Thursday, January 05, 2017

November Rain

So if you read my post about choosing a word, you know that last year's word was Path. And that there were some bumps - one significant bump in particular - on that path. It's been a challenge to work through and I thought putting it all into words might help (and be cheaper than therapy!) People have said that miscarriages don't get discussed, that women suffer in silence. And now that I am one of those women, I get it. And I want to hug and cry with every single woman who has ever had to weather one.

The last week of October and the first week of November brought me terrible insomnia. Up at 4am wide awake good luck going back to sleep insomnia. I was already recovering from another bout of Shingles and I was feeling ragged and just generally crappy. I shouldn't have been surprised when I realized that I was late. So on Sunday, November 6, I asked Brooks to go to the store for a test. (I'm noting dates here because I feel like the time compression of this shit storm plays into my difficulty in working through things. Brooks went to CVS. Brooks couldn't find the pregnancy tests and didn't want to ask for help (small town). Brooks came home an hour later with two 3-feet tall nutcrackers and no tests. We picked the boys up from SOR and went to a local brunch spot. Not long after we sat down, I had a sense of pelvic pressure that seemed to come on out of nowhere. I ate a little but couldn't settle myself so I told Brooks I was going to walk home and swing through CVS. And so I did. And I bought a box of tests. And the first three came up positive immediately.

I wasn't thrilled. It breaks my heart to admit that, but I was so caught off guard.  I am happy teaching. I am looking forward to working through another tax season. I am comfortable in my social circle of mom's with elementary age kids (and where babies would definitely be a hindrance). I like sleeping through the night. And I already feel SO old. God bless my husband who literally lifted me off of the floor and told me how great it was going to be. By the time we crawled into bed that night, I believed him.

The boys had a dentist appointment Monday and we planned to meet my mom for lunch afterwards. Before we left, I called a recommended OB practice and begged my way into an appointment Tuesday. I had a weekend trip to Santa Barbara planned for the annual family photo session of my bestie, and more importantly I had no idea when or exactly how this had happened. I felt more bloated than just that one missed period warranted. We asked my mom to watch the boys Tuesday morning (it was Veterans Day so they were off of school) because Brooks wanted to go with me. At the time I thought he was being so silly, but I love how involved he always wants to be. And now I'm so very grateful for that. I told Brooks that I would wait to tell anyone yet, but I couldn't do it. I think I waited all of 15 minutes into lunch before I told my mom. She got teary, told me it was the best news ever and I cried. I told her everything I was scared of losing and as I ticked through my list she responded to each item: "so what?" Initially I thought she had been a little dismissive, but as I laid in bed that night I realized how right she was. In the scheme of life, none of those things mattered when pitted against adding one more little person to our family.

I was on pins and needles Tuesday as we dropped the boys off with my mom and headed to the Midwife's office. My pregnancy test came back positive immediately and they suggested doing a dating ultrasound. Yes! That was where our joy hit the wall. The midwife couldn't see anything. Maybe it was too early. We were hopeful as we were sent to the Dr.'s where a better ultrasound machine should show more. Two hours later we left defeated. We were callously told "there's nothing here to suggest a normal pregnancy." I would later wonder why she was so cold, and why I didn't ask more questions, but in shock we were sent for blood tests. I called my mom from the lab and tried to calmly tell her that things weren't good. To further complicate things, my HcG levels were very high and I was told that I would need to get another reading on Thursday. In Santa Barbara. And that I could possibly miscarry while there.

I don't remember Wednesday. I guess I packed while the kids were at school. I'm not really sure how since already everything was too tight. I do remember that we put Dash and Kell to bed and I told Fin. He was going to CA with me and I was terrified that I would find myself in some kind of horror movie murder scene that would scar him for life, so I felt it best to tell him what was happening. He already knew something was up, he's a perceptive kid. I tried to tell him with as little emotion as possible, but his disappointment broke my heart. I don't think I slept at all that night.

Fin and I flew to Santa Barbara on Thursday. As we landed, over In N Out, I told my best friend that I needed to get some blood tests run and why. She listened and offered support and most importantly honored and respected my wishes to avoid getting emotional about things. We breezed through the lab and began to go about our usual weekend visit routine (In N Out, shop, In N Out, beach, In N Out, shop...)

Her children had off of school on Friday so they all stayed home with her husband while we went shopping for their photo outfits. We were in a dressing room at Nordstrom Rack in Thousand Oaks when the office called. My numbers had doubled. Could be a fluke right before they drop precipitously, but they were high enough that viewing nothing on ultrasound almost certainly meant that the pregnancy was not viable. Comforted by the advice that I would be able to enjoy the weekend and get home before the tough part started (and feeling like maybe, maybe there was still hope), we resumed the fashion show. Fifteen minutes later the midwife called me personally. After looking at all of the scans and my numbers she was certain that I was experiencing an ectopic pregnancy. She told me to go to the ER immediately. I asked if I couldn't wait until I got home and she stressed that this was a true medical emergency and she didn't want me to wait even another hour. We checked out and spent two hours fighting traffic back to Santa Barbara because I didn't want to be stuck in a hospital that far from her house. Everyone in the ER couldn't have been nicer and I was examined and an IV started immediately. I was told that if they could access the tissue laparoscopically or vaginally, I would be outpatient and be able and fly home on Sunday as scheduled. If not, I would not be able to fly for at least a week. I think the ultrasounds took over an hour. Maybe it just felt that way. The ER Dr. had to call in an OB consult. When he finally came in to talk to me, he seemed almost excited by the diagnosis. I'm hoping it was just excitement that I didn't need immediate surgical intervention. They now believed I was experiencing a molar pregnancy - which would explain the pelvic pressure, bloating and the high HcG levels. He illustrated it on my bedsheet:

Top: What should be, Bottom: Me

So there was nothing that could be done until I got home. While it was hard process all of this away from home, I was so lucky to be with such amazing friends. Great friends make you feel that you can talk to them about anything, which I did, a little. Truly amazing friends are the ones where you know you don't have to say anything. They just get it. Humor is a great crutch and getting the job of photos done gave me something to focus on and keep me distracted. The scenery didn't hurt either. Skies like this just make you feel like you're going to be ok no matter what.

On Sunday afternoon, we said our sad goodbyes, packed up and headed home. The Dr.'s squeezed me in early on Monday morning, repeated the ultrasounds which showed more cystic growths and encouraged the likelihood of a molar pregnancy. My numbers continued to skyrocket and it was clear that there was no medical possibility that a viable fetus wouldn't be visible with those numbers. There are medications that are used to induce a miscarriage in these cases, but molar pregnancies are notoriously unresponsive to them. My Dr. felt that a D & C was the only real course of action and it was important to get a full pathological picture of what was going on because of the future dangers that a molar pregnancy can signal. I would have to be put completely under as they'd have to be "thorough". They could get me in the next day so I'd be recovered by Thanksgiving.

On Tuesday, November 11, I had a D & C. I came home to recover and I worried. I worried about the potential repercussions of a molar pregnancy. Would the tissue return? Would it become cancerous? Would I need a hysterectomy? I came home and grieved. And then I grieved for not feeling like my grief was justified. A molar pregnancy is not a true pregnancy. I essentially had cysts or tumors. Could I really mourn the loss if it wasn't even a fetus? Not even really a fertilized egg? And what right did I have to any grief after meeting that positive test with such a selfish sense of loss?

You read things about miscarriages going undiscussed. That you don't often know that close friends have been through one without first disclosing your own. I remember reading an article that described just that a few years ago. I shrugged and tried to imagine going through anything I didn't want to discuss to death. I'm a chronic over-sharer. I have no problem posting any and everything on social media. With my boys I told everyone I was pregnant the second that stick turned and never worried about having to reverse the call if things went south. If I wanted to share the pregnancy, I assumed I would want to share the loss just as readily. I was right in one way, that it's much easier to move through the topic of loss if you've already publicly declared the pregnancy. But when it came to the ease of sharing, I was so very wrong. I've never felt so alone in my life. I was adrift on a raft of grief by myself and the distance to shore was impossible to close. I needed help but felt powerless to reach out for it. Still full of hormones, everything made me cry. And I really hate to cry. I.was.stuck.

And then the pathology came back. It was not a molar pregnancy. It was just a pregnancy that didn't develop normally. But it was a pregnancy. A potential baby. Not a tumor. And I felt relief. I felt justified in my grief. And I could breathe through the reassurance that I would move forward with no lasting physical effects.

And then I took a deep breath, and reached out and started talking. And I started to heal.

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