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Posts Tagged ‘Pregnancy Loss’

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As I stated last year, I’m not big on New Year’s Resolutions.  I think they’re generally committed to under duress, or worse yet, under the influence of eggnog and sugar.  And since no judge in the world would be able to hold you accountable for any contracts drafted by the pen of Captain Morgan or Sara Lee, you’re really sort of left in a lurch, with nobody to answer to but your own sorry self.

2010 has been a difficult year sucked ass.  Between my nutso autoimmune disease and my pregnancy losses, my body has had more attention than I generally like for it to have.  And I have found no shortage of people who are chock-full of tips, hints and general advice.  There are only so many times that one person can say, “Yes, that might work.”  Or, “That’s one idea.”  Or, “Sure, give me his card.”  Or, “Please step away from me, kind sir.”

So with that being said (and with nothing more than oatmeal and a possibly-lethal amount of coffee in my system), I have decided to make a December 5th Resolution.  Starting right this minute, anybody who attempts to offer advice about my body¹ will be met with a loud chirping noise, followed by a flick between the eyes, followed by a kick in the ass.

So hear ye!  Hear ye!  Whether you are a friend or a foe; a doctor or a salesperson; a pirate, a poet or a pauper, consider yourself warned.  The non-existent suggestion box is officially closed for business, locked, chained and cast into the deepest depths of the Pacific Ocean.  Got it?  Chirp, flick, kick.  Or maybe flick, chirp, kick.  Or, depending on the obnoxiousness of the advice-giver, kick, kick, flick, flick, kick, chirp.  We’ll see.  The possibilities are endless.  The world is my oyster.  And I prefer my oysters served without a side of shitty advice.²

¹ ie: What my body does or doesn’t do; is or isn’t capable of; does or doesn’t look like; should or shouldn’t behave like, etc…

² Okay, I’m actually allergic to shellfish but let’s just pretend I’m not for the sake of bad analogies.

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Several months ago, my husband and I unearthed my CD collection, which had been in storage for over a year, and I spent a day listening to songs and albums (are they still called albums?!) which I hadn’t heard in too long.  Since my stillbirth in June, I had replayed a bit of the Tori Amos song “Spark” in my head, from her “miscarriage album”, From the Choirgirl Hotel.  She’s convinced she could hold back a glacier.  But she couldn’t keep baby alive… I found that song and played it on repeat, over and over and over and over again.  And then I moved on to “Playboy Mommy.” Then the baby came before I found the magic how to keep her happy… I’ll say it loud here by your grave.  Those angels can’t ever take my place… And then my paranoia began.  I’m superstitious.  I found out in September that I was pregnant again.  I was happy to have another little bean growing in my belly but anybody who has lost a baby knows that the word “excitement” does not come into play in a subsequent pregnancy.  Fear, dread, worry, hope, hope, hope, hope, hope…

People always say that all you need to do to get pregnant and sustain a healthy pregnancy is to relax.  “Just relax and everything will be fine.”  “A friend of mine had tried to get pregnant for 6 years and once she finally relaxed and quit trying, she got pregnant with twins!”  “Your body knows what it’s doing.  Relax.”  “What are the chances that something bad could happen again?  Don’t borrow trouble.”  Guess what?  There’s not enough chamomile tea, aromatherapy bath salts or benzodiazepines on this planet to allow for relaxation during a pregnancy after a loss.  But alas, I stowed my Tori Amos albums away for fear that all that miscarriage talk, all of that looking back instead of forward, might keep me from being able to adequately relax.  I drank my pregnancy tea and slept on my left side.  I kept my hot laptop battery away from my belly and I crossed streets to avoid second-hand smoke.  I took my prenatal vitamins and I stayed far away from lunch meats, soft cheeses and alcohol.  I did everything right.  But I still lost my baby.

If anybody’s keeping score, my three pregnancies have yielded one living child.  I don’t need Rain Man to tell me that those odds are pretty shitty.  Yes, it would seem that the dealer’s got an ace in the hole, but I’m not easily discouraged in the face of being dealt a terrifically dismal hand.  In fact, I have plans of blowing up the fucking casino.

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…Death put on its steel-toed boots and mounted a restless stallion who then jumped on the back of a pissed of rhinoceros who, in turn, hijacked an overheating Mack truck and ran me the hell over.

On June 12th, 11 weeks ago today, I said hello and goodbye to my little girl.  On that day, I saw the very deepest depths of hell and – I’m not gonna lie to you here – the PCA pump of Fentanyl that I had access to during my 30 hours in the hospital was nice.  It is unquestionably easier to deal with the overly-lifelike aspects of life while you’re high as a kite and floating somewhere above your physical body.  When that pump was shut off I was left here on Earth, gravity fully-engaged, with nothing more than an opiate hangover and an empty and confused belly.

I spent the remainder of June and July soaking in the mild early-summer sun and trying to move on.  But I didn’t grieve.  I kept moving and I avoided pregnant women like the plague.  It’s not that I felt anger or jealousy about their pregnancies, it was more that pregnancy no longer brought with it an assumption of coming joy.  When I saw a pregnant woman, my mind was reeling with the knowledge of the things that can and do go horribly wrong.  In the past 11 weeks I have seen countless images of dead babies and each and every one of them is breathtakingly beautiful.  But not in the same way that beauty is assessed by anybody who has not seen their own dead baby.  There are more of us who have witnessed this beauty than you can even imagine and I will not go into the “fairness” of this because, as it all turn out, our mothers were right.  Life isn’t fair.  And although I suppose it’s all relative, there are millions of people in the world who are suffering greater injustices than you or I.  I just heard a story yesterday of a woman in my area who was told that she had advanced stomach cancer.  When the doctor performed the surgery to remove the huge tumor, he found that she was actually just pregnant.  He “removed” the baby without telling her in hopes of covering up his own mistake.  Not all doctors are good and I have learned this lesson in a most unfortunate way.

I have a beautiful, intelligent and loving 4-year-old daughter and she is almost the whole entire world to me.  Watching her sleep is a joy that, prior to knowing her, I didn’t realize existed.  In the grief community, people often say that their baby was “born sleeping.”  I don’t care for this term because, let’s be honest, we would all prefer that our baby be born kicking and screaming, with a beating heart.  Why sugar-coat it?  Many well-meaning people have told me that I’m lucky to have my living daughter.  And I am.  But children are not interchangeable.  Don’t they know that?

Being a mother has a way of tethering us to this earth.  But what happens when one of your children isn’t on this earth?  What then?  I imagine that you’re stuck somewhere between the earth and the sky, in a sort of dyslexic purgatory.

August has been a blur.  Sadness finds me every day and deep sadness brings its own share of physical pain as well.  Apparently our bodies like to remind us that things have been shitty, and that things are pretty shitty still. Thankfully, fall is coming soon and I will be here greeting it with open arms.  I welcome the break from the sunshine and the beginning of the Pacific Northwest’s long rainy season.  I won’t get my baby in October but maybe I’ll get a chance to grieve her in the cool, damp darkness.  Because, as Bob Dylan sang, “I’ve still got the scars that the sun didn’t heal.”

photo, To Write Their Names in the Sand

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My baby girl died. She was alive on Tuesday evening but an ultrasound on Wednesday morning showed that she no longer was. The ultrasound showed a tiny little girl with her legs crossed and her head bowed peacefully – and a flat line where the heart rate should have been. The ultrasound technician cried. A nurse brought me to a room and talked to me while I waited for the doctor. The doctor told me that there was a problem with the placenta.  She told me the name of the problem but it doesn’t really matter what it was. She told me that the problem was evident in my 16-week blood work, that the placenta was aging too quickly. She showed me the lab report that outlined the elevated hormone levels in my blood at 16 weeks. My previous doctor, the one who later was so certain that my baby girl had a chromosomal abnormality, had reviewed this very same piece of paper with me while telling me that everything looked good. When the issues did become evident to him in my 20-week ultrasound, he told me that he didn’t know what was wrong but that termination was an option. He told me that I could terminate up until 24 weeks without any legal trouble but that the state of Oregon determines fetal age by measuring the baby’s head circumference. He said that I was lucky that the baby’s head was so small because I would be able to terminate after 24 weeks without any issues. Luck does not come into play when you are being told that your baby girl will not be born alive. His superiors have been notified of his failures as a doctor and as a human being.

During the two days and nights that I spent in the hospital, I stared at the Olympic Warmette that was directly across from my bed. It was filled with receiving blankets and tiny pink and blue hats, warmed to a perfect 110℉, waiting to welcome the newly born. I watched the orange light turn on and off every few minutes, indicating that the warming mechanism was running. I thought about switching it off; of pulling the cord from the wall. But I didn’t. What if the doctors were all wrong? What if the ultrasound tech was new?  When my baby came, what if she was cold and there were no warm blankets for her?

Mabel Joan was born on Saturday afternoon at 3:11. I knew that the baby was coming and I waited until the nurse left the room so that I could give birth alone. Mabel did not need anything from the Olympic Warmette. She was wrapped in her big sister’s baby blankets before she left for the funeral home. Late that night, I stole a tiny pink hat and tucked it into my bag.

I find myself surprised by the number of friends and family members who have not acknowledged my daughter’s death. I find myself annoyed by the number of people who have shared stories with me of early miscarriage and I feel guilty for wanting to scream at them; for wanting to tell them that this was a stillbirth and not a miscarriage. I feel guilty that I even need to make a separation between the two – as if losing your child hurts any less if it’s earlier. I’m certain that this can’t be true.

I don’t know if we will try to have another child. If we do, we will make no announcements until after the baby is born. This simply cannot happen again. If it must, the world will not know about it. I will not ever again tell my daughter that she will be a big sister and then have to tell her that actually she won’t; that actually Mommy is a liar.

Three weeks ago, I was anxiously awaiting my 20-week ultrasound. I was buying maternity underwear and drinking red raspberry leaf tea. I was wearing sensible shoes and taking stairs one at a time so that I could peek over my belly and avoid a fall. I was pregnant. And now I’m not. Sometimes I wake up in the night wondering if I ever was. Maybe I’ve lost my mind. Maybe everybody has just been going along with it all to keep from hurting my feelings; to keep from waking me. Maybe this is actually just a dream after all.

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