Spring

The wild lilies are back!

Carpets of them in between the trees, coming up through all the dead leaves and pine needles, the bare dirt, the grass, and even in a pile of dirt that was dug up and tumbled around a lot.

Last fall I put in a bunch of plants that had all gone dormant and been cut down before I bought them; it looked like I was planting dead sticks. Since there wasn’t enough snow this year, I’ve been looking out for months on brown, not quite believing that anything I planted last fall would grow.

And now? Green. Tiny green leaves, spiky ones, round ones, ruffly ones. Red ones on trees. The tiniest imaginable white and brown buds on shrubs, ready to grow into something leafy and berried and alive. And dandelions and violets and wild strawberries blooming white and yellow in the grass.

It makes it a little easier to believe that this squirmy, wiggly 25-weeks-along baby growing inside me will actually be born, safely and alive.

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Analogy Project: Stuck in Traffic

For us, infertility treatment (or more generally, MY LIFE) was like being stuck in traffic. Do something, wait, do something else. Inch forward. Get a few car lengths further. Wait. Inch forward. Wait. Let someone pull in in front of you. Try to see around the bend or over the hill how long the backup is. Search for a radio station with traffic reports to see if they can tell you something. Speed up for a minute, then slow back down again.

Inject, wait for the stinging to go away, have ice cream. Get monitored, wait for the instructions, follow them. (Be a good girl and do what you’re told. But that’s probably the subject for another post.)

Call the insurance company, wait, call again to find out what (incorrect) fax number they’ve been using. And then look up and think, “crap, I’m a month older than I was before this started. What will that do to my numbers?”

Get the eggs out. Wait. Find out how many fertilized. Wait. Put them back. Wait. Get a blood test. Wait. And then look up and think, “it’s been a month, how did that happen?”

Miscarry. Have a D&C. Wait for three months. Wait for your next period to start. Wait through this IVF cycle. Wait for the beta. And then it’s been half a year since the last cycle and you wonder how the time passed so quickly.

You can’t control the traffic. By the time you get where you’re going, it might be over and you don’t get to go. Or you might just arrive a little late, and then the drive will just have been an inconvenience. And you won’t know until the end which it was.

Will we ever get a live baby out of this? If we get one, will it be too late for another?  Will this work before my practice says I’m too old to do another IVF?

You can’t do anything else while you’re in the car. You can’t pull off the highway and wait until the traffic passes, because by the time you’d get to the exit, the wait might be over anyway. You can’t work in the garden or paint a room or bake peanut butter cookies. You can just think and listen to the radio and talk to whoever’s in the car with you and maybe knit sometimes.

I wouldn’t buy clothes–I didn’t want to spend too much money on something I might only be able to wear a few times. I wouldn’t try make new friends–I didn’t want to start a new yoga class while I was shooting up/recovering from surgery/two inches from tears/exhausted/trying to catch up from the work I didn’t do because of the cycle. I didn’t make plans to go to a conference 7 months away because I was supposed to be giving birth then.

And then I looked up after three years in a new city and realized that I don’t have any friends here that I see outside of work, and all of my clothes are really cheap, and I haven’t been able to work on any long-term projects.

The waiting wasn’t the only reason for doing or not doing things in the rest of my life, but it was a big one. Every time I put something off for a week or two weeks or a month, it seemed like a very short-term delay. Only those delays added up to years out of my life while I wasn’t even looking.

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News

Well. I never planned to do this, but I think this is going to partly become a pregnancy blog. Yes, I’m pregnant. Twenty-one weeks and holding, and it’s been a hell of a roller coaster. I’ve got a novel-length post in the Drafts bin that I’m not sure I’ll put up in its current form, but for now, it’s been a lot harder than I thought, feeling confident about this pregnancy.

I definitely have PTSD as a result of my first pregnancy (well, its end, anyway), and it is making it easy to be anxious and hard to be happy. We have had lots of reasons this time around to be anxious (aside from the usual ones), but that is definitely the subject for another post. For now, it’s enough to say that every scare has resolved itself, every test and milestone has been met and passed with flying colors, and really, we have every reason to think that we’ll get a real live healthy baby out of this. Yay!

But today, today I am just tired. I have a cold, I was running around on what was supposed to be a quiet week, the husband is working 90 minutes away all day today, tomorrow, and Sunday, and I am on orders to “rest” until an(other) ultrasound on Monday because of some very faint but very real spotting of old blood. That most likely means that whatever caused it has already happened, and we might never know what it was, and that’s OK.

The little one’s heartbeat is right on target, and I can feel it bumping into me like a fish swimming in my abdomen. It tickles, and it’s utterly reassuring. And really? This is the least scary of the scares so far.

Warning: serious whininess ahead.

But damn, I. am. tired. I am tired of being scared all the time.

I know what to do to help with that, and I can, and I will, and it will work. I know that about myself, because it’s worked before.

But really. Isn’t it enough yet? Can’t we just have a boring pregnancy from here on out?

Posted in Pregnancy after a traumatic loss | 7 Comments

Gratitude

It’s been two years, and some things look the same, and some look different. Turns out there are a lot of ways the whole thing could have been worse. So, in no particular order, and without a nice concluding paragraph at the end, here are some things I am grateful for:

We didn’t find out the sex. We didn’t name the fetus. It was still a potential baby at this point–17 weeks is just too little to live outside the womb. So it was easier. It was still awful, but it was so different from losing a full-term pregnancy, or a tiny person that we had met and known and named and touched. I think that because of our decisions, we felt like the loss was more “pregnancy” and less “baby” than it might have otherwise.

My milk didn’t come in. 17 weeks, it could have happened. It’s not unusual. But it didn’t, and that was one less source of physical and emotional pain.

I never felt it kick. Everyone, EVERYONE in both hospitals asked me this. I don’t know what they were hoping to hear. Did they want to congratulate me, because they wanted the best? Were they hoping it wasn’t really moving enough, that something identifiable was wrong? Is it just the thing you ask women at the start of the second trimester, so they were asking out of habit? I have no idea.

When I went into the hospital, the pregnancy had just started to feel real to me. I had just barely started to show. It was safe (ha!) to tell people. I was just starting to enjoy it, to be excited instead of waiting for a miscarriage, because of my “advanced maternal age.” So no, I never felt it kick. And if I had–well, I can’t imagine how much worse it would have been.

I didn’t die. I wasn’t actually grateful for this at the time, but that feeling didn’t last long. (Just to be clear, I was not suicidal; I was just so overwhelmed by grief that I wasn’t grateful for much of anything at the time. Except the drugs.) Later, when I started pulling myself out of isolation, I realized how much I did not and do not want to die.

Legal abortion. Really, there are people out there who would have preferred that I die, leaving my husband in mourning not just for a pregnancy that ended, but also for his wife, because they think that there are no circumstances under which it is OK to end a pregnancy.  None. It makes me shiver to think about it.

My salary was covered for the months I was out of work. I didn’t have to struggle every day to think, “can I manage to go back to work next week?” so we could pay our bills. I just had to get better, and I had as much time as I needed.

My Midwest Friend’s ability to ask the right questions and listen. At that point, she had had two miscarriages. She asked me specifics and could compare them to her own–procedures, drugs, timing, feelings. She was the one who helped me realize that what happened to me was worse than having a miscarriage, both physically and emotionally. I know lots of women who have miscarried, but I don’t know know (and at the time couldn’t find on line) anyone else who had to end a pregnancy to save her own life. I was so deep into my grief that I wasn’t really seeing the “I almost died” part. That came later, and I think it has in some ways had a bigger impact on me than losing the pregnancy.

The very conservative treatment I received at the Catholic hospital. Before I was transferred, they gave me 3 units of blood. If I hadn’t had that, the sudden hemorrhage after I arrived at the second hospital would have been even more dangerous than it was. I know there was disagreement among the doctors about whether having me lie flat with my feet slightly above my head was really necessary. Turns out it was, because the initial diagnosis of a full placenta previa was not correct. I was just bleeding, a lot, for no apparent reason, and sitting up could have made it start up again. That would have been less likely with a previa.

Posted in Reflecting | 1 Comment

Post-procedure

Waking up from the surgery was just weird. Even though it must have been sometime in the early afternoon, it felt like night. The recovery ward was dim, curtains pulled around me on three sides, and there was a woman who sounded very old who kept waking up and calling out because she didn’t know what was going on.

I remember the nurse helping me sit up, and the shock that I was allowed to after so long lying flat on my back. No reason to try to suppress the bleeding anymore.

I felt so crappy I didn’t even want to see my husband. And then I did want to see him, and the nurse went to get him, and it seemed to take forever, and I remember telling myself that it’s OK, someone is getting him, they know I want to see him, he’ll get here as soon as he can. And then he was there! I don’t remember what he said, or what I said, and he doesn’t, either. It’s probably better that way.

I spent the night in recovery. Dr K. came to see me–the resident who had done the procedure.  I think I remember being relieved that I could be moved to a regular room in the morning. And that’s kind of when reality started to set in.

The first night in the regular room, a nurse came in to ask how I felt. I said it was wrong–I’m supposed to take care of it, not the other way around. She said a baby can’t live without it’s mama. And she was right. And I am so grateful that she said that to me, in those words, directly. She told me my milk might come in, something that hadn’t occurred to me, and said that even though it would feel good, don’t use heat. Ice packs.

The next morning my husband came to the hospital, and left, and came back. Doctors and nurses came in and out. A social worker came to tell us what our options were for the remains. Options? Remains? That was a shock; we had no idea we’d get options at all.

When the supervising MD came in, all I wanted to know was when we could try again.

That morning, about a day after it was over, I finally got to be unhooked from everything–no more transfusions, no more catheter. It was a huge relief after so many days of being tethered to plastic bags and pumps and machines. Standing up for the first time in five days felt awful. I was weak and dizzy and pumped full of fluid. The nurse had helped me to a chair one step from the bed, and I practiced standing up, then sitting down again.

The second morning I was discharged. Before we left, Dr. K came up with a little yellow blanket and asked if we wanted it. She said the nurses in the OB ward make them for women who lose their babies. I said yes, because we didn’t have any baby things at home. I am still surprised at how much comfort it brought me. When it was time to leave, I couldn’t fit into the clothes I’d asked for–ironically, I was bigger than when I had been pregnant.

So then we went home, to try to start to live again.

Posted in Uncategorized, What happened | 4 Comments

The Day I Played a Patient on “ER”

This post has been sitting in my Drafts folder for almost exactly two months. Guess what? I have *SO* not wanted to think about this. More than I realized. But two months is enough, and I’ve been feeling really great recently, so here goes.

So I got there, to the secular hospital.  Short ambulance ride, husband driving separately. Funny how I don’t even remember him not being there.

The OB nurse made some comment to another nurse about how they sent me over with an inch-thick pile of paper records in a rubber band. Like, how else were they supposed to send the records? On a microchip? Then she started checking me in, as if we were pre-registering for a birth. Really, you’re asking me RIGHT THIS MINUTE about circumcision? We have a long way to go before we get to that decision, if we even need to make it.

This hospital doesn’t automatically go for the stirrups for every exam; just butterfly your knees, and they tilt the head of the bed up. So that’s what they did, to a degree that seemed dangerously steep after all that time on my back. Someone, maybe a new nurse or a med student, she seemed really young, tried to get a look; there were a lot of clots. Tried again, said something to the other woman nearby, left the room.

And then like magic there were a dozen people in the room doing things to me. Later, my husband said there were plastic parts flying all over the place. They changed out my IVs (still had two, one on each arm), put an oxygen mask on me, asked what I’d had for breakfast, how much I weighed. They gave me suppositories to make my cervix dilate.

I bled so much so fast I felt lightheaded and thought I was going to throw up. (I didn’t.) I remember saying so, and someone holding a basin in front of my mouth.

I tried to stay calm and breathe and relax. In some ways, I think it worked; I don’t remember any pain when they were changing my IVs. I didn’t panic. I don’t even know if I was crying. I was just so busy trying to breathe.

I remember telling the resident that I didn’t want to have to make the decision about whether to terminate or not. I was just not capable of making that choice, not when there wasn’t an emergency.

The whole thing was kind of surreal.

Then I was, apparently, stable; the one OB in my part of the state who is qualified to do second trimester terminations came in to talk to me. The resident told her then what I’d said, about not wanting to be the one to decide to terminate. “It looks like we’re heading that way,” she said to me.

They said “dad” (a.k.a. my husband, who, like me, has no children) could come say goodbye. He was so calm. At least he looked that way to me. He smiled, or at least I like to imagine he did. (I mean, he’d just watched me NOT DIE, so I guess he had a good reason to smile.) He told me to think of this little silly thing our dog does when he’s happy; it made me laugh. And I did think of it, until I was mercifully unconscious, and it did help. Somehow. I guess because our dog is wonderful and it kept me from having to think of anything else.

And then we went to the OR. Someone held my hand on the way there; it helped. They lifted me off of the bed to a table. I vaguely remember how cold I was. The OR had crazy-bright lights that someone apologized for, and I was shivering. Like, my entire body was shaking. I kept thinking, they know I’m cold, I told them, they can see me, they’ll do something as soon as they can. And then I was out.

I found out later that it wasn’t an easy procedure. It took about an hour, about twice as long as it would under normal circumstances–“normal” meaning non-emergency, no hemorrhage, and a couple of days of cervical dilation. I got 4 units of blood transfused during the procedure. Then I had two more units after the surgery before my numbers were up to what they should be and I could make enough of my own blood again. For reference, people have about 12 units in their body at any time.   So yes, that day, that hour, I lost half the blood in my body. Crap.

It’s been two years. I went into the first hospital a few days after the earthquake in Haiti, so of course it was all over the news then, and it’s been in the news a lot this week, too. I couldn’t stand to watch it then–I needed distraction, not disaster. And I can’t take it now, either, because it sends me right back to where I was two years ago.

Where my mind goes is, “I almost died.” And it’s true, if some little things had happened a little differently, I probably would have. But that’s not the important part. It’s where my  mind wants to go, but it’s not where I want my mind to stay.

The important part, the place I have to keep taking myself to, is that I didn’t die. I’m alive right now. I didn’t die. Even as I’m sitting here typing this, I have to keep saying, “It’s OK. I didn’t die.”

And as dramatic an ending as that last sentence would be, I do have to say that most of the time I don’t think about it. I don’t want to give the impression that I spend my life in this place, because I don’t. Just once in a while, like when I’m writing about it.

Posted in What happened | 1 Comment

One Last Look

I’m kind of wondering how long I’ll drag this out before I get to the traumatic part. I mean that medically, the acute bleeding, coding part. It’s coming soon! I promise! Bleah. Anyway.

The plan became one more ultrasound, then an ambulance ride to the secular hospital. I guess I knew what might be likely to happen there, at least in terms of the pregnancy ending, because that morning I just kept thinking, “This might be the last time I’ll get to see it.”

We had one of those ultrasound techs who looks like she’s smoked a lot, probably younger than her hairstyle indicates, who seems to love her job and usually can get those fetuses to move to exactly the right spot by sheer force of will.

She was really comforting just by being herself.

I guess the purpose was to check one more time that everything internally was the same, before I left, but the personal purpose was harder. It was the chance for both me and my husband to see it one more time.

The tech kept trying to get a face shot, but the little critter wasn’t cooperating. Really, though, I just do not get ultrasounds, so I probably wouldn’t have seen anything more than a blob. What she did get was better–a perfect profile of the fetus with its knees pulled up under it, its little baby butt sticking out. I actually got to see it as a baby for the first and only time.

It’s pretty sweet.

Posted in What happened | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments