Every time I close my eyes, I am transported back to the nightmare of being in the doctor’s office and hearing his words telling me that my baby was gone. The most recent nightmare, not the first one. Or if I do manage to fall asleep, I wake frequently in a terrified, cold sweat. I can only hope that the nightmares will diminish over time as I get further away from my most current hell.
Over the past few days, I have uttered the phrase “Well, last time this happened…” I hate it. I hate that I have a point of reference, a comparison, to what I am going through. In talking to friends, in talking in therapy, it comes up over and over. “Last time this happened.” There is no escape.
Hearing that we lost Iris due to a pregnancy complication unrelated to the reason we lost Nelle was unbearably hard. I wanted to know whose cage I rattled in the universe to deserve this. And then thinking about it more, I found the connection. In both cases, my body betrayed me. My body had one job to do which was to keep my babies safe for 9 months and it failed. My therapist wanted to make sure that I was not feeling guilty or blaming myself. Nope. This time I know that there was nothing I could have done. But I am so angry.
My body further betrayed me in the arrival of breastmilk. I was hoping I could avoid that this time, but early yesterday evening I felt the unmistakable signs. I had started taking Sudafed and drinking sage tea as soon as I was discharged from the hospital, just in case. Maybe it will not be as bad.
I saw my therapist yesterday and will go in twice a week for awhile. I nearly had an anxiety attack at the idea of needing to retell and relive story, but I planned ahead. I asked her if I could read my blog post to get the story “out there” and then we could talk after. That way, I already had the words. She told me that I could scream in her office if I wanted.
Ger will drop off all of the paperwork at the funeral home. I couldn’t bear to go again so he brought everything home for me to sign.
Back in November, I spoke to a friend who had gone through a significant loss of her own. I sent her an article called “Everything Doesn’t Happen for a Reason” that was one of the most real things that I have read about dealing with grief. One of the things that she and I both found striking was acknowledging the pain of someone else by saying, instead of “I am here for you” to say “I am here with you.” The author writes: Note that I said with you, not for you. For implies that you’re going to do something. That is not for you to enact. But to stand with your loved one, to suffer with them, to listen to them, to do everything but something is incredibly powerful.
Last night, that same friend sent me the following text:
I am trying my hardest to take comfort in small, small things. Even though some are trivial.
- That from the beginning, I knew this pregnancy was high-risk and was prepared for the worst. I felt guilty about being so detached but with the outcome that happened, I had shielded myself a bit.
- That I asked for the ultrasound from the beginning instead of using the doppler and having an identical experience. I was spared at least a few minutes of mind-numbing fear.
- I am grateful that my favorite doctor was the one who broke the news to me and that he was caring and compassionate.
- I am grateful the delivery took considerably less time.
- I did not have to have a D&C.
- Even though we still went through a funeral home, I did not have to sign a death certificate. Once was enough.
- I am already in therapy.
- I have less weight to lose.
- Since I was not as far along, I likely will not have to suppress breastmilk production. It could still happen, but not as likely. Or if it does happen, I know how to suppress it as quickly as possible.
- Because of my fears, I had not gotten out any of our baby supplies. I only needed to pack away my maternity clothes and I’ve already done that.
- The kids are still young enough that they will (hopefully) be largely unaffected and instead just inquisitive. And unfortunately, brutally honest.
- My brother and his girlfriend had already planned a trip here, so we had help over the weekend.
- I have a wide-reaching network of support.
|From the inside of one of the books that the hospital sent home for the boys|
I have been increasingly anxious over the past week, as I grew closer in my pregnancy to the 21-week mark where I lost Nelle. On Wednesday I told my therapist that I had crippling fears over losing the baby or that something was wrong. She wanted me to tell myself “Stop it” to which I responded that I couldn’t, because I did not believe that everything was ok. She told me to try saying “I can get through anything.” To which I responded that I was not sure about that either, because if something was wrong, how much can one person handle? On Thursday and leading up to my appointment on Friday, I was so distraught that I could barely get out of bed.
Turns out, my instincts were right.
I went in for my 2:00 appointment on Friday with my favorite doctor in the practice. The nurse wanted to use the doppler monitor to listen for the heartbeat, but I insisted on an ultrasound with the doctor, citing that the doppler made me too uncomfortable because of my last appointment with not finding a heartbeat right away. The doctor came in and asked if I had any reason to be concerned, like cramping or bleeding and I said no, I would just feel more comfortable using the ultrasound for a quick answer. He looked for a few minutes and then said “I do not want to have to tell you this, but I don’t see anything.” I completely broke down in the room. I was alone with that news, again, since being a regular appointment, Ger was not with me. The doctor knelt beside me and gently said that he needed to send me to the Maternal Fetal Medicine department at the hospital to confirm, and then said “I desperately hope that I’m wrong, but I’m not going to lie to you – I’m probably not wrong.” He offered to walk me to MFM. I had to wait 45 minutes for the confirming ultrasound, but they graciously put me in a separate room so I was not in the waiting room. By that point I was not expecting anything other than the confirmation I received – that there was no heartbeat.
The MFM doctor told me that everything on the ultrasound looked fine. Unlike Nelle, who was growth-restricted and measuring 3 weeks too small, this baby was within four days of due date (likely the day that we lost her). She told me that my options at 16 weeks pregnancy were surgery, but they did not do that type of surgery at the hospital here – I would need to go into Chicago. And could not be scheduled until Wednesday, since they would not schedule over the weekend, Monday was a holiday, so I could call Tuesday for the Wednesday appointment. Or I could go through labor and delivery again, which would be a longer process but could start immediately. Recovery time the same, but if we wanted answers through any placenta testing or autopsy, then we needed to do L&D because there could be damage through surgery. I opted for L&D to start right away, and also to be with doctors that I knew. So I headed over to the L&D ward and Ger met me there. Someone from the lab came in and took vials and vials of blood, in hopes of getting some answers.
It was mercifully a shorter process, 14 hours versus 26. One of my friends stopped by for several hours to stay with me while Ger ran home to take care of some things. My brother and his girlfriend were coincidentally on their way to visit us for the weekend, and another friend watched the boys until they arrived. The similarities were painfully ironic, since Nelle was also born on a 3-day holiday weekend. And their sizes were similar with this one being born at 16 weeks 1 day and Nelle being growth-restricted to just over 16 weeks. The admitting doctor was a newer one in the practice and I had not met her, but the doctor scheduled for the following morning was the same one who delivered Nelle.
I did not want anything from the hospital to help in the grief. I did not want to look at their pamphlets on losing a child; I did not want to be visited by any grief staff. I could not believe that just over 5 months later, I was going through this exact same, excruciating process again.
She was born at 7:42 a.m. and the shift had not changed yet, so it was the admitting doctor who did the delivery. She immediately commented in a low voice to the nurse that the umbilical cord was wrapped tightly around the baby’s neck, twice. Thankfully, I did not need a D&C this time. Once everything had settled, I asked her if that was indeed what I had heard and she confirmed yes, and that she believed that was the cause of death. I had been wracked with guilt that something was wrong with me – something undetected, that had caused both losses. But hearing that it was an unrelated complication was almost worse. Ger commented that it was like getting struck by lightning, twice.
We had to wait for hours to be discharged. Even hours after the epidural wore off and I was able to move around the room effectively by myself, I had to wait for the discharging doctor to come in and the nurse had to make sure everything was put together for me. The discharging doctor, the one who had delivered Nelle, said that he was in disbelief over what had happened to us. I will admit that I asked for a prescription for an anti-depressant. The anxiety over the past few weeks had been near-debilitating and I was afraid that this would push me over the edge. The hospital sent home a box of mementos again, along with stuffed bears for the boys and books for the boys.
I dreaded, dreaded telling the kids. When I mentioned to Theo my doctor appointment that day, he asked “Is the baby ok?” to which I said “Yes, the baby is fine, this is just a regular checkup.” I wanted to be as truthful as possible, so whereas last time we said “The baby was sick” (not fully knowing the cause), this time I said “There was an accident and the baby couldn’t breathe.” It was somehow important to me for him to know that the circumstances were not the same, as if that could in some way ease the news. Quentin was more affected this time. Five months older now in his 4 young years, he clutched the little bear from the hospital, lay on the floor, and wouldn’t look at any of us. But their reaction was short-lived and now I have to cringe at the comments like “Will we have another baby someday? I’m sad about the baby Mommy.”
Today I am numb. I have moments of intense grief, but I am also undeniably in shock. And angry, which is a new emotion for me in the grief process. In September I was so profoundly sad, but now I am angry at the unfathomable unfairness of this happening again, for a seemingly unrelated reason. Google tells me that umbilical cord complications are rare. Just like the possible cause of Nelle’s death with a blood clot is rare. Two rare complications and I got them both.
It bothers me that this will be classified as a “miscarriage” whereas Nelle was a “stillbirth” being after 20 weeks. I don’t know why it bothers me so much, but it does. They were almost the same size, and the delivery process was identical. I feel that somehow she is not being recognized in the same way because of the different classification.
Her name was Iris Madeline Hnub Yang. Iris is the Greek word for “rainbow” because she was supposed to be our rainbow baby after the storm of losing Nelle. Ger picked Madeline and on many literary levels I thought that this was perfect. Hnub is the Hmong word for “sun” to go with our other children: Huab – cloud (Theo), Teb – earth (Quentin), and Dej – water (Nelle).
I have another set of footprints for my second daughter. Ger commented that now Nelle will have a sister to play with, always.