Feelings

The pre-op nurse called me from the waiting room and walked me into the same-day surgery wing. “It’s a requirement of anesthesia that we do a urine pregnancy test,” she said, stopping outside the bathroom. I felt sucker punched. All my air whooshed out and a dozen questions, questions I wanted to snap in my meanest voice possible, filled my head. Don’t you know why I’m here? Didn’t you look at your chart? Are you kidding? Is this a joke? Don’t you know my baby is already dead? I stared at her.

“I’m here for a D&C,” I croaked at last.

The hint of an embarrassed smile crept onto her face, as if, of all the reasons I could possibly be there, surely this wasn’t the one. Surely she hadn’t just told the lady with the miscarriage to take a pregnancy test. I went into the bathroom and when I got to pre-op bed #9, she apologized.

I am sad.

The word devastated, which I have also used to describe how the husband and I feel right now, conjures up in my mind images of far away earthquakes and floods and the messy aftermath of lives changed forever, sometimes destroyed, with clean up and recovery and time needed for all of it. And then I realize that yes, devastated works here. Devastated a lot closer to home.

Miscarriages are not uncommon but it never ever crossed my mind that one might happen to us. Suddenly the blogs, the books, the supportive posts people write to those who have lost babies apply and we’re part of a club we never knew we’d qualify for and never asked to join. No one asks to join and no one ever leaves. Miscarriage is Hotel California for really, really sad people.

Sad, heartbroken, devastated, crushed. All words people use to describe how they feel after a miscarriage, all words other people use to assume how you’re feeling. They’re all accurate of course. They’re all exactly how I’ve felt since Monday morning and will continue to feel for who knows how long?

But I wasn’t ready for the other feelings that have surprised me this week. I haven’t read about them in other blog posts. I didn’t expect the shreds of optimism on my way out of the ob’s office after the first visit, praying silently to God, the Author of Life, to breathe life back into my small baby. He has raised from the dead before, why not now? Why couldn’t there be a heartbeat at our next sonogram?

I didn’t expect to remember my new pink planner in my purse and feel stupid. Stupid that I brought it along to plan my next visit. Stupid that I didn’t know my baby had died and I wouldn’t need another appointment. Stupid that I had other things written in there this week–coffee, book club, brunch–that only a stupid person would have planned.

I didn’t expect the relief that was almost physical when my ob and the sonogram nurse referred to our lost child only as “your baby” on Monday. Nothing scientific or medical, just “your baby.”

I didn’t expect fresh tears at every. single. post. on my Facebook wall. And I didn’t expect 60 comments, plus private messages, emails, and texts.

I didn’t expect that my feelings–of all things, my feelings!–would be hurt when I read about the actual surgery. The other times I’ve had surgery, I’ve gotten something out of it. With Martha, peace of mind and ultimately a good diagnosis. With my emergency c-section which was a disaster for all intents and purposes, we got the oyster. This time, a less physically invasive but more psychologically violating surgery would take something from me and give me nothing back. It would take something I had already lost, meaning twice in one week I was losing our baby, whom we had loved so fiercely and wanted so badly.

When I woke up from anesthesia after Martha surgery I was panicked and I cried because I couldn’t form words in my head and I was scared that I had lost speech. When I woke up from surgery yesterday I cried, too. But I cried because I wanted my baby back. I cried because I was sad. And then I cried because my post-op nurse was pregnant and my baby was gone from my body.

When we left the hospital I felt negligent. I felt wrong leaving behind the child we love and will never know on this earth. The child that on Monday was “your baby” but now, to the hospital and the lab doing the biopsies and tests, is “the specimen.”

I know my body will heal the fastest. Physically I feel scraped, emptied out. I didn’t know my body could make the colors that I saw on the hospital bed sheets when I stood yesterday to put on my own clothes. I was fascinated and disgusted all at once. I felt bad for the young woman I saw changing sheets in the other recovery bays.

I felt sad surprise when today I put on my jeans and already they button again.

I feel peace from the prayers offered up for us, for the Bible verses and truths friends have reminded me of. I feel like, while I’m not starting to heal yet, I will. We are devastated but we are not destroyed.

I don’t feel angry. Anger isn’t helpful to me. For a few minutes this week I have felt bad for myself. In a lighter moment, I felt like Neville Longbottom. Why is it always me?

neville

This week a trifecta of my biggest fears–losing a baby, missing the miscarriage, and needing a D&C–came true. I don’t deal well with loss and healing will take me a long time. I will not compare my grief to the grief of others. I don’t feel like we should be less sad because our baby was so young and small. I don’t feel like we should recover quickly because our child never got born.

When I feared losing a pregnancy, I thought the idea of death being so close to us would unhinge me but it didn’t. Death came to our family, to our home, and to my body, but death does not have the final say. The only home our child will ever know is a perfect home in Heaven. In fact, by the time we even knew our baby was gone, Heaven had been home for almost three weeks. Sometimes this gives me the kind of comfort a mom needs; sometimes I feel stupid again. How could I not have realized?

I ordered a book about healing from miscarriage and I feel bad about it. The book will help me, I’m sure. Words help me, whether they are my own or others’. What I feel bad about is the title, Empty Arms. My arms aren’t empty. I do have a child. I just don’t have the one we were expecting right up until Monday morning.

And I feel like I couldn’t survive this if we didn’t have the oyster. Her chubby legs and soft cheeks, the way her eyes get squinty when she smiles, her loud voice and sweet, tentative steps, these are the things that distract me from grief. Not because grief is bad and I need to turn my face away from it but because grief is not the whole story and I need to acknowledge that there is joy living alongside it.

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We have an oyster: Saturday 9/29, Part 2

2:30 pm
Recovery was, not surprisingly, the foggiest part of the whole oyster experience. Blood loss, consciousness loss (yep, it’s a new phrase, I made it up), narcotics, and 9 months of hauling around another human took its toll and like I said in Part 1, all I wanted to do was sleep.

Sleep, of course, is the last thing the medical staff will let you do when all of the above are factors. So the husband stood by my head and reminded me to breathe when my oxygen level on the monitor got too low. Fun fact: To boost one’s oxygen level quickly, one should cough. When my O2 levels got down to 85 (95 was the goal, 99-100 is normal I think), the husband would instruct me, loudly, to cough. Considering the nature of my recent surgery and how. dang. tired. I was, coughing was quite the feat each time.

I remember the husband put our baby girl on me at some point. He took pictures of her cuddled up under my chin, although I’m more asleep than she is.

3:00 pm
Hooked up to my trusty oxygen line and able to keep my eyes open for a few minutes, we were all whisked off to our room in the maternity wing. The hospital offered a $25 mommy-and-me package which included toiletries for mom’s hospital stay, a little shirt for the baby, parking vouchers, a few dollars off at the cafeteria (the husband was thrilled), and a little ‘insurance policy’ that put you at the front of the line for private-room preference. That in itself was worth $25 to us, so we bought the package. The oyster looks adorable in her shirt.

In our private room, to which the husband arrived wearing his slippers of course,* the nurses set me up on another piddle pad, handed me a large cup of cold water–BLISS!–and then I don’t know what happened. So maybe recovery wasn’t the foggiest time.

7 pm
What I do remember are our nurses that night. M and J were absolutely incredible. Not only did they work as a fantastic team, but they were sufficiently in love with the baby to make this new mama happy. Both women had thick, exotic accents and M referred to the little oyster as “my little cutie pie,” which with her accent came out as “my little ka-YOU-tee-pie.” The husband and I still call her that.

Public service announcement: Anyone pregnant or thinking about having a baby should know that as invasive as some of the regular ob visits feel during pregnancy, they are but a warm up for what’s coming after the baby is born. And with that, we’ll radio-edit and skip to much later that night.

10:30 pm
Many people know that someone coming out of general anesthesia isn’t allowed to eat solid food until he or she is able to pass gas following surgery. My last solid food was dinner the night before the little oyster was born, and by “bedtime” on Saturday, when I finally had my wits about me to realize it, I realized that I was famished.

Me: Ugh. I’m. so. hungry.
The husband: Would you like some gourmet ice chips?
Me: <pouts>
The husband: I’ll get you juice. I saw some in the fridge around the corner.
Me: There’s a fridge around the corner? Are we allowed to take juice from it?
The husband: Don’t ask, don’t tell, baby.
Me: And then have them bring our baby back in from the nursery! She’s cute, I want to look at her some more.

11 pm
The husband went to the nursery to watch/help/learn while M gave the little lady her first full bath. That’s when he learned what hardy little things new babies can be, and I think it gave him a good dose of confidence when handling her himself. He figured that if she was in one piece after being manhandled through a standard newborn bath, she was a-ok when he held her one-armed.

While he was in the nursery, J came to check on me and take my vitals again.

J: Are ya hungry?
Me: So, so hungry.
J: But ya have not passed the gas yet, yeah?
Me: No. No I haven’t.
J: I can make-a ya some soup, yeah? Nice broth, ya will like it.
Me: Ok! Thanks! Broth! YES!

And she was right, I did like it. No, I loved it. The beauty of a Styrofoam cup with steam rising from it can not be underestimated after 27 hours of ice chips and popsicles. The broth was hot and salty and I really think it did more for me than the Percocet I was on. That broth may have saved my life that night…or at least saved the husband’s.

After the broth I was, for the first time since checking into the hospital, warm enough and pulled my blankets up to my knees to let my feet breathe. Somewhere between pushing, when I focused on my hot pink socks, and landing in my hospital room, the hospital had put me in green hospital socks, the kind with treads so that you don’t slip and fall when shuffling your large, numb self across the room in a pitiable imitation of “getting up and moving around.” Still too warm, I had the husband pull the green socks off only to find that my hot pink socks, which I assumed were underneath, were gone.

Me: My pink socks! Where are they?
The husband: I don’t know, baby.
Me: Why did they take my socks??
The husband: I don’t know.
Me: Why couldn’t they just leave them on under the ugly green ones?
The husband: I don’t know.
Me: Can you check the plastic bag with my clothes? Maybe they’re in there.
The husband: They’re not. I’m sorry.
Me: I can’t believe they took my socks. Those were my hot pink socks for cheering me up. The little sister gave those to me. I want my socks back.

I’m still sad about my hot pink socks.

*Yes, he wore his slippers in the OR underneath the little cloth booties they give to surgeons and dads. I’m surprised he didn’t drive home in the slippers when we left the hospital. Ha, for all I know, he may have. I sat in the back with the baby.

We go to the hospital: Friday 9/28

Now, who wants to hear the birth story?

As previously stated, the little oyster made her appearance on September 29. For anyone who was counting, she was due three days prior to that. Protein in my pee and excessive swelling in my feet the week she was due sent me first to the lab and then back to the ob’s office on Friday the 28th. At our 9 am appointment, my ob said the lab results were cause for concern, she had called the hospital and told them to expect us, and we could go over anytime in the late afternoon–they were quite busy that morning–to be induced. Oyster time.

Having been given the gift of time, the husband and I went out to lunch, got the husband a haircut, dropped Dietrich off at his sitter’s house, stopped by Barnes and Noble for some light hospital reading material*, and hit the road to have a baby. Our afternoon of laid-back preparation was the last time we controlled anything in the next 72 hours.

5:00 pm
Check in at the hospital was a breeze (note to expectant parents: pre-register at your hospital, if that’s an option) and we got to skip triage and go right to labor and delivery. We signed in at the desk and sat, giddy, in the plastic-upholstered chairs until the merry check-in nurse said, “Come with me, my children,” and led us to a lovely private L&D room. The husband immediately changed into his slippers (“I’m going to tell every new dad to take slippers to the hospital for delivery–this is great!”) while the merry check-in nurse fluffed my pillows and handed me a hospital gown and plastic bag for my own clothes. When I emerged from the bathroom in my standard-issue garb, the merry check-in nurse complimented me on my ability to put the gown on correctly–apparently too many people give free shows by putting the gowns on backwards–and tucked me into bed. I wiggled my feet into some hot pink socks the little sister had given me for post-Martha surgery and settled in.

On-duty ob 1: Hi!
Me: Hi!
On-duty ob 1: Dr. W (my ob) said you guys would be coming tonight. Ready to have a baby?
Me: Can I have dinner first?
The husband: Your body your choice, baby.
Me: Sorry, we make political jokes when we get nervous.
On-duty ob 1: Nice pink socks.
Me: Thanks. We bring the party with us.
On-duty ob 1: You guys are fun, I wish you had been here earlier.
Me: We heard there was no room in the inn earlier.
On-duty ob 1: That’s true, there wasn’t. Anyway, you can have dinner. Nothing but water or ice or popsicles after we start the Pitocin.
Me: Hokay.
The husband: Anything she should or shouldn’t have for dinner?
On-duty ob 1: No sushi, please. If we see it again, we prefer that we not see reincarnated raw fish.
The husband: Nice. Well, I’ll just dash downstairs in my trusty slippers and get some dinner for us.
On-duty ob 1: Nice.

6:00 pm
The husband and I split some pasta dish and a turkey sandwich for dinner. He was impressed with the food. I was distracted by the machine monitoring my contractions and those of the women in the rooms around me, all displayed on an eight-section screen next to my bed.

Somewhere in the middle of Apollo 13 and my first purple popsicle, Room 305 went into what I assume was active labor and began pushing. A smart woman preparing to have her own baby (not me) would have turned up the TV to drown out the horrifying screams of anguish but an idiot would mute the TV and stare at her husband in shock and awe. I don’t think I blinked for 9 minutes. Then the monitor for 305 shut off and we heard a baby crying. Holy cow.

7:00 pm
The nurse who was now taking care of me started the Pitocin drip and I was officially induced.

Me: How fast does this stuff work?
Nurse: That depends. We have you on a very slow drip right now.
Me: How slow?
Nurse: It’s on 4 right now.
Me: How high does it go?
Nurse: Up to 30.
Me: Ah, ok. Are those air bubbles going to get in my bloodstream and kill me?
Nurse: No. If there’s too much air in the line, an alarm goes off.
Me: Hmm. They are getting closer to my veins and making me nervous.
Nurse: Do you want me to reset the IV?
Me: Yes, please. Hurry, they’re getting closer!
Nurse: They really won’t kill you. Those are small bubbles.
Me: Still.

The nurse detached the Pitocin line, tapped all the tiny air bubbles out of it, and plugged me back in. So far the worst pain I was in came from the IV placed in the back of my left hand. The nurse who placed it had come in, introduced herself, stuck a needle in my hand and taped it down, and I never saw her again. It really did hurt and I wasn’t going to risk dying of air bubbles while my whole left arm throbbed in pain.

And so the evening went on. I wasn’t uncomfortable and it was actually kind of fun to watch my contractions register on the monitor. It was even more fun to watch other women’s. The little oyster was on constant monitoring because I was being induced and she was doing great. The husband and I chatted, watched Apollo 13 again (which, interestingly, I had been wanting to watch for probably four weeks, for no apparent reason), and napped as we could until about 1 am when I decided the cramps-that-were-actually-contractions were only getting worse, I was starting to feel nauseous, and it was time for an epidural.

But we’ll talk about that tomorrow.

* I chose the latest Real Simple and a copy of J.K. Rowling’s new book, The Casual Vacancy, which I returned for a full refund on our first non-medical trip out of the house. To my immense dismay, I found the book crude, rude, and not at all entertaining. I appreciated Rowling making that clear from the start, so that I didn’t have to read half the book to confirm my initial impression that the book was not worth my time. Consider this a review thereof.