Friday, June 28, 2013

Suffering in Silence

I am NOT one to suffer in silence. I don't cope well that way. I definitely need time to myself, but I also need access to people I love and trust, so that I can talk when I'm ready.

The more I learn about miscarriages, the more I learn how often women suffer through this in silence. Often a woman miscarries early enough she hasn't announced the pregnancy yet. I had a miscarriage like that in December of this past year. I hadn't even told Brett I was pregnant yet. I tried to deal with it myself, only to end up sobbing in the middle of the grocery store the next day. (That wasn't embarrassing at all...)

Statistically speaking, one in four women experience at least one miscarriage. Some of them are so early, the woman doesn't even know she's pregnant. Most of them are before a heartbeat is detected. A few of them, like mine, are after a heartbeat is seen.

And most women suffer silently.

How many women in my life have experienced the pain of a miscarriage or a stillbirth? I'm not entirely sure, because for some reason, this topic seems to be taboo. Either we want to spare the grieving mother the pain of talking about her child, or we want to spare ourselves the discomfort of talking about a loss we can't fully understand.

Because you can't fully understand it. No matter how many losses you've experienced, or when, everyone grieves differently. Everyone experiences a loss differently. Some don't want to talk about it. Some want to try to forget about it.

I'm not one of those people.

Despite the brevity of my pregnancy, Hannah was and is very much a real person to me. She's not some abstract concept. She's not a lost pregnancy. She is my daughter, and she died. I never got to see her, other than on the ultrasound. I don't have pictures of her. I never got to hold her, or kiss her. But that doesn't make her any less my daughter.

She will not be forgotten or replaced. She has a name. If you talk with me about this difficult experience, please use her name. It is more hurtful to me to feel like she is being minimized or ignored by not acknowledging the name we gave her.

As hard as it is, and as much as I miss her, I know some day I'll finally get to hold my little Hannah. Some day I'll get to hug her and kiss her and tell her how much I love her, and how much I've missed her. Until then, I will remember her.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


I've taken a long hiatus from this and my other blog. It began with the end of the semester approaching, which is always stressful and requires a ton of work. Then, a happy discovery: we found out we were pregnant, expecting a new baby Christmas Eve of this year. My morning sickness was extremely severe, and I had a hard time keeping food or drink down, let alone trying to move off the couch.

May 30th I had an ultrasound at a prenatal appointment with my midwife. I got to see our little baby, complete with a strong heartbeat and some fetal movement. We had waited to announce the pregnancy until seeing a heartbeat since I had an early miscarriage in December. Since the heartbeat was present, we announced the pregnancy to our family and friends shortly thereafter.

My morning sickness was still very severe, and I ended up in the ER for dehydration on June 10th. I was sent up to the maternity center where I got 2 liters of fluids (after 5 different attempts at an IV...I was really dry!) and some anti-nausea medication. I was looking good, so they started my discharge paperwork. They'd mentioned wanting to do an ultrasound to check on the baby, so I reminded them about it to see if they still wanted to. The nurse practitioner said yes and returned quickly with the ultrasound machine.

I'd been laughing and joking the whole time, trying to keep the situation light since really, who actually wants to be in the hospital? A longtime friend had gone with me so Brett could stay home with the kids. The nurse practitioner started the ultrasound with all of us still laughing. I made some offhanded comment about how all I wanted was to see the heartbeat and make sure it hadn't gone anywhere. The nurse practitioner got really quiet...which is, of course, never a good sign.

After what felt like several minutes of the NP, me, and Shannon all staring at the screen, the NP said that she wasn't seeing a heartbeat. She went and got another nurse to look with her and confirm that, indeed, the heart was no longer beating.

I can't begin to describe how that moment felt. I know several family members and close friends have experienced similar tragedies.

The next day I had a follow-up with my midwife to discuss my options. After some of the information she gave me, I really felt impressed that I was supposed to have a D&C (dilation and curettage), despite the fact it was a surgical procedure. My midwife referred me to an OB she was used to working with in situations like mine. I'd actually heard of him before, as he'd come up in my research to find a natural childbirth-friendly OB.

Thursday, June 13 I had an appointment with Dr. Gosser. He and his staff had worked hard to get me in quickly. I was (and am) incredibly impressed with him and his nursing staff. They were extremely gentle and kind. Dr. Gosser spoke with me far longer than I've ever spent with a doctor before--20 minutes in the exam room, followed by an ultrasound to verify the findings in the ER, and then about 20 more minutes of conversation as we again discussed my options. I told Dr. Gosser that I felt sure the D&C was the right choice, so we set the procedure for the next morning at 7am. My mother-in-law, Barbara, arrived from Ohio that afternoon to help with the kids and the house while I was out of commission.

Brett and I had to be at the hospital at 5:30am the next morning. My nurses worked hard to get an IV in me (again!), which I found mildly annoying. Usually I have really great veins, but apparently I was still pretty dehydrated, so my veins were pretty small and fickle. After several sticks from 3 different nurses, they finally managed to get an IV in. Right on time, Dr. Gosser came in to speak to us briefly before I was taken back to the OR, and he prayed with us. They took me back to the OR and the anesthesiologist put me to sleep pretty quickly. I remember him telling me he was giving me something to relax, almost immediately feeling sleepy, and teasingly telling him and the head OR nurse good night.

I started coming out of the fog of anesthesia in the recovery room. I remember knowing something was wrong because I felt horrible, and even without my glasses on, I could see several people swarming around my gurney. I was still really groggy and everything was spinning, and I was shaking badly from the anesthesia, but I knew something wasn't right, and dang it, I wanted to know what was going on. Apparently I was pretty feisty in the way I demanded information, but they were really evasive at first. After a few tries, the nurse told me my blood pressure had dropped because I had lost more blood than they'd expected during the surgery. With a blood pressure of 76/45, things weren't looking too hot! They were running fluids into me as fast as they could to try to bump up my blood pressure. I was in recovery for about 2 hours, much longer than expected, while they tried to stabilize my blood pressure. Finally they took me back to my room where Brett was waiting. I was so happy to see him! Being really out of it when things are going wrong is scary. I'm not a fan of being on that end of the issue.

I started feeling a little better, but was still having trouble with my blood pressure. Every time I would stand (or try to), my blood pressure would drop and I felt like I was going to pass out. I was really not thrilled, especially since it meant that I was relegated to a bedpan. :( Yuck. I detest bedpans. I had really hoped to avoid it, but after trying to get up twice and failing miserably, it was pretty much the only option at the time.

A few hours and 4 liters of fluid later, my blood pressure finally was staying up and I got to walk to the bathroom. Woo hoo! After passing that final test, I got to go home, with strict orders to rest and a prescription for iron pills. Despite losing 2 pints of blood, my blood counts were high enough my doctor didn't feel a blood transfusion was necessary. So, iron pills. And lots of fatigue.

Physically, I'm doing...okay. It's still hard, and if I walk too much (apparently a shopping trip to Target is too much right now) I start cramping badly. But for the most part, my body is healing--just not as quickly as I'd like. I'm impatient, and I want to be back to my normal self, not huffing and puffing after walking up a flight of stairs or needing to take a nap in the afternoon.

Emotionally....well, I'm not really sure what to say about that. It's hard. Really hard. Harder than I thought it would be. Dr. Gosser said they recommend choosing a name for the baby to help with closure and the grief process. That was really tough. I'd felt for several weeks that this baby was a girl, almost as strongly as I'd known who Amy was before I even knew I'd conceived her. I'd picked out a name for her already, although Brett hadn't been convinced yet, especially since he was convinced the baby would be a boy. But to me, the baby was a girl, and her name was Hannah Noelle.

The pain of this loss continues to surprise me, as does the range of emotions I experience. Pain, sadness, loneliness, disbelief, guilt. I know they're part of the grief process. I know I need to feel these things in order to grieve properly. But it's the strength of the feelings that really surprises me. I'll be fine one minute, and then something will trigger inside me and those feelings come rushing back.

Part of what's so hard about this is that well-meaning people make some really hurtful comments. I know I'm young, and that we can keep trying. I know I'm blessed to already have two beautiful children. I know that something was likely wrong with the baby that would have prevented her from leading a normal life, if she could have even survived to birth. I know God has a plan for us and is mindful of me. It may be that losing the baby later in my pregnancy would have been harder for me.

But these things, this knowledge, does not make the experience any easier, or the pain any less. Regardless of the brevity of my pregnancy, I knew that child. I loved her, I wanted her, I was excited to have her. She was MY child, and now she's gone, and nothing I could have done can change that. And I miss her.