Hurricane Laura

No Overarching Themes: Pure Miscellany

Archive for the category “Miscarriage”

The view from six months later

I haven’t been able to update this blog in six months.  Not because I’ve been physically unable to, but because I’ve been too afraid to actually put into words what has been going on with me.

The crazy thing is, what’s going on has been good – as of today, I am 6 and 1/2 months pregnant.  We actually found out I was pregnant only a few weeks after my last post, and after all the drama of the kidney stones (and another kidney infection which resulted in 2 more trips to the ER in September), it seemed beyond possible that the pregnancy would last.  In fact, when I found out I was pregnant, I pretty much assumed I was headed for another miscarriage.  It just did not seem likely that an embryo would survive what my body had been going through while it was forming and implanting in my uterus.

I continued to feel that way for…pretty much the entire first trimester.  It is difficult to overstate just how petrified I was that entire time – which lasted until pretty much the week before Thanksgiving.  Every twinge, every ache in my body left me wondering if this was it, this was the start of another pregnancy loss.  I sincerely did not believe my body would be able to sustain the pregnancy, but there was nothing I could do but wait for time to pass, so I went into survival mode.  When I can’t change something but I still feel very worried about it, I distract myself and only talk about it rarely, when I feel up to it.  I definitely couldn’t write about it in any public way- writing feels deeper and more exposed than I was willing to be.  I pretty much kept myself going by either working really hard, watching a LOT of movies and television, occasionally stopping to talk to our therapist, a few friends or my husband, and every now and then just breaking down in a really big, panicked crying session.

We switched OBs to someone who was more loss-friendly – since the last practice was a total nightmare from start to finish – but I still think the new OB thought I was a total lunatic.  I asked for every blood test imaginable, to rule out any genetic factors that could cause recurrent miscarriage (which my last OB refused to do, despite my having a family history of one condition that could be a marker of recurrent miscarriage) and I insisted on a consultation with a really good maternal-fetal medicine specialist (who took my concerns very seriously, at last).  After my 3rd trip to the ER during the first trimester, my OB started to realize I wasn’t just making things up and he was a little more accommodating about testing me early for things and keeping an eye on my kidney function.  And somehow…I made it.  We actually got to the point of genetic testing for the fetus – in fact, we actually got to the point where we could call it a fetus – and the next thing I knew, they were telling me that this fetus looked like a boy, and this boy had a very low chance of any genetic abnormalities.

I wish I could say that magically my anxieties cleared up and I had an easy time of it from that point forward, but that’s just not possible.  I think I have a bit of healing to do from the last 1-2 years of loss and grief, and I still have a long way to go to get this baby safely into the world, so instead of feeling magically better, instead I’ve just…..gradually achieved a plateau of calm.  I realized at a certain point that I had to will myself to calm down and take it easier, if not for me than for the baby, and so I deliberately avoided anything that would make me too upset.  I watched the news a lot less frequently (which was hard to do with all the election coverage), I decided to avoid people or situations that would upset me, and I got very conservative in terms of my behavior.  I went to bed at 9 p.m. and almost never went anywhere in my free time.  It felt like I was hunkering down in my safe space, to just keep myself on an even keel.

2012 in particular was a year in which I learned just what my support system consisted of, and that was very hard for me in many ways.  I was surprised to find that people I thought would be there for me were just not capable or willing to do that when I really needed them, and I’m still hurting from that realization, but by the end of the year, I started to rebuild and move on.  New people, people I would never have expected, have turned out to be true friends and I’ve learned a lot from them about what really matters.  My relationship with J has grown and expanded in a way I could never have anticipated, and I feel like our marriage has become something truly remarkable.  We mostly keep that away from the outside world, as a very private thing between us, and he is also an extremely quiet, introverted person, so I think most people don’t realize just how hard this last year has been for him as well.  We have put such solid effort into working on our relationship, because it was vital for both of us that we survive all of this intact and still happy together.  One of the real achievements of this last year has been that the work we’ve been doing has really paid off.  We both felt so lucky to even find each other in the first place, and I think that sense of really valuing what we have has carried us through.  So, between the people who’ve really stepped us to help and support us and the deeper love and appreciation we’ve found together, I feel like I’ve been able to let go of a lot of the past and build something better.  There are still moments when I feel enraged and hurt, but they’re so much fewer now, and I remind myself every time they happen that the best way to recover is to focus on where I’m going, not where I’ve been.

And with all luck, the baby…a little boy…will be here in April.  I’m still not sure I really believe it yet, that this is actually happening.  Infertility knocked me over like a tidal wave, and deep down, I think I was convinced we’d either have to do IVF or adopt, both options entailing a very long, hard road for us.  That we could conceive a child ourselves – naturally, with no hormones or intervention of any kind – and that I could carry that baby all the way to term was something I just didn’t believe was possible.  I still have a lot of trouble accepting that it will work out – I feel like I’m always preparing myself for the worst and rarely allowing myself to think of the best outcomes, as they still seem unlikely to me.  Right now, I’m just trying to be very open, open to the chaos and the uncertainty that is going to take over my life.  I don’t know what being a new parent is going to be like – I know it will re-make my life completely, but I don’t know what that means or how that will work – so the best I can do is just be open to the huge unknown that is coming.  That unknown could be very rough – the delivery itself could be very rough or the baby could have some issues that are quite serious and require a lot of follow-up care – or it could be much easier and drama-free.  Regardless, I am very happy to be in this place – I’d rather be facing the unknown of a life as a parent than the bleakness of never knowing if I would have this chance.

Lately we talk the most about the surprise we’re really looking forward to – finding out who our son is.  We want to be as open to whoever he truly is as we can, and not impose on him our ideas of who we think he should be.  I read recently in a book about parenting that it is important to love your children for who they are, rather than what they do or achieve.  People tend to get very swept up in their children’s activities or their achievements, and forget that the real value, the real treasure in the parent-child relationship is getting to know these extraordinary people.  Maybe I feel very excited about this because of the loss of our previous pregnancy – I will never get to know who that child would have become, so the fact that I might get to know this second child is an incredible thing to me.  When I think about that last baby, I thank him/her for teaching me that – that child taught me not only that I could actually get pregnant, but that what was precious  to me was the chance to get to know my children, however they came to me.  And what has this second baby taught me?  Well, one wonderful thing he’s done is kick like a little demon since he hit 16 weeks – which has been an enormous comfort.  I know he’s still alive in there every time he kicks, and I feel gratitude and relief every time it happens.  I smile and mentally thank him for reminding me that he’s still in there.  I’m sure he will do a thousand other things that surprise and teach me as well.  And I do like that infertility and pregnancy loss have taught me this approach to parenthood – rather than seeing it as my right and my due, I see what a huge privilege and an honor it is, and how important it is not to take it for granted.

So, that’s where I am, six months later.  That’s the start of 2013 so far.

One more notch on the bad year’s bedpost

Last Thursday evening as we were getting ready for bed, I felt sick.  My lower back ached, on the right side just around my hip, and I felt shaky and strange.  We got into bed and I tried to ignore it and go to sleep.  The pain doubled, then it tripled, then it quadrupled, and very soon I felt so much pain that waves of nausea washed over me.  I got up and went into the bathroom, thinking that if I just threw up once or twice, the pain might subside and I could go to sleep.  Something similar has happened the last two months, where I get abdominal pain that is so bad it makes me throw up, so I assumed it was a variation of that.  But this pain grew much worse very quickly, and after trying to throw up a few times, I realized this was something else.  I ran back into the bedroom and woke up my husband.  It certainly isn’t the first time I’ve woken him in the middle of the night lately, but this time, he could tell it was worse than the usual pain.

Within a few minutes, I was close to fainting.  We got the things we needed – shoes, keys, wallets – and I stood shaking by the door, afraid I was going to lose consciousness.  I don’t remember much about the next hour – just pain and fear – but I know that I threw up violently in the car, all over myself, and I threw up again while the nurse was scrambling to get an IV in my arm in the ER.  The nurse seemed pretty confident about what was wrong – my shaking, my inability to sit still and my throwing up were clear signs that I had kidney stones.  I’ve never in my life experienced pain like that – pain that causes you to lose all control of yourself, pain that makes you wonder if you are actually dying.  The CT scan confirmed that I had two kidney stones, one in each kidney, and they gave me shots for the pain as well as prescriptions and a referral to a urologist.  Very routine for them – just a little bit devastating to me.

Since last week, I’ve spent a lot of time on a narcotic painkiller, waiting for the stones to pass.  Today I confirmed with the urologist that they haven’t passed, and if they don’t pass in another week, I have to have my fourth surgery of the year.  This surgery is a fairly simple outpatient procedure, but it does involve having a stent in my urinary tract for about 10 days, and the doctor told me “50% of people who have this say it drives them crazy.”  After the luck I’ve had this year, I just have to assume I’m part of that 50%.  So at the moment, I’m trying to pass the stones on my own, and in a week or when the pain becomes unbearable (whichever comes first), I will give up and schedule the surgery.

Another little kink in this whole situation is that I really do think this is related to my miscarriage – I’ve had IBS symptoms (which I’ve never had before) and IBS can lead to kidney stones.  My theory is that my body reacted very badly to pregnancy hormones, creating a situation where I developed IBS, which then lead to a backup in my kidneys.  I can’t really get a doctor to confirm this theory, but I think that’s largely because they don’t want to venture beyond their individual specialties and consider the bigger picture.  The urologist did tell me that I am now at higher risk for kidney stones during pregnancy, and they can’t do a lot for me at that point, since pain meds are bad for the baby and surgery is out of the question.

So this makes me wonder a few things, like:  is pregnancy just too hard for my body to cope with?  If I do get pregnant, am I just going to spend 9 months in a special kind of misery?  Would it be better to accept this now, cope with it and move on to adoption, or should I try to fight harder, go on a restricted diet, be very careful, and try against all hope to get pregnant and carry the baby to term?  These are the kinds of questions I face – and what’s not captured in my very matter-of-fact description of this is just how agonizing and heartbreaking this feels for me.  It is yet another moment when something that most of the population seems to be able to do easily – conceive, carry and give birth to a child – seems hopelessly beyond my reach, for reasons that no doctor has been able to fully explain to me.  I do what they tell me I’m supposed to do, I get the surgeries they recommend, I follow their recommendations, and WHAM!  Another unforeseen obstacle crops up to make things so much more complicated.  What’s hard is that there is no over-arching medical condition that explains why I can’t do this – I’ve had a few doctors tell me “there’s no obvious reason that you can’t get pregnant and carry a child” and yet…it seems impossible right now.  The pain, the deprivation, the sacrifice, the financial resources, the daily torture of testing myself, trying to stay calm, eating right, exercising and trying to be positive are just all combining in such a way that every day feels like a never-ending uphill battle.  But I wonder if I just keep going, will it be worth it?  How much longer should I fight?  No one knows, and no one can tell me, so the question is more about “how much can I take?”  I put a lot of pressure on myself to just keep on taking it, because I feel like I haven’t quite reached my limit yet….but sometimes I wonder if I am being too hard on myself and I need to recognize when the moment has come to throw in the towel and walk away.

I know better than to try and make decisions tonight.  I know I need to just focus on getting better, and when the air clears and I can see the world around me a bit better, then I can think about what to do next.  And I am desperately trying to be positive, which is not in my nature to do, but this situation has pushed me well beyond my own nature.  Here’s what I think right now:  maybe this is a blessing in disguise.  Maybe by learning all these physical issues I have with pregnancy I can prepare my body better and therefore get through it with more resources at hand, or at least prepared with the knowledge of what I might suffer (which can be everything sometimes).  Maybe dealing with these things now will save my life.  I have to cling to those thoughts, because they keep me from drowning.  And I find lately that I’m not comparing myself to others as much – I’m not bitterly noting how many people get pregnant without trying, how little they appreciate it and how easy it all seems for them.  Doing that has been torture and it isn’t helping me – and I’m in so much pain tonight I just need to make it easier on myself.  This is my story, this is the way it is going, and what happens to other people is not part of that.

Someday, I hope to be able to use what I’ve learned to help my own child with difficult things that might happen to her.  I hope I’ve learned compassion from this experience, and I’ve learned how to survive both physical and emotional anguish and keep going.  I think that might be the greatest gift I can give my child – it is what I wish I could get from members of my own family and what I lack the most in my life right now, so perhaps giving it to my child someday will finally heal me from the damage this experience is doing to me.   That’s what I want, that’s what I hope for most.  Let it be for something, you know?  Let it give a child a greater chance in the world and a sense that her mother really, desperately loved her many months or years before she was even born.

 

 

Bee stings, old & new friends, and getting back into life again

I find myself getting teary a lot this week, but not in a bad way.  This is perhaps the first week that’s happened in many months, where I’ve been close to tears, but instead of feeling overwhelmed, heartbroken and sad, I’m now feeling those things mixed with hope, gratitude for the kindness of friends, and a sense that it is slowly getting better.  That hope is very hard-won, and I’m mindful of how important a victory that has been for me.

I still feel deep grief for the loss of our child.  (These days, though, I’m calling him “our first child” so that is at least something.)  I don’t know that I ever will stop feeling that way and I don’t know that I can ever explain it adequately, but I’ve seen that same grief on the faces of a few other women who’ve shared their stories with me (women who now have several living children), so I know I’m not alone.  I also still feel a deep sense of emotional exhaustion – I have no idea how long we’re going to be in this place, slogging along and trying to figure out what infertility treatments to try next, what tests we need to do, what appointments we need to make, what financial sacrifices will be necessary and how much haggling with insurance it is worth it to do.  We keep talking about how we’ll be so grateful when it is all over – when we reach whatever outcome we’re going to reach, and we either adopt or have a biological child somehow.  But what will it take to get us there?  Neither of us knows, and we sometimes feel so tired and resigned at the idea of what might be next.

But we’re also picking up our feet and putting one in front of the other.  I’ve started tracking my ovulation again (in the faint hope that it is happening, and that decent eggs are being made), and eventually I might even have the patience to start the whole morning routine again — BBT, cervical mucus testing, making notes in the chart, etc.  I’m not quite ready for the extreme fertility diet I was on before, but I’m thinking about whether or not I want to do that again, and I expect next month I might be ready for it.  I flipped through an adoption guide, to start emotionally preparing myself for that again.  I can see how in a month or two, I’ll be doing the things I was doing before, with less of a sense of sadness than I feel right now.  I have tracked down a “Pregnancy after a loss” group to help me cope if I do manage to get pregnant, and I have support groups and therapy on my calendar from now until…whenever.

But the good thing is that I’ve got new and old friends coming to town.  Friends who are new to the area need my help getting situated, and I’m finding that throwing off my old woes and going out to help someone is marvelous therapy.  Just focusing on someone else and not my own damn sadness is such a relief!  And I feel like I’m useful again, a feeling I didn’t know I needed.  I get out several times a week and I do something that’s not about me and not about infertility – I take someone to a shopping center, I help them figure out how to get a driver’s license here, I buckle children into car seats and I drive whole carloads of people out to a county fair for a little fun.  And mercifully, for once, I forget about crying my eyes out and I forget about my broken heart for a few hours.  I look at someone else’s toddler and I feel some hope – hey maybe being around kids will help me have them, I think.  Maybe learning how to manage babies and toddlers will make it easier to let go of the one I lost — and this is true, sometimes.  It works for days at a time.  There is no cure-all here, but I will take a little relief from time to time, because I really need it.

And this morning my beekeeping partner and I opened up the hive to find that my benign neglect of the bees has resulted in a population explosion and a strong, healthy colony.  That hive is positively busting with bees and honeycomb!  The bees’ fecundity and survival are a never-ending source of inspiration to me – I like having a healthy, thriving queen like that in my backyard.  Maybe some of her skills will rub off on me.  Unfortunately, they’re also really protective of their hard work, so a few of them decided to find any exposed skin and I got a couple of stings this morning.  I had to pull off a few angry bees that also managed to find the dog in his hiding spot and my poor little basset has a tiny sore spot on his paw from bee venom.  He handled it like a champ, though, and just thrust out his paw so I could pull them out for him, without one whimper.

I also have a lot coming up soon – school will start in a few weeks, and I’m already working to get the house ready for the busyness of fall.  I have work I want to do, and I have projects going on that keep me from brooding.  And the peace and quiet has maintained itself for at least a week or so, with only a few short term moments where someone tried to start some drama or something bad happened.  I’m hopeful that I’ll get a bit of a break now – I realize saying that is like putting a big target on myself, but surely I’ve paid my dues now, no?

 

 

A year of disasters

This has been my year of disasters:  in the fall an earthquake, a hurricane, torrential rains that caused a flood, in the spring two uterine surgeries, being told I probably couldn’t have children, being told I might be able to have children, getting pregnant in March, losing my child at 9 weeks in May, and now this past weekend we had a “land hurricane” (a severe storm front called a derecho) that knocked out power to 2 million people and sent us scrambling for shelter and power.  The storm itself was terrifying – intense lightning and 80 mph winds – but that plus the combined effect of a year of disasters  have left me very jumpy about any perceived threat to myself or my family.  As soon as the power went out, I went into planning-and-survival mode.

By the next day, as the heat was rising to almost 100+ degrees, I knew we couldn’t stay at home.  When I went out to put gas in the car and discovered it was an hour-long wait to get gas at the one station still functioning, I started to realize things were bad and we needed to get out.  But we couldn’t go to any public cooling centers, because we have a dog and it was absolutely unacceptable to both of us to leave him behind.

In a way, our dog has been like a surrogate child the last year.  He knows, somehow, that things are harder for us lately, and he seems to provide just an extra amount of affection.  If he goes on a walk with either one of us, he always comes back in the room and heads straight to the one he left behind, giving a quick kiss of reassurance on whatever exposed skin he can find.  After my miscarriage, he spent a lot of time in bed with me, and even if he went for a walk or went in the other room to be with my husband, he would routinely come back to check on me, almost like a nurse would check on a patient.  To be perfectly blunt, he’s been more help to me than some of my closest family members, and I am not about to leave him in 100 degree temperatures with little food and water.

So instead, we packed up the car and left town.  We had no idea where we were going or if we were going to find a place to stay.  I figured if we headed down the highway and stopped at every hotel we found, eventually we’d find one that accepted pets.  It took us 3 hours, but finally we found a hotel that allowed pets in every room and had one last room available.  I didn’t even ask them how much it was – I was just so grateful to find a place with air conditioning where we could stay for the night.  Many times over the next few days, I broke down in tears of gratitude, so happy and relieved that a hotel was available where we could make sure our dog was looked after.  This is a direct result of my terrible year – I’m now emotionally undone by the idea of my dog getting basic care in an emergency.

Our power came back on Sunday, and we started the drive back home in the car.  While we were on the road, I cried again, telling my husband how much it meant to me that my little family was kept together and safe during a crisis, that we made it.  I shouldn’t even have said anything, because right in the middle of that conversation, our car started to stall.  We pulled over on the road and my husband turned the engine off, letting it cool down for a few minutes.  He re-started it carefully, as I tried to keep myself from panicking.  After a few minutes of agonized waiting, we got the car started and got back on the highway.  We’re still not sure if something is now wrong with the transmission, but we managed to drive the last hour home without incident.

But during that last hour, I lost it completely.  I was so freaked that something else would happen that I would barely talk to my husband and if he looked anywhere but at the road, I snapped at him.  I would barely let him change lanes to pass other cars on the highway, and I frequently made him slow down, even to the point of being below the speed limit.  I was rigid with fear that we’d break down or have an accident.

When we made it home, I finally let myself relax a little bit and guess what happened?  I broke down again.  I’ve been crying all morning – crying when the power flickered, crying when the cable came back on, crying at the idea of getting back in that car to run errands today.  I even cry when I look at the dog, thinking about how relieved I am that he’s ok, that we’re all ok and maybe life will get back to normal this week.

This is what the last year has done to me – I sometimes just come undone, when all the smoke has cleared and I have a moment to think.  I never used to be this easily spooked, but a combination of natural disasters and personal tragedies has shaken me so badly I don’t know if I’ll ever be the same again.  I know it could get much, much worse (and just thinking about how much worse it has gotten for other people actually makes me cry again — for them), and that idea has me shaking like a leaf.  I know I can handle it (I’ve handled it so far) but I don’t want to.  I just want it to stop.  I want a little space to get myself together again and feel normal for a while.  I want peace and quiet, but at this point, I can’t remember the last time I had any.

 

Thank You, Dick Foam

Things are…better.  I’m cautious about using that word, but I suppose you can look at the objective signs of recovery:  I get out of bed every day, I can usually manage to do something productive for at least the first half of the day before I hit the wall, and while things suck now, I am still aware that they will get better at some undetermined date in the future.  So, that’s something.

I also have little moments of grim humor.  Yesterday I misread the cast list for an old movie and thought the actor Dick Faran was named Dick Foam.  This led to a moment where I decided to Google “Dick Foam” (I don’t recommend you do that) and then spent a long puzzled moment not understanding why his name didn’t come up on IMDB.  Finally, it occurred to me that my tired eyes actually blurred the letters and there was no wonderful human named Dick Foam.  And I laughed.  Out loud.  That felt ridiculously good.  I also had a similar moment this weekend where I went out on an errand, and listened to the Rolling Stones’ song “Start Me Up” in the car, and the combination of that song plus the feel of hot sun on my skin was deeply cathartic.  I felt like a normal human being again, and it made me recognize how rare that feeling has become lately.  Jon and I were talking later, and decided that the words “Dick Foam” would become our catchphrase for a moment when you can forget the whole sordid mess for a second and just feel better.  Every time it happens, we’re gonna thank Dick Foam, the patron saint of momentary pauses in our suffering (and something less saintly, but Google him for that one).

Now I’m in a bit of limbo – I am conscious of the fact that I’m not ready to get pregnant again (and hey, it might not even be possible), but also mindful of the fact that sooner would be better than later (hello 37th birthday!).  Eventually I am going to have to move forward with this process, whatever that means at this point.  To start with, I have a lot of work to do.  After what happened with the D&C, it is clear that I need to change my infertility doctor (who, in the middle of my miscarriage, refused to see me on the grounds that “she’d discharged me” to OB so I was their problem), my OB clinic (which doesn’t even have an ultrasound machine), and the hospital where I was planning to deliver.  That’s a lot of new medical expertise to track down and try out.  I also have to decide if I want to try any assisted reproduction treatments – I was just being evaluated for that when I got pregnant, and I have no idea if I really need it or if I can do it on my own again.  I’m still being monitored for my condition so I need to follow up on that as well.  It all just sounds so exhausting when I write it down, and frankly, right now, my motivation is at its lowest ebb yet.  What I actually want to do is avoid all medical personnel for a while, and just let things drift for a month or two. Drifting is the most painless way to be right now – it keeps me from the pain of trying and failing and it gives me a little space to breathe and remember what I used to be like.

This is what infertility does – it takes over your life.  I’m hoping that anyone reading this who doesn’t understand about infertility but does know me will get that.  You remember what I used to be like, right?  I was not a person who obsessed about this kind of thing.  And yet:  look what has happened, in just under a year.  I’m not unique at all – in fact, my reaction is downright common.  But this is what this process can do to you.  You have to fight it pretty hard to get yourself back.

 

 

 

 

 

Long story short: I had a miscarriage 2 weeks ago today.

On May 10th, I had a D&C to remove the fetus I’d been carrying for almost 9 weeks.  There was no heartbeat, and my body had yet to initiate a natural miscarriage, but I knew I’d go mad carrying around my dead baby, so I let the doctor talk me into removing it.

I don’t know how to start this story – it is one of the most heartbreaking periods of my life, and the hardest part is that I’ve largely been silent about it.  Few people even knew that I was pregnant and very few know that Jon and I have been dealing with infertility for the last year and a half.  At the beginning of this, we were silent about it because neither of us had the language to talk about it.  I still feel like I’m struggling to explain it to the outside world, or even just to myself.  The initial diagnosis came last year, and when it happened, it was such a sharp, world-changing moment that I still feel a deep inhibition about putting it into words.  I’ve described it to a few people as a raw, animal grief – I feel as though I mourn it involuntarily sometimes, like my body just vibrates with sadness without my being able to control or predict it.  I did not realize before it happened how much I wanted children, and how terrible the loss would feel when it appeared I could not have them.

Since the diagnosis, we have been through a special kind of hell – as one friend put it, “welcome to the club that no one wants to be in.”  I’ve been through two uterine surgeries, both easy enough to deal with on the day of each surgery, but with complicated recoveries and the constant fear that the scarring from each procedure will make it impossible to conceive.  I also live in constant fear that I’ll need an emergency hysterectomy and it will all be  over.  We’ve discovered that our families are not really able to understand our grief or support and comfort us very well, so this has only increased the sense of isolation we’re feeling.  The culture we live in also has a variety of negative and insulting things to say about the infertile – I won’t repeat them all, but I’ve heard everything from “Maybe God doesn’t want you to have children” (meaning, I’m somehow less worthy than people who can conceive easily) to “Your problem is that you just can’t relax – relax and you’ll get pregnant” (meaning, this problem isn’t as big a deal as you think it is).  Go to any infertility website and you’ll see a list of insensitive, cruel and hurtful remarks that people make to infertile couples – sometimes they come from members of your own family.  And the worst thing you often get is silence and avoidance – I have one friend who changes the subject or abruptly ends the conversation when I bring up the subject of my struggle with infertility.  In general, I feel like I’ve become the focal point for the unease, fear and hostility that surrounds the darker side of reproduction.  I represent what a lot of women are afraid of, so afraid that they can’t even bring themselves to admit it, so they just want me gone, out of the room, off the screen, out of their lives, as soon as possible.  I’ve had a lot of moments where I feel like I’ve been silenced, shunted aside, and pointedly ignored, for fear of what I might say or what I might make someone confront.

And then there was the pregnancy.  It happened out of nowhere – first it appeared that I magically started ovulating again (after the doctor told me I had stopped some time ago, and if I didn’t start again, there was nothing she could do), and then while we were in the middle of testing and evaluation of our options for treatment, I discovered I was pregnant.  It felt like the whirlwind inexplicably stopped, and we could see a way forward for the first time.  I will also admit:  I fell in love with that baby (to me it really was our baby), impossibly small as it was.  We saw it on the ultrasound at 6 weeks and heard a heartbeat – that’s not something I think I will ever forget in my life.  I tracked its progress every week, and even though I felt wretched, I welcomed it.  I told myself I’d happily throw up for nine months if only the little tadpole would stick it out with us.  I talked to it sometimes, telling it how much we wanted it, how loved it was and would be, thanking it for coming to us after all we’d been through.  Feeling hope for the first time was very painful, but I let myself feel it – I would cry and talk to the baby, saying please stay.  Please make it and live.

Around 8 weeks, I started to think it might just work out for us.  We told our families.  We picked out some names and dared to discuss what our child might be like.  I scheduled a maternity tour and a birth class.  It felt impossible, amazing even, that we’d had this lucky break after so many months of grief and disappointment.

And then, it just ended.  When you work so hard to get pregnant, you take nothing for granted – every twinge, every change in your symptoms, every pain is examined in detail for any sign that something might be wrong.  When my morning sickness abruptly stopped, I knew.  I didn’t want to believe it at first, but I called my OB’s triage nurse, “just in case” I told myself, and by the next day, I had an ultrasound and they confirmed that the heartbeat had stopped and the baby had died.  I felt like such a fool, for hoping like that so early, for daring to believe it might actually work out, for loving something that much that was so small and fragile.

The actual process of removing the baby was a complete nightmare.  I don’t even know that I can write it all down yet, but I will describe one moment:  as they were wheeling me into the operating room, I began to panic.  I had this wild feeling that there had been some terrible mistake, that they’d missed the heartbeat and we were about to destroy my child in a terrible error.  I began to gasp and whimper, the whimpering became crying, and the crying turned into a small scream.  Instead of stopping to let me recover, the nurses and doctor held me down.  “This is for the best,” one of them said to me awkwardly, “Just let go of it.”  They strapped me to the table and as I wept and thrashed around, they forced the oxygen mask over my mouth until I passed out.  That’s the last memory I have until I woke up in the recovery room, the very last image of my pregnancy.  Sometimes I don’t know how I am still walking around with that moment in my head, how I am not destroyed by that.  Often I wonder if my pregnancy wasn’t some horrible dream or a joke someone played on me.  How does a person hold that kind of thing inside her without flying apart?

In the two weeks since then, I realized immediately that silence was no longer possible.  If only to save my life and preserve some sanity, I need to start talking about this.  I don’t really have a great support system – a few dear, loyal women who know and keep me afloat, a therapist who props me up every week, and Jon, who is dealing with his own version of this devastation.  Family members have really not offered us very much, and since the miscarriage, they’ve either ignored it or said the worst possible things.  If I am going to move on from this and get pregnant ever again, or make my way through the landmines of adoption, I am going to have to find another means of coping.  I am going to have to write my way through this, or else give up completely.  So from here on out, we’re going to try this and see if it helps.

There’s an Emily Dickinson poem I’ve been reading, which I think explains better than I can, how I feel about the loss of our child.  I’ll end this post with that:

Of all the Souls that stand create –

I have elected — One –

When Sense from Spirit — files away –

And Subterfuge — is done –

When that which is — and that which was –

Apart — intrinsic — stand –

And this brief Drama in the flesh –

Is shifted — like a Sand –

When Figures show their royal Front –

And Mists — are carved away,

Behold the Atom — I preferred –

To all the lists of Clay!

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