Thursday, February 28, 2013

"Our Secret", Part Four

For the most part, I was filled with joy and hope during my rainbow pregnancy.  It was an inner calm that I find difficult to describe.  I even thought to myself, "Where's the crippling fear???" During the first half of my pregnancy, that fear was kept at bay.  Maybe because I knew it would do no good, that I had no control if I lost the baby that early, that doctors could do nothing to save a baby that early.

I first felt my anxiety truly spike at 24 weeks, maybe due to that being "viability" in the medical community.  There was a CHANCE that if the baby was born it would survive (albeit a very small one).  The fact that I knew so many women who had lost babies due to complications of prematurity helped me to stay somewhat calm about staying pregnant. 

When you've had a stillbirth, no matter "why" it happened (which in my case I will never know), you no longer trust that the safest place for your baby is in the womb.  (I'd even venture to say you no longer trust that the safest place for ANYONE's baby is in their womb, as evidenced by the anxiety many loss women feel simply seeing another woman pregnant!) 

I started monitoring movement and tried doing kick counts, even though I wasn't advised to do so for four more weeks.  Typically, I would feel pretty regular movements.  Thankfully, I always felt a kick or movement while on my way to my OBGYN appointments.  Loss moms know why this is so important.  You see, many of us had to hear those horrible words, "I'm so sorry" while at a routine OBGYN visit.  This makes visits to the OBGYN during a subsequent pregnancy especially stressful, as they serve as triggers for our traumatic experience.  I found that my anxiety was significantly calmed as soon as I felt the baby kick, typically while driving to the appointment or even in the waiting room.  I mean really, what would be the chances of a baby dying in between sitting in the lobby and then going in for an ultrasound?  (I have yet to hear such a story even with all the contacts I have in the community.)  So not much to worry about there.  I always thanked this baby for being active right before an ultrasound was to be performed.  It made the whole doctor office visit experience so much easier for me.

Well, one day I was driving to an appointment, and I was maybe 25 or 26 weeks along.  I did not feel any movement on the way there.  I took a deep breath and poked my belly.  Nothing.  Okay, NOT MESSING AROUND HERE I said, and pulled into a drive thru to order a milkshake.  Surely that would wake baby up, right?
I remember choking down this chocolate milkshake, which under normal circumstances would have been absolutely delicious.  But not this time.  Worrying that your baby might be dead kind of kills your appetite.  I waited and waited.  Nothing.  The tears started falling and I chugged more milkshake, which to me tasted revolting, all I wanted was my baby to be okay.
Sitting in the waiting room, still nothing.
Waiting in the examination room, still nothing.
My OBGYN took longer than usual to come in, which made things ten times worse.
My husband hugged me and told me things were going to be fine.  That worrying and crying wouldn't help anything even if something was wrong, but that nothing was wrong anyway.
I said, "How do you know?"

My OBGYN came in and once he heard my concerns gave me a hug and let me cry.  I just looked at my husband and we later talked about that moment and how we both were thinking, "STOP HUGGING ALREADY AND JUST DO THE STINKIN' ULTRASOUND!"

I couldn't even look at the screen.  I was so afraid of what I would see.  I squeezed my husband's hand as my doctor said, "Okay, baby looks great.  There's the heartbeat."  I let out a huge breath and started sobbing.  He stopped the ultrasound so that I could get myself together.  After, he continued to examine the baby, and everything was perfect.

Lesson learned: really, kick counts don't work well before 28 weeks.  This is why they don't prescribe them until 28 weeks, people.

Easier said than done though when you feel an insane amount of pressure to make sure you are doing everything in your power to bring your baby into the world kicking and screaming this time.

So relieved baby was okay.
I don't think I will ever truly enjoy a chocolate milkshake ever again.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Heavy Heart

This week it felt like my grief was re-emerging (not that it ever really goes away, but you know).  I just had such a heavy heart.  I felt so angry about losing Elias.  I felt like I was losing him all over again. 

Monday was my postpartum appointment.  It was such a normal experience - going in all smiles with a gift for my OBGYN, women in the waiting room making superficial comments about how I don't even look like I had a baby, everyone ooohing and ahhhing over my son. 

Everything went so perfectly smooth.

I got home to an email on my phone - a newsletter from CLIMB (center for loss in multiple births).  William's birth announcement was in there, along with my friend's birth of her rainbow baby girl.  We both had our rainbows on the same day, and we both had rainbows the same gender as the babies we lost. The babies we lost were both part of boy girl twin sets.  My loss was tragically close to delivery while her loss was during delivery, likely due to a medical mistake.  Seeing those two birth announcements next to one another, I felt so grateful that we found one another and made a connection, especially in those early days where we both needed support.  But then I just got really pissed off.  Why did she have to lose her daughter?  Why did I have to lose my son?

I think the injustice of it all struck me especially hard due to my just having come from my postpartum appointment.  A postpartum appointment where things went perfectly right for once.  That's how things are supposed to go.

I'm angry that I know anything other than how things are supposed to go. 
That I know what it's like to go to a postpartum appointment without your baby.
That I know what it's like to go over preliminary autopsy results with your doctor.
That I know what it's like to agonize whether or not you or someone else did something to cause the worst pain you've ever known.
That I know what it's like to feel like the ultimate failure of a mother.
That I know what it's like to have your baby in an urn on a shelf rather than in your arms living and breathing.
That I know what it's like to say hello and goodbye in one breath.  To kiss a baby for the first and last time.  To go to sleep and never want to wake up in a world where your baby will never grow up.

It's all so wrong.

I let myself go there - I let myself imagine what it might have been like to have both of my twins here healthy and happy, to bring them both to a postpartum appointment, to have a gift for my OBGYN rather than anger and confusion over what happened, to have joy in my heart rather than the heaviest grief and inner turmoil beyond my wildest imagination.

Why didn't I deserve that?  Why didn't I deserve to have him here after carrying him for 37 weeks? 

One thing is certain.  My son certainly didn't deserve to die.
That anger is still there simmering beneath the surface, and nothing seems to help when it flares as it has this week.

Yesterday I thought to myself, all of this on top of already having had a loss.  The baby I miscarried yet rarely talk about.  We have an ornament on the Christmas tree every year but have no ritual for mourning that loss, and it makes me sad.  Then I realized what day it was...February 20th.  If that first baby hadn't miscarried, if he/she had been born on their due date, they would have turned three years old yesterday.


...But then I would have never gotten pregnant with the twins, so Evelyn wouldn't be here...And then I wouldn't have lost Elias either, so then William wouldn't be here....I hate these mind games my brain plays! All the alternate realities just twist my heart. 

I feel like it will take me a lifetime to process everything I've been through.  I don't mean it in a pity party way, just being reflective here.  I do feel Elias has made me a better person in many ways, even though some of these posts I write don't always communicate that.  I love the children I hold in my arms so very fiercely, so isn't it a betrayal somehow that I wish the children I lost could be here?  In no scenario would they all have been here realistically.  All these thoughts just leave me with a heavy heart and no resolution.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

"Our Secret", Part Three

First off, please know that my blog is NOT going to turn into a rainbow baby blog.  That is not my intent anyhow.  I am writing about my rainbow pregnancy here in order to sort through the highs and lows of that experience, because pregnancy after loss is extremely complex.

That said, this is still my space to GRIEVE for my first born son.  That grief has NOT disappeared with the birth of my second son.  If anything it has brought up a lot of emotions that were hidden before.  But that's for another post.

                                                                                * * *

Things were rough in the beginning.  I was sick, then not sick, then sick.  So of course my PTSD mind goes straight to, "I must be miscarrying!"  Right?  I mean when you suddenly don't feel ill anymore, it must mean the baby died and your hormones are going down, right?  Not having been in to get an ultrasound yet wasn't helping matters any.  I know many women demand to be seen earlier.  Six weeks or five weeks.  Not me.  I get it, I really do, but in my mind I want to be further along in a pregnancy before I get an ultrasound and potentially don't see a heartbeat and have to hear, "Well it might just be too early" or "maybe your dates are off".  I know how that all plays out and the extra agony it can cause, so I acted like anyone else and agreed to be seen around eight or nine weeks or whenever they scheduled me in.

But.  Then there was the whole I feel sick, oh wait I don't feel sick, okay WTF is going on thing.

So I called and explained my history.  Was given the run around at first and then was finally told to go ahead and get blood drawn to get an HCG level.  Had to go back and have another one a few days later.  Waited, waited, waited until I finally got a call.  The nurse told me my HCG level.  I looked down at the number I had scribbled on my notepad about where my number SHOULD be based on how many weeks I was per Dr. Google.  So when she read a ridiculously LOW number, I just said, "Oh God."  And she asked me how many weeks I was, so I told her, and she got kinda quiet.  And finally said, "Well let's not jump to any extreme conclusions here.  The number does seem really low.  You need to come in for an ultrasound so we can see what's going on."  "You mean so we can verify I've miscarried?" I said.  "Well let's just wait and see" she said.

I got off of the phone and sobbed.  I wasn't numb - I was so angry at the world for bonking me on the head YET AGAIN with ANOTHER loss.  Three babies in heaven and one on earth?  How the hell would I ever survive that???  And should I miscarry naturally, which was so traumatic last time I can't even blog about it...I lost my baby in public and bled so bad I had to go to the hospital...Or should I have a D&C and risk scarring and problems in a future pregnancy?  My mind spiraled to try to think of the "practical" matters while my heart twisted and turned and felt it might just stop altogether.  I called my dear friend M, who helped me through my last miscarriage and has personal experience, and cried. 

My phone beeped, but I ignored it.  Who could I possibly want to talk to right now?  After I finished up my conversation with M, I got off the phone to see whose call I had missed, hoping it was my husband so I could get this horrible news over with.

The number was not one I recognized, but there was a voicemail.  It was the nurse telling me to call her back.

When I did, she simply said, "Honey, I'm so sorry.  I read the number wrong.  Your HCG levels are perfectly fine.  I can't believe I just did that.  I don't know how that happened."

I wanted to scream at her, but I was too relieved for that.  The relief was soon taken over by paranoia that the woman was lying, that she was trying to give me some ray of hope so that I wouldn't stress so much before the ultrasound, so that I wouldn't assume the worst. 

But then of course that's not rational.  And then of course I could view my own medical records to see my HCG results if I really wanted. 

So I finally told my anxious mind to STFU, and I finally absorbed the reality that the baby was most likely fine.  At that point I really wanted to find this nurse and beat the living crap out of her.  I mean really, who misreads an HCG reading to someone who has already suffered a miscarriage AND a stillbirth???  THEWORLDMUSTFREAKINGHATEME!


That first ultrasound...I was so nervous I was literally sick.  I cried in the examination room waiting for the on call doctor to come in.  Dr. V came in and told me she understood my concerns.  My husband held my hand as the ultrasound started, and there it was, this tiny wriggly little baby with a heartbeat.

One baby.


At that point there was joy and sorrow yet again.  Sorrow that I officially had to let go of the dream I've had since childhood to ever parent multiples.  Sorrow that I would never again have the chance to hold my own set of twins in my arms.  Sorrow that I would never get to prove to myself that I could grow and birth a healthy living set of twins.

I cringe to admit any of that, but there it is.

Knowing that even if I could have twins again, it would never bring Elias back, it would never fix my broken heart, it would never make things right. 
Knowing, knowing in my heart of hearts that I didn't need to really prove anything, that I did grow healthy twins last time, that some random medical mystery stole my son's life swiftly, that it was nothing I could have caused short of being in a car accident or taking a tumble down the stairs, neither which had ever happened.

This knowing gave way to joy.

Joy that the baby hadn't miscarried.  Joy in my baby's strong heartbeat and wiggles.  Joy that this was officially a new chapter for us, one that might involve a pregnancy whose outcome for the first time wouldn't entail loss.  Joy that a singleton would allow for my pregnancy to be less sensationalized, easier to keep to myself, less of something that people would brand as my entire identity.  Joy that this one baby had my uterus all to itself, that it didn't have to share with a sibling, that I could focus all my energy on this one, that it could have all the nutrients I was putting in.  Joy that I shouldn't have to do bedrest, that I shouldn't have to worry so much about premature labor, that I could worry a little less about the laundry list of hundreds of things that twin pregnancies are at a higher risk of.  Joy that I could have a "normal" pregnancy perhaps for the first time ever.  Joy that I could prove to myself that I could be "normal", that I could bond with this one itty bitty one intensely and individually, that I could soak up the wonder and excitement of pregnancy a little more not having to worry about the additional risks that a twin pregnancy present.  Joy that my daughter might just have a younger sibling to play with, to bond with, without having to watch a younger set of twin siblings flaunt everything she should have had.

Carrying one healthy singleton. 
Unchartered territory. 
And honestly?
It felt so perfectly right.