posting this here from an email I sent to someone so that I know where to find it when I need a good cry.
My birth story is the one that people don't want to hear. It's the one without a happy ending. It's a story that makes my closest friends uncomfortable. Uncomfortable enough to back away from our friendship. Or remain silent around me, because they're fearful that if they ask me how I'm doing, they might stir up emotions that maybe they just aren't prepared to deal with. It's a story about a couple who wanted a baby for so long, and after months and months, went through a heartbreaking miscarriage, then many more disappointing months.
After more fruitless months, I had to take a step back. I couldn't focus on this, I needed a break for awhile. I found an amazing yoga class, went for a massage, and really focused on anything remotely positive to improve my outlook on life. In my yoga class, an intense beginners class, we focused a lot on breathing. Every week people would share stories about how breathing had impacted their week, anything from reacting better to a bad driver in traffic to an overall improved outlook. It makes a tremendous difference, and I still practice slow and intentional breathing often. I was extremely please to tell my breathing story, through tears, when I was shared with my class that I was pregnant.
My entire pregnancy was wrought with one thing after another. Already frightened because of my experience, I had a hard time relaxing, thinking every moment would bring signs of another miscarriage. I had just started a new job, started just a week after I found out I was pregnant, so I thought it best to keep my pregnancy a secret until I was out of the probationary period, but just a couple of weeks in, I found myself sobbing in the bathroom over a handful of bloody tissue paper. My doctor had me come in right away for an ultrasound.
It was possibly the most beautiful moment of my life. My first glimpse at that tiny little blob of human being. Barely definable, but definitely there, and definitely showing the tiniest flutter of a heartbeat. But of course, oh of course, there was a hitch. The shape of my uterus seemed to be a bit off. It was hard to say, these things are better diagnosed when your uterus is unoccupied, but there was little question that it appeared to be heart-shaped.
This led to an unending flow of ultrasounds. No one was worried about my uterus in particular, the worst case scenario seemed to be that my baby likely wouldn't be able to turn, and would be breech, but that can easily be dealt with via c-section. Maybe not my first choice, but if it would get my baby into my arms, I was fine with that. But everyone was worried about my cervix. Not that anything appeared to be wrong with it, but apparently odd uterus frequently equals a questionable cervix, so we were told we would have to come in weekly to check my cervical length.
I don't think it's possible to tire of those glimpses of your unborn child, but trying to come up with reasons to be taking several hours off of work yet again got old rather quickly. Eventually the stellar length of my cervix led my doctors to tell me that I could change to every other week, and as things kept looking great, I eventually move an appointment back to 3 weeks to let us have time to duck out of town for a long weekend in NYC.
I was at 24 weeks. The week many eager first time mothers mark as "viability week," one of the earliest times your child could be prematurely born and still have a shot at survival. I should have felt relief. I was frantic to feel relief, but other than one set of punches, I hadn't felt much movement from my baby.
Everyone assured me that it was normal to worry, but that my baby would be just fine. Friends rubbed my tummy and harassed me over our decision to be surprised with our baby's sex when it was born.
But mother's tuition, it's a powerful thing.
I walked into my final ultrasound with a strange mix of absolute calm and terrifying panic. The ultrasound tech greeted us and started chatting about whether or not we had found out the sex of our child and whether or not we wanted to. My husband told her we were hoping to be surprised, and I told her that I was a bit worried, having not felt much movement.
Each ultrasound started with an external ultrasound to check on the babe, and today they were going to try to get a few measurements they hadn't been able to get at the "big ultrasound" a few weeks earlier. But it was instantly obvious that something was wrong.
After a few laps around my womb, the ultrasound tech scuttled out of the room saying she needed to talk to the doctor for a moment. Tears started to silently roll down my cheeks. My husband grabbed my hand ferociously.
The doctor arrived, and spent a bit of time checking out my insides before turning off the machine and turning to us with bad news.
Our baby had died, sometime in the past 3 weeks.
Even today, I haven't begun to wrap my mind around the hours that followed. We were obviously heaped in dispair, but everything was so much overwhelming and unbelievable. Like a reoccurring dream where you keep trying to run, but you instead move like molasses, we moved through the day in dreadful slow motion.
Finally 8pm came, there was a room available for us now, and we could start the dreadful process.
The IV came first, along with the cooling sensation of room temperature fluids being pumped in to me, and the first of many, many blood pressure readings. The the first dose of cytotec was delivered vaginally, with the promise of continued doses every 4 hours after that.
An extremely kind nurse gave us the best picture so far of what to expect. How long it could take, how things would likely happen. She also brought us a memory box full of literature and momentos that did little to ease our pain.
Much of that night has disappeared into a blur. I had hoped I would be one of the rare cases that would progress very quickly, but that wasn't to be. We watched tv, we read, we cried, and eventually we were both able to doze a bit. But the semi-peace of sleep ended abruptly around 3 or 4 am, when I really started to feel contractions. I had always wanted to at least give a drug-free birth a shot, but given the circumstances, several doctors had recommended that I have an epidural as soon as I became uncomfortable, especially since there was some possibility that I would need a D&C post delivery if the placenta didn't follow suit.
I had always been terrified by the idea of an epidural, but it was one of the best parts of my experience. I was never fully numb, was always able to move my legs a bit, even if sometimes they need a little help from my hands (or a nurse) but it was enough to make the contractions easily tolerable. Tolerable enough that I could get some sleep.
The next day was an alternating round of our small family and our closest friends visiting, mixed with the frequent visits from the doctors and nurses, doses of cytotec, repositioning the bed, and loads of complaints about hunger from me. As evening came on, we were told that I was starting to progress, so we called our families in case they wanted to be nearby.
Hours later, nothing had happened. I sent our families to our house, closer than theirs, so that if they wanted to rush back when our baby was born, they would be close at hand.
Just about an hour later, I was completely overcome by nausea. Not enough to make me actually vomit, but enough that, on top of increasing pain, I begged and pleaded for repeated boosts on my epidural. As 2 am neared, I readied myself for yet another dose of cytotec. When the doctor arrived, it was instantly obvious that something had changed significantly, and she let me know that she wanted me to get ready to push. She and the nurse helped me get my legs into position, and she walked me through what to expect. She said she would have me push three times, then I would rest for a few minutes and try again.
It didn't take much, about half way into my first push, my baby slid out of me. It was such an insignificant feeling, and it tore my heart out.
I immediately asked if we had a boy or a girl. This was the one and only factor that I could look forward to throughout the process, finding out if we had a son or a daughter. It was the information that I used to try to remind myself that there would be one timy bit of happiness in this terrible process. But my question was met with silence. They were unable to tell.
They told us that this was often the case with babies this young, and especially when the baby had passed away, things start deteriorating rapidly. We had already been warned that we very likely would never know why we had lost our baby, and this one last fact was almost too much to bear. I couldn't hold the tears back at that point, I just let them flow freely. My husband helped the nurse clean me up, while the doctors took our baby to clean it up a bit as well.
Later they brought our baby back to us. It was unbelievably tiny, and looked far less like a baby than I could have imagined.
The rest of the wee hours of the morning is hard to remember. Lots of tears, lots of pain as the doctors returned to try to coax the placenta out of me with a pair of tong-like things, and occasionally a few minutes of sleep.
Our nurse recorded our baby's date and time of birth along with a precious set of footprints, but that is little comfort when you find yourself wheeling a wheelchair filled with flowers out to the car, but without the baby you had waiting for, prayed for, hoped for for so long.
Later, we did find out why our baby died. As well as that our baby was our daughter, our little Madeline Grace. Half of Madeline's cells had a second 22nd chromosome. This is rarely compatible with life, and is actually the second highest cause of early miscarriages. We were luck to have her with us for the 24 weeks that she was nestled inside of me. The pain of her loss will live with us daily throughout our lives, and we both hope that some day she will have younger brothers and sisters who will remember her when we are no longer around.