Journey to Motherhood-Part 3: The Loss

I know that I skipped Part 2 of Journey to Motherhood, and I do plan on writing it, it would just be a little too painful right now.

I wanted to go ahead and write Part 3, because writing is a huge way that I process, and sometimes I don’t even know how I feel about something until it comes out of my mouth, or until my fingers find the keys on the keyboard and the words appear on the screen in front of me.  I also want to share with you how I am doing, in a deeper way than I could even in conversation.

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On Monday night, February 3rd, I was hanging out at a birthday party for one of my best friends.  It was a wonderful night, filled with good conversation, laughs, and delicious food.  The time came to leave, and I realized I had to go to the bathroom.  I thought about waiting until I got home, but I had to go too badly to last for the entire 30 minute drive home, so I headed down the hallway to the bathroom.  As I went, I looked down, and saw blood on the toilet paper.

It was strange-at first, I just got that annoyed feeling you get when you realize you have started your period.  But then it hit me-I should not have a period at all.  I was 11 weeks pregnant.  My heart started beating faster.  Oh my gosh, oh my gosh.  This is not happening.

I walked back down the hall, to the kitchen, where my friends stood, chatting before they left for the night.  “Ummm, I’m sorry to interrupt, but would you guys mind praying over me?  I just went to the bathroom, and I had some bleeding…” I said with tears starting to run down my face.

My friends gathered around me, and began praying.  They prayed for peace over me, and for the life of the baby.  When we finished praying, I was still shaking, and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to drive home while being so distracted and worried.  I called my sister and Josh, and told them what was going on.  I thought about staying the night with a friend who lived around the corner, but the next day was calling for around a foot of snow, and I didn’t want to get stranded half an hour from home.

I decided to go ahead and drive home, and I spent the whole time praying, listening to worship music, and crying.

By the time I got home, the bleeding had pretty much stopped.  I was relieved, but still cautious.  I felt like it was a good idea to take it easy the next day, so I called my boss, and she told me to do whatever I felt was right.

I spent the next day resting, trying to prevent anything else from happening.  I had been told by several people that spotting happens many times in completely healthy pregnancies, so a little bit did not necessarily mean I was miscarrying.  That day, however, the bleeding started again, and continued through most of the day.  I went to bed that night frustrated and scared, praying that it would stop.

By Wednesday morning, it had tapered off again, and I headed to work, hoping that it was almost over.  Most of the roads were still covered in a layer of snow and ice, so many companies were closed or opening later, including Chick-fil-A.  I started off the morning at work in a good mood, as we worked to open the store in record time on a minimal staff.

After I had been at work for about an hour, I went to the bathroom again, and the bleeding had resumed.  At this point, I was starting to get really worried.  It wasn’t a flow like a normal period, but the length of time it was lasting was really worrisome to me.

A coworker walked up as I was stuffing kid’s meal bags with toys, and asked if I was okay.  “No, not really,” I told her.  I explained to her that the bleeding had started again, and that I was starting to get really worried.  I hadn’t been to the doctor yet, because we were waiting on Medicaid approval to be able to visit an OB/GYN.  I tried to make an appointment, but I was told that without insurance or Medicaid, we would have to have to pay $500 just to walk into the appointment, which was just not possible for us at this point.  Josh and I had talked the night before, and decided that if my bleeding was still happening during the day on Wednesday, I would go to the ER after work.

I talked to my boss, and she encouraged me to call Josh, and head to the hospital to get checked out.  Josh came to pick me up, and we headed to the hospital down the road.  I let family members know that I was going to get checked out, and we checked into the ER.

They called us back, and led us to one of their emergency rooms.  It was strange to be in the ER-my first time ever.  I went through a big Grey’s Anatomy phase a year or two ago, and I was thinking about the dramatized version of the emergency room, and hoping that no gunshot victims would come in while we were there.

The nurse led us to room 10, and gave me a gown to put on.  This is serious, I thought.  I put the gown on, and soon another nurse came in.  She told us that she was going to put in an IV and take some blood for labs.  If you know me, you know that having an IV in is one of my biggest fears.  I know it is ridiculous, but it is just a big fear of mine.  Josh held my hand while she put it in, and tears streamed down my face.  It’s worth it, though.  It’s worth it for the baby.

She let me know that she would turn in the sample to the lab, and a doctor would be in soon.  Not long after, the doctor came in, and began asking me questions.  I told him why I was there, and how I had been bleeding for the last day and a half.  He told me that he would go get the ultrasound machine, and he would see what he could find.

As he wheeled the machine in, I told him with a tentative smile, “This will be my first ultrasound.  Well, my first one for pregnancy, anyway.”  I actually had an ultrasound a year ago, in Malaysia, to try to figure out why I was having intense abdominal pain.  I was worried that I had ovarian cysts, but the gynecologist could not find any, and it was determined by a gastroenterologist that I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

As he moved the wand around on my belly, he didn’t say much.  I was watching the screen, but I wasn’t seeing anything.  “I’m not really a sonographer,” he said,  “And I’m not really seeing much, but that doesn’t mean anything.  We’ll see if we can get you downstairs for an ultrasound tech to take a look.”

We waited for a few minutes, and nurse came in.  She told me that we were going to wait for the bloodwork to come back, to see what my HCG levels were at.  If they were within a certain range, what would be expected for an 11 week pregnancy, that would be a good sign.  If they were lower, it would point toward a miscarriage.  She told us that it would probably take somewhere around 30 minutes.

While we waited, we watched a marathon of American Pickers on the History Channel.  We watched the minutes tick by on the clock, and after about an hour and a half, the nurse came back in.  She said my HCG levels were around 20,000, but that didn’t really mean anything.  She told me that they were going to get me downstairs for another ultrasound, this time for a trans-vaginal ultrasound.  Then, she dropped a few bombs.

First, since we were in the ER, and since I was bleeding, they were going to have to put a catheter into my bladder.  Second, my blood type is O-Negative, which means that in future pregnancies, if the baby happens to also be a negative blood type, my body would see that as a toxin, and would do it’s best to fight the toxin, endangering the pregnancy.  To combat this, they would have to give me a shot, and I will have to get the same shot every time I get pregnant in the future.  “Well, this just keeps getting better and better,” I muttered through my tears.

She put the catheter in, which can I just say, SUCKS.  She took some urine samples, just in case they ordered them, and said the ultrasound tech would be in in a few minutes to take me downstairs.  However, Josh would not be allowed to come, because they’ve had security problems in the past, whatever that means.

It couldn’t have been more than ten minutes, but it felt like forever.  The catheter burned, and I just wanted to find out what was going on.  Eventually, the ultrasound tech came in, and wheeled me out.  As we went down the hall in silence, I thought, I never imagined that I would be wheeled down the hall of an ER, alone.  As she turned my bed around and backed into the elevator, I caught a glimpse of myself in the reflection of the security camera by the ceiling.  It was a very surreal feeling.

She wheeled me to the ultrasound room, and I was comforted to see heart stickers on the door.  She attached my catheter to a bag hanging from the ceiling, containing fluid that would fill my bladder to make the ultrasound more effective.  That was definitely the most physically painful part of the day, to have your bladder filled to its highest capacity.  As I winced in pain, the tech said, “Just calm down,” which wasn’t calming at all.  Needless to say, after that, I wasn’t her biggest fan.

She began the exterior ultrasound, and it seriously felt like forever as she typed on the keyboard, and the machine beeped as it took pictures and measurements.  I craned my neck to see the screen, desperately looking for the flash of a heartbeat.  A few times, she turned on the sound to try to hear a heartbeat, and there was one that showed up, but it was only mine.  I knew it was mine because I could feel my heart beating quickly, to the same time.  Eventually, without a word, she ended the ultrasound, and drained the fluid from my bladder, which was a relief (pun intended).

She left the room, and came back with the probe for the internal ultrasound.  “Did you find anything?” I tentatively asked her.  “Not that way,” she said.

She began the internal ultrasound, and again, I watched the screen, looking for anything.  She didn’t say anything.  More clicking and beeping.  My heartbeat again.  Eventually, the ultrasound was done, and she didn’t say anything as she finished up.  As she wheeled me back upstairs, she asked me if I had to work in the snow, and I told her that I had taken the day before off, but that I had gone into work that morning.  She asked where I work, and I told her Chick-fil-A.  She returned me to my room, and left.

Josh asked how it went, and I told him, “She didn’t say anything.”  I knew in my heart, but I didn’t want to say anything.  I didn’t want it to be true.  We spent a few more minutes waiting, and eventually the nurse came back in to remove the catheter.  After that, the doctor came in, he leaned against the counter.

“The ultrasound tech was not able to find anything.  Unfortunately, I am 98% sure that this pregnancy is not going to end the way you want it to.”  As he explained everything, I just felt numb.  I think I had known for a few days, so it wasn’t really that much of a surprise, especially after seeing the ultrasounds.  He told us that the next step was to have a pelvic exam, so they could see if my cervix was open or closed.  If it was open, they would have to do a D&C, a process that (please forgive the graphic details) would basically scrape out my uterus.  I did NOT want to have this procedure done.  At all.

As we waited for the OB/GYN to come in, I laid on the bed, watching the TV, but not watching it.  I can’t believe this is happening.  At that moment, I needed my Mom.  I called her at work, and told her the news.  We cried together over the phone, and she told me that if I needed anything, to let her know.  Then I called my sister, then Josh’s parents.  Telling people you love is only slightly less heartbreaking than actually experiencing it yourself.  My sister asked, “What can we do?”  “Just pray that my cervix is closed.”  It was the only thing that I could hope would go right that day.

Eventually, the doctor came back in to give me the pelvic exam.  Jesus, please let it be closed.  Please, let it be closed, I prayed.  “It’s closed,” the doctor said.  What a relief.  I didn’t think I could take much more that day.  He explained to me that this doesn’t make me high risk for future pregnancies, and that was a relief, too.

After that, we waited for a few more minutes for a nurse to come back in to give me the shot, and to remove my IV.  It was a hip/butt shot, and I was thankful that I was only flashing two female nurses in my hospital gown as I laid on my side.  As she stuck me, my body tensed and jumped in reaction.  “Sorry,” I said.  “That’s okay,” the nurse replied.  After the shot, one of the nurses massaged the injection site, to make sure the shot was circulating.  She had her hand kind of around my hip, and she felt me tense up.  “Sorry,” she said.  “No, it’s okay.  I’m just really ticklish,” I laughed.  “Oh, sorry about that,” she laughed, too.

They removed my IV, I signed some paperwork, and we were free to go.  I have to go back in to get more bloodwork done on Saturday, and for a follow-up appointment once they get my results back.

We walked back out into the bitterly cold wind, got in the car, and headed home.

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I spent the rest of the day in bed, not really feeling like seeing anyone or doing anything.  Even though our stay at the ER had caused us to miss lunch, I was not hungry for dinner at all.  I never understood why grieving people didn’t want to eat until that day.  First of all, I just plain wasn’t hungry.  Second of all, the slight hunger pangs, as strange as it sounds, felt almost good.  It was like it was helpful to have some physical pain to match the emotional pain that I was feeling.  But don’t worry, I have been eating.  I don’t have my usual appetite, but I’ve been trying.

After awhile, Josh laid down next to me, and we talked for a bit.  I told him that even though we never got to officially find out what the gender was, I always knew she was a girl.  I had been keeping that to myself mostly, and when people would ask what I thought we were having, I would tentatively say I thought the baby was a girl, but I would follow up with, “But I could be totally wrong.”  You know, just in case we got to the ultrasound and found out it was a boy.  But, I always knew.

“I think we should name her.  It just feels like we need to honor her with a name.  Make her more of a person.”  Of course, she was a person to me, one of the most important people in my life.  But, I wanted everyone else to know her as a person, too.  I think it was just a week or two before, Josh and I had narrowed it down to two names: one for a girl, and one for a boy.  They weren’t our concrete names, but at the top of the list for now.  We had also already discussed a possible middle name, and it was actually decided on before we figured out a first name, as long as it was compatible.  The middle name, if the baby was a girl, was going to be really significant.  Josh’s mom had always wanted to have a little baby girl, but was blessed instead with four boys.  She had a name for her girl, but never got to use it.  We thought it would be a wonderful way to honor Josh’s mom by giving our little girl that name as a middle name.

So, we decided that our little girl that we lost was named Ellie Hannah.

I began the difficult process of telling friends and family beyond our immediate families.  I asked our parents if they would tell the grandparents.  Made phone calls and wrote texts to best friends.  Eventually, I wrote a status to let the public know, and shared it on Facebook.  It was good to share, to get everything off of my chest.  I felt a little selfish, because in a way, I felt like I was just spreading the grief around, but the more people that knew, the lighter the load felt to bear.

Eventually, I fell asleep, my head pounding from a headache caused by so much crying that day.  When I woke up, Josh had fallen asleep next to me, and the light of afternoon had given way to the darkness of evening.  For just a moment after I woke up, I felt peaceful.  My headache had subsided, and my grief and the events of the day were momentarily forgotten.  But then I remembered, and new tears slipped out as I thought about the void that now existed in me.

I decided that I wanted to watch a movie, and I chose P.S. I Love You.  It seemed fitting-a movie about losing a loved one, and the process of grief and learning to live with your loss.  I don’t really like the term “moving on”.  It implies that you can get over the person that you lost, and I just don’t think that is the case.  Their existence, and subsequent departure from your life, had an impact, and to say that you are moving on diminishes that.

After the movie, I went to sleep, hopeful that the next day would continue to bring healing and peace.

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Part 4 coming Soon.

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