Thursday, April 3, 2014

The baby I didn't give birth

Warning, this is going to be a long post.  This time of year is full of birthdays for our family, we have four in March in our immediate family.  The end of February this year marked the ten year anniversary of our #3 baby, who we lost to miscarriage at 10 weeks.  I was reading Ana's post on her pregnancy loss with their third child and I realized that I have never publicly written about our miscarriage, as it happened way before I started this blog.  Ana's post touched me, I wish I would have had something like that to read when I was going thru my experience and I thought maybe this post could serve two purposes.  One, that it would serve as a memorial to our child who we did not get to meet on this side of heaven but who is still fondly remembered.  Two, that it may help encourage others who are currently on that sad journey that nobody asks for or expects to happen when you see the two lines appear on a pregnancy tests.
Positive test from my 3rd pregnancy!
We conceived our third baby during the Christmas season, 2003.  We were using NFP and charting, and it is the only pregnancy I've had that I remember the exact night I became pregnant.  I realize this comes off as sort of strange, but the act itself was different, it felt more sacred and blessed.  I can still recall where we were, what we talked about, and the feeling of being spiritually connected to Doug.

I belonged to a MOPS group at the time, and one of my best friends in the group had found out she was expecting and was planning on doing a "cracker basket" announcement at our next meeting in January.  When someone in the group found out she was pregnant she announced it by pulling a wrapped saltines crackers out of a basket.  They were wrapped in pink or blue ribbons to place bets on the gender of the new baby.  The day before the meeting I told her I "thought" I was pregnant, I was having all the signs (morning sickness, breast pain, extreme exhaustion) but I had taken a pregnancy test that morning and it came back negative.  This is not surprising, I am notorious for not turning those things.  Every pregnancy I have ever had I first do a negative test and then must wait a few days and retest to get the positive.  I am eternally grateful they sell those things in two packs!  She asked if I had used one of those new tests that supposedly predict 5 days before you're late.  What??  I didn't know those existed.  She insisted I run out and get one and retest the following morning so we could make our announcements together.  I did, and this time the test actually took!!  Thank God I wasn't going crazy and I actually WAS pregnant, according to my charts the due date would be Sept. 11, 2004.  I know for most of the United States that would be considered the worse due date to have but our family is a bit different.  My sister was born on that day, and to me, growing up, that was a special day to celebrate.  I was not upset that my baby could potentially share a birthday with my beloved sister.

Doug and I couldn't wait to share the news and we got to tell both our families at my second son's 2nd birthday party that weekend.  Excitement from everyone, it was fun.  I was starting to feel pretty terrible, this pregnancy was certainly rougher from the start.  My "morning" sickness quickly turned into an "all day long" sickness.  I never threw up, but was constantly nauseous.  It was debilitating, plus I couldn't manage to eat anything.  My hunger response was totally gone, I didn't even crave some of my favorite foods.  I had to force myself to eat.  This did not help my energy levels, which took a nosedive.  I was a stay at home mom to two very active boys (age 3 and 2).  I found myself in survival mode praying that 12 weeks would see an end to the upset stomach.
Happy 2nd birthday Soccer Boy

Make a wish...

Doug with Soccer Boy, Firstborn
and our niece

To make matters worse, a couple weeks into this my kids caught a terrible stomach flu virus.  It was one of the really bad ones going around, the type where you still feel nauseous even after you throw up, along with terrible gas pain.  Firstborn got it first, he was vomiting and having diarrhea and high temps for days.  Then our two year old started throwing up one night.  His fever went up and he was suffering terribly.  In the middle of the night/early morning I remember kneeling by his bed and asking God to heal him.  I remember asking God to take it away from him and give it to me, on condition that the baby stays safe.  Amazingly, that prayer was granted.  Soccer Boy's fever went down immediately after that.  He stopped throwing up and within the hour he was sleeping peacefully.  I, however, was getting sick.  The better he looked the worse I felt.  I started running a fever and vomiting soon after.  Throwing up while pregnant is no fun because your stomach is locked stationary.  I was thankful that our two year old was not suffering anymore.  I was six weeks pregnant.

We all got over the flu and went with my sister's family and my mom to see Sesame Street Live.  The kids had a blast.

Our family of four (expecting #3)

Sesame Street Live

Enjoying the cotton candy!

Firstborn(3 yrs), Soccer Boy (2) and cousin (2)

The terrible "all day" sickness continued.  My mom watched the kids while I headed to my 8 week checkup, where my doctor tried listening for the heartbeat.  He couldn't find it, but considering I wasn't that far along he wasn't concerned.  He decided to do an ultrasound to see if he could spot it.  I always loved ultrasounds, I was excited to see the baby and to check for twins (my family has a strong history).  Especially since I had been so sick and fatigued with this pregnancy, I thought it might be a possibility.  He didn't have the internal one so he had to try and do the wand on the stomach and it was pretty blurry, he still couldn't find a heartbeat or see the baby very well.  He decided to set me up an appointment with the hospital for the next day for a better ultrasound image.  I was not concerned, I was excited about another ultrasound because this time I could make sure Doug went with me to see it.  I had just recently changed over to this pro-life doctor and I was surprised by the in office ultrasound.  We had not been able to find the heartbeat with Firstborn with my previous doctor and he hadn't done an ultrasound.  He had just said you often can't hear the baby's heartbeat before 10 weeks and we would try again the following month.

Already showing
at 8 weeks...
Doug took off work the next day and Mom watched the kids so we could head to the hospital.  They didn't even try to do the stomach ultrasound, at 8 weeks they opted for the internal wand.  We were excited to see the baby on the screen, the tech kept asking me how far along I was, when was my last cycle?  I couldn't remember the cycle date, but I knew I was 8 weeks along.  She said the baby looked about 6 weeks, that didn't seem right.  My NFP charts couldn't be that far off.  There was no heartbeat, but that develops at 6 weeks.  She went to get the doctor.  He was an older gentleman, and had the worse bedside manner.  He came in and looked at the monitor and said "the fetus is measuring 6 weeks" and I asked when we should see the heartbeat.  He said "at 6 weeks there is a heartbeat 100% of the time".  Doug and I (and the tech) just looked at him and then he said "the fetus is dead, you'll miscarry within the week".  Then without one more word he took off his gloves, got up and walked out of the room.  That was it, nothing more.  I was shell shocked, I didn't even see it coming, totally blindsided.  I remember Doug hugging me and telling me "I'm sorry" and the tech apologizing also.  She stepped out and I got dressed, still in zombie mode.  It didn't seem right, I felt so pregnant.  I talked to my doctor from that office, the tech had called to give him the results and he asked to speak with me.  He apologized and told me he was sorry and gave me my options.  I could have a D & C, his office didn't do them but he could refer me to someone.  Or I could just wait and let it happen naturally.  That seemed the right way to go, he said to call if I changed my mind.  I didn't start crying until we were driving home.

Now the waiting game began.  When my family and friends found out what had happened I was surprised at how many woman came out of the woodwork and told me their stories.  It seems miscarriage was much more common than I knew.  Women just don't talk about it, which makes it seem like a dirty secret.  I spoke to friends I had known for many years and I didn't even know.  Some had miscarried at home and others had gone to the hospital.  Everyone I knew was praying for us.  I was still feeling so bad, my body was still pregnant, even if the baby was dead.  I didn't miscarry that week so we went in for another ultrasound.  We were hoping that the first had been wrong but that was not the case.  There was more blood built up in the womb, it seems my body was still fighting for the baby.  The doctors started throwing around words like "missed abortion", and we started considering a D & C.  I started to be concerned about hemorrhaging, I was home by myself all day with two little ones.  What if something went wrong or I passed out?  I had heard that it could be painful, like labor pains.  Did I want to risk being by myself with two little ones when that happened?  I wasn't sure...

Another week passed.  Doug and I were struggling emotionally.  He started grieving the baby the minute he heard at the ultrasound but I was stuck.  I just couldn't grieve a dead baby while I was still carrying their body inside of me.  As long as I was pregnant there was still hope, God could still turn this around.  I was already showing, 10 weeks along at this point.  The doctor ordered another blood test that showed my pregnancy hormone levels were indeed dropping.  I was starting to go stir crazy sitting at home (still sick) just waiting for something to happen.  I couldn't go anywhere, definitely couldn't drive.  That weekend we went to my folks house and I opted to attend a woman's meeting at my church that afternoon, just to get out of the house.  I remember they prayed for me and the baby.  Then I started feeling really weird and I told mom we better leave, something wasn't right.  I felt better back at her house, I had planned on attending a funeral visitation that evening for a family friend.  After what happened I didn't feel up to it so Doug stayed with me at their house.  The boys were playing and he was taking a nap on the couch when I started having the most painful cramps I had ever experienced.  Doubled over in the bathroom, it was bad, really bad.  I don't recall labor hurting that much.  I hadn't started bleeding yet, I begged God to make it stop.  I was cursing myself for not opting for the hospital route.  Miraculously, God answered my prayer and the cramping suddenly stopped.  I asked Doug to take us home.  That was a Sunday night, on Monday morning I called my doctor to get the referral.  I met with that doctor that afternoon and he set my D & C up for the next morning, Tuesday, February 24, 2004.  It had been over a month since my baby had died and over two weeks since we had found out.  I remember being terrified that the cramping would start again, but it did not.  I asked the doctor what would happen to my baby's remains and he told me that they would be incinerated, which at the time I figured was the best option.  I wasn't Catholic, I wasn't sure if the hospital would release the remains to me (if they were even big enough to see), or what I would do with them if I had them.  What were the burial procedures for something like that?  I had no idea.  I now know there are better options.  Mary over at Better than Eden has a great post on miscarriage options, so I'm linking you over there.  Our local Catholic hospital does a yearly burial for miscarriages.  I wish the doctor who did my procedure would have been more informed.

I couldn't eat or drink anything the day of the procedure and I was scheduled for 1:00 pm.  I didn't go to the hospital, it was done at a hospital extension clinic a few blocks away (oddly enough, located right next door to my kids pediatrician's office).  Mom babysat so Doug could take me.  We sat in the waiting room for a really long time before they called me back, and Doug was not allowed to go in with me.  They gave me a few minutes to change into my gown and I recall looking at and rubbing my pregnant stomach and talking to my baby, saying goodbye.  Saying I was sorry I wasn't strong enough to do this on my own at home, feeling guilty for being there.  The irony that I was going to go through an "abortion" procedure wasn't lost on me.  The only difference between my experience and theirs was my baby had already died.  Of course, I was crying and bless them, the hospital nurses were so kind.  They knew we had really wanted this baby, they knew I didn't want to do this.  They told me they were sorry I had to go through this, they were gentle with me.  Well, as gentle as they could be.  It still took two nurses and one doctor to stick me 8 times to get the I.V. in place (stupid veins).  I had the bruises to prove it.  They knocked me out, so the next thing I remember is waking up in recovery with Doug beside me.  I wasn't in pain, but feeling pretty groggy.  They had me stay there for about 1/2 hour and then we were allowed to leave.

I remember feeling so empty when we left the clinic, like it was so wrong that we were leaving our baby there and driving away.  I wanted to go back and claim their body, which I told myself was crazy, what would I do with it?  I asked Doug to stop by St. Louis Bread Co. to get me something to eat.  It was now going on 4 or 5:00 and I still hadn't eaten or drank anything that day.  I wish I could say the morning sickness went away immediately but it did not.  I was still sick for about a week more, until the hormones could completely clear my system.  Also, I thought that the D & C would "clean me out" but I would be wrong on that point too.  My period the next month was incredibly heavy and difficult, they only remove the baby during that procedure.  I had strong cramping and clots, it was shocking.  Maybe TMI, but I'm putting it in here for the benefit of others who may choose this route.  I wish I had known what to expect.

When I look at the calendar, my baby died on the same day that I had the stomach flu.  I have met other moms who miscarried like I did and could pinpoint the timing to their stomach flu.  So I'm always careful during the first trimester to keep my kids a bit more sheltered so they don't bring a flu bug home.  My experience makes me more vigilant to keep my kids away from other families when we get sick.  Who knows who you expose to illness?  I'm hyper vigilant about not taking my kids to nurseries and such if I think they're sick.  I tend to error on the side of caution on this one.  Also, I don't give my kids live vaccines when I'm pregnant.  I just figure, why risk it?  I save those for when I'm not pregnant.

I'm thankful for a doctor who does early ultrasounds.  The outcome wouldn't have changed, but at least I knew.  I knew that my baby had died, and I could be prepared.  I knew that it was probably the illness that caused their death and it has kept me from second guessing everything I did or didn't do during that time.  Six months later I found myself in the same scenario with the same pro-life doctor.  Eight weeks pregnant with our fourth child and we couldn't hear a heartbeat.  I had decided ahead of time if that happened I didn't want to do an ultrasound and relive everything.  Bless him, the doctor insisted on it.  He said "I refuse to let you worry about this for a month, I promise you this will be ok."  You know doctors don't make promises, God was speaking directly to me through him that day.  I thought I was going to be sick when he turned out the lights to start the ultrasound, but I was blessed to see Game Boy's heartbeat that day.  I held it together long enough to get into the car in the parking lot and then I cried.  It was like finding out I was pregnant all over again because I had not been able to connect with that pregnancy because of the fear.  We didn't tell anyone until I was four months along.

Our third child taught me a lot about myself, and continues to teach me to this day.  I am a pro-life advocate and I do pray for the unborn and their mothers.  On occasion I have prayed at the abortion clinic and have seen the young women leaving after an abortion.  I have a connection to them on that level, because at least physically we have shared that experience.  I know that they didn't want to have the abortion, nobody wants to have an abortion.  They chose it because they felt scared and trapped, that it was the best option, maybe the only option, they had.  I pray for healing for them.

We do not know if our child is a boy or a girl, so we haven't named him/her yet.  I guess we'll get to do that in heaven.  When I became Catholic there is the whole doctrine of "communion of saints".  How wonderful that I can have a relationship with my baby even now!  That he or she can pray with us and for us and that they are still a part of our family.  It's a glorious thing, to know they are already spending time with Jesus and waiting for us.  Although I believe they do time differently in heaven, in earth time February marked 10 years.  Happy 10th heavenly birthday to the child I had the privilege of carrying only 10 weeks, but who still remains in my heart.

Your Mom

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