Saturday, April 17, 2010

More miscarriage memories

So the D&C was scheduled for April 17th, and on the 16th I went to the hospital to complete a bunch of paperwork.  As I sat in a small office near the front doors, filling out forms, a woman came into the lobby area with her newborn and several members of her family.  I was surprised at how painful it was to see this mother with her new baby while in the process of losing mine.

On the morning of the 17th, we went to the hospital.  I remember feeling very much alone as I left Tim and Austin in the waiting room and followed a nurse back to the pre-op area.  The first thing I had to do after undressing was get on the scale, and I noticed that I had lost 5 pounds in just a couple of days.  I guess it really is over, I thought.  The nurses were very gentle with me, holding my hands, bringing me kleenex, saying they were sorry.  The doctor came in at some point to explain the procedure, and when she said that she would "remove the contents of my uterus," I started to cry.  Those contents included my baby.

Eventually the anesthesiologist came in, and he greeted me with, "So you're having an abortion?"  I know "spontaneous abortion" is another term for miscarriage, but I responded, "No, I'm having a D&C to complete a miscarriage; I wanted this baby, but it died."  He immediately apologized, and then got down to business.  The drugs worked fast and the rest is very hazy.  I vaguely remember being wheeled into the OR, told to shift myself onto the table, the mask, counting backwards, and darkness.

The next thing I remember is hearing two nurses talking.
"Is she okay?"
"Oh, yes, fine.  But it's a very hard thing, and all that emotion has to come out at some point."
I can also hear someone crying - loud, harsh sobbing - and gradually I realize that I'm the one making that sound. (This was a really strange experience and I can't exactly describe it - I was awake before I realized I was awake - or something like that - it was just weird.)  The nurses I heard are on either side of me, wheeling my gurney to the recovery area.  There's a box of kleenex on my chest and the one who spoke second is looking at me with sadness and compassion in her eyes.  They get me situated and the first nurse leaves quickly.  The second one stays; she will care for me for the rest of the time I'm in recovery.  As soon as my conscious mind caught up and realized I was awake, I stopped crying, and now I just feel numb and sleepy.  The nurse gets Tim and Austin; they come to see me but Austin is afraid, clinging to Tim and peeking at me.  I realize I don't look like Mama - my face is swollen from the drugs and tears and I'm pretty spacey - and this makes me sad.  They stay a few minutes, then head back to the waiting room.  The nurse is wonderful, very compassionate.  I think I doze for a while longer, then wake up enough to go through the paces - have the IV removed, drink juice (she brings me crackers with peanut butter, too, noticing that my surgery was delayed and it has been almost 24 hours since I've eaten), stand up, walk to the bathroom, pee.  Then I can get dressed and go home.  A friend has left a casserole in our fridge - moussaka - it tastes marvelous.

The next day is a Friday, but I don't go to work.  It's a gloriously sunny, blue-sky day.  Tim sets up the hammock in our yard and he, Austin, and I lie in it together.  I feel empty and sad and alive and loved, all at once.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Two years ago today...

I'm in an ultrasound room at the hospital, the little local hospital, not the big one where I would have all my ultrasounds with Sierra.  This hospital generally doesn't do maternity ultrasounds, but the sonographer at my regular practice across the street is out sick and I'm bleeding, so I've been sent to the hospital to have it checked out.  I've had to undress from the waist down and put on a gown and robe over my shirt; I've never had to do this for a pregnancy ultrasound and I feel awkward, hot, and anxious.  The sonographer who came to get me after I undressed looked almost as nervous as I felt, and she stammered when I asked her if Tim and Austin could come in with me.  Eventually she decided to allow it, retrieved them from the waiting room, and now here we are, all crowded into the small, darkened room.  I lie back on the table and try not to wince as she squirts cold gel on my belly and appologizes that the warmer isn't working.  Tim is tucked into a little chair by my knees, 19-month old Austin wide-eyed and quiet on his lap. 

She moves the wand across my belly and I crane my neck to see the image, to search for the flickering heartbeat that I saw on an ultrasound six weeks earlier and heard again just three weeks ago.  By this point it should look like a baby.  And it does, pretty much, but the image is small and I can't see any movement at all.  The sonographer takes some measurements quietly and without looking at me.  Finally she asks, "How far along are you, again?" 
"Thirteen weeks, two days." 
"Oh...ummm...the baby is measuring 11 weeks, 1 day."
Tim finally speaks up, "It isn't good, is it?"  She frowns at him, then finally admits she can't see a heartbeat, and I think yeah, I knew that already.  And then she gets a little agitated, tells us not to jump to conclusions, she isn't sure and she isn't supposed to say anything anyway and she needs to get a radiologist to confirm.  And Tim and Austin have to leave the room.  And then she shoos them out and walks out behind them before Tim or I can say anything more than, "But..."  The door shuts and I'm alone.  I don't cry; I am too shocked.  I just wait.

The sonographer comes back a few minutes later with the radiologist.  They put the wand back on my belly and peer at the screen.  It's turned so I can barely see it now.  They talk very quietly to each other.  After a minute they decide to do a transvaginal ultrasound.  The sonographer grabs that wand, and says, "You've had one of these before, right?"
"Actually, no, I haven't." And I'm scared and you made my husband leave.
"Oh, well, it's just like a tampon."  And in it goes.  More peering at the screen and talking in near-whispers.  Finally the radiologist tells me that there is no heartbeat but we should go across the street to the OB office and one of their doctors may want to confirm.  He says he's sorry, but his eyes just tell me that he is uncomfortable and can't wait for me to leave.  I think about how much I do NOT want to cry in front of these people, and I do manage to hold it together, get dressed, locate Tim and Austin.  Tim is angry and looks as shaken as I feel.  We walk across the street.

We are treated completely differently here; everyone is gentle and sympathetic - and unfortunately, all too familiar with this sort of thing.  The receptionist calls a nurse who immediately takes us to a room and alerts the on-call midwife.  She comes in a little while later, and it's the midwife I feel closest too, the one who delivered Austin.  She hugs us all and says "I'm so sorry.  This baby seemed fine just a couple weeks ago.  Tell me what happened.  When did your bleeding start?" And suddenly I begin to sob and can't answer.  She gives me tissues and another hug, sits and talks with us for a long time, assures me I did nothing to cause the miscarriage, tells me she has had miscarriages too and they are heartbreaking.  Austin flirts with her and smiles at Tim and me, playing peekaboo with Tim's hat.  "He sees your tears and knows you need him - and no, this experience will not hurt him."  We tell her about the ultrasound and she says she'll talk with the radiology department about how they treated us.  We decide I should have a D&C. 

To this day, I regret not asking for pictures from that ultrasound.