***If you are faint of heart, this may not be a post for you. It contains frank and graphic descriptions of blood and loss. ***
Up until last week, my family and I were happily anticipating the opportunity to announce the impending arrival of our third little one. We wanted to wait till I was a little further along to let everyone know - though close friends were aware of our news. Miscarriage is not a word any family, expecting a baby, wants to hear. And, unfortunately, my news today is not the happy announcement I was planning.
This is a very personal story for me - and part of me wonders whether or not I want to write about it. But because so many people have expressed their love and concern and because so many have said that this is a silent pain that many women carry, I am going to open my heart and hope that you will treat it with tenderness. Losing a child - at any stage - is terribly sad. It should not be something we carry silently. Women (and men and families) who have experienced it need a way to mark their loss and they need the support of loved ones and the hope of encouragement.
Last week, I shared that we had a long week of sick kids and restless nights. Thursday and Friday, I found myself encompassed by a powerful feeling of grief, accompanied by uncontrollable weeping. At the time I thought it was the long week - but Friday morning, it occurred to me that the baby might not be ok. I pushed the thought aside and chalked it up to stress. In retrospect, I wonder if my body was not giving my spirit a little insight into what was coming. Saturday, I took the girls on a little hike just to get us out of the house and to give me a little perspective.
Sunday afternoon, I began spotting. I don't believe the sick kids or long nights were implicit in this - but it does explain why I felt so absolutely exhausted. I grounded myself on the couch and Rob came home early from church to help me get the girls to bed. Knowing that spotting in early pregnancy doesn't always mean a miscarriage, I chose to rest and to talk to my baby. I expressed my love and deep desire to meet him or her and hoped for the best. But, as I continued to have light spotting Monday and Tuesday and the color changed from pink and brown to red, I found tears springing into my eyes more frequently and felt a certainty (that I tried to ignore) that the baby was saying goodbye.
My midwife came by to check on me Tuesday and sat with me for a while to make sure I was ok. She also let me know what to expect if I did miscarry. Rob and several of my sisters were present throughout the day and took the kids out for a few hours. A few close friends kept in touch, knowing what was happening. Tuesday night, I spoke with a wise friend of mine, Lisa, who encouraged me to continue to rest and hope for the best but to call 911 if I began to bleed too much that night.
After visiting with Pam, Lisa and my family, I found some quiet time alone. I cradled my womb in my hands and told our baby, "We love you and want to meet you - but if you need to go, it's ok. We will always be your mom and dad and we'll see you again some day." I went to bed with a sense of peace although I could feel mild cramping and knew what it meant. I slept quietly for a few hours.
Around midnight, Robert came to bed after a night of working through a new song set for an upcoming rehearsal. I woke and felt the labor-like pains Pam told me I might experience. They were strong and intense and felt like the start of real labor - only very close together. It takes my breath away now just remembering it. I tried not to dwell on the fact that the pain meant I wouldn't be meeting my baby. Instead, I tried to just be in the moment.
Robert helped me to the bathroom and I lost blood and tissue. Then, I remembered Pam reminding me not to stay in the bathroom but to rest in between pains because it might take a while. As I lay back down in bed, I felt the pain subside and I wished I could sleep. But, I asked Rob to stay awake with me because I was afraid I would bleed too much. My inner wisdom was guiding me.
Time passed so quickly. Soon, I found myself needing to be in the bathroom more and more often. We put a towel on the bathroom floor and I lay there between contractions. I felt pressure like I needed to push but blood would just rush out if I stood up. Around 2:30 am, I had 4 or 5 of those rushes of blood (which happened in a very short time). I knew I was in trouble and asked Rob to call 911.
While he was on the phone, I passed out a few times. Rob kept waking me and I tried hard to stay conscious. When the paramedics arrived, my bp was 59/4-? (after I heard the 59 I sorta missed the second part). I knew the situation was serious but reassured them, "Don't worry guys, I'm going to be ok." The paramedic taking my BP looked at me (probably wondering if I had any idea what was happening) and said, "Well, we're taking you in right now." I laughed and found my reply was slurred, "That would be nice." I think my mother-in-law arrived around this time to watch the girls and I remember being relieved that Robert would be able to come with me to the hospital.
As six strong guys carried me out into the night, Rob threw my special blanket over me. I bought it in Mexico on a missions trip almost 20 years ago and it's been through a lot with me. It was cold outside but time seemed to stand still for a moment as I caught a glimpse of the nearly full moon through my favorite pine trees. I breathed deeply and captured the picture in my head for the journey that lay ahead.
The paramedics took me to the nearest hospital instead of going to my preference. It was a difference of 7 minutes and they seemed to think it was an important time difference. I arrived alone because Robert needed to drive. The nurses buzzed around me for a few minutes, checking the IV the medics had put in and adding other things to my IV cocktail. Robert soon arrived to watch over me.
The next several hours are a bit of a blur. I could see my monitor and knew the instability of my vitals meant I was in bad shape but I intentionally decided not to dwell on it too deeply. Instead, I choose, in my lucid moments, to breathe deeply and think of my family. I talked and joked with nurses and tried to convince them to give me one little ice cube because I was so thirsty. I had the uncomfortable experience of trying to use a bedpan while laying down. I don't really recommend it.
I remember having an ultrasound and the ER doc doing a pelvic exam and trying to clear out whatever was causing the bleeding. The ER staff explained when something is left in the uterus after a miscarriage, it can cause severe bleeding and require a D&C. The exam was a traumatic experience, despite my kind nurses standing by me and holding my hands, encouraging me. I remember thinking that this would be pretty scary if I'd let myself actually think about it. I remember wondering whether I would ever want to be pregnant again should I recover.
I remember hearing my BP monitor going off a lot when my BP dropped into the 70's and thinking, "Maybe the cuff isn't on correctly." Then, I would feel a gush of blood between my legs and I would pass out. I thought I'd passed out 5 or 6 times throughout the early morning but Rob says it was more like 10 or 12 and that I was out of it for the better part of four hours. That explains why I don't remember the part of the night when the nursing staff said my BP hovered in the 50's and 60's.
The next time I woke, several of my nurses and my doctor were standing at the end of my bed and my doctor said, "We're transferring you to the ICU where you'll get blood transfusions and have a D&C." After they left, my sweet ER nurse came over to me and held my hand. She said, "I don't want you to be afraid. You are going to be ok. Don't worry." I knew she was a little worried from the way her eyes widened when she said it (I think I've watched too much "Lie to me" - Haha!) but I appreciated her kindness and chose to believe her.
Soon, I was transferred to the ICU where my nurse put in another IV. This was at least the fourth attempt - since my veins were hiding. I had them in both arms and both hands. She started the blood transfusions and continued the pitocin and saline. I really wanted to go to the bathroom and for some reason, my nurse let me try. I sat up for a moment to use the chair next to the bed. But, as I sat up, I passed a red mass the size of a grapefruit and immediately felt lightheaded. I asked my nurse if it was my placenta but she said it was a blood clot and hustled me back into a prone position. She too kept saying, "You're going to be ok," over and over.
Before my surgery, my father-in-law came to the ICU. I was so relieved because Robert was being so strong for me and I knew he needed support. Our friend Jim had already come while I was in the ER and another friend, John, came as well. But, having Rob's dad there was good. I could tell my father-in-law was very upset. Blood kept seeping through my blankets and staining the bed, despite the nurses changing the pads regularly. I'm told my face was a tad on the pale side - even for a girl of Irish descent. I tried to joke with his dad to let him know I was ok but I don't think he bought it.
My surgeon came by to prep me for the D&C and I loved him right away. He was confident but not arrogant and I felt a strong sense that I would be ok. Robert and his dad prayed with me and off I went. I closed my eyes all the way to the OR. I didn't want to see bright lights or tables. Instead, I pulled up the picture of the beautiful night I'd seen right before arriving at the hospital and as I crashed to sleep, assisted by the anesthetics, in my mind I was holding tight to the trunk of my favorite pine tree. I intended to stay grounded to earth.
When I woke, it hadn't even been an hour and two nurses were standing at the end of my bed discussing my next room assignment. "No. She doesn't have to go back to the ICU," one nurse said, "She's been downgraded from critical." "OK," said the other, "I'll call the floor and let them know she's coming."
Soon, I was in a normal room with a roommate who apparently loved American Idol. It was like listening to cats being tortured but I didn't care because I was glad to be alive. Robert was there and I just rested for the majority of the afternoon. That night, I was glad to get visits from family and friends. It lifted my spirits - and Robert's - and kept me from thinking too much about our loss or how frightening the experience had been.
Rob had to go home that night since I was rooming with Ms. American Idol and I confess, I was a little afraid to fall asleep. My BP was still hovering in the 80's and 90's but I just trusted that I would be ok, and tried to rest. It was the first real sleep I'd had since Monday.
|Thursday morning. Hey, I look way sexier than I did the day before!|
The next morning was Thursday and my doctor came by to chat. He encouraged me and said there is nothing wrong with me. That though 70% of women have miscarriages, most are not this extreme (trust me to take the dramatic route!) and that we can definitely have more children when my cycle returns to normal and I feel ready. He said that I could leave the hospital and go home. He encouraged me to sit up, eat what I could and walk. I'd been afraid to walk during the night since I'd not sat up without fainting in almost two days. But, my blood pressure had cleared 100 by early morning. I felt ready and wanted to go home.
My tech helped me walk around the halls after removing the catheter. I couldn't wait to use the bathroom! What a funny thing to care about, right? When I saw my reflection in the bathroom mirror, I was shocked by my appearance. My eyes were nearly swollen shut and my face was as pale as a Twilight character but not as sexy. My fingers and arms were swollen like sausages from the saline and drugs and there was still blood in my nails from the miscarriage. I couldn't seem to scrub them clean without a brush. My eyes filled at the memory but I pushed back the tears because I didn't want them to swell shut.
Robert came in time to bring breakfast (thank God because hospital food is awful!) and after lunch, we were ready to go home. When I arrived at home, it was quiet. My sweet sister came over to clean up leftover traces of Tuesday's trauma and spruce up the rest of the house for me while I rested.
Being home has been surreal. But, I am writing this from a place of profound gratitude today. I am so grateful to be here, sitting up (without fainting - yay!!) to write even this sad story.
I am not going to lie to you. Writing this was not easy. Little flashes of the last few days have been running through my head like a nightmare I can't wake from. Remembering the cool tile of the bathroom floor on my face while the paramedics checked me, seeing the blood in my nails, feeling the flatness of my abdomen, hearing in my head the thoughtless words of someone who apparently meant to comfort me by telling me I'm now a "statistic". I'm hoping that writing the thoughts down will be therapeutic. I will keep what is helpful and let love soften the pain of the rest.
Partly I'm writing this for those of you who didn't know how serious it was. I don't want to have to repeat it over and over or explain why I'm so very tired now. It wears me out to think of it too much. I know it will take a few weeks to get my strength back.
I'm not far enough past the trauma to deal with the grief of the loss we suffered. Right now, I'm focused on small thoughts like, "I'd like a glass of water," or "Isn't my two year old funny?!"
This experience is yet another that has changed the landscape of my mind - and heart. I am still the same person in some ways - but forever different too.
One thing that remains - is that as usual...I am grateful.
I am grateful to be alive. I am so, so grateful for my family. I am grateful for the amazing people at the hospital who not only saved my life but were kind to me in the process - the paramedics, ER staff, Jennifer, Evelyn, Steve, Dr. M, Leah, Julie, Dr. P., Joanna, Sheretta and those whose names I don't know or don't remember.
I am grateful for you - my friends. For your prayers and the many expressions of love you have shared in meals, hospital visits, magazines, kind words, flowers, watching my children, calling and listening, sharing your own experiences, cleaning my house. I and my family have felt your love and it has made and continues to make a difference. Thank you so much. I promise I am ok and getting stronger daily. It's ok to call or write. And please know that if I don't write back right now, I am feeling your love and appreciate you.