Sunday, March 18, 2007

Good and Bad

So. I've got some good news to share, and then, because writing about it helps me to process it, I might as well share the rest of what's been going on.

The good news is that while Brett and I were lounging around and watching Jeopardy a week ago Thursday night (once again, watching Jeopardy = further proof that I'm a dork), Brett got a call from one of the people he'd interviewed with at a coffee shop last week, offering him a job!!!

Of course he accepted. He started this week. We are very, very glad. It's at one of the places he was excited about working for, so that is really good. It's a huge relief, after almost 10 months of looking. The prospect of having enough money for the first time in three-and-a-half years is thrilling! Plus, the coffee shop seems to be great. (OMG, I've had like 4 mochas there in the past, like, three days. SO yummy!) He's enjoying himself, for sure.

Ok, on to the bad news. I'll just issue a warning now that some of this may be way, way TMI for some of you. I'm sorry for that. But after thinking it over and talking to a couple of close friends, I decided to put this story out there even though some of it is really TMI, because I really feel like it should be shared. But more about that later.

*deep breath*

Here we go.

Two Friday nights ago, March 2, I wound up in the ER due to heavy, um, (how to say this delicately?) pelvic bleeding. I was nine-and-a-half weeks pregnant. After four hours of waiting in the ER, a painful (emotionally and physically) ultrasound, and after reviewing my blood work, the doctors told me I was having a miscarriage due to a condition called a blighted ovum -- the egg is fertilized, implants, and a placenta develops, but an embryo does not develop very far at all. However, the placenta continues to develop at a normal rate, producing the pregnancy hormones, so until an ultrasound is done (showing an empty sac), you feel -- and even begin to look -- pregnant, even though your baby probably stopped growing before it was big enough to detect via ultrasound.

The days since that night have been the hardest days of my life. The emotions are extremely complex, as I'm sure you can imagine. We had known I was pregnant for almost six weeks, so although it was kind of a surprise in the first place, we were, by that Friday, extremely excited and were very much looking forward to having a baby in October.

The weekend after we got home from the hospital, as well as much of the following week, is a complete blur in my mind, which is probably a good thing. I can barely separate out what happened which day. Brett was amazing, though: he waited on me hand and foot, and did whatever I needed -- going to the grocery store, the video store, cleaning up the house, hugging me, cooking for me and forcing me to eat because I wouldn't have otherwise. I haven't really had an appetite at all. Even now, it's been over two weeks and I'm still not eating nearly as much as I would normally. Although effective, I do not recommend this weight loss program.

One of the hardest parts so far, at least physically, has been the lack of sleep. It's torture. I haven't slept well at all since the night before it happened. Brett's stayed up late with me every night, reading, hanging out, watching movies, but even he has broken down and fallen asleep several nights before I have -- a very rare thing for us. The worst night was the one I was up until after 4 a.m., and I woke up at 8 a.m. after having horrible dreams about Brett dying or something the entire time I was asleep. Yuck. It's been that way more often than not so far, and I am getting to the end of my rope. I really hope some actual sleep is around the corner for me. One night last week I tried taking some sleeping pills that my doctor prescribed and all it did was make me sleep through my alarm, which made me an hour late to work. Grrr.

Anyway, we went to the doctor on Monday the 5th to find out more of what was going on, and to decide what to do. (When you have a miscarriage, you have three options: wait for it to happen naturally, which can take weeks, take medication to speed the process up, or have surgery.)

I had made the appointment on the 5th weeks ago as my first pre-natal appointment, where I would have heard the heartbeat, and had an ultrasound and gotten to see my baby. So it was kind of hard to go and sit there and see the cute pregnant ladies and realize I don't get to see a picture of my baby or hear a heartbeat like they do...instead I have to talk about what to do with this miscarriage I'm having. Very, very bittersweet. Or, really, just plain bitter. It's been hard not to think about what should have been happening instead. I think that has been one of the worst parts emotionally. But again, I'll get to that more later.

The doctor's office was really fantastic. The nurse practitioner we saw was super nice. She spent an hour with us, even though we were the first appointment of the day, answered all of our questions, was extremely encouraging and empathetic. She even personally called me back to check in after my appointment and let me know the blood test results. I really appreciated that. (If you're in Seattle, I highly recommend them: Seattle OB/GYN. I haven't even met the actual OB yet -- I've only seen the nurse practitioner -- but the OB called me last week just to introduce herself and to check in and see how I'm doing both physically and emotionally. Incredible, and so rare in this day and age.)

Anyway. We decided to go the taking-medication-to-help-things-along route. The nurse practitioner prescribed me a medication called Misoprostol that she said would help speed the process up (it causes severe uterine cramping); she said that usually within 6-12 hours of taking it everything is over. She prescribed me vicodin, too, since the pain can be pretty bad. (Different people say it's either not bad, like menstrual cramps, or that it is as bad as going into real labor. Note: If there is anyone reading this who has googled Misoprostol because you are in the same situation and you want to know what to expect when you take it...please feel free to email me. There was so little out there about it and I was so scared going into it because I couldn't find much at all about it online and I was so spaced out at my doctor's appointment that I didn't remember much of what the nurse practitioner said.)

I took the medication on Tuesday afternoon. The cramps were really, really bad. Thank God for vicodin. I took two at a time and I was still in pain, but at least it wasn't as bad as it would have been with no painkillers. Unfortunately, the cramping continued Wednesday and into Thursday and Friday. The reason is that although I had been bleeding consistently, I hadn't actually had the miscarriage yet...the details are gory so I'll spare you, but it happened Thursday night, the 8th, and Friday night, the 9th. It was awful. I can't even describe the feelings when I realized what had just happened. Traumatic is probably an appropriate word.

Our families are, of course, sad. We hadn't even told them I was pregnant. We were going to surprise them last weekend with the news. It was hard to make those phone calls to say that I was pregnant, but that I'm not anymore. Suffice it to say, I'm really tired of talking about this on the phone.

My work is being great. They repeatedly told me to take all the time I need, so I was able to stay home all that week. Most of my co-workers who know the truth (about 6 people; the rest just thought I was still sick with a cold I'd had the week before) emailed their own little notes to me, too, which is sweet. My boss called me on the 5th just to talk. It was so sweet of her...she was really encouraging and compassionate and reiterated to rest and do what I need to do. My co-workers sent me flowers, too, which meant a lot. I can't even tell you all how extremely glad I am that I work where I do now. Also, the day I went back to work, I came in to find that there was an envelope on my desk: everyone had chipped in and bought me a gift certificate for a massage. *tearing up* Seriously, I have the best co-workers.

Our church community group is fantastic as well. The 15 or so people are not only praying for us, but they all chipped in and bought us a very generous gift certificate for a fancy vegetarian restaurant (which I've been wanting to go to for years but could never afford), a gift card to see a movie, and some extra cash for movie snacks or another dinner or whatever. Several friends have brought by treats, or cards, or flowers, and that means a lot too. Also, my mom and my sister ordered us a ton of groceries from Safeway online. Thank you all. The tangible items of support really help.

Yeah. So it just all seems really weird and strange and surreal, and I feel at one moment like it's happening to someone else and not to me, and that I'm fine and normal, and the next moment like I want to curl up in a ball and cry for hours. It comes and goes. It is so strange that the world has gone on despite what has happened to me. And then in the next moment I think that I am being melodramatic and that I'm overreacting, that I'm really fine. It's just really weird, this emotional state. I keep thinking that this shouldn't be happening to me, that it's not fair. I don't know. It's quite the roller coaster and I feel like it will be for a while. But I guess that's just how it goes.

It's scary, too, because I can't help but think, "What if this happens again?" Thankfully, the research shows that a blighted ovum is not something that usually repeats itself. Still, the thought is there. I mean, I know people who have had multiple miscarriages. And before this happened, I thought, with such naivete, such hubris, that this couldn't happen to me, that I would have an easy pregnancy, and yet here I am. So who is to say that multiple miscarriages won't happen to me, too?

I was reading something last week about pregnancy loss, and the book said that part of why it is so hard to have a miscarriage is that you are left with nothing tangible to mourn -- it's a non-event, especially with first trimester losses since usually most people don't even know you were pregnant to begin with.

The book went on to say that when someone dies, part of what helps people achieve closure is ritual and memory. If, say, your grandpa dies, you can mourn and express your grief through a funeral, etc. You are left with memories of time spent with that person, photos of you with that person.

That doesn't happen in a pregnancy loss. I don't have any memories. I don't get a funeral for this baby. I will have to get on with my life. And, believe me, a huge part of me wants to do just that...I just want things to be normal again. But it's hard -- I don't get to mourn this loss like I would the loss of a person who had been born.

A lot of people, not knowing what to say, have said, "Oh, you'll have a baby soon." They don't say another baby, but just a baby, like this one we lost wasn't real. And yeah, maybe I will have another baby soon. But that just hurts to hear -- it invalidates the fact that I DID have a baby, that there was someone growing inside me, however small he or she may have been when he or she stopped growing. I understand that people say that because they don't know what else to say and they think it will be comforting, and I really appreciate that sentiment. To some extent, it is comforting to think of having another baby someday. I don't know. I don't want to over-gripe about people who are offering sympathy; I really do appreciate it.

But to me, this baby was very, very real...and yet, all I have are my fantasies of what might have been. That I would have been seven months pregnant at Brett's sister's wedding. That the baby would have been a girl. What her name would have been. That she would have been born the same two week span as my dad, nephew, brother, uncle, and niece. That she might have shared a birthday with one of them. That she would have been here for Brett's grandma's 90th birthday next November. That she would have been here for Christmas. And now, I am so afraid that all of those things and events where I had imagined the baby being there will be bittersweet. And I don't want that to be! I don't want Amy's wedding, or Christmas, or my nephew's birthday, or Grandma Dori's birthday to be that way...but I am afraid that a small part of me will always think those things. Every year on October 3, I will think, "This is the day my baby should have been born."

I had a little taste of the what-might-have-beens last weekend. Well, a big taste. We had had a trip down to Portland planned for quite a while, to see one of Brett's sisters in her high school play, and when we found out I was pregnant, we had decided to tell our families then -- Brett's other sister would be home on break from college, and a lot of his extended family would be there to see the play as well, so it would be perfect timing to make a big announcement.

It was hard going into the evening of the play, knowing in my head how I had wanted it to go and having the reality be very, very different. My emotions were already extremely volatile. Before the play started, I was able at least to put on enough a veneer where I don't think a lot of people noticed I was upset.

But my emotions really kicked into high gear after intermission. We went to the same high school where the play was, and we ran into someone who told us that a high school friend is pregnant. That's great, and I'm really, truly, very happy for her, but as soon as I turned away I started to tear up. I couldn't control it, and I pretty much cried on and off all through the second act. I didn't want to cry, I didn't want to be upset...but I was, and I could not stop. Nothing I did would help me stop crying.

After the play was over, I walked through the halls of my dark, empty high school and tried to calm down. (Talk about a surreal experience, especially since the last time I was there was before Brett and I were even married.) I thought I was ok, but as soon as I walked back near the auditorium and saw all of Brett's family and extended family standing around and laughing and posing for pictures, I lost it again. My tears were a force outside myself. It was horrible. I could not stop them. The emotional pain was so visceral, so tangible...there aren't really words to describe how it felt. I now truly understand what people mean when they talk about physically feelingn emotional pain. I finally pulled myself together to some extent, but the pain was so real that I could barely function even after I stopped crying.

And surely (I hope) that intense pain will fade with time. I also hope that my fears about this happening again are unfounded. But I can't know that now. I won't know it until we take the great risk of trying to get pregnant again. It was such an exciting thing before, like we were embarking on a new, fascinating adventure; now it just seems really, really scary. I am sure that when I do become pregnant again someday, I will not relax until I hold that baby in my arms. And that makes me sad. I really hope I can enjoy pregnancy, not worry through it. And I hope, too, that I won't worry unduly about any future child I may have. I suppose that worry is inevitable in a mom, and I realize I am truly getting out of my league in talking about this, about how a mom worries about her child...but I guess my point is that I feel cheated -- my innocence has been taken and I feel like I'll never be able to just sit back and enjoy anything about this process again, that I will always be consumed with worry at every stage of pregnancy and then motherhood.

So, you may be thinking, why am I sharing all of this really personal stuff with the Internet? Good question. Friday night, right after it started, and really all that weekend, I couldn't imagine sharing this with my family, let alone the Internet. But since I started sharing with people, so many people who are relatively close to me have admitted that they, too, had miscarriages. And I never knew that. As extremely ironic as it is, because I would never, ever wish this experience on anyone, it's been comforting to know that others have gone through it, too, and especially that the pain has faded in time and they have gone on to have healthy babies.

That is why I'm sharing, I guess. Partly to let people who are concerned know what's going on, and partly so that my story will be out there, and will perhaps act as a comfort to someone someday, as much as I hope no more of my family and friends have to experience it. Like I said, just knowing that other people have endured this helps somehow.

Also, writing things out has always helped me cope when life has been hard; this situation is no different.

So, that is where I am today. I had a follow-up doctor's appointment on Thursday. They did another ultrasound and everything looks as good as it can right now. I have to say that since some of the emotional numbness had worn off, this appointment was actually harder for me emotionally, especially sitting in the waiting room with all the cute pregnant ladies and couples with babies coming in for their post-partum visits. I really had to fight back the tears. Ugh. It's my only complaint about the OB practice so far: they don't have somewhere separate for non-pregnant people to wait. Oh well. I hope that next time I'm there it's because I'm healthily pregnant.

I went back to work last Monday, and although it was a real shock to my system, I got through it. I felt very alienated from everyone around me, unable to just go on and joke and laugh with everyone like I usually do. It felt wrong that life was going on like normal around me. But at that point, what can you do but push those feelings down, bury them, so you can function? I don't know.

Thankfully, I had Thursday and Friday off since my good friend C came for a visit this weekend (we've had this planned for months). It was really great to hang out with her, get spa manicures and pedicures, play tourist, and go shopping. The distraction was nice. (Not that you are a distraction, dear C...I know you know exactly what I mean.)

While C was here, I felt like a normal person for the first time in a few weeks. I could forget what was happening. But while I was driving home from taking her to the airport earlier this morning, I felt guilty for thinking that way, for being distracted, for feeling normal. I really feel like I haven't had a proper chance to grieve. I had to smother my meltdown last weekend and I haven't gotten to have one yet. It was startling, after feeling normal again all weekend, to suddenly remember what had happened. It made me feel like I want to keep pinching myself, poking at the wound, picking at the scab, so to speak, to remind myself and to keep the pain fresh. Because it's one thing to act normal around others, especially at work (I gotta do what I gotta do to get through the day), but otherwise it feels somehow like a betrayal of my baby and of myself, like a denial of what happened to me. I can't help but feeling that I want to have a big meltdown. It's like when you feel really sick and keep thinking, If I could just throw up, I'd feel so much better. That's how I feel. If I could just have a meltdown...but I can't force emotion, so I'm stuck here waiting. (Knowing me, it will probably happen at work, or at Target, or on the bus, or somewhere else completely inappropriate. *sigh* I can only hope it doesn't.)

I know this post will probably leave a lot of you wanting to say something but not knowing what to say. That's ok...I know it's hard for people to find the right words, because I truly believe there aren't any right words. Nothing anyone can say will take this away. Sure, some things help more than others, but the fact of the matter is that the right words don't exist. I know you all care, and that is a huge thing.

I'll keep you posted. Writing out my feelings does help so I will probably have more to say about this in the weeks and months to come. I don't want this to exclusively become a pregnancy / problem TTC / miscarriage blog...but to some extent I imagine it will, because that is what is going on. Feel free to email me, too, if you like. (Thanks to those of you who did email last week. I appreciate it, and I'm sorry I haven't responded yet. I will get to you, I promise.)

Ok. I've said way more than enough. I am going to take a very deep breath and press the publish button now...

9 comments:

Alice said...

Kathleen--

I'm really sorry that you had to go through this. I am very, very sorry.

Peggy Orenstein wrote a moving piece about her miscarriage, "Mourning My Miscarriage." You should be able to find it through a google search. I found it very helpful.

Take care of yourself.

Mom of 2 Boys said...

I wish I could fly out there right now and give you a great big hug. I love you, and I'm praying for you. If you need anything -you know how to reach me. =)

C said...

(((hug)))

Arielle said...

Kathleen, can I have your snail mail address?

ariellejuliana@hotmail.com

I'm really sorry. You are in my prayers.

Arielle Akehurst

dolls like us said...

I had a misscarriage years ago before I had children I was sick for 1 year afterwards . I was sick mentally and physically it left me very weak and wore out and I bleed sporadically I remember missing the baby and what ifing then God gave me two healthy boys . I know when I leave this world I well see that child of the misscarriage again and they well be well because I belive every child has a soul even the unborn ones .

What The Hell Is This? said...

I am so sorry. Check out my alternate site and on my links is a list of books and resources that helped me grieve... our situation was different, but I thought I would share... One particular book was very helpful: Trying Again: A Guide to Pregnancy after Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Loss

Prayers and thoughts are with you.

What The Hell Is This? said...

Here is my alternate blog:
http://mygirlsmemory.blogspot.com/

allie said...

thank you so much for your beautiful words; i see myself in so much of what you say. i had a miscarriage this past month too at 10 weeks (6 1/2 week fetal pole w/o heartbeat detected) and our due date was oct 15. hearing others stories do help, in a strange way; i feel less isolated and embraced by knowing others are coping with the pain that seems unbearable. god bless and good luck and blessings on your healing journey, allie

jessica said...

Kathleen,

I had a miscarriage this weekend. Someone recommended I come read about youre experience. They were right. Thank you for writing this. I too had no idea how common miscarriages are, and it iscomforting on some level to not that I'm not the only one that has had to deal with this. So really, thank you.