Tuesday, August 16, 2011

miscarriage Part 1

I am overwhelmed to realize how close I was to dying on Sunday. I lost about 40% of my blood volume from postpartum hemorrhage after I miscarried our sweet little baby. I am so incredibly grateful that my kids still have their mom. I am so in love with my little family and I praise God that he protected me from fear in the hospital. Our family is stuck in this strange juxtaposition between life and death, joy and grief-- our nephew was born on Sunday, hours before I delivered our miscarried baby, and my niece was born today... just hours before we buried our baby.

I don't know why this happened and I don't seek to know why. In every circumstance, I know that Jesus is with me and before me. He loves me so much, and I know that he will use this season of my life to strengthen and refine me, as He has done so many times before.

I was laying in my hospital bed, getting transfused, and I just felt these "waves of silence" wash over me. Every few seconds, a static noise would fill my ears, and then silence. This continued for over an hour. I couldn't sleep. I just drifted between sadness and gratefulness. The sadness was severe... Is... It is so hard to SO QUICKLY lose a child. Everything happened to fast. To have hopes and dreams ripped away like that is inevitably going to be painful. I lay there feeling so lonely... and then I literally felt Jesus wrap his arms around me in comfort and peace. I am so incredibly grateful for my savior and for that loving embrace that got me through that night.

I have to write a disclaimer that the following account can be graphic at times. This is my story that I'm writing for myself, and I am therefore leaving no details out. I know that this will help me in my journey to recovery as it helps me to process. You are welcome to read, but please be warned.

I had been sick with the flu, so I felt weak to start out the weekend. Isaac came home early on Friday afternoon to take care of me. I had waken up the Friday morning with a severe headache, terrible muscle cramps, fever, chills, and nausea. I could hardly get off the couch. I was a mess. I slept most of the evening. By the next morning, I was praising the Lord because I felt better, and we had a relaxing morning together as a family. Isaac was cleaning up lunch Saturday when I went to use the bathroom. When I sat down, I gasped in shock. The image in my head is one I'll never forget: I was wearing white panties and they were covered in bright red blood. I was immediately brokenhearted because I knew what this meant. I yelled for Isaac: "Isaac! I need you!!! I'm bleeding!!!" I just started sobbing. I was 12 weeks pregnant. I started cramping a little later.

I texted my mom for prayer and then called my midwife, Khristeena. Khristeena told me that I could either stay home and wait it out, or I could go to the ER to get a sonogram to confirm that I was miscarrying. I just had to know. I called my mom and asked her to come stay with Judah and Galilee.

We arrived at the ER at Children's Hospital at about 2:30. This was a terrible experience. The triage nurse, when I told her that I thought I was miscarrying, just said: "well, we can hope for the best!" I told her that I didn't want to hope for the best... why play around with my emotions like that? I knew in my heart that my baby had died.

Another nurse, as she was showing us to our room, asked: "how far along are you?" "12 weeks" I answered. "Oh, how exciting!" she squealed. Obviously, she didn't know why we were there. It was not exciting. It was devastating.

We were put in a little corner room where they had shoved all their spare wheelchairs. Isaac and I couldn't even sit next to each other because there was so much junk in there. Eventually, someone cleared out the room for us, and a nurse started an IV. I was confused. "Why are they giving me an IV? I'm just here for bloodwork and an ultrasound. I have a liter and a half of water in our nalgene bottles here, why can't I just drink?" "This is what the doctor ordered, and it's good for the baby" she answered distantly. I didn't want to argue. I was already completely poured out for the day. The nurse asked if I wanted an IV in my antecubital area or in my hand. I knew my hand would hurt more, but I'd be able to at least bend my arm. I told her I'd like it in my hand. She then proceeded to put it in MY WRIST. This was by far the MOST PAINFUL IV I have ever had. I couldn't move my left wrist at all, and the entire time the freezing cold IV fluids were being infused, I had throbbing pain in my arm. A totally unnecessary and painful intervention. Just another reason why I hate hospitals.

My bloodwork came back... and the doctor told me that my HCG level (pregnancy hormone) was normal. [it was 7,000. Now that I've looked it up after the fact, it is a normal level for a pregnancy at about 5 weeks... not 12 weeks. 7,000 was very low for where I should have been]. Now, we just had to wait for the ultrasound tech. It was the weekend, so she was on call and not physically at the hospital. I was told that she had one hour to come to the hospital from the time they called her, but they were having a hard time getting a hold of her. I asked why an OB resident couldn't just come down and scan me quickly? "Oh, they won't do that" they answered. So... I waited... and waited... cramping and bleeding with a stupid IV in my arm. This is a children's hospital... so I heard babies crying the whole afternoon. It took SIX HOURS for the ultrasound tech to get there to scan me. Believe me, I am going to write a strongly worded letter to the hospital about that one.

They made me walk to radiology. The tech started with an abdominal ultrasound. At 11 weeks with my other kids, I remember that my babies were bouncing and leaping in my womb. This baby was very small and not moving. I knew my baby was dead. I could tell the tech was avoiding looking at the actual baby. She quickly took the wand off my belly and told me that she would see much more with a transvaginal ultrasound. I knew something was so wrong... I had never needed one of those at this point of pregnancy before. With the second scan, I saw her quietly measure the baby... 8 weeks 6 days. The baby had stopped growing weeks ago. I was walking around with a dead baby in my womb for 3 weeks. It was almost too much to comprehend. It all made sense now, though... I started to feel much better with morning sickness about 3 weeks before... almost like I wasn't even pregnant.

The tech was very sweet as she said... "I know you can tell what I'm seeing... I hate to tell you this... but I'm not getting a heartbeat." I began to cry with whole body shaking. There is nothing that can prepare you for the knowledge that your baby died. She gave us a few minutes alone. Isaac came to hold me and we just cried together.

When we left the exam room, the ultrasound tech tried to comfort us. "Well, at least you already have children. Not to minimize your situation, but I feel bad for the couples that come in here for miscarriage after miscarriage and don't have any children yet." Yeah... sorry, lady... that doesn't make me feel any better!

We eventually made our way back down to the ER. The ER attending physician came in to talk to us. He had the nerve to tell me that he didn't see a baby on the sonogram... just a gestational sac. WHAT? "I saw my baby!!!" I exclaimed and insisted. He tried to comfort me by telling me that maybe my dates were wrong and I was just earlier in the pregnancy than I thought. He told me that this was just a "threatened miscarriage" not a "missed miscarriage" and that I needed to come in for a repeat ultrasound and bloodwork next week before they could do anything about it. He told me that since my bleeding was light and my cramping not too painful, that I wasn't really miscarrying yet, if I would at all(!!!). Oh buddy-- just you wait and see what happens next!!!! [in retrospect, now that I'm thinking about it... I REALLY think this doctor was reading the WRONG ultrasound to me. It doesn't make sense that he would think an almost 9 week-sized fetus was just a 5 week gestational sac. I wonder if he would have sent me home like he did if he had known. He just told me: "come back the the ER if you bleed more than a pad an hour or if you're in so much pain it feels like your arm is getting chopped off" (!!!!) Very sensitively worded, right?]

My midwife called me just then (the attending had called her before he talked to me) and I whined to her about how he wouldn't just tell me that I had miscarried or what I could expect. She was so compassionate and so sweet. She told me: "Sigrid, I trust you and honor your knowledge of your body. If you are sure of your dates, I believe you. I'm so sorry this happened. Why don't you go home and see what your body does tomorrow. I will call you in the afternoon and we'll go from there."

The nurse came in with my discharge papers which just said to come back if I had heavy bleeding or a fever. I really had no idea what to expect or what I'd be experiencing the next day... The nurse almost left the room before she took out that stupid and painful IV. I had to remind her that I couldn't go home with a hep lock. Honestly... these nurses were just ridiculous. She handed me my discharge instructions and two prescriptions: one for a repeat HCG level, and another for "transvaginal ultrasound for ectopic pregnancy or possible fetal demise" for Monday afternoon. Fetal demise. What a cold way to say that my pregnancy was over.

I came home and we put the kids to bed. I couldn't sleep that night. I was so brokenhearted. I was cramping all night long and was physically uncomfortable. I tried to rest... but my mind was going a thousand miles a minute. I kept thinking about our plans for this baby. We were planning on a homebirth/waterbirth. We were going to build a new master bedroom out of our den, so that the baby would have his own room (our old master bedroom). I kept thinking: just how the heck was I was going to go to work and take care of babies again? [I am a neonatal nurse who attends deliveries at a different hospital]. We got a text from our brother-in-law. Isaac's sister was in labor. She was having a homebirth and I had been looking forward to being there with her as a labor support person for the past few months. I was so sad that I couldn't go and I was so sad that I couldn't be as excited for her as I wanted to.

My mind then wandered to how we found out we were pregnant. Our baby was a surprise. My period had been late and so I picked up a cheap pregnancy test at the dollar store on the way home from taking the kids to Fantasy Island one day. Galilee, my then 11 month old, was sleeping, and it was just me and my almost 3 year old, Judah... there was no mistaking it. There was a bright pink line to indicate a positive test. I told Judah "Mommy's going to have a baby! There's a baby growing in my tummy!"

When Isaac got home that day, I showed him pictures of our trip to Fantasy Island [a local amusement park] on our digital camera. I slipped a picture of the positive test in at the end. "Are you trying to tell me something?" he asked. "YES!" I answered. He thought for a minute and then said something that has haunted me for the last three months... "Well, honey... not every pregnancy ends in a baby." I have no idea why he said those words. My husband is not an insensitive guy. I shot him a dirty look, and he realized how inappropriate his statement was. He told me that he was very happy, and that somehow he knew I was going to tell him I was pregnant that day. We sat on the couch and zoned into space, suddenly feeling very tired after that. We began to think about having three children and all of the realities surrounding that concept.

Our baby was a surprise. It has been very difficult this week to not feel guilty about that... It took us a while to really accept this pregnancy and to become excited about it. At times, I saw it as an inconvenience. But, I loved my baby. I dreamed of him every day. We discussed names, our birth plans, the nursery we would create for him. We both loved him so much.

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