Wednesday, October 16, 2013

My Remembering Story

Today is National Baby Loss Awareness Day. October fifteenth.

With a day that is so important, so deep, I find the name lacking. But how do you put into words the emotions involved in the loss of a baby? There just aren't any.

I remember when I lost my first baby. It was 2000 and I was just about to celebrate my first wedding anniversary with the discovery of my first pregnancy. It was perfect! I was over the moon! I had everything I had ever wanted: a wonderful, loving husband and a baby soon following.  I bought the baby books, I obsessed over magazines, I started to collect ideas for a scrapbook. We told our family right away, that's how excited I was! I even started to write out cards to announce it to family members living across the country. This baby was everything to me.

I remember reading every pregnancy info I could find. What to expect, what to look out for, what to ask your doctor about, what to decide on. I knew it all. I remember reading over the the warning signs as well; the things that could be bad, but I was able to wave it off with a relieved sigh as I had nothing to worry about. I had some spotting, but that's normal. It didn't last anyways. And even at about 6 weeks, when I had such severe stomach cramps at work, where I couldn't even work for a half hour as I sat in the back room in pain and worry, I shrugged off as it never happened again. The days and weeks went by easily.

I remember walking into the hospital for my routine 12 week ultrasound in confidence. I brought my mom and my sister along so that they could enjoy this moment too. Aside from having a full bladder and a non-speaking technician, I had no reason to think anything was amiss. But then it started to take a long time. She moved that wand around my belly in every possible direction, had me move to my sides, trying to get better pictures. Things started to feel concerning when she said that she needed to talk to a supervisor. It got scary when she returned to say that she was going to do a trans-vaginal ultrasound on me. I had never heard of those before! (Coming from a woman who was not sexually active prior to marriage and has lived a pretty tame and pure life --some might say 'prudish'-- the idea of one made me ill. You want to do put what where? It was a horrifying experience. Not that she wasn't gentle or caring or anything, but it was invasive and made me very uncomfortable. If they were to find a way to do these sorts of scans in a less intimate way, I would be very grateful. Many women would be.)  When she left to consult her supervisor again, I knew something wasn't right, and I kept singing a song in my head to keep me from losing stability.

She returned, told me to take a piece of paper to the emergency ward, and that there was nothing in my uterous.

I had no idea what she was talking about. What do you mean there is nothing there? I'm pregnant. I have the tests to prove it. The morning sickness, the sore breasts, the frequent urination that tells me so. I am almost out of my first trimester. Something isn't right.

I remember walking to the emergency ward, and going up to the front desk, totally confused. I didn't know what was going on. I didn't know why I was there. I didn't know what I was supposed to do. All I knew is that my Mom was crying and I was lost. And then a cruel triage nurse tells me, rather coldly, that I am having an Ectopic Pregnancy and there is no baby. Her exact words aren't in my memory anymore, but I remember her harshness and I remember how uncaring she was.

So suddenly, my joy of seeing my 12 week baby on screen was traded with the fear and confusion of a pregnancy that would not result in a baby, but also needed to be stopped.  I remember feeling numb as I got into a gown and had an IV inserted. I remember using my sister's cellphone to call my Hunny with the news, but I don't remember what was said, or how long my mom and sister stayed or what we did to pass the time in the emergency ward. It's all a blur.

I remember trying to be strong, but really I was devastated and I didn't know what to do or say. I wanted to cry and I wanted someone to hold me and tell me that things would be okay, but my husband was just as lost. I remember wanting to throw up when they gave me a shot of Methotrexate in my backside. Not only did it hurt like hell, but my heart crushed then and my life changed after that one moment. That injection left scars that still hurt. I know now that I wasn't killing my baby, but that's how it felt. That I had just given a toxic medication that would save my life (so my tube wouldn't burst), but it was aborting my own child, something that I could not, would not, ever choose to do. And that weighed heavy on me for so long; this guilt that I felt. (Thankfully, later I came to realize that this baby hadn't survived and that the Methotrexate moved the cells out of my tube so that my body could heal. Likely, when I felt the massive cramp at 6 weeks, my baby was already dying and outgrowing the tiny space it wasn't supposed to be in. We just didn't realize that's what happened until 12 weeks.)

It took my body and my heart a year to heal. They say that you can start trying for another baby after 3 months, as it takes that long for you to heal physically, but my periods were so crazy and my cycles kept getting longer and longer and I was a wreck. I fell into a depression where every month was another waiting game to see if we were pregnant again, and every month another let down when we weren't. Suddenly, everything good and perfect in my life had fallen apart and was stolen. (sad way of viewing it, eh? Considering I still had my wonderful loving husband, and I had my supportive family, and I had a great job and caring friends. But when you're grieving and depressed, it's easy to see what you're lacking than what you have, even if you know you have been blessed.)

I still think of her on New Year's Eve. Her due date was 01-01-01. And I was convinced she was a she, and so I named her Lily because it sounded delicate and beautiful.

My story still brings me to tears, even though it has been thirteen years. Wow. She would be a teenager this year! But, thanks be to God, He has blessed me still and my life is full! A year after we conceived Lily, and at our second anniversary, we found out we were pregnant with Abi! And after the first fears were put aside, and we were given an early ultrasound to determine baby was perfectly nestled in my womb and I had gotten past my first trimester, things went by well. What a beautiful gift He gave me when He answered my prayers for a child!

Then along came Kai, and how wonderful is that? A toddler and a baby boy. Life was great!

But then I had my second ectopic. I knew that after having one, your chances of another was a lot higher, but after two healthy pregnancies I thought maybe I'd pass that. Yeah, not so much. The thing is that I didn't even know that I was pregnant!

It was 2005. That was a terribly rough year medically. I was diagnosed with depression, and an underactive thyroid. Gah!

We had just said good night to friends who came over for dinner and Bible study. I had put Abi to bed and was holding Kai and trying to keep him asleep while I played on the computer when I had such incredible cramps. They took my breath away! I managed to stumble out to the living room and told Hunny that the pain was like being in labour with the other two except that it wasn't letting up like a contraction and I wasn't pregnant! He asked if I needed to go to the hospital, but I so valiantly said that it may pass over and I'd be okay. *rolleyes* He called his sister to watch our kids (she conveniently lived below in our basement suite) while he drove me.

I remember thinking it was an ectopic, and telling the hospital staff.  I remember thinking that if it was that it could be dangerous. I'd heard of stories of women who had their tubes burst and they bled internally and almost died (and some have) because they weren't cared for properly. I was so scared of that happening! I was in so much pain that I couldn't even sit properly in my chair in the triage, and I felt so ill, and I had purple-ish brown blood (yeah, not my period after all.) 

When I was finally brought in to a bed, I did my customary pee in a cup for them, and we waited for a doctor. When he arrived, Doctor Brilliant says with slight optimism, "well, you're pregnant!" followed by a pause and a "is this good news?" I looked at him blankly and responded, "not if that's why I'm in pain!" Sheesh. Some people. Since it was around midnight by then, they couldn't do an ultrasound on me since it was closed, so I'd have to spend the night and wait til morning. But since I was in so much pain, they at least gave me morphine. I've said this before, but let me say it again: this is such a strange drug!!! It feels so incredibly out-of-body-like when it takes affect; I have a really hard time thinking that people like this feeling and get addicted to it!!! But it did take away my pain, and I did get to sleep.

The next day, an ultrasound confirmed that I was having an ectopic pregnancy again, so a laproscopy was scheduled for me. We decided that since this was my second, that the Olders were likely conceived and traveled the healthy right tube, and that my left fallopian tube was scarred and damaged; it was in our best interest to remove it.  I was all for that, even though I was a bit unsure of my fertility. I was down to one tube. Would that cut my chances in half? Would that mean my dreams of a large family were gone? I was pleasantly surprised when the obstetrician I met after surgery for my follow up appointment told me that since I had both ovaries, they would both still continue to release eggs, and in the wonder that is our body, the eggs dropped on the left would still manage to make their way to the right tube. How awesome is that???

Turns out it's true! A year later, we welcomed Bryn, and then two years after, Rhys. With one tube too!

Sadly, I did have a miscarriage in 2010 though. That was a tough one. Not nearly as hard as my first ectopic but harder than my second EP. (with that EP, I felt no connection to the baby. No naming, no feelings of gender, and no due date to obsess over. The day I found out I was pregnant was the day I knew it wasn't going to last. I was "pregnant", but not with a baby like the ones I had at home. So this one wasn't as emotional for me as much as it is a part of my story still.)  This pregnancy came at a horrible time, when things were so stressful, when a baby was not a part of our plan, when I did not wish for this baby or long for it. It was so incredibly hard and I spent many tears over it, praying, begging, asking God for guidance. It took a few weeks to finally accept the pregnancy as a part of God's plan for our life, good or bad, when I started to bleed. And that sinking feeling again. The one that tells you that things may not end well. I bled for three or four days, red thick blood that ripped at my soul. It taunted me and threw back all my fears in my face; like a cruel joke. An undesired pregnancy that I came to accept and maybe start to plan for just to have to accept that it wasn't meant to be. What was the use of that? It took me several weeks to get over that. I feel shame over the whole thing still, and have many questions that will only be answered when I see Him face to face.

Three babies in heaven wait for me.  I have been pregnant eight times.

Despite the pain, the tears, the depression, the anxiety over my losses, I am more reminded of my blessings.  I have five wonderful babies. I am so richly blessed. I know many women who don't get to hold that many in their arms. That the ones they have in heaven out number the ones in life.  I don't understand the Whys, but I do know that God is watching out for us, and He has a plan for each and every one of us and that He wants to bless us and draw us to Him.

I knew that life had moved on in a good direction when I was finally able to get through New Year's Eve without remembering my loss.  And that's a good thing.  I will always hold my babies in my heart, and they will always be a part of my story, and I hope that I can be used as an encouragement to others, but I can look forward with joy. One day I will meet those babies and I will know their names and it will be wonderful.

Today, as we Remember Infant and Baby Loss, I remember my babies, and I remember Quinn, my cousin's boy who was born still last year, and I remember the babies my friends have lost through Ectopics and their loss of fertility as well, I remember Calypso, my friend's little girl who lived and fought a tough battle for a few weeks after being born prematurely and very ill, and I remember how Baby Loss is still such a quiet subject. It's so personal and so emotional that you can't just bring it up out of the blue. How do you tell someone that you have lost babies? How does it possibly come up in a conversation? It's not something we tend to talk about. So I remember the hearts that have been broken, wounded, scarred and are healing slowly with pain that can not be put into words.

When I had my first ectopic pregnancy 13 years ago, there wasn't a lot of information out there.  I remember a tiny little blurb in a pregnancy book, that was it. Everything I read said that it was "rare", as if that were to alleviate fears that it wasn't likely to happen. (I have begun to recognize that if things are rare that they have a higher chance of happening to us. We have had many rare things happen. Ectopics. Cardiomyopathy. Subcutaneous Emphesyma. to name a few) I remember being so upset at that word. RARE. And I wanted to write to every book author and every magazine and tell them it's not that rare after all! It can and does happen. And sometimes you don't know why!

I wandered around in my loss and depression for years, and it wasn't until after I had my second EP that I found a group that supported me. I could not find any group whatsoever in Canada or in the States. The hospitals didn't know what to say, the doctors just told you that your fertility would likely be okay, but no one was able to support and grieve with you. What a blessing it was for me to find Ectopic Pregnancy Trust, a group dedicated to early pregnancy complications in the UK! I joined their message boards and met so many wonderful and dear friends. And my heart healed.

Please, please, if your heart is hurting and you have suffered a baby loss, do not grieve alone! Find someone. Even if that someone is a stranger online! You may find many a kindred friend there. I know I have! Please, talk to someone about your pain and your fears; these are normal things and it is ok to talk them through. Cry. Laugh. Remember. You don't have to go through this alone, and you shouldn't.

If you have friends who have suffered a baby loss, please support them. You will not know what to say, and that is okay. You don't always need the "right words", sometimes just knowing that there is a friend to talk to is enough. Listen to your friend, let her tell you her story (many times if she needs), let her cry. Hold her. Tell her that you don't know what to say, but your heart aches with them.

May today be a peaceful one for you.


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