In which we move ahead

Me: I’m really enjoying my book. It’s funny writing and it’s interesting to me the way they went about their boycott. <shifts A Year Without Made in China across the table>
The husband: Hmm.
Me: Actually, the husband in the book reminds me of you. But it’s annoying me that instead of going without stuff and clearing out their house, they find other ways to buy stuff they don’t need.
The husband: Hmmm.
Me: But anyway, it’s really interesting. A very entertaining read.
The husband: Hmm.
Me: Oh my gosh you’re afraid I’m going to make you do it, aren’t you?
The husband: <avoids eye contact>

* * *

There’s a Google commercial going around right now that ends with a little girl asking into the phone, while lying on the floor next to her sleeping dog, “OK, Google, do dogs dream?”

Google’s response is, “Dogs dream like humans and about similar things.” The little girl smiles and pats her sleeping dog on the head.

Dietrich is sleeping right now and isn’t available to do a final dogblog before we move ahead. I don’t know what he’s dreaming about but maybe it’s all the new puppies in the neighborhood that we meet on our walks these days; he loves them, so the husband and I try not to talk too loud about getting a second dog when Dietrich is within earshot. We wouldn’t get a second dog here in the green-ceiling condo anyway, but the time will come, before Dietrich is too much older, that we’ll add to the pack in four-legged format. Dietrich is too great a dog to not pass on his wisdom to a younger pup.

And the oyster would love a second dog, too. After she took a nose-dive off a friend’s porch last week, skinning her cheek and her nose and developing a purple knot the size of her fist, she cried for a minute and then asked for crackers and puppies. The girl bounces back pretty quick.

And speaking of kids, today was my last monthly blood draw at the ob, provided the numbers come back normal. They have been normal since March so I trust that September will be no different! That means we have the blessing of Western medicine to add to the pack in two-legged format. When I asked the husband the other week if we should go ahead when we get the go ahead or if we should wait for, hmm, I don’t know, something or…another time…or…I don’t know. His response? “I’m always up for another kid.” Good man.

When we talked about having kids before the oyster, one thing I wanted was to be debt-free. That didn’t happen before the oyster came into our lives but it happened in June and delayed though our milestone was, it was an excellent 29th birthday gift to me. Then again we weren’t actually debt-free until August when I remembered a library fine of $4.50, packed up the oyster, drove to our old neighborhood, and forked over the quarters I was saving for the library book sale at the end of the week. All in the name of financial freedom.

Dietrich is awake now and he is looking at me with his cartoon eyes, which suggests that he thinks I’m leaving something out. Oh, I think he wants me to mention his gray chin hairs. All gray. Very distinguished and handsome. He also wants me to mention that we signed up for dog food delivery from Amazon so he gets a package every month and he feels very sophisticated and urbane.

But back to the conversation with the husband at the beginning of this post. This week I finished the book A Year Without Made in China: One Family’s True Life Adventure in the Global Economy by Sara Bongiorni. It’s my kind of book–a personal social experiment conducted purely to see if it’s possible? Yeah, that’s me. And no, I’m not going to make the husband do it. But it fits well with the moves we’ve been making toward a more minimalist lifestyle in the last few months and the fact that I borrowed it from the library instead of buying it from Amazon is proof positive of that. Dedicating ourselves to the frugal oyster budget was a great foundation for this minimalist thing and I like making less-is-just-less-and-that’s-the-goal a permanent thing for us. 

Anyway. Dietrich thinks we should keep the Red white and new Facebook page when we close up blog-shop tomorrow and I agree. That will be helpful in staying connected while we also spend less time in front of the computer, talking on behalf of the dog. Who has his own dreams of published books and perfectly broiled salmon, if Google is to be believed. 

Ever heard the one about…

“I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.”
“So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
J.R.R. Tolkien

Ever heard the one about the girl who got a brain tumor that accounts for less than 1% of all brain tumors and then she had a miscarriage and that turned out to be semi-molar, a complication that affects less than 1% of all pregnancies, so she decided to buy a lottery ticket because heck maybe that’s another 1% that wants her in its numbers??

All kidding aside (actually, if you take away my kidding I’ll shrivel up like the poor unfortunate souls in The Little Mermaid so forget that, kidding is back on) my follow-up ob appointment today didn’t go as we had hoped. In fact, it was the exact opposite of what we had hoped.

poor unfortunate soulsSeriously, take away kidding and sarcasm and this is me. And to add insult to injury, I’m probably the one in the back with the poufy hair.

The pathology report came back from my D&C and it showed that this pregnancy was semi-molar, like my ob had feared. That means, in summary, that Norbert never had a chance. On top of that, an interesting and also dagger-in-the-heart bit of information is that semi-molar pregnancies often happen when two sperms get to the egg. On a normal day that means twins. (Twins! Heehee!) On a shitty day that means a fetus with 69 chromosomes and a non-viable pregnancy. That was us. And less than 1% of all the other bumps out there. (1 in 1,500 in the U. States of A.)

So instead of hearing that this was just a shame and the husband and I can try again whenever we feel ready, I need to go in every week for a blood test to monitor my hormone levels. A semi-molar or molar pregnancy can act like cancer and tracking the hormone levels to make sure they come down is the only way to make sure my body doesn’t think it’s still pregnant and thus grow things, like placentas, unchecked. (Is anyone enjoying this science lesson or are you all just thinking TMI? Yeah? Too bad.) Once the hormone levels are back down to zero, I go monthly for blood work. If they stay at zero for six months, we can try again.

This hurts. This sucks. This is not what we pictured for our family.

In the car after my appointment I cried and with a Kleenex-worth of self-pity in my hand I couldn’t help but wonder “Why me?”

Why me?

Why…

Ann Voskamp says in her book One Thousand Gifts, “…that which tears open our souls, those holes that splatter our sight, may actually become the thin, open places to see through the mess of this place to the heart-aching beauty beyond. To…God.”

So why me? Why not me? Others will feel this kind of soul-wilting hurt, too, and maybe through this I can learn to love them better. Come out of the furnace and say yes, there was a fourth man in there, did you see?? And if that’s the case, then with or without my wet Kleenex, I am learning how to be brought low {and)…how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I {am learning} the secret of facing…abundance and need (Philippians 4:12). Even in this, I can learn and maybe that’s why me.

Asking why me? doesn’t help because the answer isn’t important anyway. What’s important is taking the chance I’ve been given to see this tear not as a hole in the way things should be but a peek through what is to God because he who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6). That’s what I need to see. God and his faithfulness.

When darkness seems to hide his face,
I rest in his unchanging grace

Through every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil

I can’t accept that a pregnancy is a gift from God and then imply that when it goes awry God is nowhere to be found. I can’t pick and choose when I’ll see God in something because he doesn’t pick and choose when to show up. The variable is my perspective, the control is his unchanging grace.

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us….

Rest in his unchanging grace.

Full

It is Monday afternoon after my string of ob appointments and I nap. The husband takes the little oyster to the store and comes home with milk, eggs, and a bud vase of luscious orange-red roses. Six large blooms, snuggled together in a bold eruption of color and scent. I set them on my bedside table so I stare at beauty before going to sleep and as I wake up. I am fully aware of each time I wake up. I don’t sleep well in the week after finding out we lost Norbert. But each time I turn over in the night, curling and uncurling my body, shoving my pillow back or up or away, I smell the bright roses in the darkness. The scent brings me peace. Not an overwhelming, flooding, everything-is-fine-now peace, but a whispering, trickling, everything-will-be-ok-again-someday peace.

Me: Thank you for my roses. They help me smile a little bit.
The husband: That’s not why I got them.
Me: What?
The husband: I got them because I love you.

blessing 2

When the husband and I got married we used the traditional wedding vows in our exchange, except for one small adjustment from the generations before us. Instead of concluding with “until death do us part” we instead promised to honor our vows “until God parts us with death.” God dictates life, death does not. We trust fully in this.

My body has stopped bleeding for this tiny life that was lost. My heart, too, is healing but in a new shape, and softer. The invisible mark Norbert left won’t be like a regular scar, a stretch of flesh that reacts by healing harder than it was before the hurt. Instead this scar will be a softer spot. For lost babies, for mamas who love and then lose them, for tears that are cried alone and for feelings that are swallowed because…the words aren’t there? Because no one listens? Those are not my burdens and I ache for those who carry them.

Both of our moms came, back to back. I needed their company more than I needed someone to unload our dishwasher. I needed someone to chat with the husband over coffee and to chase the oyster while I took my time getting around the house. They were, and they did. The little sister brought hugs and Chanel eye cream. Flowers, cupcakes, cards, meals. No one intended to fix this with their gestures and no one did. The gestures alone were a gift. Faint comfort felt fully.

It snowed. A heavy, lasting, whimsical, Hogwartsy snow that I watched from our comfy chair in the corner. A frozen balm just for my soul maybe.

Three weeks on I don’t wake up in tears each day. I don’t cry myself to sleep each night. I am viscerally aware that healing is underway. I am fully trusting that this baby, who was not named and was never met but whose days were numbered and known from the start, lived exactly as long as God planned. We were never meant to hold this child and for what reason I don’t know, but for some reason.

I don’t wake up in tears and I don’t go to sleep in tears but I wipe tears when the little girl at the playground talks about her baby sister coming this spring. I sniff tears when I tuck away the booties crocheted for Norbert. I swallow a lump when a friend says this baby has already heard, “Well done, good and faithful servant” but that one, that one is a good lump, a humbling lump, a this-story-doesn’t-end-with-me-and-my-sadness lump.

I grieve the loss of a new life I loved. Our baby. We both mourn the loss of possibilities. The husband and I look forward to the children we’ll have in the future but there will never be this child. The shift of the road ahead is permanent and maybe if I picture it not as the road ahead but as the way forward, I can see it with eyes that take in the scenery while it’s there to be seen and not with eyes that are tempted to look back and dwell. I expect to always feel this loss; fully in some moments, faintly in others after more time.

Besides. All good things are from above, the book of James says. I believe it’s true. My heart is cut and it is dented, but it is still full of good things from above.

little boots

blessing 4

blessing 3

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.

Fog

On December 1 the husband and I were thrilled with a positive pregnancy test. Baby #2! An August baby! We couldn’t wait. Our insurance had changed since the oyster was born so I had to find a new ob. I did, and within days had scheduled an appointment. We all went to it a few weeks later.

December 23 I had a sonogram. I went by myself and on the screen, there it was. Our little baby. A tiny bean, wiggling back and forth already. A healthy heartbeat of 146 bpm. Placenta in a good spot. The sonogram lady printed me two pictures to take home. I put them on the fridge. Norbert, we called our baby.

Our Christmas tree was up. We placed a “Baby’s 1st Christmas” onesie under it and texted the picture to family, saying “look what’s under our tree this year!” We told my parents it was on back order and wouldn’t arrive until August. It was a fun Christmas, although all-day-morning sickness was kicking my butt.

January 13 was my next regular monthly ob appointment. The husband stayed home with the oyster and would just go to work when I got home. I packed my blue Norbert folder for all the papers I would get at this appointment. I packed my new 2014 pink planner, to schedule my next appointment. I asked all my questions. We talked about screening tests. She got the doppler to listen to Norbert’s heartbeat.

I felt like she was taking a long time with the doppler. Poking, pressing, moving. She had me shift. Poking, pressing. The oyster never took this long. But I still have belly fat from carrying the oyster, that couldn’t be helping. She took my pulse to see if that’s what she was hearing. I stared at the ceiling. She shut off the doppler.

I’m going to get the sonogram machine, I’m just not getting what I need to get.

But I have a lot of belly fat. That’s probably why, I thought.

The sonogram machine warmed up and again she was poking, pressing. I stared at the screen. I watched, like she was.

I need to do an internal sonogram, is that ok? Baby just doesn’t seem to be cooperating.

Well maybe it’s an anterior placenta, I thought. The placenta is just blocking the baby from the sonogram machine.

I stared at the screen with my heart beating faster. Poking, poking. My heart slowed down.

Please, please just be an anterior placenta.

I looked at her. She was frowning but I wasn’t worried until she called me sweetie.

How many weeks are you again, sweetie?

Eleven. Please be an anterior placenta. Please.

This is an 8 week baby. I’m not hearing a heartbeat. I’m so sorry.

She helped me sit up and she rubbed my back while I cried. She held the Kleenex. She told me she wanted me to go to one of the other locations for a better sonogram. Even though she said it was to confirm what she saw, I thought maybe the equipment was faulty. The better sonogram would show a wiggly little baby, 11 weeks along. I picked up the husband and the oyster.

Do you see these flashes of color?

Yes.

Those are reading blood flow. The big flashes, like here and here, are your blood. There should be a flash where the baby’s heart is beating.

But…it’s just dark there.

I’m so sorry. Your baby doesn’t have a heartbeat anymore. I’m measuring 8 weeks, 4 days. I’m sorry. We don’t know why these things happen.

They sent me back to my ob to talk about what we would do. I could wait. I could take meds to make the waiting shorter. I could have a D&C. Those were the options.

Which one is the least traumatic?

Well, there’s physical trauma and there’s emotional trauma.

The husband asked, Which will hurt the least?

D&C. But there’s something else.

What?

The second sonogram showed that the placenta is cystic. We don’t know if that’s why this happened, or if it’s just the placenta deteriorating because the baby didn’t need it anymore. But if it was the first, it’s possible the pregnancy was semi-molar, in which case we’d advise you not get pregnant again for six months. We’d monitor your hormone levels and if they were normal after six months, that would be fine to try again. If not, you would need to wait another six months. But the only way to diagnose this is with a D&C.

Ok.

We scheduled it for Wednesday, today.

There is a thick fog this morning. Heavy, gray, settled soundly on all the things I can see from my window. The ground is wet, the grass is wet, everything is soaked with the grayness of it.

But it is not raining.