the kids this weekend when they have an extra day off of school but, then realized, my due date was this weekend and I felt bad for complaining about wanting some time to myself.
I watched my 7 week old nephew for three days and was exhausted.  I joked that maybe having another baby wasn't such a good idea afterall because I was tired from getting up all night and it was harder than I remembered.  But when I watched him for three days a month later, I recalled how it got easier and wanted him for my own.  I cried a little in private after overhearing the girls playing with him and saying how they wished he was theirs.
There is guilt associated with seeing your children upset about losing a sibling.  I've read in their journals and found where they crossed out "Mamma is pregnant" from the happy moments page and wrote "Mamma lost the baby" on the sad moments page. There are days and sometimes weeks where it doesn't even cross your mind and the suddenly you're hit in the face with a reminder and you have to build yourself back up again. The guilt never goes away and the self doubt doesn't disappear either.  I'm sure it will be easier with time, but for me, the last month approach the due date has been hardest since the initial loss.

No one tells you about the dreams you continue to have or how it feels to see another woman visibly very pregnant when you should be too.  They don't prepare you for packing up baby clothes and returning the baby's room to a guest room.  They definitely don't inform you of the uncertainty of having another baby and whether or not you should return all the boxes of diapers or if you even can. Despite praying and communicating and finding reason in God's plan for me using the cliche of "everything happens for a reason", I still can't make sense of the why.   I don't know what the future holds for us as a family of four. I don't know if we will try again.  I do know life seems really complicated right now and there is a lot going on outside of this unfortunate incident.  I also know that I will be making a small cake this weekend and I will be thinking about how lucky my grandparents are to have met one of their great grandchildren so soon.

1 comment:

  1. This was a beautiful read even though it is heartbreakingly sad as I teared up several times while reading. I have no personal experience with this type of loss but reading your story has made me realize how undeservingly blessed I am and I will try my best to remember this the next time I struggle with my 3 small children and feel like I don't have enough patience and that they are asking too much of me all at one time. Thank you for helping me realize how blessed we all are to have anyone to call us Mommy! I will be praying for you. The hardest prayer I have ever prayed is a Thank You prayer in time of heartbreak. I really feel like God blessed me greatly for humbling myself to thank him for the struggles and the opportunity to grow closer to him and be reminded I am his servant and it is for His will to be done, not mine. A very hard prayer, but worth it! God bless you!