Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What I'm ready to face again - edited to reduce jibbering

I went to work one day, long ago, and fell asleep at my desk. I'd been feeling really tired lately, and my job was as far removed from anything I cared about as it could be. Plus it was boring and pointless, but not so much so that I should have found myself dozing on my keyboard as 11:30 in the morning.

"You're pregnant!" all the office women told me. The harpies more than others. They would hover around my desk for hours debating and pondering how pregnant I was and what I should be doing and the best way to get pregnant, etc. If I could have fallen asleep at that point it would have been a mercy.

As it turned out, I was pregnant. I had been going to a clinic type place, not realizing it was a clinic type place until I was told. After they lost my file 3 times in one visit I found a new and really well respected OB/GYN in a better part of town. He came recommended by several people I trusted, and I fought my way there through some really rough morning sickness that lasted all day. He checked things out, told me my yolk sack was larger than normal and that sometimes this meant something was wrong, but it wasn't certain. I was around 8 weeks pregnant.

I sat in my Mom's car near a park crying and overcome with worry about this new little thing inside me, something J and I hadn't planned on conceiving just yet. I looked out at the gorgeous summer day, watched the kids playing in the park, and felt the fault line of reality slip a little. J and I were delirious and happy with the idea of having a baby and how our lives would change. We'd always wanted children, and then suddenly I was faced with a huge gray area, wanting to be happy but scared shitless something was wrong. All I could do was wait and take good care of myself, despite the fact that the "morning sickness" was so bad the thought of ingesting anything actually did make me hork.

At my twelve week visit the OB/GYN made a grumble and then left the room. He was gone for 5 minutes, and when he cam back he sat down and with no pretense sent us to a hospital. He wouldn't tell us what was going on, he merely said he saw something troubling on the ultrasound, and he wanted us to go to a friend and colleague with better equipment. We went, confused and shattered, still trying to hold hope but knowing we were grasping at the last straws.

The doctor we met looked like my uncle, but was detached and clinical. They did another ultrasound, a 3-D one this time. It was an internal exam, and not only was it humiliating, J and I were terrified. The doctor and nurse mumbled things back and forth, with lots of "yeahs" and "See that"'s and the like. Then the doctor sat down to tell us our baby had anencephaly. He did this while the nurse was still doing the internal exam. In tears, I half pleaded half yelled at the doctor to finish the conversation once I wasn't being prodded naked on a table anymore. He was really sorry, and I think I surprised him. I don't think he'd been seeing us as people up until that point.

When we finally were able to talk to him, fully clothed and sitting up, he told us about our baby. No top to the skull. No brain function. Will die right after birth, if not before. He urged us to terminated the pregnancy for my health and for our mental health. We asked questions, and asked more questions, trying every angle. Was there any way the baby could live? What if I carried to term? Was the baby in pain? None of the answers were what we wanted to hear, except that the baby felt nothing, for now. There was no chance the baby would live, and if I tried to carry the baby to term my pregnancy could last over a year, because the fetal brain wouldn't be there to tell my body I was ready to deliver.

We waited another week, had another high-tech ultrasound and were told that nothing had changed. I was sicker, J was numb but trying to be strong, and my Mom was doing everything she could think of to help. We debated and thought, wept and wept and wept. I missed my graduation from college because I was grieving. We ended up having a D & C very quickly, so that there would be no chance of the baby suffering. We called it "the bean," and I still choke up when I use the word bean sometimes. Shortly after I had a miscarriage, and shortly after that I got pregnant with E. I don't remember much from the point at which I found out I was pregnant the first time to finding out about E; it's a dark place that I poke at from time to time, but I don't go spelunking there.

I'm lucky I had the doctor I did. He was and is very good at his job. He found this at 12 weeks when some women haven't found out until 4 or 5 months, and thus spared us greater heartbreak.

If I'm ready to try pregnancy again, I have to be ready for these outcomes, the fact that something horrible could happen again. The chances are small, but they are there, and they must be faced and dealt with before the hormones set in. There's nothing sexier than a sniveling hormonal moma throwing up all the time. (Morning sickness remained constant through all three pregnancies.) To remember our loss we planted a small flowering crab apple in our front yard. This is to honor the face we never got to see, the soul we never got to know. The miscarriage was an early one, so we grieved that one differently.

Even though I still can't walk past a Cinnabun without wanting to puke, I'm excited to do this again.

I found out about a world I didn't know existed through these experiences, too. Nearly every woman I talk to has a story similar to this one. It seems to be some secret club, a society of women who have lost a tiny part of their soul and who keep it hidden, because only other members of the club could understand. Or perhaps it's just too hard, this loss. We don't talk about it all the time because we couldn't do anything, and we had to stand by helpless as our hopes and dreams left us, alone. We cover it up to continue, we enjoy the other wonderful parts of life, and we try to forget that hole we have. But everything worth trying for has these risks, and the greater the risk, the greater the reward. (Well, usually. I'm not sure about sky diving.) The love I feel for my daughter has been deeper than the losses I felt in order to get her. It may not have healed the pain and loss, but it filled that hole up damn near to the top.

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